Friday, November 27, 2009

Julie's Review: The Maze

Summary: Full of karate, pistol-whipping, and other malevolent mayhem, Catherine Coulter's The Maze could be described as a junior-varsity version of Silence of the Lambs. As in that novel, the heroine in The Maze, Lacey Sherlock, becomes an FBI agent to help unravel the mysteries of her own past. Seven years after her sister was brutally slain by a serial killer (the wonderfully creepy "String Killer"), Lacey is assigned to the FBI's Criminal Apprehension Unit (CAU). The CAU, headed by brawny bureau egghead Dillon Savich, uses computer modeling to catch the baddest guys around--it's like profiling, but with databases. Before you know it, Dillon and Lacey are tangling with the String Killer. Even when the scenarios are not terribly inventive--"Let's use Lacey as bait! What a great idea!"--Coulter makes sure that her bad guys are good and twisted. A touch of bloody-mindedness can cover up a multitude of sins, and on that score, The Maze satisfies. ~amazon.com

Review: Maybe starting a series 11 years after it's been published isn't such a good thing but since I've heard a lot about this series from both my dad and Jenn, I gave it a whirl. My verdict, interesting case that did keep me going back and forth about 'who dunnit' but the dialogue that I suppose was sharp and witty 11 years ago fell flat. I knew going in that Savich and Sherlock were a couple so I knew I'd be coming at it from a different view point. I mean it was pretty evident from the get go they'd hook up but them getting there is part of the ride. I do think they make an interesting team and am interested to see where this series goes.

As far as the crime in the book goes, it gave me chills. It kept me wondering who really killed Sherlock's sister Belinda. I just had a hard time believing that Savich would let her in on a case with such a personal involvement. Then again, this is fiction.

Ms. Coulter seemed to know enough about the FBI and inter workings to make it believable. I've always been intrigued about the training of an FBI agent. The beginning of the book somewhat satisfies that curiosity.

There's quite a cast of characters from Lacey's (aka Sherlock's) family to Quinlan and Sally. I'm actually anxious to meet Savich's family. The writing in the books leaves something to be desired. It seems stiff and contrite to me at times. I will say that Catherine Coulter certainly knows how to build of the sexual tension between her characters. I believe all her books are this way, because I've read a couple of her non FBI books. Is this the best book series I've read, um no, is it entertaining: yes. Will I continue to read the books? Yes. They aren't horrible but they aren't Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben or David Baldacci, whom I think are the premiere writers of the crime/thriller/mystery genre. Plus between my dad and Jenn I have all the books. I'm also kind of hoping they getting better as they go on unlike Stephanie Plum which has sharply declined.

Final Take: 3/5


Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Book to Movie: Marley and Me

Summary: When a dog wriggles his adorable rear end into a human's life, the human will never be the same. And both Marley, the dog, and Marley & Me, the movie, manage to endear themselves deeply despite a few wee flaws. Readers of the John Grogan bestseller already know the raffish charm of the incorrigible yellow lab puppy, Marley, adopted by Grogan and his wife because she's "never seen anything more adorable in my life." But Grogan's simple tale of love, in all its forms, shines on the big screen, thanks to deft comic turns by Jennifer Aniston--in top form here--and Owen Wilson. Their chemistry is utterly natural and believable as Marley's owners, as is their interaction with the very naughty but ultimately irresistible Marley. As Marley grows up, the film follows his escapades--flunking out, spectacularly, from puppy training at the hands of a wickedly funny Kathleen Turner. And as Marley grows up, John and Jenny build their life together and weather some tough emotional blows. Like My Dog Skip, which it resembles in its affection for its subject, Marley & Me is a tear-jerker, but in the sweetest, most lovely way--because it, and its four-legged star, have wriggled into our hearts. Good boy ~amazon.com

Review: I will say this, I'm not an Owen Wilson fan and when I found out he was going to be in this adaptation I was a little miffed. I mean he doesn't look like John Grogan at all. I'm a pretty big Jennifer Aniston fan and knew that she'd be fine as the wife because really the book/movie is about Marley and John. I didn't love the book when I read it but I thought the movie would be good for a Sunday afternoon. It was good but it wasn't great. I laughed and I cried a lot. I even said to my husband, "Why do I watch these dog movies, they always make me cry?"

The movie captured what the book did as well, they were not good dog owners but they sure as heck loved that misbehavin' dog. I know that most dogs need to be trained on some level and Labradors are pretty active but I think Marley was a bit rambunctious. He sure was adorable though.

I think it was pretty true to the book but it's been 3-4 years since I've read it.
All in all a good family movie to plop down on the couch and watch, if you and your kids can handle the sad parts.

Book to Movie Final Take: 3.5/5

Continue reading the review...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Julie's Review: The Scarecrow


Summary: Forced out of the Los Angeles Times amid the latest budget cuts, newspaperman Jack McEvoy decides to go out with a bang, using his final days at the paper to write the definitive murder story of his career. He focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer in jail after confessing to a brutal murder. But as he delves into the story, Jack realizes that Winslow's so-called confession is bogus. The kid might actually be innocent. Jack is soon running with his biggest story since The Poet made his career years ago. He is tracking a killer who operates completely below police radar--and with perfect knowledge of any move against him. Including Jack's. ~amazon.com

Review:  I love mystery/thrillers and I'm psyched when I get turned onto a new author in the genre. My dad introduced me to Michael Connelly a while back and I've read a couple of his books. While he's a newer to me author, he's definitely not a new author. This is the first book that I read with Jack McEvoy as the lead character and let me tell you, I liked him. The Scarecrow is a high octane, wild ride to catch a serial killer that no one knows about until Jack and his writing partner, Angela Cook happen upon him. What I like about Connelly's books is that he's always up on the latest thing and in this book it's technology. I can understand some of that talk up to a point but then you lose me...aka it goes over my head. Connelly doesn't quite go over my head, he gives me just enough to understand the depth and seriousness of the IT security business and what is at stake.

I was glad to see Agent Rachel Walling of the FBI show up in the book, since I've liked her in the Harry Bosch books I've read prior. I like that she's a profiler. I've always thought that would be a cool job, but it can put you in harms way. In other words, I'm not sure I'd want to be profiling serial killers all the time. I'm sure that would make you nuts.

The book starts off quickly and never stops. At first it's about proving that an young man was innocent of murder, even if he wasn't an innocent young man. It quickly becomes a whole nother story that Jack begins to unravel. What I really found intriguing was the newspaper aspect. I worked for the high school paper for a nanosecond because I thought I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. Connelly captures the energy of the paper extremely well (I know that he's a former crime beat reporter). I liked learning how a crime reporter gets his stories and the connection he has to the police department.

The ending of the book leaves it open for another Jack McEvoy novel, that I hope will feature Rachel as well.

Final Take: 4/5

Continue reading the review...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book & Movie: Bridget Jones's Diary

I've been wanting to read this for ages, and, in need of some light heartedness, I finally grabbed it off my shelf. It took me a little bit to get into the book as it truly is written as diary entries, but once I did I found myself thoroughly enjoying it.

In many regards, the movie is very true to the book, from characters, to dialogue, to events (fire pole, blue soup, et al). However, this is one case where I like the movie more than the book. The movie expands on certain events (eg. Daniel leaving Bridget) and puts more depth into both Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy than Fielding's diary style writing can include. The movie took time to build the relationships a little better... and added more to the tension between Mark & Daniel.

In the book Bridget's relationship with Mark comes a little out of left field and I was left wondering whether Bridget was just grateful or really in love with him. (The book actually ends more like the second movie, with Mark rescuing Bridget's mum out of a jam with her seedy boyfriend.)

Is it worth the read? Definitely. Julie says reading the sequel's even better... oh, and look! It just moved to the top of my 'To be Read' pile!

Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

And The Winner Is....

Congratulations to Mary,our winner of Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Womenby Harriet Reisen. Please email me(Julie)your mailing address so we can get it to you as soon as possible.

As always, I used Random.org to produce the winner.

Thanks to Ashley @ Henry Holt for allowing us to do this giveaway.

Continue reading the review...

Book News: Perfect on Paper

More exciting news from Maria about Perfect on Paper. Amazon has announced that it'll be one of 3 books that they publish early in2010 as they launch Amazon Encore, their new publishing venture. You can read about it from the press release. Perfect on Paper will be reissued on 2/9/2010.

I loved her original cover but I do think the new cover is lovely. I love the bright colors. Photobucket

Maria wanted me to let our readers know that she has some first edition copies that she'd love to autograph and sell to you guys. It's pretty rare to have a first edition, so I might just jump on this as well. If you are interest drop her a line at Maria@mariamurnane.com and let her know you read about it here.

What do you guys think about Amazon venturing into publishing? Natural for them or a mistake? I think it's kind of brilliant myself. I don't know about you guys but I buy the majority of my books from them and if they do the marketing well, it could really take off.

I'm extremely excited for Maria! Although, Maria (if you are reading this), I'm ready for your next one. :)

Continue reading the review...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Julie's Review: Shanghai Girls

style Summary: May and Pearl, two sisters living in Shanghai in the mid-1930s, are beautiful, sophisticated, and well-educated, but their family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Hoping to improve their social standing, May and Pearl’s parents arrange for their daughters to marry “Gold Mountain men” who have come from Los Angeles to find brides. But when the sisters leave China and arrive at Angel’s Island (the Ellis Island of the West)--where they are detained, interrogated, and humiliated for months--they feel the harsh reality of leaving home. And when May discovers she’s pregnant the situation becomes even more desperate. The sisters make a pact that no one can ever know. A novel about two sisters, two cultures, and the struggle to find a new life in America while bound to the old, Shanghai Girls is a fresh, fascinating adventure from beloved and bestselling author Lisa See. ~amazon.com

Review: Anyone who reads this blog with regularity knows that I'm a big historical fiction fan. Lisa See is my "go to" author when it comes to historical Chinese fiction. Shanghai Girls is the 3rd book of hers that I have read. It does not disappoint. Maybe it's because I'm an older sister but I definitely identified with Pearl more than May. There were moments when I thought May had logical points but overall I found her to be a spoiled, petulant brat, even as an adult. Although, I wonder if I'd feel the same way if she was telling the story. That's why I always think that the voice authors chose to tell their story in can make or break the story.

The book spans over 20 years from Shanghai to Los Angeles. From young women with no cares in the world to women who have to realize that lives are not going to be what they envision. I love historical fiction because I really do always learn something new. I even would stop reading to inform my husband of something, he would nod and I would continue to read. I mean I didn't know that Angel Island even existed! Does it still exist as a tourist attraction like Ellis Island? Yes, it's a State Park.

I'm proud to be an American but man oh man do we have dark spots in our history. The treatment of the Chinese immigrants was deplorable. I didn't even realize that our country had Acts stipulating how many Chinese were allowed to come into the country.

I had no clue about paper sons, paper wives, etc. It amazes me what people will do to get into our great country. The things that they sacrificed to get here and it wasn't always an optional move. I admire these people because frankly I don't know if I could hack it. We as Americans are spoiled. We take our freedom for granted. Books like Shanghai Girls reminds me that it's not always so easy to gain your freedom.

So, yes the book is a history lesson but it's a story of family and the duty you feel to them. It's about how we view ourselves and how other views us and how we get stuck in our ways. It's about fear and living your life within those fears or how you deal with those fears.

The ending of the book was left open ended for a continuation. I loved that it wasn't tied up in a nice neat bow because how many situations in life end up like that? I'm hoping that Ms. See continues this story at some point in her writing career. I must note too that in the 3 books of hers that I have read always have strong female characters. I'm certain that this is what draws me back to her writing.

If you love books about family and history, I encourage you to pick up Shanghai Girls.

Final Take: 4.75/5


Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Author Interview: Mark Rosendorf

Photobucket style Earlier this week I posted my
review for The Rasner Effect by Mark Rosendorf. I'm excited that he's taken time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions.

GJR: I’ve always heard, “write what you know” and it seems like psychosis is something that you know from your field of study and experience. Was this book easy for you to write?

MR: I don’t think any book is easy to write. The entire process from writing to publication, for me, was as challenging as it was rewarding. My experience as a counselor working extensively with emotionally impaired students (and at times, the workers) with psychotic tendencies, however, has certainly helped me to develop the personalities of the characters and show their internal rationalizations. Many of the anti-social tendencies that I’ve worked with are present in both the Duke Organization members and in the Brookhill facility.

GJR: Have you ever met someone who is similar to Rick Rasner in your work? If so, how scared were you? With those types of personalities it seems like they are a walking time bomb, did you find this to be true?

MR: I’ve certainly worked with my share of Rick Rasner-types, but never anyone to his extreme. He, and other characters in The Rasner Effect, have aggressively enhanced personality types, not to mention some are trained assassins. Luckily, I haven’t dealt with any of THOSE yet.

I find it interesting that no matter how my students act on the streets, they tend to show a calmer side in the school. At home, life is inconsistent and there are very few adults who care about them. In our specialized small school setting, our kids get consistency and adults who want to see them succeed. They know this and many of them react positively to a constructive environment. Unfortunately, if the environment is overwhelmingly negative, and I’ve worked in a few of those schools as well, the kids will react negatively.

The one character who is a good example of children I’ve worked with is Clara Blue. Many of our students come from poor and difficult urban backgrounds. By their teenage years, they’ve assimilated into their environment, but you get a few that do know there are better lifestyles out there and want something more for themselves. Unfortunately, they’re not in a position to achieve success, not without a great deal of help. That help is very hard to come by. Clara Blue, trapped in the Brookhill Children’s Psychiatric residence, fits that mold.

GJR: The book for me touches on a bit of conspiracy theory regarding the government, was that your intent? Do you think something like what Dr. Obenchain did to Rick exists in some form?

MR: I do believe the government tells us what they want us to know and keeps us in the dark about the rest. I’ve seen it firsthand. Prior to my career as a guidance counselor, I worked in the hotel industry. In that time, I worked in many hotels while attending college. One hotel I worked in housed the crew of an international airline company from overseas as they flew to and from the United States on a regular basis.

We had major issues with one of the co-pilots who got into a great deal of trouble each time he stayed with us. We had to kick him out of the hotel many times, but the airline company kept sending him back. One evening, before getting on the bus that took them to the airport, he handed all of his money to the bellman that loaded his luggage and said, “I won’t need this anymore.”

That night, the plane went down, taking hundreds of passengers with it.

The FBI stayed in our hotel for a month conducting their investigation. We all told them our dealings with this co-pilot. Meanwhile, the staff of the hotel, were told that if reporters called or showed up asking us for information, we were to tell them nothing, otherwise, we would lose our jobs and we could get arrested for interfering with a federal investigation.

It took 2 and a half years before the FBI’s findings about the plane crash were made public. They basically said it was engine trouble.

I understood the reasoning behind the story given to the public. Just imagine the panic the truth would have caused, not to mention, the financial harm to the airline industry. But, since this incident, I’ve held some skepticism towards the news. Are they always telling us everything? Would it be that hard to lie to us? I’m not saying this is the case, I’m just saying that the idea was a big influence on the conspiracy aspect of The Rasner Effect.

GJR: Your book has some pretty disturbing scenes, do you think that art imitates life or life imitates art?

MR: It’s interesting how both can apply. When the movie Independence Day came out, and we saw the buildings fall, I remember thinking “Wow, this looks so real.” Then, during the horrors of 9/11 hitting us here in New York, I remember seeing the Twin Towers fall and saying “Wow, this looks like a movie scene.”

GJR: If The Rasner Effect was made into a movie, who would be your ideal Rick? Obenchain? Jake? Jennifer? Clara?

MR: Wow, that’s a tough question. Frankly, I’d be so ecstatic if The Rasner Effect was turned into a movie, I’d be thrilled even if they told me the Geico lizard was playing the lead role.

If I had a choice, I think international actor, David Tennant could do Rick Rasner justice. For Jennifer Duke: Lara Gilchrist. When I saw her on Battlestar Galactica, I thought, “Wow, her smirk is exactly how I envision and describe Jen’s.” If she goes blonde, and I have a say, she can have the part.

GJR: Are you currently working on another novel? What is the basic premise? Will we see any of the characters from The Rasner Effect return?

MR: “Without Hesitation: The Rasner Effect II” has been set for release by my publisher, L&L Dreamspell, in late January, 2010 (wow, that date is creeping up fast). Also, in 2010, L&L Dreamspell has an anthology coming out called “Cat in the Dreamspell” featuring a short story by me titled “Cat in the cockpit.” Unlike The Rasner Effect series, this is a very campy story that has a twilight zone-feel to it.

I’ll be adding information on those, plus other writing projects, to my website, markrosendorf.

GJR: Who are your favorite authors to read? Why?

MR: I don’t base my readings on authors, rather on the premise of the story. If it’s one that intrigues me, I’ll read it. If the concept doesn’t grab me, then I won’t read it even if it is written by an author whose work I enjoy.

The authors who I have read consistently include H.G. Wells, Stephen King, Stephen Baxter, Douglas Adams and a little bit of Mark Rosendorf.

GJR: What are you currently reading?

MR: At this time, I am reading “Flood” by Stephen Baxter and Eoin Colfer’s new sequel to one of my all-time favorite series, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” titled “And Another Thing…” It’s just a shame Douglas Adams is no longer alive to have written the sixth book himself.

GJR: Where do you write and what is your typical writing process?

MR: My ideas work like lightning, one brilliant flash, and then it’s gone. That’s why I always keep a notepad on me, ready for when that idea pops into my head. I never know when that will happen, but I have to be ready. One of the weirder places my creativity takes over is in the shower. Because of this, I keep a notepad and a pen hanging in the bathroom on the wall outside the shower door. Luckily, I’m left handed and the shower door is on my left so it’s easy to reach out with that arm and write the thought down.

GJR: What author’s have influenced/inspired you?

MR: Stephen King was a big influence on my becoming a writer. I always loved the way his writing was so descriptive I could picture the scene in my head. “Misery” was the first of his books I read as part of my senior high school English thesis. The topic was about extreme personalities causing extreme situations (the other book I read for this thesis was Robert Bloch’s “Psycho”).

At the time, I had no idea I would find a career as a school counselor for students with emotional disabilities, nor did I know I’d end up writing novels about characters who have extreme personalities and cause extreme situations. Either the experience of putting that thesis together influenced all my future decisions more than I realized…or it’s all one huge coincidence.

Thanks to Mark for taking the time to answer the questions and Paula Krapf at Author Marketing Experts for sending the book and hooking us up with Mark.

Continue reading the review...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Giveaway: Louisa May Alcott biography

We are so excited to sponsor a giveway of Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen. None of us had the opportunity to read the book, but Henry Holt was lovely enough to still offer 1 copy for us to giveaway.

Please leave a comment here by midnight EST on November 16th to be eligible for the book.

Good luck!!

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Julie's Review: The Rasner Effect

style Summary: Rick Rasner escaped death in a New York City bridge explosion - but he couldn't escape becoming an unwitting participant in a top secret military experiment. When the Duke Organization, a group of ruthless killers, set off a violent explosion, they wiped out Rick Rasner's life as he knew it. Many years later, as he still struggled to remember any shred of his former existence, he put a new life together - as a therapist in the Brookhill Children's Psychiatric Residence, a facility for troubled urban teens. Brookhill's policies, set by head director Katherine Miller, seemed brutal and oppressive. She bullied the therapists too - Rick's meek personality left him incapable of handling her attacks. He developed an unexplainable bond with fifteen-year-old patient Clara Blue - something about her conflicted, volatile personality struck a cord deep inside his psyche. Rick wanted to help her and the other patients, yet met with non-stop opposition from the staff. The Duke Organization resurfaced, searching for Rick Rasner. When they found him at the Brookhill facility a bloody hostage situation ensued. The lives of both Rick and Clara were about to change - but for the better or worse? Disgraced mercenary Jake Scarberry was forced out of the witness protection program and back into action - after the Duke Organization. An unpredictable chain of events result between Jake, Rick, and the Duke Organization - and Clara Blue. This complex psychological suspense/thriller will leave you questioning exactly who to root for in a battle of good versus evil. ~amazon.com

Review: Have you ever read a book where it haunts you? I don't mean in a supernatural way but in a very real "this can happen way"? Well that's The Rasner Effect by Mark Rosendorf. This book gave me nightmares and made me think about how we view and treat children with psychological disorders. I understand that some should be locked up but they should still be treated like humans. I don't ever think that violence is the answer but I do believe in defending yourself, but sometimes there are fine lines.

While Rick Rasner is the main character in the book, it is 15 year old Clara Blue that intrigues me. She's a classic case of Nature vs. Nurture. Brookhill Psychiatric Hospital is an god awful place and the director, is a nasy woman.

This book is an edge of your seat book. You wonder what is going to happen and you know it's not going to be good.

There is just one part that I'm not sure it would be as quick as what it happened but as in most fiction, you do need to suspend belief at times to keep the story moving. And the end is a bit disturbing as well but plausible, unfortunately.

This book is part Girl, Interrupted and Conspiracy Theory and even throws in home grown terrorists/mercenaries.

I really don't want to say too much because it'll blow the plot. So if you are looking for a fast paced, edge of your seat, intriguing book The Rasner Effect should be put on your list.

Final Take: 4/5

Continue reading the review...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

And the Winner Is....

Congratulations to Amy,our winner of Cleopatra's Daughterby Michelle Moran. Please email me(Julie)your mailing address so we can get it to you as soon as possible.

As always, I used Random.org to produce the winner.

Stay tuned to this blog, as we are foreseeing more giveaways!

Continue reading the review...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Author Interview: Michelle Moran

Photobucket Last week I posted a review of Cleopatra's Daughter and a giveaway. I am thrilled that the author, Michelle Moran, has done a Q&A with us.

GJR: Why did you decide to gear Cleopatra’s Daughter towards young adults?
MM: I like to begin my novels during the time of greatest transition in a person’s life. And in the ancient world, the greatest transition in a woman’s life was often the time when she was married. Because women married at much younger ages two thousand years ago (twelve years old was not uncommon), my narrators have all been very young girls. However, as my novels progress through time (my next book, for example, will be about Madame Tussuad), my narrators will be older.

GJR: What about this part in history made you want to write a book about it? Why the focus on the children of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra? Why not a book about them instead?
MM: I think most people know the story of Marc Antony and Cleopatra. It’s been done many times before, from Shakespeare to Margaret George. But very few people have heard the story of Cleopatra’s daughter, and when I discovered the amazing life she led and what she and her twin brother lived through, and I knew I wanted my third book to be about her

GJR: Besides Selene, who was your favorite character to write in the book? Why?
MM: Probably Tiberius. He's snarky and sharp and full of teenage angst!

GJR: Would a young girl like Selene have been given the opportunity to study architecture like she was or was this part of the fictional story?
MM: It would have depended on who that young girl was. Women in ancient Rome had opportunities to go to school and study up until a certain point. While we'll never know if Selene was really tutored in art and architecture, she certainly used these skills later in life.

GJR: At the end of the book it seemed to me that Octavian had a soft spot for Selene, would you say that was true? It seems like he respected and admired her, even if it was not reciprocated.
MM: Octavian was an extremely complicated man. The best biography on him that I have read is by Anthony Everitt called Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor. Here was a leader who could be both tender and cruel, forgiving and merciless. He killed his enemies swiftly and probably without remorse. Those he valued, however, he rewarded with king ships and his deepest friendship and trust.

GJR: I know that your next novel focuses on Madame Tussuad, but from what aspect?
MM: I'm writing the novel from the point of view of Madame Tussuad herself, who lives through the French Revolution and chronicled its most horrendous acts by making death masks of the guillotine's victims. As a tutor to the king's sister and a wax modeler with a popular exhibit on the Boulevard Du Temple, Tussuad inhabited tow different worlds. Because of this, she witnessed the Revolution's destruction from two very different perspectives.

GJR: Who are your favorite authors to read? Why?
MM: Oh - there's so many! C.W. Gortner, Robin Maxwell, Sharon Kay Penman, Margaret George..., the list goes on and on! I also really enjoy narrative non-fiction. Some of my favorite narrative books have been Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Gary Kinder's Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea: The History and Discovery of the World's Richest Shipwreck, and Benjamin Wallace's The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine.

GJR: What are you currently reading?
MM: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

GJR: What author's have influenced you?
MM: I think that every writer is influenced by more authors than they can ever name, and that's certainly the case with me! I enjoy all kinds of ficiton, from fantasy to non-fiction, and everything I read helps me grow as an author.

GJR: Where is your next trip? Is it research, fun or both?
MM: My next trip will be to New Zealand to visit family and then Scandinavia, just for fun! I'm hoping that at some point during my travels to Norway, Finland and Sweden I'll find the time to sneak in a quick trip to Paris to take photographs of the places where Madame Tussuad lived.

I want to thank Michelle for taking time out of her busy writing schedule to answer these questions for us! I, for one, can not wait for the Madame Tussuad book to be released.

Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book to Movie(s): Charlie, Chocolate Factories, Great Glass Elevators, Willy Wonka, & White Rabbits

I have been reading Dahl's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, to my daughter at nap time. As she is not quite two yet, this is more for me than it is for her. I remember reading both of them when I was younger, well, at least I remember reading The Chocolate Factory and I remember rushing to the library and picking up the sequel. (I was so dismayed that the first book left us shooting upward in the Great Glass Elevator.) As I read The Great Glass Elevator to my daughter, I realize I don't remember any of it. Unlike it's predecessor, which is children's fantasy, this is more children's sci-fi... As I had yet to discover Madeleine L'Engle, who made science fiction accessible to me, I have a feeling I didn't finish The Great Glass Elevator. Even Dahl's trademark silliness is a little over the top in this one. If you're looking for an honest-to-goodness sequel about chocolate, don't bother with The Great Glass Elevator. If you want to read about Charlie and his family (grandparents included, bed and all) floating around in the Great Glass Elevator in outer space being attacked by Vermicious Knids then proceed at full steam!


The Movies:
Although Dahl wrote the original draft of the screenplay that became Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory it was heavily revised. He was so upset with the movie (especially the frightening images used in the boat sequence) that he refused to let any further works go to Hollywood. Posthumously, his works are becoming movies through permission of his estate.

Personally, I think both movies have merit, though both added their own plot devices to give it more onscreen depth: Willy Wonka has the Slugworth storyline; Charlie added the parental issues for Willy Wonka (how very Tim Burton). Both stick closely to the book in some ways, although Charlie sticks the closest by far, right down to the Oompa Loompa's songs being Dahl's (truncated) lyrics (SIDE NOTE: Dahl had serious issues with television, but he wrote his book in the sixties, consider what was on...) and the story of Prince Pondicherry. As I read the dialogue, I think Gene Wilder's character in Willy Wonka is truer to what Dahl wrote (although, obviously, that has a lot to do with the writing and directing). There are also a lot of obscure references, like the photo used for the Paraguayan man who makes the fake ticket is actually that of Hitler's secretary, and the adults (with the exception of Wonka) are always wrong (like when Mrs. Teavee incorrectly announces the code to the musical lock is Rachmaninoff instead of Mozart). Still, I agree with Dahl that the images in the paddle boat scene are disturbing and unnecessary. I also find some of the songs (particularly "Cheer Up Charlie") to be complete drags on the pacing.

Both movies take creative license. Sometimes I feel like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, especially for a good old fashioned Oompa Loompa, but slightly more often, I think, I prefer Tim Burton's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, perhaps that's because my sense of humor tends to lend itself more to the twisted... What do you think (of the movies, not my twistedness)?

On another note I'm really looking forward to Burton's interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. I say 'interpretation', because apparently it's the story of Alice returning to Wonderland when she's nineteen. (Check out the trailer here.)

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Julie's Review: Fade Away


Summary: Wisecracking sports agent Myron Bolitar returns with style in his third mystery (after Deal Breaker and Dropshot). This time, Myron is given a chance to return to professional basketball after being sidelined by a heartbreaking injury 10 years ago. No, the owner of the New Jersey Dragons doesn't want Myron to play. He wants him to use his skills as a onetime FBI undercover agent ("the worst kept secret in the continental United States") to find a missing player and former rival. The hunt for the absent player turns up an ugly web of complications that include a dead body, blackmail, a nasty custody suit, out-of-control gambling and thugs intent on revenge. Myron finds himself dragged in deeper than expected as the case stirs unresolved issues from his own past. With the help of his lethally loyal pal Win, he untangles the mess with bravado and not a little personal pain. Coben writes a fast-moving narrative in a style witty enough to keep pace without straining too hard. ~amazon.com

Review: I'll start by saying this: in the 90s I didn't miss a Chicago Bulls game, on tv of course because who could afford the tickets in Jordan's heyday. That being said, all the basketball references in Fade Away when they were off the court became tiring. After saying all of that, I did enjoy the book but I didn't care about the characters besides Myron, Win and Esperanza. I have only read 1 other Myron Bolitar book, Promise Me and that was far superior to this one. I like going back and reading books about characters I've been introduced to but this one fell short.

As I said I didn't really care about the characters but I did like the last 5 pages. It made someone you thought was innocent become not so innocent. It was definitely a twist I didn't see coming. Overall the plot was a bit weak but manageable. It wasn't like I couldn't put the book down and do other things. Towards the end I just wanted the story wrapped up and the book over.

I'm sure that in my pile of books to read I have another one of Harlan Coben's books and I will continue to read him. I think he's a gifted writer and I enjoy his style. Fade Away just seemed dated to me and I think that's what happens when pop culture references are entwined with the story. I think the publisher should have updated some of them before re-releasing the book.

Final Take: 3.25/5

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