Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ringing in the New Year with my favorite books of 2011!!!!

Looking back over 2011, I realize I have read so many great books this year.  While I read a large variety, I noticed that it was mostly the Young Adult books that I chose to review for my blog.  From blockbuster hits to small indie gems, these are my favorite books of the year:


The Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking has gotten a lot of press this year as an example of an indie author striking gold.  I see now that St. Martin’s Press has released these books in traditional form now, but when I read them in January, they were the first $2.99 e-books that I downloaded onto my brand new Nook back in January.  While the version I read could have used some editing, the strength of Hocking’s unique Trylle world sucked me right in.  I also loved the way she chose to end the love triangle. 

Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead was my most anticipated book of the year.  While Mead’s Vampire Academy series may be more popular, it is the romance between Georgina Kincaid and Seth Mortensen that made my heart race.  I have been in love with this series for the past couple of years, and the final book was bittersweet.  Never has a series caused me to fall in love, broken my heart and mended it together again the way this one had.  And it was funny too! 

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson was, by far, the most well-written book I read this year.  A mix of paranormal, sci-fi, suspense and romance, this book had something for everyone.  The main character, Allison, has a condition called Synesthesia which mixes up the way she perceives the information coming to her through her five senses.  For example, she can see the color of sounds, feel personalities in words and taste when someone is lying.  The descriptions showing the world from Allison's perspective are fascinating.  Here's the twist, what is metaphor to the reader is real to the character.  Brilliant!

Scent and Shadow by Mercy Loomis is my favorite vampire book of the year, and considering how many vampire books I read, that means a lot.   Gabriel is how vampires are meant to drinking animal blood to appease his conscience, no human turning his stone heart to mush, no sparkles.  The author describes this book as almost an anti-romance.  The characters get their happy ending, but it is nothing like you would expect.  Sometimes, I like vamps to be the monsters they are meant to be, and Scent and Shadow delivers.

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini received my highest ranking out of all of my reviews this year, a Greek inspired romance with a modern day Helen of Troy. Helen is beautiful, but incredibly awkward, which makes her endearing.  Oh, and then there is Lucas.  *swoon*  He is completely hot!  But it isn’t just his looks—let’s face it, every male lead in YA novels is the most gorgeous boy ever—Lucas is strong and smart and thoughtful.  The sexual tension between him and Helen practically ignites the pages.  Even when Helen wanted to kill him and later when they found out they couldn’t be together, you just know there has to be a way to make it happen. 

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins proved that sophomore novels can be just as good as the debuts.  After the stunning success of Anna and the French Kiss, Perkins returned with another beautiful teenage romance filled with unique characters and sexual tension.  Lola is not a perfect girl.  She makes poor decisions and lots of mistakes, but that makes her real.  I have known many girls like Lola.  She lies when she is afraid to tell the truth.  She struggles with her identity.  Her heart is traitorous and out of control.  In other words, she is a typical teenage girl.  Lola’s costumes are both an expression of who she is and a mask to hide from the world.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin was one of the most haunting stories I read all year.  After being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder resulting from a tragic accident, of which she has no memory, Mara and her family move to Florida for her recuperation.  But while she tries desperately to pretend she is getting better, she’s not.  Are her hallucinations mental illness or something more?  All she knows is that when she gets angry, the bodies start piling up. 

On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves is another indie book that I fell in love with.  I lost a lot of sleep this week over this book!  You might think that a story which largely takes place on a deserted island would get boring, but let me assure you, there is plenty of action, humor and romance to keep the pace moving.  So much more than a simple survivor story, On The Island takes two highly developed characters--both at turning points in their lives--and forces them to into an endurance situation which will alter them both forever.  Along the way, they have to confront issues such as life & death, what they want out of life, whether they will even have a future beyond the island and the effect their thirteen year age gap might have on their feelings for each other.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin is my choice for debut novel of the year.  This post-disaster story follows a teenage boy’s fight for survival after the devastating eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano.  My first impression of this book is how incredibly well researched it is.  Not only did Mullin have the science down -- he calculated the exact spot in the country to set the story based on the ashfall projected from such an eruption -- but he also knew how the characters would feel, both physically and emotionally over what was happening around them.  The opening scenes where Alex is experiencing the first 24 hours of noise and darkness were amazing!  I felt like I was there right alongside him.  This feeling stayed with me throughout the book, putting me on the edge of my seat the whole time.  I am eagerly awaiting the follow up Ashen Winter due out in 2012. 

I'm sure 2012 will bring it's share of wonderful books also.  Here are a few that I'm looking forward to:

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Fever by Lauren DeStefano
Spellbound by Rachel Hawkins
The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols
Blue-Blooded Vamp by Jaye Wells
Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

So, do you have any books that you are eagerly anticipating for 2012?  Share with me!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: ‘Along for the Ride’ by Sarah Dessen

Ever since her parents began fighting, Auden has been unable to sleep at night. Now, spending a summer at a charming beach town with her father and his new family, she has to find new places to pass the time she spends awake. And so she meets Eli, a fellow insomniac who becomes her nighttime guide. Together, they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she has missed; for Eli, to come to terms with the death of a friend. In her trademark blockbuster-style, Sarah Dessen creates a powerful and irresistible story of two people learning how to connect.

Along for the Ride

I really liked this book.  The characters were unique, intelligent and well-developed.  That goes for the side characters also, which is really unusual for a young adult book.  Looking at the cover, I was expecting a light, summer-type read.  But these characters have real issues, and they are all moving forward, albeit at different paces.  There is not a stereotypical character in this book.  Each have layers to them that peal back as the story progresses. 

Auden starts the story off as a bit of a snob.  Having been raised by two ultra-selfish intellectuals, she almost couldn’t help it.  I loved watching her progress to a more open-minded person throughout the course of the book.  Although I did have problems with how she treated Eli.  He was this fragile young man who was just beginning to show signs of healing after the death of his best friend, but Auden treats him a bit carelessly.  I suppose that was part of her growth process, but it still made me sad to see it. 

Speaking of Auden and Eli, the romance plotline is very understated.  Considering the cover of the book, this also took me by surprise.  The story really revolves around Auden and her progression.  Eli does play a role in her development, and he develops himself too, but I love how Dessen allows them to work their lives out on their own.  Eli doesn’t fix Auden, and Auden doesn’t fix Eli.  Not only is this refreshing, but it sends a good message. 

Overall, I give Along for the Ride...

Plot - 4 bookmarks
Character development - 5 bookmarks
Moral lessons - 4 1/2 bookmarks (not preachy and kind of understated, but the reader learns along with Auden)
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Rooney Mara (Auden), Jackson Rathbone (Eli), Joseph Morgan (Hollis), Mary Marguerite Keane (Maggie), Peter Sarsgaard (Dad), Jane Adams (Mom), Jessica Chastain (Heidi)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: ‘Madison’s Life Lessons’ by Gracen Miller

Fate can mark one early for a particular future.

Madison Wescott’s life is Hell on earth. Her father, a Baptist Preacher, convinces her she’s morally corrupt when men notice her blooming beauty. She strives to be unnoticeable, but nothing satisfies her condemning parents.

And sometimes fate has nothing to do with one’s potential.

Temptation rears its head when Micah Dominus visits her father’s church on Christmas morning, but she is unprepared for her physical reaction to him. Frightened by her own emotions, she is grateful she’ll never see him again. But when he shows up again at a friend’s funeral, and at other times in her life, she’s swayed by his charisma. Micah becomes her white knight through the good and bad, but can they create the perfect life together? Or has she just located the beginning of the Road to Hell?

Supernatural forces more powerful than fate can claim one’s destiny…

(Amazon product description)

Madison's Life Lessons (The Road to Hell series)

This novella is the introduction to Gracen Miller’s Road to Hell series.  Knowing that, I fully expected it to have some major cliffhangers--after all, the purpose of it is to get you to read the rest of the series--however, I didn’t feel there was enough of a completed plot arc in the novella to make it a satisfying read.  I appreciate what the author was trying to do here, but if they are not able to bring a novella to a conclusion, it makes me wonder if the series is going to be one long, never ending story spanning over several books. 

As far as characters go, I liked Madison enough.  She was a bit stupid and naive, but then she was supposed to have been super sheltered by her preacher father, so that sort of made sense.  What I had a big problem with was the skeevy old men constantly sexualizing this fifteen year old girl.  Her father was the worst!  I swear there was something incestuous in his preoccupation with his daughter’s sexuality. 

Micah was intriguing.  I found him intelligent and dangerous and sexy...all the things that make a good alpha male.  If I go on to read more in this series, it will be because of Micah.

Normally, opening novellas for paranormal series serve as a vehicle to set up the world.  Unfortunately, this story really didn’t do that.  I get there is something paranormal going on here, but the novella never explained anything.  Is Micah a fallen angel, a demon?  I don’t know.  I get the feeling Madison is not just a normal human, but what is she?  What is her mother?  I didn’t get the mother at all.  How could she be this idealistic preacher’s wife for fifteen years of Madison’s life, and then get it on with guys right in front of her daughter with no problem?  That scene was just creepy and gross.  There are too many unanswered questions. 

Overall, I give Madison’s Life Lessons...

Plot - 3 bookmarks (was interesting enough, but lacked conclusion)
Character development - 3 bookmarks (Madison grew and matured as she learned her ‘life lessons,’ but she still came across as too innocent and kind of stupid. Not much character growth in the other characters.)
World building - 1 1/2 bookmarks (Very little set-up or explanation)
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Ashley Benson (Madison), David Anders (Micah), Monica Porter (the mother), Aaron Eckhart (the father)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Author Spotlight: Kenneth Weene

Join me in welcoming Arizona author Kenneth Weene, whose books are getting rave reviews on!  

Image of Kenneth Weene

JLR:  Many writers agonize over writing query letters.  Do you have any tips on what people should do or not do in query letters?

KW:  First let me say that I only sent queries to three publishers, and my first novel was accepted by one of those three. What I did was to carefully peruse the write-ups I found about the three. Then I wrote my query letters based on what I saw in each of those publishers. If I were to give one piece of advice it would be to write personalized queries not use a general formatted letter. Also, don’t shotgun publishers (or agents). Rather look for the place where your work will fit. Study the publication list of a publisher; is it consistent with your aesthetic? It is far too easy for writers to forget that you must establish personal relationships with your readers – including the ones at an agency or publishing house. Since you are looking for them, it falls on you to make sure that the fit for that relationship is right.

JLR:  How have you been able to use social media (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) in your marketing plan?  Do you have any advice for new authors looking to promote themselves on these sites?

KW:  I will share two secrets I’ve learned and that seem to stand me in good stead.

First, be real. Have opinions and interests. Don’t just post about your books. The key is having a personal relationship with the reader. (Notice a theme developing here?) They want even need to feel that there is a real interaction. Which, by the way, is why I don’t have fan pages for my books. I think they are immediately alienating.

Second, I follow an 80-10-10 rule. If you look at my Facebook page, my Linkedin posts, my tweets, you will see this rule in action. Eighty percent of my posts are about non-writing topics. For example, I care mightily about the environment, politics, history, and general philosophical issues. I also love humor. Ten percent are writing related, but not about Ken Weene. I support my fellow authors published by my publisher, All Things That Matter Press, but I also try to mention other writers and writing related topics. For example, if I go to a play, I post about it. If I see an interesting piece of news about a writer, up it goes. One thing I don’t do much of is posting about books I’ve read. If I started doing that, I might hold myself up as too much a critic and that would alienate. Yes, that last ten percent is about my writing. I try, by the way, to keep those posts interesting both by using catchy ideas and humor and by trying to keep active on the web (and in print). For example, I will certainly be posting about this interview -  a new place, a new set of comments, and still a reminder of what I am about and the titles of my books.

JLR:  Do you have a book trailer?  How has the trailer influenced sales?  (Feel free to post a link to your trailer if you want.)

KW:  I’m a great believer in trailers. One nice thing is that my son is in the video business and does some of mine for me. Do they produce sales? That I don’t know. I can tell you one issue. You Tube doesn’t allow you to post videos with links; so while it is an excellent platform for getting noticed, placing trailers there means the viewer then has to independently go to Amazon or some such place to order your book. I prefer using a different type of service.

Here are two trailers – one for my first novel, Widow’s Walk
and the second for Memoirs From the Asylum

I haven’t got one for the book which will be coming out soon, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there’s one in every town, but you can be sure there will be one soon.

JLR:  What three books have most influenced you to become a writer?

KW:  Not so much to become a writer as to how I write – books that have affected my style.

First and foremost, Slaughterhouse Five. I love the way Vonnegut mixes the most intense human experience and emotion with a sense of ironic humor.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien taught me something of how the intensity of human emotion must then be tied to the concreteness of human behavior to make a good read.

Paul Harding’s book Tinkers came on the scene when I needed to be reminded that the flow and quality of language is an important part of a book’s quality.

Obviously, I could go on listing books and writers; but I shall abide by the limit of three.

JLR:  How long have you been writing, and when did you decide that you wanted to write for publication?

KW:  I started writing poetry about twenty years ago and I brought out a couple of chapbooks. When I retired (from psychology) and moved to Arizona, I started writing more prose. That was in 2002. Soon after I used one of the nicer vanity presses to bring out an anthology of prose and poetry. The major reason for doing that was to get past the psychological impediment that had kept me from becoming a writer as a first career. I won’t go into the specifics; suffice it to say that I called that anthology Songs For My Father. Feel free to come up with your own analysis.

Once the floodgates had been breached, there has been an endless flow of novels and stories; and I should mention also more poetry.

JLR:  Tell us a bit about your childhood.  Where did you grow up?  What was your family like?  Has your childhood influenced your writing?

KW:  Dysfunctional.

My mother certainly approached schizophrenia. She was a chronic liar within the family, a manipulator, and a perpetrator of Munchausen’s by Proxy. My brother, who is older, still has his sixth grade report card. Of the 360 attendance units (half days), he was absent for more than half; and that was a relatively good year and he was “the healthier” of us. I think in third grader I may have missed more than two thirds of the days.

My father was a rageaholic whose outbursts could not be predicted. The worst thing was that even compliance with his wishes could trigger him. When I was thirteen, he became so abusive one day that I almost attacked him with an axe. Luckily, somebody yelled my name, which brought me back to my senses. The next year I was off at boarding school. I guess I should mention that he was a schoolteacher and that he owned and operated summer camps. How’s that for a bit of irony?

Can you find the influences of that environment in my writing? Absolutely. Certainly in Memoirs From the Asylum it comes through loud and clear. However, my writing is not autobiographical. Most of Memoirs isn’t. Only a tiny part of Widow’s Walk reflects my life. And Tales From the Dew Drop Inne has nothing autobiographical in it.

Of course the basic themes of all three books do come from my own personal searching and questioning. But that is different from autobiography or memoir.

JLR:  Traveling has always been a great inspiration for my writing.  Have you been anywhere which particularly inspired you?  Anywhere you would like to visit?

KW:  Sadly I am too old to do as much traveling as I once did and loved. I have been to most of the fifty states, across Canada, and to many places throughout the world. So far most of my writing has been focused close to home, with a great deal of it set in New England and New York. I did fall back on my travel in Ireland for a bit of Widow’s Walk, but that was certainly not essential. Travel has, however, greatly influenced my writing at another level. It has made me aware of the different views people can take of the world and the different voices with which they speak.

Good writing has richness and nothing gives an author more diversity and richness than experiencing the world. If you have an opportunity to travel, take it!

JLR:  What do you think makes for a great romantic hero?  Is it all about the muscles and the smoldering eyes?

KW:  While I have yet to write a romance, there is certainly romance, sex, attraction, etc. to be found in my novels. While looks are important, true romance can’t rely only on the physical, not even when that physicality includes sex.

As a psychologist (and in my personal life), I have learned that the best romance is a blend of the physical and such important things as communication, sharing of goals and humor, and a willingness to accept the weaknesses and foibles of the other person rather than holding them up to some template we call perfection.

The novel on which I am currently working, which I hope will be published in 2013, focuses very much on romance and love. If you decide you like my writing, I hope you’ll still be reading my books when The Stylite comes out. I really think it not only a fine and beautiful book but also one that will help people to understand and find real love.

JLR:  What are you writing now that Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there’s one in every town is being readied for released?

KW:  I have two books in the pipeline. Times to Try the Soul of Man is a conspiracy/coming of age novel. Based on some disturbing modern history, Times needs to be brought out by a larger house. Therefore I now have an agent who is trying to place it. I’ve already mentioned The Stylite, which will hopefully go to the same house that publishes Times. I have a novella which is also looking for a home; its name is not yet fixed. Currently, besides being on the third rewrite of The Stylite I have been working on a longish short story, a piece of horror fiction. I do love crossing genre lines.

JLR:  Where can readers go to purchase your books?

KW:  The easiest thing is to go to Amazon and look for me, Kenneth Weene. As the new books come out, that same search will get those titles up as well. Here’s the link for me on Amazon.

If you want to check out some of my writing, you can also visit

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review: On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

“When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn't bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family - and a stack of overdue assignments - instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.”
(Smashwords description)

 On the Island

I lost a lot of sleep this week over this book!  You might think that a story which largely takes place on a deserted island would get boring, but let me assure you, there is plenty of action, humor and romance to keep the pace moving.  So much more than a simple survivor story, On The Island takes two highly developed characters--both at turning points in their lives--and forces them to into an endurance situation which will alter them both forever.  Along the way, they have to confront issues such as life & death, what they want out of life, whether they will even have a future beyond the island and the effect their thirteen year age gap might have on their feelings for each other. 

Both characters were incredibly realistic.  T.J. is only a teenager when the book begins, but he’d already faced death once while fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so you knew he had strength in him beyond his sixteen years.  The way the author gradually matured him over the course of several years felt so natural.  At first, T.J. would take foolish risks in his efforts to provide for Anna, like climbing up too high in a tree to reach the fruit she liked and falling, leaving him with a broken collar bone.  (Not cool on an island with no medical care.)  But as the story moved on, he became more practical and capable, more mature than a typical young man his age, but not so much that he didn’t retain a bit of his boyish playfulness. 

Anna also evolved, although not in the same way.  When the story begins, she is thirty-years-old, stuck in a long-term relationship which is going nowhere and her biological clock is putting pressure on her to start a family.  She takes the summer job in the Maldives as a way to step back and reassess the direction of her life.  Getting stranded on an island for a few years might seem to make this worse, but actually, it ends up giving her a new perspective on life. 

Overall, I give On The Island...

Plot - 4 bookmarks
Character development - 5 bookmarks
Love story - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Lucas Till (T.J.), Anne Hathaway (Anna)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Totally biased movie review: Breaking Dawn Part 1

I’m not really a movie expert.  I only know what I like and what I don’t.  But, I am somewhat of a book expert, so when some of my favorite books are made into movies, I can’t help comparing the two.  

Twilight’s Breaking Dawn Part 1 is the star of this weekend’s box office and it hasn’t even been out 24 hours yet.  But how does it compare to the book?  First, I must say that out of the four Twilight novels, Breaking Dawn was my favorite.  So much happens in that one book, wrapping up all of the loose ends, leaving readers with a satisfied ending.  Like most people, I was so pleased when Summit Entertainment announced that they would be making the book into two movies.  There was no director on earth who could do that huge, action-packed book justice in a two hour time constraint.  Also, whether intentional or not, Stephanie Meyer created a natural stop right in the middle of the book, allowing for the perfect moment to break up the two movies. 

So last night, I braved the mobs of twelve-year-olds and long lines to attend the midnight showing.  Each movie in the series so far has gotten progressively better (someone needs to petition Summit into having either Chris Weitz or Bill Condon remake the original Twilight), so with an Academy Award winning director, I had high hopes for Breaking Dawn

I was not disappointed.

First, the movie held mostly true to the book.  There was a small scene in the beginning which showed a little of Edward’s back story, which he’d told Bella about in the first book but had never made it in to the first movie.  I thought this was a nice addition.  Other than that, all of the important stuff was right where it should be. 

I’m not going to talk too much about the specifics of certain things, because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else.  Let’s just say the wedding scene was perfect.  I’m not sure whether Kristin Stewart was actually acting, or just being her usual twitchy self, but her walk down the aisle was wonderful.  She captured that exact feeling of terror and happiness that I had walking down my own aisle.  Honestly, she made me tear up, just a little thinking about it.  And the audience could feel her complete relaxation once the ceremony part was over. 

Actually, I have been very hard on KStew and her awkward acting for years, so this pains me to admit it, but she really is coming into her own now.  I was impressed by her portrayal of a stripper/prostitute in Welcome to the Riley’s.  Then, in Breaking Dawn, she pulls off the huge emotional rollercoaster that Bella goes through between the joy of the wedding and the horror of the pregnancy which almost kills her.  Brava, KStew!

Now, if only we can get Taylor Lautner to stop acting like his underwear is too tight.

No discussion of the Twilight movies is complete without commenting on the special effects.  For the most part, I liked the effects and the choices that Bill Condon made.  He did away with Edward’s sparkles!  Thank god, because it was starting to make Edward cartoonish.  Besides, Rob Pattinson is so smoking hot, that he radiates naturally.  By now, the audience knows about Edward’s sunlight issues.  We don’t need to be reminded of it again and again.  My favorite special effects were the ones revolving around Bella and her pregnancy.  Unless you are one of the four people on the planet who hasn’t read the book, you know that the pregnancy is killing Bella by bruising her, breaking bones and slowly starving her.  This disintegration of Bella’s body is fascinating to watch and incredibly realistic.  Loved it! 

There is a lot of pack communication telepathically, and this is hard to portray on film.  And then there is the whole imprinting thing to deal with.  I was cool with how the imprinting was handled, but there was a scene or two when Jacob in wolf form was running and we see and hear from his point of view.  That got a little confusing and hard to hear.  Now, this might just be the theatre I was sitting in.  I will be seeing the movie again tomorrow, and I’ll try to determine if it is any better. 

So, fans of the book will be pleased with this movie.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask the twelve-year-old girls who were going apeshit for two hours sitting behind me.  I can’t wait for Part 2!

Overall, I give Breaking Dawn Part 1…

Special Effects – 4 popcorn bags
Cinematography – 5 popcorn bags  (Stunning!)
Acting – 4 popcorn bags (Improvement by KStew diminished by Taylor’s stiffness.  Rob, as always, was great.)
Soundtrack – 4 ½ popcorn bags (So happy to have Carter Burwell back!)

Have you seen the movie?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Author Spotlight: Maggie Wilson & GIVEAWAY!!!

Joining us today in the Author Spotlight is British author, Maggie Wilson!!!  She is the author of the medical thrillers,  the DS Hammond Investigations series.  

I'm so pleased that she was able to work my blog into her blog tour.  For info on her other blog stops, please check out her tour page  

Maggie has generously offered to give away one e-book copy of Fallen Angel to one lucky commenter.  All you have to do is answer this question:

If you had a dinner party and could invite anyone alive or dead, who would be sitting around your table?

Don't forget to leave your email address in the comment.  Open internationally.  Winner will be drawn randomly on Sunday evening, November 20th.  You will be notified via email. 

Now, let's meet Maggie!

Fallen Angel

JLR:  So much about our real life influences out writing. Are there any specific things in your past which influenced Fallen Angel?

Maggie:  My background is as a trained nurse and midwife. My writing so far is based around medical themes and hospital settings. There are many issues and crimes that have occurred within nursing and medicine that I want to explore in my writing. Highlighting areas of clinical practice that can be changed and enhance the patient experience in our hospitals as well as ensuring patient safety.

JLR:  I can see how having that medical background would give you a lot of inspiration for writing.  I get my inspiration from reading.  Have you had the opportunity to meet any famous writers? Were there any who made you star-struck?

Maggie:  Meeting writers at their book signing events started as a hobby and has grown over the years! Waterstones host a variety of events where authors give a talk and book signing as well as signing events. I keep a regular check on their website so I don’t miss out meeting my favourite authors!

I attended Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, this year and was privileged to meet many of the big name writers that I regularly read, have my picture taken with them, and have their books signed.

A few of the writers that I have met include, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Val McDermid, Joseph Finder, Linwood Barclay, Peter Robinson, Mark Billingham, Stuart McBride, Sheila Quigley, Stephen Leather, Matt Hilton, John Harvey, Michael Connelly, Mo Hayder, S J Watson, Tess Gerritsen, Jeffrey Deaver, Sophie Hannah, Stephen Booth, Martina Cole, Chris Ryan, David Belbin, Barbara Taylor-Bradford.
Who had me star struck? It has to be Harlan Coben and Lee Child – respect!

JLR:  I'm jealous! Where can readers go to learn more about your work?

Maggie:  I have a website that my publisher runs – keep up to date with my books and signing events
JLR:  What are you writing now that Fallen Angel has been released?

Maggie:  My second medical crime thriller, ‘Inside Out’ is due to be published 30/03/2012 – I am working on my third novel at present.

JLR:  Are you involved in any other projects aside from your novel writing? 

Maggie:  There are further projects that I am involved in connected with my writing/novels – further details will be available soon on my website

JLR:  If you were to host a dinner party and allowed to invite five writers, living or dead, who would you, want around your table?

Maggie:  Around my dinner table I would have to have, Dean Koontz, Erica Spindler, Jeffrey Archer, John Grisham and Enid Blyton. All excellent authors inspiring a great gathering round the table! I hope to have the opportunity to meet with them one day ( with the exception of Enid Blyton that is ! )

JLR:  Now there is an eclectic bunch!  Would make for some good conversation though.  So, Maggie, where can readers go to purchase Fallen Angel?

Maggie:  Fallen Angel is available via, Waterstones and all good booksellers both in the high street and online.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: 'The Dovekeepers' by Alice Hoffmann

TheDovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.

In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman’s novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.

The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece.
(Amazon description)

I love reading books where I feel like I’ve learned something.  I knew next to nothing about the Masada prior to reading this book, but I love history, especially ancient history.  Alice Hoffman wraps her fictional story of dovekeepers with threads of true-life facts and mystical spiritualism.  The result was beautiful and fascinating novel. 

The plot revolves around four women.  All are very different, coming from unique backgrounds, all damaged in their own ways, but somehow, they each found themselves shoveling dove droppings to be used as fertilizer in the compound’s fields and orchards.  At first, King Herod’s former palace feels like a sanctuary, filled with abundant food, water and resources, the thick walls and rugged natural terrain providing formidable protections against the Romans.  But with a thousand people living inside the walls and a year of drought, the crops begin to die, the cisterns start to run dry and the people begin to starve.  These women are survivors though.  They band together in support for each other.   

This book is heavy on character development, allowing the reader to follow the women as they are shaped by their trials.  They are so real, and the writing style is so intimate, it was easy for get lost in their story forget it was fiction.  Adding to the realism are the vivid descriptions of the land and the medicinal properties of plants. 

In typical Hoffmann fashion, there is a healthy dose of the mystical laced throughout the story.  Dreams and symbols and magic adds an element of beauty to the story that elevates it beyond a purely historical novel.  

Overall, I give The Dovekeepers...
Plot - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Character Development - 5 bookmarks
Historical Elements - 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Molly Quinn (Yael), Embeth Davidtz (Shirah), Hili Yalon (Aziza), Bonnie Bedelia (Revka)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blog Tour de Troops! Review: ‘Office Politics’ by Sharon Gerlach

I’m so excited to be a review stop on the Blog Tour de Troops!  If you haven’t stopped by their webpage to see what it is all about, make sure you do so.  Not only can you earn tons of free e-books just by leaving blog comments, but you will be entered into a drawing for a Kindle.  But that’s not even the best part!  For every e-book you earn, one is donated to the American troops serving our country abroad. What a great cause!

Now for the review!

“Malaria is nothing a good dose of quinine can’t handle. Or so thinks Frannie Freeman when her vile office manager Malia—aka Malaria—marries their boss Sam, whom Frannie has loved for years. When Sam suddenly confides that he believes he was roofied the night of his surprise Las Vegas wedding, it seems too good to be true. And it isn’t long before she realizes that’s exactly what it is.

Now, faced with letting Sam go forever or fighting for her heart’s desire, Frannie prepares for battle with a woman’s three best weapons — a loyal heart, a willingness to fight dirty, and the strongest margarita money can buy.”  (Amazon description)


I’m so excited to be a review stop on the Blog Tour de Troops!  If you haven’t stopped by their webpage to see what it is all about, make sure you do so.  Not only can you earn tons of free e-books just by leaving blog comments, but you will be entered into a drawing for a Kindle.  But that’s not even the best part!  For every e-book you earn, one is donated to the American troops serving our country abroad. 

Now for the review!

Office Politics by Sharon Gerlach is the first in her Harper & Lyttle series, fun and romantic tales set in a software company in Los Angeles.  Anyone who has ever worked in an office setting will be able to relate to these characters and the crazy characters they have to work with.  Think of the TV show The Office, only from a female perspective and with a strong romantic plot.  

Adding to the humor, Frannie Freeman is one of those people who accidents are always happening too...usually involving some form of humiliation witnessed by The Suits from the executive offices.  Okay, so maybe in real life all of this would never happen to just one person, but the humor lies in that you can totally see this happening! 

The love story is nice, but predictable.  That’s okay though, because both Frannie and Sam are great characters.  Frannie is a fun combination of competent business woman and a total mess.  Sam is the boss who wears suits everyday and expertly navigates the treacherous waters of management, but he is also a truly decent guy.  It would have been easy for his affair with Frannie, his subordinate, to come across as sleazy, but somehow it doesn’t feel that way at all.  I loved the scene where he goes to Frannie after his mother dies.  It’s a short scene with little action, but the subtlety of the emotion is wonderful. 

The ending wraps up a little too neatly, but overall, I reading this book was entertaining and satisfying.  I definitely plan to check out the next in the series The Secret Dreams of Sarah-Jane Quinn

Overall I give Office Politics...

Plot - 4 bookmarks
Character Development - 5 bookmarks
Love Story - 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Anne Hathaway (Frannie), Henry Cavil (Sam), Lizzy Caplan (Malaria), Marley Shelton (Gretchen), Emma Stone (Morgan), Kerry Washington (Stella), Cam Gigandi (Eric), Rupert Grint (Stewart)

Office Politics can be purchased at Smashwords or Amazon.  To learn more about the author, Sharon Gerlach, I encourage you to visit her blog at  


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: ‘The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer doesn't believe life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.                                                                                                                                                 

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is.                                                                                                       

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.
(Amazon description)


Oh. My. God.  I loved this book!!!! 

Mara Dyer is a wonderful character who is damaged and broken.  She had vivid hallucinations that she must hide from her psychologist mother for fear of getting committed to a mental institution.  The doctors have diagnosed her with post traumatic stress disorder, resulting from being the only survivor in a terrible accident which killed three of her friends.  But the whole time I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think there was more to her visions.  There was. 

After the accident, Mara’s family relocates to Florida to help her start her life over.  The students in the snooty private school aren’t exactly welcoming.  Her only friend is Jamie, a really friendly and cool boy from her algebra class.  Oh, and then there is Noah.  He’s a hot guy with a bad reputation who seems intent on getting close to her.  Of course, she think he is an ass and doesn’t hesitate to tell him so.  But Noah isn’t discouraged by her resistance and continues his quest of winning her over. 

The relationship of Mara and Noah develops slowly, but the wait is totally worth it!  I think I might be in love with Noah at this point, and that hasn’t happened in a long time.  But even though there is a beautiful love story in the book, it is definitely a sub-plot.  The real plot revolves around Mara’s mental state and her difficulty in distinguishing reality from hallucination.  It doesn’t help that people around her seem to drop dead around her. 

The book is suspenseful and romantic and disturbing and beautifully written.  My only complaint is that I have to wait until the fall of 2012 for the next book. 

Overall, I give The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer...

Plot - 5 bookmarks (I had the hardest time putting this book down. When I was at work, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.)
Character Development - 5 bookmarks (Watching these characters unfold was wonderful!)
World Building - 5 bookmarks (Mara’s world is terrifying.)
Love Story - 5 bookmarks (One of my favorites that I’ve real in a long time. It blossoms slowly.  No “insta-love” that is so common in YA novels.)
Dream Cast (Otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Lily Collins (Mara), a slightly younger Robert Pattinson (Noah), Chris Colfer (Jamie), Lucas Till (Daniel)

Book Trailer

Halloween Contest winner!!!!

The winner of my Halloween costume contest is...

Jenn Reck as Elphaba from Wicked!!

Unfortunately, you will have to take my word for how wonderful she looked, because I'm having technical difficulties in posting her picture up here.  Here is a photo of Idina Menzel as Elphaba.  

Okay.  Now, picture Jenn Reck wearing something similar.  You got it now.  

I had three reasons for picking Jenn as my winner.  1. She looked great.  2. She dressed as a literary character.  How cool is that?!?  3. I absolutely loved the Wicked, both the book and the musical.  

So, Jenn will be getting a package in the mail from me containing a fabulous prize (which i haven't decided on yet.)  

Thank you all for playing!!!!!!!