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Cross Country by James Patterson

Miriam at Hatchette Group sent Cross Country by James Patterson for my review. However, while I’ve been an avid James Patterson reader for some time, I decided to have the biggest James Patterson fan I know review it. My mom, Pat, offered to review the book for me. I’m sure my review will follow sometime in 2009.

About the book (from Amazon.com):

In this 14th Alex Cross thriller, Cross, a Washington, D.C., police detective, takes on a very different quarry—a human monster known as the Tiger with ties to the African underworld. When the Tiger and his teenage thugs butcher writer Ellie Cox, her husband and children in their Georgetown home, Cross is devastated because Ellie had been his girlfriend in college. The Cox family massacre proves to be just the first in a series. Cross pursues the Tiger to Nigeria, where the profiler finds himself at the mercy of corrupt government officials who may be working with the Tiger.

Here’s what Pat had to say about the latest in the Alex Cross Series:

James Patterson’s Cross Country is a page turner from beginning to end.

Alex Cross and Brianna Stone are called to a horrific crime scene, one of the worst murder scenes Cross has encountered in his entire D.C. police career. Families are brutally murdered in their homes. One scene involves Cross’ ex-girlfriend Ellie Randall Cox and her family, and the death of the entire family. Ellie was a reporter who uncovered a series of brutal murders happening both in the United States and Nigeria, Africa.

Cross ends up in Africa on the trail of a notorious killer, Tiger, and his boy killers. From the moment Cross sets foot in Nigeria, he is kidnapped, beaten, and shot at. The fast-paced style that Patterson has cornered the market on continues in this latest Alex Cross story. Everyone Cross comes in contact with is dying or in danger, and eventually, Tiger follows Cross back to Washington, D.C.

This book is fantastic, and I would rate it with 5 stars. It will keep readers glued to the page until they are finished. This is one of the better books in the Cross series, and setting a portion of the tale in Africa was unique and believable.

***Don’t forget about the Gods Behaving Badly Contest, which runs through January 5 at Midnight EST.***

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Marie PhillipsGods Behaving Badly is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. What would the ancient gods of Greece and Rome do in today’s 21st Century world? Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, a phone sex operator; Apollo, the God of the Sun, a television psychic; Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt and Chastity, a dog walker.

The gods have weakened since their days on high at Mt. Olympus, and they are all crammed into a dilapidated home in London, getting on one another’s nerves. The conflict truly begins one night during a taping of Apollo’s psychic show where Eros shoots a love arrow into Apollo’s heart, leaving him powerless against his love for the next person entering his view. Unfortunately, that person happens to be a mortal named, Alice, who cleans the theater where the show is taped. Alice and her friend Neil, who both love one another but are too afraid to make a move, become the center of conflict in the gods’ world.

What has been fascinating about the Greek and Roman gods for many centuries has been their human-like qualities. While they are powerful beings ruling over the human world, they are much like the average mortal in their desires, weaknesses, and arrogance. Phillips easily highlights the human-like failings of these gods and accentuates those failings with “unlikely” professions for them in the modern world.

Watching these gods cope with the 21st Century is a hilarious delight, but even more delightful is Phillips’ use of language. From Aphrodite’s bottom “bouncing like two hard-boiled eggs dancing a tango” (page 89) to Phillips’ description of Neil as a teenager, “an ugly, spotty, skinny-arsed spoddy minger” (page 88). The dialogue is witty as well: “‘. . .you’d better come quick. I’ve got a god passed out on my kitchen floor and I think the world’s about to end.’ (page 213).”

One of the best scenes in this book comes when Apollo finds Zeus in the upper floors of the house staring at the television much like a zombie would. He’s lifeless, but still a god able to stand on his own and still strike down mortals with lightning. Reading this section brought to life the dilemma that often faces many of us, do we unwind too often in front of the television rather than through more challenging activities, like games, competition, reading, and exercise? Is this section a commentary on the lives we continue to lead now, watching television, zoning out, and withdrawing into ourselves away from society. But, I digress.

With an interesting cast of characters from a Christian Eros to a drunk, DJ in Dionysus, Phillips uses her cast of characters to dramatically set the stage for a modern day Greek comedy of errors and missed chances. Even readers who do not have a firm background in mythology will enjoy this book.

If you think this book sounds interesting, you should check out Hachette Group’s discussion with the author, Marie Phillips, on Blog Talk Radio.

***Contest***

Hatchette Group offered to give away 5 copies of the book to my readers with U.S. and Canadian addresses only.

For those international readers, I am offering my gently used copy, so please inform me that you are an international entrant.

For one entry, leave a comment here telling me who your favorite Greek/Roman god/goddess is and why.

For a second entry, blog about the contest or place it in your sidebar and leave a comment here telling me where I can find it.

Deadline is January 5, Midnight EST.

Check out these other Reviews:
Booking Mama
Books Books and more Books!
Diary of an Eccentric
Book-a-Rama
A Reader’s Respite
Booklorn
The 3R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Sophisticated Dorkiness
A Life in Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Fizzy Thoughts
The Boston Bibliophile
A Novel Menagerie
As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves

You Lost Him at Hello by Jess McCann

Jess McCann’s You Lost Him at Hello is part of a TLC Book Tour and I want to thank TLC and Jess McCann for sending along the book for my review.

Despite being married myself, this book has some great advice about how to embrace yourself and become confident–know your product and learn how to sell it. In the dating world, confidence is everything, even if you don’t feel confident all the time. McCann lays the groundwork for each single woman in this book, seeking to provide practical applications of sales techniques in the dating world.

The best part of this book is the personal stories of her own dating snafus and those of her friends. These tidbits bring the practical advice to the forefront, detailing how the techniques can be applied to improve each woman’s dating life. While a lot of self-help books talk about making drastic changes to your routines and lifestyles in many instances, McCann offers some small steps you can take to get results. Check out Adventures of Wanderlust‘s post to see how small changes worked for her and her girlfriends.

Here are some main things to keep in mind, which may seem like common sense:

1. Know yourself and love yourself
2. Remain confident and share your opinions
3. Make eye contact and express interest in discussed topics, even those outside your comfort zone
4. Don’t be a telemarketer of dating; you cannot convince a man to be interested if he isn’t
5. Make yourself available and change up your routine to meet guys in a variety of places to prime the pump–keeping your options open until commitment is broached

I wanted to share this passage with you from McCann’s book, page 37:

My friend Kayla is the worst dater. . . . Kayla’s biggest problem is that she doesn’t really know who she is. She hasn’t yet figured out the kind of person that makes her Kayla. If you asked her if she was a Democrat or Republican, she would say that she’s not into politics. . . . She thought she was being easygoing by staying neutral, but instead she came off looking like she wasn’t smart enough to form her own opinion.

This book provides personal stories, saleswoman insights, and tips on how you can change how you interact and attract men. My favorite icebreakers are on page 75:

That drink looks good, what is it? (don’t most men drink beer?)
Didn’t you go to my high school?

One of McCann’s friends likes to ask guys if they’ve ever been waxed. Now that is one I certainly never would have thought to use.

While some of the advice in this book is common sense, other advice will help those who are still single and tired of playing games, getting dumped, and living in love limbo. There is some great insight into how to gauge men’s interest from how they look at you, converse with you, and how they interact with women.

I highly recommend this book for women who want to change their dating outcomes and find a steady relationship that will fulfill them and make them happy. I also think that this book has wider applications for women, teaching them how to become confident and skilled at engaging others in conversation not only on dates, but in friendships and the business arena. McCann does an excellent job of weaving advice into personalized experiences to engage the reader and help her own the lessons inside these pages.

Check out the next stop on the tour, Life in Pink.

About the Author:

Jess McCann is unlike any dating coach out there. Instead of the usual therapy-based date coaching, Jess takes a unique approach to finding and keeping the right person for you. Through her education and experience in business, she has made the remarkable discovery that dating is really a simple series of techniques that anyone can learn and succeed with.

At thirty years old, Jess was on top of the world. After graduating college, she had started her own sales company, where she single-handedly recruited, trained and managed a thirty-person sales team. She was chosen as one of America’s top entrepreneurs by Sir Richard Branson and traveled the world on his Fox reality show, The Rebel Billionaire. Having discovered first-hand that the art of sales directly translated into her dating life, Jess began counseling women, teaching them logical and proven sales techniques that they could use on their own dates. She continues to teach the fundamentals of sales and dating to women across the country.

***Don’t forget my giveaway for an inscribed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. Deadline is Dec. 21 and the contest is international.**

***Stay tuned for The Green Beauty Guide winner, which I’ll post tomorrow, Dec. 18.***

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Joshua Henkin‘s Matrimony is more than just about how marriage and love can withstand the test of time and the struggles each spouse faces. Julian Wainwright’s struggle as a writer to finish his novel and to juggle his marriage, life, a job, and his friends amidst his creative endeavors is central to this novel. In a way, Julian’s dedication to his art is like a marriage and it is not surprising that some of his friends and even to an extent his wife, Mia, believe that he should settle down with a “real” job.

Matrimony opens as Julian begins his tenure at Graymont College in Massachusetts and meets his first friend, Carter Heinz. Eventually through their travels they both meet, fall in love, and marry their college sweethearts, Mia and Pilar, respectively. Upon graduation, each couple makes decisions that change their lives and their relationships.

Julian moves to Ann Arbor, Mich., with his wife, Mia, who has become a graduate student in psychology. He wants to write his novel, but he finds agreeing to teach composition at the university is disheartening as it is challenge, especially in terms of the progress he makes on the novel. Carter and Pilar apply to law school in California, but eventually the pressure they place on one another and themselves crushes their marriage.

Henkin’s writing style will relax the reader and carry them along through these characters’ lives with ease, but this ease also can distance the reader from the characters. Check out this passage from page 45:

Mia’s hair was matted to her forehead; it stuck in clumps against her neck. A drop of rain rolled down her chin, and Julian brushed it off with the sleeve of his windbreaker.

They drove home soaked, as if someone had thrown them fully clothed into Boston Harbor. When they stopped at the turnpike to get their ticket, Mia twisted the water from her hair. As she drove on, Julian fell asleep to the rhythm of the car, his nose, his whole face, pressed against the window.

Although the novel’s cadence is calming, the characters are well-developed and intriguing enough to keep reading and discovering where they plan to go next. One of my favorite minor characters from the novel is center stage in Julian’s world early on–Professor Chesterfield. Julian’s professor has established his own workshop rules, including Thou Shalt Never Use Pass-the-Salt Dialogue and Thou Shalt Not Utter the Phrase “Show Don’t Tell” When Discussing One Another’s Short Stories. At one point in the class Chesterfield asks the students when it is appropriate to have characters pass the salt in a story (page 10). The answer from Julian is expected, but Carter’s answer is fantastic and sets up the tension between these two characters early on; this one scene is the foundation for their tension, competition, and friendship.

Although Julian is a writer and other writers can identify with his daily word/page count struggles, he seems dispassionate about his work, about his teaching position, and his marriage. It is only until one event shatters his image of his marriage does he become passionate enough to take bold action.

Throughout all of these struggles each character hits a wall, stumbles, revises their outlook, and moves past the initial obstacles in their way. Although this book is not fast-paced, it presents a great cast and sheds light on how love and marriage can last through a number of trials so long as the parties involved want their relationship to thrive. Julian’s evolution throughout the novel moves at a glacial pace like the progress on his novel, but the culmination of these changes is the light at the end of the tunnel. This is one book you can curl up by the fireplace with and relax.

Stay tuned for the giveaway details. . .

About the Author: (According to his Website)

Joshua Henkin’s grew up in New York City, his mother the daughter of a hat manufacturer, his father the son of a famous Orthodox rabbi who lived in the United States for fifty years and never learned any English. His mother: a secular Jew who went to Bryn Mawr College and Yale Law School. His father: a law professor at Columbia who attended Yeshiva University and fought in World War II and who has remained religiously observant. Joshua Henkin is a product of these varied backgrounds, and of this happy marriage.

Matrimony is a New York Times Notable Book, and Joshua Henkin is available for book group discussions; here’s the reading group guide. If you’re interested in checking out some updates of his recent book discussions go here and here.

Joshua Henkin has offered to giveaway an inscribed copy of Matrimony, a great holiday gift, to one winner anywhere in the world. Yes, this is an international contest.

Enter by leaving a comment here about this post to qualify for one entry. Please include an email or active blog so I can contact you for an address.

Deadline is December 21, Midnight EST

Also Reviewed By:
The Literate Housewife
The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
She is Too Fond of Books
Age 30 – A Year of Books
Books and Cooks
Reading Room
Bookfoolery and Babble
A Reader’s Journal
B&B Ex Libris
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?
Shelf Life
The Boston Bibliophile
Trish’s Reading Nook
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Confessions of a Real Librarian

Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

Most women will look in Cosmo or other beauty magazines for the latest cosmetic and fashion tips, but what many of these magazines don’t tell you is that the products manufactured by these companies are using chemicals and other compounds that once your skin absorbs them could cause other ailments or problems. While I don’t readily wear makeup or use cosmetics, I gladly took on a TLC Book Tour stop for Julie Gabriel’s The Green Beauty Guide. I love holistic looks at our everyday lives and books that seek to provide an alternate perspective to how we live our lives whether its from turning holiday celebrations green or learning how to reduce our own carbon footprints.

The Green Beauty Guide goes beyond the typical fad advice given by glossy magazines, providing the reader with recipes to create their own natural shampoos, facials, and other products, while at the same time providing readers with the know-how to become savvy cosmetics shoppers. Check out the Ten Commandments of Green Beauty at the end of Chapter 2.

Through a combination of science, insider information about the cosmetic industry and government regulation, and common sense, Gabriel dispels some of the myths espoused by the cosmetics industry. For instance, did you know that the skin absorbs about 60 percent of the substances applied to its surface? I didn’t, but now that I do, I plan to be more careful about what solutions I use. Think about your morning routine. . .how many cleansers, lotions, and gels do you use before you leave the house each day? Examine the ingredients of those bottles, and you’ll see exactly how many chemicals you expose your skin to every day. Given the complexity of skin and other systems throughout the body, it is no wonder that diet, exercise, and other behaviors can influence how well those systems function. Beauty or the health of your skin is tied to all of those things and more.

One of the best sections in the book discusses green washing, which will help those newly interested in the “green” movement to discern which products actually are safer for them and made from natural products, and which are merely using the presence of natural products to claim they are “green” or organic. Gabriel even provides Green Products Guide with a one-, two-, three-leaf system that categorizes how natural a product is. Other helpful sections of the book provide ways to make your own green beauty products, with a list of necessary tools, ingredients, and tips on where to purchase the ingredients. I also was surprised to find green beauty tips for babies in terms of diaper area care, massage oils, baby wipes, and bathing for babies.

Overall, this guide has a great many tips for those looking to expand the care of themselves and their environment into cosmetics and beauty care. I recommend this for those who wear makeup, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and other products, which is pretty much everyone. We all should take better care of our planet and ourselves, and what better way than to start with the beauty products we use.

Julie graciously offered to write up a guest post for today’s stop, so without further ado, I’d like to thank her for taking the time out of her busy schedule to share with us how The Green Beauty Guide was born.

Thanks a Lot for Your Rejection by Julie Gabriel

My book, THE GREEN BEAUTY GUIDE, is dedicated to my daughter. It would be nice to say that she made me not a green goddess, but this is not true. She made me a green junkie, a green paranoiac, and sometimes a green pest. Being an Aries, she possesses enormous powers of persuasion. Basically, she made me write THE GREEN BEAUTY GUIDE when she was two weeks old. Not a two-week old newborn, but a two-week young fetus.

Three years ago, I was obsessed with writing a book on green pregnancy. As I went through my “certified organic” pregnancy, which I meticulously planned for the whole twelve months – and that means three-month detox before the conception plus normal nine months of pregnancy – I could not be happier than share the joy of having the pregnancy the green way. I wanted to tell moms that it’s fun, healthy, and perfectly doable, to be pregnant and green.

But somehow, as all new authors know, there was a problem with my “platform.” I am not a doctor; neither am I a celebrity mom. I am not even a doula or a registered nurse. In England, it’s good enough to be a nanny if you want to write books about parenting, but all I had to produce to support my case was my background in journalism, my education as a holistic nutritionist, my career in fashion media, and my growing belly. All this is hardly relevant to pregnancy and parenting, agents told me. If you were manufacturing baby clothes, sure, you can write about pregnancy, but what’s your platform? I changed the proposal back and forth, I tossed one idea after another, but it just didn’t seem to work.

Then I had a lightbulb moment. It was an actual lightbulb I was changing in our bathroom in Toronto. The bathroom was jam-packed, floor to ceiling, with my green beauty finds: organic shampoos and mineral sunscreens, herbal baths and odd-smelling stretch mark oils, homemade candles and bath salts. As a diligent green mom, I opted out of any synthetic chemicals in my beauty routine. What’s my problem? I thought. I know so much about all these wonderful, fragrant, oily and shimmery things that make us pretty, happy, and hopefully healthy. I have switched from my chemical hair colors to henna, I am using organic lotions and scrubs, and I am even making my own soaps – so why not sum it all up in a handy book? Next week I spent writing a green beauty book proposal which was shaping up very quickly and so naturally. It was growing, flowing, and eventually overflowing with great information that I accumulated over years of writing about skincare, hair, and makeup. And as I see now, it was a wise move, to embrace your real background and speak about things you know quite well. Very soon, I met the agent who was excited about my green beauty project. Adina Kahn of Dystel&Goderich, and I spent the next few months polishing my materials, and very soon she found not one but two great publishing houses who were interested in my book!

The bottom line is: never assume that you are rejected because you are a bad writer. I spent the whole year pursuing a project that was completely wrong for me at that particular period in my life. I know so much more about babies and parenting today than I did then. Not “if” but when I write a book about what it takes to be a green parent, I will be able to provide my readers with a lot more valuable information than I could two years ago.

All I want to say is this: the timing for the book is always right. It may be a truism, but whatever happens, happens for a reason. There are so many people involved in the publishing process, all of them cannot be wrong at the same time. If the book doesn’t work, it’s not that the idea is bad; maybe the time is just not right. Maybe you are not ready for this book; maybe the reader is not ready for it. Sometimes all the life wants from us is a bit of flexibility.

And I will be doing a book on green pregnancy, I promised that to my daughter. But it will be a completely different kind of pregnancy book. The kind I wouldn’t even dare to think of three years ago.

Thank you Julie for sharing your green pregnancy experiences and publishing struggles with us.


Interested in winning a copy of The Green Beauty Guide?

Leave a comment expressing what you do to reduce your carbon footprint or stay green. Please include a way for me to contact you either valid blog or email address.

Deadline for the contest is Dec. 16, Midnight EST.

***Don’t forget my Pemberley by the Sea contest. It ends on Dec. 10 at Midnight EST. Sorry open only to U.S. and Canadian addressed residents.**

Also Reviewed by:

She is too Fond of Books

Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers

Thanks to the authors–Suzanne Woods Fisher, Debora M. Coty, Faith Tibbetts McDonald, and Joanna Bloss–of Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers and Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me this inspirational writing guide for amateur writers.

This book meshes scripture from the Bible with inspirational quotes from published authors and writers as well as questions writers should ask themselves about their own writing and writing careers. I would equate this book to a writer’s devotional. It is broken down into a sometimes personal or inspirational story from the author of each section, a prayer fashioned for writers, a reflection, and a set of quotes from authors, publishers, agents, and others.

There are several references to Anne Lamont, author of Bird by Bird, and other published authors.

A couple of prominent tips in the beginning pages of this book include

1. Outlining the three steps amateur writers can take to become more qualified at their own craft.

2. Seek inspiration in the ordinary world and among ordinary people.

In “No More Detours,” Joanna Bloss has some great tips for writers who have ADD, or the inability to focus on one project at a time. Rather than write like type-A personality writers who have set numbers of words to write per day, Bloss recommends ADD writers work on more than one piece of writing at a time and gradually finishing each one by the deadline. Learn to prepare the writing space first, ridding the atmosphere of noises and tasks that are unfinished. Writers also should remember to connect with other writers and hold one another comfortable. (pg. 29)

Here’s a sample quote from this section from author Kristin Billerbeck:

“Now get busy, go write and quit making excuses. A badly finished manuscript can be fixed. A blank sheet of paper? Not so much.” (pg. 31)

My caveat to this would be that a blank sheet of paper can be remedied as well, you simply have to write!

In “Will Work for Words” by Debora Coty, there is some great advice about writing on a freelance basis for money. I will share this quote with you: “Do not be squelched by low pay rates. View nothing as beneath you, and consider each publishing experience as a step up to the next level.” (pg. 35)

Section one of the book is a vast outline of how to start writing and remain motivated as a beginning writer. For me this section of the book was a bit long, but other writers may need this kind of motivational pep talk. The nuggets of information in this section are helpful for Christian writers as well as those of other faiths.

There are some sections of this book that preached to the reader about the righteous path of writing, which could limit the outreach potential for this book. Writing is a way to express oneself and to say that writing about sex in romance novels is not the right path is to limit that self expression. In this respect, this writer’s guide falls short for me.

However, some of the tips on how to remain motivated and inspired are eye-opening. For instance, Joanna Bloss indicates that some writers are more productive at certain times than others, but what they accomplish in their off-times is as equally important as what they accomplish when their writing productivity is high. Most importantly, Debora Coty suggests each writer take a Cyber Sabbath or time away from writing and the computer to provide balance to his/her life. I agree, without time away, how will you gain perspective on what you’ve already written? How will you have gained new experiences to supplement and breath life into your writing? You can’t. Take a break. Breathe in the fresh air, then get back to work.

Interested in Grit for the Oyster? Want to win a copy? Feel free to leave a comment about this review and why you want to read this book or discuss your biggest fears as a blogger and/or writer. Deadline is November 30; Randomizer.org will choose a winner for December 1.


Check out some announcements I made on Sunday!

Cold Rock River by J.L. Miles

J.L. Miles’ Cold Rock River flows in and out of the past and present of Adie Thacker’s life and occasionally transports the reader into the thicket of plantations and slavery near the time of the Civil War. The reader travels along the current of Cold Rock River and hits some brisk rapids and undercurrents, following Adie on her journey.

When Adie is a child, her family is the picture of happiness, minus the normal angst among siblings and boy troubles. However, one day their family changes irrevocably. Her father drinks himself into a stupor, while her mother withdraws from her children and her husband. Rebecca, Adie’s older sister, falls in love, becomes a mother, and moves out on her own. Clarissa, Rebecca’s twin, is the sweetest of the sisters and wallows in food to shut out the pain. Although this story is about her family and how it evolves after a significant loss, the novel also is about family secrets and how those secrets eat up Adie and the family.

This beautiful image in Chapter Seventeen, page 162, holds a vast symbolic meaning in relation to this family’s struggles and its one of my favorites:

Hog Gap and Cold Rock still had the mountain between them with no road cutting through. The only way to get from one spot to the other was to take the two-lane highway that ran around it. In the distance, Cold Rock Mountain rested like a fat king on his throne. The sides sparkled like jewels as the sun bounced off chunks of granite embedded along the edges.

Another of my favorite passages in this book is in Chapter Three, on page 33-34, shortly after Adie’s mother becomes infatuated with Jackie Kennedy and her husband:

Mama was especially crazy about the pillbox hats Jackie wore. “Not every woman can wear them, you know,” she said. “Takes a certain bone structure.” Whatever type that was, Mama figured she had it. Every one of the dresses she made had its own matching pillbox hat, but they didn’t look much like Jackie’s. Mama used Pa’s baseball caps as a base. She cut the bills off and covered what was left in whatever fabric she was working on at the time.

Adie is a bit tough to take at first with her disjointed narrative, but eventually her ramblings endear her to the reader. She struggles as a new wife and mother, particularly when she realizes her husband, Buck, is not as in love with her as she is with him and that his mother, Verna, has secrets of her own and hopes Adie will fail.

Miles easily weaves in the slave narrative of Tempe Jordan into Adie’s story. Although these stories parallel one another in some ways, the stories shed light on the strength these women share. This is one of those novels that will stay with the reader once the last page is read, and it is now one of my top 5 books from this year.

About Author J.L. Miles:

J.L. Miles, (Jackie Lee) a resident of Georgia for thirty years, hails from Wisconsin via South Dakota. She considers herself “a northern girl with a southern heart”. Miles resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and Cape Canaveral, Florida, along with her husband Robert, where she is a featured speaker at book clubs, local schools, and writer’s workshops.


Check back tomorrow for J.L. Miles’ Guest Post about the Best-Seller Blues.

Thanks you to J.L. Miles for providing me with a copy of her book, and to Dorothy Thompson for allowing me to host this Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tour.


Also Reviewed by:

The Friendly Book Nook

Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach

Richard Roach’s Scattered Leaves follows the quest of Ben McCord, an oilman, to find the man who killed his young wife. McCord is a man on a mission, and his negative view of the world permeates the novel. The one light in his life, his wife June, is gone.

Like many of the James Patterson crime fiction novels I’ve read in the past, there is a vast conspiracy behind the death of McCord’s wife. However, some of the police procedure and gun purchasing details were unrealistic and could distract seasoned mystery readers.

On the other hand, the fast-paced plot will carry the reader quickly through the twists and turns. In some cases the reader may wonder how McCord ends up where he does, which is expected given that the novel is told from McCord’s point of view. Some of these plot twists seem outlandish and not well constructed, and the logic McCord uses to deduce his next course of action is shaky at best. However, McCord’s shaky logic is one of his character flaws, and it is this flaw that unwittingly propels him into unlikely situations and that fuels the fire propelling him to find his wife’s killer. The novel takes the reader on a journey from the Oklahoma oil fields to Texas and through Kansas, Colorado, and near the Mexican border.

One of my favorite characters in the novel is an older, hired assassin who gets the drop on McCord as he makes his way home, shooting into his moving car from the woods. This assassin is brash and had me giggling during the exchange he had with McCord in the woods after the attack. Richard Roach has a way with dry humor, which is used to ease the tension in some cases.

According to Richard Roach, Knock ’em down and drag ’em out is more McCord’s style. But, he’s honest, forthright, and oh so tender with the ladies.” Reading this book, you can tell that McCord is rough around the edges, but he’s looking to keep his tender side on the surface more often. About midway through the novel, the action gets more intense and Dr. Pettijohn is thrust into the action in a harsh way and plays an integral role in its ultimate resolution. At times this novel seemed to tell McCord’s emotions rather than show them, and some of the plot points were not necessary to propel the action, both of which could distract readers. However, in spite of these problems with narration and plot, Richard Roach’s first novel is fast-paced and has an imaginative style that will keep you reading.

About the Author:

Born in Galveston, Texas, Richard Roach served four years in USAF as drill sergeant. He attended the University of Texas. Short stories have been published in Man’s Story 2, Happy 2007 volume 20, page 58, Iconoclast 2006 volume 91, page 73, and Bibliophilos 2006 volume 42, page 54. His first novel, Scattered Leaves, hit the book stores n September 2008. His second novel, Scattered Money, will be published by Multi-Media in 2009.

I want to thank Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending along Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach.

If you’re interested in Scattered Leaves, feel free to leave a comment.

Randomizer.org will help me choose a winner.

You have until November 21 to enter.

Stop Back tomorrow for my Q&A with Richard Roach!

Also Reviewed By:
Peeking Between the Pages

The Sighing of the Winter Trees by Laura Grossman

Laura Grossman’s The Sighing of the Winter Trees is a collection of poems I received from Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Following my review, you will have a chance to see what the poet had to say in an interview and a chance to win one copy of her book.

Grossman uses familiar images to tackle loss, love, and many of the emotions we feel. Her sparse language and short poems attempt to evoke emotion from the reader without relying upon complex lines, concepts, or too many literary devices.

Many of her poems have a conversational tone, as if she is speaking directly to the reader. This tone can generate a warmth in the reader, like it does in her poem, “Waiting Warmly Beside Orange Flowers,” or it can evoke sadness, like that found in “Wait, Wait I’ll Be Back.”

Some of these poems tell stories, but those stories leave the reader hanging, waiting for a resolution. Others simply confuse the reader, like “Wooden Ship.” Although I was not overly impressed by this volume, it does have a lot to offer the “everyman” and parents may find some poems in this volume to help introduce their children to poetry. Readers looking for poems that are less daunting than those read during high school or college will discover verses in this volume that will tap their hidden love of poetry.

My Interview With Laura Grossman:


When did you realize you wanted to be a poet? Was there a particular event that started you writing poetry?

I realized I wanted to be a poet when I was a child and I loved describing the winter days in a form of a haiku. The particular event that started me in writing poetry was after my father died and the professor at college had me read a stanza that captured the way I felt about the death of my dad. Suddenly there was beauty and meaning in the way I felt about my late dad.

Is The Sighing of the Winter Trees your first published book of poetry? Could you describe your path to publication?

The Sighing of the Winter Trees is my first published book of poetry. I took books out on how to achieve my goal of getting published and that helped my path to publication.

Do you have a set routine or do you write when the mood or inspiration hits?

I usually write when the mood or inspiration hits.

What are your favorite poetic forms? And are those forms that you find yourself using the most?

My favorite forms of poetry are haiku and rhythmic and I use those forms quite often.

As a poet can you describe your role in the current literary world and what you see your poetry accomplishing for yourself, readers, and other poets?

I describe my role as a poet to bear meaning and shed light to others about the world in which we live. I also use my writing skills as a way of making lemonade out of lemons until the sun come out again into my life and my readers’ lives as well.

How do you view the current state of poetry in terms of public recognition?

There should be more public recognition of poetry for poetry can heal and sooth us and leave a positive impact on our lives.

Could you describe your favorite writing space?

My favorite writing space is by my fall mums by the window in early morning hours.

Do you have any favorite poets, and if so, why?

Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet. Her words touch my heart with wonder.

What are you currently reading and do you have any particular book recommendations?

I am currently reading The Flowering by Agnes Sligh Turnbull and would greatly recommend this book to others.

****

I want to thank Dorothy Thompson for sending me Laura Grossman’s book and for allowing me to interview her for this post. I also want to thank Laura for taking time out of her schedule to answer my questions.

For the inside scoop on how Laura Grossman got her volume published, check out this article at Book Publishing Secrets of Authors.

About the Author:

Laura Grossman graduated from Lehman College with a degree in English literature and won several awards from poetry contests. She has attended poetry readings and has enjoyed positive feedback on her work.

And now, for the contest; This is open to international entrants as always.

1. Leave a comment on this post with an email or a blogger profile that works for one entry.

2. Put this contest in your sidebar or in a blog post for a second entry and leave me a link to it on this post.

Deadline is Nov. 17. I will draw the winner through Randomizer.org.

Also Reviewed By:
Cafe of Dreams

Contest Reminders:

Want to win a copy of Off the Menu by Christine Son, go here; Deadline is Nov. 18

Win a copy of Karen White’s The House on Tradd Street here; Deadline is Nov.14

Off The Menu TLC Book Tour & Yes, It Can Happen by Christine Son

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to host Off the Menu by Christine Son on Savvy Verse & Wit. You’re in for a treat today because not only will I share my review of the book with you, but Christine Son will also be offering her advice about writing and publishing. In addition, one of my lucky readers will have a chance to win a copy of Off the Menu, stay tuned for details. . .

In Houston, Texas, three friends with very different lives, backgrounds, and careers graduate high school as co-valedictorians; their friendship lasts beyond high school and through college, but how well do they really know one another after all of these years? Does Hercules Huang know Whitney Lee’s secret desire? Does Audrey Henley know the familial struggles Whitney and Hercules deal with daily from their immigrant parents who are steeped in tradition and their homeland culture? Likewise, do Hercules and Whitney understand what it is like to be adopted by a family of a different race like Audrey does?

These three characters, despite their differences, are more similar than they realize, and as the story unfolds, these characters evolve in the ways they could never have anticipated, but only once they have realized their best assets are held in their long-lasting friendship. Hercules is a master chef who owns her own restaurants, but her relationship with her father is strained at best, while Whitney is a third year attorney at a major law firm that only has one minority on staff–her. Audrey is an adopted Asian child from a wealthy family who teaches first-grade students at a local academy for intelligent students, but she doesn’t consider herself as a minority.

All three of these characters are under pressure from themselves, their families, and society to exceed everyone’s expectations. But in the midst of trying to achieve these goals and objectives, Hercules, Whitney, and Audrey discover they want something more, something different, something that is their own. Hercules’ restaurant chain is on the cusp of expansion, she’s writing articles for the National Spectator, and she’s finalizing a deal with a cookware manufacturer, but there is something missing in her life. Whitney is a top attorney in her third year with a firm that can only be described as an old boys’ network, but she longs for something off the beaten path. Audrey is a school teacher, but her dream lies in the Ivory Tower of academia.

Despite the longevity of their friendship, these characters never really open up to one another until they take their first girls only trip to Austin, Texas. The ability of these characters to keep their frustrations and dreams trapped inside is something readers can relate to, particularly if the readers perceive themselves as overachievers like Whitney, Audrey, and Hercules.

This novel touches upon the struggles many immigrants must feel when adjusting to a new home, but it also examines the transitions felt by all humanity when we move from our small high school community to college and to the workforce. Hercules is a strong and brash entrepreneur, but at the same time she is vulnerable. Whitney is strong, but flexible when the need arises, and Audrey is a bit naive, but strong in her convictions. When Jimmy Fujimoto blazes onto the scene in this novel, he nearly steals the show. His presence stands this friendship on its head and has all of these women calling into question some of their deepest convictions and beliefs.

Without further babbling about how great this book is (now my favorite friendship book), here’s Christine Son and her guest post for today.

*****

“Yes, It Can Happen by Christine Son

My debut novel, OFF THE MENU, hits bookshelves on August 5th, and recently, a lot of people have been asking me how I went about getting published. The short answer? By keeping my chin — and optimism — up even though I was receiving stacks of rejections every day. The long answer takes me back to a Facebook question I answered for my profile, which called for my most embarrassing moment. Unfortunately, my life is riddled with heinously embarrassing moments, and one of them occurred at a writers conference I attended in the mountains of California, where I met my agent. I’d been invited to an industry cocktail party out of the graciousness of one of the conference’s board members, and being an unpublished writer who was desperate to make a good impression, I researched the guest list, which included dozens of publishers and agents. This was my chance to wow them, I thought. And maybe snag an agent. So, I perfected my pitch. Practiced my smile. Wore a cute outfit. As ready as I’d ever be, I showed up at the party, determined and excited. And it would have been a great party had I managed to stay upright for more than thirty minutes. I can’t say what exactly caused what happened next — the high altitude, perhaps, or maybe low blood sugar, or the single sip of wine in my system — but in front of God and everyone who mattered in publishing, I fainted. As in, hit the floor face first. With my wine glass still in hand. I don’t recall the fall, but a number of revelers told me afterwards that I then did a pushup before a couple of concerned hosts helped me to a chair, brought me water, and then guided me back to my room, where I spent the rest of the night horrified and cringing. I’d never fainted before, and of all the times in the world to pass out, I couldn’t believe that my body had chosen that moment to try it out. I wrung my hands (literally), sure that I’d forever blown my chances to find an agent. I worried that publishers would think that I was a jackass at best, and a liability at worst. I fretted all night, wishing that I could turn back time and praying that there might be at least a few attendees who hadn’t witnessed my complete lack of grace. Alas, everyone heard about the fainting girl in the darling ruffled shirt.

The next morning, I spent some time apologizing to people I recognized from the night before, and my pitiful conversation with a striking woman turned into a long one about the troubles with thin mountain air, me and my book. She asked me to send her the first chapter of it, which I did as soon as I returned to Dallas, and three days later, she called to request the rest of it. The next week, she signed me on, made me change a few things in the manuscript, and then sent it out to a bunch of publishers. It went nowhere. But I began writing what would become OFF THE MENU, and after a number of rewrites, it sold to Penguin.

So, there you have it in a nutshell as to how I went about getting published. I worked really, really hard, wrote during every free second I had, learned the industry, went to several writers conferences, attended a cocktail party and then passed out. I guess the road to publishing is a bit like that — a mix of preparation and luck. It’s incredibly labor intensive, and sometimes, what seems like the worst thing in the world ends up becoming the best. Because the kicker of it all is that my agent would never have noticed me had I not caused a ruckus at the cocktail party.

You can read more about me at www.christineson.com.

Please also check out her blog. Here’s an interview with her as well, in case you want to get to know her better.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of Christine’s tour and to thank Christine for not only being a wonderful author, but also a dream to work with. I had a great time, and I hope you did as well.

Without further ado, here’s the contest:

(Remember I must have a way to contact you, so leave an email address or a blog location; if your Blogger profile is not working, I will not be able to contact you without an email)

1. What is your biggest fear (whether it is finding your place in the world or a fear of water or dying)? Leave the answer in the comments for one entry.

2. For a second entry, visit Christine’s blog and leave a comment here with something that interested you on her blog or a link to an interesting post you found.

3. For a third entry, visit the interview or FAQ on Christine’s Web site and come back here and leave me a comment about what you learned.

4. Spread the word on your blog about the contest in a sidebar or a post, and receive a fourth entry.

Deadline is November 18 at Midnight EST.

Other stops on the TLC Tour:

Saturday, November 1st: Estella’s Revenge e-zine (author interview)

Monday, November 3rd: Literarily (author guest post and giveaway!)

Wednesday, November 5th: Beastmomma (author interview)

Thursday, November 6th: Book Nut

Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf

Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf (author interview)

Monday, November 10th: Pop Culture Junkie

Tuesday, November 11th: 8Asians

Wednesday, November 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, November 13th: In The Pages

Friday, November 14th: She is Too Fond of Books

Monday, November 17th: Planet Books

Tuesday, November 18th: B & B ex Libris

Wednesday, November 19th: DISGRASIAN

Thursday, November 20th: Booking Mama

Monday, November 24th: The Literate Housewife Review

Tuesday, November 25th: Feminist Review

Wednesday, November 26th: Diary of an Eccentric

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

Karen White‘s The House on Tradd Street is part romance, part ghost story, part mystery. The narration of this novel grips the reader with its beautiful descriptions of South Carolina and the historic neighborhoods of Charleston. Melanie Middleton specializes in historic home sales, though she hates historic homes and believes those who buy historic homes are saps willing to waste thousands of dollars on renovations. Fate brings her into the home of Mr. Vanderhorst, who asks Melanie if she saw a woman in the garden. Days later, he suddenly dies and leaves her his home.

Melanie is given a historic home and the money to renovate and repair it as part of the Vanderhorst estate. There are a great cast of characters in this book from Mr. Vanderhorst to his mother’s ghost and Melanie, her father, and Jack Trenholm. Melanie is a barracuda in the real estate world, but her inability to relate to her family or male companions hampers her ability to widen her horizons. She’s a strong character in spite of these weaknesses. Meanwhile, Jack uses his good looks and fame to woo women to his side and charm them out of information so he can uncover historical mysteries and publish books. His charm and good looks are just a cover.

The restoration at Tradd Street begins, and Melanie is overwhelmed by her responsibilities and the two attractive men that have fallen into her life–Marc Longo and Jack Trenholm. In spite of the restoration, Melanie gets wrapped up in the mystery surrounding Mr. Vanderhorst’s mother’s disappearance and the ghosts that haunt her new home.

White easily draws the reader into the beauty of Charleston and her ghost mystery. The intricate relationships between these characters are complex, and in spite of the convenient connections between Melanie’s family, the Vanderhorsts, and the Trenholms in a big city like Charleston, I was enveloped in the storyline.

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the novel (page 130):

“I was so relieved to see him that I didn’t waste any time asking him what in the hell he was talking about. I threw back the dead bolt and disarmed the alarm before pulling open the door and launching myself at him.

‘Wow, Mellie–it’s good to see you too. But could you wait until I got my clothes off first?'”

The mystery doesn’t get heavy with humor like this sprinkled in. The interactions between Melanie and Jack are contagious and will make readers smile.

I recommend this book to those who love a good mystery and a good ghost story. Stay tuned tomorrow for Karen White’s guest post on the writing and publishing process.

Want to win a copy of The House on Tradd Street by Karen White?

1. Please leave a comment on this post for one entry.
2. Leave a comment on tomorrow’s guest post for a second entry.

Deadline: November 14 at Midnight EST. The contest is open to international entrants.

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me The House on Tradd Street.

Also Reviewed By:

Musings of a Bookish Kitty
S. Krishna’s Books
The Book Czar
Library Queue
Diary of an Eccentric
In Bed With Books
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog
The Book Connection
Cafe of Dreams

Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby & Giveaway

Welcome to Hachette Group’s Early Birds Blog Tour for Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby, a book that examines one young genius’ struggle to find himself and his place in his own family and society; Thanks to Miriam Parker at Hachette for sending the book along for the tour.

Theodore Mead Fegley’s father runs a furniture store and funeral home with his brother Martin, while his mother’s main goal in life is to push her son to achieve as much as possible and not squander his intelligence. The pressure mounts for Mead as he speeds through his elementary and high school years, reaching the University of Chicago at age 15.

Mead is an awkward “geek” who tries to keep his head down and make it through what he believes is the roughest period of his life, high school. Despite attempts by his cousin, Percy, to pry Mead out of his shell, Mead stuffs his nose in his studies to graduate high school and head off to college away from his overbearing mother and the small town that despises and ridicules him.

The narrative easily shifts from the present to the past, and the chapter breaks make it easier to keep the timeline in perspective with details about what period in Mead’s life is witnessed and what location he is in.

Mead is a young teen thrust into academic life with peers who are much older and experienced. Even though he looks forward to college life and mingling with his peers, he finds the experience to be as difficult and confusing as his high school years. Mead’s life takes a stark turn when he meets Herman Weinstein, a fellow mathematics student at the university.

Mead meets Dr. Krustrup, who agrees to mentor him and Weinstein at least until Weinstein’s family fortune and connections convince him otherwise. Mead is easily pushed aside when Dr. Krustrup becomes chair of the mathematics department. While he is initially angry, he learns that his new mentor, Dr. Alexander, is much more inspiring. Under the tutelage of Dr. Alexander, Mead throws himself into the Riemann Hypothesis, and he hopes to either prove or disprove the hypothesis, which has been debated for more than 100 years.

Jacoby carefully intermingles events from Mead’s past into his present as a way to show how Mead’s character has developed and explain the reasons behind some of Mead’s reactions and behaviors at the university. As Mead grows closer to a solution, Herman insinuates himself further into Mead’s life. Tensions between the two friends–and I use this term loosely–continue to intensify, until a family tragedy and university pressure mount, forcing Mead to run home to rural Illinois several days before graduation, his major mathematical presentation, and his valedictorian speech.

While math problems make me cringe, this story brought me back to high school with the discussions of matrices–math I actually understood at one point–but Jacoby does a great job of including this information without burdening or boring the reader. As Mead’s life unfolds and the mystery grows more intense, the pages flow quickly, making the reader more anxious to learn the reason why Mead flees his sanctuary at the university when he is on the verge of success. Although this novel is dubbed an academic thriller that portion of the story fell flat. The descriptions, perceptions, and events in Mead’s life point the narrative more in the direction of a coming of age story. Jacoby’s academic thriller plotline did not have the foundation or twists and turns necessary to a successful thriller narrative. However, at the conclusion of the narrative, the reader will be pleased to see Mead find himself, what’s important to him, and how to cope with his reality.

About the Author:

M. Ann Jacoby has been an art director at Penguin USA for more than two decades. Life After Genius is her debut novel.

Without further ado, here is M. Ann Jacoby about her writing process.

Do you have a set writing routine? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I do have a routine. After getting my errands out of the way Saturday morning, I sit down around noon and write for about six hours. The first hour or two involves a lot of staring out the window and getting back into the world of my novel. By Sunday I’m into it. I get started around 8 or 9am and can go all day. I have to remind myself to stop and eat. Then, reluctantly, I have to put it all away and go back to my Mon-Fri job. I commute to work on the train and usually wait till midweek to read and edit what I wrote over the weekend. I don’t write during the week. I need large blocks of time without interruption to get lost in the world of my characters. I usually get 12-15 pages written over a weekend. It’s a long, slow process but I find the breaks in between give me a chance to step back from my work and rethink before plunging in again.

Was the research and writing process for Life After Genius different from your normal writing process?

Research takes time away from writing. And I find that I write too much of my research into the story at first. I want to put all that new information to good use! But eventually I edit most of it back out so that the research feels more like a natural backdrop.

Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?

It’s very hard to sort out criticism in the beginning. What to listen to, what not to. For me, there was a lot of trial and error. A lot of crying. Try not to let the negative remarks destroy you. Look at them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

What are your favorite rewards for reaching your writing goals and why?

To create something that speaks to another person is a reward in itself. Immeasureable. Plus, it means I can go back and create more characters and more imaginary worlds. To get to do what I most love and get paid for it is like winning the lottery.

Are you working on any other projects, and if so would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

The novel I’m working on now is loosely based on my mother’s parents who were bookies in West Palm Beach, Florida. The main character is Libby Freybaker who shared the pants in the family with her husband, my grandfather. She’s funny and smart and unconventional. It opens with them being handcuffed and arrested, then flashes back to tell the story of what led up to that point.

***Want to win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby from Savvy Verse & Wit and Hachette Group?

I will pass along my copy to one International winner, please let me know in the comments if you are international! Hatchette Group will pass along a copy to a winner with a U.S. or Canada address.

***Make sure you leave me a way to contact you either an email address or through your blog. Those not leaving emails or blog links, will not be entered. Deadline is November 5, 2008.

1. Leave a comment on this post for one entry telling me what you find most interesting about the book or Jacoby’s writing process.

2. Post this contest on your blog or sidebar and return here to leave me a link to where you posted it for a second entry.

3. For those of you that do not have blogs, email five friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com for your second entry.

Check out the other stops on the Life After Genius tour!

Marjolein Reviews
The Book Nest
Seaside Book Worm Blogger
Books by TJBaff

Linus’s Blanket

The Optimistic Bookfool
The Printed Page
My Friend Amy
Shooting Stars Mag
Books, Pungs, and More
A Novel Menagerie
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog
medieval bookworm
Book Critiques
B&b ex libris
Sharon Loves Books and Cats
At Home With Books
A Circle of Books
Book Line and Sinker

***More contests from Savvy Verse & Wit:

A copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

A copy of The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel! Deadline is Tonight at Midnight EST. Go here, follow the rules, and enter.