Thursday, June 30, 2011

Julie's Review: The Heroine's Bookshelf

The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder Summary: Marketing consultant Blakemore finds that in moments of struggle and stress she revisits her favorite childhood women authors and their plucky heroines for respite, escape, and perspective. Jane Austen, who broke off an engagement and threw away her last chance at a respectable marriage, poked fun at polite society and its expectations of women in her novels, and she created a self-assured, self-respecting protagonist in Pride and Prejudice's Lizzy Bennet--who also doesn't need a man to complete her even if Lizzy does get a rich, handsome husband in the end. As Blakemore pushes against the boundaries of her own life, she also identifies with selfish Scarlett O'Hara, who, lacking in self-awareness and oblivious to the emotions of others, shoulders life's burdens and moves ahead, "her decisions swift, self-serving, and without compromise." The Little House on the Prairie series reminds Blakemore that when we focus on people and life instead of on material possessions, we learn to acknowledge what really counts. She finds inspiration, too, in Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Color Purple, and Anne of Green Gables, and offers some nuggets of wisdom, but for the most part, her observations are familiar and pat.

Review: The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder

What I loved about the book was not only did you dig into the characters in each of the featured books but you learned new information on the authors as well. This is where I began to realize, perhaps, how autobiographical these novels were for a lot of these women.

This is a must keep for me. This will be kept on my nightstand and brought out when I need a little pick me up. It has also added books to my huge TBR pile. It is also something that I will gladly lend to my daughter when she's older. This would be a wonderful gift for a young woman who is looking for literary women to read.

Final Take: 4/5


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book to Movie: Inkheart

Summary:  When Mo Folchart reads a story, the characters leap off the page. Literally. And that's a problem. Mo must somehow use his special powers to send the interlopers back to their world…and save ours. If ever a task was easier read than done, this is it. Mo and his daughter Meggie, aided by friends real and fictional, plunge into a thrilling quest that pits them against diabolical villains, fantastic beasts and dangers at every turn. Brendan Fraser (The Mummy films, Journey to the Center of the Earth) leads a splendid cast (including Academy Award winners* Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent) in an all-fun, all-family film of Cornelia Funke's bestseller. Follow Mo and Meggie into adventure more exciting than any ever read. Because it's adventure they're going to live! ~product description

Review:  This is one of those rare occasions where I think the movie outshines the book.  It felt like it was updated a good fifty years and condensed the story with the effect of actually making it more cohesive.  Plus it has a fantastic all star cast.

The ending is a little different, there is more closure, which is nice.  Also, the character of Meggie is given more substance and control over her situation, which I liked.  Perhaps it draws from the next two books in the series, I'm not sure.  There was also an infusion of more fairy tale characters which rounded out the concept of the silvertounge ability, I actually wished they had been included a little more, but that would have been straying too far from Cornelia Funke's original plot.

However, I watched this with my husband and he did not find the movie engaging.  So perhaps, if you haven't read the book, it isn't as interesting.  Although I think he took issue with the concept as a whole.  Overall, I think it's a great family movie, though perhaps a little too old for my daughter, who won't catch all the other literary references yet and will have tons of questions about all the bad guys.  If you enjoy fantasy, you should certainly check out this movie.

Final Take:  4.0/5


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jenn's Review: Inkheart

InkheartSummary: Cornelia Funke, the enormously talented author of the international best-seller THE THIEF LORD, brings readers another spellbinding tale of adventure and magic. Meggie lives a quiet life alone with her father, a book-binder. But her father has a deep secret-- he posseses an extraordinary magical power. One day a mysterious stranger arrives who seems linked to her father's past. Who is this sinister character and what does he want? Suddenly Meggie is involved in a breathless game of escape and intrigue as her father's life is put in danger. Will she be able to save him in time?

Review: This is another book off my 2011 To Be Read Challenge that's been sitting on my desk for a few years. I've actually been looking forward to this one to the point where, perhaps, my expectations may have been a little inflated. I thought this fell a little short of the mark. Don't get me wrong, it's a good book, but it's not as spellbinding as I hoped it would be.

For one, the writing is very dense for a children's novel and full of metaphors. It seems a little stiff, formal and rather old fashioned. I actually checked the publishing date because I wasn't sure of the time period from the context.  Yes, almost at the end of this book cell phones are mentioned, but otherwise, this could have been set fifty years ago.  This may have something to do with the fact that it was translated into English from German, but I think it also has a lot to do with Cornelia Funke's writing style.  She does cite J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and J. M Barrie’s Petter Pan as her favorite childhood fantasy novels, so perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised.

The characters are interesting -I can definitely relate to Elinor and her house full of books that she considers family. I probably would have ended up a lot like her if I hadn't met my husband. Meggie is sweet and unassuming, but I felt like the reader doesn't get to know her very well. There are no other children in the story really, and the plot is such that she doesn't have much time to be a child. So the story, though centered on Meggie, has a very mature feel to it.

There is also little levity to be found. Maybe that's why I found myself needing to put it down and take a break from time to time. However, even though it wasn't "unputdownable", the concept was fascinating and had me hooked. I loved that Ms. Funke takes the metaphor of books coming alive and makes it literal. You were never quite sure what anyone's motivation was or who could be trusted.

Inkheart is left a little open-ended, there are two more books in the series, but not so gaping that it feels unresolved. I will be reading the next two books and, now that I know what to expect, I'll see if it changes how I feel about the books. If you are a fan of children's fantasy, you should certainly check out the Inkheart series.

Final Take: 3.75/5


Monday, June 27, 2011

In Remembrance: Elle Newmark

Yesterday I heard that wonderful author, Elle Newmark had passed away from a long illness. Her 2 books were both wonderful and yet so different from each other. I had the honor of being a part of both book tours with Pump Up Your Book Promotion with The Book of Unholy Mischief and The Sandalwood Tree.

I'm a disappointed that I won't be able to read any more books by this talented author. I am grateful that I was introduced to her novels and they will forever be on my bookshelves for my children to enjoy when the time comes.

My thoughts go out to her loved ones and this difficult time for them.


Giveaway: The Sandalwood Tree

The Sandalwood Tree: A Novel We are lucky enough to have a copy of Elle Newmark's fabulous book The Sandalwood Tree to giveaway. I read it last month and really enjoyed it (see review here). Fans of historical fiction will definitely want to enter for this one.

Good Luck!!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Children's Corner: On the Moon

On the Moon Review: As we have been on a quest for books for my 3 year old son, this one was picked out by my husband at a Usborne booth at a car show. Since then, I have read it every night to the little guy.

I've never really been into the planets, stars, space travel but I love to give my kids knowledge on a bunch of subjects and he seems to really dig it. I love the feel of the book cover; it's squishy. The illustrations are great and perfect for a kid his age.

My daughter also likes it because she can read most of the pages to her brother with a bit of assistance from mom on the big words.

The illustrations are perfect for the target audience and I will admit I didn't know they were real NASA pictures with illustrations over them. Now, I see it.

If you are looking for a good entry level book about space travel, then look no further than On the Moon.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Parent's Corner: Go the F--k to Sleep

,Go the F**k to SleepSummary: Go the F--k to Sleep is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate, and radically honest, California Book Award-winning author Adam Mansbach's verses perfectly capture the familiar--and unspoken--tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night. In the process, they open up a conversation about parenting, granting us permission to admit our frustrations, and laugh at their absurdity.

With illustrations by Ricardo Cortes, Go the F--k to Sleep is beautiful, subversive, and pants-wettingly funny--a book for parents new, old, and expectant. You probably should not read it to your children. ~product description

Review:  Our Children's Corner post is a weekly exploration of children's literature, but this week we also have a special post just for parents.  When I read about this book pre-publishing I thought it was a brilliant idea.  And now that I've read it?  I think it's genius.

It's 10 o'clock at night and she's still dancing around her room. 'No, you don't need a drink or another hug (you've had 30), you can reach your stuffed animals because they're all on your bed...' If this scenario is remotely familiar to you and you have a sense of humor about parenting (and how can you not?!?), then this book is definitely for you.

This 20 page bed time story for parents is laugh out loud funny and beautifully illustrated. As the child tries the parent's patience, 38 minutes and counting, the parent's inner monologue is in rhyming verse reminiscent of so many children's bedtime stories. Frustration mounts as the parent gets more desperate but finally relief is in sight... Or is it?

I highly recommend this for any parent, new or old. Sometimes as a parent you just need to laugh -hey, it's better than crying!  Right?

Final Take:  5/5

If you don't want this book sitting around the house, you can get it as an audio book, read by Samuel L. Jackson, from -and at the moment it's free!  (Special thanks to Jennifer in Virginia for finding this spectacular gem of a recording.)


Friday, June 24, 2011

Giveaway: The Girl in the Green Raincoat

The Girl in the Green Raincoat: A Tess Monaghan NovelWe are pleased to have one copy of Laura Lippman's The Girl in the Green Raincoat: A Tess Monaghan Novel for giveaway.

Please complete the form below no later than Midnight EST on June 30th.  This giveaway is open to US and Canada residence only.

As always, Girls Just Reading uses to choose are winner.

Good luck!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Alice's Review: The Girl in the Green Raincoat

The Girl in the Green Raincoat: A Tess Monaghan NovelSummary: Originally serialized in the New York Times Magazine, Lippman's Tess Monaghan novella turns the intrepid Baltimore PI's at-risk late-pregnancy bed rest into a compellingly edgy riff on Hitchcock's Rear Window. Lovingly tucked up on her winterized sun porch, Tess marshals her forces--doting artist boyfriend Crow, best friend Whitney Talbot, middle-aged assistant gumshoe Mrs. Blossom, and researcher Dorie Starnes--to probe the disappearance of a chic blonde green-raincoated dog walker she'd been watching from her comfy prison. Tess also takes in the missing woman's abandoned green-slickered Italian greyhound from hell, a miniature canine terrorist whose anti-housebreaking vendetta offers comic relief from Tess's threatened pre-eclampsia, her obsessive unraveling of a complex scam, and her last-trimester spats with Crow about their future. Though postpartum Tess turns alternately weepy and shrill, that condition won't last, and this entertaining romp leaves plenty of hints of detective-mother exploits to come.

Review: I'm pretty sure I found a new literary friend. She has moxie, a good sense a humor, animals love her, and trouble finds her wherever she goes, even when she is bedridden with a high risk pregnancy. Her name is Tess Monaghan and she is one of Baltimore's finest private detectives.

I found Tess engaging. I was definitely interested in getting to know her, to find out what path she took that lead her to become a private investigator. I enjoyed the zany cast of characters with my favorite being Mrs. Blossom, the unassuming, knitting master spy. I lost count of how many times I burst out laughing during this novella. Ms. Lippman has a great writing style, direct without being pedestrian.

There were two facets I found troubling. The first was that although I had a Why the face? moment, the ending seemed rushed. I really dislike when that happens. The second was, coming into an already established story, she left me feeling a bit like an outsider looking in on family and friends that held a tight bond. However she did succeed in peaking my interest. And now that my appetite is whet, I really have no choice but to start at the beginning and find out more about my new friend Tess and her family and kooky friends.

Final Take: 4/5


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Author Interview: Cara Lynn Shultz

We are thrilled to be able to bring you an interview with Cara Lynn Shultz, author of Spellbound.  I read Spellbound last month and adored it (my review) and was ecstatic when Ms. Shultz agreed to do an interview with us.  So with out further ado:

Girls Just Reading:  I found your debut novel, Spellbound to be enchanting.  I love the refreshing take on star crossed loves.  What inspired Emma and Brendan’s story?

Cara Lynn Shultz (CLS):  Thank you so much! I actually had the characters for quite some time. Originally, Emma and Brendan were named Claire and Alex, and they were seniors in college. What happened was, when I was fresh out of college and had just started working in the magazine industry, I would email my friend Vanessa little stories to read on the train ride home. (She had a long commute to the Bronx from Manhattan.) Then, years later, she’s moving and finds the printouts of the stories in an old purse.  She gave them to me, and I was reminded of these characters and how much fun I had writing them.  So a little seed of an idea began to take hold in my mind: “Cara, you’ve always wanted to write a book. Your characters just found you again. Get off your butt and do it.” So, after I got married at the end of 2008, I took the characters out and started playing with them. That’s probably why it’s a little heavy on the romance element, to be honest—I was a newlywed when I wrote it.

GJR:  I love that Emma is a strong heroine.  With all the things that have happened in her life, her resilience is admirable.  Was her character as effortless to write as it is to read?

CLS:  Thank you! It was important to me that Emma have have spirit and strength of character.  She will wallow, albeit briefly, in her sad moments of course, but I wanted her to be a survivor. But she had to have a rough life, I felt, to make it believable that she would risk everything for true love. She had to have nothing to lose, because Emma’s too smart to just throw everything out the window for a guy.

 There were times that she was tough to write, to be honest—any scenes having to do with loss. I’m extremely close to my family—so it was hard, personally, to put myself in that spot and think about losing them. Emma’s humor and goofiness, though, that was pretty easy. A little too easy, to be honest, and I wrote way too much. I had a lot more fluff and banter that I had to cut down because, although it was a lot of fun to write, it started making the book drag. I sometimes think I should have cut the dressing room scene with the family, but I left it in because I wanted to show her being comfortable in a family environment, and kind of echo the whole “Cinderella going to the ball” thing.

GJR:  I like that scene.  I'm glad you kept it.  Things were left open enough for there to be a sequel to Spellbound.  Is there more to Brendan and Emma’s story?  Or does Angelique’s story come next?

CLS:  Yes, there is going to be a sequel—I’m writing it now. There is definitely more to their story. I hint a little at what it can be in the first book and it’s still going to be a continuation of Brendan and Emma’s story. Angelique and the rest of the characters are going to be in it, and I’m introducing a few new cast members, so to speak. I’m playing with POVs…mostly Emma’s, but I think some of the other characters’ POVs might pop in as well.

GJR:  What draws you to write YA fiction?  Is this a genre you plan to stay with?

CLS:  Originally, Emma and Brendan were 21, 22. But when I realized that I was writing a soul mate/true love story, I knew I had to make them young, when that first rush of love is so thrilling and unknown and knocks you down. When you’re older, you start to get jaded, and for this story to work, there had to be some innocence there. What adult hasn’t had a friend who dumped someone/was dumped over the most trivial reason? . Can you imagine telling a twenty-something, “Hey, this guy is great and awesome and your soul mate, but it could kill you to be with him?” She’d peace out and hit the bar in her finest eff-that-guy outfit! I am writing the sequel, so I will be in YA for at least one more book. But maybe longer—it’s been really fun, so far. And everyone is awesome—from bloggers to writers to editors—and has been so welcoming to a newbie author. It’s an incredibly supportive community. I would like to write an adult novel at some point, just because I’d love to cut loose with the more devious side of my humor. Maybe someday. It would still probably still be paranormal in nature, though, just because that genre is a blasty blast to write, and I personally enjoy fantasy/supernatural entertainment.

GJR:  You’ve written for many media outlets from InStyle and Teen People to US Weekly and  How does writing a novel compare?   

CLS:  It’s completely different. When you’re an entertainment editor in the way that I was, you’re taking someone else’s tale and processing it to be consumed by readers. I would interview, say, Green Day, and translate what they said into an article. You are always limited a bit by the quality of the interview (for the record, Green Day was one of my favorite interviews of all time. That was for Stuff.). The creativity came in talking to people, in drawing them out, then in presenting them in a way that was interesting yet genuine to the specific musician or celeb. You can’t really write about Britney Spears in the same way that you write about Sevendust. And also, you have a specific demographic that you’re catering to, so your writing has to be tempered for your audience. Novel writing, you’re limited only by yourself. It’s entirely your tale, and up to you how you want to present it.

GJR:  As a musician, I love the fact that you have a playlist for your story, and even descriptions of who is listening to what and when.  Did the playlist and the story develop together?

CLS:  Yes and no. I have a separate playlist of songs that I listen to when I write, a mix of songs that mattered to me when I was in high school and college (to get me back into that headspace of being young), and current stuff that I love. But when I wrote, Emma and Brendan were both always listening to music, both always had their headphones on, so when we were coming up with back-of-book material, a playlist of their songs just seemed natural, a way to give an added peek into their thoughts at the time.

GJR:  Who are your favorite authors to read?  Why? Are there any authors you would cite as an influence?

CLS:  It’s always changing. Obviously, there’s the all-star team: J.D. Salinger. Stephen King. Jane Austen. And then the contemporary players that pop into my starting lineup: Max Brooks. Charlaine Harris.  Seth Grahame-Smith. And I have to say, the HarlequinTeen authors are mind-bogglingly amazing. I haven’t read a single book that I was disappointed in. Kady Cross, Gena, Showalter, Rachel Vincent, Cayla Kluver, Julie Kagawa, etc.  All fantastic and should be read asap!

GJR:  What are you currently reading?

CLS:  I just finished If I Die from Rachel Vincent (in one sitting. I love that series and squealed when I got the ARC like a total fangirl) and next up is Got Junk?, which a friend of mine, Tom Acox, wrote about his stint hauling junk out of people’s homes. My husband read it already and said it’s a riot. My TBR pile is staring at me and mocking me, to be honest. I have SO much to read.

GJR:  I see from your Facebook page you’re a Buffy fan.  Any other TV obsessions you want to divulge?

CLS:  I. Love. Buffy. So. Much. “I kissed him, and I killed him” will never fail to make me cry my eyes out like someone just killed my puppy. And oh, there’s so many. How I Met Your Mother. (My husband and I joke that we’re Lily and Marshall, because she’s a short, mouthy New Yorker and he’s a tall Midwesterner who is obsessed with burgers. He even runs a popular burger blog, Burger Conquest). Fringe is just fantastic. Dexter. Big Bang Theory. Game of Thrones. Daily Show. Tosh.0. South Park. Family Guy. Bob’s Burgers. If it weren’t for DVR I’d be so screwed. And I am a little obsessed with this Travel Channel show called Ghost Adventures, where these guys stay overnight in a haunted house and film themselves ghost hunting. It’s fascinating and spooky and funny, because they call each other bro and dude a lot.  “Dude, did you hear that? I totally just heard footsteps.” And, of course, True Blood. I’m curious to see how this season unfolds because the fourth book is my absolute favorite. * high five to everyone who knows which scene I’m talking about *

GJR:  I miss Buffy.  If you weren’t a writer, what career would you choose?

CLS:  Hmm…this is a tough one. I always knew I wanted to be a writer in some capacity. If writing was completely off the table for me, I think it would have been fun to be a toy designer, like Tom Hanks ends up doing in Big.

GJR:  Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

CLS:  Thanks or having me!!

Spellbound hit the shelves yesterday, so run out and get a copy and tell your friends that Jenn at Girls Just Reading said they should run out and get a copy too!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Julie's Review: My One and Only

My One and Only (Hqn) Summary: Divorce attorney Harper James can't catch a break. Bad enough that she runs into her ex-hubby, Nick, at her sister's destination wedding, but now, by a cruel twist of fate, she's being forced to make a cross-country road trip with him. And her almost-fiancĂ© back at home is not likely to be sympathetic. Harper can't help that Nick has come blazing back into her life in all of his frustratingly appealing, gorgeous architect glory. But in Nick's eyes, Harper's always been the one. If they can only get it right this time, forever might be waiting—just around the bend.

Review: I don't normally read books that are classified as "Romance" but when I read the description of My One and Only