Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best and Worst of 2012

GOODBYE 2012, HELLO 2013

It's that time of year. I have to wrap up the good and the bad of 2012. I finished my first semester of graduate school. It was tough, but worth it. I truly believe 2013 will be a better year for me. I'm still unemployed, but grad school has given me a leg up on my career pursuits.

Now, how did I do with my reading goals. I set a reading goal of 70 books. According to Goodreads, I passed my goal by reading 76 books. It should really be 74, because two of those books I just could not finish. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson and Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth just weren't for me. Those two actually make it on my list for the worst books of 2012. I hate to say I don't like something, but have to be honest. So without further adieu, here is my list for the best books of 2012!!!

(Note not every book on this list was released in 2012, but I just happened to read them in 2012)

Top 12 books of 2012

1. I Couldn't Love You More by Jillian Medoff  -- Great family drama. A woman is forced to make a desperate choice. Which child will she save, and what are the consequences.

2. Home Front by Kristin Hannah -- Another family drama. Noticing a pattern here? I didn't like True Colors by Kristin Hannah, but was willing to give Home Front a try. I wasn't disappointed. Home Front is the tale of a female soldier, with a family, who goes off to war in Iraq. She does not return as the same person, physically or emotionally.

3. Fracture by Megan Miranda -- A young girl will never be the same after surviving a near-death experience. Awesome YA book. It has a nice mix of contemporary and paranormal elements.

4. Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman by Patricia Bosworth -- I learned way too much about Jane Fonda's sex life. But this a very well-researched and comprehensive biography.

5. Defending Jacob by William Landay -- Another family drama. A young boy is accused of murder and his prosecutor father tries to prove his innocence. The ending was a complete shocker!

6. Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany -- A young woman is still searching for her long-lost father. When they find each other, will it be everything she hoped for?

7. An Unquechable Thirst by Mary Johnson -- Do you know everything at 17? Are you ready to go out into the world and support yourself? Of course not. But at 17 Mary Johnson made the choice to become a nun.

8. The Siren by Tiffany Reisz -- I refuse to read Fifty Shades of Grey, but I'm not opposed to reading erotica. This was a great book. It wasn't all about the sex, the characters were well-fleshed out.

9. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga -- The title is very suggestive isn't it? A teenage boy is in fact hunting killers. A killer who is obsessed with the young boy's father, who also happens to be a serial killer.

10. Queer Greer by A.J. Walkley -- A teenage girl is discovering her sexuality.

11. Unbroken by Jamie Lisa Forbes -- Life on the family farm isn't for everyone. A marriage is in trouble just as a single mother comes rolling into town.

12. One Good Deed by Erin McHugh -- One Good Deed a day? It was certainly possible for Erin McHugh, and she became a better person for it.

Honorable mention: Heft by Liz Moore, The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halverson, Bloodman by Robert Pobi, Pure by Julianna Baggott, One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf, and The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

The not-so good books of 2012
1. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson -- I let glowing newspaper reviews cloud my judgment. I didn't even make it to Part II of the book. I had to quit. It was boring, and I just couldn't see where this book was going.
2. Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth --  Another book I couldn't finish. It was hard to follow. I felt like I was forcing myself to finish, and when that happens it's time to stop reading the book.
3. Being Lara by Lola Jaye -- The storyline was good, but I just didn't like the way it was told. A young child from Nigeria is adopted and raised by a white British couple. I thought this would be a book about Lara discovering or questioning her identity. It's more about her adoptive mother and her birth mother. It just wasn't for me.
4. With my Body by Nikki Gemmell -- Before reading The Siren by Tiffany Reisz, I decided to give this one a try. It didn't seem like an erotic book, I found it to be borderline chick-lit.

Outside the world of books in 2012 
 

It just didn't feel right to ignore all of the tragic loss of life in 2012, especially the children of the Sandy Hook shooting. It's heartbreaking to know that 20 children will never get the chance to grow up and become doctors, lawyers, writers, or teachers. Their potential was limitless. Don't forget to cherish those who you love the most.

Friday, December 28, 2012

My take on: The Art Forger

I know absolutely nothing about art. I've been to plenty of museums in my lifetime, including the Louvre. I've seen the Mona Lisa up close, and I honestly don't get the hype. But after reading The Art Forger by  B.A. Shapiro, I have a greater appreciation for the amount of work that goes into creating a painting......

And........

What goes into forging or "copying" a great work of art.

In The Art Forger, 20+ years have passed since the notorious theft of Edgar Degas' painting After the Bath. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has never been the same since the theft. But museum officials and the FBI have never stopped looking for the painting and the other works of art stolen in the heist. After the Bath is beloved by art students and historians around the world. Artist Claire Roth has always admired Degas. But unlike Degas, Claire is still trying to make her mark on the art world.

Claire is a pariah in the art community after accusing her former mentor and lover of passing her work off as his own. Only it wasn't an accusation, it was the truth. But who would believe Claire? Without any proof, Claire's word isn't good enough. Claire does her best to make others believe her, but the most influential people in the art world only see what they want to see. It's easier to believe in the established artist than a no-name like Claire. In the three years since, Claire is barely getting by. She's still trying to get the word out about her original works of art, but has to make a living "reproducing" paintings for an online retailer. A bit of irony huh? Claire is making a living copying the works of others after accusing someone of doing the same to her. She's become an expert at her new career. This expertise ultimately leads Claire down a dangerous path.

The handsome Aiden Markel, a powerful art gallery owner, offers Claire the deal of a lifetime. Produce a copy of After The Bath and Claire can have her own show in his gallery. Is there something wrong with that? Yes!! Aiden appears to be in possession of the stolen painting and wants Claire to produce a copy that could fool a potential buyer. How does he come into possession of the painting? I wasn't totally clear on that one, but I was certain nothing good could come from this. The real painting will go back to the museum, and everyone, including Claire, will benefit. It sounds too good to be true. Despite her new career, Claire still has a sense of integrity. What kind of person does it make her if she goes through with this? What if the authorities find out? What's Aiden's agenda? Why come to Claire? But, there is a lot of good that could come out of this deal. A one-woman show will finally give Claire the validation she's been looking for internally and professionally.

As an added bonus, Claire and Aiden become more than just business partners. There are two ways to look at that one. Claire has a small circle of friends, but her life was lacking an intimate connection. When she's around Aiden, Claire seems more happy. She's starting to believe there is a future for her and Aiden. On the other hand, her love or infatuation for Aiden clouds Claire's judgment. When the deal goes bad, Claire does everything she can to save Aiden. Would she be working so hard if they weren't romantically involved? Would she care so much?

I was immediately pulled into the story. It's clear a lot of research went into this book. I was fascinated by the art forger process. This book could give a lot of forgers ideas. Claire seemed more like a surgeon than an artist. I say that because Claire worked on the After the Bath copy with extreme precision, just like a surgeon would when operating on a patient. Each layer of paint and each brushstroke has to be perfect. As I was reading the book, I was hoping she would get it right. I didn't want Claire to get caught. She needed something to finally go right for her. Even when the authorities close in on Claire and Aiden, I was still hoping for the happy ending. Morally what they were doing was wrong, but I wasn't so sure it was illegal. Right up until the end, you will be asking yourself that question. This was definitely a page-turner for me. Whether you're into the artworld or not, this book is definitely worth reading. It has a little bit of everything, romance, mystery, and suspense.

Rating: O.M.G. !!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Algonquin) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Harriet Klausner: Is she a fraud?


It was only a few days ago that I learned of the "legend" of Harriet Klausner. A New York Times article about Amazon book reviews introduced me to this woman. That's her in the picture above. She's surrounded by the hundreds of books she allegedly reads and reviews on multiple retail sites. I say "allegedly" because I have a hard time believing ANYONE can read at the pace she does.

For the past 10+ years, Ms. Klausner, who is a 60-year-old retired librarian, has posted an average of seven book reviews per day to multiple online retail sites. According to the The Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society, a website dedicated to investigating her fraudulent behavior, Ms. Klausner has reviewed 28,256 books in that timespan.

28,256 books? Digest that for a moment.....


28,256 books!! Sure it sounds good that someone is so dedicated to reading, but is she doing it honestly? And, is it even physically possible? As much as I hate math, let's do a little math. She's been "reviewing" books for the past 10-11 years. Let's say 11 years.

365 x 11= 4,015
28,256/4,015= 7.037

Ok, so she would have to be reading an average of 7 books per day. That is INSANE and highly UNBELIEVABLE. I can totally believe a person can read 1-2 books per day but not 7. At that pace a person would have to have NO SOCIAL LIFE whatsoever. I know some of those Harlequin books are rather short, but I just can't believe a person can read that fast. Is she even absorbing enough of the material to form an opinion? From what I read about her Ms. Klausner has a husband and a son. It's possible she has more children, but I don't know. When does she eat? Who does the cooking? Does her husband do all the cleaning and laundry? When does she drink? When does she go to the bathroom? Reading at that pace doesn't appear to allow for bathroom breaks. When does she pay her bills? Does she have friends? Watch TV? Because of all of those questions, I have serious doubts about Ms. Klausner's credibility.

I had to look at her Amazon reviews for myself. She posted 10 on Christmas day. Most of the reviews I saw were rehashes of the flap copy or summaries on the back of the books. Only one or two sentences in those reviews contain her actual thoughts. Even worse her "reviews" lean heavily towards plagiarism. She tweaks a few lines of the flap copy and passes it off as her own. If she were making it clear the words aren't her own, more people would be on her side. And........her opinions don't run very deep. I flipped through 20 pages of her reviews, and didn't come across one bad review. Every single one was a four- or five-star review. It's really nice to believe you'll like everything. But it just isn't possible. It's not reality. Her lack of negative or indifferent reviews is what makes me doubt Ms. Klausner. A lot of people, myself included, look to Amazon for book reviews (I also go on Goodreads and Google for reviews). Consumers want to know if a book is good or bad. I personally look at the negative reviews first. I trust those more than the five-star reviews. The negative reviews actually discuss the pacing of the plot, grammar, spelling, believability, and so much more. Is Ms. Klausner really reading these books? Or is she reading just enough to make the publishers happy?

Which brings me to another gripe I have with Madame Klausner.

28,256 books?!?!? Where do all those books go? Unless she lives in a giant mansion, how does she find the space for all of those books? I own several hundred books and I hardly have room for those. According to The Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society and various blogs Ms. Klausner receives A LOT of ARCs (advanced review copy) from publishers. She also sells these ARCs online under her son's name. Ok, fellow bloggers we all know that is a BIG NO-NO!! Donating the books to your library or a charity is perfectly acceptable. Giving them to a friend or family member is perfectly acceptable. If she is selling the books and donating the money to charity, I wouldn't have a problem with that. But I have a strong feeling that money is making its way into her wallet. If she was doing something charitable or honorable with the money, there would be no need to sell the books under her son's name. Publishers have to be aware of the questions regarding her credibility, but she continues to receive ARCs. Does she have that much power and influence on online retail sites, like Amazon, that they choose to ignore the facts? Is she that valuable as a marketing tool? The answer is clearly yes. She has value as a "reviewer," and she will continue to receive ARCs.

Overall, Ms. Klausner is doing a great disservice to consumers and readers by not reviewing books with honesty and integrity. What does everyone else think?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Day at Random House and ... a book haul !!

A little over a week ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day at Random House. It was a day for people who love to read and talk about books. It's between chef Marcus Samuelsson and Anna Quindlen talking to her editor Kate Medina for the best panel. I missed getting Marcus Samuelsson's book Yes Chef, but it's definitely on my list now. I only knew him as the judge on Chopped, but he is so much more. He sounds like a historian or a philosopher when he talks about food and it's role in our culture. As a chef he's also a storyteller, and it's important that come through in his cooking. I was amazed to learn that Kate Medina is the only editor Anna Quindlen has had in her nearly 25 years at Random House. As she put it Kate Medina speaks fluent Quindlen. They seem like such good friends.

The video above pretty much sums up the day.  I feel famous because one of my many Tweets that day made it into the video (takes so little to make me happy)!!!

Here is a picture of the books I picked up at Random House:

Bought:
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (not a Random House title but it was recommended during the lunchtime panel)
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Twelve by Justin Cronin (I own The Passage but I haven't read it yet!)
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Gift bag:
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
True Believers by Kurt Andersen

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My take on: Shunning Sarah

I must confess, I let Shunning Sarah by Julie Kramer fall by the wayside. I started it in August and didn't finish it until December. It was not a bad book at all, it was actually pretty good. But because I read so many books at once, I often give some priority over others. Anyway, better late than never!!

This was my first introduction to Julie Kramer's books and the character Riley Spartz. Riley is both funny and intelligent in her adventures as an investigative TV reporter. She's always searching for the next big story. She loves hunting down clues and getting to the heart of the matter. Those skills will come in handy in her next assignment. What starts out as a seemingly small story, turns into a large-scale murder investigation.

When a young boy named Josh Kueppers falls into a sinkhole, Riley immediately smells a larger story. Of course she is right, otherwise there would be no point to the book. Josh spent the night cold and scared, but he wasn't alone. Doesn't that sound creepy? In the first few chapters, I was scared for Josh. The eyes of a dead naked woman were staring up at him. He's constantly wondering if he will ever get out and see his parents again. Who is this woman? How did she get there? Does someone out there care about her?

All of the chapters are fairly short, and when I was actively reading the book I was constantly turning the pages to find out what happened. When Riley gets the full scope of the story, she is desperate to get to the bottom of things. Discovering the truth could be the turning point in her professional career and in her personal life. The TV station is still reeling from a mass shooting. I have a feeling some of those details are covered in previous books in the series, but I did get the gist of it. Riley's mentor was murdered in the shooting, and now she has a new boss, Bryce Griffin, who is a total jerk. Ratings and advertisers mean more to him than running an interesting, investigative, and honest news story. Discovering this woman's killer is very low on his list of priorities. Bryce isn't Riley's only stumbling block in this investigation.

The murder victim turns out to be Sarah Yoder, a young Amish woman who was being shunned by her community and her family. Why was she shunned? Did she leave the community on her own or was she forced out? Trying to get answers out of the Amish community proves difficult. They see the "English" and everything they stand for as the enemy. The Amish are not part of modern society. They are closed off in their own world. Finding out who killed Sarah isn't a priority. You can tell some members of the family did care about Sarah, but they're afraid to show it. I just don't understand that. I don't know enough about the Amish to truly understand the principles that they live by. But Riley is determined to understand, despite the danger it puts her in.

I wish we had be given suspects a little earlier in the book. The first real suspect given comes pretty late in the story. I knew right away that the suspect we're given couldn't have done it. There were too many pages left for the book to end on that note. There had to be more to it. When the murderer was revealed, it felt a little rushed. I would have liked to hear more from this character. More about this character's pysche. Reading the book, you learn a lot about Riley. Everything else is more of a backdrop. This seemed like it was more about Riley's efforts to overcome an evil boss and rise up the corporate ladder. The murder was just the next obstacle for her to overcome. Overall, I liked the book, and I would definitely read another book by Julie Kramer again.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Emily Bestler Books/Atria) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My take on: The Exceptions

I loved David Cristofano's first book The Girl She Used to Be, so I was eager to read his next book The Exceptions. Both books require some stretch of the imagination, but both are very engaging and entertaining. You can read The Exceptions without having read the first book, but I don't recommended you do that. You have a deeper understanding of the characters and their personalities if you've read the first book.

The facts are still the same. Melody Grace McCartney is still running from her past. One day, a six-year-old Melody and her parents left their New Jersey home for a day out in Manhattan. While on that journey, they have the misfortune of witnessing a murder at the hands of mafia boss Tony Bovaro. From that day on the lives of the McCartney family are forever changed. They are forced into the Witness Protection Program. As a teenager, the Bovaro family catches up with Melody’s parents and kills them. Orphaned Melody is now without her anchors – her parents.

Jonathan Bovaro wants to be Melody's anchor. He wasn't much older than Melody at the time of the murder. While the adults in his family saw Melody and her family as threats, Jonathan saw her as a beautiful girl. She was innocent. Her life was worth saving. She deserved a chance to grow up. Jonathan never understood why his family couldn't see Melody the way he did.

The Girl She Used to Be to be is told entirely from Melody's perspective. This is where The Exceptions differs from the first book, it's narrated entirely by Jonathan. You get more insight into his personality. Despite being the son of a mafia boss, Jonathan grew up with a sense of family, except their Sunday dinners were celebrating the elimination of a traitor instead of good grades on a report card. Nothing is normal is about the Bovaro clan.

Violence and intimidation are the norm for the Bovaros, and Jonathan learned from the best. But he wants to be more than a product of his upbringing. He wants a normal life. He has to have something for himself, something that is separate from the Bovaro clan. He turns his passion for cooking into a successful career as a restaurant owner, but the sins of his family will always haunt him. Whenever he's pushed to the limit, Jonathan reverts to what he knows. Like his family, money, violence, and intimidation are his best weapons. But when it comes to Melody, Jonathan feels nothing but compassion and love. Over the years, Jonathan has watched her from afar, slowly falling in love with her. He can see a lot of her in himself. Melody desperately wants her life back. She could have been something before the Bovaros entered her life. If Jonathan can break away from the family, then he can truly become the person he was meant to be.

Every year Melody continues to live, Jonathan reassures his family that he will get it done. Although deep down he has no intention of harming Melody. He wants to free her from the eternal misery of the Witness Protection Program. After two books, I still believe his plan to free her was naive. In the eyes of his family, Melody is a threat and that won't change until her death. Sometimes it felt like Jonathan was obsessing over Melody too much. In his mind, he is the only one who can save her. Only he has her best interests at heart, not the feds. He loves her so much it hurts to be away from her. His passion for Melody was a little too sappy for my taste. He obsesses over kissing her and touching her. Pages and pages are devoted to his obsessive thoughts over Melody. At 465 pages, The Exceptions was a little long for my taste. The first book was so effective in getting to the point quickly. But for readers who loved The Girl She Used to Be, The Exceptions is worth reading.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Grand Central Publishing) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My take on: The Theory of Everything

"Talk to us enough to think you're okay, but don't say what you really think. It makes us uncomfortable. And God forbid we should be uncomfortable." -- Pg. 57

In The Theory of Everything by J.J. Johnson, fifteen-year-old Sarah Jones is not ok. But she doesn't want her family or boyfriend to know that. Sarah is still reeling from the death of her best friend Jamie. Before Jamie died (BJD) everything was great. Sarah was outgoing and social. In the months since Jamie died (SJD) everything has changed. Sarah is no longer the person she used to be. The other half of her is gone, and she doesn't know how to move on.

How do you go on after losing someone close to you? Jamie died in a tragic accident. It just doesn't seem fair to Sarah that she is alive and Jamie is dead. She blames herself for not doing more to save Jamie. At just 15, Sarah doesn't have all the answers. But you wouldn't know it by the words that come out of her mouth. She is not only snarky to her brother, Jeremy, and her boyfriend Stenn, but Sarah isn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with her parents. She curses and gets into screaming matches with her parents. She cuts classes. She sneaks out at night. She questions their authority at every turn. Like all teenagers, she knows what's best not her parents. It all sounds like typical teenage angst, but Sarah is grieving. How much rope do they give her? A lot in my opinion. Grieving or not, I don't think I would be alive if I ever spoke to my family they way Sarah does. What's Sarah's punishment for skipping classes? Oh she's grounded for the weekend!!

Towards the middle of the book, Sarah's constant sarcasm was getting on my nerves. Not everything is a joke. Sarah's attitude is alienating her from her boyfriend and family. People don't know what they can or can't say to her and it's all because she won't talk about her true feelings. It takes a perfect stranger to break Sarah out of her shell. To repay a debt, the creepy possum dude (read the book to know what I'm talking about) a.k.a Roy forces Sarah to work on his Christmas tree farm. Initially the work is hard, but Sarah comes to see another side of Roy. Sarah comes to realize he isn't a creepy dude, but someone who is struggling with his emotions. A tragic event changed Roy's life, but he channeled his own grief into helping other. You never know what a person is struggling with until you get to know them. If it's ok for Roy to move on, then maybe it's ok for Sarah, too.

I liked Sarah's relationship with Roy the most. To start, Sarah felt slightly intimidated by Roy. There was no point in being snarky with him. Even though they met under unusual circumstances (seriously read the book to know what I'm talking about), Roy helped save Sarah from herself. By the end, of course Sarah doesn't have all the answers because she's a teenager. But you have hope for her future, and that she is finally starting to grow up. 

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Peachtree Publishers ) in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hank Green said it best....



In light of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school, I thought it was appropriate to post this video. I did a lot of retweets on my Twitter feed. But deep down, I'm at a loss for words. I just don't understand. This video by Hank Green sums up what a lot of people are thinking right now.

Note: My first semester of grad school is now over, and I will try to post more regularly, starting with a review (Monday) of The Theory of Everything by J.J. Johnson.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Please Welcome Ron Gavalik!!



A little something different today, Ron Gavalik stops by to talk about Financial Success for Creative Professionals

Achieve Success from Your Creative Talents
Ron Gavalik

Throughout civilized human history, creative minds of every type were comforted by the knowledge that if a publisher, producer, or gallery accepted their work, they’d receive financial support in the form of advanced payments and promotional initiatives. In essence, after years of struggle, rejection, and torment, the creator was chosen by an elite group of tycoons to be idolized above others. In return, he or she wasn’t asked to perform any kind of true marketing efforts, aside from public appearances.

In today’s business world, that’s rarely the case.

The influx of creative small businesses and indie creators has diluted the arts and entertainment markets. That shift in business has forced creative talents to perform their own marketing initiatives to achieve success. Some creative professionals believe this to be an unfair burden. Others herald it as an opportunity to have more control. No matter how you view the circumstances, it’s a reality that must be understood.

It’s astonishing how many talented writers, artists, and performers pour passion and professionalism into their creative endeavors, but then practice marketing initiatives like an amateur. It’s the equivalent of buying a $500 pool stick, but never practicing the game. When it comes time to prove your skills, that shiny pool stick is only as effective as the player who wields it. In other words, it’s simply not enough to have a fantastic creative product. You must know how to market that product to mass audiences to win the game.

That’s why our team developed Financial Success for Creative Professionals. The plan is the first proven set of marketing procedures, guaranteed to achieve long-term success for writers, artists, musicians, and performers of all stripes.

To ensure creative success in today’s market, there are a number of steps that must be completed. Let’s briefly explore each of them.

Understand the truth about marketing artistic creations. So many people believe marketing is subjective, much like abstract painting or poetry. It isn’t. Marketing is really about the science of consumer psychology. You must reach the correct audiences to maximize exposure of your work, draw in potential fans, and then drive revenue. When you truly understand the fundamental theory about generating mass awareness of your creative experiences and know how to shape the perception of your work, it’s hundreds of times easier to get noticed and achieve success.

Most marketing professionals hold advanced degrees. The FSCP marketing plan contains the same resources marketing pros use for success, but developed specifically for creative professionals.

Build your marketing structure. Before an artistic talent can sell work to a base of potential consumers, you must first build your marketing structure. That includes a comprehensive website (not just a simple blog), a strong social media presence, and a uniquely branded market position. You must also use mass communications vehicles (email newsletters, for example) to build relationships with your future fans. No one, and I mean no one will buy a book, portrait, MP3, or any kind of creation without having achieved emotional investment in the creator and your products. The FSCP marketing plan provides you the ability to build your uniquely branded market position, set pricing, and then shows you how to interact with hundreds of thousands of consumers to maximize sales and raise the quality of life for your fans.

Take advantage of media marketing opportunities. The meat of any marketing initiative must include interacting with potential fans. This is referred to as shaking hands and relationship building. Much in the same way a car salesperson walks up to a consumer and extends a hand, the FSCP marketing plan shows you how to use the power of the web to connect with hundreds of thousands of consumers through social media, the news media, and personal print media. Using these techniques provides consumers an easy path to personally identify with your artistic creations and then become emotionally invested. This is sometimes referred to as the “warm fuzzies.”

Once the warm fuzzies are achieved, your potential fans are empowered with the knowledge that purchasing your work will benefit them in some way. Remember, your creative efforts are meant to enhance the lives of others. When a potential fan personally identifies with your creation and they’re given a clear path to enjoy the experience, it’s like taking candy from a baby.

Diversify your income from multiple venues. Success is never achieved by selling one product in one location. That’s one of the biggest mistakes made by indie authors, artists, and performers. Your creations must sell in multiple locations to reach the maximum number of targeted consumers that identify with your style. It’s also paramount that each creator offers several products and accessory items for sale, such as t-shirts or bookmarks.

For example: an indie author with a book released must ensure it’s selling in each possible retail location. Sure, Amazon may have 60% or more of the book buying public, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the other 40% that shops on lesser-known retailers. Furthermore, offering accessories increases revenue and provides depth that large publishers always provide for intellectual property and indies usually lack.

Those are the basic high-level steps that every creative talent must follow to achieve true financial success in each respective field. As stated earlier, the FSCP marketing plan is guaranteed to deliver that success to each creator and it’s why our team is so proud to have published it for your use.

It’s my hope that you’re taking your creative career seriously. It’s not always easy to rise above the chaos, but if you follow the proven plan, it’s an amazing experience to watch consumers around the world swoon over your creations that raise their quality of life. That’s a true gift and your legacy. Be proud of it.

As the tagline goes, “If you pour your passions into each project or performance, you must propel your career to the next level, realize your full potential and achieve financial success.”

Together, we’ll make it happen!

Good hunting.


Ron Gavalik’s Bio:

Ron Gavalik is the author of Financial Success for Creative Professionals and has over 20 years of celebrated experience in corporate and creative marketing. This former Director of Communications has assisted private, nonprofit, and artistic organizations achieve success through grassroots experience marketing initiatives. Gavalik is currently the Publisher for Grit City Publications and creator of the innovative Emotobooks fiction medium. He holds a B.S. in Marketing Communications from Point Park University and an M.A. in Writing from Seton Hill University. His work in the arts has shaped success for countless creative professionals who seek financial independence.

Contact Info:
Website: http://creativesuccess.net
Facebook: http://facebook.com/GritCityPublications
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RonGavalik

Friday, December 7, 2012

My take on: One Good Deed

This is going to be a different kind of review. One Good Deed by Erin McHugh is the type of book that makes you take a hard look at yourself. After reading it, I wish I had her enthusiasm and altruistic spirit. I'm grateful for waking up everyday, but I can't say that I'm truly happy everyday. It doesn't take much for my mood to change. I spend too much time worrying and complaining about what I don't have instead of appreciating what I do have. I don't know if I could follow in Erin McHugh's footsteps. But I could try it in baby steps.

The first time I heard about this book was at BookExpo America. I'm pretty sure that Ms. McHugh came to my table during BEA Bloggers. Several authors came around to our tables during breakfast and lunch. I'm 99% sure I met her, and I'm mad at myself for not giving the book more thought then. I was a little mad that other authors didn't come to the table. My thinking at the time was, one good deed a day? What's so interesting about that? After reading the book, I know it is a very interesting and worthwhile endeavor.

To recapture a sense of charity, Ms McHugh decided to do one good deed everyday for a year. Sound tough? For some it could be. The author had some struggles accomplishing the project but overall she seemed to be a better person for it. She didn't have to save villages from floods or jump into burning buildings, she did small things.

Her journey is told with a mixture of humor and seriousness. One of my favorites has to be when Ms. McHugh decided not to go into work sick. You might think what's so good about that? Over the years, I have worked with several people who came into work sick. They proceeded to cough and sneeze on everything. And then they expect me to pick up a piece of paper contaminated with their germs. Why do people feel the need to come into work sick? You don't have to be a martyr, STAY HOME!! Keeping her germs away from her co-workers was a very GOOD DEED!

I have problems sharing, especially with food and my books. Very rarely do I lend out my books, I would rather buy you a copy than lend it. Hey, that's a good deed right. I'm buying you book, that should qualify? Ok, back to One Good Deed. I mentioned food, because Ms. McHugh did something I would have a hard time with. She shared a rather scrumptious eclair with a total stranger. More power to you, I would have let everyone admire it while I inhaled the sugary goodness.

There a lot of gems in this book. "Spew hate at your own risk." While on line for food, Ms. McHugh overheard a rather loud cellphone conversation. The man on the phone used a gay slur, and it wasn't something she could stand for. She told him how ignorant his comments were. He seemed a little stunned and could only mumble an apology. I overhear a lot of offensive stuff. Most of the time I stand there and stew. I figure that it's none of my business. You never know what type of person you're dealing with, but I can understand her frustration.

The best lesson from this book?

"Pass it on. Sometimes a good deed is just passing something along. Someone sent this to my friend Peter today. He e-mailed it on to me, and now, from me to you: Do something for yourself today. Today, speak as kindly to yourself as you do to others. Allow someone else to help you the way you help other people. Give yourself the same permission to make mistakes that you give to others. Do this for yourself today. You deserve it. -- Of course, I would add to that, buy yourself some ice cream. But that's just me." Pg. 297

First, I have some Peppermint bark ice cream in the freezer, and I intend to eat it when I'm finished writing this review. Second, I think this little nugget is the best piece of advice in the whole book. We would all be much better people if we followed that passage. Maybe it's hard to be altruistic everyday, but every once in awhile give yourself a break, treat others as you want to be treated, and allow yourself to slip.

Rating: O.M.G. !!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (ABRAMS) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Please welcome Tom Barry!!!

Here are the questions I had for Tom Barry author of When the Siren Calls:


1. You spent many years working in the corporate world as a consultant, what made you want to write a romantic suspense thriller? It seems very far from your former career.

Even businessmen can occasionally be romantics !  But the original idea for the story was around a dark protagonist, Jay, who is a master persuader, adept at using his skills in the boardroom and the bedroom. The character of Jay did draw heavily on my corporate background. But the story quickly evolved into a love triangle in which the wealthy but neglected Isobel and the smouldering seductress Lucy were both set on the man of their dreams. Once I understood the story was about complex adult relationships, it was obvious that the prime audience was women, so it was right  to make Isobel or Lucy the lead, and I considered both options. I went with Isobel because she is the natural heroine, albeit a flawed one; she is the one in danger, she is the one struggling to live the life she wants.  And she is a complex and fascinating character, if a little self-absorbed. For the story to work it was clear Isobel was going to have to undergo massive growth and change, and it is that growth and change that the story is about.

2. What other genres could you see yourself writing? Why?

I enjoy thrillers like Grisham books and, like Grisham, I have a professional services background. So I could see myself writing thrillers against the background of the cut and thrust world of big, bad business, and several reviewers of When the Siren Calls comment that it has many of the characteristics of a thriller. When the Siren Calls is a very sensual story, with racy but tastefully written sex scenes. So it would be an easy step into the field of erotica, and I have written several erotic short stories under a pen name. But at the moment I'm happy to focus on human dramas where sex is an important component, but where it is not the reason to write the book, or to read it.

3. Jay and Isobel both get to narrate the story, but did you ever worry about writing a novel from the perspective of the opposite sex?

Yes, and if you look at the romance market, it is dominated by women writers. But there are any amount of male authors who have successfully written with a female protagonist and from her POV. The important thing about Isobel's dilemma is everyone over 15 can easily relate to it. We all, at some time, find ourselves in jobs, places, or relationships which aren't fulfilling, but we need to find the courage to change our own situation, despite the fact that may be difficult and may cause hurt to ourselves and others. So I could relate to Isobel's struggle and put myself in her shoes. Others will be the judge of how good a job I did, but the feedback so far has been encouraging. My wife, my editor, and my early review panel all brought the female perspective, and that was helpful.

4. When the Siren Calls is the first of trilogy. Do you know how everything will end?

No, because while I have the story for book three in outline, I do not plot my stories out methodically. I let the characters drive the story, and invariably they take me places I wasn't expecting to go. The trilogy will finish with Isobel in a very different place, emotionally, to where we find her at the end of Book 1. At the end of Book one she has escaped a workaholic husband and an unfulfilling marriage, and survived a dangerous affair with Jay. But she has yet to find happiness. In Book three I think we will see Isobel as a more free spirited character living life the way she wants to, but still finding herself in plenty of trouble. Will it all end happily ever after…we will have to wait and see.

5. In three words how would you describe your book?
(The) thinking woman's romance.

My take on: When the Siren Calls

The cover of When the Siren Calls by Tom Barry sold me before I read the e-mail pitch. The cover is beautiful. The woman on the cover looks mysterious. She's floating in the water. She's barely above the surface of the water. She's about to drown. Is she drowning literally or figuratively? I wanted to know.

The story opens with Isobel trying to navigate the streets of Marrakech, Morrocco. Aggressive merchants in the marketplace are preventing her from leaving, until a dashing stranger saves the day. Jay whisks Isobel away and takes her back to her hotel. For a few moments, Isobel forgets her troubled marriage to Peter and gets lost in conversation with Jay. He's attentive, while Peter isn't. Isobel's attempt at a romantic vacation failed. Peter spent more time with his phone, or as Isobel puts it "his penis." He would rather cuddle up with his phone and check up on his business ventures than spend time with his wife. Isobel is a lonely person, and that little bit of time with Jay gave her a chance to see what is possible. Maybe she can get Peter to change. Will he want to change?

Jay seems like a lot of characters I've read. He is married with a girlfriend, Lucy, on the side. He jumps from business opportunity to business opportunity. If he loses an investor's money, it's no problem. He can just move onto the next investment. He has an air of arrogance. Nobody can bring him down. He seemed more like a scam artist than a business man. His latest investment is a timeshare property in Tuscany. It's failing, but that doesn't faze Jay. He will come out on top, while everyone else will lose their money. When Isobel tries yet again to revive her marriage, she and Peter head to Italy eventually making their way to Tuscany. Here is where the trouble ensues. Jay not only begins an affair with Isobel, he tries to get Peter to invest in the timeshare. What a stand up guy! He knows it's a bad investment, and is perfectly willing to use someone to save his own skin.

Overall, I didn't have a problem with the writing. But I didn't quite feel this was romance or erotic fiction. First, I have read several romance and erotica books. All of them have been written by women. I was a little apprehensive to read a romance book written by a man. I know that's sexist, but there has to be a reason so few men write romance books. Most of the romance and erotic books I've read are very overt with the sexual content. The sexual content in When the Siren Calls feels very muted. That's not a bad thing, it's just not what I'm used. This felt more like a chick-lit book. Why chick-lit? Isobel is like a lot of women out there. She is stuck in a bad marriage and is looking for a way out. Enter Jay. Is he the solution? Or will a relationship with him just lead to disaster? This wasn't quite my cup of tea, but it is worth checking out.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-galley from the author's publicist (Fully Booked Public Relations) in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Turkey Day!!



By the time any of you see this, most of you will have gorged on turkey, stuffing, and a whole lot of other stuff. Wherever you are I hope you are enjoying the day with your family!

I have been noticeably absent from my blog. Grad school takes up a lot of time. I might have to rethink the number of classes I want to take next semester. On the days I don't have school, I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop and notebooks. Reading for pleasure has taken a backseat. I have less than a month to go before the end of the semester. Hopefully, when the semester is over I will have a lot more time for posting.

In the meantime, I'm posting video. This book haul is stuff I've received in the last six weeks.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My take on: Cold Light

If you haven't read Fallen by Traci L. Slatton, STOP reading now! If you read Cold Light without reading book 1 in the series, it won't make any sense. Some books you can get away with reading the series out of order, but not this one. Fair warning, if you haven't read book 1, what I'm about to write will spoil it for you!!

In this post-apocalyptic world, deadly mists are still a huge threat to society. If the poisonous gases don't kill you, it will plunge you into madness. All around the world, people have banded together against the deadly mists. When we last heard from Emma, she and her daughter, Mandy, had reunited with the rest of their family. Haywood has rescued his wife and daughter, literally flying in like a knight and shining armor. In Haywood's mind, he is just reuniting his family. He and their older daughter Beth were in Canada when the whole world changed. But he doesn't realize Emma has changed, too. To survive, Emma joined an all-male camp, led by the handsome and brooding Arthur. Their relationship starts out very adversarial, but soon turns to love. And that love is still a part of Emma in book 2.

Arthur is never far from her thoughts. She loves Haywood, but, to me, her connection is much deeper with Arthur. Eighteen months have passed since the end of book 1. Living in Canada has brought Emma and her family some peace. But that peace is short-lived when Beth is kidnapped by a rogue group of men. The motherly instincts immediately kick in for Emma. There is no question, she has to go after Beth. No matter the dangers, Emma has to get her daughter back. Along the way she meets some interesting characters, and ... creatures. A cougar, yes a cougar, becomes Emma's protector throughout the book. Rather than attack each other, Emma and the cougar have an unspoken truce between them. She doesn't shoot him, and he doesn't attack her. It might sound weird to some, but in this world it is very normal.

Emma's determination to find her daughter will be put to the test when Arthur comes back into the picture. Emma has never left his thoughts either. He's a tough guy, he's a leader, and he always has to be strong. But he is vulnerable when it comes to Emma. He will do anything for Emma. His decision-making is sometimes driven by love instead of what's practical. After all, how much sense does it make to cross the Atlantic Ocean for love when the rest of the world is in turmoil? It has to be love. He helps Emma search for Beth, despite her pleas for him to stay away. I don't want to spoil too much, but the search will force Emma to make a choice.

I have to say, I like the first book a lot better. To me, the second book is more about the search than the relationships between the characters. The action starts right away. But I wonder what happened in those 18 months since the last book? That aspect is kind of glossed over. What was Emma's relationship like with Haywood? Did everything just go back to normal for them? What about Beth and Mandy? You don't hear their voices too much in either book. Book 2 ends in similar fashion to book 1. You are left wondering if Emma has made the right choice? Maybe when book 3 comes out, Emma will have a better grasp on her future.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-galley from the author (Traci L. Slatton) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My take on: The Angel

Ok, a few things to take care of before I dive into my review of The Angel by Tiffany Reisz. If you haven't read  The Siren, the first book in the Original Sinners series, STOP reading NOW and go read the first book. Honestly, you can read The Angel without having read the first book, but I don't think you will truly understand their personalities without some context. Second rule of business, if you don't like erotica STOP reading NOW. If you're religious or a prude, STOP reading NOW.

Now, if you're still reading GREAT!! I don't read a lot of erotica books, but every now and then I do like to step outside of the box with my reading. Ever since I read the first book in the series, I've gotten  A LOT of similar review pitches. Some I have said yes to, so don't be surprised if you see more reviews like this in the future. I loved The Siren, so of course I said yes to reviewing the second book.

Famous erotica writer and dominatrix Nora Sutherlin is up to her old tricks in the second book. She is once again immersed in a complicated -- but loving -- relationship with her longtime lover Soren. It's hard for me to understand how someone could find pleasure from pain, but it works for these two. But trouble is on the horizon. Soren, who also happens to be a Catholic priest, is up for a promotion to bishop. A reporter, Suzanne Kanter, receives an anonymous tip that Soren a.k.a. Father Stearns is hiding something. Suzanne has no idea what he's hiding, but the scrutiny alone is enough to send Nora into hiding. Of course Nora isn't alone. Michael Dimir, a fellow parishioner, is along for the ride. Soren saved Michael from himself by rushing him to the hospital after a suicide attempt.

At 17, Michael is young and confused. Becoming a member of Nora and Soren's underground circle would be a dream come true. But Michael is afraid of that dream. He's afraid to be himself. If his family knows the truth, will they accept him. He doesn't have to explain anything to Nora, she already accepts him. Michael is her Angel. She makes it her mission to help Michael spread his wings, and become his true self. Michael and Nora hide out in the upstate New York mansion of millionaire playboy Griffin Fiske. Griffin relishes having Nora and Michael stay in his home. Griffin is immediately smitten by Michael, but can't give into his desires. Why? He doesn't have Soren's permission. Griffin has left a trail of lovers, both male and female. Griffin isn't the relationship type, and Soren doesn't want Michael to get hurt. But Michael feels deeply attracted to Griffin. Michael is too afraid to express his feelings, but Nora is determined to bring them out. Yes there is sex and physical pain involved, but Nora helps Michael to find his voice. He finally learns to stand up for himself.

After reading the first book, I thought Soren was a sadistic monster. I didn't like his character at all. He found pleasure in torturing Nora physically and emotionally. What is the attraction between them? What makes him special? What is his motivation? He didn't come out of a box like that. The second book softens up his character a lot. You learn a lot more about his background. You feel sympathy for him. Although, the details  of his childhood are very stomach-churning.

Yes, there is a lot of sex in this book. It seems like there is more sex in this book than in the last. But....in my opinion the sex is part of their character development. In the first book, we're just getting to know these characters. The second book delves more into their pasts and their psyches. Before she became the powerful Nora Sutherlin, she was wild child Eleanor Schreiber. Soren saved her from herself. And their relationship grew from that. Soren had a terrible childhood, but he still had the capacity to love and be very giving to others. Thanks to Nora and Griffin, Michael learns to spread his wings. He finds the strength to stand up to his abusive father. He finds the strength to tell his mother who he is. Michael, Griffin, Nora, and Soren aren't normal by society's standards, but after reading this book you'll learn there is nothing wrong with being different. Who cares what others think, as long as you're happy with yourself?

By the end of The Angel you will be wanting more. And get your minds out of the gutter with that last statement!! The last page reintroduces us to a beloved character from the first book!!! You will have to read both books to find out who I'm talking about. The second book ends on a cliffhanger! So I can't wait to read the third book in the series!!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
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