Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Giveaway: The Girl in the Blue Beret

The Girl in the Blue Beret: A Novel
Thanks to Random House, we have 3 copies of the WWII novel, The Girl in the Blue Beret to giveaway. Please fill out the form below to be entered.

Good luck!


Julie's Review: The Girl in the Blue Beret

The Girl in the Blue Beret: A Novel Summary: Inspired by the wartime experiences of her late father-in-law, award-winning author Bobbie Ann Mason has written an unforgettable novel about an American World War II pilot shot down in Occupied Europe. When Marshall Stone returns to his crash site decades later, he finds himself drawn back in time to the brave people who helped him escape from the Nazis. He especially recalls one intrepid girl guide who risked her life to help him—the girl in the blue beret. At twenty-three, Marshall Stone was a U.S. flyboy stationed in England. Headstrong and cocksure, he had nine exhilarating bombing raids under his belt when enemy fighters forced his B-17 to crash-land in a Belgian field near the border of France. The memories of what happened next—the frantic moments right after the fiery crash, the guilt of leaving his wounded crewmates and fleeing into the woods to escape German troops, the terror of being alone in a foreign country—all come rushing back when Marshall sets foot on that Belgian field again. Marshall was saved only by the kindness of ordinary citizens who, as part of the Resistance, moved downed Allied airmen through clandestine, often outrageous routes (over the Pyrenees to Spain) to get them back to their bases in England. Even though Marshall shared a close bond with several of the Resistance members who risked their lives for him, after the war he did not look back. But now he wants to find them again—to thank them and renew their ties. Most of all, Marshall wants to find the courageous woman who guided him through Paris. She was a mere teenager at the time, one link in the underground line to freedom. Marshall’s search becomes a wrenching odyssey of discovery that threatens to break his heart—and also sets him on a new course for the rest of his life. In his journey, he finds astonishing revelations about the people he knew during the war—none more electrifying and inspiring than the story of the girl in the blue beret. Intimate and haunting, The Girl in the Blue Beret is a beautiful and affecting story of love and courage, war and redemption, and the startling promise of second chances.

Review: I really wanted to love The Girl in the Blue Beret, but I liked it. World War II is an interesting subject especially when told from the point of view of the American soldier/pilot. Perhaps what I didn't like was the main character, Marshall. It wasn't that he was stuck in the past, far from it, but I found his attitude towards life to be so non-chalant. Frankly, that surprised me since he was gunned down in a B-17 during the war and escaped capture due to the French Resistance. I would have thought he would have more of a zest for life.

We meet Marshall as he's about to retire from being a pilot for a major airline. Not only is this event momentous enough, but his wife recently passed away. To say that he's going through major life changes is a bit cliche. He decides that after retirement he is going to go back to where is plane came down and search for the people who helped him escape the Germans.

It is this part of the book that I found intriguing and interesting. How did all these people smuggle Americans to safety? How did it change the lives of those involved in the Resistance? Marshall easily finds one of the families that helped him and their son Nicholas helps him research where some of the others have gone.

He is in for a shock when people he had built up in his head didn't turn out to be as "good"of people in their lives after the war. I think that Marshall wanted the people who were so heroic in his young life to remain that way and sometimes life isn't what we think it will be.

I can't believe the sacrifice these people took to rescue and save people they didn't even know. I guess it's good vs. evil at it's best.

I know that Ms. Mason based this book on her father in law's experience during World War II, but I'm hoping that the flaws Marshall had were fiction. If they weren't, I guess it's a part of reality I would rather not acknowledge. The amount of research that went into this is staggering. I applaud her for wanting to get everything right for this period in history. 

If you want to know who the Girl in the Blue Beret is; well you will just have to read it for yourself.

Overall, I loved Ms. Mason's writing style and thoroughly enjoyed the back story of the Resistance even if I didn't connect with the main character.

If you are a fan of WWII novels, then you will want to pick up The Girl in the Blue Beret.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Thanks to Random House for sending me a copy of the book.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Giveaway: Children of Paranoia

Children of Paranoia Dutton Books has been so very kind to allow us to giveaway 5 galleys of Trevor Shane's debut, Children of Paranoia.

Please fill out the form below to be entered to win. This contest is open to US and Canada residents only.

Good luck!


Author Interview: Trevor Shane

Photobucket We are thrilled today to be putting the spotlight on debut author Trevor Shane. His novel, Children of Paranoia will be released on 9/8/2011 by Dutton Books.

Girls Just Reading (GJR): What inspired you to write your debut novel, Children of Paranoia? Was there a particular non-fictional war that you were thinking of when writing?

Trevor Shane (TS): It is difficult to pinpoint a single inspiration for Children of Paranoia since so many different aspects of the book were inspired by different experiences. I can say that the first chapter of the book was the first part of the book that came to me. I was walking down the street in Brooklyn, heading home from the gym, when the first chapter jumped into my head. The images were startling and vivid and I immediately started thinking about Children of Paranoia’s contemporary dystopia where the dystopia only exists for certain people as the everyone else goes about their daily life completely unaware of what’s going on around them.

As far as drawing inspiration from actual wars, I’m a little hesitant about comparing a work of fiction to specific non-fictional wars because Children of Paranoia is, first and foremost, meant to be entertainment--though hopefully entertainment that does make people think. I don’t want to minimize people’s real world experience with wars by comparing specific wars to a work of fiction. That being said, I am fascinated by, and definitely drew inspiration from, non-fictional conflicts where the violent animosity of the two sides seems to pre-date any remembered, reasonable explanation.

GJR: When we first meet Joseph he is on the job and he is committed to the war and his job, as the novel progresses he begins to have doubts. Do you think he could have changed if he hadn’t met Maria? Why was Maria integral to him changing?

TS: Personally, I don’t think that Joseph would have changed the way that he did had he not met Maria (though I hope readers draw their own conclusions both from what’s on the page and from their own experiences). The changes that Joseph goes through are really because of Maria and because of the situation that he and Maria find themselves in, a situation which suddenly causes Joseph to feel an urgency that goes beyond his role in the War. I have a deep personal connection to what it is that drives Joseph after he meets Maria.

As far as what makes Maria so critical in changing Joseph, I think that Joseph is initially drawn to Maria by a clear physical attraction but, after their initial meeting, I think that it’s Maria’s innocence that he’s attracted to. When I talk about Maria’s innocence, I don’t mean in an age-related or sexual way but innocence as Joseph would see it: a lack of paranoia and cynicism. Despite the fact that the War takes place right beneath the belly of the modern world, for Joseph and the other soldiers, it is a paradoxically lonely and isolating life. Maria helps Joseph realize that the rest of the world isn’t just background noise for his own violence but is a tangible and real option if he has the courage to pull himself into it.

GJR: Maria was a character that while she’s instrumental to changing Joseph, I didn’t particularly think she was integral to the story as a whole; until the end. Was this intended? At times I just wanted her to leave him because she didn’t seem strong enough and I wanted her to be more than she initially is.

TS: I believe in the use of audacious ideas in fiction and the war in Children of Paranoia is a pretty audacious concept. In my mind, half the fun of fiction is to use new, brazen ideas to entertain while trying to say something about the world around us. It seems weird to me that some people will accept stories about vampires and werewolves but kind of baulk at unique, new ideas. However, after you’ve picked your audacious concept, I believe that you have to be realistic to the world that you’ve created. In other words, once you’ve made the rules, you can’t cheat.

I think Maria comes off the way she does in Children of Paranoia because I was trying to stay true to the narrative structure and the world in which the characters live. First of all, Children of Paranoia is written as a journal from Joseph to Maria so I tried to be conscious of what Joseph would actually say about Maria to Maria. Due to this narrative structure, more than anyone else in Children of Paranoia, Maria’s character has to be read out from between the lines. At the same time, to have Maria be anything but totally overwhelmed by the circumstances she finds herself in would, to me, be cheating. For her, everything that happens in the book is sudden and scary and beyond strange. She isn’t given the time to grow accustomed to this world the way that the people raised into the world are. Maria is simply thrown into it. So, in Children of Paranoia, she is a bit of a foil, almost a traditional damsel in distress (let me assure you that this changes in the second book--see below for talk about the trilogy), who ends up driving the story mostly through her interactions with Joseph. Still, if you do read between the lines, I think you can begin to sense the seeds of Maria’s strength in those interactions.

As you’ll see, Maria grows into one of the two or three most important characters as the trilogy goes on, and not in passive way.

GJR: Joseph is very different. Do you find it difficult to write his character or did you enjoy doing so?

TS: My sense from the reaction of different readers is that Joseph is a pretty polarizing figure. Some people really like him and some people can’t forgive him for the things that he does. I suppose that’s the nature of the beast when, in the first twenty pages of your book, the main character follows a woman he doesn’t know home and murders her on her doorstep.

Despite everything Joseph does, I like to think of him, in a lot of way, as an everyman who is simply caught in a very extreme situation. I think the moral struggle that he goes through is the type of struggle that a decent person would go through in his situation even though it’s clear that he’s done things that no decent person outside of the Children of Paranoia world would do.

Joseph was difficult to write at times because, as this kind of everyman, I tried to write him without the identifying quirks and characteristics that make certain famous characters so immediately recognizable (see Lisbeth Salander, Harry Potter, Katniss). As a writer, it’s fun to lean on these quirks and characteristics and they often work wonderfully (like in the examples I gave) but I felt like giving Joseph these quirks would ultimately make him less relatable to the reader. So, the difficultly was in making Joseph a rounded, fully-formed character without any quick, one-off characteristics and allowing Joseph’s relationship with the reader develop more slowly over the course of the novel.

GJR: The ending of Children of Paranoia pretty much guarantees a sequel (YAY!); can you give us a glimpse of what comes up next? Any idea when it will be released?

TS: Children of Paranoia is actually the first book in a trilogy. I had the outline for the whole trilogy before I actually wrote one word of Children of Paranoia. While I think that Children of Paranoia stands up on its own, I’m really excited to see how people react after they’ve seen how the three books compliment and build on each other. Thankfully, Dutton has signed on to publish the entire trilogy. The plan is to have one book come out each year, starting with Children of Paranoia this year.

I’m actually working with my editor to put the final touches on the second book now (before the long process of more detailed editing). Without giving too much away, I can tell that the second book is really Maria’s story (it’s primarily written from her point of view). A number of the other characters from the first novel also return and the Children of Paranoia world opens up even more so that readers get to see things from a lot of new and exciting perspectives.

GJR: What are you currently reading? Any favorite authors or books you return to time after time?

TS: I’m about to start reading The President’s Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth, who was one of the authors who was nice enough to blurb Children of Paranoia. Not only did he blurb it, but he offered some generous and very useful feedback that actually made it into the book (so, at the very least, I know that he actually read it!) I really enjoyed Blood Oath, the first book in his series, and am looking forward to reading this one.

I don’t often read more than one book by authors unless the books are part of a series (and then I kind of consider them one work anyway) or I really, really love their work. I think people will be able to see the influences of some of my favorite authors and books in Children of Paranoia: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, anything by Kurt Vonnegut, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway, Darkness at Noon by Arther Koestler is amazing and was a really useful source in trying to understand a world full of propaganda and paranoia.

GJR: What motivates you to write? How do you avoid the dreaded writer’s block? How do you get over writer’s block?

TS: I love writing. I love thinking of ideas and I love how those ideas change and evolve when I sit down and start to put them on paper. It’s such a pure act of creation. As much as I love the act itself, I don’t think I could do it if I didn’t think that people were going to read what I was writing. The reaction of the audience is tremendously important.

I don’t really get writer’s block (near paralyzing bouts of self-doubt sometimes, but not writer’s block). Ideas generally come to me when I’m not writing and then I sit down at my computer and write until the entire idea has leaked out of my head and on to the paper. Once my brain is empty, I stop writing until the next idea comes. While ideas often evolve while I’m writing at my desk, I don’t think I’ve ever actually come up with an idea while sitting at my computer.

GJR: When you write, do you have to have background noise or total quiet? Has this changed as you’ve developed as a writer?

TS: I often listen to music while I write. I usually choose the music based on the tone of what I’m writing. For example, if I’m writing a scene with a lot of tension, I’m a big fan of Zoe Keating. I also sometimes choose the music based on what I think the character whose voice I’m writing in would listen to. The second book of the trilogy has a character that I consider kind of an old school rock and roll rebel and, whenever I was writing in her voice, I listened to live recordings of the Replacements. I’ve always written this way.

I’ve learned, over time, to edit in silence.

GJR: This is your debut novel, what have you learned the most from the whole process? What is your advice for anyone looking to get their book published?

TS: Be patient. Have thick skin. Write because you love it and not because you expect anything from it.

I started writing Children of Paranoia in 2005. I started querying agents in 2008. It took me about a year to find the right agent and then another year for her to sell the trilogy. So, it took five years from when I started writing the book to the date that it was eventually sold--five years full of rejection and hard choices (the hardest choice being saying “no” to an agent or a publisher because they want changes to your story that you think undermine what you’re trying to say and deciding to hold out for people who really love and understand what you’re trying to do despite the fact that those people might not exist).

I finally got the call from my agent that Dutton had extended an offer to purchase the trilogy on the same day that I started a new job. I kept having to sneak into a conference room to take phone calls about the offer and then I couldn’t really celebrate because it didn’t seem appropriate on my first day. I thought that it was all okay though because I figured I would get to celebrate with my wife and son when I got home after a hard day’s work. So, after work, I walked to my apartment in Brooklyn, ready for the celebration, only to find my wife and son waiting for me in front of the apartment building. I thought it was so nice that they were greeting me at the door to congratulate me except that they weren’t standing there to greet me at the door and congratulate me. Instead, they were waiting for me because one of the other kids at my son’s daycare bit him on the arm and we had to take him to the clinic to have the doctors look at the bite wound. We were at the clinic for almost four hours that night. So, I spent the night that I sold my first novel in the waiting room of a doctor’s office in Brooklyn. When we got home, all three of us were so exhausted that we went right to bed. Life goes on without regard to your successes or your failures, your good fortune or your bad luck. If you want to be a writer, you have to be patient and embrace the rest of your life because, without it, you’ll have nothing to write about.

Our many thanks go to Trevor for taking the time to answer our questions and to Dutton for arranging the opportunity.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter by the handle @ChildofParanoia. He also has a website that shows the book trailer.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Group Review: Children of Paranoia

Children of Paranoia Summary: ALL WARS HAVE RULES

Rule Number One: No killing innocent bystanders.

Rule Number Two: No killing anyone under the age of eighteen.


Since the age of eighteen, Joseph has been assassinating people on behalf of a cause that he believes in but doesn't fully understand. The War is ageless, hidden in the shadows, governed by a rigid set of rules, and fought by two distinct sides-one good, one evil. The only unknown is which side is which. Soldiers in the War hide in plain sight, their deeds disguised as accidents or random acts of violence amidst an unsuspecting population ignorant of the brutality that is always inches away. Killing people is the only life Joseph has ever known, and he's one of the best at it. But when a job goes wrong and he's sent away to complete a punishingly dangerous assignment, Joseph meets a girl named MariaY, and for the first time in his life his single-minded, bloody purpose fades away. Before Maria, Joseph's only responsibility was dealing death to the anonymous targets fingered by his superiors. Now he must run from the people who have fought by his side to save what he loves most in this world. As Children of Paranoia reaches its heart-in-throat climax, Joseph will learn that only one rule remains immutable: the only thing more dangerous than fighting the leaving it.

Julie's Review: Two words...Adrenaline Rush. This books starts and never, ever lets up. It is such a roller coaster ride from the first page. It is unlike any other book I have read or at least one that I can recall right now.

Children of Paranoia is a high-voltage take on war, the effects of war on family and a person's psyche. You see, you don't get brought into the war, you are born into it. When you turn 16, you start your right of passage. Once you turn 18, you are full on in. Joseph is a foot soldier in this ancient war and he's good at it. He believes in the war & he believes that his side is good and the other is evil. He's been a soldier for 10 years but you sense early on that it's wearing on him. He's not sloppy but his head isn't in it. He needs a change of pace. After his latest job he meets up with his two friends for a bit of R&R. This is where things go terribly wrong, but it's only the beginning.

For me, Joseph was a likable character and I rooted for him during the entire novel. He believes in the cause, he believes that he is good and the opposition is evil because if that's not the case, then he's the bad guy. He never questioned it before now. Now he's questioning everything. As a reader, I always love characters who have a great arc & Joseph has that. He grows up, learns to think for himself and decide what he wants out of life. Of course, this happens because of love. He didn't plan it but it turns his world upside down.

Mr. Shane is a talented author, who made me feel that I was right beside Joseph as he went through his experiences. There were times during this novel when I got the chills. Fear is palpable while reading this book and at times I was terrified.

The ending had me crying and vying for more. I want the next installment of the!

There were a lot of thoughts being thrown about in my mind while I read this, but the ones that I kept coming back to are: How do we know who is right and wrong in war? Is anyone ever right? What happens when no one really knows what the reason are any more for the war? Is hate perpetuated through history via family? If so, is there ever any way out of it? How do we stop the cycle?

While Children of Paranoia is a thriller; it has a heart, it makes you stop and think about the world around us. It is a well executed novel.

It seems like I'm telling you lately telling you to go buy books, well this one is no different. If you love an roller coaster of a ride, then run and get this novel. It will leave you wanting more.

Final Take: 5/5

Jenn's Review: Unlike Julie, I had a hard time getting into this book from the first brutal murder in the opening pages. At first I thought maybe it was because it was from an assassin's point of view, but I've read other books with that point of view. Then it hit me. It's urban dystopian - this isn't life in the aftermath of a disaster, it's a disaster in the middle of everyday life. If you follow our blog, you are probably aware that I am not a fan of dystopian novels. The world can be an ugly enough place, I don't need to imagine it as more ugly.

Also, unlike Julie, Maria was the only character I liked. Although even Maria was difficult to comprehend. As much as I tried, I never could warm up to Joseph.  When he almost kills an innocent bystander, he nearly goes to pieces -he kills on a regular basis, but only because they're targets -he's that programmed. I know I should have felt empathy, but I just couldn't. Maybe it's because the first time we meet him he's killing a mother a wall's-space away from her children, but I was turned off towards him early on. I realize this is done for effect, that the shock factor is part of the dystopian theme, but that is what keeps me at bay with dystopian novels. Did Joseph reedeem himself by the end? Perhaps, or perhaps it was too little too late.

Julie and I discussed a bit about how the book relates to the psychological trauma of war, and I think it's a valid point. But I think there is a more primitive connection than that -it's gang violence and organized crime on a whole new level. The fact that it's that close to reality on that level is rather frightening. However, the involvement of law, or lack there of, is astounding. The fact that this has been going on for generations and has been covered up or inconclusively investigated was incredulous; it went beyond my ability to suspend my belief. I love a good conspiracy, but this was over the top for me.

I kept thinking, it had to be a sick twisted joke on the part of the masterminds of this war game. If that had been the case, perhaps I could have withstood it all, but as soon as it became apparent that there were two sides playing war games, I was completely turned off.  Though several theories are put in play by the characters, the true source of the dispute is never revealed.  Maybe Trevor Shane will venture into the actual origins of "The War" in the sequel.

Obviously, I couldn't get past the dystopian under currents to appreciate this novel as a thriller. However, if that mix of genres is appealing to you, you will love this book. Julie did.

Final Take: 3.0/5

Stayed tuned tomorrow for a giveaway of Children of Paranoia and an interview with the author Trevor Shane!!

This will be released on 9/8/2011 by Dutton Books.

Thanks to the publisher for both of our copies of the novel.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Children's Corner: City Dog, Country Frog

City Dog, Country Frog

Summary:  In spring, when City Dog runs free in the country for the first time, he spots Country Frog sitting on a rock, waiting for a friend. “You’ll do,” Frog says, and together they play Country Frog games. In summer, they meet again and play City Dog games. Through the seasons, whenever City Dog visits the country he runs straight for Country Frog’s rock. In winter, things change for City Dog and Country Frog. Come spring, friendship blooms again, a little different this time.

Review:  I swear it's Mo Willems' mission in life to make me sob in front of my child.  I'm weeping as I type this.  Even my husband tears up a little when reading his books and this one is no exception.  In yet another poignant picture book Mo Willems has done it again, this time with the cycle of life.

City Dog is so excited to be out and running free and meeting new friends, that he really doesn't give much thought to Country Frog's unusual response.  There is playing to be done.  But next spring, as City Dog finds himself sitting on Country Frog's rock by himself, he has a new perspective.

Mo Willems touches on the cycle of life without making it scary or traumatic.  It's a wonderful way start discussing with children that nothing lives forever.  That it's nature ...and that life moves on.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Author Interview: Laura Lippman

Last week I reviewed by The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman. Read it here.  This week she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Girls Just Reading (GJR): This novel kept me guessing until the end, how did you come up with the idea?

Laura Lippman (LL): I was thinking a lot about a classic template, one that has been used by Lois Duncan, Val McDermid and Kevin Wignall to name just three writers: A group of friends with a tragic secret. And then I began thinking about how much more interesting it would be if there were two groups with different yet overlapping secrets. Children and their parents seemed a perfect fit. If each group knew what the other group knew . . . But we often don’t. It’s funny how much parents and children can love each other, yet sometimes don’t have a clue what’s going on in each other’s heads.

GJR: I enjoyed how you bounced back in time, telling the story from all the characters’ viewpoints. Who was your favorite character to write? Why?

LL: I think it might be Go-Go, who’s on the page so fleetingly. But he became very real to me as I watched others respond to him. When I wrote the chapter about how he marched in ice skates, in that 4th of July parade, I would find myself almost miming his movements as I worked.

GJR: One of my favorite characters in the novel was Doris Halloran. Her protective relationship with Go-Go fascinated me. Another interesting aspect is how the parenting of each child varies from family to family (and even in the same family with the Hallorans). Do you think anyone was a better parent than the other was?

LL: I think each parent did his/her best, even Rita. Clem Robison is the least conflicted parent, but he also has the fewest conflicts – he has a secure job that pays him well enough so that money is not a pressing concern and he has a stay-at-home spouse.

GJR: It was nice to see a familiar pop up at the end of the novel. Did you plan that from the beginning or was it a surprise to you? What else surprised you about this novel?

LL: It was a surprise to me – I had expected that the PI would be unsavory, given the task at hand, then realized it was more interesting if a sympathetic character did a troubling thing, something that PIs have done, according to a source of mine.

GJR: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

LL: Probably social work of some sort.

GJR: What are you currently reading?

LL: The new Ann Patchett and Tomatoland. The decline of the tomato has been on my mind for a while. Seriously, it has.

GJR: Who are your favorite authors? Why?

LL: I love writers who write about writers, now that I think about it, from Maud Hart Lovelace to Philip Roth. But some of my favorite writers are my favorite people – I love the work and the person: George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Alafair Burke, Mark Billingham, Ann Hood, Stewart O’Nan – really, everyone with whom I’ve taught at Eckerd College’s annual writing workshop. I admire Jennifer Weiner, who I don’t think gets her full critical due. Oh, I could go on and on and still leave out a hundred writers. I am thinking of so many I left out of this list and hoping I haven’t offended anyone. (Oh, Kate Atkinson! Lionel Shriver!)

GJR: Are you working on a new novel? If so, what is the premise?

LL: Yes. It’s the story of a single mother approaching middle age, unsure of her job, unsure of what she’ll do if she leaves her current job, trying to maintain an uneasy truce with the father of her child, worrying about the costs of the small business she runs, a woman whose lifestyle has left her lonely, with very few friends – an everywoman who happens to be a madame/prostitute, whose life might be in jeopardy because of things she did long ago.

GJR: What do you like to do when you are not writing? Do you take time off between novels?

LL: I love exercising, cooking, going to theater, eating, reading. And I love traveling with my husband, who is a very satisfactory travel companion, adventurous and spontaneous.

GJR: Something different: Where are your favorite spots to eat blue crab in Maryland?

LL: It’s actually in Delaware, where my parents now live. My father used to put out crab pots in the Little Assawoman Bay and knowing that he had caught dinner made it that much better.

Thank you Ms. Lippman for the great interview.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Alice's Review: The Look of Love

The Look of Love (Chase & Chloe - The Sullivans Book 1 - Contemporary Romance)
Summary:  Chloe Peterson is having a bad night. A really bad night. The large bruise on her cheek can attest to that. And when her car skids off the side of a wet country road straight into a ditch, she’s convinced even the gorgeous guy who rescues her in the middle of the rain storm must be too good to be true. Or is he's a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he’s home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is—until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has he never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes she has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, he is willing to move mountains to love—and protect—her, but will she let him?

Chloe vows never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Only, with every loving look Chase gives her—and every sinfully sweet caress—as the attraction between them sparks and sizzles, she can’t help but wonder if she’s met the only exception. And although Chase didn’t realize his life was going to change forever in an instant, amazingly, he isn’t the least bit interested in fighting that change. Instead, he’s gearing up for a different fight altogether…for Chloe’s heart.

Review: I was very excited to win The Look of Love by Bella Andre from the Member Giveaway section of LibraryThing. I have been on a bit of a romance kick lately and I was stoked to read this one.

We all know how romance novels start and end, it’s the middle that makes or breaks them. The Look of Love was pretty much solid throughout. I enjoyed the chemistry between Chase and Chloe. I liked the California wine country setting and I especially loved Ms. Andre’s vivid description of the winery and house. I had a real sense of being there.

This novel is the first novel in Bella Andre’s Sullivan series. It reminds me a bit of Julie Garwood’s Buchanans except of instead of law enforces the Sullivans are actors and photographers and vintners. They are rich and famous. The other thing that’s different is sex. Lots and lots of dirty, nasty, makes you blush and hide your book from your fellow train passengers kind of sex. It also makes you wish for your very own Chase Sullivan. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

It’s not all eye popping. There were a few things missing. I believe Ms. Andre tried to introduce conflict between Chase and Chloe, but it fell a little flat. There wasn’t any real angst between them. Additionally, I wish both Chase and Chloe weren’t as perfect as they were portrayed. They were missing that little realism quality that would have taken this novel from good to great.

Overall, she has me hooked, and not because of the blush inducing love scenes between our couple. I’m hooked because I want to know what happens to the next brother, and the one after that, and then their sister, and the one…well, you get the picture.

Final Take: 3/5


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Giveaway Winners: The Most Dangerous Thing

The Most Dangerous ThingCongratulations to Tiffany and Shannon for winning a copy of The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman.

 Alice has sent you an email; please respond with your mailing address so that we may get the novels to you.

Thanks to all of you whom participated.
Girls Just Reading uses to choose the winners.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Giveaway: Little Black Dress

Little Black Dress: A NovelWe are fortunate to have one copy of Little Black Dress (Alice's Review) available for giveaway.  Please fill out the form below by midnight EST on August 31st.  The giveaway is open to the US and Canada.

As always, our winners are chosen using

Good luck!

Author Interview: Susan McBride

Last week I reviewed Susan McBride’s newest novel Little Black Dress. You can read my review here. Today she has kindly agreed to answer some of our questions.
Girls Just Reading (GJR): I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Evie. Was she modeled after anyone in particular or did she exist only in your imagination?

Susan McBride (SM): I’m thrilled you loved Evie. She’s pretty much the bedrock of everyone’s lives in Little Black Dress. I have a sister who is the “free spirited” one, and I was always the “reliable” one. So I’ll confess to that relationship planting the seed of who Evie and Anna would be. However, Evie is not me, and Anna is not my sister. They are distinctly their own people, brought alive by my imagination. Once I heard their voices—particularly Evie’s—I knew exactly who they were. Evie epitomizes quiet strength. Though she’s often overshadowed by her more flamboyant sister, she’s the anchor of the family. Without her, there would have been no story as the entire Evans clan would have come apart at the seams. I think there are a lot of women like Evie out there, who feel taken for granted and not as valuable at times; but who keep so many lives afloat, more than they’ll ever know.

GJR: Did you have a clear idea of what Evie, Antonia and Anna’s journeys would be?

SM: Since so much of the storyline had to come full circle, I did know where their paths had to start and end. But I didn’t know everything in the middle. Since Evie’s viewpoint details the history of her and Anna and the black dress, I could only explore the parts of the journey that were from her perspective. Because Anna never shares all that she’s been through with Evie, that wasn’t something I delved into. So part of me wonders—as Evie wonders—about all the things Anna did after she disappeared on the day of her wedding. As Antonia’s viewpoint carries the modern part of the story, I foresaw a good chunk of her path, too. But a huge part of telling the tale of the little black dress was letting the characters guide me.

GJR: I liked how Toni was determined to find the truth about her family. Her determination served her well in her life. Do you see yourself in Toni? Or to you relate to Evie or Anna more.

SM: I do relate to pieces of Toni’s life as she finds herself unmarried in her 40s, and I didn’t meet my husband until I was 41. I also learned a great deal about my family’s history—and various generational feuds—as I grew older. So in that respect, too, I’m somewhat like Toni. I definitely don’t relate to Anna! There’s so much about her I don’t understand and never will. I am a homebody, like Evie. I am happy staying in one place, spending time with my husband, and doing the things that I love. I don’t yearn to travel and see the world as Anna always did. Evie is someone I could be friends with—and Toni, too. Anna would probably drive me crazy. ;-)

GJR: How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

SM: The idea came in stages once I started thinking about Little Black Dress and how to write it. I’d grown up hearing my mother say that every girl should own at least one little black dress, and so I knew I wanted to tell the tale of a particular black dress and how it tied several women together; but that’s all I had at first. Then I realized what was special about the dress: its ability to fit whatever woman donned it and to give its wearer a glimpse of her future. It wasn’t long after that I saw Evie and Anna, and I understood that the story was about them, their encounter with the dress, and how it changed their lives, as well as the life of Evie’s daughter, Toni. Once all the pieces fit, I envisioned all three in my mind so clearly. I couldn’t wait to tell their story.

GJR: Are you working on a new novel? If so, can you tell us the premise?

SM: Yes, I’m writing another women’s fiction book for HarperCollins/Morrow called Little White Lies, about a woman whose lies catch up with her when a tornado dumps a man from her past smack into her lap (well, into her walnut grove). It’s another chance to dip my toes in the waters of magical realism, and I’m excited about that. I’ve also just finished the first draft of a young adult mystery for Random House/Delacorte called Dead Address. That was definitely an interesting change of pace after Little Black Dress!

GJR: Who are your favorite authors? Why?

SM: There are so many good authors out there. I feel like I’m constantly discovering new voices and falling in love with their books. But several authors I’ve gotten hooked on in the past few years include Sarah Addison Allen and Kate Morton. Morton’s novels combine past and present with a dash of mystery, and I find myself quickly engrossed. My favorite of hers so far is The Forgotten Garden. I love all of SAA’s books because of the sweetness of her stories and the recurring theme that one’s past shouldn’t rule one’s present (or future). I’d highly recommend Garden Spells if you’ve never read her before. Once you do, you’ll be a fan for life. I can’t wait to see what Jamie Ford does to follow-up Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which was fabulous. Ah, so many books, not near enough reading time!

GJR: What is your “stranded on a deserted island” book (the book you would read if you could only read one book for the rest of your life)?

SM: Gone With the Wind. I could read that sucker over and over. It’s just so juicy, and there’s so much to the characters and the storylines. I don’t think I’d ever get bored of it.

GJR: What motivates you to write?

SM: That’s a great question! I’m not really sure, to be honest. There’s just a fire in my belly, and I can’t wait to get to the keyboard every morning. That’s not to say that writing a book is easy. It’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears…and whining to my husband, my mom, and my friends all the way through every deadline! But I couldn’t not write (not for long anyway). So much of who I am is my writing. I don’t know any better way to express myself than through words. I’ve got a million stories I’d like to tell. I only hope I live long enough to tell them all!

GJR: What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

SM: I wouldn’t be the same person, that’s for sure. Hmm, I’d probably be working with an animal rescue group. I’d want to save them all so they know what it is to be loved and to be safe.

GJR: Something different: If you had your own little black dress, would you use it?

SM: You know, I’ve thought about it, and I’m not sure I’d want to wear a magical black dress. It’s enough taking my life day by day. I would be afraid it would show me something awful that I couldn’t avoid. Then again, I’d certainly love having a dress that fit me no matter what size I wore! That part would be nice.

Thanks to Ms. McBride for graciously answering our questions. Stay tuned for a giveaway of her fantastic new novel.