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With summer/swimsuit season around the corner (though that corner is looking farrrrrrrrrrr away on this dismal day!) and more and more health issues stemming from eating habits, weight – and the effect on one’s health – is consistently a hot issue.  While much has been known about anorexia and bulimia, compulsive binging seems to be becoming more and more of an issue.  Before even hearing about this SKINNY book tour, I read an article in Seventeen magazine (don’t judge – subscription was gift from roomie’s mom!) asking “are your eating habits normal?” and they were shedding light on the dangerous binging cycle – do you hide your eating/eat alone/lie to friends, etc.

In SKINNY, author Diana Spechler introduces you to Gray, a non-descript 26 year old living with her comedian boyfriend in NYC.  Beyond the fun jacket (looked like a great beach book), I thought the similarities between Gray and myself would be interesting, since we’re the same age in the same city and I had assumed would have similar thoughts.

Ultimately, Gray and I don’t have much in common and once I gave up trying to like her, I enjoyed the book more.

Gray starts her rather sad story by sharing with the reader that she killed her father.  It was understood pretty quickly that this wasn’t a premeditated crime (I bet you knew that too, from the pretty book cover), but more an enabler of bad habits.  The death of her father sends her life into a tailspin in which she quits her job helping her boyfriend, the lovable though slightly schlubby Mikey, book comedy gigs and instead starts binge eating and working odd jobs while gaining weight.

Uncovering a cryptic connection in her father’s will, Gray sets out to be a counselor at a “fat camp” in North Carolina, with the intention on bonding with Eden, a young girl who she thinks is her stepsister from her father’s mid-life affair.  While at camp, Gray ends up in a steamy affair with a fellow counselor and dealing with a lot of pre-teen angst from the campers.

This was the first book I’d read by Diana Spechler and I wanted to be more excited about it than I am.  While I didn’t hate SKINNY, I’m not inspired to think about the characters further. I thought the ending seemed rushed and Gray never did win me over.  I did like the actual writing even though I couldn’t relate to the story, and think Spechler’s debut, WHO BY FIRE, would be more my type of read.

Even though this book wasn’t my “pint of ice cream” I do think the author sheds light on some serious issues, and if even one young woman is helped then I heartily applaud SKINNY.  Check out Spechler’s website http://bodyconfession.com/ and share it for some more feel-goodness.  Also, stop by and see where else you can find SKINNY on tour here.

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Even though I work in publishing, it’s important to note I am not an editor and don’t work with agents outside of the marketing realm – I don’t handle book acquisitions and rarely have the chance to read a manuscript or chime in on the purchasing decisions. I don’t get to hear from authors before they are published or searching for the elusive contract, so I was thrilled when LeAnn Neal Reilly, author of THE MERMAID’S PENDANT, shared some of her thoughts with me on being a self-published author and her decision to take this unconventional route.

In LeAnn’s own (clever) words –

Getting an agent is essential to getting a publisher, but it was like looking for a husband who picked you from a lineup while he stood behind a two-way mirror. You didn’t really know what he wanted in a wife or whether you’d dressed appropriately. To make it worse, you weren’t sure if you’d like him or his looks. Most of the time, you waited and waited until you knew that nobody stood on the other side of the glass. Sometimes, you got a bit more information about how long to wait or a terse, written kiss-off. If you were really lucky, he might ask you to open your jacket and twirl around a bit, but even then you might not get any helpful feedback. You just didn’t get called into the next room to arrange marriage. At first, you’d try to be choosy and go to lineups for guys whose personal ad sounded like it had potential, but then you’d realize you might have to go to hundreds of lineups and end up with someone you couldn’t stand. Or someone who couldn’t perform in bed. Then you’d have to get a divorce and start over.

I decided to risk self-publishing to see if I could attract an agent or publisher that way. There have been enough stories in recent years to make me think that this path might become more common. It makes sense to me. It’s one way to let someone else pay the costs of developing a title and testing the market. I’ve done well enough at this point that even if I don’t get a bigger publisher, I’m happier than I would have been if I’d stuck my manuscript in a drawer or spent more months querying without success…

I commend Mrs. Reilly for taking the chance and getting her work out there. It’s a risk but it sounds like she did her research and made a well-informed decision.  I hope

As many other tours hosts have noted, THE MERMAID’S PENDANT is a looooong book.  I think the premise of “a modern fairy tale about growing up and discovering who you are” is great, but it’s lost in the length of this tome with competing subplots.  I though Tamarind, the mermaid, was an interesting character but couldn’t drum up much interest in John – her lover and the main character in this novel.

Reading this book did give me fond memories of watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid in my family’s van on road trips and I thought the descriptions of the island were gorgeous and definitely made me want to plan another tropical vacation.  I thank LeAnn for sharing her thoughts and wish her only the best in the future – and a huge thank you for the escapism found in the beaches of your novel!

Visit the other bloggers on this tour – the entire list is available here.

Sisters, City, Romance, Gay man friends, Family, Cocktails and… Waxing.

A story of NYC + Sisters seems like my type of novel, especially in these hot summer months when I need to escape the airlessness that can overtake my tiny NYC pad to go lie in a shady patch of green.

But even typing “patch of green” makes me cringe a bit, as I think of the Salon that this whole story is centered around.  I’m not easily embarrassed – I’m way too clumsy to blush over the occasional trip or the bruises that consistently appear from things hopping right in my way – but WAXED details some “below the belt” happenings that I would have preferred remained un-detailed.  I found myself to be rather distracted by the, er, unique setting that it was difficult to focus on the sisters.

From the publisher:

Waxed is the story of three relationship-challenged sisters working together at New York’s hottest waxing salon, catering to socialites, actresses, and regular folk alike.

Yank. On the surface, glamorous Carolina Impresario—big sister and owner of Impresarios—unapologetically wants it all, but secretly she is caught between her successful boyfriend and the only man she has ever truly loved.

Pluck. After a painful divorce, middle sister Anna reluctantly reenters the workforce and puts on a brave face while attempting to raise her children, one of whom is decidedly different.

Tear. Newlywed Sofia is a hybrid of her two older sisters: She loves the idea of a domestic life like Anna’s, but is entranced by New York nightlife and a new best friend, resulting in some major complications at home.

There was more than just hairless talk, as the three sisters had some complicated issues – I just wish I had been able to care more.  This book was a quick read, so we didn’t get to go in-depth with any of the characters but just skimmed the surface.  Carolina is a little too cold for comfort and I wish there had been a couple more cracks in her facade (and what happened with her “surprise” at the end).  Anna was sweet enough, but nothing stellar (though I did like her interactions with JJ and the way she accepted her children unconditionally).  Sofia was exploring herself and testing boundaries and was fun to follow along, though had some questionable behaviors that seemed to be in contradiction with other aspects of her described personality (which is totally allowed, just an observation… by far my favorite sister.  And wow, what a twist – yes, that’s intended to hook you!).

The winning character award goes to JJ, the eccentric elderly widow who is determined to live out The New Yorker’s “List of Things To Do in NYC Before You Die” before her terminal illness takes her.  Though Anna is written as the sidekick, the opposite is true – JJ was the highlight of this novel.

Side note – I tried to find this list, does anyone know if it really exists? The closest result Google delivered is the Facebook page called “New York Bucket List” here.

I’m more interested in the author than the characters, and I don’t really mean that as an insult.  His official bio is “Former New York City publicist, Robert Rave, has worked on numerous public relations campaigns and high profile special events in the lifestyle, fashion, nightlife and entertainment industries.  He is the author of SPiN and currently lives in Los Angeles.” But I suggest you visit his website at http://www.robertrave.com to learn more.  It’s so curious to me that a man chose to set a book around a waxing salon.  I enjoyed this book enough to want to pick up Robert’s SPiN when it comes out in paperback (which I think would be soon), as I think the public relations setting would appeal to my apparently prudish sensibilities more.

This book is the perfect pick for a beach read as it’s short enough to carry around without being weighed down and you can read it in one sitting – though be aware you may blush at some parts!  You can pick it up on Amazon here.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for hosting this book tour!  I invite you to take a look at the list of all blog hosts available here.

I love book blog tours and the lovely hosts at TLC, so was thrilled and honored (and more than a  bit nervous) to join this tour for the recently released novel THE ONE THAT I WANT from beloved woman’s fiction author Allison Winn Scotch (visit her lively and fun blog here: http://www.allisonwinn.com/ask-allison).  Though I’ve never read her previous two novels, I’m a dedicated follower of Allison on Twitter (@aswinn) and had been hoping to get my hands on her work.

The gorgeous cover initially drew me in.  At first glance, it seems to depict a joyful child… when upon cracking open the spine, I realized the “child” on the front was actually Tilly Farmer, main protagonist and a woman who in her 30s had managed to maintain a childlike innocence and happiness.  Married to her high school sweetheart, Tilly was content in her unchallenged, consistent, and mundane small town life.

Being from a small town myself, I understood Tilly’s comfort in her in life – knowing everyone and everything, with very few surprises.  However, I related much more to the feelings of her husband Tyler, who felt restricted, as if he had settled too early and was missing out on trying new things and new ventures.

Tilly is similar to many people I knew in high school that were content to settle down and make a life for themselves and their family, on the same street they had always known and continued to go to the same grocery store and walk their dog past the same houses.  I found it rather frustrating that it took magic forced upon Tilly by an old friend and fortune teller for her to open her eyes and realize that there may be more to life; that her husband may not be sharing her feelings of simple contentedness and things may not always be as they appear.

I’m not usually a paranormal reader, but the “magic” that allowed Tilly to see the future didn’t turn me off, since it just helped her open her eyes to what was already there.   Tilly was a tough character for me to root for.  You want people to be happy (and I totally believe in happy endings), but she was only happy in her ignorance – which drives me crazy. Like when yet another person from my small town marries their high school sweetheart without having left the state, I kept on asking myself “This is all  you want from life? You’re happy with just this?”

Allison writes very convincingly of life in a small town, which intrigues me, since I know from Twitter that she lives in NYC (which is far from Tilly’s comfort zone).  The one day it took me to read this book made me have feelings all over the map – a sense of comradeship with Tilly at the beginning over the comfort she feels in her small town, to disgust that she is unwilling to look at her husband’s dreams, to a feeling of “finally! You get it!” towards the end.  I must admit, the ending did surprise me.  I don’t think this is a spoiler, but just a warning ending is going to be discussed: I was pleased with THE ONE THAT I WANT not having a cookie-cutter happy ending, but I do wish Tilly had expanded her wings just a little bit more instead of throwing in the towel.

I enjoyed THE ONE THAT I WANT and if you’re looking for a not-totally light hearted but still enjoyable summer read, encourage you to pick this one up!  While the storyline has been told before, Allison is talented at weaving in many facets (sisterly relationships, a mother’s death, a father’s drunkenness, high school memories) to make it a fresh tale.

You can purchase this novel from the following retailers: Amazon, B&N, Borders, IndieBound, and I encourage you to “get to know” Allison via her blog and Twitter, or visit her website.

Thank you, TLC!

“A beautifully written, thought-provoking novel that I’m telling everyone I know to read.”   –Kathryn Stockett, author of THE HELP

Tomorrow, my dear friends, is the day THE POSTMISTRESS will be on sale at your favorite bookseller.

There’s something very satisfying about seeing a project you’ve worked on for a long time come to fruition.  For so many of us here at Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books, I think that’s what THE POSTMISTRESS is.  This was the first title I read in manuscript form upon joining the Marketing department all the way back in July.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been gearing up for this novel for so many months, and I know I’m just one of many who are thrilled to unveil it to the world tomorrow.

Great excitement among reviewers has already been vocalized, including an Entertainment Weekly article that so eloquently says, “There’s both exquisite pain and pleasure to be found in these pages…”

Now, I’m excited to see what happens and have my fingers-crossed that the work of so many colleagues, and the wonderful language of Sarah Blake, is embraced by readers everywhere!  I welcome your thoughts.

Some authors hide behind their words and author photos, unrecognized by the general public and are happy with that. On the other hand, there are authors who become a celebrity in their own right (and no, I don’t mean the celebrity “memoirs” or, God-forbid, the “books” written by Lauren Conrad or Heidi & Spencer).

Some authors achieve this status through talk show appearances (James Frey, anyone?) while others build a hugely loyal reading fan base.  I think Robert Crais, bestselling crime fiction author, is the latter.

The video you see above is the second author video I’ve worked on, and working with Bob was like working with a seasoned journalist.  You can tell he’s comfortable in front of the camera and gave us so many sound bites to work with, it was hard to keep the video under three minutes!  So Oprah, if you’re reading this, I suggest you have this charismatic and well-written author on your show before you retire.

In other Crais news, his latest Joe Pike novel (you all should know who Joe Pike is, of the sexy tattoos who exudes sex appeal) went on sale yesterday!  You can find THE FIRST RULE at your favorite bookseller nationwide.  It was my first Crais novel, and I’ve since visited his backlist and never been disappointed.

There’s something unique about Crais’s two main characters, Joe Pike and Elvis Cole.  They’re smart and dangerous, but not unemotional.  Though they’re crime books about very bad people (ahem, the Serbian mob – scary), the friendships and relationships depicted go much deeper than the surface, giving these novels a depth beyond the typical title in this genre.

Bob is on tour for several weeks (details) and if you’re anywhere in the vicinity I highly suggest you stop by.  My sister is attending the event in Dayton, OH and I’m going to try to convince her to do a guest post about it.  I know Jen Forbus is driving several hours to the same event (now that is a loyal fan!).

JUST IN: I am not the only one to think of Crais as a leading man!  Check out this new post, “Hot (& Talented) Authors!” – don’t miss the People’s Sexiest Man article they link to as well!

What other authors do you think have achieved a celebrity status and following?

Since I know you’re all dying to know, I’ve successfully brought a healthy lunch in to work three days this week! And since I stayed home sick on Tuesday, that’s actually a 100% success rate. And todayI just zapped leftover Chinese from last night… since I did technically bring it from home, I think I’m going to count that as a “packed lunch” as well – what a way to start the year right!

While I abhor being sick (I really don’t like weakness all that much), it did give me some time to catch up on my reading.  So Tuesday I coughed and hacked my way through Jennifer Weiner’s latest bestseller, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, along with the newly released #1 bestseller from Sue Grafton, U IS FOR UNDERTOW.  Oddly enough, this chick-lit novel and the crime fiction tale shared similarities…

I’ve read every one of Weiner’s novels and I can’t tell you why.  Pressure from society, I believe, because it definitely isn’t due to any overwhelming desire for the characters or relating to the writing.   I enjoyed GOOD IN BED and IN HER SHOES enough to give GOODNIGHT NOBODY a try… But GOODNIGHT NOBODY (and now BEST FRIENDS FOREVER) attempt to tie in a crime with the relationships/bonding/family/other “women issues”, which I find unnecessary.

In BFF, the Chief of Police enters a the house of a suspect and smells her pajamas – yes folks, I am not kidding.  I don’t find that sweet and sexy – I find it creepy. I want the police I read about to be enforcing the law, not skulking around remniscient of the Ohio Police Officer convicted in the eerily similar case of Sarah Jessica Parker’s surrogate!

U IS FOR UNDERTOW was my first Sue Grafton experience (though I launched into the book trustingly, since Pop Culture Nerd had positively reviewed it), though her 21st book.  As I assume you know, Grafton has been working through the alphabet, consistently with Kinsey Millhone as the Private Investigator protagonist.  I enjoyed this trip back to the 1980’s – a time before cell phones and the internet, and relished joining Kinsey in the library as she looked through – gasp – telephone books!

I also find Sue Grafton to be an interesting character herself, as she admits she started writing after dreaming of ways to murder her first husband.  Also, she and fellow bestselling author Robert B. Parker did a little Q&A on each others Amazon pages, which is rather endearing (not to mention I admit I grabbed this book from a box under my desk – always a bonus)!

So next time you find yourself needing a sick day (though I wish you a plethora of help and happiness in the new year), I encourage you to reach for the nearest Grafton, A-U, and give her a try.  I don’t actively dislike Jennifer Weiner – I especially enjoy her on Twitter, but think I need to give up on the reading of her novels as they’re not a match for me.  But I welcome any thoughts you may have.

I miss you!

I’ve been reading all sorts of good books lately and haven’t even had the chance to update my spreadsheet (nerd alert) and have been trying to keep track via my cell phone.  I owe you reviews for the following, which are the books I felt most strongly about one way or another:

KNIT THE SEASON (Kate Jacobs)

(though check out some great KNIT THE SEASON reviews and interviews with Kate Jacobs at Nat’s Book, Like, and Sinker and Susan’s Suko’s Notebook)

CERTAIN PREY, WICKED PREY, ROUGH COUNTRY (John Sandford)

LITTLE WOMEN (Louisa May Alcott)

HIGH FIDELITY, JULIET, NAKED (Nick Hornby)

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG ASS (Jen Lancaster)

DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM (David Sedaris)

And I stayed up way too late last night reading THE SCARPETTA FACTOR (Patricia Cornwell)

Me and my friend Maggi enjoying a glorious autumn in Central Park!So you see, it’s not actually that I’m not reading, I just haven’t been reviewing.  I’ll do my best to rectify this situation shortly… but most likely after the weekend, as it should be a busy one!

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying the season as much as I am.  It’s my first time witnessing the leaves turning in NYC and it’s a glorious sight!

 

Love,

Lydia

 

 

 

 

According to Jane

According to Jane

Yes, this is my FIRST BLOG GIVEAWAY so please be kind and participate!

It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.

Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go—sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

Still, everyone has something to learn about love—perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending…

I am not a Jane Austen fanatic.  Truthfully (ashamedly), I’ve never even read

My Austen "collection"

My Austen "collection"

the works of Ms. Austen, though I have her large red omnibus on my bookshelf, along with an old garage-sale copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and the same book with the irresistible, re-designed cover from Penguin classics.  They are on my ever growing, never dwindling shelf of to-be-reads (I’m sure many of you can sympathize).

So even though I’ve never officially been introduced, I now feel I’m on intimate terms with Jane, after hearing her wit and euphemisms through the voice of author Marilyn Brant and in the head of protagonist Ellie Bartlett, in the debut novel ACCORDING TO JANE (Kensington Press, Sept. 29, 2009).

While the premise sounds odd (Jane Austen in a role similar to an invisible friend or “A kind of literary twilight zone thing”), the witty banter, lovable characters and unforgettable story take me to my happy “I don’t actually want this book to end but I just want the characters to find what they’re looking for” place.

Brant manages to jump around time and place without making you lose a second of the story to confusion.  She has the rare ability as an author to take you from reliving your awkward high school years along with Ellie (and the traumatic male/female interactions) to within the psyche of a single, searching, adult woman in the next paragraph.  Ellie is a unique female protagonist that I find endearing in her failures and utterly relateable in her fears, while trying to find herself (though I wish she weren’t already worried about marriage at the mere age of 26!).

It’s no surprise to me that this book took home the coveted Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements in 2007.  Brant has the humor of Sophie Kinsella with the best-friend-esque (made that up) intimacy of Jennifer Weiner.  The sex scenes are humorous in an actual funny, relatable way as opposed to the over-done, awkward to read (unless that’s just me) scenarios found in other novels featuring “strong romantic elements.”

Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant

In an effort of full disclosure, I was lucky enough to meet Marilyn back in June, when I wrote an article on the romance genre.  But, just because I like you doesn’t always mean I’ll like your book – so imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered my friendly, vivacious penpal can translate her personality so splendidly to an entire book!  I invite you all to hurry and visit Marilyn at her personal blog Brant Flakes ASAP, so you can boast about how you “knew Marilyn Brant before she was a huge author”!  Even better, visit her blog and let her know you’ve already pre-ordered ACCORDING TO JANE and are anxiously awaiting its arrival (discounted to only $10.29 – a steal! I’m thinking book club…)!

I admit, I’ve already read my bound manuscript twice and have thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself laughing even more — in one instance, out loud at sushi by myself in NYC – now that got me some looks.

And now for the fun part:

  • Do you like free books?
  • Are you a Jane Austen fan?
  • Ready for some new chick-lit/women’s light contemporary fiction?
  • Enjoy reading a new voice?

Marilyn was nice enough to send me two extra bound manuscripts PERSONALLY SIGNED (!!!) for your reading & reviewing pleasure!!!! Hurry now for these limited pieces.

To enter to win your copy of ACCORDING TO JANE, please comment below including your email address.  For an additional entry, share your most embarrassing high school makeout (ok kidding…unless you want to – I would reward you!) – for an extra entry up to 1/day, tweet this giveaway with a link and include my @novelwhore handle.  The contest ends Friday, September 25 at 11:59PM EST.  I’ll contact the two winners via email, and you must respond within two days to claim your prize.

The Chosen OneLast night, after a few drinks for a friends’ bday and a sleepless night before, I was ready for an early bedtime.  Since reading before bed is like a religious ritual for me, I decided I would just grab a YA novel for some quick, light reading.  Well, I made the wrong decision when I pulled THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams from my (new, beautiful and well organized) shelf.

This novel follows Kyra, a 13 y/o that is one of 20 siblings living in a polygamist cult ruled by a Prophet that oversees the lives of his apostles.  Oversees may be too kind of a word – dictates, rules, decides all fit as well.  Kyra has a tough time conforming and living within the rules of the commune, especially after becoming a member of the library on wheels and diving into the outside “world of satan”. When she is chosen to be the 7th wife of her 60 y/o uncle, Kyra realizes she has to make some big changes.

I used to be so very intrigued by the Amish, but now the polygamists have my undivided attention in the sector of my brain focused on “I don’t understand why the hell people live like that.”  At least the Amish people don’t do harm unto others – it seems to be similar to get out of a polygamist situation is more similar to leaving a gang.  While this novel is fiction, there is murder by weapons as well as by lack of medicine.

I’m still astounded by the lack of power found within the family – Kyra’s father seems to be more human than the cult leaders (though he does have three wives) but he has no influence over his daughter being married off to his brother (hard to believe, right?).  And it’s so sad in the story because Kyra believes her dad can take care of the situation – equivalent to my dad going along with my sister or I being sold into sex slavery.  I want more details – this story is starkly written, without the everyday details I would find fascinating, like no descriptions of the clothing and few details about the father dividing time between wives.

I finished this book without moving from my bed, and when done I ran out to give it to my roommate and instructed Women in a Polygamist Culther to read it immediately.  So much for a good nights sleep – I was thinking about this story (and wishing for a sequel!) and the real lives of the Warren Jeffs followers.  I’ve already added STOLEN INNOCENCE to my shopping cart, to dive into the true story of one young girl who lived Kyra’s fictional life as a teenage bride in a polygamist society.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A-
  • Title: THE CHOSEN ONE
  • Author: Carol Lynch Williams
  • St. Martin’s Griffin

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