Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster, 2010

I've been wanting to read this one for a while, ever since I first saw the cover. (Yes, I confess: book covers go a long way in catching my attention). This is a great summer read, and would be a wonderful choice for crashing on the beach or in the backyard. I read it during February, a very cold part of February, however - and it was like escaping winter for a mini summer vacation.

Amy's life is essentially in shambles. Three months ago her father was killed in a car accident, and she's not driven since. This complicates matters immensely, since her mother has moved to Connecticut, and Amy has to "drive" their car cross-country to their new home. To make matters worse, her twin brother Charlie is in rehab in North Carolina. Needless to say, Amy is a mess - even without being forced to conquer her fear of driving. The solution to the quandary? Recruit Roger, the son of a long-time family friend, to drive Amy and the Jeep from California to Connecticut. Roger has secrets of his own, however, and their trip takes an unexpected turn when Amy takes him up on the half-joking suggestion to "take a detour".

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is an amazing road trip. Really. They take turns picking destinations, and make all kinds of discoveries along the way: discoveries about America, and about themselves. From the Loneliest Road in America to the deliciousness of Chick-fil-A, Amy and Roger are taking each mile of the trip as it comes, never knowing what awaits them. As Amy gradually adjusts to being around people again, she starts realizing that things can't stay bottled inside forever. She and Roger make a true connection, and he helps her gently but steadily break down the walls she put up and deal with the raw emotion she's kept hidden so long. This isn't all Amy's story however, and Roger learns to see past his own mistakes and look more clearly at life. In finding the best eats and chasing down windmills (a`la Don Quixote), Amy and Roger's epic detour becomes a literal journey to new life.

I enjoyed the reading experience: the text is broken into 'segments' by pages from Amy's travel journal. These include the playlist mixes that Roger creates, factoids about the states they travel through, and pictures of things along the road. The pictures are actual photographs that Morgan Matson took when she made the same road trip - which I found to be a very nice touch. At times, the story feels a bit intense, but not overwhelmingly so - especially considering the stuff Amy is working through. The full story of the accident, as well as other memories and instances she has pushed down, spins out slowly, in flashbacks, that match the pace of Amy's journey through the pain and into healing. I don't always like flashbacks, but these are clearly marked as such, and work very well with the story itself. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour is a light summer read that had enough substance to prevent it becoming "fluff," and I find myself wondering what other adventures the pair will have.

Book provided by my personal library.



Michael V Kennedy

Covert is unlike any book I've ever read. Not a bad thing, just an observation. It actually had me chuckling out loud half the time, and shaking my head the other half. A spy spoof that made me think of Get Smart! (the 2008 movie, I haven't seen the original show), and took me on an international whirlwind ride Covert is both the title of the novel and the name of the governmental agency where our main characters work.

The premise is simple enough: the prototype of a new nuclear missile has been stolen, and Paul Blaine and his partner Danny Willoughby must catch the thieves and reclaim the missile components before any other agency does. ("Other agencies" meaning the CIA, FBI and Homeland Security, of course). These guys had me cracking up as they hit brick wall after brick wall in their quest. Plus, Willoughby is working on a book of crosswords at the same time - quite a feat when you've got a limited vocabulary, and your brainiac partner is distracted trying to catch bad guys who are always just ahead of you. And what exactly is going on with everyone else in on this hunt - are all the bad guys really bad? Are all the good guys playing fair? As with any good story, things come together just when they ought to, and all ends well -- or does it?

What I really enjoyed about Covert was the 'lightness' - the tongue-in-cheek look at the way government runs, the way people are. I loved the slap-stick quality to the action and adventure, and was literally laughing out loud at times. Blaine and Willoughby are likable, realistically bumbling, characters with a good chemistry and a knack for misadventure, and I look forward to reading about their next case.

Book provided by author for review.



Anna Patricio
Imajin Books, 2011

Chances are good you've heard of Joseph - you know, from the Bible. The one who had the coat of many colors, and was sold into slavery in Egypt by his own brothers. But do you know about his wife? What is her story, and how did she end up married to Joseph? Those are the answers that Anna Patricio explores in Asenath, her debut novel.

From humble beginnings as the daughter of a fisherman in a small river village, Kiya's life is turned upside down time after time - first by raiders who ransack her village, killing her parents, then by the High Priest Lord Pentephres who brings her to the Temple in Heliopolis and later adopts her. Struggling to maintain her own identity, even as she adjusts to her new life as a member of the nobility, Asenath (as she is now known), grows into a striking young woman. Not just in terms of her beauty and height, but in terms of her person. Asenath is not content to sit idly by and while away her time in luxury, so she begins tutoring children of her parents' friends. Her heart is not bound by the structure of Egyptian society, and she sees the "slaves" around her as people - a compassion perhaps encouraged by her own humble beginnings. Asenath's unwillingness to conform to class distinction is tested - and proven true - when she meets Lord Potiphar's steward Joseph.

Joseph is both an indentured servant and a Hebrew - two strikes against him in the eyes of most Egyptians, but especially Lord Pentephres, who desires Asenath to marry someone of distinction and standing. At first, Asenath just feels an undeniable attraction to Joseph: he makes her feel safe, and he's gorgeous. (Good reasons, no?) But as they become friends through correspondence, she starts to feel a stronger connection. Trials come once more when Potiphar's wife accuses Joseph of attempting to rape her, and he is thrown in prison. During the long years of Joseph's imprisonment, Asenath continues to grow and develop into a charming, accomplished and very genuine young lady. Finding herself employed by Pharaoh's wife as Royal Tutor, she thanks "the God of my dear one" for the chance to be so close - even if still so far - to Joseph. When the story picks back up the familiar Biblical tale of Joseph and Pharaoh's dreams, Asenath finds herself once more in the company of Joseph - and undeniably falling deeply in love.

The course of true love never did run smooth, but everything Asenath and Joseph endure makes their love stronger - and helps burn the dross from each, so their characters are as strong and admirable as their love is true. Their relationship is a beautiful story, and as an imagining of how things may have played out, once upon a time...well, let's just say I find myself hoping something as beautiful is the true story. (There's a particularly telling incident early in the story that comes back into play later, and it made my heart smile). Asenath is not only the story of Asenath and Joseph however: it offers a wonderfully detailed glimpse at Egyptian society and culture. As an Art History minor and History major, I was thrilled to see so many familiar names and references. And the details Patricio paid to the dress and jewels and decor - lovely, simply lovely. If Asenath is a debut offering, I cannot wait to see what Patricio's second novel will be like!

eBook provided by author for review.


Guest Post: Top 10 List with Jessica Grey

Today I'm turning my blog over to the amazing Jessica Grey -- you may remember her from my review of Awake: A Fairytale last week. Sit back and enjoy, as Jessica shares her Top 10 list! Also, because Jessica is so awesome, she told me I could interject my commentary on her picks - so I'll be the one writing in [blue brackets]. Just so you know.

Hi! My name is Jessica and I love fairy tales!  I've recently published an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty called Awake: A Fairytale that Rebecca was nice enough to review here on A Word's Worth.  She asked me if I wanted to a guest post about fairy tale adaptations, and course my answer was yes!  So, without further ado, here are the Top Ten Fairytale Adaptations as picked by me (this is a very, very subjective list).

10.  The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, picture book, Jon Scieszka
Anyone who has read any picture books will be forced to admit that Jon Scieszka is kind of a genius.  If you haven't loved his books then there might be something actually wrong with you.  Okay, that might be a little strong, but it's still probably true.  The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is told from the perspective of the wolf, and it's hilarious.  I may quote it randomly.  It's a classic skewed fairytale, making the villain out to be the hero, or in this case, at least not as much of a villain.  I mean, really, who wastes a perfectly good ham dinner when they find one? [Ham? Pshaw, he was really after the bacon.]

9.  Sleeping Beauty, picture book, Mahlon and K.Y. Craft
My list is a little bit Sleeping Beauty heavy because that is the story that is Awake is based on.  The illustrations in this book are so jaw-droppingly gorgeous though that it should be on everyone's list.  The story is very well done, although perhaps not quite up to par with pictures, but that's really more the fault of the illustrations being out of this world good than the narration being severely lacking.  There aren't all that many picture book versions of Sleeping Beauty in print, and I sometimes wonder if for the last ten years at least, illustrators have been to intimidated by this one to try their hand.  This book should definitely be in your picture book library!  

8.  Hoodwinked, film, The Weinstein Company
If you ever want to teach a class of English students about point of view - this is your movie!  In the tradition of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and other turned on their head fairytales, Hoodwinked claims that all is not as it seems in the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.  One of the best parts of this movie is that it's done in classic caper comedy style.  The computer animation is very well done, and it's funny, clever, and clean.  And luckily, unlike with some shows/movies the writers manage to not "out-clever" themselves by being too cutesy.  The voice acting is also amazing, Patrick Warburton as the Wolf is genius.

7.  Once Upon a Time/Grimm, tv shows, ABC and NBC 
I've lumped these two together because they've both only been on for a short while, but so far I am enjoying them both for different reasons.  Sometimes t.v. shows seem to come in groups (medical shows in the 1990s for example) and this is really the year of the fairytale with two shows on prime time and two different Snow White movies coming out!  Once Upon a Time has a slight edge in my affections because it is just SO good.  The premise behind Once Upon a Time is that all the fairytale characters lived together in a land/wood, and then they were transported to this world by the evil queen from Snow White and all live in the town of Storybrooke, Maine.  They don't remember who they truly are, and according to the little boy Henry, it is up to Emma, Snow and Charming's daughter to help them remember.  The acting is stellar, the back stories the writers are giving the characters is brilliant, and I adore Snow and Charming.
Grimm is really interesting because it  meshes many of the characters and concepts (mostly all the creepy creatures) from fairytales into a police procedural.  The main character, Nick, is a cop who has just recently learned from his dying aunt that he is a Grimm.  His family is tasked with protecting humanity against all the monsters that live among us...monsters that we've read about in fairytales.  The genius behind the show is that it pairs completely creeptastic monsters and effects with the comic relief of Monroe, a reformed Blutblad (big bad wolf).  Silas Weir Mitchell who plays Monroe knocks it out of the park during every single one of his scenes. 
I'm kind of glad these shows are on at the same time because they give us both sides of fairytales.  Although there is real evil in Once Upon a Time, it's still a sort of beautiful and fantastical evil, whereas Grimm is very gritty and takes on that evil straight on.  But on the flip side, without the delicate beauty of Once Upon a Time to counter Grimm, I think viewers would be missing out on the whole range of human emotion that fairytales encompass.

6.  Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theater - DVD
This ran on cable, which I did not have as a child, but it was also released on VHS and I remember renting episodes all the time.  Especially the Cinderella episode with Jennifer Beals and Matthew Broderick.  The evil stepsister's line "Perhaps some haaaam?" became a favorite saying in our family.  The episodes (really more like almost full-length movies) are incredibly well produced, stick very close to the original story lines with some quirky humor thrown in, and feature stars from the 80s like Carrie Fisher [heh...], Christopher Reeve [Clark Kent! Clark Kent in a fairy tale!!! How did I never know this??? I may swoon.], and directed by famous directors such as Francis Ford Coppola and Tim Burton.  There's a new DVD set that includes all 26 episodes fully restored and it is on my wish list!

5.  Tangled, film, Disney
This movie rocks.  Seriously.  The animation is gorgeous, the story is tight and entertaining, the voice acting is amazing, and Flynn Rider is hot. [Ahem.]  Did I just actually say that? [Yes, yes you did.] Why yes, yes I did. [I'm glad we agree.] He may be fictional (and animated) but he is ridiculously adorable. [Flynn is the total package, whatchu talkin' about?]  Rapunzel is no slouch either.  I like that she has equal parts of bravery and sensitivity.  The animal characters in Tangled are both cute without being annoying, Maximus is a big winner at our house, and Mother Gothel is satisfyingly creepy.  I honestly cannot find a single thing wrong with this movie...and Zachary Levi sings! [I may swoon again.] Win.

4.  Spindle's End, YA novel, Robin McKinley
I adore how McKinley writes magic, in fact the entire first chapter of this book is about the magic in the kingdom into which the princess who becomes Sleeping Beauty is born, and it's genius.  There are two types of McKinley books, the earlier ones which are a bit more straightforward, and then the later ones that are much more dense and lyrically written [you mean the ones that're so detailed, they infiltrate your dreams!] - people usually like one or the other, but I'm a fan of both her styles [I knew I liked you].  To me Spindle's End is the midway book, you get all that gorgeous prose but still get the fresh and open feel of her earlier books.  The first part of the book centers on Katriona the young fairy who is entrusted with hiding the infant princess from the evil fairy Pernicia who has cursed her.  The reader gets to watch the Princess, Rosie, grow up and see how her circumstances and environment have shaped her.  The last part of the book is in Rosie's point of view as she learns about, and come to terms with, her heritage.  McKinley is wonderful at creating wholly developed worlds and Spindle's End makes you feel like you are there with the characters.
3.  Sleeping Beauty, film, Disney
This one has to be on the list!  My novel is a twist on Sleeping Beauty after all! But in all honesty, Sleeping Beauty is my favorite of the Disney Princess movies.  I love the animation, it reminds me of beautiful stained glass windows.  I'm also from Southern California so Sleeping Beauty's castle is THE Disney castle in my mind.  The best part about this movie?  Prince Phillip.  He's awesome.  I've written a whole treatise on why he is awesome over on my blog if you are interested. [It's true. She has. And it's really good, you should read it.]

2.  Princess Furball, picture book, Charlotte Huck
Princess Furball is a picture book adaptation of Thousand Furs, a fairy tale that I adore and hope someday to adapt myself into novel format [wha? I've never heard of this...I think I need to find this! Fur + fairy tales = great mix in my experience].  This adaptation is PG rated (as in her father wants to marry her off to an ogre, not marry her himself as in many original versions of the story) and the illustrations are lovely.  When I was young I used to babysit a girl named Alexandra (yes, the Alex in my book is named after her) and she had a copy of this book that I insisted on reading to her every time I babysat.  She was so tired of it after a few years, but I kept insisting cause I love this book (and she put up with me cause she's awesome)!  When she went off to college (yikes that makes me sound old [we are old, hehe]) she gave me the book as a gift.   I still love it!

1.  Beauty, YA novel, Robin McKinley
Yes, I have two McKinley books on this list, what can I say?  This is quite possibly my favorite YA novel fairytale adaptation.  It's a pretty straight up retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but I love McKinley's lyrical language and in my opinion, no one writes magic better.  McKinley wrote another Beauty and the Beast version years later called Rose Daughter, and people fall into two camps - the Beauty camp or the Rose Daughter camp.  I am in the first but I know my lovely host, Rebecca, is firmly in the second camp [I love 'em both, just in totally different ways...They're such different stories, to be the same story. I'm in awe, quite honestly].  I love Rose Daughter, it's dark and lovely and has gorgeous language, but Beauty has my heart for it's simple and open honesty.  I love how McKinley treats the magic in the Beast's castle and the relationship between Beauty and her horse, Greatheart, is genuine and believable.  I could probably write a ten page paper on why this book is so great, but you'll just have to take my word...or read it yourself! [Definitely read it!] 

Now that I've shared my favorite fairy tale retellings, what are some of yours?

Thanks so much, Jessica, for sharing! And for letting me interject commentary, haha... While some of your selections are familiar, others are new to me --  I must track these down! If you enjoyed Jessica's guest post, and want more of her delightful takes on life and literature, check out her website!


Winter's Kiss

Winter's Kiss
Jennifer Echols & Catherine Hapka
Simon Pulse, 2012

Winter's Kiss is actually two books in one cute little volume: The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols and The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Catherine Hapka. The two novels pair together beautifully, and I read them during a particular cold week - which made them doubly fitting.

The Ex Games is an intense ride. Hayden and Nick were an item in seventh grade, and have been enemies ever since. Well, maybe not entirely enemies, considering how Nick is all Hayden can think about, and if her little brother's logic is right, then Nick maybe likes Hayden more than he lets on too. When their best friends pair off, the Exes find themselves thrown together more and more, and soon Winter Break turns into a hot contest with Poser tickets on the line. A fun mix of snowboarding and high school dynamics, The Ex Games was a perfect wintry read. I also really enjoyed that Echols used chapter headings to introduce snowboarding lingo (I'm a word nerd, and I happen to love the winter X Games).

With a similar theme of exes and potential romance, The Twelve Dates of Christmas is a series of misadventures. Lexi thinks that she and long-time boyfriend Cam need to break up, so she applies the theories of science to orchestrate the plan. It works too well however, and soon she's trying new theories: those of her best friend Allie, who hopes to write a self-help romance book one day. As plan after plan backfires, Lexi realizes that maybe this is not a time for theories and hypotheses. Maybe this requires something even more drastic. A fast-paced read that had me chuckling out loud, as well as cringing sympathetically at times, The Twelve Dates of Christmas is the perfect companion read for The Ex Games.

Book provided by author for review.


Blog Tour: Rebirth

Hello! Today I'm happy to announce I am the first stop of the Rebirth blog tour, sponsored by Lightning Book Promotions. I was all set to offer a review of Dave Longeuay's Rebirth, but technical and postal difficulties have interfered. All is not lost however, because I have a blurb, a trailer, and links!

How did a remnant of scattered Jews rise to build a mighty superpower in the Middle East? Fleeing his father’s anti-Semitic organization, Charles Devonshire journeys into the most volatile landgrab in history—Post WWII Palestine. Charles pursues a beautiful but mysterious librarian, Gladia, who introduces him to the elaborate Jewish underground.

While joining their plight to reestablish a homeland, he falls in love with her and faces painful challenges in developing a relationship within their culture gap. And in the midst of battling the hostile inhabitants who also laid claim to Palestine, he searches for clues of his own troubled past. Can Charles pursue love, uncover his family secrets and avoid being trapped in the middle of the world’s longest feud? Rebirth draws you into 1948, into a world of intrigue, espionage and anti-Semitism. Witness how ancient prophecies were fulfilled against impossible odds as Israel built a nation and defied skeptics. Journey through the precarious events that led to Israel’s miraculous rebirth on May 14, 1948.
Experience the unrelenting pursuits of the most persecuted race, and how their renewed strength reestablished their original language, customs and land cultivations after 2,000 years of desolation—an accomplishment no other nation can claim. Dave Longeuay is a multimedia producer and has been an avid student of prophecy and Israeli biblical history for over two decades.

Pretty awesome sounding, right? As a history major, I took my non-Western world classes in Middle Eastern history, so this one is most definitely on my To Read List.

And if that doesn't catch your attention, how about this trailer:

Now that I've whetted your appetite, check out Dave's site, and don't forget to swing by all the stops on the tour:
20th Jacque @ Good Family Reads
23rd Linda @ One Desert Rose
24th Michelle @ Healing Hearts
24th Kathleen @ Celtic Lady’s Reviews
26th Jennifer @ Mommy’s Reading Too..
27th Libby @ Libby’s Library


A Hopeless Romantic

A Hopeless Romantic
Harriet Evans
Downtown Press, 2007

I have heard great things about Harriet Evans, and when I saw this on my library's new books shelf, I scooped it up. The cover is seriously cute: the fountain spray? It's glitter. The premise sounded interesting, and I got all settled in for a fun, quirky chick lit read. And quickly got frustrated.

My main issue with A Hopeless Romantic is the pacing: it moves...so...slow...ly... Not moving slowly because there's a lot of stuff going down and you need to get all the groundwork laid, but just plain ol' moving slo-o-o-o-w. When I realized I still had 400 pages left, I started skimming ahead, hoping things were fixing to take off. Um. Nope. Nor was the content further on enough to convince me to plod through the story. I couldn't get close to Laura (our main character), and it just wasn't a fun read for me. So I sent it back to the library unfinished.

Because I have heard so much praise for Evans, I'll give another of her novels a go one day. And in the mean time, here's the blurb from Goodreads.com:
Laura Foster is a hopeless romantic. Her friends know it, her parents know it - even Laura acknowledges she lives either with her head in the clouds or buried in a romance novel. It's proved harmless enough, even if it hasn't delivered her a real-life dashing hero yet. But when her latest relationship ends in a disaster that costs her friendships, her job, and nearly her sanity, Laura swears off men and hopeless romantic fantasies for good.
With her life in tatters around her, Laura agrees to go on vacation with her parents. After a few days of visiting craft shops and touring the stately homes of England, Laura is ready to tear her hair out. And then, while visiting grand Chartley Hall, she crosses paths with Nick, the sexy, rugged estate manager. She finds she shares more than a sense of humor with him - in fact, she starts to think she could fall for him. But is Nick all he seems? Or has Laura got it wrong again? Will she open her heart only to have it broken again?
If you've read and loved a Harriet Evans novel, give a girl a suggestion?

Book provided by my local library.


Favorite Love Stories

It's The-Day-After-Valentine's Day!

Even as a single girl, Valentine's is one of my all-time favorite holidays. I mean really, how can you go wrong on a day that is all about Love? Love of family, of friends, of yourself. I hope you all spent the day happily, and felt loved and special at least once - even if it was when your furbaby snuggled up to you or the bliss of a really good taste of chocolate.

In keeping with the spirit of the 'season,' how about a peek at my favorite love stories?

If you know me, you know this could be an extensive list. So, I have a method: I'm leaving fairy tales out of this list. I also am going to take the drastic step and exclude Austen. Yes, you read that correctly: none of Jane Austen's glorious, beautiful love stories are going to be listed here. But really, think about it: we all know about the timeless romance of Elizabeth & Darcy, or Emma and Knightley -- it's safe to say they're going to be beloved. Although, as I start thinking about this listing, Darcy has some major competition.

Now then, ready to see what I have picked?

Gabi + Marcello, The River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren
If you were around in the fall, you got to witness me fall head-over-heels in love with Lisa Bergren's River of Time series. In the first book, Waterfall, we are introduced to impulsive Gabi who manages to travel back in time to meet the amazing (and gorgeous! ahem) Marcello. Their love is timeless, beautiful, and intense -- but not without trials or obstacles that need surmounting. I inhaled Waterfall, as well as its two partners in the series Cascade and Torrent, falling ever more in love with Gabi + Marcello. (Also, there are some other amazing individuals, and love interests, in the series. Definitely read these if you haven't!)

Macy + Wes, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
I fell in love with Wes the first time I read this, and still think he and Macy are my favorite Dessen couple. I was able to relate to Macy so, so, so much -- and Wes ... well, it's safe to say that Dessen herself (a`la character) described Wes best this way: sa-woon.

Meg + John, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I know that Jo + Prof. Bhaer and Amy + Laurie get most of the attention (and they are stunning love stories in their own right, trust me!), but I love Meg + John Brooke. It's so quiet, so gentle. It's so real. Amy's love story is a fairy tale, and Jo's is a bit unconventional -- both of which suit their respective heroines. But Meg? It's a gradual thing, that just creeps in and is fully in place before you realize what's happening. Simple and beautiful and sweet.

Anne + Gilbert, The Anne books by L.M. Montgomery
Um, yeah. How could I not count Anne + Gilbert??? Ever since I first read the Anne books at age 7, I've been a fangirl. Gilbert is ... well, he's probably one of the most perfect literary heroes there is. Yeah, I said it. And the truly wonderful thing is, Montgomery let us follow the romance the whole way: we meet Anne and Gilbert as children, watch them fight and compete and finally become friends; then struggle to understand their hearts and move into adulthood. We see their children, their children's romances. I love it. Love-love it. And who could forget that Gilbert likes smart girls?

Laura + Almanzo, The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This was the first love story I ever read (Anne was the second, coincidentally), and I never realized how much it had shaped my ideas of love until I reread the series two winters ago. It's an even sweeter unfolding than Meg + John or Anne + Gil. It's simple. It always makes me smile, even chuckle softly. And Almanzo is such a wonderful hero -- he's gentle, he's brave, he's just a boy. I mean, really. I want the kind of guy who can gentle wild horses with a whisper. Plus, of all the couples I've listed: this one is a real-life couple.

My favorite non-Austen and non-fairy tale love stories. What do you think? What are your favorites?



Jessica Grey
Tall House Books, 2012

I am thrilled to review Awake today! I've been aching to get my hands on this novel since Jessica first told me about the idea. As a fellow fairy tale fanatic, I loved the idea of setting the classic tale of 'Sleeping Beauty' in modern Los Angeles, with a twist. What could go wrong? Nothing, nothing at all - I assure you.

Alexandra Martin liked science. And rocks. She understood them, and they made her happy. People were trickier. Especially Luke Reed - her childhood best friend-turned baseball star. So when Luke shows up as a fellow summer intern at the Gem and Mineral Museum, Alex is less than thrilled. Though she tries to keep her distance, and is "oh-so-crushing" on Nicholas (her "boss" at the Museum), there's palpable tension between Alex and Luke -- which does not go unnoticed by Becca, Alex's intern buddy and new best friend. Everything gets a lot more intense when a new shipment of specimens arrives from France, and Alex and Becca find themselves in a face-to-face encounter with a living, breathing fairy tale. Yup, Sleeping Beauty has appeared in LA. Only, in order to 'wake up,' her spell transferred to the gallant Luke who impulsively kissed her sleeping self. What happens next is a whirlwind ride that challenges everything Alex ever thought about science, magic, fairy tales, Love and herself.

I loved Alex - she's so human and authentic. She's like so many teenage girls I've known, and I could totally relate to her. (Except for the anti-fairy tale part at the beginning, of course). Her journey of self-discovery is as wonderful a read as the adventures (or misadventures) that she and Becca encounter as they try to sort out what to do with Lilia - the former Sleeping Beauty - and how to awaken Sleeping Luke. The three girls have great chemistry, and discover a bond that transcends their differences. Luke, though under an enchantment for most of the story, plays a huge role - and is quite a dynamic character. His personality is intriguing, and he's definitely a YA hero to swoon over.

The story is an engrossing and quick read: you've got to find out what happens  next! It's a fun read too: no angsty teen drama, just some serious soul-searching and some not-so-typical "science experiments." And the nerdy humor! I died when I got to one glorious line referencing one of my favorite movies. All in all, a stunning debut and I (somewhat impatiently) look forward to the next two installments in Jessica Grey's fairy tale trilogy!

Digital ARC provided by author for review.


Giveaway Winners!

I've had a pretty "meh" week (complete with getting sick, ugh), so I don't know about you, but I am super happy it's Friday! I do know that two of you are fixing to get real happy about this Friday: I've got giveaway winners to announce!

Yup, The Thorn and the Blossom giveaway ended yesterday, and Rafflecopter helped me pick two winners. Are you ready to find out  who the lucky winners are? Who am I kidding, of course you are...

Drumroll please....

Candy M
Colleen K

Congratulations, ladies!
I've already emailed you, so check your inboxes and/or spam filters, and let me know where these books need to be sent!

I'm excited for you  both - and I hope you'll let me know which side you read first: Brendan or Evelyn!

If you didn't win this time, don't despair - there will be more giveaways!


Blog Tour: Promise Me This

Promise Me This
Cathy Gohlke
Tyndale, 2012

When I saw this available for review from Tyndale, I was intrigued. I haven't read much historical fiction about the Titanic, but with the anniversary approaching, I decided to give it a go. Promise Me This quickly swept me into the story, and didn't let me go.

I'm going to be very careful with this review, because there is something to be gained from going into this reading without knowing all the details. (Or maybe I just want everyone to experience the 'What on earth?!' feeling I had when I got to a certain part.) The main characters are Annie Hall and Michael Dunnagan. Annie comes from a distinguished and wealthy - though somewhat haunted - London family. Michael is an Irish orphan, fighting for survival on the streets and docks. The link between the two is Owen - Annie's big brother, who takes Michael under his wing, quite literally giving him new life.

Owen sets sail on the Titanic, discovering Michael stowed away a few days into the voyage. Realizing God had some purpose for the boy reappearing in his life this way, Owen begins to teach Michael everything he knows about gardens and plants - preparing him for a new start in America, and adopting him as a brother. But the Titanic has a date with an iceberg, and Owen never makes it to New Jersey, though he makes sure Michael does. And Michael vows to do all he can to bring Annie safely to America too, fulfilling Owen's promises and goals. Annie however, is less inclined to go along with this plan, finding it hard to forgive Michael for living when she is forced to lose so much. So begins a long, painful journey of healing and reconciliation - and the all-powerful force of Love.

Annie and  Michael each struggle with their own demons, eventually learning that the only way forward is to embrace the life they're given and the people who love them. They become friends, then more - and plans are set in place for Annie to join Michael and her aunt in New Jersey. When World War I breaks out, those plans are halted, and a new chapter in Annie and Michael's story begins. Annie's letters stop abruptly one day, and she seems to disappear into thin air. Michael returns to England, then goes on to the front lines in France, to find her. What follows is a story that breaks your heart and makes you smile all at once.

I loved this book, but at least once I was sorely tempted to throw it at the wall and scream. Gohlke does a masterful job of creating characters that I can relate to and cheer for, and then wham!, out of nowhere a story twist comes that - seriously - made me want to shriek. But I kept reading! And man, the reward was worth the momentary frustration. So take heart, readers! Keep reading, and you'll be happy again! I promise you this. It's an emotional read - having not read any Titanic fiction, the scenes surrounding the sinking and aftermath were intense. I am a fan of WWI stories, so was more prepared for that emotional rollercoaster. Promise Me This is a exceptional piece of historical fiction I think: it has the historical details to make it feel real, but it's not overly 'historical' - there is a lot of emphasis placed on the characters, on Annie and Michael, but also the secondary/supporting cast. It's like visiting with people from the past, and experiencing their experiences. On the whole, very glad I read it.

Book provided by publisher for review.

For more information about Promise Me This, check out:
Cathy's site  http://www.cathygohlke.com
Tyndale Tyndale.com
The full blog tour schedule


Taft 2012

Taft 2012
Jason Heller
Quirk Books, 2012

Oh wow. I knew this one was going to be a fun read when I got Eric Smith's email about the upcoming release. (You guys should follow him, btw - he's awesome. And if you're a blogger, you definitely want to be on his mailing list: promise the emails will make you smile!) I was not disappointed in the reading.

Picture, if you will, the United States in a frenzy of politics: the 2012 elections are looming closer and closer, and everyone is trying desperately to find the right candidate to go up against the sitting President. Imagine, with me, that one day a former President, who left office 100 years ago, reappears suddenly. Like, literally reappears. Alive and well. Rip van Winkle-style, with a Presidential twist. Yeah. Jason Heller went there. What happens next is a story that could only happen in the American political arena - but in a good way!

What I loved about Taft 2012 is how believable it is. Er, you know, aside from the fact Taft 'woke up' 100 years after he vanished. But the climate? The society? The way things played out? Totally. Believable. All you have to do is turn on the tv or check a news site online and it's easy to imagine the novel as reality. There are a lot of fun 'insider looks' too: tweets, agendas, etc. that help flesh out the story. And the sly comments about the world Taft wakes up in? I dare you not to recognize the connections. I think the very realness of the context is what makes this so enjoyable. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, alternating between chuckling over the developing story and appreciating the masterful storytelling.

Book provided by publisher for review.


Blog Tour: The Thorn and the Blossom

I am so excited to be a part of Quirk Books' blog tour for The Thorn and the Blossom! This book was amazing, and not only am I going to share my review with you, but I also got a chance to ask Theodora Goss a few questions! And, you know, there might be a little giveaway fun too - but you'll have to keep reading...

The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story
Theodora Goss
Quirk Books, 2012

This is a book unlike any I've read before: it's literally a two-sided story. Pick it up, think it's like any normal book. Then you realize: it's accordion-folded. Read through one perspective, then turn the book over, and start reading again - from the other perspective. If it sounds a little odd, don't worry: once you have it in your hand, it makes a lot more sense. And you will probably be a little in awe, if you are anything like me.

So much for the book format, but what about the story? Well it's pretty much as amazing as the format. Have you ever read a book, told from one character's perspective, and wondered what the other was thinking? Especially when it's a love story? Theodora has given us a chance to see the same story play out from two wholly different points of view: Evelyn's and Brendan's. I read Evelyn's story first, and found myself emotionally invested fairy quickly - I devoured her story. When it ended, I almost got really sad: it was over! And then I remembered I still needed to flip the book and read Brendan's side of things. Happiness! And wow - what an experience.

I loved seeing the way Brendan reacted to the scenes and situations that I'd read about already with Evelyn. I also really loved finding out the 'background info' - what had been going on during the gaps in Evelyn's knowledge. And the ending? Oh. My. Word. Of course, then I found myself wondering: What if I had read Brendan's story first instead of Evelyn's? How would the experience have been different - how would my reactions have changed? Since I can't go back and reread it all fresh, I'm going to have to wait and see if someone else reads it that way - and then we'll talk. Deal?

Another thing I want to note real fast about the novel overall, before I move on to the Q&A with Theodora, and that is the element of the Green Knight legend. I'm a huge fan of medieval literature - I took several classes in college, and I simply enjoy the language and imagery. Evelyn and Brendan are medievalists, with an overlapping specialty: the Green Knight. It's part of what brings them together, it's part of what tears them apart, it's part of what makes their world continue. And the story is fascinating. Definitely a great addition to an already engrossing story.

Book provided by publisher for review.

Have I caught your interest? I hope so! And to further sharpen your curiosity, here's a quick Q&A I got to do with Theodora ...

We get to see how Evelyn and Brendan discover the story of the Green Knight - how did you discover it? What is your "Green Knight story"?
I found the manuscript, in the original medieval Cornish, in Harvard's Houghton Library, and then I had to translate it . . .  No, sorry, I'm just kidding!  There's no Tale of the Green Knight, but I love it when anyone thinks there is.  That means I've done my job as a writer.  There is a real poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, that dates from around the 14th century.  I studied it when I was doing my undergraduate degree in English.  And there really is a figure called the Green Man, who is represented in medieval art, often on churches.  What I did was extrapolate, from that poem and the green man figure, that there was a widespread green man legend in medieval Europe, and I created an imaginary Cornish poem that linked Sir Gawain (Gawan in my story) with the green man, and with a magical woman who was his counterpart.  In the real poem, Sir Gawain is actually not the Green Knight, but in my version he is.  So when you see translations in the story, they're all translations of a poem that doesn't exist.  Maybe I should write "The Tale of the Green Knight," the actual story of Gawan and Elowen!  But right now, it's all in my head.

Was it difficult writing the same story from two perspectives?
Yes!  I always had to check one against the other.  I had to make sure that the two versions were consistent.  Also, I wrote Evelyn's story first, and then when I wrote Brendan's, some things happened that made me change Evelyn's.  So, for example, Brendan found the letter in his version, and then I had to go back and write a letter into Evelyn's version!  You always have to do things like that when you're writing, because things happen later and then you have to change earlier parts of the story.  But I've never had such a complicated time with it before.  And then, in the editing process just before publication, things were changed, as they often are -- and I noticed some discrepancies, so there we were, making sure all the discrepancies were fixed.  Honestly, I hope the story reads as though it all came out easily and instinctively, because that's how stories should read.  But a lot of work went into it!  (It's sort of like dancing.  It should look effortless, but if you've ever taken a dance class, you know it isn't.) 

Which was more fun to write: Evelyn's story or Brendan's?
That's a tough question.  They were both so much fun to write.  Brendan's was easier to write, I think partly because I wrote it second, but mostly because he just is an easier character.  He's a good guy who's faced with some really tough choices, and he handles them as best he can.  You can really root for Brendan.  Evelyn was harder, because she's a different kind of character.  A reviewer complained that she was more passive, and I think that's right, she is -- but you know, she's a lot more hurt, a lot more damaged by life.  I think that does make people more passive.  My editor and I went back and forth on whether she was sympathetic enough -- I argued that I wanted her to be, not necessarily sympathetic, but real.  She does some really stupid things -- they both do.  But seriously, don't we all do stupid things in relationships?  Especially in relationships?  If we didn't, a huge chunk of the Western literary tradition wouldn't exist!  But the book itself was so much fun to write.  All along, it was as though Evelyn and Brendan were telling me their stories.  I just hope readers have fun reading it -- I certainly had fun writing it!

Thanks so much, Theodora, for taking the time to answer my questions!

Remember that hint about a giveaway? The awesome people at Quirk Books have graciously offered two copies of The Thorn and the Blossom plus bookmarks! US & Canada only though, sorry any international readers! Fill out the snazzy Rafflecopter form below, and let me know if you have any problems. Good luck!


New Books!

Last year, I tried really hard to do regular posts with my new books. And failed more often than not. So this year, I've decided I'm going to do a monthly recap of the new books I get. I grabbed my cover images as the new books arrived, so I managed to get all of them. Keep in mind: it's a happy-making haul, but it's a whole month's haul.

Books I Won:

Books I Purchased:

Books for Review:

Books Received Through Swapping: