Saturday, May 29, 2010
Please email me (Jenn) your mailing address so we can send the book off to you as soon as possible. Thanks to all of you for participating.
Girls Just Reading uses Random.org to produce the winner.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Review: When I read the synopsis for Black Rain, I immediately thought of my favorite show, ALIAS, and that it could have been ripped from a plot. Well, now that I'm done that is both a yes and no answer. What the NRI (National Research Institute) is after could have been a Rambaldi artifact but the history surrounding the story, is definitely not ALIAS. I'm not into the study of Mayan culture so this book was highly educational for me, if not a bit confusing. Mr. Brown sure does know how to weave an action packed adventure. He also knows how to create some freaky beasts.
NRI Agent, Danielle Laidlaw has been saddled with quite a task; find the source of some crystals that were originally found in the Amazon in 1926. Um, good luck? So, she has to assemble a team of both mercenaries and civilians to find these crystals. She also can't tell them the truth of what they are looking for in the jungle. She knows this will put their lives in danger but she's willing to take that risk; it's her job.
Mr. Brown has a way of making you feel like you are in the thick of it. He describes everything in such a way that when they were on the boat, I felt like I was there floating along with the team. A great deal of the story is based on Mayan legend/folklore, which he does a great job with tying it up at the end. It also makes you think that sometimes the thing you fear most might end being the thing that saves you. I really can't go more into that because well I'd ruin the book for you.
The cast of characters are well developed and intriguing. Besides Danielle, I think my 2 favorite characters were Hawker and McCarter, for different reasons. Hawker was the brawn and McCarter was the brain. That being said, they both had a bit of the others characteristics in them as well. The Amazon itself, as you can imagine, is one big character. I'm sure it's beautiful but I'd probably get lost and come upon some unknown spider species and die of fright.
I will say, the very end wasn't my favorite. I'm not into doomsday prophecies and I felt that the ending definitely played into that hype of recent years. If he had left out a bit at the end I would have been wholly satisfied. I know why he did it but it doesn't mean I have to be fond of it.
That being said, I will read Black Sunwhen it comes out August 2010. I'm anxious to see what happens to the gang of characters and if all of them reappear.
Final Take: 3.75/5
Thursday, May 20, 2010
In order to enter, there are a few simple rules:
- In the comments section, tell us how you follow our blog (Google Friend, Twitter and/or our Facebook page).
- Tell us what excites you about this book
- Enter the contest by Friday, May 28th, 2010 at Midnight EST.
Good luck! I can't wait to share this book with you!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
GJR: What made you decide to gear the ASLEEP trilogy towards young adults?
WRM: My teen daughter loves fantasy stories so I knew from the beginning ASLEEP would be a fantasy tale with a teen girl as the lead character. As an African American teen girl, my daughter couldn’t find any age appropriate fantasy stories with that kind of lead character. I wanted her to have that experience so it was very important that I create a character she could identify with in that particular way.
GJR: Did you know at the onset of writing ASLEEP that this was going to be a trilogy?
WRM: Yes! From the moment I conceived the story, I envisioned it as a trilogy, with each book written as a stand-alone story so that readers would have a complete story (with a beginning, middle, and end) in each novel. However, each book deals with a different theme. The subject of ASLEEP, book 1, is discovery; Adisa discovers the super world. In AWAKE, book 2, forgiveness is explored; Adisa comes to terms with her own personal history. And ASCEND, book 3, focuses on trust; Adisa steps into her destiny. Each book stands on its own but also contributes to telling a significant part of Adisa’s journey.
GJR: Micah is very different. Do you find it difficult to write Micah’s character or do you enjoy doing so?
WRM: I love this question! Micah was a challenge that I enjoyed writing. There were two major reasons why I found Micah challenging. First, since Adisa is the narrator, we’re presented with only part of Micah’s story, the part that Adisa knows. There’s so much more to Micah than what Adisa reveals in her limited view of him but ASLEEP is her story so it’s focused on her experiences. The second challenge was showing Micah’s transformation from being robot-like and distant to being a more natural and caring individual. Micah’s story is so much broader than what’s revealed in this trilogy, that I’m actually planning to write a story from his perspective which will definitely be a more shocking read. I’m sure it’ll be extremely challenging but I’m looking forward to it.
GJR: Adisa is a tumultuous teen but she is a strong heroine and very likable. How do you maintain that balance in your writing?
WRM: Maintaining the balance comes by showing Adisa’s negative and positive traits. I like Adisa too and I believe it’s because she embodies the spirit of “girl.” In some ways, she’s naïve but she’s smart and determined, she fights for what she believes in and is passionate in her relationships including family, friends, and boyfriend. She’s also brave, facing up to overwhelming circumstances even though she often feels out of her depths. But despite her many great qualities, she focuses on her faults and can be very negative about herself. I believe these contradictions make her an interesting and likable character because girls all over have experienced these traits and can identify with them.
GJR: I love that you have reading guides for your books on your website! Was that your idea?
WRM: Yes. Readers love to discuss stories and by creating a reading guide, I give readers insights into what I believe are some interesting parts in the book. Plus it provokes readers to think about aspects of the story they may not have considered before and this opens the story up even more which can be fascinating.
GJR: Do you have book plans for what comes after the ASLEEP trilogy? Will you continue with YA or return to writing more fiction for adults like your first novel GIANT SLAYERS?
WRM: Right now, I’m considering a trilogy from Micah’s perspective. So much of his story was left untold because the ASLEEP trilogy focuses on Adisa’s experiences. I’m also considering a graphic novel featuring Micah’s little brother, Jason. So it’s safe to say I’ll be working on YA titles for quite a while.
GJR: Who are your favorite authors to read? Why?
WRM: I shy away from picking favorites because I learn from all authors whether it’s something positive or negative. My advice would be to read the authors you love but also try to add some variety. It makes you appreciate your favorite authors even more and it may also introduce you to new authors that you love as well.
GJR: What are you currently reading?
WRM: Currently, I’m interested in transmedia which is storytelling through several different mediums. For example parts of a single story are told through a book, film, video game, the Internet, etc., in order to create a complete story. One such story I want to check out is the Cathy’s Book series.
GJR: What authors have influenced you?
WRM: The authors who have inspired me include the fearless writers Octavia Butler and Alice Walker however they are not YA authors. I feel encouraged and uplifted by their work.
GJR: If you could pick one superpower, what would it be? Why?
WRM: That’s easy, flight! I’ve always wanted to fly, since I was a small child. I believe it’s because it represents freedom. What could be more liberating than defying gravity?
I want to thank Ms. McNair for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Now not only am I anxiously awaiting the next installment in the adventures of Adisa, I am gidy with anticipation over the possibility of more from Micha's point of view.
Quick! Go read ASLEEP so you can be ready for when AWAKE comes out later this year!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
In an instant, Adisa is in his arms, looking up at the sky over his shoulder as they fly parallel to the ground. Micah shifts, shielding her completely with his body. As the tree explodes against Micah's back, Adisa feels him shudder with the impact and the air fills with wood chips and sawdust. Miraculously, they aren't smashed into the ground. They safely continue flying.
After this dramatic rescue, Micah finally begins to open up to Adisa about his secret life as a superbeing and she discovers another shocking secret. Micah burns for her--literally as well as figuratively.
This African American superhero teen love story is set in modern day Atlanta and is filled with humor, mystery, romance, and suspense.
Review: I was a little... apprehensive about starting this book. I love YA fantasy, but I am -or was, I should say- a fan of Heroes, and I saw first hand that romance and superpowers do not mix. It only took me about thirty pages to realize that apparently, Heroes just did it wrong! Wendy Raven McNair has written a rich and compelling story of girl-meets-boy ...who just happens to be a superhero.
The plot unrolls slowly, but steadily. Not once did I ever feel like it was dragging, nor did I do that 'I'm-bored'-skim-ahead that I am guilty of on many occasions. There was plenty of exposition, but it was engaging and beautifully done. It is our experiences that make us who we are and in this way Ms. McNair allows us to thoroughly get to know Adisa. I loved getting to know her friends and family as well as discovering Micha with her. The only time things felt rushed is when Adisa first gets pulled into Micha's world, but then again, things felt rushed for Adisa too, so in a way, it was kind of perfect.
Adisa is one of those strong female characters that I adore and that lately is severely lacking in YA literature (I'm lookin' at you Ms. Meyer!). Adisa is not without her faults, she is a teenager, yet these are balanced by her virtues. Her temper is quick and her loyalty is fierce. Over the course of the school year, Adisa grows from a self-involved girl with no interest in boys to a responsible teenager with her first love and all the complications that go with it, plus a few extras due to the fact that her boyfriend is just a little unusual. Through a cataclysm of events stemming from her sixteenth birthday Adisa learns that every thing is not always what it seems. She discerns that no one is all villain, or all hero, super or otherwise, and that families and life are complicated.
Ms. McNair has created a fascinating world of supers balanced on the edge of reality. ASLEEP is part of a trilogy and by the end of the novel the action has really started to roll. Though there is much to absorb, she leaves the reader craving more. I cannot wait for the next book, AWAKE to be released sometime this year!
Final Take: 5/5
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Review: I've been an Emily Giffin fan since my sister bought me Something Borrowed, Something Blue and Baby Proof a few years ago. She writes clear and identifiable characters. You always attach yourself to one of the main characters. Heart of the Matter is no different; in fact I think this is her best book yet.
The opening chapter introduces us to Tessa, a happily married women with 2 kids and recently decided to give up her career to stay at home. She's at dinner with her husband, Nick, when he gets paged. See, Nick is a pediatric plastic surgeon and there's been some kind of emergency. We later find out that it was their anniversary and it will be the night that she looks back at that changed their lives.
We are next introduced to Valerie. She's the mom of the little boy that Nick is coming into to work on. Valerie is a self-sufficient single mom, who has a a wonderful support system in her twin brother Jason and her mom, Rosemary. While, Ms. Giffin did a great job of writing Valerie and telling her POV, I just didn't like her. I felt awful for her son Charlie but I didn't feel anything but disdain for her. I don't care how lonely you are and vulnerable, you know a man is married, you back off. You put the brakes on and you stop having contact except when needed. I understand that Nick is Charlie's doctor but what doctor makes house calls?? Now, is it all Valerie's fault...of course not; Nick shares a lot of the blame.
This book had me in tears at the end. (Thank goodness my husband fell asleep when I was finishing it). My heart really went out to Tessa. I could feel everything she was feeling, I could see where she was headed before she got there and like a bad horror movie, I found myself saying "No!! Don't do it". "Don't go there".
I'm sure by my comments you can tell who I sided or identified with so I don't think I need to be too specific. Was Nick a bad guy? No, I think he was bored. I think his life was so good that he didn't know what to do, so he set out to destroy it.
I won't turn this into a bashing men review because that's not the purpose of the book. It makes you think about the situation through the eyes of both women. What makes us tick? What makes solid marriage, go off course? Can you get back on course? Do you even want to? It's a hard look at the state of marriage in today's society.
I wasn't too happy with the ending. To be honest though, I'm not sure how it could have ended with me being happy. Maybe, just maybe that's the lesson. Nothing turns out the way you think it will and you are the only one responsible for your happiness.
Final Take: 4.75/5
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Please email me (Julie) your mailing address so we can send the book off to you as soon as possible.
Thanks to all of you for participating. As always, I used Random.org to produce the winner.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Per EW.com: "Jason O’Mara, the star of ABC’s Life on Mars, has been cast as Joe Morelli in Lionsgate’s big-screen adaptation of One For the Money, the first novel in Janet Evanovich’s bestselling Stephanie Plum series, Variety reports. He joins Katherine Heigl, who’s set to play Plum, a newly-divorced, recently laid-off 30-year-old in New Jersey who becomes a bounty hunter. Her first assignment is bringing in Morelli, a former vice cop now wanted for murder. The two have a history — Stephanie lost her virginity to him in high school — so look for sparks to fly in more ways than one. Rescue Me‘s Daniel Sunjata has also been cast as Ranger, the veteran bounty hunter who’ll show her the ropes.
Stephanie Plum fans, do you approve? Evanovich once told EW, “If you want to cry, you’re not going to like my books. If you want a really good plot, you’re not going to like my plots. My books have pizza and cussing and sexy guys.” I therefore accept O’Mara and Sunjata.
I also think they’ve proven they have the right delivery for a comic crime thriller."
Well, O'Mara isn't Jeffrey Donovan but that's ok, IMHO. I did watch him in Life on Mars and he can play a cop, plus he's pretty witty. He is pretty sexy as well.
I remember Daniel Sunjata from The Ghost of Girlfriends Past and thought he was pretty sexy in that movie. Is he Ranger sexy? TBD but he can more than likely pull it off. Lisa thinks he's too girly. LOL
What do GJR readers think?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
GJR: How many batches of cupcakes did you go through before you decided on the ones you put into the book?
JR: I don’t know an exact count – hundreds. Baking requires little tweaks in ingredients and patient charting of your results. We did so many little changes. I should’ve kept the charts because then I could’ve told you the exact number of batches we made. I threw them away when we were done because I was so glad to have accomplished proofing so many recipes.
GJR: Are the cupcake recipes your own or did you work with a baker/pastry chef?
JR: Many of the recipes were my grandmother’s. She was an amazing baker. She sold cookies, cakes and cupcakes out of the backdoor of her house to other grandmas in the neighborhood who passed them off as their own. It was a hush hush operation. Lots of whispered orders and money passed while hugging hello.
I worked with a pastry chef to update my grandmother’s recipes and create new ones.
GJR: Is there anyone that inspired Ansley or any of the other characters?
JR: My grandmother inspired Vivian. My grandmother was very motivated in life. When she was in her nineties she told other seniors she was 78 so they would treat her as a peer not an elder. She was always busy even in her nineties – walking, baking, knitting, crocheting, and quilting. The woman never had idle hands.
Ansley was inspired by the feeling I get whenever I have a major life change. It’s scary and exciting and personality changing.
Parish reminds me of many an ex-boyfriend as does Thad. I have a lot of bad ex-boyfriends.
GJR: Who was the hardest character to write for you in The Icing on the Cupcake?
JR: The mother. I can never get mothers right.
GJR: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
JR: Yes, I never thought it was possible. But I started as a journalist for the Wall Street Journal (I didn’t think that was possible either) and when I figured out I could do that I took a huge leap and tried writing a book. This is the result. I have learned a lot writing this novel and it’s going to help me write better books.
GJR: Are you working on a new novel? Does it involve Ansley and her life in NYC? If not, can you tell us the premise?
JR: I am working on a YA novel about fairies but fairies in the historic sense not the current image of them.
GJR: Who are your favorite authors to read? Why?
JR: I love Charlaine Harris because she’s so quick to read and enjoyable. Emily Giffin is always a pleasure as is Jennifer Weiner. Richel Mead’s Vampire Academy books are really satisfying.
GJR: What are you currently reading?
JR: Charlaine Harris’ Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 10) and Danielle Trussoni’s Angelology
GJR: What author’s have influenced you?
JR: Everyone I read influences me. I read Joan Didion and can’t imagine how she can compose the beautiful sentences that she does. I read John Grisham and try to understand how he creates so much tension in his stories. I read Stepheine Meyers and analyze why her stories are so compelling.
GJR: If you had to only pick one kind of cupcake to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?
JR: Chocolate with orange frosting because chocolate cake is always the most moist and satisfying and because chocolate and orange is a combination I never get tired of.
We'd like to thank Jennifer Ross for taking time out of her schedule to answer our questions.
Give yourself a treat and pick up The Icing on the Cupcake.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Late afternoon in an Indian visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers have come and gone, but nine people remain. A punky teenager with an unexpected gift. An upper class Caucasian couple whose relationship is disintegrating. A young Muslim-American man struggling with the fallout of 9/11. A graduate student haunted by a question about love. An African-American ex-soldier searching for redemption. A Chinese grandmother with a secret past. And two visa office workers on the verge of an adulterous affair.
When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping these nine wildly individual characters together, their focus first jolts to a collective struggle to survive. There’s little food. The office begins to flood. Then, at a moment when the psychological and emotional stress seems nearly too much for them to bear, the young graduate student suggests that each tell a personal tale, “one amazing thing” from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. As their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself. One Amazing Thing is a passionate creation about survival—and about the reasons to survive.
We've all been there, sitting for hours on end, in the passport office, in a jury pool or at the D.M.V., looking around you, wondering about the guy or gal in front (or behind) of you. At the end of the day, you'll likely leave never knowing who those people are, never connecting because you've been engaged in some sort of singular activity as you pass the time away. That's the reason, I was intrigued
Monday, May 10, 2010
Please email me (Julie) your mailing address so we can send the book off to you as soon as possible.
Thanks to all of you for participating. As always, I used Random.org to produce the winner.
Their tagline is:
Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than six million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.Better World Books collect new and used books and textbooks and sell them to consumers at a discount with free shipping to any location within the United States (or $3.97 worldwide). So far, the company has converted more than 35 million donated books into $7.5 million in funding for literacy and education. In the process, they’ve also diverted more than 13,000 tons of books from landfills. What a great concept!
BetterWorldBooks.com is celebrating Children's Book Week with a major sale on kids' books. Beginning Monday, May 10th, through Sunday, May 16th not only can you purchase 5 kids books for $10, but for every children's book bought, Better World Books are donating one children's book to kids in need.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Julie's Review: "Momma, everyone likes cupcakes". I don't think more truer words could have been spoken by Ansley when she says this to her mom, Hattie. Ansley is dumped on her butt, very publicly, by her fiance Parish. You see Ansley seems nice but she's not. She's a real, big witch!! I didn't like her at all at first but a great author develops her characters and Ms. Ross did with Ansley. The transformation of Ansley was realistic and not without it's hiccups. I did at times have to remind myself that she was only 22. For all the talk of getting married and having kids, I would think that she would be in her late 20s. I honestly don't think she was in love with Parish, she was in love with what he represented to her. I'm not sure at the end of the book if she even realizes that yet. Here's hoping there's a sequel and we find her growing even more.
We also get to know her grandmother Vivian. This woman is so alive and vivacious that I wanted some of her energy. She's recently lost her husband of some 40 years, only to find out that he left her with a whopper of an IRS situation. She doesn't take the allegations laying down. She starts to tackle them hands on with some help from Ansley and her financial advisor, Thad. There are some interesting twists and turns in this plot that I don't want to say a lot about because it'll ruin the story for you.
We also get to know, albeit not as well, Ansley's mother Hattie. Hattie is a proper southern woman, who's brought up her daughter to believe in the same things she does. She is fiercely against Ansley going to NYC to stay with her grandmother, you see Hattie and Vivian haven't spoken in 40+ years, ever since Vivian moved to NYC and married Charlie. Of course, there are always misinformation in families about these circumstances and this one is no different.
The Icing on the Cupcake is about finding your way after having your heartbroken and knowing you can stand on your own two feet. More importantly, it's about family relationships, mother/daughter, granddaughter/grandmother and how we bond over similarities and differences.
There is a great cast of characters in this book; Dot, Thad, and IRS Agent #1492.
As you all know, I don't have a ton of free time to read (you know work, 2 kids, husband, house, etc) but this book I finished in 24 hours. I really couldn't put it down. I even came home to read it before I picked up the kids. I devoured it like I want to do with her cupcake recipes. I can't wait to try some of the recipes with my sister. You see she's the baker and I'm the eater. In particular, I can't wait to do the S'mores with Marshmallow frosting. Can you say yummy?
Jenn is our resident "Food-Lit" connoisseur but I think that Ms. Ross is definitely an addition to this new, emerging genre. Sarah Addison Allen is still the one to which all other food-lit authors measure up.
Final Take: 4/5
Jenn's Review: Sorry, Julie, but I'm going to have to disagree with you and Ansley. I don't like cupcakes. I don't like cake at all. *ducking incredulous looks* (Yeah, I know "and you call yourself a foodie," etc. etc. etc.)
However, even I want to try some of these cupcakes! (The Margarita, Hold the Salt one sounds divine!) There are two kinds of food-lit, the kind where food is pervasive in the stories like books from Sarah Addison Allen and Erica Bauermeister, and the kind that weaves recipes into the story, like this book from Jennifer Ross and books from Josi S. Kilpack. I love them both indiscriminately.
The main character in this book is far from likable. Actually, most of the character's in this book are unlikable. Ansley is cruel; her grandmother, Vivian walked out on her family; her mother Hattie, spoiled her daughter to excess; and then there's Thad, Vivian's haughty financial advisor. Taking all that into consideration, I would usually walk away from such a book, but Ms. Ross created such an interesting story around these characters that you can't help but get pulled into it. (Like Julie, I read this in about a day.) These character's are not just archetypal stereotypes, but have depth and grow. You may not like Ansley by the end of the book, but you sure do respect her.
The plot moves along nicely and though there is a twist that is foreshadowed early in the book, it is still well done. I also like that the story is not wrapped in a nice neat little package at the end. It is left open, but not so open that you feel cheated out of story.
I wholeheartedly agree with Julie that Ms. Ross is an excellent example of what is good in the genre of food-lit. I will certainly be seeking more from her.
Final Take: 4.25/5
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I did make an effort. I read my first eBook a while back, but still wasn't a fan. I attempted to read it on my nice big 18" computer screen, but even that didn't seem to help. I ended up printing it out to read it off a page (*hanging head in shame*). Quite frankly, I spend enough time staring at a computer screen... I'd rather tax my eyes in a new way by squinting over the printed page. Also, there's something about the feel of a book and (don't laugh) the smell of paper. I love seeing my books all lined up waiting for me on my shelves, like old friends.
Although, as Bethanne Patrick, better known as The Book Maven from Book Maven Media, tweeted not so long ago, "Thinking more and more about fact that it's not all about ebooks; it's about reading, keeping reading alive no matter the 'mechanism'." I think this gets to the heart of the matter. If eBooks create more readers, how can that be bad? Even if they aren't for me, I'm glad they're enticing people to read.
Who knows, it took me a long time to switch to mp3s too (picture me clinging to my CD cases) and I'm still not a total convert. Would I be willing to try eBooks again, say on a shiny new iPad? You, bet! But until then, I'll stick to my personal library...
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Review: Divine Justice jumps right in where Stone Cold left off and never lets up. For some reason I was under the impression that this was the last Camel Club book and as I'm done with the book I can see why it would be the end. Although I just wonder if Mr. Baldacci will be bringing some of these characters to a future book even if it's not a Camel Club book.
If this is the last one, it was definitely satisfying. What a cast of characters! Just when I think that Mr. Baldacci has thought of the worst person in the world, his next book he creates someone more evil. In Divine Justice, this person is Macklin Hayes. Oliver ends up in a small mining town in Virginia and of course it's not an innocent little town. He's stumbled onto something quite strange and mysterious. It doesn't take long before Oliver is wrapped up in the middle of the drama; all while being on the run from killing Carter Grey and Senator Simpson. This is where Joe Knox comes in. You see he's the hunter on Oliver's tail. Except he's in Macklin Hayes' pocket.
As in all Baldacci books there are 2 plots going on here. The one to find and rescue or retain Oliver Stone and what in the heck is going on in Divine, VA? Both stories are well sorted out and executed. There are several twists that I didn't see coming, which I always like. There is a character in the book that I thought for sure was in the thick of things. I like it when I turn out to be wrong.
The pace is no different than all of the Baldacci's I've read..fast and furious. Some authors would lose character or plot development with this type of pace but that isn't so with is novels. By the end of Divine Justice, I feel like I know John Carr/Oliver Stone. While some of his actions weren't always legal or right, maybe in some way they were justified but only in fiction. The ending is a bit unbelievable but as with most thrillers you do need to suspend belief.
If you've never read The Camel Club series, you should. I don't think you'll be disappointed. I know I wasn't.
Now I can catch up on the other 3 Baldacci books I'm behind on...First Family, True Blue and his newest release Deliver Us from Evil.
Final Take: 4.5/5