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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
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.”
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.
My booklist has taken an R-rated twist
I consume books regularly and try to be open to all genres (except Twilight and Harry Potter; I refuse based on principle), but tend to stick with titles that offer some literary content or even just a thrill. Lately, my titles have been more suspect and less something I would proudly read while riding on public transportation (yet another reason I need an EReader!). Strippers and womanizers have dominated a few of my recent literary ingestions.
Drunkenness & Debauchery with Tucker Max: To some, Tucker Max is a hero: One to emulate, live vicariously through and high-five. To me, he is a cringe-worthy example of all that’s wrong in society today – a mediocre looking man who somehow has managed to find innumerable women who willingly exploit themselves and become a topic of Max’s only talent – writing. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is written as a memoir, filled with vignettes of stories, aka one-night stands.
For Max, sex is an activity akin to my shopping habit. He just walks out on the street, sees something he likes and takes it home – nothing personal or even especially friendly. I don’t even care enough to go on a tirade about this, because the strongly offensive nature is exactly why this exaggerated content is so popular. If everyone just ignored it, Max would hopefully disappear, and suffer from some STD, alone.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: C (Mediocre, like the author)
- Title: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
- Author: Tucker Max
- Publisher: Citadel Press (Kensington)
On-Stage with Juno’s Screenwriter, Naked: The blockbuster success of the Summer Movie of 2007, “Juno”, about the pregnant high-school giving her baby up for adoption, resulted in an umbrella effect of PR for the author, Diablo Cody. Not the typical glitzy Hollywood Screenwriter, Cody had already been around the block before achieving fame and there is no doubt many people who became fans experienced her naked at multiple strip clubs in Minnesota.
Yes, Minnesota. The cold state in which the taking off of clothes makes me shiver was the setting of Cody’s memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. College-educated with a normal childhood (if there is such a thing), she had a job in an advertising agency before wandering into an Amateur Stripping contest and becoming rather addicted to the thrill. This memoir reminds me of Chelsea Handler’s Confessions of My Horizontal Life, as both women managed to maintain a conversational, self-deprecating voice while describing intimate things. Entertaining throughout, this memoir offers a subversive thrill to a taboo subject and ends before getting overly disgusted from the vivid descriptions of what is done for cash.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: B+
- Title: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper
- Author: Diablo Cody
- Publisher: Gotham (Penguin)
Expected Stripper-Tale, with Political Twists: From my experience, Carl Hiaasen takes a normal murder/suspense/power plot and adds tidbits of sex and humor to keep the reader engaged. Striptease (an old title, found at library sale for $1) stays to this obviously successful formula and follows a young mother, driven to strip by the piling up of legal bills as she fights her ex-husband for custody of their young daughter (typical stripper sob-story, right?).
Seedy tale with the emotional mother-daughter pull, Hiaasen weaves his web of politics, blackmail and murder through the sleazy Governor of Florida, who’s in love with the stripper (like that Akon song!) and in bed with $millions$ behind the illegal farming of sugar cane. The stripper is realistic and smart, the bouncer muscular and clever, the Congressman aging and not aware of all that’s happening for his behalf, this book is another look at the different cogs in society and what happens when they interact. Definitely entertaining, but without the introspective angle of Candy Girl or the disgust-worth content of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: B-
- Title: Striptease
- Author: Carl Hiaasen
- Publisher: Vision
Sundays are notoriously unproductive (is this true across the board or just for my roomies and I?), typically spent lolling around in front of the Lifetime Movie Channel or, weather permitting, relaxing on the pool deck, rejuvenating from what was undoubtedly a raucous weekend. So it makes me proud to say that yesterday, I accomplished quite the feat: one sushi meal with Char at RA, one Lifetime movie (the disturbing & sad Natalee Holloway one), three cups of tea and two books!
Quite unintentionally, both books I read dealt with ghosts/spirits/other-worldly forms of energy. The protagonist in Joshilyn Jackson’s The Girl Who Stopped Swimming saw the ghost come to her of the young girl who drowned in the pool while Ronlyn Domingue writes a captivating tale from the ghost’s perspective in The Mercy of Thin Air.
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is Jackson’s third novel, following Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia. Having read them all, I’ve come to realize that Jackson employs a formula in each: Takes place in the South, involves a family secret, poor relatives and a young woman. While these traits are shared, each book is individual, offering a different story and secret to be uncovered.
The secret in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming begins to unravel once Laurel finds the body of her daughter’s tween friend floating in her pool. After enlisting her free-spirited sister, Thalia, to help, Laurel discovers more than she had anticipated about her marriage, her daughter, DeLop (the oppressed town of impoverished relatives), the murder in her past and even about herself. An enlightening novel that makes the reader question happiness and wonder about their own ghosts, outside their line of vision.
- NovelWhore’s Grade: B+
- Title: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
- Author: Joshilyn Jackson
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Hard to believe The Mercy of Thin Air is Domingue’s first novel. Written with such insight and conviction, even a non-believer like myself questions reality. Told in first person by the intelligent and vivacious Raziela Nolan after her tragic death at the turning point of her life, it tells the story of love that doesn’t die with the body.
Even though Razi dies in 1929 at the age of 22, the story carries the characters up into the 21st century, as she stays “between” – invisible to mortals but remaining on Earth. Her tale is intertwined with the love story of a couple struggling through their relationship and hidden past, whose lives intersect with the one Razi left behind. Interesting subplots abound: Razi’s dedication to educating women on their reproductive options when this knowledge was illegal (apparently in the 1920s pregnancy was the only job women were expected to do), the growth and development of independent women, the relationships with other souls in “between” and the life of her great love.
Both The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and The Mercy of Thin Air are more than love stories, though I do feel they appeal to women readers much more than men. I consider myself to be grounded in reality and both these books made me more open to the presence of those we can’t see. The next time I feel a cold draft or smell a scent that seems out of place I may have to smile, wondering if possibly a spirit is sharing in my experience. Who is to say otherwise?
- NovelWhore’s Grade: A-
- Title: The Mercy of Thin Air
- Author: Ronlyn Domingue
- Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)
I do, however, suggest you read these books at least a few days apart. I had a hard time sleeping last night imagining the spirits hovering around my bed!
I’ve led a pretty blessed life. Lucky in family and friends, my only big unrequited “want” comes in the form of Mingo, the thousand pound horse I fell in love with when I was twelve. Always an imaginative child, I also believed in the mythical counterpart of my beloved palomino – that of the Unicorn.
Being a fan of historical fiction, along with my admitted interest in unicorns, when I found Tracy Chevalier’s The Lady and the Unicorn on sale at betterworldbooks.com (great site – cheap books, free shipping, and profits help fund literacy programs) I immediately added it to my overflowing digital shopping cart. Being a fan of Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, I planned to enjoy this novel about my mythical unicorn even more.
I was disappointed.
While an interesting look at the almost-noble family of Jean Le Viste – his miserable and unappreciated wife and their three daughters (Le Viste blames his wife for not bearing a son), the story lacks character development and interaction. Based on the real-life mystery surrounding the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries that hang in the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris (pictured above), this novel follows the imaginary artist Nicholas des Innocents in his seductions while his art is woven into tapestries.
The figure of the mythical unicorn is used as a tool in seduction, as des Innocents uses the supposed purifying powers of the horn to deflower and impregnate women. His true love and passion for Claude, the eldest daughter of Le Viste, can only show through his artwork, as they belong to different classes which were nontransferable in the the 15th century.
While rich in details of life in the 1490’s, especially when following the family of the weaver, it is hard to get too attached to any character. There are many minor players in the story, whose lives all manage to weave together (excuse the pun) throughout.
My biggest fault with this book is the lack of a satisfactory conclusion. Nicholas des Innocents is invited to a part at the Le Viste compound at which the tapestries will be unveiled. At this event, he and Claude have a quick rendezvous under the table before her arranged marriage is announced. The book comes to an end with a look at the unsatisfactory and unfulfilled lives of those we learned about throughout the story. I guess realistic, as not everyone ends up happy all the time, but it seemed to be an incredibly melancholy ending for an imagined tale.
Mediocre at best, this book left me wanting much more from the 250 pages read. Also, I wanted the unicorn to have a bigger impact, but that’s a personal complaint!
- NovelWhore’s Grade: C
- Title: The Lady and the Unicorn
- Author: Tracy Chevalier
- Publisher: Dutton Adult
Sometimes the life of a drug lord seems a little like the mob – dangerous and violent, but sexy in that easy-money sort of way. I don’t have the heart for it – I can’t take the pictures of the starving children in Africa that come up on those religious commercials, much less personally contributing to addicts (is that a logical chain of thought?). Not to mention drugs, weapons and police scare me… But they do make for a good story, as long as the violence and danger stay on the page, unlike the Mexican Cartels currently doing their best to wreak havoc in the States…
Elizabeth Lowell had no idea how current her fictional novel, The Wrong Hostage, would seem right now, with news outlets daily covering the influx of drugs and violence from Mexico and the issues going on within the drug world down there.
Published as the second book within her “St. Kilda” series (of which I’ve
never read the first), The Wrong Hostage takes place during a harrowing weekend in which California Judge Grace Silva is forced to go toe-to-toe with the feared Mexican drug lord, Hector Rivas Osuna, in order to rescue her 15-year-old son. Held hostage against money Silva’s ex-husband owes, she takes action. Instead of wasting time in tracking down her lousy ex, missing for weeks, she calls the super-secret St. Kilda firm, known only to her due to a brief, passionate love affair with an operative… If you’re a fan of the “Romantic Suspense” genre, I bet you can guess this operative is also, ta-da, the son’s real father.
Through scary roads in Mexico, being witness to cold-hearted murder within the drug community (reminiscent of the Chicago Mob: https://novelwhore.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/operation-gambat-when-corruption-was-king-of-chicago/) and all the while reigniting long-lost passion, this is a fast-paced novel that leaves your heart in your throat as you just wish the family to be reunited, frolicking on a white-sand beach and off the drug-ridden streets of Tijuana.
Crazily enough, I read this novel last year and as quickly as I finished the last page it left my thoughts, just to spring to mind as I was reading The New York Times two days ago: “More than 7,000 people [in Mexico], most of them connected to the drug trade or law enforcement, have died since January 2008. Many of the victims were tortured. Beheadings have become common.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/us/23border.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&em.
There are numerous additional articles covering home invasions and kidnappings in the United States, all related to the Mexican drug trade, making me wonder if a situation like Lowell portrayed in The Wrong Hostage happened to an ordinary family unconnected with underground, all-powerful rescue rings (do these even exist in real life?), what would happen? Would the news even be publicized, or would one family be in unbearable private pain?
It’s scary when what I would consider to be outlandish fiction comes alive in the newspaper. While I enjoyed reading this book throughout its 406 pages, I don’t like the reading of individual newspaper articles that don’t always have the same caliber of ending (trying not to give anything aware, being sly).
Give this book a try if you like action, suspense, guns and violence with an undercurrent of sexual tension, but skip it if you would rather not take a behind-the-scenes peek at what may be happening as we speak.
And I even love Mexico – Cancun vacation, anyone!?
- NovelWhore’s Grade: B
- Title: The Wrong Hostage
- Author: Elizabeth Lowell
- Publisher: Avon
My Dad went on a fishing trip to Alaska last year, which completely surprised me since my dad had never fished in his life, much less being some huge sportsman that travels some 3,500 miles to what I always imagined as some white, frozen piece of tundra, replete with polar bears (cute, but supposedly dangerous), Sarah Palin shooting wolves, and not much else. But every morning when I received a picture message I had to admit it was of a gorgeous scene.
So, with my interest in Alaska piqued, when I came across Nora Robert’s Northern Lights novel priced at a very affordable $1 at the Newberry Library book fair I had to snatch it up. While not a huge Nora Roberts fan, I admit her books are a fat-free indulgence every once in awhile, and I dare to say Northern Lights is one of her better titles.
Complete with murder, small-town intrigue and (surprise, surprise) a steamy love affair, Lunacy, Alaska is brought to life through the sexy cop recently transplanted from Baltimore (due to a traumatic experience, read it to discover why he ran away), and the equally mysterious female bush pilot who is also the daughter of a man missing 15 years soon to be found murdered in the mountains. Whew what a story. Through family issues, affairs, and secrets past and present, the tale is twisted through a town where everyone knows each other, and one of them is a murderer. It’s up to the “outsider” Police Chief and his sexy hometown hunny (sorry, couldn’t resist) to separate the disgruntled rednecks (are rednecks in AK?) from the real threats.
Brought alive by a newly aired Lifetime movie (another guilty pleasure, though I swear I only imbibe with roomies present, never alone) graced with the acting of country singer LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian (apparently with a past role in “Baywatch Nights” – who knew), the 562 page book is condensed into a two hour movie, commercials included. Needless to say, much of the quality, community feeling and character development that makes the book a success is lost in the movie translation.
As you may or may not have heard, the movie may be somewhat of a success due to the publicity of a supposed real-life affair (strategic move or true infidelity?) between Rimes and Cibrian, both of whom are married.
While I would never suggest that anyone go out and purchase this book, if the Nora Roberts genre appeals to you than give Northern Lights a chance. It offers twists and turns outside the bedroom (ha), and the ending, while expected, isn’t boring.
And just in case you’re wondering, my dad will never feel the need to read this book to relive his Alaskan experience, since we still have delicious smoked salmon in the deep freezer waiting to be enjoyed.
- NovelWhore’s Grade, Book: B-
NovelWhore’s Grade, Movie: D
- Title: Northern Lights
- Author: Nora Roberts
- Publisher: Jove
Don’t get excited now, no, this is not a tell-all admission of my love life (trust me, that would be really boring to read) but a glowing recommendation of Chelsea Handler’s over-active sex drive in her memoir “My Horizontal Life – A Collection of One-Night Stands.”
I abhor the term LOL, it’s out of style right? But, it’s totally appropriate as I describe what I was doing while reading this. Outrageous, hilarious and
totally entertaining, this book makes me giggle even as I think of it.
“My Vagina clammed up. I was scared for me and my little beaver’s life. I just hoped we would make it out of this okay.”
That’s a legitimate quote, and the fact that it’s referring to the, ah, genitalia of a male midget makes it even more humorous. While I don’t wish to live her life, I have no qualms about living vicariously through her stories, liberally soaked in alcohol, inappropriate situations and objectionable (often offensive) morals.
Of course you have to hope Handler is exaggerating as she describes her exploits, and it’s even rather sad at times as you wonder what actually is meaningful in her life… But get off that high-horse and just enjoy the ride!
Read this if: You’re open-minded, enjoy racy humor, aren’t offended by blatant smuttiness and alcohol-motivated decisions and aren’t embarrassed to laugh out loud while reading by yourself.
Avoid this is: You’re no fun, bland, easily offendable and can only think of sex as a sacred act no matter who is engaging in it.
- Title: My Horizontal Life
- Author: Chelsea Handler
- Publisher: Bloomsbury
- NovelWhore’s Grade: A (first blogging “A”!!!)
Book vs. Movie
By now, who isn’t familiar with this term? If you haven’t read the book, at the very least you’ve seen the trailers for the movie, currently in theaters, featuring a multitude of celebrities: Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Connelly and Kevin Connolly make up the all-star cast
I’m sure authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo (both contributing writers to the smash success “Sex & the City) had no idea the effect their book, aka “The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys,” would have on the world. I remember first reading “He’s Just Not That Into You” (HJNTIY) back when it came out in 2004 and was on it’s way to becoming some sort of a classic. I was a naive and somewhat innocent college sophomore, and thought that the book was a more amusing and informational form of the Bible.
Though my Advanced Composition teacher ended up stealing the book (Ms. Laura Elizabeth, you disappeared with my “Bible” and my portfolio!) I still have quite a vivid recollection of the empowerment I felt upon completion. Although I’ve never found myself in a terribly unhealthy relationship (some are less happy to remember than others…), I have definitely been blind to the reality of any given situation. Told with humorous examples, comedic banter and the ability to make you smile through your tears of humiliation (you wonder how you missed that obvious hint!), the book is a feel-good tool to encourage every woman to go out there and find the relationship she deserves, not just one she’s stuck with.
Since I really did enjoy the book, appreciate the message and was able to occasionally relate to the situations with self-deprecating laughter, I had high expectations for the movie.
Let me admit, I am not a movie person. I am terrible at sitting still, rarely captivated by what is happening on screen and I don’t even like popcorn (though I looooove the icees at theaters!). I think books are a much more effective and enjoyable way to portray a story, although a movie is much less effort. Anyways, I was prepared to really enjoy HJNTIY, as it had been receiving mostly rave reviews.
My movie partner was a guy I’m casually seeing, and he only went to the movie since he lost a bet (lesson to be learned, never bet me on random historical facts!). He complained about going, but I think ended up liking it and laughing more than me. It was your stereotypical romantic comedy with a little bit more humor, I didn’t think it had nearly the powerful and positive message that the book shared with it’s audience. The movie poses the question:
“are you the exception… or are you the rule?”
The movie follows different characters through life in Maryland (totally random, right?), and it’s almost one of those six-degrees of separation examples, how everyone is inextricably linked without knowing. It’s interesting to see how all the lives tie together, but painful at times to watch as Gigi (Goodwin) is pathetically desperate to date someone, anyone, or as Janine’s (Connelly) husband enters into an affair.
It wasn’t a bad movie, but I did leave feeling as if something were missing. Oh, right, it’s the idea that things don’t always turn out as you planned, and the guy doesn’t always realize that you’re the greatest woman in the world for him (though I’m sure you are), and that sometimes, relationships are disappointing and people aren’t meant to be together and it doesn’t work out (and I swear I’m not even bitter or cynical!). I guess one marriage does dissolve through the course of the movie, but in the current state where affairs and divorces are commonplace, it would be almost more satisfying (less stereotypical, at least) had the woman been responsible, or at minimum, in control, of the relationship! I definitely think the uplifting lesson conveyed in the book is somehow lost with the on-screen adaptation.
Read the book if: You need motivation, inspiration, or optimism in your relationship or life in general. Pass the book to a friend if you can see they’re stuck in a dead end relationship and a third-party unbiased source yelling at them could help realization dawn.
Avoid the book if: You like losers, and accept you’re stuck with them. No no kidding, read the book.
Watch the movie if: You like happy endings, stereotypical romantic comedies, pathetic women, cheating men, and some laughter along the way. Though I suggest you wait until it comes out on DVD and make a wine night out of it, much better use of $$$$.
Avoid the movie if: You’re looking for a movie with a lasting impact.
- Title: He’s Just Not That Into You
- Author(s): Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo
- Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment
- NovelWhore’s Grade (Book): A-
- NovelWhore’s Grade (Movie): C+
**As usual, the book is much better than the movie!