Sunday, October 19, 2014

My take on: The 100

It all starts with a promising first sentence.....

"The door slid open, and Clarke knew it was time to die." Pg. 1 of The 100 by Kass Morgan. How can I not keeping reading? There is clearly the promise of more!

Nuclear war has left Earth a radioactive wasteland. Mankind has had to fend for itself, splitting into various factions, Walden, Arcadia, and Phoenix, living on a large space station. But now life on the space station is in peril. Oxygen is waning. There has to be a way to survive. The council has decided to send 100 of its death row/condemned inmates to Earth. Send the scraps to Earth to see if its habitable. Send the scraps to Earth to give the ruling class on Phoenix a chance to survive longer on the ship. Send the scraps to Earth to do all the hard work.

Clarke, reeling from the death of her parents, is one of the 100 rogue teenagers sent to recolonize Earth after the planet has been left desolate for centuries. Wells, son of the Chancellor, commits a crime and forces his way into the 100, to save the girl he loves. To save his sister, Octavia, Bellamy commits an act of violence just as the dropship is about to leave for Earth. Glass has managed to escape the dropship and remain on Phoenix, but life in space isn't much better.

I'm so used to books based in reality, that sometimes it's very hard to read a book like this. I keep forgetting to just let go. To just enjoy the story. To just let my imagination run wild.  There are some things I loved about this book, and there are some things I didn't.

With each chapter, there was an increasing element of suspense. I had to keep reading to find out what Clarke did to dread her 18th birthday -- the age that all condemned youth will die. Why would Wells want to go on such a deadly mission? He did it all to save Clarke. But was she worth it? Once reunited, why does Clarke have so much hatred for Wells? Once on Earth, why didn't the 100 die? What happened to the people who were left on Earth?

Sometimes this just felt like a teenage soap opera, mixed with some elements of science fiction and Lord of the Flies. There's a lot of teenage angst and hormonal activity going on here, and I'm not a big fan of that. I felt like the juicier part of the story was life on the space station after the 100 leave. Glass' story offers a glimpse into that life, just not enough for me. Equally frustrating is the ending! It just stops, right when the action is starting to pick up! But there is a flip side to that, the author succeeded in making me want to read the next book in the series. Fortunately, I don't have to be frustrated for too long because I've already started reading the sequel, Day 21.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 17, 2014

My take on: Finding Zoe


Five days a week I wake up at 6:00 a.m. to the sound of Lady Gaga's "Just Dance" blaring from my iPhone. Most days when I hear that sound I say to myself, "Is it really time to get up?"

Why am I starting with this little anecdote? Because I think I take for granted that I can hear the sound of my alarm. I don't think I'm alone in that feeling. What if one day I couldn't hear at all? I'm not sure I would know how to deal with that. Would I still be the same person? That's just one of the many questions I was asking myself after reading Finding Zoe: A Deaf Woman's Story of Identity, Love, and Adoption by Brandi Rarus

Spinal meningitis took away Brandi's hearing at the age of 6. Already verbal prior to losing her hearing, Brandi easily fit into the societal mainstream. But was that the best place for her? It wasn't until college that she fully embraced being deaf and deaf culture. Learning to let go of the hearing world and learning to embrace the deaf world took years. Think about it? No matter your age, how many of you could let go of who you once were? It's more than a lifestyle change. In some cases you have to let go of people you were once close to. Embracing deaf culture opened up a world of possibilities for Brandi, including being Miss Deaf America and meeting the love of her life. She went on to marry Tim Rarus and gave birth to three sons. But there was something missing for Brandi.

What was missing? A little girl. She always wanted a daughter. Adopting a deaf child seemed to be the best way to fulfill that desire. At first her husband did not want a fourth child, but after writing him a heartfelt letter Brandi got Tim to reconsider. Call it fate or call it divine intervention, soon after Tim's change of heart the Rarus family learned of an infant who needed a home. I guess it had to happen that way. Reading the book, it's clear Zoe was meant to be part of this family.

I definitely felt like I was in Brandi's head the entire time. Although, I did feel that some sections of the book were a bit rushed. Some passages felt like play-by-play, rather than a narrative of someone's life story. The first half of the book is everything that lead up to the Rarus' decision to adopt a child. The second half is devoted to the adoption process, and the multiple homes that Zoe was in before being adopted by Brandi and Tim. As a whole, I was captivated by Brandi's story, I just wished some parts were fleshed out a bit more. I don't always advocate this, but I wish this book was about 100 pages longer. Deaf or hearing, there are parts of this book that everyone can relate, especially the power of love and family.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy from the publisher (BenBella Books) as part of a blog tour with Pump up Your Book.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In the mood for a play?

Want to take a break from books? 

Want to get out for the night? Well, how about you take in a play.
 
The Brightness of Heaven
A New Play by Acclaimed Author Laura Pedersen
Directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser
At the Cherry Lane Studio Theatre (38 Commerce Street, Manhattan)

October 16 - December 14, 2014

The Kilgannons are a typical Irish family in 1974 Buffalo.  However, the world is changing fast, the generation gap is widening, and the future is up for grabs. Will the Kilgannons find the serenity to accept the things they cannot change and the wisdom to know that what needs changing most is sitting around the dinner table? THE BRIGHTNESS OF HEAVEN is a witty drama about Family, Faith, and the ties that bind — sometimes too tightly.

Recommended Ages: This is a witty drama that may be inappropriate for anyone under the age of 10.

Ticket information and more about the cast and crew can be found online at http://thebrightnessofheaven.com.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Read Pink! in Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month!


Read Pink® in Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Support the Next Chapter in Innovative Research

Penguin Random House Marks Five-Year Partnership Milestone and $125,000
in Donations to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation®

What’s black and white and pink all over?  The initiative by Penguin Random House called Read Pink® in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October)!

Today the scientific community has left behind the “one-size-fits-all” breast cancer treatment to emerge with targeted, more effective therapies. As a result, after remaining stagnant for more than 50 years, the death rate from breast cancer has decreased by 30 percent. The Read Pink® initiative by Penguin Random House is proud to be part of this exciting new chapter in the fight against breast cancer, supporting the bold research of The Breast Cancer Foundation® (BCRF), while leveraging its passionate readers to help increase awareness and education about the disease. This literary embrace of a life-saving cause has resulted in nearly 1.5 million best-selling novels shipped with Read Pink seals and information about BCRF across all five years of the promotion.

Penguin Random House is thrilled to partner once again this year with BCRF, as 91 cents of every dollar spent by BCRF is directed towards breast cancer research and awareness programs.

The $25,000 donation that Penguin Random House contributes, regardless of sales, provides vital funds to support the mission of BCRF.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Penguin Random House’s Read Pink® editions, we are featuring a few participating authors and what Read Pink® means to them…

Beatriz Williams (2014 Read Pink® Spokesperson), A Hundred Summers
“Every life lost to breast cancer leaves behind a hole that can never be filled again: a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, an aunt, a grandmother. I’m so grateful for organizations like The Breast Cancer Research Foundation for their efforts to find a cure for this devastating disease, and honored to support breast cancer awareness, detection, and research through Penguin’s READ PINK program in 2014. With your help, we can move closer to the day when breast cancer leaves behind only survivors.”

Karen White, The Time Between
“Since 1989, death rates from breast cancer have been decreasing due to earlier detection and improved treatment because of the efforts of organizations like The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Books have always been an important part of my life, and I am honored that my book will be part of Penguin’s Read Pink program that supports breast cancer awareness and research through reading. It is my greatest hope that through efforts like this we might find a cure within my lifetime.”

Nora Roberts, Sea Swept and The Witness
“To all the moms and daughters, wives and sisters, lovers and friends, Read Pink is here for you and yours. Help support breast cancer awareness and the strong, brave women who fight or will fight this disease and Read Pink in October.”

Catherine Anderson, Perfect Timing
“I am so delighted to be included in the Read Pink campaign again this year with Perfect Timing being featured, along with so many other great books, to raise funds for breast cancer research. I can remember when a diagnosis of breast cancer was often equivalent to a death sentence. Nowadays, the survival rates have increased greatly, and I personally know women who have prevailed over this terrible disease. Sadly, I’ve also known a few women who lost the battle. So I call upon all of you to join ranks with me and countless other women in a war to defeat breast cancer. ‘Read Pink! Buy books bearing the Read Pink logo as gifts for the women you love.’ By standing together as sisters, we have it within our power to make a huge difference!”

Jayne Ann Krentz, Dream Eyes
“This is the time of year when we celebrate the progress that has been made in the battle against breast cancer and acknowledge the work that lies ahead. No, we aren't there yet. There's a long way to go. The greatest weapon we have to fight this disease is research and research costs money. That is why this breast cancer awareness campaign is so important and why I am proud to participate.”

Marie Force, I Want to Hold Your Hand
“I’m so thrilled to be part of the Read Pink effort to help raise awareness and funding for breast cancer research. I hear frequently from romance readers who tell me my books and those of other romance authors have helped them get through breast cancer treatment. I want to hear from fewer of them in the future. I want to hear they took our books on fabulous vacations rather than treatments. Please Read Pink in October to support all the courageous women fighting this disease and to fund critical research. Thank you for Reading Pink!”


Full List of 2014 Participating Authors:
Jojo Moyes, The Last Letter from your Lover
Karen White, The Time Between
Nora Roberts, Sea Swept and The Witness
Jennifer Chiaverini, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
Beatriz Williams, A Hundred Summers
Wendy Wax, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey
Catherine Anderson, Perfect Timing
Marie Force, I Want to Hold Your Hand
Janet Chapman, The Heart of a Hero
Lisa Gardner, MacNamara’s Woman
Jayne Ann Krentz, Dream Eyes


Mark your calendars and remember to join in the conversation with @BerkleyRomance and @PenguinGroupUSA on Twitter in October.  Make sure to use the hashtag #ReadPink!

For more information about the Read Pink initiative and to view a complete list of the participating retail outlets, please visit penguin.com/readpink.

Read Pink® Blog Tour Schedule
Please support the blogs taking part in this special, Read Pink® Spotlight Tour!

October 1 – Exclusive guest post with spokesperson Beatriz Williams on LizandLisa.com
***
September 22                                   Cheryl's Book Nook; The Readers Den; Gone with the Words;
                                                                Pretty Sassy Cool
September 23                                   Reading Reality; You Gotta Read; Adria's Romance Reviews
September 24                                   Kimberly Faye Reads; Nicely Phrased; I Smell Sheep
September 25                                   Romance Junkies; To Read or Not To Read;
September 26                                   Cindy's Love of Books; Chick Lit Plus; The Book Reading Gals
*
September 29                                   LitChat; Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf; Chris Book Blog Emporium
September 30                                   Reality Bites! Let's Get Lost!; Grave Tells; Britt's Book and Life Blog;
                                                                Sincerely Stacie
October 1                                            Cocktails and Books; The Reading Nook Reviews; 2Bookaholics;
                                                                Wit & Sin; Raw Books
October 2                                            SOS Aloha; Bookish Things & More; Shayna Renee's Spicy Reads
October 3                                            Dew on the Kudzu; Peace Love Books;
*
October 6                                            My Book Addiction and More; Book-alicious Mama;
October 7                                            A Dream Within A Dream; Thoughts in Progress; Mundie Moms
October 8                                            Flirty and Dirty Book Blog; Readers Live A Thousand Lives;
                                                                That's What I'm Talking About
October 9                                            Book Lovin' Mamas; Lori's Reading Corner; The Book Reading Gals
October 10                                          Supernatural Snark; Once Upon a Twilight;
*
October 13                                          Fallen Angel Reviews; Parajunkee's View; As I Turn the Pages
October 14                                          Reading in Black & White; Keepin It Real Book Blog
October 15                                          ABCD Diaries; Fictional Candy; Paranormal Book Club
October 16                                          Sexy Bibliophiles; Book Sniffers Anonymous;
October 17                                          Wicked Lil Pixie; The Book Swarm; Addicted 2 Novels;
                                                                Stephanie’s Book Reports
*
October 20                                          News & Sentinel, “Book Nook”; The Reading CafĂ©
October 21                                          The Book Bellas; The Book Cellar
October 22                                          The Novel Life; My Book Muse;
October 23                                          Rock Stars of Romance; Silver's Reviews; Journey of a Bookseller
October 24                                          Sunshine & Mountains
*
October 27                                          Bewitched Bookworms; Ramblings From This Chick
October 28                                          Reading in Pajamas; Turn the Page
October 29                                          Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks; Stuck In YA Books;
October 30                                          Fang-tastic Books; No BS Book Reviews; Marie’s Cozy Corner
October 31                                          In Shadows; Love Romances & More

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gone Girl: The book vs. the movie

Ok, there is no way for me to talk about Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn without SPOILERS. So please if you have not read the book or seen the movie COME BACK LATER when you do!

FAIR WARNING!

Ok I'm going to insert a big picture of the book so you don't see the rest!


Still here? Ok lets dive in. I don't often say this, but I HATE this book. If you've read the book, you know the basics. On their fifth anniversary, the lives of Nick and Amy Dunne are turned upside down. Amy "disappears" without a trace. Nick is automatically the suspect. As a tradition, Amy leaves a treasure hunt of clues for Nick to find his anniversary present. Only this time the clues are leading police to believe that Nick is guilty of murder. Halfway through the book there is a "twist." I bought this book almost 18 months ago, and over that time I've heard about that "twist" multiple times.

Honestly, that "twist" is not a "twist." Amy isn't dead, instead she's framing Nick for her murder. It would have made for a good plot device if I didn't find this book so pretentious and misogynistic. As a character, Amy is supposed to be so smart and witty. She is just above everyone, including Nick. Yet, while Amy is on the run she gets robbed of several thousand dollars because she acted so STUPID! When she calls on creepy Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris in the movie), she does so in a casino. While reading the book and watching the movie, I couldn't help but think casinos have cameras EVERYWHERE! Really there is no way that's not going to come back and bite that pretentious psycho in the you know what! But it never does. Nick Dunne is equally frustrating! Every other chapter Nick Dunne is either expressing or thinking about his hatred for women. These two morally corrupt people deserved each other! Although in the movie, Nick's hatred is restricted to Amy.

Despite my dislike for the movie, I was thoroughly entertained by the movie and the performances. Now how is that possible? The movie gave life and depth to Nick and Amy Dunne that just wasn't there for me in the book. Rosamund Pike absolutely nailed the role of psycho chick. When she's plotting and eventually killing Desi, it's chilling and slightly funny at the same time. When she returns to her "doting" husband, Ben Affleck delivers the line of the year! If you've read the book or seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. Just give Rosamund Pike the Oscar now because I don't see how anything could top that performance. I was captivated with Amy Dunne as a movie character, but I hated her as a book character. The "cool girl" girl speech in the book sealed my dislike of Amy.

"Go ahead, shit on me, I don't mind, I'm the Cool Girl. Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they're fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men--friends, coworkers, strangers--giddy over these pretender women, and I'd want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who'd like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I'd want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn't really love chili dogs that much--no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They're not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they're pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you're not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn't want the Cool Girl." 
-- Pgs. 222-223

Some or all of that might be true, but it just comes across as smug! I don't like smug people in fiction or in real life. This entire book is SO SMUG! But I was able to separate the book from the movie. I know Gillian Flynn also wrote the screenplay, so I was scared that the smugness of the book would be there in the movie. I was surprised she was able to to edit herself. Authors are so close to the source material, I would think it's hard to move from page to screen. But hats off to Gillian Flynn for keeping the best parts of the book intact and getting rid of the rubbish. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was outstanding, it was like another character. Director David Fincher was the right person for this. The movie was just the right mix of psychological thriller and dark comedy.

I really, really, really, like the movie, but it's not without flaws. No. 1: the casino incident I mentioned. No. 2: the wackadoo couple who stole Amy's money could come forward at any moment. No. 3: the ENDING. Oh, that ending. While there are slight differences between the movie and book endings, but the result is still the same. Amy forces Nick to stay in the marriage with a SURPRISE pregnancy. That still frustrates me. Nick should have found some way to get out, legally or illegally (hint hint Gillian Flynn). If he had, my opinion of the book would have been totally different. In the movie, that faux dream-like sequence of Amy Dunne drowning in a lake should have come true by the end! That psycho deserved a little karma!

What did everyone else think?

Book rating: Meh
Movie rating: O.M.G.! (mostly for the performances by Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, and Carrie Coon)

Friday, September 26, 2014

It's so good I posted it twice: My take on The Banks of Certain Rivers


Jon Harrison's novel The Banks of Certain Rivers has been picked up by a publisher. In honor of the release, I am reposting my review and a description of the book. Happy reading!

In the lakeside resort town of Port Manitou, Michigan, dedicated teacher and running coach Neil Kazenzakis shoulders responsibilities that would break a lesser man: a tragic accident has left his wife seriously debilitated, he cares for his mother-in-law who suffers from dementia, and he’s raising his teenage son, Chris, on his own. On top of all that, he’s also secretly been seeing Lauren, his mother-in-law’s caregiver.

When Neil breaks up a fight one day after school, he doesn’t give the altercation much thought. He’s got bigger issues on his mind, like the fact that Lauren is ready for a commitment and he has to figure out a way to tell Chris that he’s in a serious relationship with someone other than the boy’s mother. But when an anonymous person uploads a video of the fight to YouTube, the stunning footage suggests Neil assaulted a student. With his job, his family, and his reputation suddenly in jeopardy, Neil must prove his innocence and win back the trust of the entire community—including his son’s.
Jon Harrison’s The Banks of Certain Rivers is a powerful tale of family, loss, and the meaning of love.

After reading just a couple of pages of The Banks of Certain Rivers, I was totally captivated by the writing of Jon Harrison.

In an instant, life as you know it can change. What if the person you loved the most was suddenly taken from you? Physically they're alive, but in every way that counts the person you once knew is gone forever. Would you have the strength to move on? If you did move on, would you be consumed by guilt? At what point do you allow yourself to be happy again?

A freak accident leaves the wife of Neil Kazenzakis in a permanent vegetative state. He is left to raise their son Christopher alone. He has a network of family and friends to help him, but they can't fill the void left by Wendy. He finds some comfort in alcohol and prescription pills. He would rather numb the pain than actually feel it. It's hard to get over someone you've been in love with since the ninth grade.

Neil has always done things right. Upon discovering Wendy was pregnant, Neil gave up the chance at a promising career in Japan. Instead he stayed in their small Michigan town, he became a teacher and did everything he could to provide for his family, becoming a popular teacher and track coach. He did everything by the book. E-mails Neil writes to Wendy offer a unique look into their relationship. Neil knows Wendy will never see his words, but it's therapeutic to get his feelings out. He can still connect with her. In his own way, he can still confide in her. When Neil finally starts to heal, life hits him hard again. Is this a sign? Is someone or something trying to prevent him from being happy?

Neil has a lot on his plate. Not only is he a single father, but he also has to look after his mother-in-law Carol, who is descending into dementia. Lauren, one of Carol's nurses, develops a special bond with Neil. They're both in at a crossroads in their life. Lauren is just coming out of a bad relationship and Neil is wondering if he deserves a fresh start. Secret dinners, stolen kisses, and late-night sleepovers give Neil some hope at a happy life. But what about Wendy? Wendy's mind is long gone, but what if there is some part of her that is angry? What if there is some part of her that can still feel? What about Christopher? Will his relationship with Lauren hurt Chris? He has to tell Chris the truth some time. But when is the right time? Will it ever be the right time? Just when Neil thinks the timing is right, his professional career is sent into a tailspin. A devastating accusation puts not just his career in jeopardy, but his freedom. How much can one person take?

I love reading books about the family dynamic. The majority of similar books I've read were told from a female perspective, but it's refreshing to get a different point of view. A story like this would make a great movie. This was an engaging and emotional roller coaster.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received an e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Paperback Release Day: A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger


Last year I was captivated story of a teenage boy with an eating disorder in A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger. In honor of the paperback release Ms. Metzger is stopping by my blog with a guest post!



My novel, “A Trick of the Light,” is the story of a 15-year-old boy who develops an eating disorder.  The book came out in hardcover in 2013, and over the past year many people have written to me with   This inspired me to put together a special section for the just-released paperback, called “10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Eating Disorders.”
new information and questions.

Here are five of them with some comments of my own:

1.  The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) estimates that 30 million people in this country have eating disorders at some point in their lives.

The hardcover mentions the fact that 10 million in the U.S. have eating disorders and that 10 percent of them are male—meaning one million boys and men.  Since then, I’ve learned that this figure is probably too low, that in fact as many as 20 million people are suffering from an eating disorder at any one time, and that one-third of them are male.

2.  Children as young as five have been diagnosed with eating disorders.

Healthcare professionals are calling this “a disturbing trend.”  To put it mildly.

3.  Male wrestlers are particularly susceptible to eating disorders because they have to “make weight,” and mistakenly believe that competing in a lower weight class will give them an advantage.  For rapid weight loss before a weigh-in, up to three-quarters of high school and collegiate wrestlers will fast, overexercise, and restrict fluids.

My main character, Mike Welles, is not a wrestler, but so many wrestlers struggle with eating disorders I wanted to shine a spotlight on this.

4.  The “Maudsley Approach” to eating disorders, also known as family-based treatment, has seen much success in recent years.  According to U.S. News & World Report, it “emphasizes recovery over cause, and care provided by parents, not by doctors.”

This carefully structured method is an alternative to residential treatment (hospitalization).

5.  If you want to help someone with an eating disorder, it’s important to take action quickly because eating disorders can escalate rapidly and are so deadly (with a mortality rate as high as 20 percent).  A good first step is calling the NEDA hotline:  1-800-931-2237.

This last one may be most important, because very often people with eating disorders deny they have eating disorders and resist treatment, and most people do not recover without intervention.  It’s up to family and friends to take that first step.    
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