Monday, February 28, 2011

Jenn's Review: Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing RoadSummary:  In less than a year, Neil Peart lost both his 19-year-old daughter, Selena, and his wife, Jackie. Faced with overwhelming sadness and isolated from the world in his home on the lake, Peart was left without direction. This memoir tells of the sense of loss and directionlessness that led him on a 55,000-mile journey by motorcycle across much of North America, down through Mexico to Belize, and back again. He had needed to get away, but had not really needed a destination. His travel adventures chronicle his personal odyssey and include stories of reuniting with friends and family, grieving, thinking, and reminiscing as he rode until he encountered the miracle that allowed him to find peace.

Review:  This is not my typical read, but something my husband asked me to read when we got engaged oh so many years ago.  I would be lying if I told you it was an easy read.  As a matter of fact it took me three attempts to get into it, not because it was poorly written but because I just couldn't stop crying.  I have a strong empathetic streak and it's the reason I don't read certain books, like this one, but my then-soon-to-be-husband really wanted me to read it and it's so seldom that he asks for anything, that I felt I must make a more valiant effort.  I was glad I did.

For anyone who doesn't know, Neil Peart is the drummer and lyricist of Rush, a band my husband adores.  If that still doesn't help, imagine a stereotypical rock band drummer and then imagine the exact opposite.  That's Neil Peart.  He's a quiet introverted man who avoids the limelight, which is how he can ride around the country virtually unrecognized.

Peart's story consists mostly of his journal entries on his motorcycle trip to "soothe his little baby soul" after a year of incredible loss and devastation.  This is Peart's second book the first is The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa, which I could never go back and read having read this one. (It is another story about his travels, but it's also before tragedy strikes his life, and I just couldn't bear to read it knowing what's coming in his life.)  He is beautifully articulate even in his grief, which is pervasive and all consuming.  His journey is quite literally the road to recovery.  It happens in small doses through miles of scenery and some treacherous gravel roads.

It's a story about finding ones way back from the depths of despair (I'm tearing up even as I type this; it affected me that deeply).  It's a story of survival.  It's a story of hope.  I highly recommend it, to anyone  but especially anyone who has lost someone.

Final Take:  5/5


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Giveaway: Stieg Larsson Duo

I am so enthralled with this series that I want to share! I originally bought trade paperbacks of the first two books in the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, my review & The Girl Who Played with Fire, my review) and then I bought them as Nook books and read them that way. My paperbacks are in unopened, pristine condition... and they could be yours.

Just fill out the form below by midnight EST on March 4th for a chance to win them.

This contest is open Internationally.

As always, Girls Just Reading uses to select winners.

Jenn's Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Vintage)Summary: Lisbeth Salander is wanted for a triple murder. All three victims are connected to a trafficking exposé about to be published in Mikael Blomqvist’s magazine Millenium, and Lisbeth’s fingerprints are on the weapon.

Lisbeth vanishes to avoid capture by the justice. Mikael, not believing the police, is despairingly trying to clear her name, using all his resources and the staff of his magazine. During this process, Mikael discovers Lisbeth’s past, a terrible story of abuse and traumatizing experiences growing up in the Swedish care system.

When he eventually finds her, it’s only to discover that she is far more entangled in his initial investigation of the sex industry than he could ever imagine.

Review:  My first thought, "Oh my geyod, I can't believe Stieg Larsson left it there!" My next thought, "Thank goodness I have The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest!"

The story picks up almost a year after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Lisbeth has severed all ties with Blomkvist and has been traveling around the world.  As she returns home, now a woman of leisure, she begins to asses her life and what she wants to do with it.  She doesn't want to go back to working at Milton Securities.  She also has come to the realization that she has no friends.  So Lisbeth attempts to reconnect with people in her past that she cares about, everyone but Blomkvist, that is.  But just when she begins to reach out, she is accused of a double homicide.  Now she needs people on her side, but will anyone come to her defense?

Once again, there is a ton of plot exposition before the story takes off.  This time, however, it's not tedious as we know the main players so well.  It isn't until the homicides, that the story elevates, and then it stalls a few times with several back stories on policemen and people at Milton security.  Larsson is a fanatic for details, though, and they do add much to the story, it's just, at times, I wish he could find a way to give them to us in smaller doses.  There is a bevy of new names to keep track of and it gets complicated, but it's worth it.

It's a heavy topic, but again Larsson treats it it with a clinical view so that it isn't overwhelming to the reader.  Larsson switches points of view more often in this book  However we get insight into the police investigation of Lisbeth which is kind of interesting.  The police go from assuming it's an open and shut case to being completely baffled.  We also finally get a look at Lisbeth's past, not what is stated in the reports, but what truly is, and may I say, it's no wonder that girl is the way she is.

I must warn you, where some complained that there was too much denouement in the last book, here there is next to none.  We reach a major climax resolution but the story is far from over.  I suggest you have the next book ready, because you're going to be dying to know what happens.  I know I am.

Final Take:   4.75/5


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Julie's Review: Blue Diary

Summary: Hoffman writes from on high, a storytelling goddess who drenches the earth with flower-opening sunshine one day, only to bring on the most abysmal gloom the next. She enchants and she riles, and her powers are extraordinary, although the overture to her fourteenth novel is awfully sweet. Ethan and Jorie, gorgeous and madly in love after 13 years of marriage, are just too horribly perfect. Ethan is a carpenter, baseball coach, and volunteer fireman. Jorie is a homemaker and a gifted gardener, and their 12-year-old son, Collie, is handsome and good. It's enough to make you puke, and that's exactly Hoffman's intention because this is a make-believe life that has run its course. The girl-next-door, the younger, funny-looking one named Kat, not her exquisite and coldhearted sister Rosarie, misses her father, who committed suicide, and has never trusted Collie's, so when she recognizes an old photograph of Ethan shown on a most-wanted TV show, she makes the fateful call and then watches in shock while her neighbors' lives collapse like a house that looks fine from the outside but has been consumed by termites until it's no more than a shell. Nothing will ever be the same for the denizens of Monroe, Massachusetts, after Ethan is arrested for the long-unsolved murder of a 15-year-old Maryland girl. Many rally to his cause; Kat and Collie grow up too fast; Jorie's best friend copes with breast cancer; and Jorie, devastated but lucid, realizes that she must learn the truth whatever the cost. This canny tale of abrupt reversals and courageous, unpopular choices is as suspenseful as it is lyrical and provocative.

Review: Every time I pick up an Alice Hoffman book I remember how much I love her writing and berate myself for not reading her more often. There is something dream-like and magical in the way she tells her stories. Blue Diary tells the story of Jorie and Ethan Ford, who have to be the world's most perfect couple. So in love with each other that everyone in their right mind is envious but not jealous. Of course, not everything is as it seems for Ethan. You see he has a mysterious past that comes back to pay a visit one beautiful morning shortly after making love with his wife.

You see Ethan did something horrific when he was someone else. The story isn't about what Ethan did or how it affects him it's about the path of destruction this causes on those in Monroe, Mass. It's not only about the obvious effects on his beloved wife, his sweet son but also those who thought they knew Ethan well.

Ethan Ford is a man who has for 13 years, hidden his true self. Throughout the course of the book I feel that he slowly begins to reveal himself through his treatment of Rosarie Williams. Ethan Ford is a user; a wolf in sheep's clothing.

The only subplot I might have enjoyed being explored more is the friendship between Charlotte and Jorie. What made their friendship work since pre-school? What is it that kept them loyal towards each other?

The book obviously weaves the question, how well do we know the ones we love? It isn't a new theme in novels but it is one that Ms. Hoffman does so well and writes so beautifully. Each character is rich in personality and description. Another thing she does well (same with Jodi Picoult) is describe small town life and how everyone knows each other and intimately even if the other person isn't aware.

Final Take: 4.5/5


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to Aislynn for winning the first three novels in the Lucy Valentine series. I am positive you will love them! Please send Julie your mailing address so we can have the publisher ship you the novels.

As always, Girls Just Reading used to generate the winner.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jenn's Review: Secrets and Shadows

Secrets and Shadows: A 13 to Life NovelSummary:  Nothing’s simple when you run with werewolves. Jess Gillmansen thinks she’s seen it all but her eyes are about to be opened to even more danger and a reality far more paranormal than she’s suspected. With Jess’s realization that the Rusakovas’ mother is still alive and imprisoned, the group’s choices become harder and trust more important. Lines are drawn and relationships change as the broken Rusakova family struggles to reunite long enough to free their mother and people who Jess always just took to be normal people show themselves to be much, much more.

Review:  I have been looking forward to the release of Secrets and Shadows, the second book in the 13 to Life series by Shannon Delany since I closed the cover on book one in September.  Ms. Delany does not disappoint, in fact I'd say she exceeds expectations!

I know some readers were frustrated that Secrets and Shadows does not pick up right where 13 to Life left off, but really, I never expected it to.  We come back a few months later.  Jessie is having trouble dealing with not only her mother's death, but her recent run in with the Russian mob, constant intrusion by the CIA, and a werewolf boyfriend who is dating her best friend and who seems to be pulling away from her.  It'd be a lot for any teenager to handle.  And even then it wouldn't be so bad except that strange things have started to happen all over town.  Perhaps there are scarier things out there than a family of werewolves...

I love that we learn more about Jessie's friends and acquaintances, although there is not necessarily a lot to love about what we learn about them.  Jessie is a little slow on the uptake that Pietr is pushing her away to protect her (which is funny, because she mentions that she's read Twilight) to the point of me wanting to shake her a couple of times.  Unlike Twilight, however, she doesn't sit around mooning over it, but tries to move on.  She's even trying to keep the peace by becoming the mediator between the Ruskova's and the CIA.  However, there are so many forces working against them, many of which she knows nothing about, it seems a bit of a Sisyphean task.

This was hard to put down.  The action just keeps rolling as Jessie's life keeps unravelling.  I found Delany's writing to be much smoother in this book, with far fewer instances of plot-line jumps.  There were still a couple of times I backtracked to see if I missed something, but those times were few and far between.  As a reader though, I would surmise that if you haven't read 13 to Life recently, there are things that back-reference which a casual reader might miss.  Not that I found it an issue, but if you're one of those skimmers, I'm giving you fair warning.

Bargains and Betrayals: A 13 to Life Novel
If 13 to Life was the snowball that started the avalanche, Secrets and Shadows is the express train that barely slows for passenger embarkation or disembarkation.  As it raced to the finish line, things foreshadowed come to fruition and things unimagined unfold.  Needless to say, I'm thrilled that I will only have to wait until mid-August (8/16 to be precise) to continue my journey with Jessie and the Ruskova's in Bargains and Betrayals.  If you love YA paranormal romance, you must check out this series!

Final Take:  4.5/5.0


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Alice's Review: The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A NovelSummary:  The inner life of Emily Dickinson was creatively effulgent, psychologically pained and emotionally ambivalent, as reported by Charyn, who here inhabits the mind of one of America's most famous poets. Charyn parrots the cadent voice of razor-sharp Dickinson, beginning in her years as the tempestuous young lyricist who aims to choose my words like a rapier that can scratch deep into the skin. From the first page, witty Emily harbors conflicted feelings toward her female status: her esteemed father, the town's preeminent lawyer, adores Emily at home for her intellectual companionship, but also dismisses her formal education as a waste of money & a waste of time, and it's easy to see how Emily's poetic instincts are born from the shifting sensations of comfort and resentment brought by a childhood spent serenading Father with my tiny Tambourine. Emily's growth is brightly drawn as she progresses from petulant child to a passionate woman with a ferocious will and finally to that notorious recluse. However, while this vivid impersonation is a stylistic achievement, it's also confining and limits higher revelations.  - Copyright © Reed Business Information

Review:  Up until I read this novel, I had no idea who Emily Dickinson was.  I knew her name, I knew she was a writer but that was about it.  I didn't know what to expect when I began The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson.  What I learned was that Ms. Dickinson was a complicatedly simple woman with a deep desire to love and experience life. 

I enjoyed the time I spend with her.  Jerome Charyn had incredible skill to give her a voice.  His descriptions were so vivid.  I loved the moxie Emily had, the humor in which she approached life.  I love that she had a touch of the dramatics.  I loved how real he made her.  She was no longer this unknown woman who happened to be a poet in the 19th century.  She was a woman who wanted so much from life, to explore to travel to see what the world had to offer.

I especially loved the way Mr. Charyn describes Emily's relationship with her father.  She loved her father deeply and above all wanted his approval.  I think she wanted him to accept her for who she was, flawed, insecure and perfect.  In the end, I think she gets just that.  If only that was enough. 

I think this novel is a great read for those who love Emily Dickinson and her poetry.  It's also a great way to discover her for the first time.  This will definitely be a novel I will read again.  The next time, I will have a book of Emily Dickinson's poems on hand.

And as for Mr. Charyn, I am looking forward to reading his other work.  He has this beautiful ability to encompass the voice of whomever he becomes. 

Final Take: 4/5 


Friday, February 18, 2011

Julie's Review: Rasner's Revenge: Rasner Effect III

Summary: Mercenary Rick Rasner is a survivor. His current mission-revenge. Rick is trapped in an asylum with a delusional roommate and guards who want to kill him. His one goal: escape and inflict vengeance on the man who put him there, presidential hopeful, General William P. Straker. Unfortunately, no one knows Rick is alive, except for one fifteen-year-old old girl. Clara Blue is a recent escapee from the Brookhill Children's Psychiatric residence. She is also now the reluctant leader of an aspiring mercenary group made up of fellow escapees. Clara's only interest is in freeing her anointed dad from that asylum, if only she had the know-how, or her new allies were willing to help in this task. Clara's plan: hire the only other mercenary she knows, Jake Scarberry, the man who spent years as Rick's mortal enemy. Even if Clara can convince Jake to help, and they succeed, will Rick prove to be the parental figure she envisions? And what happens should he find out the ultimate betrayal Clara committed when she escaped Brookhill?

Review: I will say this, Mark Rosendorf definitely knows how to write sociopaths! I just hope he hasn't written these characters from experience and more from his imagination! Rasner's Revenge begins from where Without Hesitation left off. Clara and her band of rag-tag Duke Organization attempt to pull off their first job. So, what can go wrong, does go wrong. Clara is the sanest of these girls and she's a little off.

In the past couple books, I've felt for Clara by the middle of this book, I wanted to slap her. It's not that I didn't feel sorry for her, it's that I wanted her to take control of her life and step up to the plate. Sure she's only 15 but she's also been through a lot and to root for her, you want her to be in charge of her life. Maybe she just doesn't know how or have the skills to do this at this point in her life.

Rick Rasner is as delusional and angry as ever, just the way we like our psychos. Rick is always trying to break out of somewhere and this time it's an asylum. He's got a crazy bunk mate and General Straker is still keeping tabs on him.

We also have mercenary Jake Scarberry back in the mix. This time though he's on Rick's side. You see he was hired by Clara to help break Rick out of the asylum. Funny how your past always comes back to haunt you. Or in Jake's case, how your career comes back to haunt you. Is Jake really on the up and up with Clara and Rick or does he have something up his sleeve.

There's also the venerable General Straker. Now, this guy is supposed to be a hero but he's more psychotic that Rick Rasner and that's saying something. Will General Straker and Rick Rasner finally come to blow? Will they both live? Die?

What I love about these Rasner adventures is that there is no clear cut bad guy/good guy. I found myself vacilating between rooting for Rasner/Clara, Jake and even General Straker. In a novel where the heroine doesn't believe in herself, it's hard to believe in her. In the end you want her to be ok but in the process you want to shake her and say "Get a hold of yourself."

What I would love to see is a novel or novels on Jake Scarberry. I think know so little about him and I would like to know more.

If you are looking for an action/adventure/thriller series, then definitely go for Mark Rosendorf's Rick Rasner novels.

Final Take: 4.5/5


And the Winner Is...

Somewhere Over the SunCongratulations to Gina Muth for winning a copy of Somewhere Over the Sun by Adi Alsaid.

Please send Alice your mailing address so we can ship you the novel.

As always, Girls Just Reading used to generate the winner.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Alice's Review: The Other Life

The Other LifeSummary: 
Quinn Braverman is keeping two secrets from her loving husband, Lewis. One is that the real reason she chose him over Eugene, her neurotic, semi-famous ex-boyfriend, was to prove to her mother that she could have a happy, stable relationship with the guy next door.  The other is that Quinn knows another life exists in which she made the other choice and stayed with Eugene. The two lives run in parallel lines, like highways on opposite sides of a mountain. There, on the other side, the Quinn who stayed with Eugene is speeding through her high-drama, childless life in Manhattan. Here, the Quinn who married Lewis lives in the suburbs, drives a Volvo, and has an adorable young son with another baby on the way.  But the important part of the secret—the part that terrifies and thrills her—is that she knows it's possible to cross from one life to the other. So far she’s played it safe, never venturing over to see what’s on the other side. Then a shocking turn of events rattles Quinn to her very core, and she makes the reckless choice to finally see what she’s been missing. There, she not only rediscovers her exciting single life, but meets the one person she thought she’d lost forever. Her mother. But Quinn can’t have both lives. Soon, she must decide which she really wants—the one she has…or the other life?  -

Review:  I was very intrigued when I read the synopsis for this novel.  I am one of those people who can't help but wonder what if?  It's something I have always done.  I wonder how different my life would have been if so-and-so had chosen me, if I had stayed in college, if I actually stuck to a diet , if I took that nanny job in Florida.  So many questions without answers.

When I picked up this novel I was expecting a nice light run of the mill novel about what ifs.  If you have already guessed that's not what I got, you would be right.  This novel is so much more.  Yes, Quinn has the opportunity to see what her other life was like and yes, she can pass back and forth through them but it's so much more than that. 

There is so much I want to tell you about this novel, but like Jenn's last review, I can't because I don't want to give too much away.  I really enjoyed the time I spent with Quinn.  Ms. Meister created a real, giving, well rounded character.  It was very easy to feel empathy, not sympathy for Quinn.  She was strong beyond her own comprehension. 

My favorite character was Nan, Quinn's artist mother.  Right from the beginning I felt a bond with the damaged woman who gave up everything for the sake of her family.  I felt her struggles, I sat with her in that darkness, I saw the world through her eyes.  She was beautifully flawed.  If I had one literary wish, it would be for Ms. Meister to write Nan's story. I want to know where she began and what happened to bring her to her resolution. 

If you are looking for a nice light read, this novel isn't it.  If you are looking for a novel that will bring you to tears in the best way possible, this is it.  There is so much good in this novel.   My favorite chapters are the Quinn Deconstruction paintings.  I loved the way Nan describes the paintings.  I could picture them in my minds eye.  I would buy one if they were real.

I leave you with this little morsel.  There is a scene in the novel where a woman is crying out in anguish.  Ms. Meister describes it as "It came from the place where loss met fury."  Man, I loved that line.  That's some good stuff.  So good that I felt it too. 

Final Take:  4/5

Thanks to Lydia Hirt of Putnam Books for providing me with this advanced copy. 


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Julie's Review: American Wife

Summary: A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with—and that her private beliefs increasingly run against her public persona. As her husband’s presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.

Review: I have never read a Curtis Sittenfeld book but I think I might go and find myself a used copy of Prep. I highly admire Laura Bush for her love of reading, promoting literacy and for being a great First Lady. That being said if you want to read about Laura Bush, you shouldn't pick up American Wife, because it's not about her life but rather someone like her. Sure there are parallels, but that's pretty much where they end.

American Wife closely follows the life of Alice Blackwell; a mild mannered, studious, well-read young woman who meets and marries the exact opposite of herself. That being said, for the most part their marriage is a happy one. Sure it has it's ups and downs but what one that stands the test of time doesn't?

While I really enjoyed the book, I did feel at times that Ms. Sittenfeld was a bit long in the tooth. Too many details that at some points I needed to skim over. Essentially, I understood where she was going in the first paragraph and didn't need the other 2 pages of detail. For example, the first time Alice goes to meet her future in-laws her stomach is upset and there is only one bathroom. Well Ms. Sittenfeld goes into great detail about that episode, details that weren't needed to drive home the point that Alice's stomach exploded.

The novel is told through Alice's point of view but I didn't feel that she sugar coated situations. I had a very good grasp of who people were and how they acted from her including the good, the bad and the ugly. I really liked Charlie. Did he have problems? Sure, but that didn't make him a bad person.

The Blackwell Clan was interesting and entertaining as well. The matriarch "Maj" was a force to be dealt with but she wasn't overbearing.

There are so many pieces to this novel that I can see why it was over 550 pages long. Although 100 pages could have been cut out due to details. The book tells her story from her youth in a small town to the eve of the 2nd election to the White House of her husband.

Make sure you don't miss the last page, there is a doosey of a twist laid in there.

While this wasn't a home run read for me I did enjoy it and enjoyed getting to know Alice Blackwell immensely.

For those looking for a take on Laura Bush's life, you need to read a biography on her. If you are looking for a take of one woman's story of her road to the White House, then this is the book for you.

Final Take: 3.75/5


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jenn's Review: Torn

Torn (Trylle Trilogy, Book 2)Summary:  Wendy thought she finally understood who she was and what she wanted, but everything changes when the rival Vittra come after her. 

She's caught between two worlds, torn between love and duty, and she must decide what life she is meant to lead.

Review:   I tried, but I just couldn't stay away from continuing this series any longer.  I just have to know what's going to happen next!

 Torn, the second book of the Trylle Trilogy, we learn more about the Vittra, and more dark secrets about Wendy's past -they just keep coming. Once Wendy knows the truth, she has some big decisions to make about her future and the future of her people. Wendy is also learning to harness and project her abilities.  But a new dark horse is introduced into her personal life. Loki, a powerful Vittra who has an interest in Wendy, but can his motivation be trusted or true?  Is giving up her happiness the only way to save her people?

I anticipated some of the plot developments but the journey was fascinating and it kept me turning pages. I love
 Amanda Hocking's writing style; it's casual and unassuming. She doesn't attempt to force 'coolness', pop-expressions, or commercialism of any kind. Her characters are honest and true to themselves. 

I know I won't be able to wait too long before starting the last book of the trilogy,
 Ascend. There is the resolution between the warring Trylle and Vittra still to come, as well as a resolution to Wendy's personal turmoil. I shall be sad to see the end of this series but I know it will be beautifully done, and impossible to put down. 

Final Take:  4.5/5
PS.  Don't forget to check out the soundtrack Amanda Hocking has compiled for this book on her site.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Giveaway: Lucy Valentine Novels

Just in time for that tried and true day of love; we have 1 set of the first 3 Lucy Valentine novels by Heather Webber! I adored these books and I absolutely know you will too!! The set includes Truly, Madly; Deeply, Desperately; and Absolutely, Positively.

This is a US & Canadian giveaway only. A huge thanks to the St. Martin's Press for giving us the books to share with you!


Author Interview: Heather Webber

Photobucket So, we at Girls Just Reading really love Author Interviews; so I am beyond excited to bring you an interview with Heather Webber, author of the delightful Lucy Valentine series. Thanks to Heather for taking time out to answer my questions.

GJR: I just adore Lucy, is she based specifically on anyone? What do you think makes her so endearing?

Heather Webber (HW): I adore her, too. She’s not based on anyone at all, and I’m not entirely sure where the character came from. She was just there, and from the first line of Truly, Madly I felt like I knew who she was. I think what makes her so endearing is that (I hope) everyone can see a little bit of themselves in her. Whether they eat Twinkies for breakfast or don’t think twice about taking in a wounded pet... She’s also, especially as the series opens, really filled with self-doubt and concern about what her future holds. I think we’ve all experienced that a time or two—she’s very relatable to a lot of people.

GJR: What made you think of the paranormal aspect of the mystery/romance for the Lucy novels? I’m not a huge paranormal fan but I just loved these because I don’t think that it overshadows the point of the books.

HW: I grew up watching Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, so I always had a love for the lighter side of woo-woo. I’ve also always been fascinated with psychics, John Edward in particular. So I decided to take those interests and blend them together. Lucy was born.

GJR: Besides Lucy, who is your favorite character in these novels?

HW: It’s so hard to pick a favorite! I have to admit I’ve really come to love Preston. She’s grown on me a lot over the series. Another favorite is Raphael. I adore him. Oh, and Grendel. He’s such a scene stealer.

GJR: Do you ever wish for Lucy’s gift? If you had Lucy’s gift, how would you use it?

HW: I don’t think I’d want the responsibility of Lucy’s gift. I don’t know if I could handle all the missing persons cases she takes on—and the guilt that sometimes comes along when she can’t help a family.

GJR: In the 2nd and 3rd novels, you reveal a couple of big twists that will impact Lucy and her family in the future. Will we see the fallout of these revelations in the future? Will the further influence Lucy’s view of love and commitment?

HW: These fallouts will definitely be explored. And I think Lucy’s views will always be a little skewed, but she’s working on it!

GJR: Have you always wanted to be a writer? How do you approach writing?

HW: I grew up wanting to be a medical examiner. Life didn’t quite work out that way, though, and I started writing in my mid-twenties and haven’t looked back. I always approach each book with the same goal. I want to write books that let readers escape for a little while, bring them to another place, and let them forget about life for a few hours. Hopefully they’ve smiled or laughed along the way.

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

HW: So many—too many to name! I love romance and mystery—and memoirs of all things. I really love books that have a satisfying ending. Either a happily ever after or a mystery where the bad guy gets his comeuppance. I’m pretty easy to please!

GJR: What are you currently reading?

HW: I’m in the middle of Lorraine Bartlett’s A Crafty Killing, which is very good. I’m on deadline right now, so finding time to read is harder and harder.

GJR: You have teenagers; do they share a love of reading or writing with you? How do you encourage your teens to read?

HW: Two of my three love to read. The key for them is to let them pick the books they’re interested in. I bring them to the book store and let them roam – they always find something. My oldest isn’t a big reader, but he does love audio books and will download them from Itunes.

GJR: I have to know, are there more adventures for Lucy Valentine in our future? What else are you currently working on?

HW: Plans for a fourth Lucy book are in the works, but I don’t know when, or with which publisher. Hopefully I’ll have some news soon. Right now I’m working on It Takes a Witch, a paranormal mystery featuring novice witch Darcy Merriweather. It will be out in January 2012 under my brand new pen name Heather Blake.

For more information on Heather and her books, check out her website here.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book to Movie: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (foreign)

The Girl With the Dragon TattooIf someone asked me my opinion of the film in passing, I'd tell them, "It was okay," because truly I had higher expectations for it.

The cast, save for Henrik Vanger, was really nothing like I imagined the characters to be in my head, so that took some adjustment right out of the gate. The film was more graphic than an American film but not so vivid as to be hard to watch. It also runs longer than two and a half hours.

The story skipped right into the 'meat' of the Vanger family mystery, skipping over most of the plot exposition of Blomkvist and Lisbeth that made the beginning of the book drag. However, my husband, who hadn't read the book, thought that the lack of exposition made the story difficult to follow. The cuts they made to the rest of the plot made sense, skipping most of Blomkvist's financial story but keeping the Lisbeth sub-plot. Although, I'm not sure it was clear why Lisbeth was a ward of the state or what exactly her issues are.

The changes made to the climax of the Vanger story, though minor, bothered me. Perhaps the script writers drew from information in later books, I don't know, but it really changed the way you viewed the character of Lisbeth, in my opinion. I don't think it added anything to the plot, and it left me feeling uneasy about Lisbeth, a character we are supposed to take an interest in so that we want to follow her story in the next book/movie.

All in all, it was an interesting take on the story. I look forward to seeing the American film to see how it compares. My recommendation is if you've read the books, check it out, if you haven't (you definitely should!), I'd wait for the American version.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Guest Blog: Secrets and Shadows

Secrets and Shadows: A 13 to Life Novel

Next week is the highly anticipated arrival of Secrets and Shadows, the second book in the 13 to Life series by Shannon Delany.

When I found out Ms. Delany was offering a chance to interview werewolves Max or Pietr for the MAX-imum Exposure Blog Tour, I jumped at the chance and signed us up right away!  I asked to interview Pietr, Jessie's love interest in 13 to Life.  If you haven't read this yet and would like a little background you can check out a note from Jessie on Ms. Delany's blog or my review of 13 to Life.

But now, with out further ado:

Welcome to the MAX-imum Exposure Tour for the 13 to Life Series!

Each site throughout the tour will have swag and an individualized interview with either Pietr, Max or both!

And make sure you join us live at 11 am EST on 2/12 for a Blog Talk Radio event with host Barry Eva, Pietr, Max and Shannon! Go here:

Can't make the live BTR event? Join us instead for a special interview with both boys at Mundie Moms ( on 2/17 at 9pm EST for an exclusive chat!

And here's today's interview!

GJR:  What's with the bad blood (HA!) between you and Vampires? Do you know any?

Pietr:  Funny, Jenn. I think the attraction people have for vampires says a lot about our society in a very philosophical sort of way. And I have known people who are like vampires; we all have. There’s always someone who sucks the life out of people they’re around, someone who feels better if other people feel worse, and so they drain them in different ways. I think Junction High has some people like that. I’d like to stay clear of them.

GJR:  Max is getting a lot of attention right now. Are you a little jealous, relieved, or both?

Pietr:  Max usually gets quite a bit of attention. It’s a good and bad thing. If he’s in the spotlight I’m not. That can be a relief. All I have to do is make sure he doesn’t screw things up too badly for us while he is in the spotlight. Unfortunately that can be quite a challenge. 

About the Author:  

Shannon Delany is the winner of the first-ever cell phone novel contest in the western world and the author of the 13 to Life series through St. Martin's Press. 13 to Life is already available and Secrets and Shadows hits stores 2/15/11 with Bargains and Betrayals landing on shelves 8/16/11 (already available for pre-order!)and two more as of yet unnamed novels coming out in 2012.
13 to Life
For more about Shannon, visit her author website: or her series website:  

You can also find Shannon on Facebook and on Twitter at

Want a fun freebie you can print out and use with a web-cam to make a bookmark much more than a bookmark? Go here and check out the Augmented Reality bookmark: 
Secrets and Shadows: A 13 to Life Novel
Available in stores February 15, 2011

Bargains and Betrayals: A 13 to Life Novel
Available in stores August 16, 2011