Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My take on: Helpless

After enjoying Delirious by Daniel Palmer, I'm back for more with the author's latest novel Helpless. Some of the topics (sexting, estranged families coming together) are very timely.

Former Navy Seal Tom Hawkins is thrust into the role of both mom and dad following the suspicious death of his ex-wife Kelly. His teenage daughter Jill has spent most of her life hearing bad things about her father. Kelly did everything in her power to destroy Tom's relationship with Jill. If you've been taught all your life to resent a person, what do you do when you're forced together? In Jill's case she rebuffs every attempt Tom makes at affection and concern. It's pretty hard for Jill to ignore Tom considering he is also her soccer coach. Their tenuous relationship is put to the test when Tom is accused of a horrible crime.

Tom is accused of rape and of running a child pornography ring. Once that happens Tom becomes a pariah in the small town of Shilo, New Hampshire. The town sheriff is just eating it all up. The sheriff, Brendan Murphy, can't stand Tom. Guys like Brendan are just waiting for you to screw up. At this point I was scared to keep reading. I was fully in Tom's corner. As a reader, I hate it when an innocent person is framed. Or they get caught up in circumstances beyond their control. It's the same for me with television and movies. There isn't always a happy ending in stories like these.

To make matters worse an FBI agent, Rainy Miles, is also on his tale. She's convinced that Tom is the ringleader of a large child porn ring. She believes another person, James Mann, was one of Tom's biggest customers. Despite their being no obvious connection between the two, law enforcement is convinced there is a connection.

A long-buried secret is eating away at Tom. He once smuggled heroin into the U.S. and buried it, which was a source of major contention with Kelly. She wanted to make money off of it, while Tom wanted a normal life. Is this secret the source of Tom's misery? Does someone else know?

I love the dynamic between Tom and Jill. It feels very real. Despite Jill's attitude, Tom refuses to give up on their relationship. Tom fights through the teenage angst, breaking down Jill's tough exterior. What I didn't like was all the technical aspects. There is a lot of computer lingo in the book. It's broken in the simplest terms possible, but sometimes I still felt like I didn't understand it. A second read would probably open my mind up a little more. If you're a sucker for mysteries, give this one a try.

Rating: Give it a try

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

World Book Night

Feel like giving back? Want to help others discover new books? World Book Night aims solve that problem. Here is how:

We need book-loving volunteers to fan out across America on April 23, 2012! Just take 20 free copies of a book to a location in your community, and you just might change someone's life. Please sign up by Feb. 1. The goal is to give books to new readers, to encourage reading, to share your passion for a great book. The entire publishing, bookstore, library, author, printing, and paper community is behind this effort with donated services and time. The first World Book Night was held in the UK last year, and it was such a big success that it's spreading around the world! Please volunteer to be a book giver in the U.S.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My take on: Ali in Wonderland

I remember Ali Wentworth from In Living Color. Back then I thought she was a little ditzy. The characters she played were usually on the dumb side. I thought she must be a little ditzy in real life, too. After reading her book Ali in Wonderland: And other Tall Tales, I realized how wrong I was. She is quite smart and funny.

Who knew her mother was a social secretary for President Reagan. She grew up a privileged kid in the Washington, D.C. area. The tales from her childhood were some of the funniest. When her older sister Sissy ran away while recovering from spinal surgery Ali was tasked with bringing her back. "Ran" away is a loose term. Her sister was still in a full body cast, so she kind of waddled sideways out of the house. Her mother Muffie forced her to go after Sissy, despite Ali emphatically stating she didn't want to runaway, too. The only way Ali could convince her sister to return was by making her laugh. Ali covered herself in a garbage bag, mud, leaves and branches. A little dancing later, and her sister Sissy was on the ground laughing her butt off. The visual made me laugh.

Ali's mother Muffie seems like a bit of a pistol. A person you could sit down with over a cup of tea and have a long conversation. According to her, most problems could be solved by a stay at the Four Season. Ali's future husband, George Stephanopoulos, and her daughters disagreed. They didn't see the point of going to a hotel during a snowstorm. It was just a little hard for Ali to break a long-held habit.

In the early stages of her acting career, Ali was different from her peers. She wasn't a "struggling" actor. She could afford to pay her bills and eat more than ramen noodles. When she bought a home in California it wasn't really her home. Instead her home was overrun with family members and friends who overstayed their welcome. She did her best to break free of the political scene she grew up with. Which made me wonder how she ended up with George Stephanopoulos? He makes a living analyzing the political scene, a scene Ali wanted to get away from. But ultimately, she found the person who was just right for her.

If you're looking for a quick read or a distraction, pick this one up. The lasting image for me will be Ali under siege after throwing package over the gate of the home of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Wouldn't it have made more sense to just ring the bell? Maybe she embellished a little bit, but the story was sure hilarious.

Rating: Superb

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

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

It's Monday, so what's on the cover? Either that girl above is really tired or she can't handle her liquor. After the first 100 pages of Spin by Catherine McKenzie, it's obvious the main character can't handle her liquor. Kate blew her chance to land her dream job by showing up drunk. She'll get a second chance if she does well on her next assignment -- follow the "it" girl into rehab and get the scoop. If this hasn't been done already by one of the numerous entertainment rags out there, they will soon. A review and Q&A with the author will be posted on Feb. 17.

Home Front by Kristin Hannah looks a lot like her other books. A faint picturesque beach scene. That automatically makes me think of TV movie of the week. Her books tend to have a lot of melodrama, but that didn't put me off when I received a pitch e-mail. A mother suddenly has to go off to Iraq, leaving her two daughters in the hands of her husband and mother-in-law. Her husband would rather work at his law firm than have to play Mr. Mom. He doesn't understand his wife's sense of duty. So far, I really like the book. I'm just scared to read the end. I keep thinking this can't end well.

The cover of Fallen by Traci L. Slatton is very eerie. A lone woman walking towards her doom. At least I think she's walking toward her doom. There is no one around. There is fog everywhere. The Eiffel Tower and surrounding buildings are in ruins. Intriguing.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In my Mailbox

I had such a good book week, I had to do an In My Mailbox post. No video this time because I'm catching a cold, and my voice sounds a little wonky!!! In My Mailbox is a weekly meme brought to us by Kristi of  The Story Siren. February and March and sure to be busy months for me, given the amount of books I received. Lets start off with....

Pure by Julianna Baggott (courtesy of Grand Central Publishing) is the first in a trilogy. I think it's YA, but can easily appeal to adults like myself. I'm not quite sure how to describe it. It's definitely dystopian. Here is a snippet of the GoodReads description, "We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies." I don't read many dystopian novels, but I thought it would be good to step outside my comfort zone. Plus, the book came with some other goodies..

A cute little button, tempting me to look inside the book. And when I did...

Out popped a paper butterfly. I've tried to duplicate it, but I can't get it to rest inside the book like before. Next up on the list...

Being Lara by Lola Jaye. I was sold on the cover alone when I saw it in the HarperCollins catalog. When I got a pitch e-mail about it, I was totally onboard. There has to be some story behind this girl. The main character, Lara Reid, has always known she was different from her parents. Her skin color and hair are different. Turns out Lara is adopted and this is her journey of self-discovery and where she came from.

Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream (HarperCollins). What do you think of that woman on the cover? Think she is about to jump? In thirty days Clementine Pritchard is determined to kill herself? Why? I don't know but I can't wait to find out.

Outside The Lines by Amy Hatvany (Simon and Schuster)
. A woman goes in search of her estranged father. He attempted suicide when Eden was 10, leading to her parents' divorce. Now 30, Eden goes in search of him.

The Boiling Season by Christopher Hebert (HarperCollins). The main character is trying to escape political unrest on a volatile Caribbean island. 

Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph (Algonquin). A former Black Panther tells of his transformation from FBI fugitive to an Ivy League professor. I always love learning about people.

The Underside of joy by Sere Prince Halverson (Dutton). Two women are brought together by tragedy. Both claim to be the mother of the same two children. And I think that is just scratching the surface, there are many layers to this book.

That's it for me. What did everyone else get? 

P.S.: Have look at the trailer for Pure...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My take on: It's a Waverly Life

Waverly Bryson needs to grow up. No she is not a real person, but she is the main character of It's A Waverly Life by Maria Murnane. This is the second time around for this character. I didn't read the first book, Perfect on Paper, but I don't think that matters.

After a failed engagement and a career change, things are looking up for Waverly. She has a dating advice column and a greeting card business. She's also started dating the handsome Jake McIntyre, a physical therapist for the Atlanta Hawks. The relationship isn't perfect with Waverly living in San Francisco and Jake in Atlanta. She likes Jake, but she is afraid to let him into her inner circle. That job belongs to her two best friends Andie and McKenna. They know everything about Waverly. They can knock back a few cocktails and gossip about their relationships. Their friendship brought me back to the days of Sex and the City. Waverly is the writer (a la Carrie Bradshaw), McKenna is married and pregnant (paging Charlotte York), and Andie moves from relationship to relationship (a watered down version of Samantha Jones).

Every time Jake gets too close, Waverly just freezes. She's too afraid to get hurt. Waverly can tell men and women how to overcome their dating disasters, but can't follow her own advice.

"It was amazing how inarticulate I could be at times, given that I was being paid to use...words." (Pg. 57)

Her relationship with Jake is always filled with awkward silences, missed phone calls, and e-mails. All the while I'm thinking, "You idiot!!" Many women would love to be in her position. Friends, a man who is actually interested in you, and a fun career. Things like that don't just fall off trees. I kept thinking how many ways can you keep sabotaging this relationship? She has a pregnancy scare, but does she tell Jake right away? No. I can understand somewhat. Why speak until you're sure? But if you're so scared about the future, why not tell him? At the time, even Jake was going through some personal problems. Wouldn't it be good for your relationship if you could comfort him face-to-face. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone to talk to? But Waverly is afraid to have deep conversations with Jake. Once the small talk is done, what else can Waverly say?

I wasn't sure if this book was trying to be chick-lit? Funny beach read? Or something deeper. There are the light-hearted moments with her friends, but then Waverly is constantly struggling with her confidence. I also thought she was afraid to grow up. It takes a while to get there, but Waverly does take control of her life. There is hope for her future.

Rating: Give it a try

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My take on: The Queen of Mystery

I am a fan of books. I am a big fan of mystery books. I love the movies based on Agatha Christie's books. Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Evil under the Sun and Appointment with Death are some of my favorite film adaptations. I've never read the Miss Marple mysteries or seen any of the films. I think I just connected with Hercule Poirot right away. Albert Finney has his moments in Murder on the Orient Express, but I just feel Peter Ustinov had the right amount of campiness to play Poirot.

When the opportunity arose to read Agatha Christie's autobiography and one of her novels, you know I jumped on it. I've seen the movie adaptation of Evil Under the Sun, but I had never read the book. I was also intrigued about reading about the Queen of Mystery in her own words.

Right off the bat, Agatha makes it clear she doesn't care for chronological order. She wasn't kidding. Her mind wanders from moment to moment, so much so it was hard for me to follow her. She could be talking about her love for books and listening to her nanny's stories (of course she used the word "nursie" in her book), and then she's talking about her religious background. I kept thinking, "Pick a topic Agatha!" But on the other hand, it's a great insight into the mind of a writer. You have to retain a lot of information and creativity to write 80 novels, several short-story collections and plays, and six novels under a pen name.

She grew up privileged with several nursemaids. The family was thrown for a loop after her father died when she was 11. In those days, children weren't taken to funerals. Instead, Agatha was left to wander the family home. It seemed to me that Agatha didn't quite understand death. Agatha tells her mother that their father is at peace, isn't that good thing for him? Her mother wanted him back, she wanted him there.

While I respect and admire her creativity, I found Ms Christie to be a little snobbish and also a little racist. I have to remember that she started to write this book in 1950, and didn't finish it until 15 years later. To see the word "negro" and others like it in a book doesn't sit right with me. But again she grew up in a different time, and certain words were politically correct at the time.

When I finished Evil Under the Sun, I felt it was a stark contrast from the ending of the film version. The principal characters, Hercule Poirot, Christine Redfern, Patrick Redfern, Arlena Marshall, Kenneth Marshall, and Linda Marshall are still there. I kinda wish I had read the book first instead of seeing the movie first. Film versions are always different from the book, which is why I usually try to read the book first. With Evil Under the Sun, I didn't realize that some of the characters in the film are composites of those in the book. Some characters are cut out altogether. Emily Brewster's character becomes Rex Brewster in the movie. But the overall theme of the book just like the movie, as Hercule Poirot would say, is "murder!"

Arlena Marshall is a woman every man loves. She is also a woman every woman loves to hate. When she isn't draping herself all over Patrick Redfern, she is rubbing the Jolly Roger Hotel guests the wrong way. Linda and Arlena don't have a good relationship. Christine is still the "long-suffering" wife. All the while, Poirot is trying to enjoy his vacation, but the clever Belgian is still observing and taking mental notes. Mrs. Gardener is still a chatter box, but there is a key difference with her character in the book. In film she is with Patrick when he "finds" Arlena's body, but in the book that distinction belongs to Emily.

Just like in the film, you are wondering who did it in the book. It's a very quick read and wastes no time getting to action. Of course people don't like Poirot asking so many questions. He keys in on the details that others dismiss as insignificant. The little clues are all pieces to a larger puzzle, which Poirot must solve. You think he's crazy or eccentric, but there is always a method to his madness. He wants all the guests to go on a picnic during his investigation. It seems weird, but it's all a ruse to see if the murderer/murderers will slip up. It's all very tongue-in-cheek. Check both books out, they are worth the ride.

Note: I received copies of the books from the publisher (HarperCollins) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's Monday, what's on the cover

It's Monday, so it must be time to take a look at the covers of books I'm reading. I did start Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie. As soon as I'm done with that (hopefully in a day or two) I will be posting a combined review of Agatha Christie's autobiography and Evil Under the Sun. The cover of Evil Under the Sun (the latest edition available) is rather boring, so I decided to skip a post on it.

The cover of Ali in Wonderland by Ali Wentworth is not boring. In fact I thought she looked a little wackadoo on the cover, which is what drew me to this book. I have no idea what it's about, but I'm guessing it's a funny take on her life. She's jumping into the chaos and wants all of along for the ride!!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

My take on: Fracture

A lot can happen in eleven minutes. Just eleven minutes into reading Fracture by Megan Miranda I was hooked. In this book, eleven minutes forever changed the life of Delaney Maxwell. Her best friend for life, Decker, ran across a frozen lake with Delaney trailing close behind. Decker made it to the other side with their friends, but Delaney wasn't so lucky. Delaney fell through the ice, and then panic set it. The pain was nothing like she had ever felt. Her struggle to reach the surface proved futile.

Delaney is eventually plucked from the frozen lake, thanks to the zealous efforts of Decker. But eleven minutes have passed. Despite being revived by paramedics, will Delaney ever be the same? How is it possible to survive after being submerged in such cold water? Won't she have brain damage? I know miracles happen all the time, but I found it hard to believe someone could survive an ordeal like that. Setting that aside, Megan Miranda pulls you into the story right away. I was thinking where else can this story go when it starts off with the action right away?

The book delves into Delaney's feelings of guilt. How could she survive when others in her situation haven't? What is she supposed to do with this second chance? Delaney is OK in the physical sense, but she is forever altered emotionally. After awakening from her coma, Delaney has this strange pull toward the dying. She wants so much to help these people, but doesn't know how. Decker and Delaney's parents have no idea how to help her. Her parents, especially her mother, just want to medicate Delaney with pills rather than listen to her fears. Delaney's mother thinks her daughter is losing her mind. Her mother has her own issues. She seemed very withdrawn from Delaney after the accident. She wants the old Delaney back. The new Delaney is behaving differently. She won't listen to her parents and does numerous things without her parents permission. The old Delaney would never do that. Her father would rather talk around the problem than acknowledge it.

Decker doesn't know what happened to his best friend. They've been best friends since they were little, but there is unspoken romantic tension between the two. Their relationship seemed very real. They're scared to have romantic relationships with other people because they worry what the other will think. If they cross a certain boundary it will ruin their friendship.

Delaney feels like she is going crazy. Is she? A mysterious boy named Troy enters Delaney's life to answer that question. Like Delaney, Troy has survived a life-altering accident. His parents and sister died in a car accident but Troy survives. He also has an unnatural pull to the dying just like Delaney. He tries to help Delaney cope with life. But is this really living or hell? How can Delaney truly live when she will always be pulled toward the dead? Despite wanting to help the dying, it won't always be possible.

 I think Megan Miranda will be around for a while. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel, it's very well-written. This book read like a psychological thriller with some paranormal elements. The ending isn't wrapped up in a bow, but you feel hopeful for Delaney's future.

Rating: O.M.G. !!

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

Monday, January 16, 2012

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

I thought I was looking at a woman being attacked by butterflies when I saw the final cover of What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas. Or perhaps the photographer was running by when that picture was taken. I think it's a beautiful cover. It has so much color and life to it. What did happen to Hannah? I'm not sure if the title is a question or a statement. The title character Hannah has returned to town after 20 years. She left an abusive household and never looked back. Her mother and sister are dead, leaving Hannah to care for her niece. It all sounds rather dark, something not reflected on the cover. A review and Q&A with Mary Kay McComas will be posted on February 10. Stay tuned!!

It's a Waverly Life by Maria Murnane comes to me courtesy of  Little Bird Publicity. It says the book is a sequel, but I've never read the first book. Hopefully, that won't matter. I think the title character in this book must be living in disarray. The puzzle pieces are scattered about, nothing connecting. Perhaps the title character is still trying to put the pieces back together. Let's see what happens.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A new year, new goals

It's time to sit down and focus. It's early in 2012, and already I have several lofty goals.

No. 1 I'm applying to grad school, with the hopes that I can one day get a job in book publishing. Take a look at that "about me" section on my blog. It says, "one day I'm going to get my dream job in book publishing." I'm never going to make my dream come true unless I take some action. It took losing my job at the newspaper to make me focus on what I really wanted. If I wasn't laid off maybe I wouldn't be doing this. But I've come to the conclusion I will never get my foot in the door if don't go back to school. I could apply for a lesser program, but I think I will get more out of getting my masters degree. It's going to take three to four years for me to finish. Hopefully, I can find full-time employment soon because grad school ain't cheap. Of course, I have to get accepted first. I refuse to believe that I won't. It's a new year and I have to think positive.

What other goals do I have in my mind?

No. 2 I want to read more. I especially want to read more books from my own shelves. I'm not talking about ARCs that have been sitting on my shelves for a while (although I want to get to those too). I'm talking about books that I bought. I have hundreds of books collecting dust on my shelves. Starting next month, I'm challenging myself to read at least one book per month from my personal reading pile. Last year I only read one book from my personal pile. I think I got too caught up in review copies, I forgot I had my own books. I bought the hardcover set of Harry Potter last February. How many of those books have I read? ZERO. That's why Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone gets the honor of being the first one off my TBR pile.

My official reading goal, set via Goodreads, is 70 books, but I want to read at least 80. Will it happen? I don't know. I also don't want to shy away from long books. I just finished a biography on Jane Fonda, which was more than 500 pages. Page count, in addition to the plot and cover art, influence whether or not I will accept a book for review. I accepted the Jane Fonda book because I thought she would be an interesting person to learn about. She was. The book was great. Despite how long it might take to read 500+ page books, they are not the enemy. I'm contemplating reading Under the Dome by Stephen King. That one is more than 1,000 pages. The thought alone is already scaring me!!

What kind of goals does everyone else have?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The e-reading experience

It took a while, but I'm finally delving into e-books. Like with most technology, I resisted until I couldn't anymore. I still love going to a book store and browsing the shelves. I like going to a store to discover new books. That's a feeling I can never replicate no matter how much I love having the Kindle Fire. Seriously, scrolling a digital screen with my index finger is rather boring. Perhaps that has to do with me being a little cheap. I refuse to buy an e-book that costs more than $4. Anymore than that, and I might as well buy the physical book. So far I've used it more to play Solitaire than to read.

But the overall goal is to read on it. The first book to get that honor is The Glass Case, a short story, by Kristin Hannah. What drew me to the Glass Case? The storyline perhaps? The author? No. I confess it was the $0.99 price tag. What about the story though? A frazzled mother frantically searches for her youngest son. April got pregnant at seventeen and soon married the father. Her mother had such high hopes. A hope that April would marry a successful man and have life outside of their small town. Instead April married young and wound up having three children. Her husband Ryan did become a successful district manager for Walmart. It might not be the success her mother dreamed of, but April is happy. She's happy until the day her youngest son Brad failed to come home from school.

OK, I'm going to spoil the ending for you. If you don't want to know STOP reading now.

You've been warned!!

Still here?

OK then. It's a rather short story, so I don't think I'm spoiling too much. The story ends happily. How? I won't tell you, but the point to this post isn't about the happy ending to The Glass Case. The point is I found that I like reading on my Kindle. As long as I remember not to eat and read at the same time. I made the mistake of reading and eating at the same time. I left some rather greasy streaks on my screen. A little tissue later, and it's as good as new.

After reading my first book on the Kindle, I starting thinking  the younger generation has very little awareness of the joy of reading. These days kids come out of the womb with an iPhone. My little brother informed me that several of his classmates got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. But are any of them using it to actually read? According to little bro, the answer is no. The kiddies are using it to play games. While I like modern technology, I think reading was already a simple enough task.

Monday, January 9, 2012

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

It's been a while, but it's Monday and it's time to discuss the covers of books I'm reading. I vow to finish the Agatha Christie book before the end of the month. I just had to put other books ahead of it. These days I'm trying to amp up my reading pace since I have so much free time on my hands. So lets get down to business.

I've read another book (Delirious) by Daniel Palmer before, so I was happy for the opportunity to read his next book Helpless. I'm not sure what to make of the cover. Is someone lying suspended on a tree branch? Are they stuck in a frozen lake? Either way that person does look pretty helpless. This one seems to be another thriller just like his previous book. A man returns to his former home after nine years to raise his estranged daughter only to be accused of a horrible crime. Sounds good.

The cover of Wanted Women by Deborah Scroggins reads just like a wanted poster. What could these two women have done? It's about women, war, faith, power, and Islam. I always like learning about real-life people and their cultures. It's another long one, so bear with me.

The cover of Fracture by Megan Miranda literally looks cold. If you look close enough you can see a mirror image of the young girl. She looks frozen in time. A young girl is trapped under a frigid lake. She shouldn't have survived but she did. What happens after? This one is part of a blog tour with Bloomsbury (see the little button at the top). Look for a review on January 20th.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My take on: Jane Fonda

It took me awhile but at 2:18 A.M. I finally finished Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman by Patricia Bosworth. It's a very thick book. I thought I would be able to finish it sooner, but life hit me. Having said that, this book is awesome. When it was all over I learned TOO much about Jane Fonda's sex life. While I'm reading it, I'm wondering when did this woman have time to act?

I've seen one of her movies, Nine to Five, and that was the extent of my Jane Fonda knowledge. I had heard of her anti-war stance during the Vietnam War, but wasn't really knowledgeable about it. I've seen Yours, Mine, and Ours, starring her father Henry Fonda, and that was the extent of my knowledge about him. After reading this book, he comes off as a cold, controlling, jerk. A jerk who loved his family, but had problems showing it.

Looking at celebrities, one could think they have it all. Money, power, and fame. How can those things be problematic. Jane Fonda was born into privilege, but affection was lacking in her family. Her father didn't care to truly understand his wife, Frances Fonda, who suffered from mental problems. He seemed to only acknowledge problems when they interfered with his career. Above all, his career was paramount. Jane Fonda seemed to have no emotional connection to her mother, but desperately wanted one with her father. She was always seeking not just his love but his approval (even as an adult). Her mother started Jane on her obsession with weight and body image.

Frances Fonda wound up committing suicide in a pretty graphic manner. Just before Frances had been pleading with her children to come to her. Peter Fonda gave into his mother, but Jane refused. She stayed upstairs, ignoring her mother's pleas. I found that odd and extremely uncaring. With parents like these wouldn't you strive to break the cycle? She was only 12, but made a very adult decision to ignore her mother.

As an adult, Jane Fonda had numerous relationships with men who wanted to control and exploit her. In all of her long-term relationships, the men seemed to have ulterior motives. Maybe they were subtle. Or maybe she was so in love, she ignored all the bad stuff. Her first husband, Roger Vadim, was always in debt. She poured a lot of money into the relationship. He shaped her into the actress she is today, but it was years before Jane broke free. It was around this time she became an anti-war activist. It was at this point where I lost some of the sympathy I had for Jane Fonda. She got out of a bad marriage, but left her daughter, Vanessa, behind to "find" herself. She went on a long tour protesting the Vietnam War. She's doing exactly what her parents did to her. Putting a career or in this case activism ahead of your child, something her daughter was angry about for years (Fonda confessed she thinks Vanessa is still angry to this day). You constantly seek your father's love and approval, but do nothing to avoid repeating his mistakes. Her son Troy, born during her second marriage, got more of her love and attention. She took him just about everywhere on her activist journey. Why put one child above the other?

Her second husband, Tom Hayden, turned her into a full-time activist and part-time actress. The acting roles she took during their marriage, which turned out to be some of her best, had to express a political message of some kind. Most of the money she earned at this time went towards funding his aspirations. Jane Fonda's career and reputation took a hit during the activist years. Henry Fonda, ever the lovable guy, didn't always agree with her politics because it also reflected negatively on his career.

The book is broken up into four sections, daughter, actress, movie star/sex symbol, and workout guru/tycoon wife. The "daughter" part was fascinating because it broke down the psyche of the Fonda family. The actress part of Jane Fonda was always wondering if her father thought she was good enough. The movie star/sex symbol part was a bit much for me. Who knew she had threesomes during her marriage to Vadim? Who knew she had relationships with gay men? It's a little more than I ever wanted to know, but kudos to Patricia Bosworth for being so detailed. I do wish the workout guru/tycoon wife part had been a little longer. Yes I wish a 500+ page book had been longer. Her marriage to Ted Turner seems like a footnote compared to the detail to about the other two. But that could also be because of confidentiality issues. Maybe Ted Turner didn't want to much detail out there, but again snippets of their sex life was included!!

There are so many layers to Jane Fonda. A flawed woman with a lot of issues, but Bosworth does her justice.

Rating: O.M.G.!!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from Authors On The Web in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Q&A with Robyn Carr

Let's take a little time out to for some Q&A with Robyn Carr author of Hidden Summit

Q: Do you ever find that it’s emotionally difficult to write some scenes or characters? What about the scene in Hidden Summit when Brie revisits her painful past to explain her place in Virgin River to Conner?

A: Harder than Brie remembering her sexual assault was actually writing it in Whispering Rock, the third book in the series. All such deeply emotional scenes are hard and yes, they make me cry. In A Virgin River Christmas there are a couple of them—the heroine remembering her last hours with her disabled marine husband and saying goodbye to the only man after him she could ever love. In Hidden Summit, Conner’s grief and anger at losing everything that mattered and resolving to be alone forever to avoid the hurt of being abandoned. And in Redwood Bend, Dylan’s feeling that he had bad relationship DNA and was a risk, no matter how much love he felt. But wait—because in Sunrise Point, Nora Crane has had a hard life, but is determined to get back on her feet for the sake of her baby daughters. She tore my heart out—she is so determined, so sincere, and she’s made several deals with God—never to lie, never to trust another man, always to be an excellent mother even though she certainly didn’t get any training from her own mother. She’s a lesson that we can do whatever we have to do, no matter how hard, as long as it’s the right thing to do.

The answer is yes, they make me cry. It’s not always a comfortable feeling, but I welcome it just the same. I shouldn’t be trying to write books that make you feel if they don’t make me feel. I don’t write books that don’t keep me awake at night—not if I hope to keep you up late reading.

Q: Do you find it's harder to write the male or female characters, and why? Unlike many romances, the men in your books feel as multi-dimensional as the women. Conner from Hidden Summit is a very strong male lead and Dylan from the forthcoming Redwood Bend is so much more than a former movie star heartthrob. How do you manage to make everyone seem so real?

A: They’re all hard, and a complete joy to investigate, study and develop. I imagine them. I think about them constantly. I create the ideal man or woman in my mind—stronger and better than me, absolutely. Admirable. People with flaws they desperately want to overcome, with desires they can’t quite figure out how to satisfy. In fact, sometimes they are so much smarter than I am, I can’t figure out how to get them out of their problems and off to happily ever after. We tussle. I wrestle them to the ground and try to hold them still until I can figure out what they want, what they need. And nothing, nothing is more satisfying than creating a whole, imaginary person that can speak to a reader, possibly serve as a role model for a reader who has had similar challenges and has been looking for her own answers. For HIS own answers—because many men write to me as well. After Paradise Valley was published I received dozens of emails from men who were amputees—and they were very positive letters. That’s what I live for—an endorsement from a real person!

Q: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve ever gotten from a reader?

A: Oh, you can’t print it! My readers never get my titles right—they write and ask me if I’m going to write any more of those “Virginia River” books. Or they want to know where Virgin River really is—they plan to move there and get a big, studly marine. But the funniest one ever was probably a typo: “Are you going to write anymore of those ‘Vagina River’ books.” Typo or Freudian slip.

I did get an email from a reader who was furious about my bigotry against Cubans. I was stunned and confused—I’d never written about Cubans. I suggested she had me mixed up with someone else. She wrote back with the direct quote, complete with page numbers—something about Jack being unable to shower off the stench of stinky Cubans. It was cigars! Cuban cigars! I pointed that out to her, but she was absolutely determined I had been bigoted in my remarks.

On a more serious side, a man who lost a leg in the war wrote me that he was changed by Paradise Valley, the story in which Rick Sudder lost a leg in the war and came home a messed up kid. My reader said that he realized from the book that he was an ass, thought it was a miracle his wife stayed with him through it, and finally understood how badly he needed counseling, which he was going to accomplish. I wrote back and asked him how he came across the book and he said his sister gave it to him—and his sainted wife was most grateful! Bless his heart!!

My take on: Hidden Summit

Connor Danson and Leslie Petruso are both running away. Not just from love, but from their former lives. Leslie is running from a self-absorbed ex-husband. Connor is running for his life. The only eyewitness to a murder, Connor is trying to lay low until the trial. While they're trying to avoid all the complications of a relationship, that's unavoidable in Hidden Summit by Robyn Carr.

Virgin River is a small town where everyone knows each other. People look out for each other. You do something out of character, and the next day everyone knows about it. This is the town where Connor and Leslie seek refuge.

Connor is a hard-working guy. He has movie-star hero looks. Connor sounds like a hero. He loves working with his hands. He is used to taking care of his widowed sister, Katie, and her twin boys. He is used to working long days. But all of that has been taken away. He puts his life on the line to do what is right. He's the type of person you want in your corner. He sounds too good to be true. Connor's new life in Virgin River is complete with a new job with the local construction company and a small cabin by the lake. The No. 1 piece of advice he has been given is to avoid romantic relationships. That should be easy since his ex-wife cheated on him numerous times. He is a little jaded when it comes to love. That is until he first lays eyes on Leslie.

Leslie hopes a new job will give her a fresh perspective on life. In Grants Pass, Leslie's former home, it was all about her ex-husband Greg. How to make Greg look good. How to further Greg's career. Leslie's voice didn't matter. When he wanted out, Leslie was sure she was free of him. Greg has a new life complete with a pregnant wife, what does he want with Leslie? Greg's character just didn't make sense. He wants his ex-wife as a BFF and potentially have a big part in his child's life. Why? He made it clear Leslie didn't make him happy. But keeping her tied to him gives Greg some type of control. What he does to Leslie in this book are more like stalking than attempts at friendship. Sure former spouses can be friends, but what Greg was doing to Leslie in this book was out there. Virgin River offers Leslie an escape from Greg's madness. Love is not on the agenda. But as luck would have it Leslie and Connor are working at the same construction company. What could possibly happen?

Connor has spent so much time working he has forgotten what love feels like? How can he make an attempt at love given his situation? Who wants to be with a man who has to constantly look over his shoulder? What kind of future can they have? When Connor meets Leslie he feels something but doesn't know what it is. A spark? Attraction? Leslie takes a little more time to feel the sparks. Sure Connor is cute, but he's just one of the many guys she is surrounded by at work.

There are some very sweet moments between Leslie and Connor. They can connect in a way that wasn't possible with their former spouses. Before long the romance is hot and intense (if you're a prude it's not for you). Both of them are finally happy, but sometimes the relationship borders on sappy. Once the sex starts, the dialogue between them is so cutesy. It's a relationship with no attachments or expectations, at least that's what they hope. It's a house of cards as long as Connor is the only witness in a murder investigation. He wants to take control of the situation, but at what cost? The ending leaves you hopeful for the future, but it also seems wrapped up a little too neatly. It's a fun read and I'll be back for more in the series soon.

Rating: Give it a try

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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A day in the life of...a book publicist

It's a new year, and I would like to install some new features on my blog. I don't know how often I will be able to do this, but let's start off with a good one. I love books and I'm fascinated by jobs that include working with books. So let's learn what a day in life of a book publicist is like. Please welcome Sarah Burningham, founder of  Little Bird Publicity. I have received lots of books from Little Bird Publicity, so Sarah seemed like the perfect choice.

For starters, what does Sarah look like. Here she is at the Design*Sponge at Home launch party at the New York City West Elm store. Sarah is the 3rd one from the right (with the glasses) and with the Artisan Books publicity team. Photo credit: Smilebooth.
1. Were you working in book publicity before starting Little Bird? 
My very first real job (beyond babysitting or mowing the lawn) was at a local B. Dalton bookstore, which sadly, doesn't exist anymore. I earned a whopping $4.35 an hour but was immediately hooked by the smell of new books. (For the record, I like old book-smell too.) I loved shelving - yes, it's true! - and talking to people about what they were reading. Then, in college, I got an internship at a University Press, which turned into an official part-time job. I never turned back. After college, I was lucky enough to get a job at local publisher Gibbs Smith. From there, I moved to New York and worked in publicity and marketing at some of the best publishing houses in the world, including Workman, Miramax, and HarperCollins. The best part of the job, besides getting to work with books every day, is getting to work with other people who love books. The entire publishing industry is filled with smart, talented people who ultimately want to bring books and readers together. I can't think of anything more fulfilling.

2. How does a typical day go?
I'm an early bird, so I get up, make some coffee, and check my email first thing - usually by 7:00am. Then, after the clock hits 9:30 or 10:00am, I make some pitch calls. The calls themselves depend on the project I'm working on and I'm careful about who I call. That said, I'm a big believer in the phone. Email is great but people know you're serious when you're willing to call them. I do a lot of lunch and coffee meetings. Face-to-face meetings are still very important, even in this day and age. And my afternoons are usually spent writing, putting press materials and mailings together, and tending to the day-to-day business aspects of the job (hello, accounting). I go to events an average of two nights a week, which keeps my calendar full. I love the social aspects of the job.

(Little Bird office)
3. Have you always had a passion for books?
Always. My parents encouraged me to read as much as I could when I was little and really pushed the classics - old and new - from Black Beauty to From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I devoured them and everything else in sight, including the Baby Sitters Club series and Lois Lowry's hilarious Anastasia books. (Like many girls, I also harbored a secret desire to be Harriet the Spy, and re-read that book at least ten times.) I started a little library in my bedroom complete with check-out cards and I used to make my younger sister "check out" the books she borrowed from me.

4. What are your favorite/least favorite aspects of your job?
Not to beat a dead horse, but the books - and the authors - are definitely the best part of the job. That said, being a publicist is work. Real work. It takes a serious attention to detail and persistent follow-up. I keep copious notes on everything I do so that I can be consistent about who I pitch and what, specifically, I've pitched them. I also spend a lot of time reading (blogs, websites, newspapers and magazines), and I flip through the mornings shows every morning to watch the segments. You can't pitch media outlets if you aren't familiar with them, so I read and watch everything I can get my hands on. (I'm the process of switching some of my paper magazine subscriptions to my iPad. I feel guilty about all those trees!)

5. How would you advise a newbie who is looking to break into the world of book publicity?
Become a part of the industry before you're even in it. There are great industry newsletters, like PW Daily, Publishers Lunch, and Shelf Awareness, that offer reviews, author interviews, publishing news, and job listings. And they're free! Anyone who wants to work in publishing should be reading them every day. Most publishers have blogs, too. Not sure where to start or find a publisher's blog? Scan your own bookshelf and see which imprints are publishing the books you read and go from there.

6. Favorite memory since Little Bird was founded?
It's hard to pick just one! But a definite favorite was when I got to see the endlessly creative Amy Krouse Rosenthal give her "7 Notes on a Life" talk at TEDx Waterloo (link to talk: It was a day of total inspiration and Amy awed the crowed with her unique perspective on everyday life. And to take the cake, I got snowed in Toronto and spent the day after the conference walking around, being further inspired. Such a treat!

P.S.: Be sure to come back tomorrow for a review of Hidden Summit and Q&A with author Robyn Carr, who just happens to be a client of  Little Bird Publicity.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Q&A with Deborah Brown

Here are a few questions I had for Deborah Brown, author of Crazy in Paradise

1. A lot of the characters (Spoon, Axe, Buckshot) have unusual nicknames. I was curious, why those names?
Coming up with unusual character names for me is fun and an important way for me to connect with them.  I favor the unusual instead of Bob and Steve.  I keep a list of every odd name, nickname that I come across from television, radio, reading.  I’m a big car-racing fan and Buckshot is the nickname of a driver I rooted for because he was cute.

2.Would you consider continuing Madison's story?
My plan is to write three books in the “Paradise” series.  Madison’s story continues in Deception in Paradise and introduces her ex-husband, who arrives in town and is quickly the suspect in a murder.  Madison will evolve, learn from her experiences, and take charge.

3.What author or authors have influence your style?
A friend introduced me to the Janet Evanovich numbered series a few years back and I promptly read every book.  When I finished, it was then I became inspired to write.  I knew enough crazy characters to fill page after page and it was going to be fun to sit down and weave snippets of drama into a storyline.  In addition, it was a perfect way to unleash my dry sense of humor. 

4.How was the journey in getting your book published? Was it easy or hard?
I would say it was a gigantic learning curve.  The challenge was balancing all the business decisions with the creative writing demands.  I spent day and night working on my Indie venture because I’m literally an entrepreneur, owner of my own business.  Honestly, it was fun, exciting and a little boring because the details got tedious.

5.In three words how would you describe your book.
 Humorous, quirky and adventurous!

My take on: Crazy in Paradise

Quirky is the best word I can use to describe Crazy in Paradise by Deborah Brown. There's a lot packed into this little book. What stood out to me the most is the names for some of the characters. Spoon, Slice, Axe, Topaz, and Buckshot to name a few.

The normal one of the bunch is recently divorced Madison Westin. She has just inherited property from her deceased Aunt Elizabeth. She sees it as an opportunity to start a new life. She can live in her aunt's home and run her rental property. It sounds great, but Aunt Elizabeth's attorney, Tucker Davis, has other plans. Plans that don't include Madison. But Madison is determined to fight for her rights.

One moment Madison is assertive with the local drunk Joseph, but folds quickly in certain moments of conflict. Tucker is the executor of Aunt Elizabeth's estate and never lets Madison forget it. All the while I'm thinking stand up for yourself. Don't let someone walk over you. Madison says she will hire her own attorney to protect her interests, but it takes a lot to get to that point.

Despite the legal distractions, Madison manages to form a romantic relationship with the mysterious and good-looking Zach Lazarro. The attraction is instant. If you've read my last couple of reviews, you'll know I'm dubious of instant attraction. Their first meeting was extremely unconventional and a bit of a stretch. Madison discovers Zach asleep and bleeding from a gunshot wound in her home. Yes she is taken aback by this, but Madison is also thinking of how cute Zach is. How about screaming? Hmmmmmmmm? Zach reassures Madison he's not a bad guy and even convinces her to call the local doctor instead of an ambulance or the police. I just had a hard time finding this scenario believable. A couple of chapters later and they're already having sex. Zach insists they're in a relationship despite Madison's protests. She doubts their relationship. Is it real or was it born out of extreme circumstances?

The storyline is fact-paced and has a lot of action. But some of it requires a stretch of the imagination. In Madison's quest to get control of Aunt Elizabeth's property, she overhears a plot to threaten her safety. She is shaken by it, but doesn't immediately inform the police, Zach or her family. Instead, she keeps it to herself. It isn't even brought up again until much later in the book. You know someone plans to intimidate and possibly harm you, why wouldn't you go to the police? Situations like that can't be resolved on your own.

The last couple of chapters made up for my issues with the plot. I can't give it away, but it kept me interested. From page to page you're wondering what will happen. Will it end badly or will everything work out?

Rating: Give it a try

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