Monday, February 13, 2017

feaure: jen lancaster

Back in 2011 and 2012, I wrote about book signings held by Jen Lancaster (twice), Meg Cabot, and Ally Carter for a now-defunct site. Since those posts are no longer available, I'm sharing them here. Below is the second one about Jen Lancaster visiting the Seattle area. It first appeared June 2012.

When an author with the popularity of Jen Lancaster comes to town, Third Place Books just outside Seattle always moves the book signing to the larger Commons area that features a stage and plenty of seating. Even so, there were only a few empty seats as Lancaster answered questions for nearly an hour before moving on to the book signing portion of the evening.

The ever-amusing Lancaster talked about her pets (of course) and upcoming books amongst other topics like reality TV (she does enjoy Ice Loves Coco) and books by others (Fifty Shades of Grey came up, but she didn't elaborate much). Next out will be The Tao of Martha detailing her attempt to follow the edicts of Martha Stewart. Her struggles to make varied crafts and recipes sounded hilarious, especially as she related the Easter celebration that went so very wrong. Who knew Easter eggs shouldn't be hidden well before the kids arrive on a hot, sunny day! She noted that her next work of fiction will clearly be fiction (unlike If You Were Here which seemed inspired by her own house-hunting adventures) because she realized how distracting it is to read a book that might be the author's real life after reading Bethenny Frankel's Skinnydipping. The next novel should be released in early 2013 and is said to be about high school girls, time travel, and the band White Snake.

Monday, February 6, 2017

review: broken glass by v.c. andrews

After the huge backstory dump that made up The Mirror Sisters, Broken Glass finally gets to the action. Broken Glass begins where The Mirror Sisters had left off--Kaylee has been kidnapped after being set up by her identical twin, Haylee. Haylee tells their parents, the cops, and anyone else who wants to know that Kaylee willingly ran off with an older man she met online; Haylee pretends to be terribly broken up about her sister being missing. Kaylee, meanwhile, is trying to figure out how to stay alive. The man who took her is delusional and believes Kaylee is to be his bride. Kaylee wisely goes along with his delusions as best she can as she investigates her surroundings to hatch an escape plan. Haylee's part of the story consists of much the same fake wailing over Kaylee repeatedly, but Kaylee's parts actually have some action and forward-movement that make the story entertaining.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Friday, February 3, 2017

review: lethal by sandra brown

One minute Honor Gillette had a relatively simple life as a widowed mother and the next an injured man was pulling a gun on her in her front yard. So begins Sandra Brown's Lethal. Honor initially thinks it's just bad luck a man wanted for murder showed up at her home, so she offers him her car and expects he'll be on his way; Lee Coburn has other plans. Honor's husband was a cop and Coburn believes he had information—information that led to his "accidental" death—that Honor now possesses. Honor doesn't believe it possible her husband would've had anything Coburn would want, but soon the events she witnesses make her start believing Coburn is being framed by dirty cops.

Lethal provides multiple thrills and plenty of action as the conspiracy unfolds. The layers of the conspiracy come apart some though when the big reveal is finally made. Honor and Coburn have a nice rapport and the evolution of their relationship feels authentic, but the shifting perspectives (Lethal is told through a number of narrators) interrupted that development too much at times.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

feature: ally carter

Back in 2011 and 2012, I wrote about book signings held by Jen Lancaster (twice), Meg Cabot, and Ally Carter for a now-defunct site. Since those posts are no longer available, I'm sharing them here. Below is the one about Ally Carter visiting the Seattle area. It first appeared March 2012.

An overflow crowd turned out this week at Third Place Books just outside of Seattle, WA for Ally Carter's book tour promoting the latest Gallagher Girls book Out of Sight, Out of Time. During the hour-long question and answer session that came before the book signing, Carter answered questions about the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series and gave some writing advice.

In explaining how she got the idea for Gallagher Girls, Carter revealed that it was all because of her misunderstanding about a plot point from the TV show Alias. Carter thought Sydney's sister went to spy school. When she found out that wasn't the case, Carter decided she had to write that story. To make the series as authentic as she could, Carter did plenty of research about the CIA. Carter said she approaches the Gallagher Academy as if it's real and has the classes the girls take involve real training exercises used by the CIA. The audience was thrilled to find out a sixth book that takes Cammie through graduation or death--"whichever comes first!"--is in the works. She also told the captivated group the series will not end without the truth about Cammie's father being revealed. But right now, Carter's working on the third Heist Society book. When creating a new story, she uses a notebook to plot it out. That notebook goes just about everywhere with her; Carter's not even taking a break for the tour though she did leave it at the hotel during the appearance.

In regards to writing advice, Carter said you must give yourself permission to write badly and that she did plenty of it in her early teens. Carter also told would-be authors to write and read as much as possible while not worrying about publication. She said you should read everything, not just the genre you're interested in, in order to learn how words work. When asked what she reads, Carter said The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was one of her earliest inspirations and she now primarily reads young adult books including those by E. Lockhart and Holly Black.

Carter's tour for Out of Sight, Out of Time wrapped up today in Wichita, KS.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

review: elvis and the underdogs by jenny lee

Following a seizure at school, 10 year old elementary school outcast Benji is told he’s going to have to wear a helmet to protect his head from potential falls unless his parents agree to get him a service dog. Benji’s mom (who is the ultimate helicopter mom and incredibly annoying) immediately says no to the dog citing Benji’s allergies and her white rug. But after the helmet results in a(nother) bullying incident, Benji’s mom relents. Elvis arrives shortly thereafter, but Elvis is no regular service dog—he’s actually intended for the president to thwart attacks and Elvis is able to speak in English to Benji. Although Elvis is disappointed not to be at The White House, the pair soon bond and Benji makes a few friends at school.

Elvis and the Underdogs is a very cute, entertaining story although it sometimes reads more like a script than a novel which is likely due to author Jenny Lee’s employment as a writer for the Disney Channel. Lee also makes a few mistakes that young readers are unlikely to pick up on, but could be important for them to know the difference about. For example, she uses “therapy dog” and “service dog” interchangeably and fails to have the children follow Epi-Pen protocol (understandable that the children wouldn’t know, but the nurse they had on the phone should’ve instructed them to call 911 and go to the hospital following the injection).
Review copy provided by the publisher, Balzer + Bray.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

review: the lesser bohemians by eimear mcbride

Written with a non-standard, disjointed sentence structure, I found The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride to be nearly incomprehensible. Had it not been for the description provided by the publisher, it’s unlikely I ever would’ve figured out the main character is 18 and attending drama school. Here’s an example:
Empty flat, only for us. Loll at the windows studying buses, guessing what ages Blustons has seen. Hang those dresses for a hundred years. On the sofa, he flicks through the flatmate’s Stage that’s been circled, re-circled for telemarketing jobs but peace in the bright, bright sun.
Such writing works for the sex scenes (and that’s what the novel is primarily about—the relationship with a much older man rather than the actual goings-on of the drama school), but the choppiness makes it difficult to muddle through all the rest. It felt like the author was trying be literary and poetic, but it came off as pretentious.
Review copy provided by Blogging for Books.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

review: lucky bastard by deborah coonts

After a major breakup in So Damn Lucky, Lucky Bastard finds Lucky getting back in the saddle; of course, she has to deal with a murder too. This time it’s death by Jimmy Choo. The unlucky victim is found stabbed with a stiletto inside a Ferrari dealership that should’ve been impossible for her to gain entry to… unless she had the code from the owner. While the cops run their investigation, Lucky does some interrogating of her own as she happens to have connections to many of the people potentially involved in the crime.

Lucky may have lost her way a little bit in the third novel in the series, but she is back on her snarky game in the fourth. Deborah Coonts builds on all the well-known characters which prevents them from feeling stale now that they’ve become so familiar. The conspiracy that surrounds what becomes multiple murders keeps the reader guessing while also heightening the stakes for Lucky, who can’t seem to help herself from always getting involved.
Review copy provided by the publicist, Kate Tilton.