Saturday, June 30, 2012

My take on: Monarch Beach

What if you thought your entire marriage was a sham? What if you found out you've been betrayed by the person you loved the most for years? What would you do to change it? All those questions and more come about in Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes.

Heiress Amanda Blick thought her life was perfect. She's been married for 10 years and has an adorable eight-year-old son. She's made a nice life for herself in the quiet town of Ross, California. But in one moment Amanda will call into question her entire marriage.

Tuesday was supposed to be a good day for Amanda. Her son Max is at school and her husband Andre is working at his restaurant. Tuesday was the day Amanda set aside for herself. No PTA meetings or fund-raising to occupy her time. Nope! Tuesday was all about yoga and a muffin at her favorite cafe. But the cafe is out of her favorite strawberry muffin. So why not drop in on her gorgeous husband? Unfortunately, Amanda finds her husband with his legs wrapped around another woman. Too stunned to say anything, Amanda runs off in a fog.

Is this the first time? Is Andre in love with someone else? Is their marriage over? Amanda doesn't know what to do. She has spent the past decade-plus putting the happiness of others ahead of her own. She once dreamed of being a fashion designer. She was even accepted at Parsons, her dream school, but turned it down when she learned her father was dying. Amanda didn't want to look back on her life and regret not spending those last moments with her father. Going to college locally wasn't her dream, but to Amanda it was the right thing to do. When she meets Andre, he sweeps Amanda off her feet. It's like she's living in a fantasy land. After they get married, it seemed like Amanda lost herself in Andre. She gave up her own dreams, and became consumed with his happiness. She supported his dream of owning a restaurant. He won't accept financial help from his wife or her mother, he wants to do it on his own.

When Andre's dream finally comes true, Amanda is consumed with motherhood and Max's happiness. But what about Amanda? She has a best friend in Stephanie, who also happens to be Andre's business partner. It's Stephanie who opens Amanda's eyes about Andre. What Amanda witnessed wasn't the first of Andre's dalliances with other women. Reading it I thought, how many women will never know about their cheating husbands? Especially, if their favorite cafe DID have their favorite strawberry muffin that day? You could go through life eating strawberry muffins and not know what a scoundrel you've married.

Andre chalks up his infidelity to being French. Huh?!?!?! Is that an insult to French people? Don't they believe in monogamy. He comes across as such a JERK!! It's all about him. When Amanda and her mom take Max away to Laguna Beach for the summer, it's still all about Andre. Everything will go back to normal once Amanda realizes how much she loves her husband!!! Right!!!

While on vacation, Amanda explores what life could be like without Andre. She begins a relationship with Edward, a divorced lawyer turned restaurant owner. Wouldn't it make more sense to step outside of her comfort zone instead of getting involved with another foodie? It's a rebound relationship, what kind of future could they have? It's comfortable to be with Edward because he knows the pain of divorce. But once again it seemed like Amanda was forgetting her original purpose for the vacation. The trip was so her mother could get physically healthy and so Amanda could get emotionally healthy. How healthy is it to jump into a relationship when you're not even divorced yet?

I was very engaged in the whole story. I wanted to see how Amanda would get away from her jerk husband. I'm not married, but I'm sure there is a lot married and divorced women can relate to. How do you move on? What about the kids? Was the marriage a sham? Can you love again? However, I did feel that the resolution to Amanda's problems came too easily. Not everyone has the advantages she has. To understand what I'm talking about you have to read the book!!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received an e-galley from the publisher (Macmillan) at the author's request in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My take on: Queer Greer

Greer MacManus is a girl in transition. She is about to begin her junior year of high school in a new town. She's separated from her best friend, Nick, for the first time. Her mother is too caught up in her own world to notice when something is wrong with Greer. Her father is caring and attentive, but only when he is in town. And on top of it all, she is in love. But who she is in love with causes Greer to question her sexuality.

Queer Greer by A.J. Walkley is a coming of age story that can appeal to everyone. Greer is like a lot of teenagers. One moment she knows what she wants and the next she doesn't. She wants to fit in, but is unsure how. She wishes she had someone to talk to, but is afraid to say too much.

Moving from South Carolina to Arizona, Greer no longer has Nick as a safety net. He's off to prep school in New York. They still speak to each other, but can't be there all the time. Her mom goes from work straight to the gym. Greer and her younger sister, Emmy, are left to their own devices. Her father is off saving the world, helping Mexican families cross the border into the U.S. Despite his absence, Greer believes her father cares more about her than her mother does. He asks about her swim meets, he cares about what she is feeling, and he notices changes in Greer. Her mother doesn't notice things unless they are forced upon her.

At school Greer makes friends, but she slowly develops into two personalities. Football jock and pot-head Cameron is attracted to Greer, but she can't figure out why. Becca, who is also captain of the swim team, also sees something in Greer. Becca and Greer quickly become friends. Greer feels a deeper connection with Becca than with Cameron, but she doesn't understand it. In public, it's easier to be with Cameron because no one will look at them funny. With Becca, Greer measures her words and expressions of affection. In private, it's easier to explore her feelings for Greer. She's lying to Cameron about her relationship with Becca, but it gets harder and harder to hold off his advances. Becca is comfortable in her own skin, and doesn't care what people think. She wants a relationship with Greer, but not in secret. But Greer cares what people think. She's not ready to really be "out" there with Becca.

What will her parents think? What will Emmy think? What will the future be like? Internally, Greer is a mess. Is she really in love with Becca? Is she in love with Cameron or is it just easier to be with him? Is she gay or is she bisexual? Her methods of coping with the turmoil are dangerous. Like any teenager, she's unsure of what to do. It doesn't matter which side of the fence she picks someone will get their feelings hurt. There's no easy answer for Greer.

Throughout the book I kept waiting for Greer to make a decision. I know her character is a teenager, but she seemed a little weak. Sometimes it seemed like Greer was waiting for someone to tell her what to do. She needed to be tougher, and in a way Becca was trying to make her stronger. Becca wasn't pushing her to be gay, she was pushing Greer to stand up for herself. Greer has to search internally and discover the person she is meant to be.

Regardless of sexual orientation, this is a book all teenagers can relate to. A new kid in town trying to make friends, feelings of self-consciousness, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, absentee parents, and discovering your first love who can't relate to that?

Rating: Superb

Note: I received an e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 22, 2012

My take on: Otherwise

After a devastating loss, Delilah Gray is returning to her childhood home. If you can really it a home. Her grandmother, Meema, has passed away and has left Delilah with a huge burden. Meema was a hoarder, and now Delilah is left with the mess. But there is more than just garbage in Meema's little cottage. When we meet Delilah, she just magically appeared in the town of Green Lake. How did she get there? Is she really there?

But I have to be honest, the hoarding angle is what drew me into Otherwise by Jennifer B. White. I don't get hoarding from that cover. I'm thinking Twilight when I look at that cover. But fortunately this story isn't about vampires. 

Cleaning out Meema's house is no easy task. Or is it? Cleaning supplies show up in the house out of nowhere. Who put them there? The house is eventually cleaned one day, but then days later it's trashed again. What is going on? How is that even possible? There has to be a force greater than man at work here. A clean home doesn't become hoarded over night.

The town of Green Lake is rather strange. Flower shop owner Winnie can see her dead husband. The mysterious Shane pops out of nowhere every time Delilah is around, and he disappears just as quickly. Delilah feels a strong attraction to Shane, but doesn't understand the attraction. What does Shane do for a living? Where does he live? Why does he really want to be around Delilah? I'm left wondering what is he hiding? Why is he so mysterious? A "friend" of his, Casimir, is equally mysterious. He comes and goes much like Shane.

Delilah knows something is going on in town. But she can't put her finger on it. She is dealing with the loss of her daughter Kendall. In the midst of her grief, Delilah has an unbelievable vision. She sees Meema in the house. How? Why? Is she going crazy? What is real and what isn't? I had a hard time figuring that out, and so was Delilah. Winnie and Shane shed a little light on the situation. Green Lake is no ordinary town. I saw it as a town for wandering souls. They're not ready to leave the physical earth, they still want to feel like they are apart of the world. As the Keeper, Casimir helps the dead make a choice to between the physical and spiritual world. Shane is the gravedigger for lost souls, helping them find a final resting place. And, as the Sender, Winnie helps souls on their journey into the after life.

Everyone seems to have a place, but what is Delilah's place? She doesn't understand what's going on. Who is real? Who is dead?

This was a departure for me. I tend to gravitate to books based in reality, which sometimes made it hard for me to connect with the book. But there are a lot of good elements in the book. The town is very mysterious and unusual. You start wondering what is real and what isn't? Is there a future for Delilah and Shane? Will Delilah overcome her grief? It's a paranormal story, but with some human touches mixed in. Give it a whirl!!

Rating: Give it a try

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

Monday, June 18, 2012

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

It's been a while since I've done this. It's Monday, what's on the cover? Every season of Hoarders I say I'm not going to watch but I do anyway. Every season they find a new way to gross me out. So a book about an "organizer" trying to help a hoarder was right up my alley. In Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski Lucy Bloom is trying to jumpstart her career as an organizer. But her first real client is a handful. So far reading it is right out of an episode of Hoarders, except we get to see the personal side of the organizer. The cover of the book is kind of cute. If only the clean up were as simple as the cover indicates!!

An Unquenchable Thirst by Mary Johnson chronicles her 20 years as a nun with the Missionaries of Charity. I'm not sure what the petals on the cover mean yet, but so far I like the book. I could NEVER be a nun. The amount of restrictions she goes through in this book would break me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My take on: Dancing Naked in Dixie

On the outside Julia Sullivan has it all. As a travel writer, Julia jet sets from one exotic location to another. She's hardly in the office. She snaps a few pictures, writes a few paragraphs, and her "job" is done. She has a boyfriend. Julia has a life that most would covet, but a new assignment forces her to take a hard look at her life. Instead of frolicking on the beach Julia is headed to the deep South, where she will be Dancing Naked in Dixie by Lauren Clark.

No she's not literally naked, although the thought has crossed Julia's mind, but she will have to drop all her preconceived notions and embrace the small town of Eufaula, Alabama. Julia sees the assignment as punishment. Her new boss, David, who also happens to be her estranged father, sees the assignment as a form of redemption. Julia thinks her you know what doesn't stink!!! She's been late with assignments and missed deadlines. Her head has been in the clouds. She's the star of the magazine, they can't get rid of her. But she's not indispensable. She has to take this assignment or join the unemployment line.

Eufaula sounds like every small town I've ever read about. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone knows each other's business. Julia is very much a fish out of water. In just a few days she gets mixed up in all kinds of adventures. My favorite involves sweet tea. I think some of you know where I'm going with this. I'm not from the South, but I have a lot of family in the Bible Belt and I know not to gulp down sweet tea. If you know what's good for you, get unsweetened tea and then add sugar. As a true Yankee, Julia doesn't know that and almost chokes. I had to laugh because everyone around her is ready to call a doctor.

Shug Jordan is Julia's guide during her trip. Of course he is easy on the eyes, but he has a girlfriend, Mary Katherine, who struck me as Mary Kay on acid. Julia is there just to work, but Mary Katherine makes sure to mark her territory. Julia doesn't want to get too personal anyway. She wants to get the lowdown on the town and get out as quickly as possible. A few times she imagines what it might be like to have her claws in Shug instead of Mary Katherine. Shug even introduces Julia to his family. His family, like most people in town, look at Julia like she is an alien. But like most New Yorkers she wants everything done fast. There is no time to stop and relax with Julia. No time to take stock of things, which is how she's led her life up until this point.

After her mother died, she didn't give her father a chance to explain his reasons for leaving the marriage. She just wanted to be done with David. Her boyfriend Andrew always wants to discuss their relationship, but Julia always has an assignment to deal with. Shug wants to take his time and let Julia truly experience Eufaula, but all she can think of is her flight out. Is there something wrong with the people around her? Or does Julia really need to slow down and take a breath?

"Spending time, here in Eufaula, has helped me realize that barreling through life at a breakneck pace -- while exciting, sometimes glamorous, and always loads of fun -- has been, at best, a distraction. A useful tool in avoiding personal introspection or thoughts of the future."

Being in Eufaula opens Julia's eyes, but is she ready to make changes? Does she finally realize that it's ok to enjoy the little things in life?

Overall, I enjoyed the story. There were some parts toward the end that seemed a little out of place in a Southern romance. I won't give everything away, but it involves exploding houses!!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received an e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My take on: A Lighter Shade of Gray

Mental illness. Friendship. Love. Murder. I like those books. A Lighter Shade of Gray by Devon Pearse has all three. And it's semi-autobiographical, which is why our main character is also named Devon. Throughout the book, I was wondering what was fact and what was fiction?

Devon gave up on love 10 years ago. Her mother has long battled mental illness, and Devon will do anything to avoid that path. I thought she sacrificed her own happiness out of fear. Yes mental illness is inherited, but I'm not a firm believer in acting on what might happen. Rather than take a chance on happiness and love, Devon is just waiting for the shoe to drop. Not everything is gloomy for Devon, she has a close group of friends, including her best friend Cassandra (a.k.a. Cass) Sloane.

At times, Devon and Cass seemed more like family than friends. In the beginning, Devon attends a birthday party with Cass' family. She just seemed like another member of the family. They were quick to point out Devon's lack of cooking skills. She's included on the family banter. There is no hiding problems in the family from Devon, especially, Marcus, the abusive boyfriend of Cass' sister Monique. That part really grabbed my attention. The rest of the Sloane family is ready to pounce on him at any moment, but Monique is too afraid to stand up for herself. I was right there with the rest of the family. "Hit him! Hit him! Hit him!" Character-wise it was no big loss when he was murdered. Not that I'm an advocate of murder, but there is just no attachment to abusive characters. There was an attachment to Cass, who is accused of his murder. Devon wants anything to prove her friend's innocence, but it forces her to face her fears. Her fear of ending up like her mother.

In theory, all of that made for a good plot. But as the book progressed I got a little confused. Her mother's roommate claims to know something about Marcus' murder. I just thought, why even go there? There's too much going here. Devon's fears of mental illness alone could have been enough. Adding Cass and her family to the mix makes things a little more complicated, and then you add her mother's roommate. It was also a little long for my taste. It's not a bad book, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-copy as part of a tour with TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My take on: A Long Way From You

Kitsy Kidd is a true fish out of water. She is stepping out of her comfort zone in Broken Spoke, Texas, and pursuing her dreams in New York City. She ends up finding more than she bargained for in A Long Way From You by Gwendolyn Heasley.

I had to do a double take on that name. Kitsy Kidd?!?! In the first couple of chapters, the alliteration was starting to bug me. I thought it was a misprint at first because this was an uncorrected e-galley. But I was wrong. It didn't help that her brother's name is Kiki Kidd. Once I got past the name, Kitsy started to grow on me.

Kitsy is just 17, but she is used to working for everything. She is more of a parent to her little brother Kiki than their mother Amber. She is captain of the cheerleading squad, but is in no way interested in being the popular girl around school. Amber is between jobs, and can often be found drowning her sorrows in alcohol. It's up to Kitsy to keep the family together. She works every shift she can at the local Sonic, despite all the snickers she gets from the town mean girl. Appearances mean nothing to Kitsy, making sure her brother gets to school, and has food and clothes is more important. When she can, Kitsy dotes on her boyfriend, Hands (no that's no his real name it's Clint). Hands is supportive, but every other word out of his mouth is about football.

Kitsy is always doing things for everyone but herself. That sounds like a lot of people, young and old. But now Kitsy is getting a chance to put herself first. As a budding artist, Kitsy is given the opportunity to study at Parsons for the summer. A summer in New York is a dream, but what about Kiki, Amber, and Hands? Taking time for herself will be harder than she realizes. Her sponsors in New York, the Corcorans and their daughter Corrinne, are like family.

Kitsy seemed very wide-eyed and naive, like a lot of people who have lived in a small town all their life. It's cute at first, especially when she accidentally takes the PATH train to New Jersey instead of towards the Village. But after a while the fish out of water story got a little annoying. I was thinking, "Grow up Kitsy!!"

Of course no story like this would be complete without a little romance. Tad, a musician with an affinity for the arts, starts to dominate Kitsy's thoughts. Is it the bright lights of the city that are distracting Kitsy or does she really have feelings for Tad? It's hard to know. Her whole world is in Broken Spoke, she doesn't know any other way of life. Will she be content being the girlfriend of a small-town guy like Hands? Or is Tad and his big-city dreams what Kitsy really needs? 

Kitsy is finally getting a chance to pursue her dreams, but at what cost? Maybe being in New York is giving Kitsy a chance to finally discover who she really is. But being New York is also leading Kitsy away from the girl she used to be. Which girl does she want to be? All in all, this is a cute story worth reading.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-galley from Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 11, 2012

BEA 2012 Part 3: Books, books, and more books !!

It took some time but I finally got my BEA book haul together. I mispronounced some names, but enjoy!!!!

BEA 2012 Part 2: Let's walk the floor

The first year (2010) I attended BookExpo America, I had no plan. I was just walking the floor in awe of all the shiny book displays. I'm still in awe, but I will never attend BEA without a game plan. It took several hours over the course of three days to plot my time on the show floor. The amount of author signings over the three days is mind-blogging. But I knew the first autograph on my list was Jennifer Weiner (above). I missed out on her autograph at BEA Bloggers.

Once the exhibit hall opened, the crush of people raced to the tables. It's comical. I've said it before, and I will say it again. You would think some of these people hadn't seen a book in years. The books disappear as quickly as they are put out. You could get hurt if you're not careful. But I made a beeline for the Simon & Schuster booth. I wanted Jennifer Weiner's autograph, and if I didn't get there early the line would stretch to Jersey.  When my turn came up another woman was kind enough to take a photo and I got to ask Jennifer Weiner how you really pronounce her last name. I've heard it pronounced several ways.

Here is a hint....

This ain't it!!!

Going forward, I'm going to talk about the panels and author signings, in no particular order, that stood out the most.

From right: authors Tonya Hurley, Liz Norris, Melissa Marr, Bethany Griffin, Jenny Han, and Siobhan Vivian at The Ongoing Evolution of YA fiction talk. Not all of their books are my cup of tea. I gathered they were mostly paranormal. Occasionally, I will read books like that. I was interested in what they had to say.  The greatest piece of advice came from Melissa Marr, "If it's not your passion, don't waste your time." That can apply to just about everything in life. Do what you love, or it just isn't worth it.

E-books: Do you love them or hate them? I'm indifferent. I will always love the physical book, but I'm coming around to liking e-books. I bring this up because I attended a panel that was all about the enhanced e-book Gift by Andrea Buchanan. The author pitched the idea to Open Road Media as an e-book to start and then a shift to a print book. It sounds radical, but it's actually a great idea. Buchanan's book includes music, links, and special fonts. What is so special about the text? It disappears and reappears in several passages. Word of mouth was generated online through video game websites, facebook, and ads placed on entertainment websites. The only drawback to this project is that the e-reading experience is different based on your device. With iBooks, the software used to build the book, you get all of the enhancements but on a Kindle, Kobo, or Sony e-reader the experience is different. The software isn't as compatible on other devices. You might not get all of the features of the enhanced version. Anyway you slice it, what Andrea Buchanan and Open Road Media did is the wave of the future.

As usual, the Young Adult Editors Buzz was PACKED. I didn't get a seat until about 25 minutes in. I don't know why but most of the books discussed were paranormal or had some paranormal elements. Why? What happened to contemporary YA books? When will this trend end? Not every book has to be the next Twilight. The books discussed at the panel were Skinny by Donna Cooner, Skylark by Megan Spooner, Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, Crewel by Gennifer Albin, and What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang. Five books and only two (Skinny and Colin Fischer) were contemporary. I hope the market changes soon. I'm not against all paranormal, I just love books based in reality. Now at the end of the panel, there were copies of all of the books available. BUT OH MY GOD!!!! It was a free-for-all with the books. People were just grabbing the books. The poor marketing people behind the table looked scared. I managed to get Skinny and Colin Fischer. On Thursday, I did get What's Left of Me, more for the cover than the story.

Isn't that a gorgeous cover?  The cover sold me more than the summary. I believe it's about two souls living in the body of one girl. Sounds a little complicated to me, but I'm giving it a chance purely because of the cover.

The line for Elin Hilderbrand started about 45 minutes before the actual signing. I happened to be strolling the floor and saw the line start to form. I wanted her new book Summerland, so I decided to wait. Now, I have a bone to pick with her publisher. A lot of us on line saw her show up about 20 minutes before the "scheduled start." I thought great maybe she will start early. Some authors and publishers were doing that when they saw the size of the lines. That didn't happen here, not that there is anything wrong with that. She posed for pictures in the booth with that banner you see in the background. The problem I have is she left just before the "scheduled" start of 3:00 p.m. Initially, some of us, myself included, thought the fault rested with Elin Hilderbrand. Kind of like she was too good to do this. We were wrong. The publishers sent her away because the new time for the signing was 3:30 p.m. REALLY?!?!?!!? All of the signage and online had the signing scheduled for 3:00 p.m. I'm not saying they don't have the right to change the time, but it is down right rude not to tell the people who had already been waiting for more than 40 minutes that the time had changed. We had to hear it from people walking by.

Also, Elin Hilderbrand's appearance was an in-booth signing. Those of you who have been to BEA know that those in-booth signings can border on ridiculous. There isn't much space to wait on line and allow people to walk through the booths. We were moved twice from opposite ends of the booth, meaning we also had to prevent others walking by from cutting the line. I think something needs to change. Really, really, really popular authors or celebrities should not be doing in-booth signings. Maybe the layout could change, giving more space to the autograph area or they need to cut down the number of author appearances. Something has to give. Justin Cronin, Libba Bray, Veronica Roth, Tim Gunn, Rachael Ray, Kirstie Alley, Michael Koryta, and Dan Rather (to name a few) all had in-booth signings. I think that's just wrong. There are already thousands of people in the building, and having popular authors or celebrities sign in-booth creates too much traffic in the aisles.

Dan Rather's speech on Thursday was great. He managed to give a small snippet on his career. He was very engaging. He got a little choked up when he spoke about reporting on the civil rights era. He couldn't understand how law enforcement could turn high-pressure water hoses on people, especially women and children. He even spoke about all the presidents he's interviewed during his CBS tenure. He had the highest praise for Lyndon Johnson and measured his words when speaking about George W. Bush's presidency. A story on Bush's military service or lack thereof eventually led to CBS firing Rather. I also got Rather's latest book signed and I shook his hand, which was the highlight of the week for me.

All in all, I had a great week. I will gladly do it again next year.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

BEA 2012 Part 1: Let's take a look back!!!

(This will be a long post so bear with me!!!)

Months before BookExpo America began, I wasn't sure if I should attend. I had just lost my job and money is hard to come by. But I'm going to grad school in the fall for publishing. Despite the cost, it's good to stay on top of upcoming books.

This year the Book Blogger Convention morphed into "BEA Bloggers." The convention was sold to Reed Exhibitions, which is also the organizer for BookExpo America. As a result the price for the convention was jacked up, and in my opinion included a total content shift. Big-name authors were brought in, and blogger-driven panels were greatly reduced.

BEA Bloggers started off with a speed-dating breakfast. There were lots of good authors taking part, Justin Cronin, Jenny Han, Kitty Kelley, Lee Woodruff, and Amy Sohn to name a few. It gave authors a chance to speak about their upcoming work and to interact with fans. I didn't really have a problem with this part of the convention, except that the table numbers didn't seem to be sequential. The tables appeared to be scattered, and all the good ones were filled quickly. My main problem with the speed-dating breakfast, was the breakfast itself!!!

The previous blogger conventions always had coffee, tea, water and juice available. But for some reason this year, only coffee and tea. I could do without juice, but these dudes couldn't provide something as basic as H20?!?!? You can get all of these high-profile authors to participate in the blogger convention, but you can't have a water cooler in the room??? I eventually broke down and bought an overpriced ($3.65) bottle of water. I downed it in two gulps and when I turn around the organizers were finally bringing water coolers in the room?? I believe enough people complained that they finally brought in some water. Just made me a little ticked off.

(Not the greatest pic. I tried to get Jennifer Weiner's autograph, but I had better luck on Tuesday)

But that quickly dissipated when author Jennifer Weiner, above, delivered her keynote speech. She was very funny and engaging. BUT.....I'm not sure why she was chosen. I'm a big fan of hers, but not everything she spoke about had to do with blogging. Last year's keynote speaker, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, delivered a speech that was all about blogging. Jennifer Weiner has built a big online community through her blog and Twitter.  In my opinion her greatest advice on building an online community was, "Don't Poke the Crazy." Don't engage with someone who is off their rocker. Just be polite and move on. But I felt her speech was all over the place. She spoke about what she focused her advertising dollars on, her ongoing feud with the New York Times, and some of her favorite authors. It just seemed to me that a conference about blogging should have had a keynote speech that focused on blogging. Having Jennifer Weiner speak seemed to be a ploy by her publisher and the organizers to build word of mouth on her next book.

The first panel, Blogging Today, was very informative. It focused on how bloggers helped publishers build word of mouth. I just felt there was one very awkward moment during that panel. Somehow the topic of plagiarism came up. I happened to be sitting at a table behind Kristi of The Story Siren. She recently admitted to plagiarism. I know it's bad, but I couldn't help but stare at the back of her head during this topic. She wasn't spoken about directly but it was the elephant in the room. Many of the people in the room knew about the controversy. One of the marketing reps for HarperCollins said she wouldn't work with a blogger who committed plagiarism. In my mind I had to just say, (and excuse my language) "BULLSHIT!!" I'm sure that not all marketing reps in one division of the company work with other divisions. I don't believe she should be blacklisted, but I've been by her blog since the controversy and she gets plenty of books from HarperCollins imprints. That moment just rubbed me the wrong way.

Lunch was just like the breakfast, more author speed-dating. Fantasy author Kenny J. Anderson and former Iraq veteran Matt Gallagher stopped by our table. They were great and engaging. Anderson has such a vivid imagination, and he writes several books a year. Gallagher started blogging while still in Iraq before transitioning into a writing career.

The afternoon breakouts were kind of hit and miss for me. I attended the panel on how to make money blogging. There were good suggestions, but the moderator Scott Fox of Click Millionaires spent a little too much time pimping his own book than concentrating on the panel. Knowing your traffic, building partnerships with larger sites, and not clogging up your blog with too many ads were the tips I came away with.

The second panel I attended was  Demystifying the Book Blogger and Publisher Relationship. This panel had ONE blogger on it, Jenn Lawrence of  Jenn's Bookshelves. But I digress. Publishers and bloggers are partners, that was the overall message. We all want to get the word out about books. We have to work together.

The closing speech by Jenny Lawson a.k.a. The Bloggess was very inspiring. She spoke about her book, Let's Pretend this Never Happened, which is a humorous take on her struggles with mental illness. She was very passionate and open about her life. It's great that she's overcome so much. I did love her speech, but again like Jennifer Weiner it seemed out of place at a convention that supposed to be geared towards book blogging.

Overall, I think the blogger part of this convention is a work in progress. If this was someone's first time attending, they don't have anything to compare it to. Fortunately, I do. The previous years had some flaws, but they were SO MUCH BETTER than 2012. Reed Exhibitions needs to do their homework. A convention aimed at book bloggers should focus more on I don't know BOOK BLOGGING!!! More bloggers needed to be included on the panels. It felt like we were being used as a marketing tool. I did not get that feeling the previous two years. BEA, the main part of the convention, is supposed to be the overall marketing and networking event not BEA Bloggers.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

My take on: Bloodman

Wow!! That's the only word I could think of after finishing Bloodman by Robert Pobi. I had to re-read the last few chapters twice to make sure I understood everything. I've never read anything like this before. It was very creepy. The whole book I'm trying to figure out who the killer is. One moment I think I've got it all figured out, only to realize I haven't.

Just look at the cover. Doesn't it freak you out? Is that a man? A woman? Black? White? Is he even human? I found myself wondering about that last one several times. The killer strikes quickly and quietly. He's almost like a ghost.

FBI agent Jake Cole has made a living breaking down crime scenes. Murder scenes specifically. He has a mind for murder. Jake can reconstruct a crime scene in his head. It's a useful tool when it comes to tracking a murderer. Jake's toughest puzzle yet brings him back home to Montauk, N.Y. His painter father, Jacob Coleridge, has descended into madness. Jacob set himself on fire and then jumped out of a window into his pool. He survived, and now Jake must figure out how to care for his father. The two have been estranged for decades. There is a real sense of hatred between the two. Even doped up on medication, Jacob resists Jake's presence.

From Jake's perspective, I got the sense that the relationship has always been strained. Jacob was this genius painter that Jake could never relate to. His mother, Mia, was always there for him. They were very close, but her brutal murder forever divided Jake and his father. Her murder was stomach-turning. If you're squeamish this next part isn't for you. His mother was skinned. She was alive while it happened, and she bled to death. Her murder mirrors the current crime Jake is investigating. A mother and her child were both skinned alive. What?!?!?!? Who or what could do that to a person?

This is like Silence of the Lambs territory. I'm sure it's physically possible for this to happen, but my brain just can't go there. It's too gruesome. Robert Pobi has a very vivid imagination. I wonder how he came up with this concept. It's very inhuman to do such a thing to a person, which is why I wondered if the killer was even human. Most of the story sounds very contemporary, but the murders are very out of this world. There is no trace of the murderer. No one sees or hears him. He strikes without warning. He really is the invisible man. Why do this? What is there to gain from it? Does it have something to do with Jake or his family? Is Jake the ultimate target?

As the murders start to pile up, the killer strikes very close to home. Jake's wife, Kay, and his son, Jeremy, have gone missing. It's almost more than Jake can take. He might not show emotion like everyone else, but internally he is a mess. His emotions are like ticking time bomb. He has such hatred for this elusive killer, he is ready to retaliate against anyone who crosses his path.

When we finally learn who the killer is, I was just awestruck. My mind didn't go there. Of course I won't tell you who it is because I want you to read this book. It was such a complex puzzle, I was guessing right up until the last few chapters. I didn't want to believe this character could commit murder. I wanted to believe in the good in this character. There was a darkness in this person, but there were reasons for the darkness. Like me, when you're done reading this book you will still be thinking about it.

Rating: O.M.G. !!

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

Friday, June 8, 2012

BEA Photos Day 3

I haven't read Ally Condie's books, but I wanted to have a little fun in the bubble. I'm ready for Hollywood!!

Thursday was a short day for me at BEA. The No. 1 thing I wanted to do was to hear Dan Rather's interview and to get his book. I got both!! He was very engaging. He got a little choked up when he spoke about reporting on the civil rights era.

Ignore the random guy checking his cell phone. I managed to get a closer up photo during the signing. He signed my book and I got to shake his hand. This was the highlight of the week for me. It's rare that you get to meet a person of his stature, so I didn't mind waiting in line for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

BEA Photos Day 2

The day started early with breakfast at Random House.

I probably should have moved closer, but I swear that is Nate Berkus talking at the Random House breakfast.

New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg talking about his book The Power of Habit.

Waiting for Tim Gunn's autograph was out of the question, but I did get a chance to snap a picture.

Joy Preble at the signing for her book The Sweet Dead Life.

Stacy London from What Not to Wear.

Elin Hilderbrand signing her new book. I managed to get an autographed copy after some snafus on the line. I'll get into that during my full wrap-up post next week.

Chef Carla Hall signing something. I don't know what it was because it didn't look like a book.

And an egg in his underpants at the Scholastic booth, I just had to take a picture.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BEA Photos Day 1

Let's start off the day with a good photo!! That is me at Jennifer Weiner's signing. I made a beeline for that booth after missing out on her autograph on Monday.

From right: authors Tonya Hurley, Liz Norris, Melissa Marr, Bethany Griffin, Jenny Han, and Siobhan Vivian at The Ongoing Evolution of YA fiction talk.

The Harlequin booth just before the Mystery writer signing. It's also where someone almost cut in front of me. I gritted my teeth when she asked me a question. Eventually she left the line when she realized she was too late for an earlier signing. I didn't want to be rude, but I would have been really mad if she didn't get off the line!!!

Random shot of the Penguin booth.

A side shot of Dennis Lehane. I almost had a perfect shot but that lady messed me up. The line moved again, so I couldn't get a better shot.

Her head is down but that is Molly Ringwald. I wanted to come up with something witty to say, but all I could muster was. "Hi. My name is Jael and thank you."

That is Adriana Trigiani, author of The Shoemaker's Wife. She was awesome. And the BEA gods were shining down on me because I was the last one to get a book. I felt bad for the 20+ people who were behind me who didn't get one.

The children's reading room at the Jefferson Market Library before the start of the Teen Author Carnival. I thought it was such a pretty room, I had to take a picture.

A panel at the Teen Author Carnival. I only stayed for one because I was tired. But I did win a box of books there, so it was all good.

My Ingram bag gave out when I took it out of my car at the end of the day. Darn!!! I was hoping to get two more days out of that bag!! Oh Well!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Blogger Con video

Next week I will do a full wrap-up post of Book Blogger Con and BookExpo America. Until then I'm posting photos and video.

Now these videos are not mine. These are the official Simon & Schuster videos of Jennifer Weiner's speech. I tried for TWO HOURS to load my own video of author Jennifer Weiner delivering the keynote speech at the BEA Bloggers Conference and the closing speech by The Bloggess a.k.a. Jenny Lawson. But it just wasn't meant to be. Both women were extremely funny!!

Book signing alert!!!

Shadow on the Wall by Pavarti K Tyler is available NOW at or your local bookstore. Here are a few little nuggets on the book:

Recai Osman: Muslim, philosopher, billionaire and Superhero?

Controversial and daring, Shadow on the Wall details the transformation of Recai Osman from
complicated man to Superhero. Forced to witness the cruelty of the Morality Police in his home city of Elih, Turkey, Recai is called upon by the power of the desert to be the vehicle of change. Does he have the strength to answer Allah's call or will his dark past and self doubt stand in his way?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Please welcome Pavarti K Tyler

BookExpo America is fast approaching. There are so many authors to meet and discover. Pavarti K. Tyler, below, is one of those authors. Her new book Shadow on the Wall was recently released. Today she is stopping by with a guest post. Come back tomorrow for news on her book signing.

How a Unitarian from Jersey writes about a Muslim Superhero

Have you ever gotten that feeling in the back of your head that there's something not quite right about the way you think?  I've always daydreamed about things others have considered impossible or ridiculous.  I'm the loon who decided statistically charting various vampires' awesomeness was a good idea.

So when the suggestion was made that someone needed to write about a Middle Eastern superhero my imagination went into overdrive.  Of course we need a Middle Eastern superhero!  Others have tackled this topic to great success, like Dr. Naif of, what’s different here is that I am not from the Middle East.

I sat down and started writing and a character named Recai Osman appeared on the pages before me.  With green eyes and red beard, Recai stood in the middle of a windblown desert, daring me to take the challenge.

A problem soon presented itself.  It's impossible to discuss the Middle East in any meaningful way without bringing religion into the conversation, and while I've studied Islam, I am not a Muslim.  I'm not Jewish either.  In fact, I'm about as far from the religious spectrum of the Middle East as you could get.  I'm a Unitarian Universalist.

UUism is based on the idea that we all have the right to our own path to Truth.  For some that Truth is God, for some it's not.  What connects us within the UU church is the belief that the search is valuable and that there is benefit to having a supportive and respectful community with whom to share that search. (You can read more about our principles here: Our Unitarian Universalist Principles)

For me, the importance of an individual’s expression of faith within a community is huge.  I believe in God.  Because of this, I often find myself listening to the fundamentalist rhetoric of all religions with a frustrated sigh.  Why does someone have to be wrong in order for another to be right?

It was with this in mind that I thought about Recai.  What makes a good man?  What makes a good Muslim?  And in a society in which religion is such a prominent part of day-to-day life, what would be the shape of evil?

Recai is a faithful man; he's erred and he's sinned, but his belief in Allah and in humanity is solid.  Underneath his layers of confusion and self-doubt is a good man.  His day-to-day life has been isolated from the city he lives in: Elih, Turkey (Google it for a good giggle). What would happen if a flawed man was forced to confront real evil, real sin?  Could he rise to the occasion?

Islam and Judaism run throughout Shadow on the Wall. Some of the phrases and cultural idioms may be unfamiliar to Western readers, but I hope that you will see a little of yourself in the characters. The issues they face are written at high stakes, but the questions posed are ones we must all answer.  Who am I?  What do I stand for?  Although Shadow on the Wall has supernatural elements, I like to think heroes exist in life, and I like to think that religion can fuel the good in people.  Perhaps we're all capable of great things.

Author Bio:
Pavarti K Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She graduated Smith College in 1999 with a degree in Theatre. After graduation, she moved to New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off Broadway.

Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry as a freelance accountant for several international law firms. She now operates her own accounting firm in the Washington DC area, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not preparing taxes, she is busy working at Novel Publicity and penning her next novel.

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