Saturday, May 30, 2009

Welcome Book Expo America Attendees!


If you are coming to visit My Friend Amy because we met this weekend at Book Expo America, I'm so glad to have you here!

To make it a little easier for you, let me tell you about this blog!

My Friend Amy is primarily a book blog--I review books, host authors for interviews and guest posts, conduct bookish discussions and giveaways. I also celebrate the other pop culture arts.

Have a look around by visiting my Book Review Index which is sorted by genre. You can also learn more about me by visiting my About Me page, and reading my Review Policy. I am quite active in the book blogging community through various projects and events that you can learn about on My Projects Index.

I hope you like what you see and will consider coming back often or subscribing to this blog via RSS or email.

I can't wait to get to know you!



Amy

Friday, May 29, 2009

Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday Is Taking a Break



I'm sorry I forgot to let you know last week that there will be no Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday this week as I am at Book Expo America. Enjoy the rest and come back next week where we'll starting talking Faith'n'Fiction Saturday Awards!




Amy

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan


I was initially not really interested in this book as I don't really get the whole zombie thing. I couldn't imagine that I would be terribly interested in reading a book about zombies, so I figured I'd give it a miss. But then I read Lenore's review and she mentioned that people who enjoyed impossible love stories, (i.e. The Hunger Games) would enjoy this one.

I was so there.

I read this book during the 24 Hour Readathon, and it was the perfect book for that event because it starts out with a bang and really doesn't relent. Mary lives in a village that is enclosed by gates. Their situation is quite precarious because just outside of those gates are the living dead...zombies who long to consume their flesh. The zombie's hunger is great, but the Sisterhood has many rules in place to protect their people.

Mary, our heroine, has run out of options on what to do with her life. She joins the Sisterhood but due to her curious and questioning nature is not fully accepted as one of them. While she is staying there, Travis is injured and comes to stay. Mary cares for Travis and falls in love with him, but he has already promised commitment to her best friend. And then one day, an unusual zombie, one who is faster and stronger than the others breaks into the village...and life for Mary and her friends will never be the same.

This is a book with extremely high stakes and lots of action. Mary is a very strong character--she has a dream of what life was like before The Return and she longs to reclaim a piece of that now. At times, her stubborn nature really got on my nerves, but for the most part I was cheering her on and wishing everyone else would listen to her.

This story is in many ways quite bleak. There's lots of death and sorrow, and yes, I cried! But a tiny little flower of hope takes root in the pages.

With brisk pacing and characters you care about, The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a page-turning great read!

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: There are zombies in this story.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is published by Delacorte books for Young Readers.




Amy

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Interview with Jill Mansell


I was really excited when Sourcebooks gave me the chance to interview Jill Mansell. As I've mentioned previously, I love Jill Mansell's books...they are the absolute perfect solution to any grumpy mood you might have! I hope you enjoy this interview!

You have written a lot of books! Do you have a favorite or one that you're really proud of?

Ooh, that’s such a difficult question. But basically, no I don’t. I always start writing with the intention of making this next book the best yet, better than all the rest, then as it progresses I start to think I’m actually writing a load of unpublishable rubbish. It’s a horrible feeling but it happens every time. By the time I reach the end of the book I’ve convinced myself my agent and editor will hate it. Then when they tell me it’s great I start to relax, but it isn’t until I read the final set of proofs that I’m able to see that it’s not as bad as I thought it was. All I can say is that each book has bits in it that I particularly like. In Miranda’s Big Mistake, the scenes where queues of fans are camping out on the pavement to get tickets for the tennis at Wimbledon are some of my all-time favourites. I love those particular characters too!

Have you ever wished you could go back and change something from a previous book?

Yes, yes, all the time. It’s why I don’t re-read them!

I have to admit I love your books and tried to find all of them in the States. I'm thrilled Sourcebooks is releasing them here. Any chance you'll come for a book tour???

Amy, I’m so thrilled you like my books and have read so many! I’d love to do a book tour, but I guess we’ll have to see how sales go before something like that can happen. I toured Australia and New Zealand last year, and South Africa the year before that. Exhausting but so much fun!

So everyone please buy Jill's books so she can come see us!! What is your favorite part of the writing life?

No commuting. If the kids are sick, it’s not traumatic to take a day off work. I’m never too far from the fridge, so I can graze constantly. I can wear slippers instead of uncomfortable shoes. As to the writing itself, I just love writing the last fifty pages of each book, when you know what’s going to happen and it feels like cycling downhill. That bit always gets done really quickly – if only the rest was as easy as that!

Man, I am so jealous of the no commute! What's the biggest challenge of writing?

Hitting a brick wall and realising I don’t have a clue what to write next. At this point I usually create a new character to throw into the mix and liven things up a bit. Basically, the biggest challenge is that it’s all down to me. When I mess up the plot and don’t know how to mend it, it’s not like getting a flat tire and asking my husband to fix it for me. It’s my book and I have to fix it myself.

What authors do you admire?

I love so many authors. Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes and Lisa Jewell over here in the UK. Adriana Trigiani, Elizabeth Berg and Elinor Lipman in the US. And loads more I can’t think of at the moment! Oh yes, the Spellman books...

I love some of those, too, and will have to check the others out. How do you feel about the rise of book and literary blogs in book marketing?

I love it! I love reading blogs about readers and writers. It’s how I’ve discovered so many favourite new authors. I owe so much to the readers who say nice things about my writing. Personal recommendation is always the best, isn’t it?

I see you like to watch TV. What's your favorite show?

Lots and lots of TV shows. Oprah. Ellen de Generes. Veronica’s Closet. Friends. All the reality shows. Movies too – watched When Harry met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle for the millionth times last week and they’re still brilliant. And Mamma Mia!

Thanks so much, Amy. I love your blog!

Please everyone go pick up a copy of An Offer You Can't Refuse and look for my review of Miranda's Big Mistake coming soon!




Amy

Book Spotlight: Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner

Sadly, I did not get a chance to read this yet. As usual, I've overbooked myself.

About the Book: A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting, and one woman’s search for hope

Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms.

She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.

What kind of artist would dare to intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian’s pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Guest Post: Paul Harris, Author of The Secret Keeper


I asked Paul to share a little bit about how we as Westerners should view Africa. I really liked his response!


Everyone has an image of Africa. For most of us that image is crafted in
the media via news coverage that focuses almost exclusively on tragedies or
by wildlife documentaries that cut out the human element in favor of
wildlife. Not surprisingly, this is not exactly an accurate picture of the
continent and the hundreds of millions of people who call it home. But it
is the dominant one that we in the West get. Africa is a place of near
universal human misery or animal majesty. As always, the truth is far more
complex.
Africans, it should come as no surprise, are no different from other people
anywhere. Indeed even the phrase "Africans" has its problems. No one would
try and lump all Europeans together in the same way that the media does
Africans. Europe is an area that stretches from Portugal to Russia via
places like Albania, Hungary, Greece and Finland. It is hard to think of
that group of nations as having anything in common, let alone being lumped
together under the catch all banner of "Europeans" to sum up all their
fears and aspirations. It is true in America too. I have been lucky to
travel all over the US and have been stunned at its diversity. If you put a
Navajo Indian, a Cajun, a black southerner from Alabama, an Iowa farmer, an
Appalachian, a Maine fisherman, a New York banker and a Hispanic
Californian in the same room, you would find that the idea of an average
"American" does not really cover that enormous range of human experience.
But Africa is far more diverse than either Europe or America. In fact many
African countries contain dozens of different ethnic groups, speaking
different languages, with different cultures, that in most continents would
justify their own separate nation. Yet the Western media, for reasons of
laziness and lack of space and a willingness to generalize, simply ignores
this and lumps all Africans together as if they share a common experience
from Ghana to Lesotho to Sudan. That makes it easy to paint the continent
as a uniquely blighted place, full of wars and famine from one end to the
other. That is not to downplay the disasters and conflicts that do occur. I
have seen enough of them first hand to know they are very real. But there
are so many other stories too that rarely get much attention. One thing
that springs to mind is now how ubiquitous mobile phones have now become,
solving one of the great infrastructure problems of the continent. I
remember once riding a bus in Malawi, surrounded by my fellow passengers
with their huge bags and even animals, and seeing people getting out their
mobile phones and chatting to relatives and friends just like they do in
London and New York (and, after a while, it is just as annoying). Or just
take a look at how South African politics is reported on in the media. It
is almost exclusively covered in terms of relations between blacks and
whites. Yet in fact South African politics cannot be understood without
looking at the complex relations between the different black African
ethnicities, especially the often fraught relationship between Zulus and
Xhosa. Also, there are two very different white communities: the Afrikaners
and the English-speakers. After having spent four years in Africa, I would
not say that I understand "Africa". That is a patronizing and wrong. I
would say that I have tried to understand the different situations and
countries that I wrote about, visited or lived in. Putting it that way
acknowledges that Africans - like everyone else - are all unique. The
political and social problems facing countries as different as Sierra Leone
and Mozambique and Somalia should not be lumped together into one big mess.
No more than we would try and solve in one big go the "European" problems
of democratizing Russia, poverty in Albania and the mafia in Sicily. We
need to start seeing Africans as individually as we see ourselves. Then,
perhaps, we can truly start to learn something about "Africa".

Review: The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris


Journalist Danny Kellerman had the opportunity to cover the civil war in Sierra Leone four years ago. He has since moved on with his life, but when a letter from his ex-girlfriend arrives pleading for help, he decides to look into it. See, Maria isn't just an ex-girlfriend she was the love of his life. And he feels she must desperately need his help.

He's shocked ,however, to learn that Maria was killed. Unable to come to peace with this due to the letter her received, he secures permission from his editor to return to Sierra Leone and investigate her death.

The country Danny returns to is different than the one he left. Can he still trust the friends he made four years ago? Can he uncover the truth about what happened to Maria? Will he be able to come to peace with his past?

For some reason, I have an affection for books that bring social issues to light in a smart story and this book totally fits that bill. Before reading The Secret Keeper I knew absolutely nothing about the country of Sierra Leone. I don't necessarily have a detailed knowledge of it now, but I do feel I understand the struggles of the people there just a little bit more.

The story is split into two timelines, telling the story of Danny's original trip to Sierra Leone and his current trip. There's plenty of motivation to keep following both stories--to understand his original relationship with Maria and why it ended, and in present day to find out what happened to Maria. I was instantly drawn into this book. I can't even tell you how rare that is for me these days, but Harris's writing instantly invites you into the story and into Danny's mind.

One of the strengths of this book is that it never gets bogged down with political detail, Harris provides just enough to understand the context of Maria and Danny's world. It also doesn't go overboard with gory details, but the few times violence does make an appearance it is used for maximum effect. There's a death in the story that was completely unsettling to me--driving home the random violence and unpredictable nature of being in a war zone.

I recommend this book for anyone who likes thrillers set in an international setting, or anyone interested in learning about Sierra Leone in a completely non-threatening way.

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: There's some language and some violence. And a very little bit of sex.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be on this tour. You can visit Paul Harris website, and read a fantastic interview at Maw Books Blog.




Amy

Review: Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton


Peggy Adams is celebrating a friend's bachelorette party in Las Vegas and feeling a bit down after another fight with her long time boyfriend. She has a bit too much to drink one night and wakes up fully clothed next to a strange man. Unsettled, but thinking nothing more of the incident, Peggy returns to her life in New York. Only to find out later that she actually married the strange man in Las Vegas!

Peggy and Luke decide to pretend to be married for a year in order for Luke to secure his family inheritance and for Peggy to get her cut. She needs it to save her business. But what she doesn't count on is falling for Luke...and all that his life entails.

I absolutely loved this charming book! I loved both Peggy and Luke and enjoyed reading about how they got to know each other. I got completely swept up into the story and found myself laughing out loud and cheering on the couple. It's ALWAYS a treat to have a book that I go out of my way to read and I devoured this one in a single day.

I really liked the full cast of characters. I loved Aunt Abigail and Peggy's friends Josh and Bex. The characters were quirky and added so much to the story! I also liked the little side story about the big corporations taking over the small businesses. Common theme these days. ;)

Lately it seems that it's hard to find satisfactory chick lit but the summer season is upon us and I think this book will perfectly fit your chick lit needs!

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: A little sex.

Mating Rituals of the North American Wasp is published by the 5 Spot line of Hachette Book Group. You can visit Lauren Lipton's blog.



Amy

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CFBA Book Spotlight: Jillian Dare by Melanie M. Jeschke

About the Book: Jillian Dare leaves her Shenandoah Valley foster home behind and strikes out on her own as a nanny at a large country estate in northern Virginia. She is delighted with the beauty of her new home, the affection of her young charge Cadence Remington, and the opportunity for frequent travel to the Remington castle in England.

She is less certain about her feelings for her handsome but moody employer, Ethan. In spite of herself, Jillian realizes she is falling for her boss. But how can a humble girl ever hope to win a wealthy man of the world? And what dark secrets from the past is he hiding? This contemporary story, inspired by the well-loved classic Jane Eyre, will capture readers' hearts.

Tube Talk Tuesday: Supernatural Episodes 2x1, 2x2


As much as I loved season one, I am really really digging season two. Sadly, I'm already halfway through, so these discussions are lagging a bit! I hope you enjoy!! Elizabeth's thoughts are italicized and I am in normal text!

2x1, In My Time of Dying
Synopsis: In the season premiere, Sam, Dean and John have been left for dead after the Demon plowed a truck into the Impala.

First of all, I'm really glad that I didn't have to wait through a summer to find out what happened after the car crash. Sam walks away relatively intact. Were you worried about the others?

Well, I guess I wasn't worried that one of them would actually be GONE - I mean, it's only season 2. The brothers have to be around for a while. But I was worried that the show might kill one of them off, and have them come back as a spirit or something - it seems like you can never be too sure with shows like this.

I was worried the instant that Dean realized he was out of his body. That is never good! However I had hope that there was hope since he didn't just cease to be. Do you think Sam's anger at their dad was justified?

Exactly! It was my fear from the cliffhanger ending coming true! And yes, I think if I was in Sam's place, I would have been very angry with my dad. See, this is why Dad's practice of keeping everything from the kids backfires - if he would have told Sam he had a plan to get Dean back, Sam wouldn't have had to run around yelling at him. Just tell the boys what's going on!!!


Did you realize that Dad was going to summon the evil demon? doesn't it seem really brave?

Are you asking me this question to force me to like Dad?? =) Yes, it was brave - I've never questioned his bravery. I just don't think that HIS goals are necessarily the best thing for the brothers all the time.
Ha, no. I'm not his biggest fan, but I don't think he's all bad. In fact, I'm really torn over his decisions and what they mean.

What did you think the ghost was at first...did you realize it was a reaper?

Well, a reaper made sense, in a hospital where people are close to death all the time. Yes. But if there really is some sort of reaper, I hope they are a bit nicer looking. That reaper made me think there's a good reason to fear death!

Were you suspicious of the girl right away or not?

I did NOT - that was a surprise. Sometimes I think I'm a little slow to pick up on clues like that. =) For what it's worth, I wasn't either.

What did you think of Sam and Dean's ability to communicate through the Ouija board? Do you think Sam was able to sense Dean because of his abilities?

I thought it was a great idea! I was actually a little bit surprised Sam couldn't communicate with him before that, but I suppose we haven't seen him able to do that before. I just really wanted Sam to realize Dean was there! Have you ever played with a Ouija board? I did once in junior high when most people do, and nothing happened. No one even pretended!

How did you feel about the Dad and son's last scenes? Whatever did he tell Dean? I was glad he acknowledged his failing as a parent.

Man, I was yelling at the TV - What did you just tell him!! I was happy that he could admit he wasn't the best parent, but I'm worried it was too little, too late. I don't know that Dean will ever truly believe his dad loves him. Seriously, who would lean over and whisper in real life! Contrived!

Loved this episode and thought it was extremely satisfying start to season 2. Poor Dad. :(

It was a great start to the season!!



2x2, Everybody Loves a Clown
Synopsis:
After listening to a message on John's, cell phone from a woman named Ellen, Sam and Dean decide to track her down.

Clowns are always topping the list of scary things, so it seemed perfect for an episode of Supernatural, don't you think?

Yeah, clowns are just weird. I could never understand why parents would get them for their kids' birthday parties. I think the show does a good job of using the fears that normal people have, and making them much scarier!

I thought that little carnival was scary enough and the clown certainly didn't seem like anything I'd befriend!

Right - hasn't anyone ever told those kids not to let strangers in their house? Especially strangers wearing weird face paint?? I couldn't believe those kids just kept opening the door for the clown!

And my favorite lines from this episode - when Sam and Dean were giving each other a hard time about their respective phobias:

Sam - At least I'm not afraid of flying,
Dead - Planes crash.
Sam - And apparently clowns kill!!


What did you think of Ellen, Jo, and the bar? (even more hunters for you!) I was kind of glad there was a place with people who knew their dad.

I love Ellen, Jo, and Ash! I think these characters are a great addition to the storyline. I love that Ellen and Jo are strong and fiesty, and don't NEED any help from the brothers, thank you very much. And I think having someone who knew their dad will eventually be helpful for the brothers.

In these first few episodes, I've been most interested in how Sam and Dean are dealing with their dad's death. Sam seems a bit more keen to give up school for the life a hunter now. What did you think of Dean's reaction to that?

Well, I think he's torn - he desperately wants Sam to stay with him, but he also knows that it's not really that great of a life, and wants something better for his little brother. It's probably a little bit of relief, and a little bit of surprise that Sam would be willing to give up normalcy to stay on the road with him.

I have to admit I thought the ending of this episode struck just the right tone. Dean is clearly suffering and has no place to process his anger in a healthy way. Powerful stuff when he started hitting his car. :(

Yeah, that got me a little choked up. I worry that Dean will close up more and more into himself, because he has so much anger and guilt that needs to come out. And, of course, now he feels even more that it is his duty to protect Sam, so he believes he can't appear to be even a little bit weak. But Sam so wants to help!!

Don't miss our discussion of episodes 3 and 4 over at Elizabeth's blog!




Amy

TV on DVD Review: Supernatural Season One


After the success of LOST in 2004, there was a whole slew of shows that tried to take off on similar themes in the fall of 2005. Supernatural was among them. I always knew I wanted to watch the show, but there's only so much time. I bought the season DVDs when I spotted them on sale and when I decided to start working my way though my To Be Watched pile, Elizabeth offered to co-review Supernatural with me. Since I'm watching the show alone, this is the perfect solution!

Supernatural is the story of brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, who were born into a life of hunting the supernatural--ghosts, angry spirits, demons, and the like. During the first season they are searching for their father, John Winchester who disappeared leaving behind nothing but his hunting journal.

I was admittedly captivated by the pilot of the show, which establishes the background of the Winchester family, portrays the estranged relationship yet affection between brothers Sam and Dean, and in conclusion sets up the mystery and provides the motivation for Sam Winchester to return to a life of hunting. But the episodes immediately following it didn't necessarily add to my desire to keep watching. I enjoyed them, but didn't feel like I needed to compulsively partake of the show like I have felt for shows in the past! That didn't happen until around episodes 14 or 15 and suddenly I was completely hooked.

The strength of Supernatural is the relationship between brothers Sam and Dean Winchester and the excellent acting of actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. While the ghosts and monsters that make their appearances in the show are sometimes unsatisfying, the developing characters of these two men is really what keeps me glued to the set. There is also an overarching mystery developing around what happened in the past and how it plays a role in the present, though that is only lightly touched on in Season 1.

I read someone describe this as Buffy the Vampire Slayer for boys and while there are certainly differences, I imagine the audience is much the same.

Recommended.

Elizabeth of As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves and I have been chatting through the episodes. Below are all the posts we did on Supernatural Season 1.

Pilot Episode
Episodes 2,3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episodes 6,7
Episodes 8,9
Episodes 10, 11
Episodes 12, 13
Episodes 14, 15
Episodes 16, 17
Episodes 18, 19
Episodes 20, 21, 22



Amy

Monday, May 25, 2009

Winners from A Week of Pure Passion

I had so much fun last week! I think I need to do more themed weeks! :)

In any case, due to the large participation, I'm making an exception and posting the winners!

Winner of the Writer's Critique is Keli Gwyn!

Winner of the set of all three books is Sherrinda!

5 winners of their choice of book in the series are:
Amee
Renee
Carole
Clenna
Marie Burton

If you see your name shoot me an email at mypalamyATgmailDOTcom otherwise I'll just be emailing you this week!




Amy

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Interview with Logan and Noah Miller


It's exciting for me today to present my first interview with filmmakers! Oh and they're authors, too! Logan and Noah Miller are the authors of Either You're In or You're in the Way the fabulous memoir I reviewed earlier. If you haven't read this book yet and you're a fan of film, baseball, or great stories, then you'll want to put this one on your list.

What surprised you most about making a movie?

That we got Ed Harris to play the role of our father... Our father was homeless for the last fifteen years of his life, battling alcoholism. He ended up passing away in jail. We had visited him there shortly before he died, talked about making "Touching Home." Our dad asked "Who's gonna play me?" And we said, "Ed Harris." But we were joking around. We never imagined that less than a year later Ed Harris would resurrect our father in our movie... The second most surprising thing was that we actually finished the movie!

What surprised you most about writing a book?

That we were able to finish it without killing each other... Logan types and Noah writes freehand. Then we combine the two. We scream at each other. Yell and curse. And somehow at the end of the day we managed to put words onto the page.


I think the book is genius marketing for the movie...after reading the book I really want to watch the film and feel like I have much higher investment in it....was this planned?

Not exactly... We never planned on writing a book. We just wanted to make our movie, "Touching Home." But after we finished our movie, we'd run into friends we hadn't seen in a while and tell them the story behind the making of the movie and they would say, "That's an amazing story. That should be your next movie." And we'd tell them that we weren't even done with "Touching Home" yet. Then they would invariably say, "Then write a book about it." But we didn't think we had any time to write it, because we were still in post-production. Then Noah said, "If we write from five thirty in the morning until our editor shows up we'll have a first draft in a few months." Noah wouldn't relent. And so Logan finally gave in and we started writing "Either You're in or You're in the Way."

Are you still in touch with the people you met while making the film?

Some of them. It would be nearly impossible to keep in touch with everybody. We work every day with our producing partner, Jeromy Zajonc, and we talk to Ed Harris via email or over the phone about once a month. Ed has become a great friend of ours. And we are very close with our editor, Robert Dalva, and all the people at Skywalker.

Will you make more films?

Absolutely. We've written 11 other screenplays. (note from Amy: WOW!)

When can we see Touching Home?

We're working on getting "Touching Home" theatrically distributed. So the optimistic answer would be "Soon."

What other projects are you working on now?

Our goals right now are to get "Touching Home" theatrically distributed and "Either You're in or You're in the Way" on the New York Times Bestseller list. And we have no idea how we're going to pull that off.

What do you want people to come away with the most after seeing Touching Home or reading Either You're in or You're in the Way?

That their dreams are attainable... Follow your dreams and don't let anybody tell you you can't do it.

You can learn more about Logan and Noah Miller by visiting their website, The Miller Brothers.

FIRST: Lucy's Perfect Summer by Nancy Rue

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Lucy's Perfect Summer (A Lucy Novel)

Zonderkidz (May 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Nancy Rue has written over 100 books for girls, is the editor of the FaithGirlz Bible, and is a popular speaker and radio guest with her expertise in tween issues. She and husband Jim have raised a daughter of their own and now live in Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $7.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714524
ISBN-13: 978-0310714521

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Why My Life Is Just About Perfect

School is out for the summer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lucy would have made more exclamation points, but Lollipop, her pot-bellied kitty, was watching from the windowsill above the bed, her black head bobbing with each stroke and dot. She’d be pouncing in a second.

Lucy protected the Book of Lists with her other arm and wrote…

2. Aunt Karen is taking her vacation to some island so she won’t be coming HERE for a while. YES!!

3. We have a soccer game in two weeks, thanks to Coach Auggy. A for-REAL game, with a whole other team, not just our team split up, which is always lame since we only have 8 players to begin with. I cannot WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lollipop twitched an ear.

“Forget about it,” Lucy said to her. She’d only just discovered the joy of making exclamation points from Veronica. Veronica was a girly-girl, but she did have her good points. Lucy snickered. “Good points, Lolli. Get it?”

Lollipop apparently did not, or else she didn’t care. She tucked her paws under her on the tile sill and blinked her eyes into a nap. Lucy slipped a few more exclamation marks in before she continued.

I get to hang out with J.J. and Dusty and Veronica and Mora any time I want, not just at lunch or soccer practice or church. Okay, so I already got to hang out with them a lot before summer, but now it’s like ANY time, and that’s perfect. Except we’re still stuck with Januarie. If she weren’t J.J.’s little sister we could just ditch her, but she needs a good influence. We’re a good influence. Well, maybe not Mora so much.
Lucy glanced at her bedroom door to make sure it was all the way shut. The Book of Lists was private and everybody else in the house—Dad and Inez the housekeeper nanny and her granddaughter Mora—knew to keep their noses out of it. Still, she always had to decide whether it was worth risking discovery to write down what she really, really thought.

“What do you say about it, Lolli?” she said.

There was an answering purr, though Lucy was pretty sure that was more about Lollipop dreaming of getting the other three cats’ food before they did than it was about agreeing with her. She went for it anyway.

Januarie still thinks Mora is the next best thing to Hannah Montana. Even though Mora got her in way a lot of trouble not that long ago she would probably give a whole bag of gummy bears just to have Mora paint her toenails. And that’s saying a lot. Januarie loves gummy bears. And Snickers bars. And those chocolate soccer balls Claudia sells down at the candy and flower shop. Which reminds me—

5. We can go buy candy in the middle of the day, or have breakfast at Pasco’s café or take picnics to OUR soccer field, because, guess what? It’s SUMMER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Something black whipped across the page, and Lucy’s pen flew into space, landing with a smack against the blue-and-yellow toy chest. Knocking down the ruler Lucy always kept there to hold it open, in case Lollipop needed to jump in and hide, the lid slapped shut, and Lolli sprang into an upside down-U before she leaped after it and skidded across the top with her claws bared. She glared indignantly at Lucy.

“You did it, Simplehead,” Lucy said. “Wait! I’ll open it for you.” But before she could even scramble off the bed, Lolli dove under it. A squalling fight ensued with Artemis Hamm, who had obviously been sleeping beneath the mattress.

“Break it up, you two!” Lucy said. But she didn’t dare stick her hand under there. One of them would eventually come out with a mouth full of the other one’s fur and it would be over.

“What’s going on in there?” said a voice on the other side of the door.

Lucy stuck the Book of Lists under her pillow. It was Dad, who couldn’t see anyway, but she always felt better having her secrets well hidden when other people were in the room.

“Come on in—if you dare,” Lucy said.

She heard Dad’s sandpapery chuckle before he stuck his face in. She cocked her head at him, her ponytail sliding over her ear. “What happened to your hair?”

He ran a hand over salt-and-pepper fuzz as he edged into the room. “I just got my summer ‘doo down at the Casa Bonita. Is it that bad?”

“No. It’s actually kinda cool.”

“What do I look like?”

“Like—did you ever see one of those movies about the Navy SEAL team? You know…before?”

“Yeah.”

“You look like one of those guys.”

“Is that good?”

“That’s way good.”

Dad smiled the smile that made a room fill up with sunlight. She could have told him he looked like a rock star and he wouldn’t have known whether she was telling the truth or not. But she liked for the smiles to be real, and she did think her dad was handsome. Even with eyes that sometimes darted around like they didn’t know where to land.

He made his way to the rocking chair and eased into it. It would be hard for anybody who didn’t know to tell he was blind when he moved around in their house, as long as Lucy kept things exactly where they were supposed to be. She leaned over and picked up her soccer ball, just escaping a black-and-brown paw that shot from the hem of the bedspread.

“Keep your fight to yourselves,” Lucy said.

“What’s that about?”

“Exclamation points! It’s a long story.”

“Do I want to hear it?”

“No,” Lucy said. Not only because she didn’t want to tell it, but because she could see in the sharp way Dad’s chin looked that he hadn’t come in just to chat about cat fights. She hugged her soccer ball.

“Okay, what?” she said. “Is something wrong? Something’s wrong, huh?”

“Did I say that?”

“Aunt Karen’s coming, isn’t she? Man! I thought she was going out in the ocean someplace and we were going to have a peaceful summer.” She dumped the ball on the floor on the other side of the bed.

Dad’s smile flickered back in. “What makes you think I was going to talk about Aunt Karen?”

“Because she’s, like, almost always the reason you look all serious and heavy.”

“You get to be more like your mother every day, Champ. You read me like a book.”

“Then I’m right.” There went her perfect summer. She was going to have to redo that list.

“But you’re in the wrong chapter this time,” Dad said. “I’m serious, but it isn’t about Aunt Karen. Last I heard, she was headed for St. Thomas.”

“He’s going to need to be a saint to put up with her.”

Dad chuckled. “St. Thomas is an island, Luc’.”

“Oh.” She was doing better in school now that Coach Auggy was her teacher, but they hadn’t done that much geography this year.

“I just want to put this out there before Inez gets here.”

His voice was somber again, but Lucy relaxed against her pillows. If this wasn’t about Aunt Karen coming here wanting to take Lucy home with her for the summer, how bad could it be?

“So, you know Inez will be coming for all day, five days a week.”

“Right and that’s cool. We get along good now.” Lucy felt generous. “I don’t even mind Mora that much any more.”

“Good, because I’ve asked her if she’d be okay with Mr. Auggy also coming in to do a little home-schooling with you.”

Lucy shot up like one of her own freaked-out kitties.

“School?” she said. “In the summer?”

Dad winced like her voice was hurting his ears. “Just for a few hours a day, and not on Fridays.”

“Dad, hello! This is summer time. I have a TON of work to do to get ready for the soccer games if I want anybody from the Olympic Development Program to even look at me. School work?” She hit her forehead with the heel of her hand. “Why?”

“You’ve improved a hundred per cent since Mr. Auggy started teaching your class—”

“Yeah, so why are you punishing me by making me do more work? I don’t get it.”

She wished she could make exclamation points with her voice.

“You’ll get it if you let me finish.”

Dad’s voice had no punctuation marks at all, except a period, which meant, ‘Hush up before you get yourself in trouble.’ Lucy gnawed at her lower lip. She was glad for once that he couldn’t see the look on her face.

“You ended the school year in good shape, but Champ, you were behind before that. That means you’re still going to start middle school a few steps back.”

“I’ll catch up, Dad, I promise! I’ll study, like, ten hours a day when school starts again and I’ll do all my homework.”

Dad closed his eyes and got still. That meant he was waiting for her to be done so he could go on with what he was going to say as if she hadn’t said a word. She was in pointless territory. It made her want to crawl under the bed and start up the cat fight again. It seemed to work for them when they were frustrated.

“Your middle school teachers are going to expect your skills to be seventh-grade level,” Dad said. “Right now, Mr. Auggy says they’re about mid-sixth, which is great considering what they were in January.”

If she had been Mora, she would have been rolling her eyes by now. What was the point in telling her how wonderful she was when she was going to have to do what she didn’t want to do anyway?

“So here’s the deal,” Dad said.

Lucy sighed. “It’s only a deal if both people agree to it, Dad.”

“You haven’t even heard it yet.”

She stifled a “whatever,” which was sure to get her grounded for a least a week of her already dwindling summer.

“You’ll work with Mr. Auggy until you get your reading up to seventh-grade level. That could take all summer, or it could take a couple of weeks. That’s up to you.”

Lucy looked at him sharply. “What if I get it there in three days?”

“Then you’re done. We’ll check it periodically, of course, to make sure it stays there.”

“It will,” Lucy said. But she hoped her outside voice sounded more sure than the one that was screaming inside her brain: You can’t do this! What are you thinking?

There weren’t enough exclamation points in the world to end that sentence.

The Sunday Salon -- BEA Prep

This is not my first year to attend Book Expo America, I attended last year when it was much closer to me here in Southern California! At the time, everyone I talked to gave me a very puzzled look when I explained I was a book blogger. I'm looking forward to this year when it seems that book bloggers are taking over the show!

Anyway, I've had some questions, so I'm going to share my experience with you...feel free to do with it what you like.

Dress
I dressed business casual for the event last year and was pleased with this choice. It must be remembered that BEA is not a fun conference, it is a business conference (that just so happens to be loads of fun!). I really can't remember seeing anyone in jeans, but that doesn't mean they weren't. I just know that I would have been uncomfortable in them. I am all about blending in!

What Should I do with All my Books?
Yes, you will get books. Publishers will have ARCs (advance reading copies) and even some finished copies of books that they are promoting. Same rule of thumb applies as to reviewing, try to take only what you are interested in reading so that others can have some, too! :) There's also some swag, such as tote bags, buttons, stickers, notepads, etc. There will be a shipping area available, you might want to snag some boxes to unload your books in. I'm less knowledgeable on this particular part of it, b/c I just dumped my books in my car last year.

Signings
Signings happen in two areas, the main autographing area and in booth. In the main autographing area, there are little boxes out for a dollar donation. I have no idea if you're supposed to give a dollar for every signing I didn't really see anyone do that. But in any case, they will have some big name authors there signing and the biggest names require a ticket. Hence the reason so many of us are getting up early on Friday to try to get tickets for Suzanne Collins' signing of the Catching Fire ARC. But last year, I was also able to easily go from line to line and get several autographs in a time slot. One thing to keep in mind is that you will receive the book at the signing. Do not bring your books from home. The authors are busy and only have time to sign one book for you and they will be giving you that book. The schedule will change unfortunately, some authors you may be hoping to see may have to cancel and be replaced. Just be aware! But the cool thing is that you may stumble on some great authors you weren't expecting! I saw Anne Rice that way! (but I had to stand in line with a creepy guy that wrote p0rn for college kids--no not exactly sure what that is either--and he had no idea what a blog was)

Food
Last year the workers at the convention center went on strike. During BEA. So this is my piece of advice. BRING SNACKS. Bring food you can eat quickly on the run. You don't want to waste any of the precious minutes you could be chatting with authors standing in line for overpriced food. Plan big dinners and plan to eat light during the day!

Other Stuff
If there are still tickets available, I recommend the author breakfasts. They happen before BEA really opens and it's a chance to actually hear from the authors. I didn't buy food this year because last year I felt really ripped off when breakfast was nothing more than a 15 dollar bagel and glass of orange juice. I know a lot of other people didn't on my recommendation and I hope they aren't mad at me!

I also think this is a great post about the don'ts of networking!

Wanna Meet Me?

I want to meet you! I'll be signing at the Firebrand booth on Friday from 4:00-5:00. Please stop by! Also, on Saturday I'll be on the panel about book blogging at 2:00 p.m. in room 1E15. Look forward to seeing you there!

Not Going to BEA?

You can still catch the Book Bloggers Panel by calling into Blog Talk Radio! Make sure to do it in Eastern time...2 PM!

Also, Rebecca of The Book Lady's Blog is putting together a fantastic BEA Pity Party for those who can't attend. It will be held on Twitter and have giveaways and everything! It will be held at the same time as the BEAtweetup, so should be lots of fun!

So...if you are going to BEA, what are you most looking forward to? If you aren't going to BEA, what do you most want for us bloggers to share with you about the experience?




Amy

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Weekly Review: Week Ending 5/23

I can't believe next week is Book Expo America! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! It's going to be the biggest book blogger meet-up to date and throw in a bunch of cool parties and awesome authors and well...let's just say I'm not planning on sleeping!

Anyway, here are some links of interest!

TV

This week was the upfronts which basically means all the networks parade out their fall line-up in hopes of attracting advertisers to their shows. It's my favorite time to devour the TV news as I hope to catch glimpses of whatever will be my next addiction. Anyway there are DEFINITELY some shows I'm excited about coming on this year.

Lostpedia gives a nice look at what might be able to fill the LOST void and I agree that Flash Forward looks like a good one. I have plans to read that book this summer and possibly review it for a new collaborative TV blog I'm working on.

But honestly, I'm most excited about the new television series Vampire Diaries which is based off of the books that were my absolute favorites when I was 13 or 14 years old. These books gave me a love for all things vampire and I'm just excited about another vampire TV show. Michelle told me that Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello called it Supernatural with teeth, so naturally I'm excited. The preview for the show is below, enjoy!



BOOKS

I'm participating in the Nerds Heart YA book Tournament! I'm really excited to be a judge and introduce myself to some more great books! Becky has all the details about the tournament.

This post from Kerry, about Slow Reads vs. Fast Reads, pretty much sums up all my problems with reviewing. I love it, but sometimes I know I'm devouring books too fast and not allowing them the proper space in my life. If I'm onto the next book so quickly, the one I just finished doesn't have time to soak in.

Looking for the next great literary event? Find them in this new Literary Events wiki.

I loved this post from Eva about allowing kids to find the books they want to read an I wholeheartedly agree!

Want to figure out how to get books through the various online trading sites? Swapna has a series going where she reviews the various sites...might check it out and see if it's helpful to you!

There was another drama this week in the blogging community where a publisher did an interview and said, sigh, that they haven't seen the online community make a difference. Dear Author has a nice write-up on their thoughts about this.

Because book bloggers love giving stuff away, there will be a YA book bloggers carnival....the books given away must be YA books, but that pretty much makes it sound fantastic to me! Read the details at Shooting Stars Mag.

This post about fiction cognition at Underage Reading really really made me think. I think these points are really very valid and I'll be thinking about it more while I read now!

Wendy the Super Librarian shares her thoughts on Stephen King's recommended reads for summer.

A pretty awesome store display for a new book! I bet every author wishes they had this!

A database to check and see if an author has a pseudonym (HT: Rhapsody in Books)

FAITH

Because I have loved what Brennan Manning has written, I appreciated this post from Internet Monk. I loved this paragraph:
One thing I can say for every critic who finds Manning “a waste of time:” They are not longing, in the midst of the wreckage of their own souls, to hear, existentially and constantly, the assurance of God’s absolute love and affection. I can say this with some certainty, because no one can compare to the ability of Brennan Manning to stop you and embrace you with the astonishing love of God.


After yesterday's Faith 'n' Fiction topic on Christian Fiction cliches, I really appreciated Chad Jarnigan's post about safe art from Christians.

That's it for this week! I hope you have found some interesting reading here!




Amy

Review: Nothing But Trouble by Susan May Warren + Giveaway



When I'm in the mood for a nice fun romance, maybe with just a hint of suspense, Susan May Warren can do no wrong. She has not written a book that I haven't loved. Nothing but Trouble is no exception, and because it has a little Veronica Mars going on, it's especially great!

P.J. Sugar hasn't been back home for ten years. In fact, she's spent the past ten years trying to find herself..doing different things and exploring different areas of the country. But one day her sister calls her and up and says they need her back home. Easy, right? But P.J. left for a reason and going home means facing the betrayal and the person she used to be. Not to mention Boone her ex-boyfriend. Oh and her best friend who was facing a pregnancy scare when she took off...

But the town is more welcoming than P.J. expected and soon she finds herself caring for her nephew and investigating a murder. Can P.J. stay out of trouble long enough to do some good in her hometown? Will she come to terms with who she is and what she's done?

I thought P.J. was an immensely likeable character, and I was definitely rooting for her. I also loved all the humor Susan May Warren wove throughout the book...the typical goofy stuff that makes a book like this enjoyable. I loved watching P.J. come to terms with her past, the people who hurt her, and finding new love for her family.

This is the kind of book you to lose yourself in and enjoy, P.J. becomes a bit of a PI and makes new friends. I have always loved Susan May Warren's writing style...not too flowery, but not at all choppy either, just perfect for moving the story along. Feels really effortless.

One thing I'm excited about is that this is a series...so we get to visit with P.J. again! AND Love triangle! My favorite! So much potential for drama!

I highly recommend this fun book for lovers of Christian fiction romantic suspense, though both the romance and suspense are a bit light!

Read the first chapter of Nothing But Trouble.

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Definitely Christian fiction!

Giveaway: I have one copy to give away to anyone in the world! Leave a comment and tell me about your favorite fictional amateur sleuth. If you want me to be able to contact you, please leave an email addresss as well.




Amy

Friday, May 22, 2009

Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday: Stop with That Already!


What is this? you ask. Read this post to learn all about Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday!

Today's Question: A lot of us are reviewers which means we consume books at a rate that blows the minds of others. As a result, we might start seeing the same thing over. and over. and over.

What are some cliched phrases or plot devices in Christian fiction that you'd like to see go? (by the way this was inspired by a conversation on Twitter with Deborah

My Answer: Mine is a really really popular scene that takes place in a lot of Christian fiction, where the protagonist goes to church and feels like the sermon fits in perfectly to their lives was tailor made for them. To be honest, I find myself sort of, um, skipping over those parts. I do like to see spiritual growth in the characters but I think there are a lot more creative ways to demonstrate that and bring it out. In fact, in my own life I can only think of one time a sermon had a direct impact on my actions. Mostly, it's through relationships with other people and my small groups that I get really challenged. And yes, of course, in my personal Bible reading and even reading books!
(Please note: This is not meant to be an attack on any author or book, but a way for us to encourage our wonderful authors to improve)

Your Turn

What are you tired of seeing over and over again?

A Week of Pure Passion Concluded


I've had fun sharing Julie Lessman's latest book, A Passion Denied, with you this week but the fun doesn't stop here! Of course I hope you'll check out her books! I've decided to draw a winner on Monday May 25th...so you have this weekend to comment on the posts or maybe buy a book? Read all the contest details here.

In any case, here are a few links for further exploration!

Rel did a character spotlight on Lizzie and Brady! (for the record, due to the cover model I really see Lizzie more as Rachel McAdams)

My Interview with Julie when A Passion Redeemed was released Part 1, Part 2.

My review of A Passion Redeemed.

My Review of A Passion Most Pure.

My Interview with Julie when A Passion Most Pure was released. (and the beginning of a beautiful friendship!)

Read the first chapter of A Passion Most Pure.

Julie's Saturdays in the Nook post for The Friendly Book Nook. (I really love this post)

And finally...a sneak peek from Julie's next book...I think those who have already readA Passion Denied will really be thrilled with this! in this fantastic post about writing romantic tension.

Many thanks to Julie for her generosity with her time, the prizes this week, and also of course, writing such fantastic books!





Amy

Review: 20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler


Matt and Frankie are brother and sister and live next door to Anna. The three of them are best friends and inseparable. Until one day, Anna and Matt strike up a relationship that is more than friendship. Madly in love, but keeping it a secret to protect Frankie's feelings, they have one month together. Matt promises Anna he'll tell Frankie when they're on their family vacation, but tragedy strikes before it can happen.

Anna feels bound by this secret and never tells Frankie. The next summer, Frankie's parents take the girls on the traditional trip to California and Frankie and Anna determine to have the best summer ever and meet 20 boys, one of whom can hopefully give them new life.

First of all, the writing in this book is fantastic, at times downright beautiful. I could feel everything. Anna's grief, hope, attraction to the boy she meets, the sand under her feet, the fragile blossoming of hope in her heart. It knotted up my stomach at times and made it really hard for me to put this book down. It certainly recalled all those feelings of first attraction and being young and taking risks. But underneath all of that was the very true grief Anna and Frankie and Frankie's parents were all dealing with. It manifested in different ways and at different times for each character but I mention it because this isn't your typical beach romance sort of book.

I liked Anna...I sympathized with her and I was sorry for all that she had lost. It's impossible to ever replace a friend who has been your friend since birth and then becomes your first love. But I was also frustrated with her. I felt she should have shared her relationship because she was never able to properly grieve or share in grief because of it.

I do have to mention one thing that bothered me a bit about the book. One of the goals of the summer is to relieve Anna of her virginity. In fact, she and Frankie refer to it as her albatross. Anna's attitude towards this is probably seen as progressive, but to me it was treated quite casually and parents may want to be aware that this element exists in the book. I would also mention that there's lots of lying and sneaking around behind the parents backs...but the two girls are quite astute and aware that Frankie's parents lack of diligent concern does not equal love.

Overall, I really liked this book. The writing is beautiful, the characters are real, and it's a touching exploration of grief, loss of love, and friendship. I do think this is the sort of YA book that would appeal to readers of all ages.

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: So yes there's a bit of sex and a bit of language.

20 Boy Summer is published by Little, Brown and Sarah Ockler has a blog and is on Twitter. The book technically publishes in June, but I've heard it's already making it's way out now.



Amy

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: Ruby Unscripted by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma


Ruby is leaving behind her small hometown to move to to upscale Marin County. She's excited about the possible changes, but sad to leave her friends behind. She gets a job in her aunt's cool coffee shop, quickly makes a great new friend and an enemy and continues to search for that one thing she's passionate about. But moving means leaving behind her friends...who will change when she's away. Or is it Ruby that's changed?

This is sort of a typical "girl moves to new town and finds herself but not without some bumps along the road." sort of book. Ruby seems serious to me...which is to say this book is not written in that humorous tone of chick lit! She is constantly texting, though!

There are some boys but they aren't a major part of the book. And there are the typical teen temptations, there's some family struggle as Ruby continues to deal with her parents divorce and living apart from her older brother.

I enjoyed this book but as far as the storyline and even the writing goes, it wasn't particularly outstanding. But read on for something I did appreciate about it!

Ruby's new best friend is gay. I mention this because this book is Christian fiction and Christian Fiction does an excellent job of not ever really having any gay characters. This is frustrating to me. I think the reason for it is that the traditional attitude towards homosexuality has been that it's a sin. That's definitely starting to change with some different interpretations of Scripture, but I think the general attitude has been to act like gay people don't exist or they don't exist within Christian circles. All hogwash as you know. So, the fact that A) the book had a gay character and B) Ruby didn't have any definitive feelings on that (i.e. he's going to straight to hell!) is a bold new step for Christian fiction. It's a good start. Now I'd like to see a gay protagonist. Publishing Houses who are willing to go edgy....do you hear me?

All in all, though, Ruby Unscripted is an enjoyable Christian YA novel. Published by Thomas Nelson and you can visit the Cindy Martinusen-Coloma's website.

Rating: 3.75/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian fiction, though Ruby's faith isn't particularly strong (by her own admission) It's an interesting take for a finding yourself kind of book, that refinding her faith didn't really play a part at all. She was still pretty unsure on all of that by the end. So the book is quite realistic in that regard.

“Now he likes me?” I say aloud as I drop my phone to my lap and my heart does a strange little tuck and roll within my chest.

My ten-year-old brother, Mac, gives me a strange look from the seat beside me. With the top down in my aunt’s convertible, he can’t hear my words that are cast into the air to dance with the wind.

The orange towers of the Golden Gate Bridge loom toward us, with the darkening blue of sky and water filling the spaces between. Aunt Jenna is driving, with Mom talking beside her.

So it’s finally true.

Nick likes me.

I think I’m happy. Everyone will expect me to be happy. It’s not been a secret that I’ve liked him for . . . well, ever. Or at least for a few months.

And yet I have a very good reason for being completely annoyed about this.

The text stating Nick’s indirect admission of love, or at least “like,” arrives as we’re leaving an afternoon in San Francisco behind. But we aren’t driving the four hours home to Cottonwood. We’re driving toward our new life in Marin County.

Everyone at school knew that Nick liked me for a long time. His friends and my friends knew it. I knew it. But Nick apparently didn’t know his own feelings. Why can’t guys just trust others on these things?

I pick up my phone and reply to Kate’s text.


ME: Is Nick still standing there?

KATE: No. I think it freaked him out to wait for your response. The guys went to play Alien Hunter III before the movie starts. So what do you think? Patience paid off.

ME: I’m trying not to think that guys are really as dumb as most of us say they are.

KATE: Huh?

ME: Really now. I mean NOW. He says this on the day I move away?

KATE: Well you’ll be home most every weekend so it’s not that bad.

ME: But think about it. What made him decide today?

KATE: Who cares? He finally figured out he can’t live without you.


The car cruises along the bridge, and I stare up at the massive orange beams over our heads. Then I catch sight of a sailboat as it dips and bows on the evening waters of San Francisco Bay.

My brother is shout-talking to my mom and aunt. And with one earbud pulled out, I catch bits of the discussion being tossed around the car as the wind twists my hair into knots. The topic is “If you had one wish, what would you wish for?”

What poetic irony. Five minutes ago I would’ve wished that Nick would like me . . . and like some psychic genie working even before I wished it, the text arrived from Kate: “Nick said . . .”

So Nick likes me after I move four hours and a world away.

He likes me the day after I say good-bye to him and all my friends in Cottonwood.

I scroll back through my saved texts to find what he sent me after we said good-bye.

NICK: I wish you weren’t moving.

NICK: Next time you’re up visiting your dad let’s hang out.

NICK: How often will you be back?

NICK: So you don’t have a date for prom?

Men. I mean seriously.

So it’s like this. I’m moving to one of the coolest areas of California—Marin County. I’m going to live in this cool, quirky cottage that my aunt Betty gave us after she headed off on an extended Mediterranean honeymoon with the man, now her husband, she found online.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to live near San Francisco. Aunt Betty’s house was one of my favorite places. Kate and I plan to attend college down here. So now I get to live my dream sooner than expected.

Mac taps my arm, but I watch the little sailboat lean toward the open Pacific and wonder at its journey ahead, far or near, some California marina or faraway exotic isle.

My brother taps on my arm persistently. “Ruby-Ruby Red.”

I really dislike it when he calls me that. Then he reaches for my earbud, and I push his hand away.

“What?” I ask loudly, wiping strands of hair from my face. The sun falls easily into the cradle of the sea. It’s eventide—that time between sunset and darkness, a peaceful time of wind and bridges and dreams except for one annoying brother and an incoming text that could disrupt the excitement of a dream coming true.

“What do you wish for?” Mac asks earnestly.

My phone vibrates again, and I nearly say, “Don’t bug me, and don’t call me Ruby-Ruby Red,” but Mac’s sweet pink cheeks and expectant eyes stop me. I rub his hair and tickle him until he cries for mercy.

He laughs and twists away from my fingers, then asks me again what I wish for.

“Wait a minute,” I say, and he nods like he understands.


KATE: He said he’s been miserable since he said good-bye last night.

ME: So why didn’t he like me before?

KATE: He says he always did, he just kept it to himself.

ME: Or he kept it FROM himself.


Everyone said Nick said I was hot, that I was intelligent, that he’d never met a girl like me—which can be taken as good or bad. Everyone told him to ask me out, but he just didn’t. No explanation,

no other girlfriend, just nothing. For months. Until today.


KATE: He’s never had a girlfriend, give the guy a break. I always thought he’d be the bridge guy! Maybe he will be!

I rest the phone in my hands at that. Nick has been the main character in my bridge daydream—only Kate knows that secret dream of mine.

We’ve crossed the bridge into Marin County with signs for Sausalito, Corte Madera, San Rafael. The names of my new home, and yet I’m still between the old and the new.

“What are you smiling for?” my brother asks.

“Nothing,” I say and give him the mind-your-own-business look.

Mac stretches forward in his seat belt toward the front seat, and I’m tempted to tell him to sit down. But for once I don’t boss him around. He’s so happy about this wishing talk, with his wide dimpled smile and cheeks rosy from the wind. His cheeks remind me of when I loved kissing them—back when we were much younger.

“Remember, no infinity wishes. That’s cheating,” Mac shout says to Mom and Aunt Jenna, but he glances at me to see if I’m listening.

“This is really hard,” Aunt Jenna yells back. She points out the window to a line of cyclists riding along a narrow road parallel to the highway. “I bet those guys wish for a big gust of wind to come up behind them.”

Mac laughs, watching the cyclists strain up an incline.

Now they’ll probably start “creating wishes” for everyone they see.

I bet that car wishes it were as cool as that Corvette.

I think the people in that car wish they had a fire extinguisher for that cigarette . . .

Mom and her sister often make up stories about strangers while sitting outside Peet’s Coffee or, well, just about anywhere people watching is an option.

My phone vibrates in my hand, and then immediately again.


KATE: Hello?? No comment on Nick being your mysterious bridge guy?

ME: Nope

JEFFERS: So beautiful, are you there yet?

ME TO KATE: I just got a text from Jeffers.

KATE: LOL He’s sitting beside me and saw me talking to you.

JEFFERS: When can we come party in Marin?

ME TO JEFFERS: Almost there. Ten minutes I think. Uh party?

JEFFERS: Yeah, party! How could you leave us, I mean what could be better than us? You’ll be too cool for gocarts and mini golf after a month w/ the rich and sophisticated.

ME: I hate mini golf.

JEFFERS: See? One day and already too good for mini golf.

KATE: You’re having us all down for a party?

ME: Uh, no

JEFFERS: Kate’s yelling at me. Thx a lot. But bye beautiful, previews are on with little cell phone on the screen saying to turn you off.

ME TO JEFFERS AND KATE: K have fun. TTYL.

KATE: Write you after. Bye!

It’s a significant moment, this.

One of the most significant in my fifteen years.

Not the “wish discussion” between Mac, Mom, and Aunt Jenna; not the text messaging back and forth; not the music playing in one of my ears; not even Nick liking me.

The significance comes in crossing bridges. Not the bridge in my dream, but the ones that take me into Marin. The many bridges that brought my family here with my dad still in Cottonwood, and my older brother, Carson, driving soon behind us. And though we can turn around and drive back to the small

town I’ve always lived in, I wonder if, once you cross so many bridges, you can ever really go back.

The music in my one ear and the voices of my family in the other make a dramatic backdrop for this moment—one that will shape the rest of my life.

I feel a sense of wonder, but also of fear. It’s beautiful, this time of long evening shadows. The sky in the west where the sun has fallen turns from a subtle to defined sunset of red and orange.

The hills of Marin County rise to the nighttime with their myriad dots of light. The salty breeze is cool coming off the Pacific.

“What’s your wish?”

I jump as Mac shouts at me, leaning to get his face close to mine. I nearly throw my phone out the open rooftop.

“Mac! Mom!”

“Mac, leave your sister alone. She needs time to think,”

Mom calls back with a worried glance in my direction. She was more worried than I was about this move to Marin . . .well, until I said all the good-byes this week and especially now. I realize it’s the last remnant of what is, taking us from the past and what has been to the new place, the new life, and the what will be.

“Do you know what I wish?” Mac says in a loud whisper that only I can hear.

The innocent expression on his face soothes my annoyance.

He motions for me to lean close.

“I wish I was six again.”

“Why?”

“Promise you won’t tell Mom or Austin or Dad and Tiffany, ’cause I don’t want to hurt their feelings . . .” He waits for me to agree. “I wish I was six ’cause Mom and Dad were married then. But then that would make Austin and Tiffany go away, and I don’t really want them to go away, but I sort of wish Mom and Dad were married still.”

I nod and glance up toward Mom, who is staring out toward the bay. “Yeah, I know, Mac. But it’ll be all right.”

“So what do you wish for?” he asks again.

We’re almost there now, and I still have no singular wish. How do you make such a choice when your whole life is upended—for the good and the bad? I wonder if San Francisco Bay is like one giant wishing well, and in the coming years I can toss as many pennies as I want into the blue waters and have all the wishes I need.

I hope so. And maybe wishing that the bay would become one giant well breaks Mac’s rule about infinity wishes. But regardless, this is what I wish my wish to be.

It was my choice to move to Marin with Mom. But now I wonder if these bridges are taking me where I should be going. Or if they’re taking me far, far away.

“I wish for infinity wishes!” I say and kiss Mac on the cheek before he protests. “No one can put rules on wishes.”

And this is what I truly want to believe.

Interview with Julie Lessman, Author of A Passion Denied


I'm so excited to have Julie stop by for another interview! I really really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, Julie! Remember everyone, by leaving a relevant comment you can be entered into this week's contest!

A few months ago you told me you had to make changes from the original version of the story because your publisher felt it was too dark for Christian fiction. What changes did you make and how did you feel about that process? Do you think you were able to keep your vision and message of the story intact?

Well, you see, John Brady was such a godly Billy Graham-type character that I strongly felt I needed to give him an equally bad past. So I had things like pornography and child molestation with his step-sister (which never really happened, mind you, but he was accused of it nonetheless and did time in a New York reformatory) IN ADDITION TO the shocking past he has in the story. But my editor said those subjects were way too dark for an Inspirational novel. So even though I felt that the sister connection was something I needed in order to explain WHY Brady could not “love” Lizzie (the girl he saw as a “sister” despite his attraction to her), my editor asked me to revise it. And in hindsight, I now see that my publisher was right, and the story is not near as heavy and dark as it was before I made those changes.

I have to be honest, though, and tell you that initially, when my agent told me the components I mentioned above were “too dark” for Christian romance, I didn’t agree. I was dead certain that I needed a strong “sister” connection to realistically explain Brady’s reluctance to love Lizzie. And, quite frankly, I was going for the shock factor as well, because I felt Lizzie needed to be shocked enough to “deny” her love for Brady in addition to Brady needing enough shock factor to not forgive himself. So after only slightly toning down some of the disturbing elements (there were tons more, including incest between Helena and Michael, abortion, etc. … okay, okay, I tend to be a drama queen!), I overruled my agent (a very stupid and naïve thing to do, I am learning) and sent the original ms. to my editor. Of course, my editor said the same thing as my agent (sigh, I have SO much to learn about this business!), so most of the “dark” components had to come out, which they did. And now? Well, now I get down on my knees and thank God every day for giving me such a wise and patient agent and editor.

And, yes, I personally do think I was able to keep the vision and message of the story intact after cutting out most of the “shock factors,” but I have to tell you, writing/rewriting this book was a learning/humbling experience I will NEVER forget!

Brady loves God but has a hard time accepting grace. He feels unworthy of Lizzie even though she feels 100 percent committed to him. I have to admit her reaction to his past really bugged me. At this point of the story, do you feel Lizzie truly loved Brady or just her idea of who he was?

Okay, Amy, maybe my response to question one above helps you to understand Lizzie’s reaction to Brady’s past—it actually made sense when his past was as horrible as I originally wrote it, but I have to admit, not as much sense in the final version when I removed most of the “shock” factors. But … it is still believable, I think, given that Lizzie was a naïve, head-in-the-clouds (at least when it came to romance) type of gal. And, yes, I do believe Lizzie truly loved Brady. I think her initial reaction to his past was a mix of shock, hurt that he wasn’t open or honest with her about his past, keen disappointment that he was not the “perfect” man she thought him to be, and just plain, old-fashioned naiveté/immaturity.

I have to admit I wanted her to be more accepting! But Lizzie wasn't perfect either, moving onto another beloved couple, I'm not sure I feel that Faith and Collin's storyline was entirely tied up. Will we get to see more of them in your future novels?

Absolutely—you will be seeing LOTS more of every couple in this series, which I admit, may get a little hairy come book six (Stephen’s story) when I have six sub-stories going on in addition to the main story between the hero and heroine! YIKES! I used to be a seat-of-the-pants writer rather than a plotter, but trust me, I now have an age/birthday/anniversary chart that would boggle the mind.

And, no, Faith and Collin’s story was not tied up in book 3 because there is a thread of the same thing in book 4 (Katie’s story). Will all the stories be resolved by series end? You bet! I write “Calgon, take me away” stories, not “slice of life”! J

I like that style! I love the ongoing storylines! Lizzie is often teased and told by her family she only has a romance novel's version of love in her head. Do you perceive this to be a common problem for women? As a writer of romance yourself, how do you combat the stereotypes and work on portraying authentic relationships?

Well, it certainly was for me as a teen and young women, so I would venture to say it’s the same with young women today. I think all women long for that “happily ever after,” or at least I did and I know my independent 21-year-old daughter and her friends do too.

As a romance writer, I try to combat the stereotypes BY portraying authentic relationships. What I mean by that is, yes, I write romance, which means there will be the stereotypes of bad boys and good girls and the heroes will be hunky and the heroines pretty (remember, I don’t claim to write hardcore women’s fiction here, only uplifting romance that takes the reader away. And honestly, when’s the last time you read a romance where the hero wasn’t attractive in some way???). BUT … in the midst of my “romance stereotypes,” I try to portray realistic emotions and reactions based on my own personal experiences (so I KNOW they’re authentic) or those of my friends and family. The surface trappings of my books may seem stereotyped according to most romance novels (i.e. attractive characters, amorous men (and women), seemingly perfect marriages, etc.), but trust me, the way they respond to each other and God in their thoughts, words and actions are as authentic as if I were penning an autobiography.

The emotional honesty really comes through for me in your books and I thank you for that! I have often received visitors to my site who are looking for books with a comparable style to yours. Sadly, I don't know any. Do you have any recommendations for these readers?

Gosh, Amy, I’m not real sure what you mean when you say “comparable style,” but if you mean books that touch on romance in an edgier, more realistic and relatable way in today’s amoral society yet portray God and faith in a way that is, for me, as natural as breathing—then, no I do not know of many authors out there whose style is like mine. Which is pretty much why I wrote my own novels because I love passionate romance, but I refuse to read it unless it has God in the middle in a passionate way. And quite frankly, I couldn’t find these types of books in either the secular or Christian markets, so I wrote my own. When I tried to get A Passion Most Pure published, it was a catch 22—APMP was too “passionate” for the Christian market, but too spiritual for the secular. Fortunately for me, Revell took a chance on me, and I hope and pray that my books of deep passion for both God and romance are only the first of many to come in either market.

Although their styles are not exactly like mine, some of the authors who have won my heart in the Inspirational market as far as “edgier” and compelling romance are Francine Rivers with Redeeming Love and the Mark of the Lion trilogy, and Liz Curtis Higgs with her Scottish epic trilogy, Thorn in My Heart, How Fair is the Rose and Whence Came a Prince.

I love love love Francine Rivers, especially The Mark of the Lion Trilogy! I almost cried with disappointment when I saw that I have to wait until 2010 for the next book! Can you tell us a little bit about your vision for the new series? Will it have a unifying theme like the Daughters of Boston or "Passion" series as I call it?

Grin, Amy, I’m almost in tears myself! When I signed my contract for this next series, I actually sucked in a deep breath and promised to deliver Revell a book every six months (and more than likely a 500-page book, given my past book page counts and the complexity of the future plots). I did this because as a new author, I knew I needed to get another book out there as soon as possible so readers wouldn’t forget about me. But life got in the way, and I lost valuable writing time with surgery and a subsequent infection, delaying book 1 of the next series till June 2010. But the good news is that books 2 and 3 should follow on the heels of the first book more closely, or at least I hope they will.

My vision for this next series is simply to flesh out the O’Connor family and utilize their drama and … ahem, passion … to illustrate not only how relationships with God can vary within a family (or among people, in general), but also how vital a relationship with God is in the well-being of that family and its true happiness in life.

The themes of The Daughters of Boston and “passion” were themes Revell selected from tons of suggestions I gave them in the titling phase, after the first two books were already written. But for the new series, which I wanted to call The O’Connors of Boston (since two of the stories will be about the O’Connor brothers, Sean and Steven), my publisher doesn’t want any reference to Boston or the O’Connors due to marketing strategies. They feel a new series really has to be presented as a “new” series, even though in my mind it is a continuation of the O’Connor saga, which they had no problem with me writing. That said, I have not come up with a series title or theme yet, but it will probably be something tied to perseverance or hope due to the time era of The Roaring 20s/Great Depression.

I'm just glad you're okay, Julie...I remember that scare near Christmas!

Thank you SO much, Amy, for allowing me this time to connect with you and your readers. Anyone who would like to contact me can do so through my website at www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter, in which I feature book giveaways. Finally, I invite your readers to visit The Seekers, a group blog to which I belong that talks about “The road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.” You can find it at http://seekerville.blogspot.com/. God bless!