After-Christmas Update

After-Christmas Update:

1)     A couple weeks ago, I wrote a review of Terri G. Long’s novel In Leah’s Wake as part of a blog tour run by Novel Publicity.  For that review, I won best blog entry, and received a $100 Amazon gift card as a prize!  It was very very cool, and I am very grateful to the folks at Novel Publicity for choosing me.

2)     This week I participated in another blog tour run by Novel Publicity, this time for Farsighted, a YA fantasy novel by Emlyn Chand (who also happens to be the very awesome president of Novel Publicity).  If you haven’t seen those posts yet, please check out this author interview from Monday, and my review of Farsighted from Wednesday.  On both posts you can find information about entering to win prizes.  Today (Friday) is the last day to participate, so don’t wait!

3)     I had a wonderful Christmas.  Christmas Eve at one aunt and uncle’s house.  Christmas at my house with my mother and brother (I made Coq Au Vin for Christmas dinner, and it turned out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.  And we went to the movies to see Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows).  And Boxing Day (the day after Christmas), also at my house, with my grandmother and another aunt and uncle, for which my mother and I made ham with all the usual side dishes.

4)     I received a $250 Amazon gift card from my father and stepmother for Christmas, and I am going to have a BLAST spending it all (especially in conjunction with the $100 I already received from the blog tour prize). ^__^

5)     I also received a record player, which I’d been begging my mother for.  I’ve been playing the records I already have almost to death, and it’s definitely time to add to my little collection.  Thankfully, I just learned of a decent-sized records store not too far from where I live, so my brother and I are planning a trip to spend more money. ^__^

6)     For next week, I should be back to my usual blogging schedule: Science/Fantasy Monday, Bookworm Wednesday, and Free-For-All Friday.  I’ll have another book review for you on Wednesday, as I have just finished reading Beka Cooper: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce.  I was thinking about doing a review of the new Sherlock Holmes movie too, but I’m not sure how many people care.  I guess we’ll see…

7)     I should be making more minor (and possibly not-so-minor, depending on how things go) changes around the blog in the next couple weeks.

Okay, that’s all from me for now.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and/or Holiday of your choice (^_^), and I wish you all a Happy New Year!  I’ll see you all in 2012!

And You Thought Your High School Years Sucked: A Review of Farsighted by Emlyn Chand

First off, my apologies for the lateness of this post – I’ve been sick the last couple days and I’ve been rushing to both write and post my review.

Second, if you missed the beginning of the Farsighted blog tour, please check out Monday’s post for an interview with author Emlyn Chand (who is also the president of PR firm Novel Publicity), and also check out all the information about the various events and prizes for this week’s blog tour.

And now, here’s my review of Farsighted:

Title: Farsighted

Author: Emlyn Chand

Genre: YA Fantasy

Where I Got It: A free ebook copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

Score: 5 out of 5

In Farsighted, the first of a series about main character Alex Kosmitoras, Alex’s sophomore year of high school might just kill him.  His parents are scraping to make ends meet.  His hard-working mother is loving but very overprotective, his unemployed father is distant and acting strange.  The high school bully is hell-bent on making Alex’s life miserable.  And to top it all off, Alex is blind. But that’s all par for the course, and his life is about to get a whole hell of a lot more complicated.

Just as Alex is making friends with the two new girls: Simmi, who is kind and smells like an Almond Joy bar, and Shapri, who is smart, blunt, and no-nonsense, he begins to “see” things — or rather, hear, feel, and smell things.  Things that seem to happen, and then happen again.  Things he can’t distinguish from reality.  Things, he soon learns, that mean he has developed the ability to “see” the future.  Stumbling through the school year, shouting at people who aren’t really there, and generally making a fool of himself, he attempts to ignore his new gifts.  Until he discovers that his new friend Simmi may be in danger, and only his powers can save her.  Now, with help from the psychic who just moved in next door to his mother’s shop, and his new friends who may have special gifts of their own, Alex must work hard to change Simmi’s future, and his own.

Yeah, and you thought YOUR high school years were difficult.

What I Liked:

Let’s start with the characters.

Alex is a well-written, believable blind teenage boy written by a not-blind married woman — not an easy thing to pull off.  Alex is a very typical teenage boy, in fact.  Alex loves his mother but is constantly embarrassed by her over-the-top affection and little-boy nicknames.  He desperately wants his father to love him, and fears that he will never be enough for his father.  His crush on Simmi leads him to do some cute and some stupid things in a very believable fashion, so that all we can do as readers is nod in understanding and say: “ah, hormones…”  And even when he does something REALLY stupid, it is still in character, understandable as something a teenage boy might do when he doesn’t quite understand how stupid his conclusions are – of course, when he does this stupid thing (I won’t spoil it for you), I just wanted to smack him in the back of the head and tell him to stop being an idiot.   Through all of this however, Alex remains smart and resourceful, doing the best he can to salvage a difficult situation in admirable fashion.  He is relatable, sympathetic, and likable.

The other characters are well-written as well.  Simmi and Shapri are both kind, smart teenager girls, but they are very much their own characters, with distinct and interesting character traits.  While Simmi is sweet and more on the quiet side, Shapri is out-spoken and blunt.  Admittedly, I sometimes thought Simmi was a little too good to be true, but sometimes you really do find that special girl is just so sweet and so patient, that you almost can’t believe it.  Of the two girls, I definitely prefer Shapri though.  You’ve probably noticed by now I have a thing for female characters who are strong and out-spoken (probably because I’m not particularly out-spoken myself).  It is amusing to watch how both girls turn Alex’s world upside down, and keep him in his toes.  That’s what teenage girls are for, isn’t it?

Of the parents, we don’t get as good a feel for the mother as we do for the father.  The mother is given some well-rounded characterization – she is strong and loving and patient, but prone on a few occasions to give in to depression and despair.  But she is not as dynamic a character as the father, who plays an important role in Alex’s life by virtue of Alex’s perception that he is distant from Alex’s life (does that make sense?).  And with the father acting strange throughout the novel, I had a lot of fun trying to guess what he was really up to.  I won’t spoil that for you either, but I will announce triumphantly that I guessed right.

As for the plot itself: it works much like a mystery (though it is also, obviously, a fantasy).  We the readers, like the characters, are fed bits and pieces, clues that we are trying to fit together just as Alex is trying to fit them together to understand how and why Simmi is in danger.  There is a shadowy bad guy and a wide variety of scenarios involved in Alex’s visions, but it remains unclear throughout the novel what is really going to happen, and why.  Now, I love mysteries.  And I love trying to figure out what the ending is going to be.  So I loved this method of feeding us little bits of information a little at a time.  I had a few guesses going into the final chapters.  And I’ll tell you what: I never saw the ending coming.  Part of me is annoyed with myself for missing the clues.  But the larger part of me is just impressed that the author managed to surprise me.  In all modesty, it doesn’t happen that often anymore.

What I Didn’t Like:

What didn’t I like?  Actually… honestly, I can’t think of anything.  Except maybe that I have to wait for the next installment.  There are some series that I prefer to wait to read until all the books (or at least several of them) have already been released.  I HATE to wait.  And I’m definitely not looking forward to this wait.

Other than that… um… Nope, can’t think of anything.  This book was just plain FUN.  The characters are relatable, resourceful, dynamic, and likable. The plot keeps you on your toes to the end.  The clues keep you actively involved.  And the ending, while decently satisfying, definitely leaves you wanting more.  What more can you ask for, really?

In other words: go read Farsighted.  NOW.

Remember, you can get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  And right now it’s only 99cents.

You can also currently vote for Farsighted in the Alternative Read Best Book Cover of the Year award: just click here.

Also:

To Win the Prizes

  1. Purchase your copy of Farsighted for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  4. BONUS: If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!
  5. DOUBLE BONUS: If I receive more comments than any other blogger, *I* win $100.

…And I can win too!

Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

The Farsighted Social Media Whirlwind Tour

Good morning, everyone! For those of you who celebrate, I hope you had an absolutely wonderful Christmas.  For those who don’t, I hope you had an absolutely wonderful weekend! ^_^  As some of you may remember (once the Christmas dinner coma wears off…), I have spent the last two weeks participating in blog tours for Novel Publicity.  First for In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long, and second for Scorpio Rising by Monique Domovitch.  Now it is time for the last Novel Publicity run blog tour.  This is one is extra-special because the book, Farsighted, happens to be written by the president of Novel Publicity herself, the impressive Emlyn Chand.

For today, we have an interview with Emlyn Chand herself.  On Wednesday, check back in my for review of Farsighted (which was fantastic, just to give you a small preview).  And now, without further ado:

Announcing the Farsighted Social Media Whirlwind Tour!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Farsighted eBook edition is just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including lots of Amazon gift cards (up to $100 in amount) and 5 autographed copies of the book. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 30th, so you don’t miss out.

To Win the Prizes

  1. Purchase your copy of Farsighted for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  4. BONUS: If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!
  5. DOUBLE BONUS: If I receive more comments than any other blogger, *I* win $100.

…And I can win too!

Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

The Featured Events include:

Monday, a guest blog on Novel Publicity! Emlyn kicks off the tour on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog by discussing her brightly burning passion for books in a guest post entitled “My journey through the pages and toward a life-long love of reading.” One commenter will win an autographed copy of Farsighted. Don’t forget to enter for the other contest prizes while you’re over there!

Tuesday, Twitter sharing contest! A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters. But on Tuesday, it could win you $50. Send the following tweet across the twittersphere, and you just may win a $50 Amazon gift card. An autographed copy of Farsighted is also up for grabs. The winners will be announced Wednesday morning. Here’s the tweet: Looking for a fun read to round out your holiday break? The paranormal YA hit Farsighted is just 99 cents! http://ow.ly/81Dt1 #whirlwind

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Stay Farsighted book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Farsighted is also up for grabs. Two chances to win with just one click! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Farsighted book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Farsighted is also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Are you ready for some more fun? Take a picture of yourself with your copy of Farsighted either in paperback or on an eReading device, then post it to Emlyn Chand’s Facebook page or email a copy to author@emlynchand.com. You just way win one of three Amazon gift cards! A $100 prize will go to the photo with the most interesting setting (so put your holiday travel time to work for you). Another $50 will go the funniest photo, and one more prize of $50 will go the scariest photo—this is a paranormal YA book after all. An autographed copy of Farsighted will go to one randomly selected entrant. For more details about this contest, please visit www.emlynchand.com.

Remember, it’s all about the books!

About Farsighted: Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t. When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider. Farsighted is the winner of the 2011 Dragonfly eBook Awards. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the Author: Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories, having emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity. Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Let’s get to know the author a little better through this rousing Q&A…

Q: What was it like writing from the viewpoint of a blind, teenage boy? Were there any parts of Alex’s personality/life you found hard to come up with?

A: You know, it wasn’t as hard to write blind as I initially thought it would be. It didn’t take long to begin “seeing” Alex’s world the way he does. I wrote the entire story without knowing what anyone or anything looked like (except for Alex himself). When it came time to shoot the book trailer, the directors were asking me questions about the scenes and which props they should bring, and I really, really didn’t know what to tell them!

As I got to know Alex better and better, it became easier to tune into his way of seeing things. I read books about coping with blindness in a school setting and spent a great deal of time pondering how I might behave if I couldn’t see. In the story, Alex has always been blind; he’s always known the world to be a certain way. Not everyone understands that, and they have trouble talking about it with him. I gave Alex a tendency to overcompensate. He knows who he is and what he’s capable of, and he wants the world to know it too, so sometimes he overdoes things a bit.

Q: Your cast of characters has international flavor? What’s behind that choice?

A: I don’t see why my characters all need to belong to the same culture or ethnicity. What fun is that? Culture shapes our characters in a big way, so by diversifying my cast, I was able to hit on more types of personalities and situations. Grandon is based on my hometown; it’s small and kind of boring. I couldn’t wait to escape and move on to bigger and better things. My home town was mostly Caucasian, but somehow I ended up with a very diverse set of friends even though they made up less than 1% of the student body. Fast forward a few years, and I end up marrying a man from India. He’s from New Delhi, like Simmi. I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures; I even decided to pursue my Master’s in Sociology for this very reason. I credit two early life influences for this attraction: 1) My adoration of A.C. Slater in Saved by the Bell, 2) Disney’s Aladdin being the best movie ever.

Q: What was the inspiration for Farsighted?

A: Everything started with a single image—my face in these tacky oversized sunglasses reflecting out at me from the car’s side mirror. I was daydreaming while my husband drove us across Michigan for my sister’s wedding. Something about my image really struck me in an almost horrific way. I felt the glasses made me look blind but found it so weird that there was still a clear image within them; it seemed so contradictory. At the time, my book club was reading The Odyssey, which features the blind Theban prophet, Tieresias. I started thinking about what it would be like to have non-visual visions of the future and began forming a modern Tieresias in my mind. Lo and behold, Alex Kosmitoras was born. I didn’t want him to be alone in his psychic subculture, so I found other characters with other powers to keep him company. Thank God for my poor fashion sense. :-)

Q: What would you like readers to take away from Farsighted? Is there a different message for adults than for teens?

A: First and foremost, I hope that readers will enjoy themselves. My primary goal is to tell an interesting story that people will find entertaining and be glad they read. Secondly, I’d like to infuse contemporary Young Adult fiction with a bit more diversity and teach readers about the beauty of other cultures and other ways of life. I also hope that Farsighted is a book that leads to introspection—what would I do if put in Alex’s place? Did Alex ever have a choice or was this path his destiny? What would it be like to see the world the way he sees the world?

I like to think of anything I write as being kind of like a Disney movie, in that the primary audience will be children, but there are extra tidbits for the adults too. Farsighted has been infused with a great deal of research about runes, classic mythology, and Eastern spirituality, but you don’t need to understand any of that to be entertained by the story.

Q. There have been articles written this year about YA being too dark for teens. What are your thoughts on this?

A: I definitely agree. I want to get back to the core of the YA genre, and I attempted to do that with Farsighted. I also think that paranormal has gotten a bit too out there. One thing I hear from readers quite a bit is that the paranormal seems normal in Farsighted. They don’t question the existence of the powers, and it doesn’t seem out there like some other books of the genre do. That was important to me. I wanted my story to be run by the characters, not the fantastic elements. This is a story about Alex, not about a blind psychic.

Q: What motivated you to structure the book around the runes?

A: Remember how I said my Master’s degree is in Sociology? It’s actually Quantitative Sociology. I’m a numbers person as well as a word person. I love things to be organized just so. If you set a stack of papers in front of me; I’m going to fuss with them until they are lined up in a perfect stack. It’s just the way I am. Shaping each chapter around a rune gave the story order, which made me feel happy and comfortable. Whenever I got stuck and didn’t know what should happen next, I was able to learn more about that chapter’s rune and get the inspiration I needed to continue. The runes themselves tell a story, one that is successfully completed. I felt that boded well for Farsighted.

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: I begin with a seed of an idea and work out from there. With Farsighted, I started with Alex and created the rest of the story and characters to fit around him. Using the runes as a structural framework for this novel created an outline for me too. I’m a numbers person as well as a word person. I love things to be organized just so. If you set a stack of papers in front of me; I’m going to fuss with them until they are lined up in a perfect stack. It’s just the way I am. Shaping each chapter around a rune gave the story order, which made me feel happy and comfortable. Whenever I got stuck and didn’t know what should happen next, I was able to learn more about that chapter’s rune and get the inspiration I needed to continue. The runes themselves tell a story, one that is successfully completed. I felt that boded well for Farsighted.

Q: What do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

A: I LOVE YA—I read it, write it, love it! My favorite author is JK Rowling. The more I read, the more I realize how brilliant she is as an author. If you remove the dialogue tags from Harry Potter, you still know which character is speaking, and Rowling managed to create an intricate beautiful world without allowing her character development to suffer, which is tremendously rare. I consider her literary God. Suzanne Collins, and JD Salinger are classic faves.

My all-time favorite book is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, definitely. The novel has so many layers and entertains on so many levels. Also the characters in that novel seem more real than those from any other I’ve ever read. It’s just beautiful—that’s the only word for it.

Q: If you had to be stuck on an island for a year with three literary characters, who would they be?

A: First up, we’d obviously take Robinson Crusoe. He knows what he’s doing, and he can be the provider. I’ll also take Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games—if we get in any kind of danger, she’d be a great protector. Lastly, I’d take Ron Weasley. Ron and I can live the good life, while the other two make sure we all stay safe and well-fed. I know I would never get bored with Ron around—he’s just 24/7 entertainment.

Q: You’ve taken a risk by going with an unconventional ending. Without spoiling the story for your readers, can you tell us why you made this choice? Are you glad you did this? Do you feel it’s been successful? Why or why not?

A: Yeah, I ended with a cliffhanger, which goes against traditional publishing wisdom. But you know what? I. AM. INDIE! Being indie means taking risks and breaking the mold and, boy, am I excited to do it. The ending is kind of polarizing, people either love it or wish there was more there. The joining thread is almost everyone mentions looking forward to the next book in the series. Farsighted demands a companion, and people see that. I think it was a good decision since this is the first in the series and since I enjoy toeing the line of convention. It’s fun to shake things up.

Why I Love the Holiday Season

Happy Holidays, folks!

I love the holiday season.  Let me share with you a few of my reasons why.

It’s no secret, Christmas is a pretty big deal in my family.  Even though my brother and I are in our twenties, and we have assured my mother she doesn’t need to go overboard, she still insists on doing her best to FILL the bottom of the Christmas tree every year.  Christmas Eve dinner with my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins is a HUGE affair.  My mother, brother, and I ALWAYS go to a movie on Christmas night, and spend the next day lazying around the house and playing with all our presents.

Also, we have four Christmas trees.  Yes, you read that right, FOUR.

We have the original tree, which mom started the year before I was born.  It has all the traditional ornaments — silly Hallmark ornaments, hand-made ornaments, Disney characters, and Star Trek ornaments, etc.

When I was ten or eleven, my mom decided she wanted a more elegant red-and-gold-themed tree.  So then we had two.

My brother took over managing the original tree, because he still loves buying silly ornaments, like reindeer wearing hunter’s outfits, and dancing fish, etc.  And, when I was thirteen, I started collecting ornaments for my own tree, which is a Victorian-inspired, pink and white tree.

Then, a couple years ago, Target came out with a new series of ornaments in crazy-bright colors like teal, purple, pink, and lime green, that I simply could not resist.  So I started collected ornaments for another tree.  I call it my Dr. Seuss tree.  And it is AWESOME.

My mother has also recently started collecting ornaments for a blue and silver tree, but she didn’t have enough ornaments yet to fill out of a whole tree so I didn’t take any pictures.  But next year we’ll have FIVE trees.  Yeah, we’re a little nuts.

We just love Christmas, what can I say.  We also have a side table filled with Santa Clauses:

And the fireplace mantle is lined in Nutcrackers:

We simply love the beauty of it.  We love the color and the light and nostalgia, and the new, and the elegant, and the fun.  It gives us joy, even when other things are difficult, frustrating, or depressing.  Christmas movies help too — Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, A Year Without Santa, and the Muppets Christmas Carol are some of the best movies ever.  Oh, and The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I watch far more often than can possibly be normal) is totally and completely BRILLIANT.

Now, I know there are always complaints about Christmas becoming too commercial.  And I’m not denying that is often true, and it makes me sad.  So many people who only care about what they can get out of it.  Who spend all their time and effort making sure they get what they want, instead of reveling in the joy of giving to others — when the GIVING is seriously the BEST part.  Sometimes, I despair for the fate of this season.

But then I read things, like this short memoir-ish piece by Oindrila Mukherjee (a UH almnus) about the simple joy and beauty of snow: “My First Snowfall.”  Or I read the dozen or so articles about the “layaway angels” who go around to K-Marts and pay-off layaway accounts for needy families: here’s one such article.  Or I just pause in the act of addressing Christmas cards and really THINK about how grateful I am for my three best friends, who have on more than one occasion been the only things between me and total despair, who have on occasion been quite literally the only things keeping me alive.  And these things remind me of what is so special about Christmas.

(For a ton of really fantastic Christmas-y posts and links check out Tiffany A White’s Holiday Mash-Up!)

So I hope I can share a bit of this feeling with all of you.

So go hug your mother or father.  Tell your friends how much you appreciate them. Decorate a tree, or light a candle, or enjoy the weather.  It doesn’t matter what you are: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, and everything in between…  This season (while perhaps initially instigated by religion) is not ONLY about religion.  The holidays are about family and friendship and beauty and joy and hope and compassion and charity, all of this in the face of despair and poverty and the hardships that seem to keep piling up year after year.  Life isn’t easy.  And this season is NOT about pretending otherwise.  It’s about giving each other the only things that make life WORTH it, despite the fact that it’s NOT and NEVER WILL BE easy.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Holidays, Joyful Season, or Happy/Hopeful New Year’s.  There is so much to worry about, to be afraid for, to be angry about… but there is also so much to be grateful, glad, and hopeful for too.  Let’s carry those things with us into the new year.

I love you all!

The Hobbit: It’s Here, It’s Here, It’s Here!

IT’S HERE, IT’S HERE, IT’S HERE!!!!

It’s all over the internet, but in case you somehow inexplicably missed it: The Hobbit trailer and poster are out! And they are amazing!!

The poster is gorgeous.  All by itself, it makes me nostalgic, and excited, and twists my stomach into knots in ways that are very reminiscent of the first time I ever read the book in 4th grade.

This post from the SyFy Channel blog analyzes the poster nicely and explains some of why it is so damn good: “1st Poster from The Hobbit Turns Us All Into Bilbo.”

But the real excitement comes from the trailer.  Which is utter brilliance.  But don’t take my word for it.  Check it out:

See?  SEE!!  Oh my god, I can’t tell you what this trailer does to me!  I got seriously teary-eyed when the dwarves started singing.  And I’m not the only one, I swear! Seeing Ian McKellen as Gandalf again is amazing.  And Martin Freeman looks to be PERFECT as Bilbo.  And all the dwarves look fantastic.  And The Lord of the Rings main theme at the end of the trailer: it goes straight to my gut.  Can you believe it’s already been TEN YEARS since The Fellowship of the Ring was released in theatres?  It blows my mind to think about it!  I remember my best friend and I went to the midnight release on a thursday, despite the fact that it was during midterms our Junior year of high school.  And it was amazing, and mind-blowing, spirit-soaring, and life-altering.

The Hobbit is going to do it all over again.  It is going to bring me back to high school, and geeking-out with my best friend.  And it is going to bring me back to being in 4th grade, nine years old, reading The Hobbit (and The Lord of the Rings) for the first time, and realizing AT THAT MOMENT, that I was going to be a writer.  That I NEEDED to be a writer.  That this is what I was meant to do with my life.

My stomach is going to be in knots for the whole year.  I am going to be in agony waiting for Dec 14th 2012.  I’m not entirely sure I can handle it!  But I guess it’s time to go re-read The Hobbit for the fifty-millionth time, huh?

How about you?  Please share your gushing excitement below!  (And if you don’t like The Hobbit, well… I’m not sure we can friends anymore… ^_^; )

Also, if you love the gifs in this post, you can find them and many other awesome Hobbit gifs here on Kiersten Krum’s Tumblr.

“A Natural Extension of Falling Love”: Guest Post with Monique Domovitch

Ladies and Gentlemen, as promised, please enjoy this guest post from Monique Domovitch, author of Scorpio Rising.

About the Author: Monique Domovitch began writing at the age of fifty-five. Two years later, she has two self-published novels—her Scorpio Series—and a three-book deal with Penguin, for books she has written under the name of Carol Ann Martin. Never seen without her laptop, Monique and her husband travel the world and divide the rest of their time between their homes in British Columbia and California. Monique loves to hear from readers! Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Please enjoy this guest post from the author

Deciding to become a writer was a natural extension of falling in love

People often ask me what attracted me to the life of a writer, and I have to say it was a natural extension of falling in love…with books, which I have been for as long as I can remember.

I remember my mother taking me to the public library when I was as young as four years old. That was when she introduced me to Madeline, the little schoolgirl. As teenager, I discovered Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, and then Harlequin books. And then I really fell in love for the first time. I was in England where my friends introduced me to a book by Wilbur Smith.
I think I hadn’t read ten pages of his book–can’t remember the title anymore–when I knew this was it. I could spend the rest of my life in bed with this writer’s books.

Over the next few years, Wilbur Smith’s books made me discover Africa, where I met animals I’d never heard of, and villains the likes of which I hope to never meet. I was swept into his stories of love and passion and greed; stories from which I never wanted to walk away. I devoured book after book of his, until, of course, the inevitable happened. I caught up with every last one of his books and was facing a long void until his next book hit the stands. And I, fickle reader that I am, had an affair with a few other authors, and then it happened again. I read Dominic Dunne. And wham. I was in love again.

With Dominic Dunne’s books, I spent time with the truly rich and the truly manipulative. How can anyone forget books like The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, or An Inconvenient Woman, or A Season in Purgatory? Once I discovered them, I was hooked. Forgive me Dominic, for I betrayed you too when I discovered my next big love, Nelson De Mille.

De Mille is a master of sharp, snappy talk, and he makes all those words come out of the mouth of a sexy good cop with a bad attitude–John Corey. Now here’s the funny part. I don’t really know what John Corey looks like, except that he has scars on his chest from some bullet wounds. I also know that John Corey is almost as fickle when it comes to love as I am when it comes to favorite authors. He seems to fall in love with a different woman in almost every one of his adventures. That is, until he met and married Kate. But who knows, so far she’s only been around for a couple of novels. For all I know she’ll be dropped off, maybe even killed in the next book, and then sexy John will be available again and I can go on dreaming.

Now here’s something you might not know about me. I’m married, and—get this—my husband doesn’t mind my little dalliances with all these authors…as long as I don’t meet them in person that is.

And why am I blabbing about all these loves of mine? Because, every time I start a new project, I hope with all my heart, that I infuse my novel with enough passion and ambition and greed that when you,

dear reader, read my work, you will fall—perhaps just a little bit—in love with my characters. And I promise to love you right back, even knowing that I will never be able to write fast enough to keep your from someday leaving me for some other writer.

C’est la vie!

Monique

Remember:

By purchasing Scorpio Rising at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including 2 Kindle Fires, Amazon gift cards up to $100 in amount, 5 autographed copies of the book, and 5 autographed copies of its recently released sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 23rd, so you don’t miss out.

To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Scorpio Rising for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  4. BONUS: If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!

…And I can win too!

Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

The Featured Events include:

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs. Three chances to win! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Win a Kindle Fire! Two are up for grabs! Visit Monique’s website to leave a comment on any of her posts and sign-up for her author newsletter. One person will win for each method, so be sure to do both.

Remember, it’s all about the books!

About Scorpio Rising: Set in New York and Paris amid the glamorous and competitive worlds of art and real estate, Scorpio Rising takes the reader from the late 1940s to the 1960s through the tumultuous lives of its heroes. Alex Ivanov is the son of a Russian immigrant and part-time prostitute. He yearns to escape his sordid life and achieve fame and fortune. His dreams of becoming a world-class builder are met with countless obstacles, yet he perseveres in the hope of someday receiving the recognition he craves. Half a world away, Brigitte Dartois is an abused teenager who runs into the arms of a benefactor with an agenda all his own. When she finds out that her boss has an ulterior motive, she flees again, determined to earn her living through her art. This career brings her fame, but also the unwanted attention of her early abuser. Monique Domovitch’s debut novel, Scorpio Rising, is a compelling tale filled with finely etched characters and a superb understanding of the power of ambition. Scorpio Rising promises to resonate with all who once had a dream. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About The Sting of The Scorpio: In Scorpio Rising, Monique Domovitch presented a compelling tale filled with colorful characters and the manipulation of power, ambition, and greed. Now she gives us its spellbinding sequel, The Sting of the Scorpio, where Alexander Ivanov returns to New York with his new bride, Brigitte. The real estate industry is ripe with opportunity. Blessed with irresistible charm, ambition, and the single-minded obsession to succeed, Alex plots and manipulates his way to almost mystical success. Everything he touches turns to gold, but it’s never enough. When a hostile takeover bid leaves him struggling to save his beloved company, he suspects those closest to him of plotting his downfall. Brigitte, the beautiful redhead who abandoned her country and her career to become his wife, feels alone. In return, Alex has betrayed her time and again, each indiscretion cutting deeper into her soul. Brigitte’s son, David yearns to be an artist, but Alex’s plans leave no room for such frivolous goals. He grooms a reluctant David to become the heir apparent until a devastating tragedy attracts the attention of another young man. The Sting of the Scorpio is a rich tale of a man at the mercy of his own greed and a woman bound by her need for love. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Announcing the Scorpio Rising Social Media Tour

As I have mentioned previously, I am participating in several blog tours for Novel Publicity.  Last week’s was a tour for In Leah’s Wake.  This week is for Scorpio Rising by Monique Domovitch.  I, unfortunately, have not had the time to read and review this one.  However, it certainly sounds interesting, and I have come to trust Novel Publicity’s (and it’s president Emlyn Chand’s) tastes, so I will take their word for it that this is a book worth talking about.

So, without further ado:

Announcing the Scorpio Rising Social Media Whirlwind Tour!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Scorpio Rising eBook edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including 2 Kindle Fires, Amazon gift cards up to $100 in amount, 5 autographed copies of the book, and 5 autographed copies of its recently released sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 23rd, so you don’t miss out.

To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Scorpio Rising for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  4. BONUS: If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!

…And I can win too!

Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

The Featured Events include:

Monday, Blogaganza on Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We’ll ask the writer 5 fun and random questions to get everyone talking. Leave a comment or question in response to the post, and you may win an autographed copy of Scorpio Rising or its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio. Don’t forget to enter for the other contest prizes while you’re over there!

Tuesday, Twitter sharing contest! A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters. But on Tuesday, it could win you $50. Send the following tweet across the twittersphere, and you just may win a $50 Amazon gift card. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs. The winner will be announced Wednesday morning. Here’s the tweet: Looking for a read that’s full of love, drama, and betrayal? Scorpio Rising has been reduced to 99 cents! http://ow.ly/7zA2s #whirlwind

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs. Three chances to win! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Win a Kindle Fire! Two are up for grabs! Visit Monique’s website to leave a comment on any of her posts and sign-up for her author newsletter. One person will win for each method, so be sure to do both.

Remember, it’s all about the books!

About Scorpio Rising: Set in New York and Paris amid the glamorous and competitive worlds of art and real estate, Scorpio Rising takes the reader from the late 1940s to the 1960s through the tumultuous lives of its heroes. Alex Ivanov is the son of a Russian immigrant and part-time prostitute. He yearns to escape his sordid life and achieve fame and fortune. His dreams of becoming a world-class builder are met with countless obstacles, yet he perseveres in the hope of someday receiving the recognition he craves. Half a world away, Brigitte Dartois is an abused teenager who runs into the arms of a benefactor with an agenda all his own. When she finds out that her boss has an ulterior motive, she flees again, determined to earn her living through her art. This career brings her fame, but also the unwanted attention of her early abuser. Monique Domovitch’s debut novel, Scorpio Rising, is a compelling tale filled with finely etched characters and a superb understanding of the power of ambition. Scorpio Rising promises to resonate with all who once had a dream. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About The Sting of The Scorpio: In Scorpio Rising, Monique Domovitch presented a compelling tale filled with colorful characters and the manipulation of power, ambition, and greed. Now she gives us its spellbinding sequel, The Sting of the Scorpio, where Alexander Ivanov returns to New York with his new bride, Brigitte. The real estate industry is ripe with opportunity. Blessed with irresistible charm, ambition, and the single-minded obsession to succeed, Alex plots and manipulates his way to almost mystical success. Everything he touches turns to gold, but it’s never enough. When a hostile takeover bid leaves him struggling to save his beloved company, he suspects those closest to him of plotting his downfall. Brigitte, the beautiful redhead who abandoned her country and her career to become his wife, feels alone. In return, Alex has betrayed her time and again, each indiscretion cutting deeper into her soul. Brigitte’s son, David yearns to be an artist, but Alex’s plans leave no room for such frivolous goals. He grooms a reluctant David to become the heir apparent until a devastating tragedy attracts the attention of another young man. The Sting of the Scorpio is a rich tale of a man at the mercy of his own greed and a woman bound by her need for love. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the Author: Monique Domovitch began writing at the age of fifty-five. Two years later, she has two self-published novels—her Scorpio Series—and a three-book deal with Penguin, for books she has written under the name of Carol Ann Martin. Never seen without her laptop, Monique and her husband travel the world and divide the rest of their time between their homes in British Columbia and California. Monique loves to hear from readers! Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Now please enjoy this beautiful excerpt from Scorpio Rising…

Half way around the world, Brigitte Dartois also liked drawing. Rather than buildings, her pictures were of her family—Papa, Maman, and herself under a bright sun. Sometimes she drew trees and flowers. Her subjects were the same as any other child’s her age, but her pictures were different. They were strong and arresting.

Viens voir, Colette,” her father called her mother. He held up a bright drawing of a garden. “Regarde, don’t tell me our daughter is not talented.”

Colette Dartois looked, but to her, those colorful scribbles were no better than those of any other nine-year-old.

She shrugged. “You shouldn’t compliment her too much. It will go to her head. Brigitte, put that away and go do your homework.”

Often, Colette would look at her husband and her daughter with vague discomfort. He paid so much attention to Brigitte and so little to her. Every day when Louis Dartois burst through the door after work, it was Brigitte to whom he opened his arms after a perfunctory kiss to Colette. Gradually, Colette’s love for her husband and daughter festered into resentment and jealousy.

Then, when Brigitte was thirteen, her father died suddenly. Three months later, her mother married Lucien. “Consider yourself lucky. Not many men are willing to be a papa to a grown girl like you. You better be nice to him.”

Brigitte was filled with anger, betrayed by her mother’s indifference. One night, when Brigitte was alone in the house with her stepfather, she awakened to a pair of rough hands moving over her body. “This will be our little secret,” Lucien told her when she opened her eyes. “If you even think of telling anyone, I’ll kill you,” he said. Then he raped her.

Her mother worked the evening shift as a barmaid at a club down the street, and for the next three years, it became a nightly ritual for Lucien to stop in for une petite caresse, as he called it. Every night he gave her the same warning. “You tell anyone and you’re dead.” Sometimes he went into gruesome details of what he would do to her if she ever told. Brigitte believed him. So, she kept her mouth shut.

Once, she was the top student in her class. Her grades began to slide until she was close to failing. She slept at her friends’ flats whenever she could. At home, she was silent and withdrawn. Her mother barely noticed.

“What’s the matter with you?” Colette asked. “Get your act together. You keep it up and you’ll be kicked out of school.”

One night while Lucien was in her bed and forcing himself on Brigitte, the bedroom door flew open. Her mother stood in the entrance, an expression of horror on her face. Lucien jumped up and fumbled with his trousers. “It’s the girl’s fault,” he said, his voice coming in halting breaths. “How’s a man supposed to resist? She’s always coming on to me. As soon as you leave in the evening, she takes off her camisole and lets me see her body. Colette, you’ve got to stop her, she’s trying to break us up!”

“Get out!” Colette shouted, and her voice was like ice. The girl sobbed in relief. At last, her ordeal was over. She would never have to see her stepfather again. “You’re no daughter of mine. Get out you putain.”

In shock, Brigitte realized her mother was speaking to her. She had lost! Lucien had won! She dressed as quickly as she could, threw a few of her things into a pillowcase, and slipped silently down the hall to the closet where her mother kept her purse. Sorry, but I’ll need this more than you will. She took all the cash she found. Then she left.

Two days later, a sales-help-wanted sign in a store window caught her eye.

Stop by again on Wednesday for a guest post from the author of Scorpio Rising, Monique Domovitch!

Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2011, Part 2 (1-10)

Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2011, Part 2 (1-10):

As promised, here is the second half of my list of the best albums of the year.  If you haven’t seen 11-20 yet, please start here.  I would like to remind you all, as I said on Friday, that while I’m pretty happy with the placement of 1-3 and 16-20, all the other positions are rather fluid.  Still, I’d love to hear your opinion about what’s too high, too low, what you think shouldn’t be on the list at all, and you think I’m missing.

So, enjoy the list.  And please tell me what you think!

10) 21 by Adele

9) True Loves by Hooray For Earth

8) Cults by Cults

7) Old Tyme Religion by Hugo

6) Torches by Foster the People

5) El Camino by The Black Keys

4) Wasting Light by The Foo Fighters

3) Ceremonials by Florence + the Machine

2) Bon Iver by Bon Iver

1) Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

So there you have it folks!  Also, as promised, I have made a Spotify playlist which contains all 20 of these albums in order, except for El Camino, which is too new to be available on Spotify yet.  The playlist can be found here (you do need a Spotify account to access the playlist, but it’s free!).  I hope you enjoy the playlist!  Maybe you’ll find your new favorite artist or song. You never know. ^__^

Again, please let me know what you think!  And I expect to see you all back here bright and early on Monday morning for the kick-off of the Scorpio Rising blog tour!

Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2011, Part 1 (11-20)

Free-For-All Friday: Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2011, Part 1 (11-20)

At first, I was thinking I’d do another post for the In Leah’s Wake blog tour to wrap up the week, but then I realized that if I did all three of my weekly posts for these blog tours that I have lined up through Christmas, I wouldn’t have time to do any of the other million things I’d like to talk about.  So decided that for each of the blog tours, I will do something Monday and Wednesday, but I’m keeping Free-For-All Fridays for myself.  If you haven’t checked out any of the In Leah’s Wake blog tour stuff please go here for an excerpt from the novel, and here for my review.  Each of those posts will also give you some info on prizes you can possibly win, but today (Friday) is the last day to get in on those, so hurry!

Anyway, I’ve been talking to friends about my (and their) top albums of the year, and I’ve been reading lists from TIME, Rolling Stone, Spin, and others, and I decided it was time to list my Top 20 Albums for 2011.  I couldn’t keep it down to 10, sorry!  I just couldn’t do it!  Also, while I’m pretty content with 1-3, and 16-20, all the ones in the middle keep moving around and pushing each other around, so those numbers aren’t quite so stable in hierarchy.  Anyway, without further ado, Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2011, Part 1 (11-20):

20) Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio

19) The King is Dead by The Decemberists

18) What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? by The Vaccines

17) Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

16) Circuital by My Morning Jacket

15) Take Care, Take Care, Take Care by Explosions in the Sky

14) In the Grace of Your Love by The Rapture

13) Killing the Darlings by Pearl and the Beard

12) Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie

11) Audio, Video, Disco by Justice

As you may be able to tell, I have extremely varied and somewhat eccentric tastes.  There were a number of other albums I thought about it putting in here as well.  I have a couple honorable mentions:

Silversun Pickups new single Seasick, which probably would have replaced TV on the Radio except it seemed silly to put a single with only 3 songs on the list.  Also, Hugh Laurie’s blues album Let Them Talk — some people don’t think it’s all that good, but I happen to really like it.  Tab Benoit’s New Orleans Blues album Medicine almost made the list too.

Anyway, rather than make you wait until next Friday to see the Top 10, I’m going to post the second half of the list on Sunday before my next blog tour starts.  So please stop back by on Sunday to see what made the Top 10.  Also, I’m putting together a Spotify playlist with all my Top 20 albums, which I will have posted for you all on Sunday as well.

Oh! and please feel free to chime in below! I’d love to hear what you think of my list so far.  What’s missing?  What should be higher or lower?  What have you simply never heard of before?  I am ALWAYS in need of new music, so please tell me what I’m missing!

Disintegration: A Review of In Leah’s Wake

Disintegration: A Review of In Leah’s Wake

Title: In Leah’s Wake

Author: Terri Giuliano Long

Where I Got It: free copy from the Blog Tour de Troops

Score: 4 out of 5*

To continue the Novel Publicity blog tour for In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long, here is my review.  I’ve had this book on my To-Be-Read List for awhile now.  I actually received a free ebook copy back in May as part of the Blog Tour de Troops for Memorial Day.  I finally sat down to start reading it last Friday, literally minutes after turning in my final grades and finishing the semester.

In Leah’s Wake opens with a seemingly perfect family: Zoe and Will are happily married, with rewarding careers, and two wonderful daughters.  Leah – the sixteen-year-old soccer star, and Justine — the twelve-year-old budding scientist, who also happens to be devout Catholic.  But the old saying “too good to be true,” proves real as Leah quickly spins out of control.  Tired of her family’s constant push for perfection, and with a new older boyfriend introducing her to the world of drugs, alcohol, and partying, Leah decides that it is time to turn her entire life on its head.

Soon, her rebellion becomes disintegration.  And as her parents struggle to prevent their daughter from ruining her life, the situation shakes loose deep-seated regrets, anxieties, and dissatisfactions in Zoe and Will as well.  Everything around them seems to be falling apart.  And their younger daughter Justine gets caught in the cross-fire.  Fighting to keep her family together, fighting to keep the sister she loves and admires, and fighting to be seen in the midst of a situation that has rendered her invisible, Justine slowly starts to disintegrate as well.

Throughout the novel, questions fill the text: how can this family possibly survive?  What will become of Leah?  And, even more importantly (at least to me), what will happen to Justine?  As the tagline asks: What happens when love just isn’t enough?  And that is a very good question, because sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you love someone or how much you want to save them, if they don’t want to be saved.

What I Liked:

I really enjoyed this novel.  It is a powerful drama about a family in crisis.  The title character, Leah, is a very believable teenager.  Her choices, reactions, and thoughts are convincing, and show that Terri Long’s writing is clearly grounded in a real understanding of life as a teenager (so many adults seem to forget…).  I wouldn’t say she is sympathetic exactly… some of the things she says and does, though unsurprising coming from a teenager, are so stupid I want to smack her.  Of course, this is coming from one of those teenagers who never rebelled (I was that one who never drank, smoked, got into fights, went to bad parties, or got anything less than As and Bs).

I definitely identify more with Justine, the one who has always been good, who is tempted to follow her sister into rebellion on occasion, but who is, for the most part, too afraid to do so. (I suppose you could call this novel a lesson in why that’s the right choice.)  She is the truly sympathetic character, the one you care for and worry about the most.  While I was curious to see what happened with Leah, and with the parents, it’s Justine I’m hanging around for.  I spent most of the novel terrified that she was going to end up all screwed up like the rest of them, and I needed to get to the end to find out what happened to her.

That’s not to say the parents aren’t complex, well-written characters.  For the most part, they are.  Zoe, especially, is a fascinating character with a list of faults and virtues that made for intense reading.  But I spent a lot of the book annoyed with them, just as I was annoyed with Leah.

What I Didn’t Like:

(Be prepared for a slight rant)

I’ll be honest, one of the things that is still bothering me is the father, Will, at the beginning of the novel.  His initial reaction to Leah’s boyfriend is violent, excessive, and completely out of place.  It comes out of nowhere, with (at least in my opinion) no clear motivation.  It doesn’t help that it comes in Chapter 2, before the reader has had a chance to get to know Will at all, but even based on what you later learn about his temper, this initial explosion still seems unbelievably excessive.  If Will had already known about the boyfriend and warned Leah to get rid of him, it might have made sense.  If she had had a bad history of missing curfew, etc, it might have made sense. But at the beginning, Leah has only stayed out late a couple times, this is the first time Will has met the boyfriend, he knows nothing about him and has no idea about Leah’s drinking.  It would make sense for Will to be angry, it would make sense for Will to demand to know who the boyfriend is.  It does NOT make sense for him to explode and get physically violent.

Another thing that really bugged me — and I know this is small, but it really bugged me the whole novel — is the use of the words “kid” and “dude.”  Everyone single one of the characters thinks/calls every single teenager/young adult “kid.”  And almost all teenagers use the word “dude.”  Seriously.  Okay, let’s get one thing straight.  Yes, adults often call children and teenagers and even young adults “kids.”  And yes, some teenagers use the word “dude” a lot.  But not to the exclusion of everything else.  I know it’s hard to find other words to use, but when even the teenagers call other teenagers “kid” in the narration, there’s a problem.  Leah even calls her own boyfriend “kid.”  And he’s four years older than her!  Also, not every teenager uses the word “dude.”  In fact, while that was a very common word in the 90s, it has mostly fallen by the wayside in the current decade.  Just ask my 17- and 18-year old students when I accidentally say “dude” in class.

Finally, another thing that bothered me was the amount of detail.  Now, don’t get me wrong, obviously detail is important.  Detail helps us to understand the characters, to see the setting, to get a real sense of the world the characters inhabit.  However, here the detail was often excessive and unnecessary.  Detail is most important when the readers are unfamiliar with a setting and need to really see it.  But most of us have seen a bar.  A few details are enough to give us a good idea of the bar and the people in it, and our imaginations/memories do the rest.  Paragraphs of description are unnecessary.  I cannot tell you how many sections of detail I ended up skimming over in search of the point, the dialogue, the action. It’s wonderful that the author knew so much about her characters, and could see the settings so clearly, but much of it was stuff we the readers simply didn’t need to know.

Now let me reiterate (since after that bit of a rant you may have forgotten): I really enjoyed this novel.  Yes, there were some things about it that really bugged me.  But the characters are compelling and the story is intense.  You will care about the fate of this family.  You will get angry at the stupid things they do, and you will cross your fingers that they don’t screw up next time.  You will worry about the characters (if you’re like me, you’ll mainly worry about Justine).

Buy In Leah’s Wake.  Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Read it.  I promise, you’ll enjoy it.  …And you probably won’t be as neurotic as I am about the overuse of “kid.”

Also, remember:

  1. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  2. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  3. BONUS: If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!
  4. And when you fill out your form, remember to vote for my blog to give me a chance to win $100 as well.

*Please note: I’m starting a new rating system.  Please see the new “About Book Reviews” page for an explanation.