Friday, May 31, 2013

Books we Didn't Finish May Edition

The Burgess Boys-The premise of the book, a mother and daughter gossiping about another family, seemed kind of stalkerish to me.  Even when it switched from the mother and daughter talking about the family to the narrative about the family, I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that it was someone not related to the family telling the story.  It was weird.  Maybe it was that doubt in the back of my head that I couldn't trust the storyteller.

The Liar's Gospel-Maybe the title should have been a tip off.  I was bothered by Mary denying that her son was anything special.  She of all people would have known he was divine.  Then when Jesus came in to the picture and he was angry and fighting with Joseph, that was enough.  I'm not a big bible thumper and I know Jesus was probably an ordinary person most of the time and those things didn't make it in the bible, but I don't want to read stuff that purposely puts him in a bad light.  I really enjoy historical fiction about this time period, like The Red Tent or The Dovekeepers but this one didn't float my boat.

Vigilante Nights-This book comes from a new imprint YA imprint (Merit Press) and I was expecting good things because Jacquelyn Mitchard was the editor-in-chief and I've liked her writing.  The synopsis of this book sounded pretty good.  Then, I started reading it.  There's a gang initiation in the beginning that's totally ridiculous.  Maybe, I'm used to hearing about more hardcore gang initiations, but this one sounded just really bizarre.  The sentence structure in the first few chapters of this book was making me crazy.  I don't like incomplete sentences or sentence fragments.  My next gripe was the teen slang; if you don't know it, don't use it.

Flu: I have come to the conclusion that I just don't like the zombie genre.   I'm not sure I even like to watch zombie shows on TV. The story wasn't bad, but I didn't like the feeling of defeat that I got from starting the book. I found myself uninterested in the survival of the characters, so I gave up. I also didn't care for the narrator.  His voice was too deep for me.

Origin & Cause:  Always on the hunt for a good Throwback Thursday feature, I thought this one sounded interesting.  How wrong I was. I started falling asleep halfway through the first disc. I felt like I was listening to a history text book.  Not a great way to start out.  I gave up.

Don't Breathe a Word:  I have had this one on my TBR pile for a while.  I finally got it on audio.  I only made it through the first 2 discs.  I can't really pinpoint what made me stop listening.  It was just dull.  I didn't like the way the story waffled between then and now.  I also felt like there was too much inner reflection in Phoebe and the story wasn't moving forward fast enough for me.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Search for Love by Nora Roberts

Author: Nora Roberts
First published in 1982 by Silhouette

He harbored dark suspicions about Serenity and her parents. He was jealous, impossible and demanding. He was enigmatic, charming and aristocratic. He made passionate love to her even while condemning her.

So why in heaven's name had Serenity Smith from Georgetown, Washington, D.C., forever lost her heart to her French cousin, Christophe, Count de Kergallen?

When I read books like this early one from Ms. Roberts, I have to remind myself  how far this author has come from the early years.  I love her writing, but this book was just awful.  I wasn't the writing, it was the story.    Serenity travels to Brittany to connect with her long lost family.  Her cousin by marriage does nothing but be a jerk to her, yet she falls in love with him.  How and why?  Because he is a good kisser?  I didn't buy the love story at all.  Honestly, be cause there is no love story. The mystery of the missing painting wasn't even exciting enough to save the book

listened to the audio and the narrator didn't do that great of a job.  The french accents were bad and I couldn't distinguish between the male and female voices.  I don't think that would have made much of a difference, but I thought I would mention it anyway. I'd say skip this one.  Nora has lots of other, much better earlier works.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review & Interview: Rough Diamond & Fool's Gold by Cassandra Dean

Today, we have an interview with author, Cassandra Dean who is promoting her two books, Rough Diamond and Fool's Gold. She is also holding a giveaway.  Check out the rafflecopter after our interview.

Rough Diamond (Decadent Publishing, September 2012)

 Owner of the Diamond Saloon and Theater, Alice Reynolds is astounded when a fancy Englishman offers to buy her saloon. She won’t be selling her saloon to anyone, let alone a man with a pretty, empty-headed grin…but then, she reckons that grin just might be a lie, and a man of intelligence and cunning resides beneath.

Rupert Llewellyn has another purpose for offering to buy the pretty widow’s saloon—the coal buried deep in land she owns. However, he never banked on her knowing eyes making him weak at the knees, or how his deception would burn upon his soul.

Rough Diamond is a steamy, yet sweet romance.  I loved Rupert and Alice together.  The sexual tension between the two was very intense.  I felt badly for Rupert because he couldn't be upfront with Alice about his reasons for being in Freewill.  Alice is a strong woman who has made herself a successful business woman.  I was really rooting for them,  I really liked the epilogue in the end.  It gave a nice peek into the future.

Fool's Gold (Decadent Publishing, January 2013)

Christmas Eve, the Diamond Saloon is empty of its people, and Pearl la Monte has a hankering to retire early. A pounding at the Diamond’s door rids her of such a fool notion. Her irritation rises when she sees the prissy, polite-like Garrett standing outside.

Ethan Garrett has a powerful need to gain succor. When the saloon’s voluptuous redheaded singer scowls at him from the threshold of the Diamond, he doesn’t stop to think on how his ire at her has disappeared. Or how he just wants to spend some time in her company.

Fool's Gold is a novella that deals with Pearl and Ethan who show up on Rough Diamond.  Because it is a novella, it's a really quick read.  I liked the two of them together  but I wish they had gotten a longer story.  In the previous book, they are never together.  The reader just gets the sense that there is something there between them.  I would have liked to see more of them together.  Despite that, it is a steamy short story with two likeable characters.    It's definitely a great follow-up to Rough Diamond.

Kari& Autumn: What inspired you to become a writer?

Cassandra: Thanks for having me on your blog, Kari :)

Hi everyone! Wow, what a good question. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I never thought I was cool enough. I mean, only the cool kids become the authors, right? So, I resigned myself to an office job. Then one day I stumbled upon a romance writing group and my F4E, Lucy Clark, Medical Romance Author Extraordinaire. Lucy has encouraged me and supported me and led by example. Without her friendship, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to become published. Thanks, Lucy!

Kari& Autumn: Where do you come up with the idea for your books?

Cassandra: In the case of the Diamond Series, it was actually my editor on a previous book. She suggested that I might like to write for Decadent Publishing’s Western Escape line, stories set in the fictional town of Freewill, Wyoming and featuring Western-like tales. I had a bit of a think, and come up with Alice and Rupert’s tale, ROUGH DIAMOND.
 Once their story was done, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to Alice’s friend, Pearl, and that annoying man Garrett than meets the eye, so I set about to discover what it was. The result, FOOL’S GOLD.
To round out the series, I’m thinking up ideas for EMERALD SEA, the third and more than likely final story in the series. I’m pretty sure there will be a gunslinger and he’ll probably look a lot like Nathan Fillion, a la Firefly... ;)

Kari& Autumn: What exciting projects are waiting in the wings?

Cassandra: Next up is a complete change of tack. SILK & SCANDAL will be released on May 8 as part of the brand new imprint from Decadent Publishing, Decadent TEASE. It’s the tale of circumspect lawyers and scandalous ladies :)
I also have a contribution to THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF ER ROMANCE, releasing in September of this year. ‘WOUNDED HEART’ is a Medical Romantic Suspense Action type thing short story (hows that for genre mashing??!).
Finally, I have plans to write the third in the Diamond Series, as mentioned, and continue with the Silk Series, as well as many other bits and pieces.

Kari& Autumn: Who is your favorite literary character and why?

Cassandra: Hmm, this is a toughie! I think I might go with Jane Eyre. I LOVED that book when I was a teen. LOVED IT. I would borrow this big, cumbersome copy from the library every chance I got and read and re-read that thing. Jane is probably one of my first exposures to a quiet kind of feminism, a lady who is sure in who she is and won’t allow her beliefs to be compromised, not even by the love of her life. How could I not admire her?

Kari& Autumn: Just for fun, if you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

Cassandra: I’m going to say a fish, simply because I think it would be fascinating to see a world we can’t enter by virtue of the fact we humans can’t breathe underwater. Plus, I hate going any deeper than my height into the ocean, so it would be superdooper to see everything my irrational fears deny me!

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About the author:

Cassandra grew up daydreaming, inventing fantastical worlds and marvelous adventures. Once she learned to read (First phrase – To the Beach. True story), she was never without a book, reading of other people’s fantastical worlds and marvelous adventures.

Fairy tales, Famous Fives, fantasies and fancies; horror stories, gumshoe detectives, science fiction; Cassandra read it all. Then she discovered Romance and a true passion was born.

So, once upon a time, after making a slight detour into the world of finance, Cassandra tried her hand at writing. After a brief foray into horror, she couldn’t discount her true passion. She started to write Romance and fell deep.

The love affair exists to this very day.

Cassandra lives in Adelaide, South Australia.


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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blog Tour: The Girl Who Married an Eagle by Tamar Myers

Author: Tamar Myers
Publisher: Avon
Date of publication: April 2013

Based on actual events in Tamar Myers's life, The Girl Who Married an Eagle is a beautiful addition to her Belgian Congo mystery series

When Julia Elaine Newton, a young, pretty Ohio girl, volunteered to go on a mission to the Belgian Congo, she knew it was going to be a huge change. But she never expected to wind up teaching at an all-girls boarding school that consisted mostly of runaway child brides!

Much to her chagrin, Buakane was born beautiful. If only she'd been ugly, Chief Eagle would not have noticed her. Escaping from an arranged marriage, the scrappy young girl finds her way to Julia Newton and the school. But this time her jilted husband will not be denied. Now it's up to Julia and Buakane to try to save the school as Congolese independence looms and Chief Eagle is set on revenge.

I had to take a bit to think about this book and decide if I liked it.  The Girl Who Married an Eagle is apparently the fourth book in a series about the Belgian Congo in the 1950s.    I haven't read the first three books, but I didn't really feel like I was missing anything.  The book is beautifully written.  I enjoyed the descriptions of the landscape and life in that time as a missionary.  The author did a wonderful and realistic job of portraying the brutality and harshness of tribal life.  No doubt this comes from her experience as a missionary child during that time period.  My favorite character was Clementine.  She is only 9, but she is very mature and wise.  I loved what she did for Julia and the school in the end.

Overall, I liked the book.  It is a quick and pretty easy read.  I wouldn't classify this as a mystery.  There really wasn't one.  I think the problem I had with the book was there was almost no interaction between Julia and Buakane.  The book really seemed to focus more on Nurse Verna than on anyone else. In the afterword, it is mentioned that the way Buakane made it to nursing school would take a whole book.  That is the book I thought I was getting.  The conflict with Chief Eagle was over so quickly, I never really felt the threat.  I think fans of the series will enjoy this finale.
About the author:

Tamar Myers was born and raised in the Belgian Congo (now just the Congo). Her parents were missionaries to a tribe which, at that time, were known as headhunters and used human skulls for
drinking cups. Hers was the first white family ever to peacefully coexist with the tribe, and Tamar grew up fluent in the local trade language. Because of her pale blue eyes, Tamar’s nickname was Ugly Eyes.

Tamar grew up eating elephant, hippopotamus and even monkey. She attended a boarding school that was two days away by truck, and sometimes it was necessary to wade through crocodile infested waters to reach it. Other dangers she encountered as a child were cobras, deadly green mambas, and the voracious armies of driver ants that ate every animal (and human) that didn’t get out of their way.

In 1960 the Congo, which had been a Belgian colony, became an independent nation. There followed a period of retribution (for heinous crimes committed against the Congolese by the Belgians) in which many Whites were killed. Tamar and her family fled the Congo, but returned a year later. By then a number of civil wars were raging, and the family’s residence was often in the line of fire. In 1964, after living through three years of war, the family returned to the United States permanently.

Tamar was sixteen when her family settled in America, and she immediately underwent severe culture shock. She didn’t know how to dial a telephone, cross a street at a stoplight, or use a vending machine. She lucked out, however, by meeting her husband, Jeffrey, on her first day in an American high school. They literally bumped heads while he was leaving, and she entering, the Civics classroom.

Tamar now calls Charlotte, NC home. She lives with her husband, plus a Basenji dog named Pagan, a Bengal cat named Nkashama, and an orange tabby rescue cat named Dumpster Boy. She and her husband are of the Jewish faith, the animals are not.

Tamar enjoys gardening (she is a Master Gardner), bonsai, travel, painting and, of course, reading. She loves Thai and Indian food, and antique jewelry. She plans to visit Machu Pichu in the near future.

Giveaway and Book Release Announcement: SHADOW OF NIGHT by Deborah Harkness

SHADOW OF NIGHT by Deborah Harkness, the #1 New York Times bestselling sequel to A Discovery of Witches, is out in paperback on Today, May 28! 

Giveaway Details: To celebrate the release, we are having a giveaway!  One lucky winner will be chosen to receive a copy of Shadow of Night as well as a pack of 6 alchemical symbol buttons.  To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter below.  

SHADOW OF NIGHT picks up exactly where A Discovery of Witches left off: Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont, a witch historian and vampire geneticist respectively, have timewalked to Elizabethan England on their hunt for a magical alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782—its sudden appearance and sudden disappearance have upended the delicately ordered world of magical creatures (witches, vampires, and daemons), threatening to unleash unprecedented metaphysical chaos.

For more info on Deborah Harkness and the All Souls Trilogy, check out

Join Harkness and her editor Carole DeSanti, the author of TheUnruly Passions of Eugénie R, for a virtual book event on BookTalk Nation on June 4th at 2pm EST.  Fans can join by phone and buy personalized copies of the book by ordering online here.  

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Q: A Discovery of Witches debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list with publications following in 37 countries.  What has been your reaction to the outpouring of love for A Discovery of Witches? Was it surprising how taken fans were with Diana and Matthew’s story?

A. It has been amazing—and a bit overwhelming. I was surprised by how quickly readers embraced two central characters who challenge our typical notion of what a heroine or hero should be. And I continue to be amazed whenever a new reader pops up, whether one in the US or somewhere like Finland or Japan—to tell me how much they enjoyed being caught up in Diana’s world.

Q:  Last summer, Warner Brothers acquired screen rights to the trilogy, and David Auburn, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer of Proof, has been tapped to pen the screenplay. Are you looking forward to your novels being portrayed on the big screen?  What are your favorite casting ideas that you’ve heard from friends and readers?

A. I was thrilled when Warner Brothers wanted to translate the All Souls trilogy from book to screen. At first I was reluctant about the whole idea of a movie, and it actually took me nearly two years to agree to let someone try. The team at Warner Brothers impressed me with their seriousness about the project and their commitment to the characters and story I was trying to tell. Their decision to go with David Auburn confirmed that my faith in them was not misplaced. As for the casting, I deliberately don’t say anything about that! I would hate for any actor or actress to be cast in one of these roles and feel that they didn’t have my total support. I will say, however, that many of my readers’ ideas involve actors who have already played a vampire and I would be very surprised if one of them were asked to be Matthew!

Q: SHADOW OF NIGHT opens on a scene in 1590s Elizabethan England featuring the famous School of Night, a group of historical figures believed to be friends, including Sir Walter Raleigh and playwright Christopher Marlowe.  Why did you choose to feature these individuals, and can we expect Diana and Matthew to meet other famous figures from the past?  

A. I wrote my master’s thesis on the imagery surrounding Elizabeth I during the last two decades of her reign. One of my main sources was the poem The Shadow of Night by George Chapman—a member of this circle of fascinating men—and that work is dedicated to a mysterious poet named Matthew Roydon about whom we know very little. When I was first thinking about how vampires moved in the world (and this was way back in the autumn of 2008 when I was just beginning A Discovery of Witches) I remembered Roydon and thought “that is the kind of identity a vampire would have, surrounded by interesting people but not the center of the action.” From that moment on I knew the second part of Diana and Matthew’s story would take place among the School of Night. And from a character standpoint, Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, George Chapman, and the other men associated with the group are irresistible. They were such significant, colorful presences in Elizabethan England.

Q: In SHADOW OF NIGHT, we learn more about the alchemical bonds between Diana and Matthew.   In your day job, you are a professor of history and science at the University of Southern California and have focused on alchemy in your research.  What aspects of this intersection between science and magic do you hope readers will pick up on while reading SHADOW OF NIGHT?

A. Whereas A Discovery of Witches focused on the literature and symbolism of alchemy, in Shadow of Night I’m able to explore some of the hands-on aspects of this ancient tradition. There is still plenty of symbolism for Diana to think about, but in this volume we go from abstractions and ideals to real transformation and change—which was always my intention with the series. Just as we get to know more about how Elizabethan men and women undertook alchemical experiments, we also get to see Matthew and Diana’s relationship undergo the metamorphosis from new love to something more.

Q: SHADOW OF NIGHT spans the globe, with London, France, and Prague as some of the locales. Did you travel to these destinations for your research?  

A. I did. My historical research has been based in London for some time now, so I’ve spent long stretches of time living in the City of London—the oldest part of the metropolis—but I had never been to the Auvergne or Prague. I visited both places while writing the book, and in both cases it was a bit like traveling in time to walk village lanes, old pilgrim roads, and twisting city streets while imagining Diana and Matthew at my side.

Q: Did you have an idea or an outline for SHADOW OF NIGHT when you were writing A Discovery of Witches?  Did the direction change once you sat down to write it?
A. I didn’t outline either book in the traditional sense. In both cases I knew what some of the high points were and how the plot moved towards the conclusion, but there were some significant changes during the revision process. This was especially true for SHADOW OF NIGHT, although most of those changes involved moving specific pieces of the plot forward or back to improve the momentum and flow.

Q: A Discovery of Witches begins with Diana Bishop stumbling across a lost, enchanted manuscript called Ashmole 782 in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, whose secrets Diana and Matthew are still trying to uncover in SHADOW OF NIGHT. You had a similar experience while you were completing your dissertation.  What was the story behind your discovery?  And how did it inspire the creation of these novels?

A. I did discover a manuscript—not an enchanted one, alas—in the Bodleian Library. It was a manuscript owned by Queen Elizabeth’s astrologer, the mathematician and alchemist John Dee. In the 1570s and 1580s he became interested in using a crystal ball to talk to angels. The angels gave him all kinds of instructions on how to manage his life at home, his work—they even told him to pack up his family and belongings and go to far-away Poland and Prague. In the conversations, Dee asked the angels about a mysterious book in his library called “the Book of Soyga” or “Aldaraia.” No one had ever been able to find it, even though many of Dee’s other books survive in libraries throughout the world. In the summer of 1994 I was spending time in Oxford between finishing my doctorate and starting my first job. It was a wonderfully creative time, since I had no deadlines to worry about and my dissertation on Dee’s angel conversations was complete. As with most discoveries, this discovery of a “lost” manuscript was entirely accidental. I was looking for something else in the Bodleian’s catalogue and in the upper corner of the page was a reference to a book called “Aldaraia.” I knew it couldn’t be Dee’s book, but I called it up anyway. And it turned out it WAS the book (or at least a copy of it). With the help of the Bodleian’s Keeper of Rare Books, I located another copy in the British Library.

Q: Are there other lost books like this in the world?

A. Absolutely! Entire books have been written about famous lost volumes—including works by Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare to name just a few. Libraries are full of such treasures, some of them unrecognized and others simply misfiled or mislabeled. And we find lost books outside of libraries, too. In January 2006, a completely unknown manuscript belonging to one of the 17th century’s most prominent scientists, Robert Hooke, was discovered when someone was having the contents of their house valued for auction. The manuscript included minutes of early Royal Society meetings that we presumed were lost forever.

Q: Unlike Twilight’s Bella and Edward—hormonal teenagers who meet in the halls of a high school—your leading characters Matthew and Diana are established academics who meet in the library of one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.  This is a world where vampires and witches drink wine together, practice yoga and discuss philosophy.   Are these characters based on something you found missing in the fantasy genre?

A. There are a lot of adults reading young adult books, and for good reason. Authors who specialize in the young adult market are writing original, compelling stories that can make even the most cynical grownups believe in magic. In writing A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, I wanted to give adult readers a world no less magical, no less surprising and delightful, but one that included grown-up concerns and activities. These are not your children’s vampires and witches.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Blog Tour: Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell

Author: David Morell
Publisher: Mullholland Books
Date of publication: May 2013

Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier.

The blueprint for the killings seems to be De Quincey's essay "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts." Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.

In Murder as a Fine Art, David Morrell plucks De Quincey, Victorian London, and the Ratcliffe Highway murders from history. Fogbound streets become a battleground between a literary star and a brilliant murderer, whose lives are linked by secrets long buried but never forgotten.

For the most part, I enjoyed Murder as a Fine Art.  I was initially sucked into the story from that first few pages.  The killer goes on his spree and massacres a family, including the baby. I knew I was in for a dark and disturbing killer.  Then it got a bit slow for me.  I didn't like the historical fact parts of the book.  I kind of felt like I was getting a history lesson and that slowed the flow of the book. When the book was just dealing with the fictional story, I enjoyed it a lot more.  The author was able to really convey the dark and depressing time that Victorian London could be.  

I liked the way the author injected passages from Emily's diary so that the reader got her point of view on some of the events.  She was a great character who went against the conventional views of the time.  There is a lot of action in the book, especially at the end.  The killer and his motives weren't easy to pinpoint.  I was also a bit surprised at his ultimate plans for London that were revealed in the end.  I didn't see that coming.  The book is overall a good solid mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.

About the Author

David Morrell is a Canadian novelist from Kitchener, Ontario, who has been living in the United States for a number of years. He is best known for his debut 1972 novel First Blood, which would later become a successful film franchise starring Sylvester Stallone. More recently, he has been writing the Captain America comic books limited-series The Chosen.

For more information on David Morrell and his novels, please visit the official website.  You can also follow David on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Joint Review: Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

Author: Jamie Mason
Publisher: Gallery Books
Date of publication: February 2013

"There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.”

But it could always be worse. . . .

More than a year ago, mild-mannered Jason Getty killed a man he wished he’d never met. Then he planted the problem a little too close to home. But just as he’s learning to live with the undeniable reality of what he’s done, police unearth two bodies on his property—neither of which is the one Jason buried.

I really wanted to like this story.  But, it just didn't do it for me. I did make it to the end and, to be honest, I'm not sure how I did.  For one, it was kind of boring.  Not at all what I was expecting.  It did start out promising, but as the story progressed, it fell flat.  I found myself waiting for the author to get to the point. I felt like there were too many perspectives and that halted the flow of the book.  It was too wordy.  I also really disliked the parts that were told from the dog, Tessa's, perspective.  I have never liked when things like that are injected into a story.  It may work well for some, but not for me.  

I didn't care for this book either.  Like Kari said, I kept waiting for something that wasn't happening.  Sometimes the multiple viewpoints work and sometimes they don't, this book, they were ok, but not great.  I kinda liked the dog, but I liked the dog in Ruins of Lace too. So, I might just like the viewpoints of dogs.

I think Kari and I like our mysteries and thrillers to move along at a fast pace with lots of twists and turns, but not everyone is like that.  We might not have been wowed, but you might be.  Let us know what you thought of it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Love Song for Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne

by:  Teddy Wayne
published by:  Free Press
publish date:  February 5, 2013

Megastar Jonny Valentine, eleven-year-old icon of bubblegum pop, knows that the fans don’t love him for who he is. The talented singer’s image, voice, and even hairdo have been relentlessly packaged—by his L.A. label and his hard-partying manager-mother, Jane—into bite-size pabulum. But within the marketing machine, somewhere, Jonny is still a vulnerable little boy, perplexed by his budding sexuality and his heartthrob status, dependent on Jane, and endlessly searching for his absent father in Internet fan sites, lonely emails, and the crowds of faceless fans.
This book was the funniest and at the same time the saddest book I've read this year.  It made me really sad for child pop stars.  However, Teddy Wayne did a brilliant job presenting such an  awful lifestyle in a humorous way.

You could take out the name Jonny Valentine and stick in Justin Beiber and you'd probably have a fairly accurate picture.  Jonny Valentine was discovered from YouTube videos and went from nobody to superstar in like a month.  His overly controlling mother/manager has every aspect of his life polished and packaged.  Jonny lives in terror of chub and child predators and never knowing his father.   Despite all their careful training, Jonny's career is on the downslide and his mother is getting desperate.  Her crazy antics are threatening to bring down the whole show.

Throughout the entire book Jonny is terrified of child predators, even though his best friend is his body guard.  This book kinda made me feel like a child predator at times.  The extensive descriptions of Jonny's sexual explorations were a little icky considering he was an 11 year old boy.  However, I suppose that's a natural part of growing up. 

My favorite part of the book and I guess the part that made Jonny a real boy was his obsession with the video game Zenon.  He played it for relaxation before and after his concerts.  His ability to relate the game to all other aspects of his life was an endearing quality.

I would definitely recommend this book, but I suspect the group of people that would get this book is rather small.  While it's about an 11 year old boy, it's an adult book.  I'm really curious to hear what other people thought about this book.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Game by Barry Lyga

by:  Barry Lyga
published by:  Little, Brown for Young Readers
publish date:  April 16, 2013

When a desperate New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz's door asking for help with a new case, Jazz can't say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple--and its police force running scared with no leads. So Jazz and his girlfriend Connie hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer's murderous game.

I read I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga back in December.  I liked it.  I was looking forward to this sequel.  It definitely lived up to the first book.

In Game, Jazz is collaborating with NYC detectives to capture the Hat-Dog killer.  (I hated that name btw)  Jazz figures out the underlying pattern of the killer and what the motivation is.  His serial killer father gets thrown in the mix.  It made for a great slice 'em and dice 'em thriller.

Now, saying that.  I had a little bit of a problem with this book being classified as YA.  This is one of those books that maybe more appropriate for the "New Adult" genre.  There was a lot of talk about rape and castration and other violent acts.  These books are a lot like the TV show Dexter and that's rated TV-MA. On the other hand, the characters are all teenagers and act like teenagers most of the time, so in that regard I can understand why it would be labeled YA.   Anyway, my two cents on the subject.

The book ended with a major cliffhanger so there will be another book in this series.   Not sure when that will be coming out, but I will definitely be checking it out!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Light in Shadow by Jayne Ann Krentz

Author: Jayne Ann Krentz
First published in 2002 by Putnam adult

Zoe Luce is a successful interior designer in the Arizona town of Whispering Springs who's developed an unusual career specialty-helping recently divorced clients redesign their homes, to help them forget the past and start anew. But Zoe knows that some things can't be covered up with a coat of paint. And when she senses that one of her clients may be hiding a dark secret, she enlists P.I. Ethan Truax to find the truth. 

With  authors like Ms. Krentz, you pretty much know what type of book you are getting...a feisty heroine and a swoon worthy hero.   Light in Shadow has both.  I enjoyed the book.  There are two mysteries, the first of which is solved pretty early in the book.  The second took me a bit by surprise.  I always enjoy that in a book.  

Ethan and Zoe are well matched. I liked that Ethan isn't a super, rich alpha male.  He's starting over in a new town with a new business. He is protective of the people he cares about, but isn't too overbearing.  Zoe is hiding out and recovering from her awful time in a mental hospital.  He ultimate goal is to find out who killed her husband and to get back at the people who had her committed.  Thrown into marriage to protect Zoe, they have to decide what to do with their relationship.  The ending was sweet, but no declarations of love.  It was more of a "Happy For Now" ending.  There is a second book, Truth or Dare, that seems to continue Zoe and Ethan's story.   

The other characters in the book rounded out the story nicely.  It looks like there is a potential for more romances in the next book, maybe?  I have it in my TBR pile, so watch for a review soon. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blog Tour: Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende

Author: Isabel Allende 
Publisher: Harper
Date of publication: April 2013

 Isabel Allende’s latest novel, set in the present day (a new departure for the author), tells the story of a 19-year-old American girl who finds refuge on a remote island off the coast of Chile after falling into a life of drugs, crime, and prostitution. There, in the company of a torture survivor, a lame dog, and other unforgettable characters, Maya Vidal writes her story, which includes pursuit by a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. In the process, she unveils a terrible family secret, comes to understand the meaning of love and loyalty, and initiates the greatest adventure of her life: the journey into her own soul.
 Maya's Notebook is a beautifully written and compelling story about a girl who runs away to Chile to hide and in the process begins to find herself.  Maya Vidal has gone through so much in her short life.  While she is hiding on the island of Chiloe, she writes in her notebook about her daily life on the island and the friends she makes there.  She also writes about the events in her life that led her to flee the US.  The book doesn't really have chapters as it is more in journal form. 

I liked the story a lot.  I was sucked in immediately as I followed the journey through Maya's life.  Through writing in a notebook/journal, she is able to look back and examine the things that happened to her.  I liked Maya.  I liked that she allowed herself to look at the past through open eyes and was brutally honest about herself and the role she played in the things that happened to her. Maya's story was uncomfortable to read at times as she sinks lower into the black hole of drug addiction and rebellion. I think more than rehab, the isolation and quiet way of living on the island allowed her to really dig deep into herself. The ending was very satisfying.  I was left with a sense that Maya would ultimately be OK. She still has along road ahead of her, but she is a survivor.  I also felt like her family learned some things along the way as well and would be instrumental in her healing.

Mixed in with Maya's story, the author has woven parts of Chilean history and culture.  I found these parts to be interesting as I know nothing of the region. We also get a glimpse into the seedier side of Las Vegas life.  This is the first book that I have read by this author.  If this book is any indication of her style of writing, I know I will be seeking out her earlier works.  

About the author:

Isabel Allende Llona is a Chilean-American novelist. Allende, who writes in the "magic realism" tradition, is considered one of the first successful women novelists in Latin America. She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together. She has lectured and done extensive book tours and has taught literature at several US colleges. She currently resides in California with her husband. Allende adopted U.S. citizenship in 2003.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Cindy McDonald

Today we are pleased to welcome author Cindy McDonald.  She is promoting her book,  Enjoy her guest post about meeting her characters face to face.  She is giving away a signed copy of the book.  Make sure to check out the Rafflecopter below!

Publisher: CreateSpace
Release Date: September 2, 2012

Make a note: never agitate a madman. Successful Thoroughbred trainer Mike West just made that mistake-and he’s gonna pay-more than he ever realized. But it’s all in the family; his sister, Kate, has been the object of the madman’s desire on the social network “My Town”. Her constant rejections have infuriated him! People who seem to be in the way start turning up dead, and he’s got Mike and Kate next on his list! In the first book of The Unbridled Series, Cindy McDonald introduces you to the world of Thoroughbred racing, while taking her cast of characters on a wild ride through a maniacs mind.

Meeting My Characters Face to Face

I couldn’t believe it! I was out and about minding my own business and suddenly out of the blue there he stood right in front of me—one of the characters from one of my books! Wow! I had no idea that they actually existed—until that moment!

It was a lovely Sunday afternoon. After church services I always go grocery shopping. I was wearing a bright yellow sundress. I pushed my shopping cart through the parking lot to my car and began unloading my bags into the trunk, when a husky voice called to me, “Don’t you look summery today. That’s a very pretty dress you’re wearing.” the man said.

I straightened to peer over the roof of my car. My eyes widened, my jaw dropped open, and a thin gasped escaped me before I could call it back. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were telling me … George Smuts was leaning against a white panel van parked diagonally from my car. He was wearing a white jumpsuit, aviator glasses, a ball cap, and he was cleaning a wrench with a dirty red rag. George was a horrible character from my first book, Deadly.Com. He was terrifying. He was mentally deranged. He found no remorse in killing or torture. My chest tightened. Instantly my throat went dry. I was barely able to mutter out, “T-thank you.”

Quickly I slammed my trunk closed, got in the car, and drove home well over the speed limit, while watching my rear view—not for the police, mind you, but for George Smuts. I was absolutely terrified that he would follow me home. I had created George. I knew what he was capable of, and I certainly didn’t want to be his next victim. Thankfully, he did not follow me. He probably finished cleaning his wrench and went home to watch the football game. Whew!

It was only weeks later when I bumped into another one of my characters, only this time the view was easy on the eyes—Mike West.  It was a lazy morning. I had no appointments or set plans for the day, so I decided to take full advantage of the leisure time to wander about the house in my nightgown with a mug of coffee in hand. There was a knock at my door. Dang! I contemplated throwing on some clothes but decided against it.

Carefully, I opened the door just a crack to peek out at the man on the other side. Holy Moses, he was wearing a black tank and camo pants. His arms where sculpted with deep muscles and his hair was a thick nest of one wavy dark lock on top of the other. A character from my Unbridled Series that I work with on a daily basis was standing on my porch—Mike West!  He flashed his 1000 megawatt smile at me, and politely informed me that they would be trimming the trees along my driveway, but if I needed out that they would be more than happy to move their big truck for me at any time.

To tell the truth, I’m amazed that I am able to reiterate what the man said to me, because I was so busy staring at him that I wasn’t sure that I actually heard one word the hot hunk had to say. I spent the day at my window watching him bend over, pick up branches, take long swigs of water from his thermos, and more bending over.  I got absolutely no writing done what-so-ever all day long.

Okay, these characters are figments of my imagination—they are not real people—or so I thought. Coming face-to-face with George Smuts totally freaked me out, but coming face-to-face with Mike West, was an afternoon of high caloric eye candy. Delicious!

I have been keeping my eyes peeled. One never knows when Eric West will show up or perhaps someday I’ll be questioned by Lieutenant Lugowski—wouldn’t that be a kick?

People are always asking me: are any of your characters based on real people? My answer is always the same: no, they are imaginary. How will I answer that question now, when I know that they are out there…waiting to bump into me?



About the author:

For the past twenty years Cindy has helped her husband raise, train, and race Thoroughbreds at their forty-five acre farm known as Fly-By-Night Stables near Pittsburgh.

During those years Cindy has paid close attention to the characters that hang-out at the back-side of the track.  She found the situations and life style most intriguing. In 2005 she sat down at her computer and began a journey into writing about this life that few understand.

Cindy has recently retired from making her living as a professional choreographer. She owned and operated Cindy McDonald’s School of Dance since 1985.  She studied at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and with the Pittsburgh Dance Alloy at Carnegie Mellon University to name a few.  She has choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards.

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