Sunday, September 25, 2011

In honor of banned books

I don't believe in banning books ever. If you're worried about your child reading a certain book, be a parent and don't let them read it. Trying to ban a certain book for everyone isn't right. In honor of Banned Books Week, I decided to list my favorite banned/controversial books, and a list of banned/controversial books I want to read. In no particular order, let the fun begin....

Top 10 banned/controversial books I have read:

1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: There is a little story that goes with this one. I read about it in newspaper article while I was on vacation in Montauk. I went to the local bookstore, but they didn't have it. Bummer!! But the nice woman at the store ordered it for me. I practically stalked the store until it came two days later. I finished the book in three days. The following semester it was assigned in one of my English classes. Fortunately, I had a leg up on the class for that one. I love the book, and highly recommend it. Yes there is sexual content in the book, which is why it's most often taught in college classes.

2. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: I read this a long, long, long, long, time ago. The book shows the power of a child's imagination. Why is this book controversial? It also takes about death. Wow, really? People don't want kids to know about death? Want your children to sheltered? It helps to have books out there to help children deal with death. 

3.  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: I'll be honest, I hate this book. I was forced to read it in a college class by a professor I also could not stand. Perhaps that clouds my judgment on the book. The content is innovative, but I found the book to be boring. The book has often been accused of being anti-Christian, which I guess is what makes it controversial. Why have it on my list? You would think I wouldn't care, but it's on here because I don't believe in censorship.

4. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden: I can't remember when I read it. I think it might have been junior high school. It centers around the budding romance between two teen girls. Hide your children because we don't want them to know about gay people!! What crap!! I plan to reread this one.

5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: One of the greatest writers out there, and she should never be banned.

6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker: I think I like the movie a little more than the book, but another example of fine literature.

7. Beloved by Toni Morrison: I read this one in high school and college. I had a little trouble understanding it in high school, but had a deeper understanding of it when I was older.

8. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: Profanity, sexuality, and teenage angst. Oh, the horror!! Don't the children get any ideas. Lets make sure they are sweet and virginal. If they don't read about it, they won't know about these things!!!

9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: I don't get banning this one at all. I guess the roaring 1920s and prohibition can rot the brain.

10. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: It was written during an era (1953) when black people weren't supposed to exploring their identity, nationalism or racism.

The list could go on, but that's what I came up with.

Top 10 banned/controversial books I want to read:

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: I bought the entire set months ago. Controversial or not, I feel left out of the loop when talking to my fellow book nerds.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: I'm ashamed to admit I haven't read this one. It seems books that deal with rape and racism tend to make lists like these.

3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: I own this one, but haven't read it yet. I bought it when I saw articles slamming it during banned book week last year. Want to guess what this book deals with? Rape.

4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: I found the movie to be a little on the weak side, but I have high hopes for the book.

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry: A world where everyone is supposed to be happy, except one boy Jonas who thinks to question it. The problem here, I'm not sure. Kids questioning society, can't have that.

6. Any book by Judy Blume:  I looked at the list of her books, and I can't find a single I have read. That's so bad. I remember her books filling the shelves in my elementary school. She tackles tough subjects like masturbation, bullying, divorce, teen sex and racism.

7. Carrie by Stephen King:  I loved the movie. Sissy Spacek was awesome. I own several of his books, but I have only read one (Misery). His books are soooooooooooooooooooooo long, I get a little gun shy when it comes to carving out time to read one. What's the big deal with Carrie?  Don't really know.

8.  Cut by Patricia McCormick: A girl who struggles with cutting herself. Will this give more teens the idea to cut themselves? I don't know. But perhaps it will help those who struggle with cutting to stop.

9. Choke by Chuck Palahnuik: Some parents in Arkansas object to the language and sex addiction. I agree it's not for young children, but there's nothing wrong with a mature teen reading it.  Teens know more about sex than they let on, and banning books won't stop that.

10. I saved the best for last...............................what could it be...............well here goes...............................................

Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford: I'll be honest I have no interest in finding Waldo or reading a children's picture book. But I put it on the list for the sheer absurdity of people who tried to ban a picture book. Why do some people have a problem with Waldo? Well if you look at some of the pictures hard enough you can see some topless men in the photos. There is a little extra exposed skin on several people in the photos. Really? Don't some people have better things to do?

Friday, September 23, 2011

My take on: Only Time Will Tell

I'm always a sucker for family dramas. Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer takes us from the 1920s-1940s. Harry Clifton was born into a poor family in England, and life hands him every curve ball possible. He father died under mysterious circumstances, and his mother, Maisie, must take every demeaning job out there to keep the family afloat. His uncle Stan thinks hard work and liquor are more important than school. Harry has a chance to make something of himself, but a secret from his mother's past will always be haunting him.

While at boarding school Harry becomes best friends with Giles Barrington. The Barrington family is one of privilege, which Harry is in awe of at times. Theirs is a true friendship. Harry finds out Giles is stealing from the school commissary. When he confronts Giles, I thought this had disaster written all over it. Giles could have easily sold out Harry. Blame Harry and Giles gets to keep his high place in society. After all who would believe the son of a poor waitress isn't a thief? They stick together through thick and thin. But it's a friendship that Giles' father, Hugo, doesn't want to happen. Hugo is always cold to Harry. No one knows why. Telling you why would just spoil the entire book. But I have to tell you it's a big one.

Hugo wants Harry as far away from his son as possible. He does his best to sabotage Maisie professionally. But Maisie doesn't break. Every time she is knocked down, Maisie finds a way to get back up. She works hard as a waitress, a business owner, a waitress again, and then in a seedy night club. All the while Harry doesn't know the sacrifices Maisie makes.

The story is told from several points of view. Each section begins with a first-person account, then shifts to a third-person account. Harry is the first character you connect with. You feel his frustration about the death of his father. No wants to tell him the truth. He doesn't believe his father Arthur died during the war. It just isn't possible. Is it that bad? Do people think he just can't handle it? We do learn the reason why later on. It has more to do with his uncle Stan making a deal with the devil. We don't hear from Harry's perspective until near the end of the book. I didn't really like that. Harry is all throughout the book, but his story is being told by another character. When Giles and Emma Barrington tell their story, you feel a little closer to Harry.

When it shifts to Maisie, I felt so bad for her. Life knocks her down so much, I wanted her to get a break. Hugo Barrington gets a turn, too. He is such a jerk. He sabotages others to save his own skin. Hugo knows the truth about Arthur's death. He had a chance to save him, but was more worried about the bottom line. Being kind to Harry just isn't in the cards. Showing Harry any kindness could possibly lead to the truth everyone is trying to hide.

When Harry's mentor, Old Jack Tar, gets a chance to show his true self. Most people think he is off his rocker, but Old Jack is quite. But he's fighting his own demons. He saved several lives during the war, but Old Jack doesn't feel like a hero.

I was thoroughly engrossed in this tale. The title also seems very appropriate. As the book progresses, Only Time Will Tell before some of these characters have to face their past. In Harry's case, the past will impact his future.  It's the first in a series, which I'm glad because the ending leaves you wanting more. (MAJOR CLIFFHANGER AT THE END!!!)

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (St. Martin's Press) in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

My take on: Invisible

Just last week I walking through Penn Station during rush hour. As I was walking toward the exit I noticed a blind man making his was through a crowd of people. A woman was helping he toward an exit, but I got the impression that was the extent of her help. I wondered how he would navigate a busy Eighth Avenue. Was he born blind or did he lose his sight later in life? I admit I felt a little sorry for him. What does all this have to do with Invisible by Hugues de Montalembert? After reading his book, I thought I should change my perception of people with disabilities.

Hugues de Montalembert was attacked in his NYC apartment in 1978. The violent attack left him permanently blind. He had to learn how to live all over again. People told him not to jump back into the world too fast, something he didn't always listen to. He walked the streets of New York by himself, despite being in a rehabilitation center for a short period. It's hard to give up the freedom you had become so used to.

"REAL BLINDNESS is fear. If you don't dive into the action and stay alive and awake and aware and enjoy your life with a free mind, it is due to fear. Fear of life is the first enemy of the blind."

I think a lot of people are living their life in a state of blindness. We're afraid to fail. Afraid to fall.

Diving into the chaos of NYC having barely learned a new skill set, seemed both brave and stupid on the part of de Montalembert. Brave because he faced a problem head on. But also stupid because he could have hurt himself. After leaving the rehabilitation center, he did so many things people thought he couldn't or shouldn't do. Traveling alone to India and even creating a ballet. It's very inspiring that he didn't let blindness get him down. Giving into that "woe is me" attitude wouldn't help.

Towards the end he brings up a very good point. He struck up a conversation with a cab driver, who saw his entire family killed in front of him. This man has his sight, but no one would ever know it just by looking at him. People walk around with all kinds of internal wounds, but most will only notice the physical wounds.

This is a very compact memoir. I wish there was a little more depth to it. I wanted him to dig more into his feelings rather than his experiences. But overall it will make you take stock of your life. Are you living in fear or not? Are you making the most of your life or not? It won't take you long, so make sure you read this book.

Rating: Superb

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

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

I've had a little lull in my reading pace. So it's time for me to pick it up. I've started several books. I also managed to finish two last week. So, it's Monday, what's on the cover?

Invisible by Hugues de Montalembert is small and compact. But....Wow!! This little book packed quite a punch. Hugues de Montalembert lost his sight in a random act of violence. How he lived his life after is at the heart of this book. Looking at the cover, I thought had this man become invisible as a result of his attack? I don't think so, but maybe others thought he did. A review will be posted shortly.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan is modern-day retelling of The Scarlett Letter. The woman on the cover has been branded. In this dystopian society people are branded a particular color for their crimes. Murderers are branded red. The victim in this case is her unborn child. Interesting. I've never read The Scarlett Letter, but I can't wait to see where this book goes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hostage in Time book signing

Am I really that tall or is just the photo? In this wonderful blogging world the opportunity to attend a book signing often presents itself. Here I am with author and psychic medium Linda Lauren at the Merchant House Museum for the launch party of her book Hostage in Time. What's the book about? Here is a little description from

"For photographer Amanda Lloyd, being hired to film the historic Serenity house, home of Thomas Edison’s patent attorney Jonathan Brisbane, is a straightforward gig. Filming during re-enactment day, Amanda begins to explore the home, including the prohibited third floor. Suddenly and without warning, Amanda finds herself transported back in time to 1884 where, because she is brandishing her camcorder that he mistakes for a weapon, she is accused by Brisbane himself of being a spy in search of Edison’s secrets. Immediately placed under house arrest, she finds herself a hostage to history."

Intrigued? I am. I had a few misadventures making my way to the Merchant House Museum. I got off the train just fine. But I end up going in the wrong direction, taking a nice little stroll around Washington Square Park -- twice!! It's been awhile since I've been in the Village. After a nice 40 minute walk, I found it. I cool off with a little seltzer, and I'm ready. Linda Lauren was very nice and engaging. She signed my book to boot!!

Later in the evening there was a little Q&A session with Linda Lauren. The first question was had anyone ever experienced time travel. Apparently it's a lot different from deja vu. With deja vu you know you've been to that place. You're just experiencing the event again. With time travel you haven't been there before. She described several instances of experiencing time travel. I'm a bit skeptical. If I haven't seen it or have concrete proof, I have a hard time believing.

All-in-all it was a great experience. The Merchant House Museum is full of history as well.

Here we have Seabury Tredwell. A moody-looking fellow isn't he? I guess no one took happy photos in the 1800s. How about his wife Eliza Tredwell? How does she look?

Being married to that chipper fellow couldn't have been easy. The Tredwells had five girls and two boys. The home where the Tredwells raised their family is now a museum. The home is full of original details. Even the beds are still in the home.

It might be hard to tell from the photo, but those are the original moldings on the ceiling. The chandelier is the same, although it has been adapted with an electrical current. Some of the gold pieces on the curtains are also original. There a few ghost stories, too. Despite living here all of my life, there is so much to New York that I have yet to experience. I had a great time!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

My take on: After the Party

"Something wasn't right. Jem wasn't entirely sure what it was. It was something about Ralph, about his smile, his demeanor. He seemed, well, fake was the only way she could think of to describe it, as though he was pretending to like her. He was clearly very happy with his home life and his children, and seemed to be enjoying his work, but whenever he looked at Jem, it was as if he wasn't seeing her anymore." (Pg. 339)

It's been 11 years since author Lisa Jewell visited the characters from Ralph's Party, so now it's time to check in with Ralph McLeary and Jem Catterick in After the Party. I did not read Ralph's Party, but I don't think that's a prerequisite. After just a few chapters you're pulled right into their world. The problems this couple has are universal. They're not sure who the other person is anymore. Do they still want the same things? Did they ever want the same things? Can their relationship be fixed?

Ralph is an artist and Jem is trying to jumpstart her career after struggling to have two children, Scarlett and Blake. Jem is like a lot of mothers -- she's struggling to keep it together. She wants Ralph to get out of his art studio and help more with the children. Ralph feels like something is missing from their relationship, and from his life overall. What is it? Or is he just missing the life they had before the children came along? There was more freedom, more affection, and just more to life before they had children. Jem wanted a family more than Ralph.

Ralph uses a trip to California to visit a friend to find himself. Jem uses his time away to explore her fantasies. A mysterious man on the train piques her interest. She strikes up a friendship with the mystery man, Joel, and his daughter Jessica. Play dates turn into a dinner with the kids. In Jem's mind their exchanges have an air of innocence. There is nothing wrong with having dinner with a man that's not her partner. Right? Those lingering looks at each other are Ok. Text messages to each other are Ok. Long talks are Ok. Is this a budding friendship or does Jem truly want a life separate from Ralph? Or is Jem just bored with life?

Meanwhile, Ralph lives the life of a single man. Hanging out with his friend Smith and his girlfriend Rosey.  Ralph latches onto Rosey, who helps him explore his spirituality -- something Jem would never do. To Jem God doesn't need to be in their lives. But when Ralph returns to England, he thinks otherwise. Exploring that side of himself forces Ralph to take stock of his life. He realizes Jem needs more help with the children, and believes that after 11 years they should finally get married. Jem is grateful for the help, but it seems like they are pretending to be happy. They're saying and doing all the right things, but don't seem really happy.

Joel and Rosey are the unspoken problems in their relationship. Jem feels the need to ignore her flirtation with Joel and Ralph feels the need to hide his new found spirituality. Joel still pops up, but at odd times. Did Joel read too much into the relationship? At times I have to say yes. He has legitimate reasons for popping up, but it seems a little too convenient.

Sometimes I had a hard time following the timeline. The timeline wasn't linear, which I don't always like in books. Overall, there are some good elements to the book. The ups and downs of a relationship are universal. The book is told from Jem and Ralph's point of view. Which is good to see what the other is thinking. You see how both of them can read too much into something simple. It is one of those books that will remind you that life isn't easy, and it takes so many twists and turns.

Rating: Give it a try

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

Blog Q&A with Lisa Jewell

Here are a few questions I had for Lisa Jewell author of After the Party

1. When Ralph's Party was published (in 1999) did you think then there was more story to tell? Did you need time away from the characters before revisiting the story? 
 No, quite the opposite, I was raring to get on with the next one and a whole new set of characters. I am not one of those writers who ‘misses’ their characters and feels sad when the book comes to an end. I generally find a year is more than enough time to spend with a group of fictional people! I revisited the characters for a variety of reasons, but nostalgia was not one of them. Ralph’s Party had been semi-autobiographical and it seemed apt to use the same characters I‘d used to write about falling in love to write about the challenges of long term love and life after children.

2. Did you take any inspiration from your own life when writing After the Party?
Yes. It was my life at the time that inspired me to write the book. I’d had a second baby and some big imbalances were becoming apparent within my marriage and I was seething with shock and resentment that two people who’d started out as equals had fallen so easily into stereotypical gender roles. The big difference between Ralph and Jem’s story and my own story is that my husband and I have always communicated and would never have got ourselves into as many holes as Ralph and Jem, who have no communication skills whatsoever!

3. What are your favorite genres to read? Do you see yourself writing in another genre?
I basically like a good-quality, middle-ground, character-led read, something with a mystery or a murder or a family secret at its heart. I like books that make me turn the pages really fast, not books I have to work at. I like chick lit when it is smart and well-written and tackles meaty issues, but not when it is sloppy and silly and full of clich├ęs. I would not take a full leap into another genre, but would definitely let my topics move around from place to place.

4. What are you working on now?
I am three quarters of the way through my tenth novel. It’s called BEFORE I MET HER and is about a girl who comes to London in the mid 90’s to try and find a mystery woman named in her grandmother’s will. Whilst trying to find a job and trace the mystery woman, she inadvertently gets involved in the London Brit Pop scene of the 90’s and the hedonistic  Primrose Hill set that all the tabloids were writing about at the time. The story is interwoven with scenes from her grandmother’s time in London, just after the First World War and her adventures with the Bright Young People set and a famous jazz musician called Sandy Beach. So their coming-of-age stories kind of mirror each others’ and at the heart of it is some detective work, some romance and a big mystery.

5. In three words how would you describe After the Party?
Sad. Real. Uplifting.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

That Day in September

Today marks 10 years that the world changed. I can remember where I was. I was in a women's studies class, without a TV and without a radio. I had no idea of what was going until an hour and a half later. Someone on the campus bus told me two planes had flown into the World Trade Center. At first I thought it was a rather dumb joke. I walked around campus for hours just watching the news coverage. Fortunately, members of my family who worked in both towers got out safely. 

Everyone has a story of where they were on that day. Artie Van Why author of That Day In September has a story too. Here are a few questions I had for him:

1. After 9/11 you developed a greater sense of family and living life to the fullest.
I did.  Having been so close to death (others and the possibility of my own), family became a top priority for me.  Knowing I would never have seen them again if I had died that day made me want to be closer to them (both physically and emotionally).  For the 26 years I had lived in New York I would see them maybe 2 or 3 times a year.  I found I wanted (and maybe even needed) to be near them.  That prompted me to leave the city I loved to move to Lancaster, PA; where my parents had retired.

In the years that have followed, my relationship with them has grown ten-fold.  I’m closer to them than I ever would have thought possible.  After all these years, I’m getting to know my parents… as an adult child.  I realize I want to know all I can about them before they leave this earth.  I ask them questions; about their childhood, their life when they first got married, their heartbreaks, their joys.  I know that years from now I will be very grateful for having had all this time with them.

And, yes, living through 9/11 did propel me to live my life the best I could.  But I’m sorry to say that over the past few years I had forgotten how to do that.  The long delayed effects from PTSD manifested themselves several years after 9/11.  I was engulfed by grief; mourning not only those who lost their lives that day but also mourning the life I had up to that day.  I, of course, am grateful and humbled that I survived, physically.  But on that day my life, as I had known it, was changed forever.  The person I was on September 10, 2001 no longer exists.  I mourned the loss of that person; while trying to understand who I was now, living with the memories, sadness and pain of that day.

I feel, these ten years later that I am just now moving out of mourning and back into living.  I want to recommit myself to the promise I made to honor those who died by living my life to the fullest.

2. Was writing the book a form of therapy for you?
It was, certainly.  Being able to put down in words what I had witnessed and what I was feeling was incredibly helpful.  But, as you put it, it was a form of therapy.  There has been much more work to do in the years following; including actual therapy.

3. You left New York after 9/11, do you ever see yourself living in New York again?

Much to my surprise, I don't.  I had not been able to go back to NYC after I moved to Lancaster in September of 2003.  I just couldn't go.  I was afraid.  Because of the therapy I mentioned in the preceding question, I finally was able to face the fear and at the end of this past April I, along with my parents and sister, went back to NYC.  We were there less than 24 hours; specifically to revisit what I still regard as Ground Zero.  That trip allowed me to finally be able to close that chapter of my life; my life in NYC.  That was a very big step for me.
4. Has it been easy/difficult getting the message behind your book out there?

Well, having published the book myself it has been very hard just to let people know of it.  I make very little royalties from the book, so it has never been about making money.  Instead it’s about having my story told; knowing that people are touched or moved by it and that perhaps it causes them to reexamine some aspects of their own lives.  I am moved beyond measure when someone shares with me how the book has affected them.  I only wish for that to continue.  It is my way of assuring that we never forget and serves as my personal tribute to those who died.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My take on: Call Me When You Land

In Call Me When You Land by Michael Schiavone Katie Olmstead doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of her parents. But try as she might, it isn't working. She is an alcoholic like her mother, and an absentee parent to her son, C.J., just like her parents were.

Katie uses alcohol to hide the pain and avoid reality. She can't even acknowledge that she is an alcoholic. As long as she can drive to work, hold a conversation, and make it home in one piece, then she isn't an alcoholic. The amount of alcohol she drinks on any given day would make the average person pass out, but for Katie it's normal. But if it's not a problem why does she feel the need to hide it from C.J.? He has turned into the average teenager. The type who would rather hide in his room, than talk to his mother. But they are forced to face their problems when C.J.'s estranged father Craig dies. He leaves C.J. a motorcycle in his will.

Why a motorcycle? It's not exactly a practical gift for a kid in high school. To Katie, the motorcycle represents freedom. A freedom she doesn't want C.J. to have. It's the type of freedom C.J. shouldn't have until he is an adult. If he learns to ride the Harley C.J. might never come back. In a way C.J. is already gone. He wants to focus on hockey and possibly get into a prep school. The bottled up feelings he has, C.J. takes out on the ice -- violently. With all that he is going through, why should Katie give him the tools to runaway? Katie can't keep the motorcycle from C.J. A lie she told C.J. years ago about his father could ruin their relationship even further, despite the lie being for his own good.

She tries to take his focus off the motorcycle by being more of a parent, fixing him breakfast and asking him about his "girlfriend." But C.J. can see right through her. Why would she try to be a parent now? What is different now? He knows she wants to go right back to the bottle.

Katie has lost her zeal for life. She just seems to be going through the motions. A career as an artist no longer seems possible, instead she tolls away working as a bartender. Art was her form of expression, but she has just replaced it with alcohol. At times, only her dying uncle Walter can get through to her. He's the mediator for her an C.J. She hardly let her ex-boyfriend Peter into that special part of her heart. He couldn't come in the house because it might upset C.J. The only time she truly lets Peter into her world is for sex. She just can't see how self-destructive she is. Even her absentee sister Caroline can see it. A sister who constantly says, "call me when you land." A phrase that Katie doesn't truly understand until the end. Until she acknowledges her problems, she might never come back to reality.

The characters feel very true to life. They are all deeply flawed. Will Katie continue to repeat the mistakes of her parents or will she finally break the cycle? Will C.J. learn to harness his anger or continue to have bouts of rage. This a broken family trying to find its way back together. There is no quick fix solution for their problems. Will they reunite or will drift further apart. Who would have thought a motorcycle could be the catalyst for all of this?

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author's publicist (JKSCommunications) in exchange for an honest review.

Welcome Michael Schiavone

Today we have a guest from Michael Schiavone, author of Call Me When You Land.

Why did you decide to write a novel instead of more short stories?

I’ve been writing short stories for over a decade, a pursuit that began in 1994 when I was handed a collection by Raymond Carver.  I was amazed and startled at how someone could convey such depth within ten pages.  I admire the precision of the short form—its immediacy.  There’s no room for digressions, no place for filler.  Every word counts.  Every sentence matters.  Being a minimalist, it’s no wonder I prefer writing short stories.

Frankly, I wrote a novel because this is what the fiction marketplace demands.  I don’t know many agents out there who will sign an author who only has a story collection to offer, even if they’ve been published in respectable literary magazines.  Most agents and publishers demand the novel from new and emerging writers.  So, from a business perspective, I chose to write a novel because I felt I had to write a novel—I went as far as I could with short stories. On another hand, I think I wrote a novel because I wanted respect as a writer.  I believed I had to have a published novel under my belt if I was going to be a “real writer.”

As you can see, my motivation was a consequence of insecurity and ego, which is kind of pathetic.  However, I am so glad I wrote a novel because Call Me When You Land was the result, an unexpected and rewarding endeavor for me.  This makes me grateful because the characters in this book are so real to me—so personal and present—that I hate to think that they might never have been born.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Calling all writers!!

It's not really in the cards for me to be spending money, but that doesn't mean some of you can't take part in the Literary Writers Conference!! There is still is a chance for 20% off, details here Have fun!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

My take on: Sweetly

When I think of Hansel and Gretel I think of........

Bugs Bunny!! Candy, comedy, and an ugly witch, those were the elements that came to mind before I read Sweetly by Jackson Pearce. Mystery, romance, witches, chocolate, and.....werewolves are elements in this modern day retelling of Hansel and Gretel.

Instead of cutesy looking kids, we have brooding teenagers Ansel and Gretchen. They are running from their past in Washington. Gretchen's twin sister went missing 12 years ago. The three precocious youngsters went walking in the woods, looking for a witch. Ansel didn't believe the stories, but he was there to protect his sisters. Twin sisters who are so alike they are almost the same person. Something or someone with yellow eyes begins chasing the youngsters, and only Ansel and Gretchen make it out alive.

Their parents can't move on. Their mother dies of grief. Their father moves on, remarries, but he also dies. No one can get over the memory of their sister. A sister who remains nameless until the middle of the book. Right from the beginning, I'm wondering what is her name. Why can't they say it? Is it too painful to say her name? Wouldn't talking about her make it better? Leaving her name unspoken just makes it worse.

After the death of their father, Gretchen and Ansel are kicked out by their stepmother. While searching for a better life for themselves, they get stuck in Live Oak, South Carolina. They end up staying and working for the town outcast -- Sophia Kelly. Sophia is a chocolatier by profession, but some in town, like the mysterious Samuel, think she is a witch. Did Gretchen and Ansel truly get stuck in Live Oak or were they pulled there by Sophia? Several teen girls have gone missing. All went missing after Sophia's chocolate festival. Is it her or is it just coincidence?

Sophia doesn't seem like a witch, more like a lonely woman longing for a connection. Gretchen becomes like a sister. Ansel becomes more than just a friend. Is it all genuine? Sometimes Sophia just seems too good to be true. Ansel can't see it because he is smitten with Sophia. But Gretchen can sense something is wrong. Having lost a piece of herself, Gretchen can tell when someone is in mourning or just lost in life. Sophia has an air of sadness about her. Gretchen tries to get at the heart of the matter, but Sophia has so many secrets. She doesn't want to push too much. While being suspicious of Sophia, Gretchen also feels like she finally found a place she belongs.

"I am part of something, however small, however far out in the country. I am not an obligation to my stepmother; I am not the girl without the sister or father or mother; I am not the girl who is missing half of herself. I'm not even "Ansel's little sister." I am wanted. I am almost new."

Which Sophia is the real one? The sweet, eager, and lovable woman that Gretchen and Ansel can see? Or the witch that the town sees?

"I want to believe her. I mostly believe her. But there are two versions of Sophia Kelly, two versions I've been trying to figure out since the day I got here. Now I understand that they were explained to me in the diner before I'd even met her. One is the patron saint of candy, and the other is the first sign of Live Oak's end days. And I'm not sure which version is stronger."

Gretchen turns to Samuel for help -- the only person who seems to know what is really going on. He has also lost someone. They develop a strong connection. They both let their guards down. Gretchen and Samuel band together to protect the town and each other. The final battle for Live Oak is bloody and graphic. But until the end, it was hard to figure out who the true bad guys were and why. There is a great mystery surrounding Sophia and why she is the way she is. But I thought the problems in the town can't all be her fault. Who else is the bad guy here? I felt there weren't enough clues as to who the villains were. You don't find out who the villains are until the end. Overall, there were moments of sweetness and romance. For lovers of the paranormal, this one is right up your alley.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Little, Brown and Company) in exchange for an honest review.

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

I love family dramas. This week's edition of "What's on the Cover?" is all about family drama. First we start with This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. A family's world is shattered by the acts of a teenager. Here is a hint, I think it involves "sexting" and how dangerous it can be. Sounds interesting!!

I have never read a book by Jeffrey Archer, but I know he is a big-time author. The opportunity to read books by bestselling authors don't come along all the time, so I couldn't pass it up. Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer is supposed to be the start of a new series called The Clifton Chronicles. A journey that begins in 1919, and spans several decades. A young man sets out to learn the truth about his father, and how it relates to his own life. A review will be posted on Sept. 23. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer....

Friday, September 2, 2011

Borders made me do it!!

Last year I expressed my disdain for Oprah picking Jonathan Franzen's Freedom as a book club pick. I let it be known on Twitter and other blogs. It had been so long since she picked a female author, it just seemed wrong. Weeks before the book came out it was being proclaimed as the greatest thing since sliced bread. The lady from The New York Times, whose name I have no idea how to spell, wrote a glowing review. A review in which I needed a dictionary to read. I declared I would not buy it.....during all the hype. So what did I do with my birthday money (my birthday was Thursday)? What does any book lover do with a little extra money? I went to Borders. The e-mails advertising 60-80% off were just too enticing. What does all of this have to do with Jonathan Franzen? I think you can guess....

I caved. I caved. I was bored by his previous book The Corrections. So why would I buy Freedom? It was 70% off. I figure that makes it Ok. A $28 book dropped down to $8.40, who can resist? That's cheaper than the paperback ($16) of this book. I want to see if all the hype is justified. Technically it didn't cost me anything out of pocket since I got a gift card for my birthday. So I can honestly say, "I didn't spend any money on that book." And just so I didn't feel like a total sellout I also bought a few more goodies from Borders.

I also bought Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, and Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs. I didn't stop there either. I'm a Lost fanatic, so I ducked into Best Buy to get the last two seasons. I think everyone will agree with me that nothing says, "Happy Birthday!!" like a little retail therapy!!!