Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Prince Kidnaps A Bride - Christina Dodd

Well, Better Late Than Never. That's what I always say (probably because I'm always late). I apologize that it has taken me a few days to get back on here to post a review, I've been busy taking The Hubs to the urologist for his kidney stones and then Miss Beautiful has gotten an Acute Respiratory Infection, with fevers higher than I am comfortable with (hit 105 last night but quickly got back down to 103.7), she still has the fever, just not as high, and will probably have it for a few more days, but she isn't wanting me as close today, so I am taking the opportunity to post a review. Since I'm so late in posting the winner from this post and I'm reviewing the same author today, I'm throwing in this book, too. So, Alissa, if you could please e-mail me your snail mail, I'll get these books in the mail to you. I'll get on with it now, so without further ado...


The Prince Kidnaps A Bride by Christina Dodd
(BCC)

Once Upon a time...
three princesses were forced to flee their kingdom in the Pyrenees - vanishing without a trace - until the day a prince can bring each princess home.

Betrothed in the cradle, Princess Sorcha and Prince Rangier were destined to rule their countries together. Then revolution sent Sorcha to a remote Scottish convent - and Rangier into a dungeon so deep rumor claimed he was dead.

Now danger threatens, and Sorcha must travel home with a simple fisherman as her companion - Prince Rangier in disguise. Changed by his imprisonment from a careless lad to a dangerous man, he's determined to win back his kingdom - and the woman he wants more than life itself. But can he protect a woman who believes every person she meets is her friend, every tavern is an opportunity to sing bawdy songs, and each turn in the road hides new adventure? To keep his princess safe, he must resort to his most treacherous weapon: seduction.

As far as the BCC goes, I give it a rating of 3.5 coffee mugs (out of 5). I know, I have never rated my BCC's before, but if I can't really find much fault with them, I think it will be simpler. So, if the BCC is over 3 know it was good. If it was below, I'll rip it apart ;).

When revolutionaries killed her father, her grandmother, Queen Claudia separated Sorcha and her sisters so they would be safe. Crown Princess of Beaumontagne, Sorcha has been living in exile, in a convent far from her homeland, knowing one day it would be time to return to her homeland and reclaim her crown. Missing her sisters and her home, Sorcha is getting eager, if not a bit scared, for when that time comes.

Rainger, Prince of Richarte, ruled by his pride and hormones, foolishly falls for a trap set by the evil Count duBelle, and at the age of seventeen is captured and sent to live in a dungeon, where he is beaten mercilessly, and prays for death. Eventually, Ringer escapes, and finds Queen Claudia and asks for her help in defeating Count duBelle so that he may regain control of his country. Wanting her granddaughters home, Claudia tells Rainger, find the lost princesses, bring them home, and he may choose one to marry. Once he accomplishes that, she will give him full use of Beaumontagne's army, so that he may reclaim his country.

Sorcha is Rainger's last hope at marrying one of the lost princesses. After finding Amy and Clarice and learning of their marriages, he must find Sorcha so that he can wed her and take back his country. Pretending to be a dimwitted shipwrecked fisherman, Arnou, he lands on the island where Sorcha is living at a convent.

But, though Sorcha is fooled by his act, the nuns are not. When fire is set to Sorcha's room, the nuns fear for her safety and believe it is Arnou who is trying to harm her. To keep Sorcha safe, the nuns disguise her as a young man and send her on her way back to Beaumontagne.

When Rainger finds out what the nuns have done, he immediately tries to go after Sorcha. There are assassins that want her dead, and he must protect her, and his future. Escaping the nuns trap, Rainger sets off to find Sorcha and make sure she makes it safely home. Fighting the rain, cold, hunger, and assassins, Sorcha and Rainger slowly make their way to the ship that will take them home. Only, Sorcha doesn't know that Arnou is really Rainger, and she falls in love with him. And much to Rainger's dismay, he finds that he has also fallen in love with Sorcha. But when Sorcha finds the truth, will she ever be able to forgive Rainger?

I've never been much of a historical reader. No particular reason, because really, every historical I have read, I've enjoyed. But, after reading a historical anthology the other day (review to come) I decided it was time to start reading more of the genre. And since I had just read one of Dodd's contemps, I decided to start with this one. I'm glad I did.

Sorcha was a great character. Because she had lived so long with nuns, the outside world was an adventure to her. Even knowing she was in deep danger, she took time to enjoy herself. She finds herself enjoying a night out in a tavern, where she soon has the fellow patrons singing songs. She ends up in a house of ill repute, where the madam is a palm reader and the girls are eager to explain the finer points of men and women to her. Her stint with the women made for some great comic relief. For instance, they tell her all about "blowing the hornpipe," and how to call a man's private part a cock (Chapter 15 had me laughing out loud when this conversation came up). I also liked Sorcha sass, mainly because she didn't even know she was being sassy. She was simply being Sorcha. She would have made a great character no matter the time period.

I even liked Rainger. The man had some serious issues to work out and he generally went about things with Sorcha all wrong, but I really enjoyed seeing his growth. I enjoyed getting to see him go from a man wanting only one thing - his kingdom back at any cost, to a man in love with a woman.

I do have to say, though, there were a couple of things that really bothered me. For one, when Rainger is still pretending to be Arnou, he pleasures Sorcha, sans intercourse, and while the scene is hothothot, it almost seemed like he was raping her. I know, that sounds so silly, because she definitely enjoyed herself, and didn't regret it, but several times she had told him to stop and he kept right at it anyway. I also didn't like that Rainger used the sex to manipulate Sorcha. Don't get me wrong, the scenes are very, very, steamy, but the underlining tone bothered me.

There were also a lot of flashbacks, and while they do lend a certain amount to the story, they confused me a bit at times, too. And while the HEA is splendid, there is an element of otherworldliness to it, that just doesn't fit the theme of the book.

All in all, TPKAB is a good read. It really did have it all, danger, comedy, and a great love story with an even better HEA. And although I won't be getting the first two books in this series (after all, I know how the end) I will be looking for more of Dodd's historicals as well as her contemps. Any suggestions of where I should start?

Take Care











Saturday, January 27, 2007

FAb Interview - Whitney Gaskell (and last contest!)




Well, it's Saturday, and that means it's the end of Whitney week here at Dee and dee Dish. Whitney has been more wonderful than I could have hoped. She's donated signed copies of her latest book, Testing Kate. She's put up with way too many e-mails from me, asking crazy questions for the interview I'm posting today. She even mentioned us on her own blog. Frankly, I can't think of a better person to have picked for the first FAb Pick of 2007. Whitney was all that I hoped a FAb author would be, and more!

I really wanted to review my favorite Whitney book, True Love (and Other Lies), this week. It didn't happen, as you can tell. Wanna know why? Well, I've loaned it out a few times. Normally, I loan out almost all of my books, and don't care if I get them back. See, I read so much that it really takes something special for me to actually keep a book, like meeting/knowing the author, or having the book signed. But once in a while, a book will make my 'keeper shelf' just because it's great, then it only leaves my house if I can be totally sure it's going to come back. With well over 2,000 books in my office, my husband doesn't care if any of them come back! So I couldn't find True Love in time to review it. This really upset me, as I'd called my friends to find out who had it and nobody was fessing up. Well it finally turned up, yesterday. Guess where. In my 14yo daughter's room. Yep, she'd snatched it, because she said that I'd read it so many times that she knew it had to be good, and I'd told her it was ok to read, so it was safe in her room the whole time. What a relief! Still though, one day isn't enough time to re-read a book for a review, so you're going to have to trust me that it's wonderful. And I promise, when Whitney's next book is released, I will review it, and True Love. Now, on with this interview... (I asked 'block style' questions, to hopefully give a broader range in which Whitney could answer. Since the purpose was to really get to know Whitney, instead of just wanting specific information, I felt this was best. Hope you agree!)

dee: I've read on your site (bio, maybe) that you were a lawyer before you began your writing career. Can you explain what prompted you to make the transition to writing? Were you still working in the Law when you started writing? How scared were you to try writing, and what gave you the courage to actually go for it?

Whitney Gaskell: I'd always wanted to be a writer, but I knew how hard it would be to break in. I thought the law would be a much more sensible career to pursue . . . the only problem was that I hated it right from the beginning. Then I read a book called THE ARTIST'S WAY, and in it, the author said that the difference between published writers and unpublished writers was often not talent, but nerve. That really resonated with me. I'd always written as a hobby, but I decided to start seriously pursuing it. Once I was out of law school, I'd write in the evenings and on the weekends, and basically treated it as a second job. I was still practicing law when my first book, PUSHING 30, got picked up . . . but I immediately left to write full time, and I haven't looked back.

dee:What is your writing process? Do you borrow a lot from real life? How long does it generally take you to finish a story?

WG: I often get asked this, and honestly, I have no idea how ideas come to me (although I love the idea of waking up in the middle of the night, with the story all planned out . . . does that happen to other writers???). I'll usually just get a scrap of an idea - a relationship between a younger woman and an older man, or a woman who falls in love with her best friend's ex-boyfriend - and then the story will evolve from there.

My books are entirely fictional . . . I just have a rich inner life! It takes me anywhere from four to six months to get a book written. Then I give it to my husband, who critiques and edits it, and gives it back. I go over it again, and send it off to my agent, who also critiques it. I'll do another round of rewrites, after which the manuscript finally goes to my editor. She does a really intensive critique on it, giving me pages of notes, and I'll do one last massive rewrite. The whole process can take anywhere from nine months to a year, although usually I'm working on other projects at the same time.


dee:How many people do you allow to read your work before you are finished? Do you have a writing partner or a critique group? If so, how important is that in your process? How much do you let 'suggestions' from others influence what you write?

WG: I get really superstitious about letting people read my work before it's ready. My husband, George, reads it first, and then my agent, and finally my editor. And only after my editor has approved it, do I pass it on to anyone else.

dee:Did you pitch your stories at a Conference? How did you go about getting an agent and an editor? How many books did you write before "Pushing 30" was published?

WG: No, I've never been to a conference. I found my agent the old-fashioned way, after I'd written PUSHING 30, I sent out queries to a number of agents. I had a few nibbles of interest, but the agent I ended up signing with was the most enthusiastic about my work. He sold it to Bantam a few months later.

Before PUSHING 30, I'd written three full books . . . each and every one of which was so awful, I have deleted all existing copies.

dee:Which of your books was the hardest to write? Why? Which was the funnest? Which main character do you most identify with? Have you ever modeled a character after someone that you really didn't like? After someone that you really love?

WG: The hardest book for me to write was TRUE LOVE (AND OTHER LIES). I was grieving the loss of our first son, who was stillborn, and going through a very difficult pregnancy with my son, Sam. But working on the book also gave me something to focus on, and a goal to work toward, which did also help.

Interestingly, my favorite character is Claire, the protagonist in TRUE LOVE. I thought she was so funny, and flawed, and wise.

None of my characters are modeled on any real life people, for better or worse. Not that I'm admitting to, anyway.


dee: Reading the LC entry from your husband, it seems like you guys are a perfect fit. How long have you been together? Were you a writer when you two got married? What does he think about your job? It's obvious that he adores you (YAY, YOU!!), and he seems very understanding. Was there a transition time, or has he always been the Supportive Husband of a Writer?

WG: George and I were law school sweethearts. We met during our One-L year at Tulane Law, and have been together ever since! This March, we'll be celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary.

I wouldn't be a writer today if it weren't for George. He encouraged me when I needed encouraging, and pushed me when I needed pushing. Most of all, he never stopped believing in me.

I am very, very lucky in love.

dee: Your book dedications are beautiful. One of them, in particular, really moves me. When writing, do you actually have people in mind for your dedication, or does that come later? I mean, do you start out a book with the idea that "This is Blah's story, I'm writing this one for her", or does that only come after you've finished?

WG: Thank you! I always know who I'll be dedicating the book to while I'm writing it, and I do write with that person in mind.

dee: What is your next book, and when will it be released? What are you working on now?
WG: I have two books coming out in 2007! The first -- which I'm currently just finishing up the last round of edits on -- is a called MOMMY TRACKED. It's about four women who are juggling careers, children, friendship and husbands. My second is a teen book called GEEK HIGH. It's about a girl genius named Miranda Bloom, who attends a school for the gifted.

Thanks so much, Whitney, for being the January FAb Pick! You've been more than wonderful, you've been FAB-ulous!! I can hardly wait for your next books! I'm especially interested in GEEK HIGH. Maybe with that one, my daughter will leave my other books alone!

CONTEST news... JILLIAN, get in touch with me at deeanddeedish@sbcglobal.net with your snail mail addy, and I'll send you a copy of She, Myself & I ! For the final contest, the very last signed copy of Testing Kate, all you have to do is tell me which one of Whitney's books you really want to read (or re-read!), and why. It can be because you're already a Whitney fan, because of any of the reviews this week, or because you simply like the cover. One lucky winner, drawn at random, will win a signed copy of Whitney's newest release Testing Kate! Please only enter this contest ONE time, and make sure your entry is on THIS post, by 10am Monday morning. I'll announce the winner early next week.

Have a great weekend and...

Keep turning those pages!

dee

Friday, January 26, 2007

FAb Review - She, Myself & I by Whitney Gaskell (and another contest!)

I just LOVE FAb Pick week! It's giving me the chance to re-read books that I really enjoyed the first time, and to tell you all about them. Isn't that cool? Which reminds me... if you don't mind, please let us know in the comments today, on THIS post, what you think of the whole idea of our FAB Picks. Do you like it? Do you hate it? Do you think we should just do regular reviews and not tell you if we find something/someone we really enjoy? We want to know. While we love reading, we also really enjoy doing these reviews. We both know how hard it is to find books that are worth our time, and we hope that we're helping expose you to some new books. There are a lot of other great review sites out there, and we enjoy a few of them VERY much (like the Ja(y)nes, over at Dear Author). We know that you have lots of places to choose from to read your reviews, and we're really glad that a few of you seem to like us and our format. Just let us know how we can make things better, because we are here for YOU! Enough about us though, let me tell you about this book, She, Myself & I.

The Cassel sisters are at the center of this wonderful romp through the Austin suburbs. Paige is the driven oldest sister. Sophie is the drama-queen middle sister. Mickey is the perfect baby. They have some issues though, aside from the fact that their parents (who put them through hell with a nasty divorce over a decade ago) have now started seeing each other again.

Paige is a divorced divorce attorney that is still trying to figure out if there is something wrong with her. See, her husband left her...for another man. Now she's not sure that she wants to date again. Ever.

Sophie is used to being the center of attention, and being pregnant certainly helps. But when the baby is born, she discovers that life isn't like the movies, and happily ever after actually takes some effort.

Mickey is graduating from college, and has been accepted into a prestigious medical school. Her life is really just starting out, and it looks great so far. Can her dreams for herself and the plans other people have for her life ever mesh?

This is the story of three sisters, their offbeat parents, and the various husbands, boyfriends, dates, fantasy-men, and other people that make up their lives. But it's more than that. It's also the story of me. Confused? Let me explain.

As the oldest sister, Paige feels driven to succeed, just like I do. She also feels like she failed at her first marriage, even though the failure clearly was not her own. Again, like me. She's having a hard time trusting herself and her feelings. She's a bit tired of feeling like she has to take care of everyone else. She's wondering if being a divorce attorney is really what she wants to do for the rest of her life. Again, very much like me (well, except for the divorce attorney part, because I'm not!).

Sophie loves being a mom. She adores the look and smell and feel of her baby. Like me. She isn't all that fond of her flobby, postpartum figure. Like me. Her moms group scares the crap out of her. Like me. Her marriage is under a lot of strain with the arrival of the baby, and she doesn't know how to deal with that. I can relate! She has fantasies about her son's pediatrician. (Ok, not me, but I had a major crush on another guy right after I gave birth, so I understand.)

Mickey wants to make some big changes in her life, but she's afraid of disappointing those closest to her. She's pretty sure she knows what she wants to do, but she also knows it's riskier than what everyone thinks she should do. Yeah, like me, me, me. She gets involved with the wrong kind of guy, but finally does the right thing. And yes, that's just like me.

So you see, all three of them are like me. And really, the beauty of this book is that you will find yourself, probably a little bit of yourself at least, in each one of them too. That's just the gift that Whitney has. I've said it before, but it really bears repeating, Whitney is just FAB-ulous!

The book is written in first person, but the POV changes three times. You meet the girls in birth order, and you see their lives through their own eyes. The story takes place over a little more than a year, and the pacing is perfect. What I found most interesting was seeing how each of the sisters saw themselves and the others, and how the way they saw each other was so much different than the way they saw themselves. Was that confusing enough? I remember Paige thinking about Mickey, and it revealed so much of how older siblings see their younger siblings... And even when she screwed up, it would be fine, because the mistakes you make in your twenties are always the ones that you learn from. You're still young and pliable and capable of change. And reading that, I remember feeling this same sort of envy towards my younger brother, who had his whole life still stretching out before him.

And the way Mickey related to the older ones was great also. She's an adult, but she's still the baby. She says to Sophie (about sleeping with someone on the first date) "Don't you think that's a little judgmental?" and Sophie replies (perfectly, I might add!) "I'm your big sister, it's my job to be judgmental."

And Sophie, bless her heart, I loved her too. As she's going through some major upheavals, she realizes... My fantasy... had been just that- a fanciful break from the reality that the rest of my life was in tatters... I was just sitting around waiting for everything to sort itself out on its own, which apparently wasn't going to happen.

The only thing that I didn't like about this book was that it made me really envious, because I have a brother. One brother. I didn't get sisters until I got married, and they live many states away. Whitney made me miss family that I've never even had. The book ends on the perfect note as well. You get the sense that these women are coming to terms with the fact that life isn't always what you thought it would be. It takes work. And struggles. And courage. And strength. But when you've got your sisters around you, it's not as hard as you sometimes think it is. Go pick this one up. Or enter to win. Trust me, you'll enjoy it!

Oh yeah, for the contest... You guys have got some serious fears, but I also have a feeling that you're strong enough to overcome them. Thanks for your entries! And PEARL, send me an e-mail at deeanddeedish@sbcglobal.net. Tell me your snail mail addy, so I can send you a copy of Pushing 30, and Whitney can send you a signed copy of Testing Kate! And for today, the ALMOST VERY LAST WHITNEY GASKELL FAB PICK GIVEAWAY... I'll send you a copy of today's review book, She, Myself & I, if you tell me what makes your sisters (or brothers) so special. If you don't have siblings, tell me about a cousin, or a friend, or a sister-in-law, or someone that helps you make it through the day. All comments need to be on THIS post, please, by tomorrow at noon. And remember, only one entry per person. We want to be fair to everyone out there, ok?

Tomorrow (yes, I know it's Saturday, but still...) I will be posting the FAb-ulous interview with Whitney, and that will end our FAb Pick week. We're giving away one more book tomorrow, another signed copy of Testing Kate. And I'll announce the winner from today. So be sure to check in over the weekend for your chance to win more books!

Keep turning those pages!

dee


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

FAb Review- Pushing 30, Whitney Gaskell (and a contest)


You know how this works, right? Housekeeping stuff first, then I'll tell you who won the free books, then I'll get to the review.

First though, I have to address something. We LOVE IT when you guys comment. We really do. We LOVE IT when you comment to win books. We really do. Please though, only enter each contest ONE time. It really is only fair to the other people, and to us. Before I draw names, I run a quick check to see if anyone enters more than once. If there are double, or multiple, entries, I take all of them out except one. So really, you're not helping your chances by doing multiples. You've still only got one chance to win each contest. With the fact that you can enter every contest, even if you've won in the past, it's really not out of the realm of possibility to win one of these things with only one entry. Trust me on this. Dead horse enough? Only one entry per contest, please.

That said, I need... HOPE... to contact me at deeanddeedish@sbcglobal.net with her snail mail addy. Hope is the winner of the 'what extra vows' contest. Hope, you've won your choice of one of Whitney's older books, PLUS - Whitney is going to send you an autographed copy of her newest release, Testing Kate. I reviewed Testing Kate here, loved it, picked it as one of the best of 2006, and Whitney is signing it. Can't go wrong with that, huh? If you're not Hope, stay tuned for more chances to win, right here in this review, and later in the week as well. But let's get back to this one, Pushing 30, ok?

You know I don't do the whole BCC thing, don't you? That is so for the other Dee (notice the cap?). For me (little d, dee), BCCs just aren't my thing. But this one hits the nail on the head. If you want to read it, click over here, on Whitney's site. It's very accurate, and all the action on the BCC happens within the first few chapters. Nothing to get upset about, nothing to go "What total LIARS those BCC writers are!", nothing to make anyone mad. Just cute, to the point, accurate, and enough to make you want to read more. In short, pretty close to perfect.

Now first lines though... yeah, that's more my style. And this one has a first-line hook that snagged me but good. "The one thing you should know about me is this: I'm the consummate Good Girl." And me, always wanting to think of myself as a Good Girl (because hey, let's be honest, that just wasn't me in so many ways, but I wanted it to be me, you know?), wanted to learn more about Ellie Winters. She washes off her makeup every night, she mails out thank you cards, she hardly ever calls in sick to work if she's not really sick, she's never cheated on her boyfriend... the list goes on. So then I started thinking "Yeah, she can have being a Good Girl, thankyouverymuch. I'll enjoy seeing how she topples". Because really, you know she's going to topple, or there just wouldn't be any point of the book, right?

Ellie hates her job as a corporate lawyer. She feels dominated by her over-bearing pug, Sally. She can barely stand being around her family unless she's under the influence of a good bottle of wine, or at least a half-decent bottle of wine, but cheap wine will do in a pinch. She's tired of her boring boyfriend Eric. She runs at the first hint of any sort of conflict. Ellie takes "Good Girl" to an extreme, and not always in a good way.

Enter Ted. Ted Langston is a tv news anchor that lives right around the corner from Ellie. He's sexy, charming, interesting, and even loves Sally the pug. There's only one catch - Ted is older. No, not the difference between pre and post David Lee Roth older. I mean, he's older. About the same age as her parents. And he happens to be the one man in all of DC, ok let's be honest, probably all of the world, hat has no interest in dating a younger woman. That doesn't stop the sparks from flying between the two, nor does it stop all sorts of people trying to keep them apart.

Ellie has spent so much of her life avoiding conflict that you can sense it is about to catch up with her. And it does. Within a very short time span, she loses her job (thanks to an evil wench at work), one of her best friends (thanks to a new boyfriend), and the man that she's come to adore (thanks to coming home early from a family vacation). But it's what Ellie does with these losses, how she looks at them and sees where she is also responsible for these things, that really made me love her. She's not perfect. She may be a "good girl", but she's still got a long way to go before she's 'great'. She learns to take a stand though. She starts by standing up to her wacky family, and follows up with a spectacular scene with Ted. I was literally holding my breath as I read it for the first time. The way that Whitney described Ellie's internal struggle, her inner monologue, as she debated whether she would take her normal path of least resistance and leave to avoid conflict OR if she would, if she could, do the harder thing and stay, and face her fears and stand up for herself and fight for what she wanted... it was nothing short of magnificent. Check this out...
But I had run away, the way I always did at the first hint of conflict...it was what I'd done all my life. I never stuck around...never argued...it was what I wanted to do now...But at the same time...Had spending my life avoiding the conflict actually gained me anything?...
I could feel Ellie's struggle. I struggled right along with her, and I'm not normally one to shy away from conflict. But I was living in Ellie's head right then, and I was just as scared of facing those lifelong fears as she was. That's the mark of a good writer - to be able to pull you into the head of a character, even when that character has very little in common with you.

The situations are, as usual when reading one of Whitney's books, very realistic. There is nothing over the top about this story. Nobody swoops in and waves a magic wand and makes all of the problems disappear by the last page. The way that this book is resolved had me smiling, a "big goofy falling in love smile", because it made sense. Ellie learned that it's ok to stand up for herself and fight for what she wants. It's even ok to ask for what she wants. But you get the feeling that it will take time for her to get used to her new skin. Just like when you make a life change, you put on that change a little at a time. That's real. Just like this story.

Whitney's debut novel gets a HUGE thumbs up from me. I loved it. I loved Ellie. I loved Ted. I even loved little dictatorial Sally. I'm pretty sure you will to. Pick it up. Check it out. Lose yourself in it. Then tell me if you agree or not.

Oh yeah, and for the contest... In keeping with the whole idea of facing fears, like Ellie learns to do... Tell me, in the comments of THIS post, what your biggest adult fear is, and how you learned (or are learning, or want to learn) how to deal with it. One random winner will be chosen from all entries. I'll announce the winner on Friday. The winner will get one (unsigned) copy of Pushing 30, and one SIGNED copy of Testing Kate. Because Whitney is cool that way.

And don't forget to go over here and comment to Chari-Dee, because she's offering a book as well.

Keep Turning Those Pages!

dee

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Just The Way You Are - Christina Dodd

If you'll look to your left, you will see we have added a new FAQ page link. Unfortunately, it's a WIP so really there isn't anything to see over there yet. You see, we are working on fixing that and with your help I think we can. What I propose is a bribe - erm, contest, for a chance to win this book that I'm getting ready to review. All you have to do to be entered is leave us a comment on this post with a question or questions that you would like to see us answer over on the FAQ page. On Thursday, when I post my next review, I'll draw the winner from The Hubs beloved Notre Dame cap. Of course, if you just want to comment on the book or any of Dodd's other books, that would be great too, and I will enter you in the contest just cause you left a comment. I *heart* comments. But they must be left on this post to be considered an entry. Also, the book won't be signed, sorry. If you want a signed book, don't forget to check out dee's FAB pick this week for a chance to win one of those. And now, without further ado...

Just the Way You Are by Christina Dodd
(BCC)

When Hope Prescott's parents disappeared, her carefree teenage life vanished forever. She and her three siblings were separated and sent to different foster homes around the country. Now, seven years later, Hope is still searching for them. To support herself, she works for an answering service, and cares for her clients as if they were family. When wealthy businessman Zachariah Givens hires Hope's service, Hope initially mistakes Zack for his butler. Tired of being coddled and flattered because of his money, Zack is charmed by Hope's candor, not to mention her sexy voice, and keeps up the charade. As their friendship turns into passion, Zack is determined to have her, even if that means the unthinkable - marriage. But when Hope discovers his deception, Zack knows he must solve the mystery that haunts Hope's past in order to convince her that their futures lie together...

I realize that this isn't a new book. It has an original Copyright of 2003, with this one being a reprint by Pocket Books. However, I've never read it, so it's new to me and that's why I love reprints. New reading gems can be found when reprints occur.

The truth is, though, that I almost didn't buy this book. Dodd had given a book that I really didn't like a glowing front cover quote, and I had to wonder if she liked that book, does she write the same way? I mean, she's also a historical writer, and that's always an iffy buy for me. Also, I almost didn't buy it because of the BCC. I read that and thought basically it was saying this, "So basically, rich guy fools poor nice girl. Lies to her, falls in love and when she finds out who he really is and is pissed, he figures if he can find her family and figure out what really happened to her parents, she'll rush into his arms and say 'I'll love you forever, even though you are a lying manipulative bastard.' I don't know, something didn't just read right about it.

I am pleased to announce however, that I did indeed buy and then read the book, and I really enjoyed it. Hope Prescott is the daughter of a preacher, after losing her parents at the age of sixteen and then being separated from her brother and sisters by the very congregation that the Prescott's had considered friends, Hope ends up in an orphanage in Boston, far from her small hometown in Texas, where she is laughed at and beat-up on a regular basis. Once old enough to leave the orphanage, Hope sets out to find her brother and sisters. But, getting there isn't as easy as Hope had planned. She learns a few things about life, don't trust people with the story of her life and work hard for money so you can do what you need to do. And what Hope needed to do was find her family. Making it only as far as Cincinnati before turning back, Hope returns to Boston and finds small jobs, enrolls in community college to get her computer science degree so that she can make all the money she'll need. When Hope meets Madam Nainci and a laundromat she gets her first real break. A steady job at an answering service and from there she gets to know the clients and for the first time in a long time, Hope feels like she belongs.

Zachariah (Zack) Givens is a rich, arrogant, and ruthless business man. Eating small business for breakfast, Zack despises cheats and liars, is none to friendly, and has an aversion to any thing that involves technology. When his secretary takes vacation she hires Madam Nainci's answering service to take messages for Zack. After giving a man a heart attack on the floor of his office, Zack's friend and lawyer bets him that he cannot be nice for ten days. Not one to turn away from a bet, Zack agrees.

When Zack calls for his messages, he is taken aback with the voice on the other end of the line, and more than a little perturbed that she seems to be more concerned for her other clients rather than giving him his message. Remembering the bet, Zack bites his tongue. Hope figures he must be the butler, Griswald, because after what she went through as a child she cannot fathom a rich person with the reputation of Givens could be so nice. Zack finds himself enjoying their little chats and doesn't want to spoil them by letting her know who he really is.

When Hope and Zack finally meet face to face, the attraction is hard to ignore. Knowing he will have to go slow, and watch what he says carefully, Zack starts to "court" Hope. When Hope finds herself becoming more and more attracted with Zack (or Zack pretending to be Griswald), and falling for him, she decides it's time to stay away from him so she doesn't lose sight of her goals. But when she is attacked with a knife, she runs to the one place and person who makes her feel safe, Griswald. When Zack sees how scared and hurt Hope is, he realizes he will do anything to keep her safe, and that means keeping her with him. With her being so scared right after the attack Zack doesn't think now is the best time to tell her, he takes her to his room, cleans her up and calms them down.

Finally feeling comfortable enough with Griswald (Zack) to tell him the truth of her past, Hope lets it all out. Zack more than anything wants to tell her who he really is, he just hasn't found the right time. So when Hope is arrested for embezzlement from a notorious gangster, Zack goes to bail her out only to find his old friend, now enemy, siting with her in the jailhouse, and suddenly Zack feels betrayed and hurt. And now thanks to Zack's enemy, Hope knows who Zack really is and she feels just as hurt. Words are said and they both hurt each other deeply. But with the help of family and friends, Zack and Hope finally realize what they need is to learn to trust each other and allow themselves to love.

This was a really fun read for me. I like the books I read to have a good sense of community and Hope definitely has that, with a boss that talks like a cartoon Russian spy, and a slew of oddball clients at the answering service, Hope's life is full.

I also really liked the fact that, unlike the BCC would have you believe, Hope doesn't just fall back into Zack's arms. I liked that they both had some forgiving and personal growth to do before they could be together. I got my HEA, but the characters had to work for it, and that made it all the more satisfying. Also, this book is the first of three in a series, and I am really looking forward to see what happened to the other members of Hope's family.

I think that's probably one of my favorite things about this book. Hope didn't get everything she wanted right away. Zack's money couldn't solve the mystery immediately. If that would have been the case, this book would have been far too rushed. Now, I get to savor the mystery while enjoying some HEA's.

There were a few POV problems, some head hopping that got a bit confusing at first, but soon worked itself out. Other than that, I just kind of sat back and enjoyed the book. I really needed a book that I could do that with. Plus, I have a new author to start looking for, and since she's been around awhile, I'll have plenty of books to find by her.

Take Care

Monday, January 22, 2007

FAB Pick - WHITNEY GASKELL


Oh my, oh my! Unless you're in Florida, you're probably coldColdCOLD, but I've got something to warm you up. First though, I need to tell you a little bit about FAB Picks. Chari-Dee and I are going to choose either a fabulous author or book each month to highlight. That will be our Fabulous Author/Book Pick of the Month. We'll have contests, interviews, reviews, and other fun stuff. The author may even drop in to the comments and talk with you guys. You just never know. You saw some of this already with Dee's January FaB Pick, Adios To My Old Life, by Caridad Ferrar. Now, it's my turn!!

I'm so pleased to announce that my FAb Pick is none other than the amazingly talented WHITNEY GASKELL! Whitney is one of the Literary Chicks, so many of you are already familiar with her wonderful sense of humor. She's written a handful of great books, and I'm going to be reviewing a few of them this week. You may remember that one of Whitney's books, Testing Kate, was one of my TOP PICKS OF 2006. Whitney was kind enough to send our December winner, Joan, an autographed copy of Testing Kate, and Joan totally loved it. Now, you've got a few more chances to win autographed copies of Testing Kate, as well as a few of her other books, this week.

This first post was going to be a review of Whitney's first book, Pushing 30. Then I changed my mind. What I really want to do is tell you about why Whitney is my FAb Pick. Then I'll review a few books this week, give a few away (thanks to Whitney!) and finish it all up with an interview. Sound ok?

I found Whitney through the LC. If you haven't been over there, you really should go. That place is always a riot. Whitney is represented by a comfy red chair. Maybe that's what drew me to her posts originally. I love red. And then there's her picture. She just looks NICE, don't you think? She's got a welcoming smile, not too many teeth showing, doesn't look like she's trying to have visual intercourse with the photgrapher. She looks like any one of the moms that I meet at parks, friendly, funny, honest. Basically, she looks like someone that I'd have over for coffee, and you gotta know how much I love my coffee, right? But really, looks can't count for a whole lot if the woman can't write, right? Well, she doesn't have to worry about that.

I didn't choose Whitney as my first FAb Pick because she looks nice. I didn't choose her because her LC posts are always entertaining. I chose her because her books speak to me. Yes, I said they SPEAK to me. As in, "Hey, stupid, this is an important fact, and it directly pertains to your life, so LISTEN UP, will ya?" Ok, well, maybe they aren't all loud and in caps like that, with the exclamation points and all, but you get the point, don't you? Every book I've read of hers, from her debut book (Pushing 30) right up to her newest book (Testing Kate) had truths in it, something that someone said that just smacked me right upside the head and made me take a look at myself, my actions, my thoughts, my feelings, my life. That's the mark of an amazing writer, a FAB Pick, if you will. Plus, when I asked her if she'd put up with me asking questions and bugging her a million times with stupid e-mails, even though she's in the middle of rewrites for TWO different books, she said YES. How cool is that?

So, in honor of Whitney being so FAB, I'm giving away a copy of one of her books (you get to choose which one today!) and Whitney will send you a signed copy of Testing Kate. The winner will be chosen in a random drawing on Wednesday morning, before my next post goes up(around 10amEST), from all comments on THIS POST, that tell me the correct answers to the following questions*:
1. What are the two 'extra' vows that Whitney got from her husband, George?
2. Which 'extra' vow did George break?

Good luck, and Keep Turning Those Pages!!

dee

*hint: You can find the answers to the questions over at the LC. See, I knew I'd find a way to get you over there to read something of Whitney's before the day was over!!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My Nerdy Valentine - Vicki Lewis Thompson

Hello, Lovelies. Sorry it's been a couple of days, but - I know, always a but- I've been busy dealing with the winter blues. Stuck in a house for 5 straight days with two kids who want to do nothing but fight, makes me a tad cranky, and no one wants a cranky me. Trust me on this. School is finally back in session today, and although the ground and roads are still covered in inches of ice, I at least got to see outside, so I'm better. That may not last though, since we're expecting another downpour of snow this week-end, so I thought I'd better get some of these reviews done before Cranky Dee visited again. Don't forget to visit us on MySpace and add us as a friend because you can never have too many friends. Also, dee will be kicking off her FAB pick next week, so look forward to some great reviews, interviews, and a contest! And now, without further ado...

My Nerdy Valentine by Vicki Lewis Thompson
(BCC)

WHEN A NERDY BEAUTY...
Aspiring psychologist Amanda Rykowsky's schedule is certifiable. Between study, bartending, and an internship with a sex therapist whose techniques would make a Playboy bunny blush, there's zero time for romance. Still, Amanda is flattered to receive an anonymous Valentine...until the messages take a sinister turn.

MEETS HER SEXY SOULMATE...
Stockbroker William Sloan swears he's not the one sending Amanda cards, but he suspects the culprit's intentions are more dubious than sharing a box of Godiva. Something about gorgeous, determined Amanda brings out the usually reserved William's inner he-man, and he insists on acting as a decoy boyfriend.

THEY'LL MAKE THIS VALENTINE'S DAY THE HOTTEST ON RECORD...
With a fake relationship masking some very real lust, it's only a matter of time before William and Amanda give in to the sweetest of temptations. And once he's dealt with her secret stalker, William's next mission is to strike Amanda with Cupid's arrow...

You already know how I feel about the nerd books so you may be wondering why I'm even bothering to do this review, right? Easy, I haven't had me a good ole' FGSF in a while and I figure I'm due. What can I say? I'm pretty selfish that way.

Valentine makes book 7 for the nerds, and you would think that by this time I would have grown tired with the formula. Thankfully, I haven't. I think this may have something to do with the fact that I am a nerd. Yep. Band geek (and I don't even have any cool "this one time at band camp" stories, which is sad 'cause I did go to band camp.), NHS, graduated High Honors, I don't care one fig for fashion, and I think one of the coolest things evah is learning something new. So it's nice to have a kindred spirit to read about.

Amanda Rykowsky does indeed have a full schedule she's a psychology student, an intern to Dr. Gloria Tredway, and a bartender at the popular bar (for nerds anyway) Geekland. She has no time for love, nor does she want to make time for it. After watching her mother devote all of her energy to her husband (and then losing herself in grief when he passed away) she vowed never to be that way. Even so, it happened to her once already, and she refuses to let it happen again.

William Sloan is a (nerdy) stock broker in the same building where Amanda interns. After finding his steady girlfriend in the sack with an old flame seven months ago, Will has just now decided it's time to get back in the game. When Amanda drops a bag full of sex toys at his feet, he finds exactly who he'd like to get back in the game with. Unfortunately, when he helps her carry the toys back to the office, it isn't Amanda who seems smitten, but her over-sexed boss. And when Will shows interest in Amanda, she starts getting anonymous Valentines left in her desk drawer that continue to get more suggestive, and she thinks Will is the one doing it.

Finally, Will gets Amanda to believe he isn't the one sending the Valentines and the clock starts ticking when the real culprit starts getting more aggressive. In an attempt to keep Amanda safe and convince the stalker to give up, Will poses as Amanda's boyfriend and moves in with her.

I really did enjoy this book. It was funny and sweet, and filled with some really over-the top characters. There was Amanda's neighbors, the retired school teacher Mavis and the lifelong bachelor Chester who bicker constantly but love Amanda dearly. Justin, Will's best friend who was recently dumped before his wedding and who now just wants to get laid. Even the customers at Geekland provided some interesting reading. Heck, I even like the antagonist, he was twisted and believable.

I did not like Gloria Tredway, the sex therapist Amanda was interning for. I think for the most part, we were supposed to see her as not cruel just very self-involved. But I have to tell you, there were several times in the book I was cussing this lady.
Amanda almost chocked. "I'm not envious."
"Don't be silly. Of course you are. I have both a career and glamour, while you're little more than a drudge."....."In any case, I want to make something perfectly clear. You are not to flirt, or whatever passes for flirting in your world with William. In fact, that goes for any man that walks into this office. Is that understood?" Of course, her obsession with sex, and watching her make a fool of herself in her attempts to get William did add some comic relief, and she does come close to redeeming herself in my eyes at the end. And really, my great disliking of this character just goes to show how well Thompson wrote her.

I say go get this book. It is a fast fun read (and you know I love those) and fans of the "series"* will not be disappointed. New readers to the nerd books - be prepared to go buy all the others when you're done, the nerds are gonna hook ya!

Take Care

*The nerd books are really not what I would classify as a series. They have the general theme in common, but no underlining tie in.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Jade Tiger - Jenn Reese

Hello, Lovelies! I apologize, I meant to have this review posted far sooner, however the ice we are covered in is messing with my internet connection and it just didn't happen! Before I get to it, I just want to remind everyone that we are on MySpace and having a total blast, so be sure and check us out and all the great authors we have added as friends! Also, next Monday dee will launch her FAB pick, so look forward to some great reviews, interviews and another contest! And since I'm so late in posting, without further ado I present to you my review of-

Jade Tiger by Jenn Reese
(BCC)

Shan Westfall - half-Chinese, half-American, one hundred percent kung fu badass - is on a mission to recover five mystical jade animals before they fall into the wrong hands. Fifteen years ago, Shan's mother led a secret society of female martial artists sworn to protect the small but powerful sculptures. Then the Jade Circle lost four of the five animals during a murderous attack on their sanctuary - and Shan's destiny was sealed.

Now an adult and the protector of the remaining figure, a jade tiger, only Shan can recover the jade crane, snake, leopard, and dragon. Joined by geeky archaeologist Ian Dashell, her quest for the statues takes her on a dangerous trek across three continents.

But when Shan finally confronts the man who destroyed her past...
can she possibly succeed where her mother failed?

As for the BCC, this one isn't too far off the mark. As is true in most cases, it isn't entirely accurate but doesn't shy too far from truth to really irritate me, as you know has been the case before. So, I won't really spend anytime on it. It does do a really good job of giving the reader a clue to the plot within the pages, so I think I may have to give it a thumbs up.

Tiger starts with a Prologue, Hunan Province, China Sanctuary of the Jade Circle Sixteen Years Ago, the fateful day Shan and her father are forced to leave the Sanctuary of the Jade Circle. We see the day through a child's eye, as she is forced to leave behind her mother to save her own life. Shan leaves the sanctuary feeling unsure of what her future will hold and angry that she didn't get to stay and fight alongside her mother. And as you know, prologues aren't my favorite things. But the prologue in Tiger actually lends to the story and is written in a way that sucked me right into the story and had me eager to read the rest.

That said, the prologue states it was sixteen years ago, yet a few chapter later, after the NOW starts, the book says it happened fifteen years ago. Now I understand if that sounds like a small thing to take offense at, but unfortunately, this reader likes the facts to add up. So when I got to the contradiction, I actually stopped reading to see if I had made the error, and my reading pace was slowed. I found myself looking for other contradictions and that made it far harder for me to simply enjoy the book.

Shan Westfall is indeed, as the BCC suggests, a "kung-fu badass". In the years that followed her escape from the sanctuary, Shan studied martial arts and honed her fighting skills so that when the time came she would be ready to take back the remaining jade animals. When she happens to see an article in a magazine that features a picture of a professor with the jade crane sitting behind him, Shan knows the time has come.

Sneaking into the university at night, Shan finds that some one has beat her there and is not only looking for the statues but has hurt an innocent man in the process. Ian Dashell, archaeology professor watches through near unconsciousness as his savior appears in the form of a beautiful woman, who is as lethal with her body as she is lovely.

Once the intruder is gone, Shan learns that the crane is not at the school, and if she'll entrust Ian with the story behind the crane and why it is so important, he will take her to it. But it isn't just the crane Shan needs, and it turns out that Ian may know where another of the jade statues is, and with the bad guys hot on their trail, Shan, Ian, and Buckley (Ian's friend that was pictured in the magazine article) set off to get the jade statues before they fall into the hands of the same people who killed her mother.

It is apparent throughout the book that Reese obviously knows her martial arts. The fight scenes in the book are written in a way that have you on the edge of your seat with descriptions that have you actually envisioning the fight. I do so love a kick ass heroine, and Shan is definitely that. I enjoyed the chase to reach the animals and I enjoyed the action and descriptions of the various fight scenes.

The book however, does not move at the pace in which it starts. Reese throws in a very stilted, unbelievable romance between Ian and Shan, that many times had me wanting to yell at Shan for her stupidity at getting so easily distracted. She has spent her entire life wanting to get these statues, and is very close to achieving that goal, but she allows herself make-out sessions in the woods , while the bad guys get a head-start on her? I just didn't believe it. As focused as Shan supposedly is, I just cannot buy her falling in love in the short space of time she spends with Ian.

The basic premise of the book is intriguing, and well worth the read. But I think Reese missed an opportunity for a great series here. But by having Shan find all of the animals by the end of the book it simply felt rushed, and Shan coming to terms with who her mother was, and her own self worth felt much like the romance - unbelievable.

Tiger is Reese's debut novel, and with time, I think she'll become a name to watch for. There were definite POV problems, instead of alternating, we get the first scene from Ian's and then go to Shan and only Shan until the last couple of chapters. I wouldn't have minded only having Shan's voice if it would have started that way, but it didn't and Ian deserved a voice. For now, I can say that while there were definite aspects of the book that just didn't sit well with me, the action and mythology of the Jade Circle, made it worth my time to read.

Take Care

Friday, January 12, 2007

Forever In Blue, Anne Brashares

and another winner is announced!


Oh, come on. You guys knew this review was coming. I already told you I'd have the book the first day it came out. It did take me a little longer to read than I thought it would, but I'll explain that in the review. First though, I have some BUSINESS to take care of... like... "CARY", Contact us at *deeanddeedish@sbcglobal.net*with your snail mail address! You've won a copy of Anne Stuart's Cold As Ice. If you get me your address really fast, I can mail it out on Saturday. Otherwise, it won't go out in the mail until Tuesday. I have to say, I really like the contests where I can put 15 names in an empty chocolate box and just pick one. That leaves me totally guilt free (as long as you don't count the fact that the chocolate box is empty, ahem). It also allows me to give away a LOT more books. In 2007, you'll find me reading and reviewing a lot more, and YOU get to benefit from that. I'm determined to send out about one book a week to one of you. It will always be an "extra" type of thing, apart from the FAB books that we're already determined to give away. It won't be signed, and it will be previously read (by me, only), but still, a free book is a free book, right? So just remember to check back often, because you never know which book I will put up for grabs. Now, on to the review...
***Hi lovelies, Chari-Dee here, I was just going to leave my thoughts on this book in the comments section, but since I have a bit to say, I thought I'd leave them at the end of dee's wonderful review. So, if your're interested, my comments are at the bottom in this color.***


Forever in Blue by Anne Brashares is the fourth and final installment in the YA "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series. I've read the other three, and even reviewed the third one, Girls In Pants. I started this series because my oldest daughter wanted to try it, and I was at the stage where I read everything she wanted before she read it. She got hooked. So did I. The third books was one of the best books I've read in a long time, and I was eagerly awaiting the final book. The wait is over!

Lena, Tibby, Carmen, and Bee are all back, and bigger than life. They've finished their first year of college, and are trying to get together for the summer. Their lives have all grown beyond their hometown, and even beyond their friendship, it seems. When the ritualistic 'launching' of the Pants at the beginning of the summer fails to happen because one of them can't make it back to town, the girls wonder if things will ever be the way they used to be, before they began to grow up.

Lena is making her way in art school. She's found a small group of friends, and is eager to start summer studies. When a very talented student takes notice of her, will this signal the end of her pain over Kostos?

Bee is feeling neglected by her boyfriend, and decides that a summer dig in Turkey is just what she needs. Meeting a sexy, older man on the dig was not in her plans, but she's willing to go with the flow. At least for a while, it seems.

Tibby takes a giant step in her personal life, with frightening results. Can her heart take the solution that she comes up with?

Carmen goes from being one of the Somebody's to being virtually invisible. A new friend encourages her to try a summer theater workshop, as a set designer. Carmen soon learns that her friend is not who she seems, and Carmen is not nearly as invisible as she's come to feel.

Our girls gear up for their last summer with their beloved Pants. However, something seems to be keeping them apart. How do you hold on to the most important relationships of your life when everything around you seems to be changing? That's what they need to find out. Is it easier to let go, and learn to live in their new worlds, or to hold on tight to their friendship, no matter what?

What I didn't like: This book didn't draw me in as fast as the other ones did. Other people I've talked to mentioned the same thing. It felt disjointed to me. I didn't really connect with the girls until over halfway through the book. I'm still not quite sure why, but I hope Ms. Brashares intended this. I think it had to do with having the reader feel the distance between the girls, just as they were feeling it. Still though, it was almost too late by the time I finally got hooked, as I was just about ready to set it down and read someone else's review. That's sad for me to admit, but it's true. This one just wasn't as quick at pulling me straight into the story and making me feel as the other books have been. Also, knowing that my 14yo will read this book (if she's not already done with it), I wasn't totally pleased about some of the choices the girls made. Yes, I know they're 'growing up', but still... some of it really bothered me. Not to the point where I won't let her read it, ok? But this is more of the "A" than "Y" in the "YA" genre, if you follow my meaning.

What I did like: Despite how long it took for me to get involved, I finally did. When the girls finally got back to the basics, when they returned to the people that I'd known in the first 3 books, this one really got interesting to me. There are a few scenes that ripped my heart out, some things that were just so true, so real, Ms. Brashares could have been writing straight from my own diary. Carmen's angst over being invisible, her realization of what friendship really is, and finally her finding love for herself in the face of adversity, those scenes touched me. I think Lena grew up the most, Carmen changed the most, Bee angered me the most, and Tibby disappointed me the most, which is about what I expected.

Near the end, they all finally make it to the same place at the same time, courtesy, of course, of the pants. Seeing them together as the book, and series, comes to an end, I was reminded of what drew me to the story in the first place. Those were magical pants, with the power to make things good. They brought those girls closer, made them feel loved, made them feel connected even when they were apart. However, it wasn't about the Pants, really. The girls learn, again and maybe forever, that the magic that they attribute to the Pants is really the love that holds them together. Because, Pants or no Pants, at the end of the day, if you don't have your friends, what do you really have? Not too much, that's what.

Randomhouse has a great site set up, just for Pants fans. Go on over here and check it out. It's full of quizzes and factoids, and all sorts of stuff about the Girls, and the Pants. Be sure to leave us a comment and let us know what you thought of this book as well. While it took a while to pull me in, I'm really glad I read it. The friendship at the heart of the story makes it all worthwhile. I'm sorry to see the series end, but look forward to whatever Ms. Brashares writes next.

Keep turning those pages!
dee

I have to agree with several points, dee did an awesome review. For one, I agree, several of the situations in the book do not technically fit in the YA genre. I think it is okay to test the limits of a genre, BUT, when it comes to YA, I think there is a boundary that should not be crossed, and Brashares was entirely too close to that boundary. The choices the girls made, in and of themselves, is not so much where I take issue. No, I take issue with the way the girls handled the aftermath of these situations. From one end of the spectrum to the next, the girls made decisions that were troubling and handled them poorly. I found this particularly true of Lena and Tibby.

I also took exception to the girl's use of alcohol in this book. OK, I remember what it was like being that age, I even remember drinking. The problem is, the girls drank with little words of caution or hard lessons learned because of the drinking. It was a casual thing, and the girls are not yet of drinking age. And while drinking is done frequently in real life by the under-age, I don't advocate it, and I think by having the girls drinking so easily, Brashares did a HUGE injustice to her younger readers.

As dee said, the beginning of the book felt very disjointed, and truth be told, even further into the book it still felt that way for me. The girls were older and the sentence structure Brashares uses did not match the content, situations, or vocabulary used. More mature content with short stilted sentences is what equalled hard to get into book, for me.

I did enjoy the book. I have read them all, and feel like this closes it out well. I didn't close the book wanting more from these girls and that always shows that things wrapped up nicely. If you are a parent that will be buying this books for your child, I strongly suggest you do as dee, and read it first. There are some very grown up issues in this book, and I it could lead to some great discussions with your YA'er. If you haven't read any of these books, nor has your child, I don't suggest starting here. The first three in the series were by far superior to this, but I am so glad I read Forever, because I needed the chance to say good-bye to my friends, Bee, Carma, Tibby, and Lena.

Take Care

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Caridad Ferrer Adios Interview!

Hey there Lovelies. As promised, today I have a great interview with Caridad Ferrer , author of my January FAB pick Adios to My Old Life and the upcoming release IT'S NOT ABOUT THE ACCENT. Before I get to it though, I believe we have some contest winners to announce! The winners of the three signed copies of Adios to My Old Life are Miranda, Ellie L., and Jocelyn P., if you would all contact us via e-mail with your snail mail addy, we'll make sure to get those to Caridad so you can start enjoying your book! And now, without further ado, I present my "interview"(I'm horrible at this type of thing, just so know) with Caridad Ferrer.

Chari-Dee - Was the American Idol show the inspiration behind Adios?

Caridad Ferrer - Only in the most peripheral of manners, really. It was more a case of “What if?” You know, “What if a bunch of Latinos had a show that was sort of like American Idol, but Latino-specific?” It’s how most of my ideas come to life, actually— playing that “What if?” game. The absolutely hysterical thing is that back in October, I found out about a show, literally called “Latin American Idol” that had a format that was very similar to the one I’d created for Oye Mi Canto, and they were getting ready to have their finals. It was absolutely mind-boggling how similar it was and I’d had no idea about it until that moment.

CD - Do you think that Ali's ethnicity impacted the way publishers looked at Adios?

CF - We submitted Adiós to only one publisher who had been specifically looking for Latina YA, so I think the simple answer to your question is yes, Ali’s/my ethnicity definitely had an impact on what the editor was looking for. It’s one reason that I’m using my middle name as a pen name— the publisher wanted something that was immediately recognizable as Latina and that worked well for me, since I wanted something to differentiate my YA work from my adult work.

CD - What about readers? Do you think they take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to read Adios?

CF - I think that there’s a certain audience...who are going to take the ethnic background of the characters or the uniqueness of the setting into consideration when making a decision on this book. I also think there are plenty of people who are non-Latino who also take it into consideration from the standpoint of wanting to see something that’s so very different from their own experience. I’ve had a lot of reader emails/comments that state some variation of, “Wow, I didn’t know anything about Cuban-American culture and what you wrote makes me want to explore more,” which is a very gratifying response to receive. And of course, there are going to be the people who pick it up for the reality show or music aspects or just because it’s about a young woman who’s taking strides to become an adult in a very confusing setting. I’m very proud of how many different facets of this story appeal to readers.

CD - I have a young teenage neighbor who can't wait to get her hands on my copy of Adios because she feels that there simply aren't any books out there that she can identify with. So when she heard I had a book that was about a young woman very close in ethnicity to her own, she was thrilled. Was this a thought foremost in your mind when writing Adios? Giving young Latinos characters they could relate to? I guess I'm just curious, since you are a first-generation Cuban-American, if it was feeling this same way about books as a child that was a catalyst to writing in the YA genre.

CF - I read all across the board when I was a teenager and actually, at that age, identified more strongly as simply an American teenager with little regard to my ethnic background. Frankly, growing up in Miami, it didn’t seem that out of the ordinary, so reading stories about people who WEREN’T like me, was far more interesting. I think that’s what I kept in mind even more strongly— achieving that balance. That it would strike an immediate chord of recognition with Latino readers, yet at the same time, not be so completely culture-specific it might alienate non-Latino readers. It’s a fine line and one that can be challenging to walk, but it’s really what I keep in mind. I don’t want anyone to feel as if they can’t relate to my books because of the cultural background I’m choosing to write about. (For the contest judge who claimed they knew a lot of teenagers and none of them used the kind of slang I tossed around— well, can’t do anything about THAT! )

CD - And now for the music. Are you a musician? Your knowledge of instruments and music was apparent in the book so it makes me very curious.

CF - Heh. Yeah— I’m a musician. I’ve played piano since I was five (although I’m horribly rusty at the moment) and I’ve been singing almost as long. I had visions of being on Broadway, but audition anxiety kind of put a kibosh on that, unfortunately. However, by junior high, I had also picked up French horn and trumpet and by high school, I was my marching band’s drum major as well as spending my summers performing and competing with a drum and bugle corps. In college, I continued with piano and marching in band (Go MARCHING CHIEFS!) and was a music major until the day I blew up at the professor who stood in front of the marching band techniques class and declared that women couldn’t be good band directors. I called him a dinosaur with antiquated ideas who had outlived his usefulness. All of which was true, but he was a dinosaur who had taught most of the band directors in the tri-state area and could pretty much guarantee I’d never get a job. So I changed my major to Elementary Education. :-)

I tell that story because it provided me with a very important lesson— maybe music wasn’t going to be my career in the manner I had been envisioning for longer than I could remember, but I would always, always have music in my life. In some ways, it’s even more important to me now, than it was then, since it provides such incredible inspiration when I’m writing. It’s also a great lesson for writing, as well— like music, writing is something I’ve done my entire life. Like music, it’s something I have to have in my life, regardless of what form it takes.

CD - Also, Ali's musical tastes were quite varied as well, and I loved how she fused them together. Is this a trait of yours as well?

CF - Absolutely. There is very little I won’t listen to, at least once, and I love so many different styles of music, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to admit I prefer one over another. As far as fusing styles together, I think where you can see that reflected in my collection is in how many different versions/covers of a song I might have. I love listening to different artists’ interpretations of a song. Or even when one artist reinterprets one of their own songs in a variety of styles. (Sting is a master at this and yes, I adore him every bit as much as Ali does!)

CD - The romance in Adios was amazing. I loved how you captured what it's like at that age to finally meet someone who just clicks into your life and feels right. I loved how Ali was nervous and I the how believable it all felt.

CF - Thanks! Let’s face it, I’m a romance writer at heart— I adored giving Ali her first love.

CD - And what a first love it was! The almost sex-scene in there, on the beach, was a very powerful scene. I think most girls will be able to relate to this and can learn from it. With this being a YA novel though, did you get some resistance when writing it?

CF - Not really—I’m very fortunate in that MTV Books as a whole, seems to be more “teen” oriented and as such, is open to exploring those kinds of relationships. I think it allows the writers a little more freedom. And of course, I wrote with fairly old characters, age-wise, with respect to YA. Ali and Sosi were the two youngest characters in the book, if you think about it. But with that scene, specifically, in its original iteration, I had actually left it a little more vague and not had them going quite so far, but while revisiting it during the revisions stage, I really felt as if it wasn’t really being true to who these characters were and the situation they were in. Ali was in such a difficult place and feeling so many emotions and really feeling the power of having conflicting emotions manifest in a physical way for the first time. It seemed natural as if she’d explore the sensations and feelings more fully.

CD - From reading over on the The Cherry Forums it's clear that readers would have loved to see more POV's (Point of View) in Adios, was word restriction a factor in making Ali's the only POV?

CF - Adiós was simply Ali’s story. While it would’ve been fun to see other character’s POVs, I think ultimately, this had to be Ali’s story, told through her eyes. However, I will say that the one suggestion that really intrigued me was the idea of having had alternating viewpoints between Ali and her father. The idea of having a parent narrate one half of the story and the child the other has intrigued me. Maybe, someday soon...

CD - So, will we be getting more of Ali in the future? Or perhaps even Sosi?

CF - I had considered writing a story for Sosi as my second book, but then Caroline (the heroine of IT’S NOT ABOUT THE ACCENT) made an appearance and I realized she had quite the story to tell and who am I to argue with the Girls in the Basement? We all know it’s a futile endeavor! As far as Ali, I’d love to revisit her and have some ideas, but what form they take... we’ll I’m not completely certain yet.

CD - My last question on Adios - Even though it is dubbed a YA novel, it has appeal for all ages, what do you feel attributes to this?

CF - I think because we’ve all been there, in some form or another. And I very deliberately did not attempt to write “down” to my readers. It was a great piece of advice when I first took this project on and was scared absolutely spitless over my ability to be able to pull this off. I was coming to the project from the standpoint of being a romance/women’s fiction writer. I’d never really considered writing YA before and while I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity, it was also quite a challenge. But I had some very wonderful friends and fellow writers who basically said, “make yourself seventeen again, then write.” So I did. I was a lot like Ali, in that because I was so immersed in the music world, I was somewhat out of step with my peers— a very odd combination of girl and woman. I tried to put that into Ali and as I wrote her, I realized that so many of us, regardless of whatever age we are, still maintain a bit of that girl/woman dichotomy. There are so many things—a song, a smell, an encounter, a book—that can immediately transport us back into the mindset of that awkward seventeen-year-old again. That’s what I tried to capture and why I think this story appeals across so many age groups.

CD - You also write adult fiction under the name Barbara Ferrer. The alternating POV I found quite interesting because I've never actually seen it done this way. And I have to admit, I really liked that. Seeing his thoughts, and her thoughts. Kind of the He Said/She Said of a relationship. And the chapters felt more like conversations this way. How hard is it for you to switch writing styles from YA to adult?

CF - It was actually the other way around. I consider myself a romance/women’s fiction writer first—or at least, I always did. The hardest thing about switching styles for me is the voicing and it’s something I’m continually working on developing and revising. Since I write in First, I have to have distinctive, unique voices for each character, not just for the dialogue, but for the narrative as well. It’s a challenge, but one I really enjoy— I liken it to an actor preparing for a part. Like Kate Winslet, whom I adore, or Meryl Streep. They lose themselves completely in their parts— I have to do the same thing when writing individual characters. One of the best tools for this, at least for me, is music. (Here we go again.) I create individual playlists of songs that I feel illustrate each character (or a scene) and when I need to get in that character’s head, that’s what I’ll play. Like with THIRTEEN, Josh listened to hard rock to unwind. He begins the story as this tense, driven, very controlled individual who used hard-driving music to unwind. So his playlist has a lot of U2 and Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers and listening to it helps get me in his head.

CD - Caridad is your YA name and we've discussed the reasoning behind that, but why not go with that for the adult as well? Is this so the YA readers won't pick up a definitely more mature book?

CF - Yeah, I think that was my primary reasoning. While I do write at the upper end of the YA spectrum, in terms of character age, it’s a pretty common fact that teens like to “read up.” As a parent myself, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable knowing that my thirteen year old was picking up one of my adult books. That might change, however. Since Caridad is my given middle name, I may incorporate it into my full name and have a bit of connection there. There are a lot of ways in which to consider it.

CD - And lastly, can you give us a heads up on what's next?

CF - ACCENT (as I’ve nicknamed it) is the story of Caroline, a sixth generation born-and-bred small town Ohio girl. She imagines that she has the most boring life possible and makes the decision, when she goes off to college, to do what most of us have done at some point, and reinvent herself as someone new. She’s going to attempt to pass herself off as a Cuban-American girl. There are reasons (and of course Caroline thinks they’re good reasons) for her to pick something so drastic, but the end result is far different than anything she might have ever envisioned— both good and bad. I’m extremely proud of how this story came out and can’t wait for it to be out, but unfortunately, it’s going to be late August before that happens.

I want to give a great big THANK YOU to Caridad for being my first ever FAB pick, you really made it so much fun!

Take Care