Friday, September 30, 2011

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin Readalong

A few people have been asking about this readalong--still doing it! But I'm pushing the start date back to the end of October because a brand new book blogger is co-hosting with me and her school work eases at that time.

So....get the book if you haven't yet and mark your calendars...I think this will be a great read.

Set in New York at the beginning and the end of the twentieth century, Winter´s Tale unfolds with such great narrative force and beauty that a reader can feel that its world is more real than his own. Standing alone on the page before the book begins are the words, I have been to another world, and come back. Listen to me. In that world, both winter and the city of New York (old and new) have the strength and character of protagonists, and the protagonists themselves move as if in a vivid dream. Though immensely complicated, the story is centered upon Peter Lake, a turn-of-the-century Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young heiress whom he encounters in robbing her house, and who eventually will die young and in his arms. His love for her, and a gift of grace, will allow him after the most extraordinary and painful explorations and discoveries to stop time and bring back the dead. To follow him, his predecessors, his inheritors, and his companions is to experience one of the great stories of American literature.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Vampire Diaries 3x03 "The End of the Affair and The Secret Circle 1x03 "Loner"

So last week I whined that The Vampire Diaries was getting boring and I needed more Caroline and Katherine. The show didn't exactly deliver on that front though they did give me a tease of Katherine, but it gave me a story I can be interested in which I guess the most important thing.

So last week, Caroline's father locked her up in the dungeon. What unfolded tonight is one of the more obvious use of metaphor I've seen on the show as her father tortured her to try to get her to control her blood urges and fix her. The dialogue spelled it out for us as Caroline begged her father and told him she could control the urges but she could not be fixed. Pairing this with Tyler's mother and her immediate acceptance of him when she realized her son was a monster last week, I think this was the show's way of loosely addressing the different ways a family, especially a conservative family that has been taught one thing for generations, might deal with a child who is GLBTQ. It was nicely done though, you could feel Caroline's pain at her father's rejection. It wasn't exactly like she hated him, she mourned that he hated her. And I love that her mother was there for her when push came to shove, and of course Tyler. ♥

Stefan and Klaus went to Chicago because apparently Chicago had the answers, I can't remember, but we learned that once upon a time Klaus and Stefan were friends. They were not only friends but brothers. And Stefan even told Klaus (with a slight nod to the Caroline story going on) that he wasn't an abomination like his family said, he was a king! But here's the deal. I actually really enjoyed this story. It felt like all the old vampire tales of old I have loved. Vampires ruling the town, loving each other, being cruel, etc. I don't know go ahead and judge me if you like. Stefan was in love with Klaus's sister, and they went around doing revolting things like making this guy drink his wife's blood when he wasn't a vampire. Until it all ended and Klaus compelled Stefan to forget, Rebekah--Klaus's sister, wanted to wait for Stefan so Klaus put her in the ground.

Elena was still determined to go rescue Stefan so she and Damon headed off to Chicago where Damon, not the brightest bulb in the bunch, left Elena alone while he went off to do something...oh yeah find a witch for something. So Elena was left alone in Stefan's old apartment which was untouched after 90 years or whatever (lol) and Klaus and Stefan showed up. There was a tense moment where we thought Klaus might discover Elena but whew he didn't Stefan covered for her. I thought Klaus had a better sense of smell than that though.

Anyway, Damon and Elena plan an attempt to grab Stefan and Stefan tells Elena it's over that part of his life is over he's never coming back. And guess what? Two seasons in and I finally feel like Stefan's story holds real interest for me. I can feel his conflict and knowing this history with Klaus and his sister has created feelings inside of me for his character. I don't know I was just really interested in this story and it might be because the scope is bigger they aren't stuck in Mystic Falls and there's all kinds of history. Part of me thinks they really failed in creating a truly compelling and interesting backstory for Damon and Stefan and they are now backtracking and trying to do that. Whatever!

Damon and Elena are not working for me. Damon is getting on my nerves a little bit, and I have to admit it might be some leftover scarring from Gossip Girl, but when he was teasing Elena at the beginning of the episode I wanted to throw something at him. When he didn't let her vent about leaving her alone in the apartment I thought...well you know sorry would have worked, instead of "I've had an hour to think about what a bad idea it was."

No boring Jeremy storyline! No Matt! Pluses for sure. Overall, I really liked this episode, now it just remains to be seen if the show can carry the momentum forward.

The Secret Circle

I really enjoyed this episode, too, actually much more than I expected than to. After binding the circle last week the witches have no power on their own, they must be together. Faye is pissed naturally. Cassie just wants to be left alone because every time she gets close to Adam their chemistry is off the charts. Nick and Melissa are still sleeping together but Melissa wants it to be something more.

So there's this guy..I already forgot his name, who recognizes Cassie and realizes that the circle's been bound and he decides to kill one of them to break the bond. So we get to see the kids work together to stop him and we also learn a little bit of history.

Things I liked!
--Melissa. I thought the way this story unfolded was interesting, Melissa likes Nick but realizes that sleeping with him when she has feelings for him is devaluing herself. So she asks him to the dance and he's like, no. Later Melissa says she's going to the dance because she wants to, Faye puts her down for wanting to go and says that unlike, Melissa, she likes herself. Later when Nick shows up at the dance he confronts her and asks if she likes being dumped on because that's all he does to her. Faye tells Nick off a little later so when Melissa turns him down that night, he suggests they just hang out. I hope/expect this to be a continuing issue--Melissa and her self-esteem, sense of self worth, etc. Every other girl has such a clearly defined role, Diana is the good one, Faye is the bad girl, Cassie is the special one, so it makes sense that Melissa would get a bit lost in all of that. I feel for her character already. I'm curious to see how they continue to work out the dynamics of the Nick and Melissa relationship.

--Cassie and Adam. I can't help it! Their tortured looks and draw to each other pulls me in. I also looove that Diana is still reaching out to and being good friends with Cassie and not acting like she's not aware of Adam's attraction to Cassie. If properly developed this will be a wonderful and delicious angsty triangle!

--Faye. Love her. That is all.

Sooo...are you guys still watching? What did you think?

Other Random TV Things

Still enjoying Revenge! This second episode was a bit slower but it looks like it picks up next week.

Breaking Bad's last episode was amazing. That ending was unbelievable.

Carlton Cuse and Rob Bell are writing a show together? This is like...I don't know a huge shock to me. Carlton Cuse of LOST fame and Rob Bell of Love Wins and Mars Hill fame. The best part of all of this is that it's a show with spiritual overtones. There's such a lack of this in TV and film media that I can't help but have huge hope. I'm sure it will be crushed but hey, this is interesting.


Faith and Fiction Round Table Discussion: Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

I was supposed to post this last Saturday. And I host this discussion group. Lol I fail at book blogging this year.

Faith and Fiction Round Table is a group of bloggers who discuss books that deal with issues relating to the Christian faith...we've read a variety of books and this is our contemporary Christian fiction selection for the year.

To be honest, there aren't a lot of ideas/themes to pull from this book to discuss. Essentially, it's a sort of dystopian book where in the future the rulers of the world have managed to eradicate all emotions but fear. So imagine reading a book where the characters can't feel! Fun! It requires a lot of suspension of disbelief to make it through.

Despite all of that, I will say that I think our society has issues with dealing with emotions. And it's not exactly surprising, because they can be uncomfortable and not a lot of fun to deal with. Things hurt. Life sucks. So this book is pretty much saying, feelings are what make you alive...the ability to love and then feel the loss of love is what makes you human.

I remember reading this Russian vampire book last year where the vampire had a special gift of being able to feel what people around him felt. When he went to the theater, though, he could feel all this secondhand emotion. That really stuck with me, because I'm guilty of that I think. There are times when I have absolutely no idea there are broken bits inside of me and some ridiculous movie or TV show will open up the floodgates. And I think our society in general uses TV and movies to feel things in ways we refuse to feel them in our own lives and there's a kind of danger in becoming dependent on that. In living your life for the escape and outlet of stories about other people, instead of just, you know, paying attention to the story of our own lives. Of course there's a reason we have books, movies, and TV. It's only dangerous when those things become more real than reality.

And that's really all I have to say about this book. Others who posted:
Semicolon, Book Addiction, Wordlily, Ignorant Historian, Book Journey, Books and Movies, the 3rs Blog, Thomas Bingaman.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Vampire Diaries 3x02 "The Hybrid" and The Secret Circle 1x02--"Bound" Discussion

Oh The Vampire Diaries, you are slowing down already? To be honest, friends, I found this episode dull and I can already see the problems I'm going to have with this season. Shall we discuss?

Problem one is always not enough Caroline. Even with her minimal presence, though, Tyler and Caroline's story is at the moment the only thing I'm really interested in. I like both characters, I've enjoyed their story up to this point so watching Tyler deal with his mother was interesting. And what a mom, aw! Caroline's dad showing up was interesting, I guess, and it's interesting they've chosen to end both of their first episodes on Caroline cliffhangers because she's the only interesting one.

Elena is right back to annoying me. I'm not exactly sure if we're supposed to see her constant death wish as a virtue, but I don't. In fact, Elena's constant decision making on behalf of other people and which lives have value, for example when she wouldn't let Damon kill Caroline (for which I am thankful but it was still like goddess Elena speaks and whatever she says is the RIGHT thing to do) should somehow see some more consequences. So I was glad Jeremy referenced being compelled. I just hope Jeremy isn't the only one who suffers for it. Jeremy and Matt's scenes, sorry to say, also bored me because I stopped caring about Matt sometime early in season 2. But at least the haunting finally got a little interesting there towards the end.

Damon, Elena, and Alaric in the woods--not even worth talking about.

Evil Stefan is not working for me. He seems so lifeless. It's not the same as Angelus because Angelus was actively evil, taunting Buffy, and not himself. Stefan is like..going through the motions? Which makes me end up liking Klaus in their shared scenes a lot more. Klaus is just plain evil. I did feel bad for all those werewolves though. Which might be the first time ever I was pro-werewolf over vampires in any story!

And that Damon and Elena scene at the end was an interesting choice. Does anyone see an actual relationship working between them? He obviously knows he holds some power over her (for whatever reason) and is going to use that over just being, I don't know a nice supportive friend. Oh well.

So all in all, I was unimpressed with this episode. I reeeeally don't want The Vampire Diaries to go downhill as it's generally a fluffy fun hour of television that I always look forward to but at the moment I'm just not feeling it. My prescription? More Caroline and more Katherine please!

So can Klaus not make hybrids since Elena is not really dead? What's the deal here? And what does Vicky want from Jeremy?

The Secret Circle

This was also a bit slow but I'm okay with that since there are obvious things the show has to get accomplished to set up the story. They are definitely doing overkill on the Adam and Cassie are connected element, but to be fair they sort of have to. In the book they could see an actual silver cord between them that alerted them to the fact they were soulmates, lol. I'm glad the show isn't doing that.

Sooo...I felt for Melissa even though sleeping with Nick was obviously a poor choice. I hope we get to know her a little bit better in upcoming episodes a someone besides Faye's sidekick.

I know I chatted with a bunch of you last week that thought Phoebe Tonkin was overacting as Faye but for some reason I find her really appealing and I enjoyed all her scenes. Her American accent is pretty bad, though. Cassie going from "I want nothing to do with you" to "let's bind the circle" was pretty funny, too.

Diana wants them to bind the circle because she happened to find her family's spell book which of course we know was a set-up. The parents had their magic stripped from them, but can still draw from the power of crystals. Faye's mother is the real one running the show, not Diana's father...all interesting enough developments.

I guess what I liked best about this episode was how these kids seemed like stupid teenagers...Faye was all big talk until she killed someone and the scene between her and her mother was actually kind of nice. Diana's confession, "because I'm insecure and I love you" was perfection and I expect this to be a very messy triangle. And the rash decision to bind the circle because they're scared, even though they don't know what it entails, really, was also realistic to me. I think this show has potential!

Your thoughts?


Friday, September 23, 2011

CFBA Book Spotlight: Naomi's Gift by Amy Clipston

As I've moaned many times before, it's too hot in September here for my liking. Also reader's block ongoing. Here's this week's spotlight:

About the Book: Take a trip to Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, where you'll meet the women of the Kauffman Amish Bakery in Lancaster County. As each woman's story unfolds, you will share in her heartaches, trials, joys, dreams ... and secrets. You'll discover how the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle can clash with the 'English' way of life---and the decisions and consequences that follow. Most importantly, you will be encouraged by the hope and faith of these women, and the importance they place on their families. Naomi's Gift re-introduces twenty-four-year-old Naomi King, who has been burned twice by love and has all but given up on marriage and children. As Christmas approaches---a time of family, faith, and hope for many others---Naomi is more certain than ever her life will be spent as an old maid, helping with the family's quilting business and taking care of her eight siblings. Then she meets Caleb, a young widower with a 7-year-old daughter, and her world is once again turned upside-down. Naomi's story of romantic trial and error and youthful insecurities has universal appeal. Author Amy Clipston artfully paints a panorama of simple lives full of complex relationships, and she carefully explores cultural differences and human similarities, with inspirational results. Naomi's Gift includes all the details of Amish life that Clipston's fans enjoy, while delivering the compelling stories and strong characters that continue to draw legions of new readers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Opening the Doors to Clois and Helen by Beth Kephart

(One of the things I loved SO MUCH about You Are My Only was the relationship between Clois and Helen. It was romantic and bittersweet even though it was always just in the background. I hope to eventually actually write more coherent thoughts on this book, but I begged for this guest post because I loved them.)

I’ll be honest. Cloris and Helen are two characters who have been living with me for more than a decade. That’s right. I carried these two dear souls, these more-than-best-friends ladies, through a variety of novels I’d been writing. They were bird-obsessed in one book (not so strange, since all of my books have at least one character who is obsessed with birds). They were digging a huge hole beneath their house in another. In an early version of the book that became You Are My Only, it was Cloris who had been committed to the asylum.

I was just so happy—I really was—when I discovered that Cloris and Helen had been waiting all along to be young Sophie’s neighbors. It’s like looking at your husband after twenty-five years and realizing, Yup. That’s right. You really do belong with me. Cloris and Helen belong to Sophie. She needs them and their kooky ways, their endless baking, their shiny Airstream, their Alice-in-Wonderland dioramas, their love for Willa Cather—to show her what is kind and good and right in this world. To show her a salvation version of normal.

Cloris is wide and healthy. Helen is too thin, and wheelchair bound. Cloris bakes, and Helen can hardly eat. They share a sadness about which neither one can truly speak, and yet they are living proof of what love is, and what a shelter love can.

I loved opening the door to Cloris and Helen. I loved what they had to teach me. I loved a certain kite, but now I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s just a truly great thing, as a bird-obsesssed writer, to know that your characters have at long last flown to their proper homes. That they are roosted.

Guess what? Beth Kephart has written five guest posts about You Are My Only around the book blogsophere. Find all of them and you could win a really awesome prize. I promise they are not hidden on obscure blogs. They have not all been posted. Read all the details at Beth's blog

Your task is to find all five entries and then post them collectively on your own blog. Send the link to me, in the comment box on this page. Your name will then be entered into the drawing.

Two winners will be selected. Each will win these two things: A signed copy of You Are My Only AND a critique (by yours truly) of the first 2,000 words of a work-in-progress. As many of you know, I teach memoir at the University of Pennsylvania and served as the inaugural readergirlz author in residence. I have written in multiple genres and critique adult fiction for major U.S. newspapers. Your manuscript can, I am hinting, be in any genre, save for a screenplay, about which I have absolutely zero expertise.

CFBA Book Spotlight: Here's to Friends by Melody Carlson

About the Book: Once upon a time in a little town on the Oregon coast lived four Lindas—all in the same first-grade classroom. So they decided to go by their middle names. And form a club. And be friends forever.

Decades later, they're all back home in Clifden and reinventing their lives, but the holidays bring a whole new set of challenges. Abby’s new B&B is getting bad reviews and husband Paul is acting strange. Still grieving for her mom, Caroline is remodeling the family home, but boyfriend Mitch keeps pressuring her to go away with him. Artist Marley, distracted by a friend's family drama (and a touch of jealousy), can't find her creative groove. And Janie’s drug-addicted daughter has just appeared up on her doorstep! When a long-planned New Year's cruise turns into a bumpy ride, they learn once again that, in your fifties, friends aren’t just for fun—they're a necessity!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Things I Love About Fall (Yay Fall!)

Fall is my favorite season, I love it so much. Unfortunately in Southern California I have to sort of pretend the weather is getting cooler and the leaves are changing color because September is actually one of the hottest months and October isn't always much better. Here are some of the things I love about Fall anyway, though!

I love this candy so much! I love the smell of it and the taste of it, and the pretty colors and everything about it! Yay candy corn! I love the pumpkins and the varieties like apple cider candy corn, too.

Frangrances!!! I love all the Fall scents, though apple is my favorite. Nothing makes me feel all warm and squishy and cozy inside like apple. I really love pumpkin, though, and other various scents meant to convey that good old Fall feeling. I love burning candles and all the awesome scented lotions I can get.

Halloween! And with Halloween, spooky books, ghost stories, vampires, and scary movies. I loooove it all!!!

Fall TV!!!! Oh how I missed you. Having new shows to look forward to, scouring the TV sites for scoop, it's all so much more fun in the Fall! I love how we get long stretches of new episodes before hiatus! (also I love how many book bloggers also like TV!)

Pumpkins. In all their forms. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin bread. Panera's pumpkin muffies always a favorite. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin dump cake. Pumpkin butter. Pumpkin cream cheese. Pumpkin ice cream. Pumpkin spice latte. PUMPKINS RULE.

And just fall food in general.

Sooooo that's some of what I can love about fall even when it's still 90 degrees outside. What do you love about fall?

(this post brought to you courtesy of the candy corn I ate today and my yummy apple lotion.)


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Vampire Diaries 3x01 and The Secret Circle Pilot: Discussion!

It might be a bit ambitious to recap both of these shows but what a delicious night of TV! I'm pretty sure that Thursdays will be my favorite night of TV.

So since I'm already behind let's get started. The Vampire Diaries ended last season with Stefan essentially sacrificing all the that he'd worked for to save Damon's life. He pretty much chose Damon over Elena. Meanwhile, Elena told Damon some stuff that was obviously not true because she thought he was dying, like that she loved him just the way he was even though just a few days before he'd force fed her vampire blood. What's a little death amongst friends? Caroline and Matt broke up and Bonnie revived Jeremy only to have him see the ghosts of his dead girlfriends.

The Vampire Diaries returned to much fanfare on the CW and the first episode back was solid if not exciting. Caroline threw a huge birthday party for Elena, Elena was trying to find Stefan, Damon was doing a better job of it but not telling her since finding Stefan revealed how many people he'd killed along the way. Stefan and Klaus went and tormented that kid who played Simon on Seventh Heaven who happens to be a werewolf because Klaus wants to build an army of werewolf/vampire hybrids...because...doesn't everyone want one of those? Klaus is not my favorite but I don't hate him either, there's something about Joseph Morgan I find endearing and he actually made me laugh a little bit. Stefan seemed so dead the whole episode that if they don't let him have some personality or emotions while he's evil this season will be a drag.

But...I guess that he hasn't really fully gone to the dark side since he called Elena in that touching season. The way she knew it was him and just what to say was lovely and touching. I think I'll be pulling for them this season just because the tragedy of it all is too much for me to resist. (Don't hate me Damon/Elena fans)

I'm a little bit disappointed that they've decided to go ahead and put Forwood together at this point. (Tyler/Caroline) because I enjoyed the pace of the relationship previously. But obviously they have a story they want to tell there and that was one hot scene, let's not lie. They are still adorable and beautiful together and I just hope the show doesn't make me mad.

My favorite dynamic on the show is the Salvatore brothers..I loooove them. So I'll be interested to see how things play out. Damon seems to have given up (GEE THANKS DAMON) and Stefan will be succumbing to the dark side at any moment. I hated how he killed Andie, though. :( Sad times.

And what was up with Tyler's mom attacking Caroline? Oh TVD what are you going to do to me this season?

The Secret Circle

So look, I liked this pilot. It had enough of the flavor of what I loved about the books once upon a time and set up a strong mystery IMO. I'm really looking forward to the further development of the characters, because I think the show is really going to aim to make them more grey than black and white good or bad. I personally like that it's a strong girl cast, that there's a huge back mystery, a tortured love triangle, kids with powers. It's marvelously paired with The Vampire Diaries and I imagine I'll be eager for the show every week.

Did anyone else love it? Impressions of the characters so far?


Friday, September 16, 2011

CFBA Book Spotlight: The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

About the Book:Priscilla White knows she'll never be a wife or mother and feels God's call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field.

Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs. Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God's leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

Currently reading this and I'm really enjoying it. Jody Hedlund is def one of my favorite Christian romance authors, I just want them to kiss already okay?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CFBA Book Spotlight: Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer

About the Book: Rebekah Hendricks dreams of a life far beyond her family's farm in Oklahoma, and when dashing aviator Arthur Samson promised adventure in the big city, she is quick to believe he's the man she's meant to marry. While she waits for the Great War to end and Arthur to return to her so they can pursue all their plans, her mother's sister falls ill. Rebekah seizes the opportunity to travel to Texas to care for Aunt Adabelle, seeing this chance to be closer to Arthur's training camp as God's approval of her plans.

But the Spanish flue epidemic changes everything. Faced with her aunt's death, Arthur's indecisiveness, and four children who have no one else to care for them, Rebekah is torn between the desire to escape the type of life she's always led and the unexpected love that just might change the dream of her heart.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Carrier of the Mark Blog Tour: Guest Post, Character Interview, & Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to the second stop on the Carrier of the Mark blog tour! Carrier of the Mark is an exciting debut novel by author Leigh Fallon. What makes this book unique, beyond its magical setting in Ireland and its heart pounding mystical romance, is that Carrier of the Mark was the first book discovered on and selected for publication by HarperCollins Publishers. On your opinion counts! HarperCollins Publishers is looking to to discover new authors as well as hear from real readers about what books they would like to see HarperCollins publish. Join today and help us change the way we publish.

Read along as author Leigh Fallon shares exclusive Carrier content through weekly guest posts and character interviews! Each post on the tour will reveal a unique scavenger hunt clue, so follow Leigh Fallon as she shares exclusive content from the book and discover all four clues on each stop of the tour. After the final stop, visit and enter to win a prize pack selected by Leigh herself including one of a kind Carrier swag!

Inkpop will be celebrating the publication of Carrier of the Mark (on-sale 10/4) on October 5th with a live chat on featuring author Leigh Fallon! You can visit the inkpop blog on Wednesday October 5th at 5 p.m. EST or return to My Friend Amy on October 5th at 5 p.m. EST to participate in the chat with debut author Leigh Fallon!

Throughout September visit Carrier of the Mark on Facebook to read excerpts from Carrier of the Mark, enter to win an Advance Reader Copy, and get to know a little bit more about Carrier of the Mark by taking the Carrier of the Mark quiz.

Guest Post: Photo Journal

Join Leigh Fallon as she guides us through a tour of Irish landmarks and the real life locations that inspired CARRIER OF THE MARK!

Boat Graveyard - This was my inspiration for the big fight scene in Carrier of the Mark. It's separated from Kinsale by the Bandon Estuary.

Cork City - Where Megan and the girls get their shopping fix.

The Harbor Map - This gives you an idea of where everything is in Kinsale.

Inside Trinity - This shot is inside the courtyard of Trinity at the centre is The Campanile.

James Fort - This picture captures James Fort from the harbor with Kinsale in the background.

Kinsale Marina - Kinsale marina in the background, shot from the walk down to it.

Character Interview: Adam DeRise

Adam thanks for popping into answer our questions.

No problem.

Adam, tell us about Megan?

Hey, I though this interview was going to be about the elements and my life in the Order? I’m not sure I’m too comfortable answering questions about, Megan.

Sorry, we didn’t mean to get to personal, we were just wondering how you guys are getting on.

Megan is good. In fact, she’s great. We’re great, but I’d prefer to talk about the other stuff.

Sure of course. Even though you’re not the oldest, you seem to be the emerging leader of the Marked Four, why do you think that is?

I don’t know about me being a leader. I like to think we all share a very equal footing when it comes to decisions regarding us all. But I know what you mean. My sister Áine does look up to me, but I am her twin after all and I’m very protective of her. Rían is older than me, but he doesn’t really like authority in any way, shape, or form, no matter what end he’d be on, so he kind of likes me to take on that role when it’s called for. I don’t mind. We all depend on Fionn to guide us, but I’m comfortable with making decisions and it’s worked for us so far.

You really seem to enjoy your element, why are you at peace with what you are and not Rían?

*sigh* Rían is a complex character. Don’t let him fool you. He likes to give off the impression that he doesn’t give a toss. But he does. He says I’m the deep thinker, but he goes so deep, he can go missing for days. The problem with fire is that it’s seen as the most dangerous and offense of the elements, but it has a whole other side to it. He’ll kill me if he reads this, but then again, he’s not a big reader. I’ll probably be safe. You see Rían is a protector at heart. He is driven by his need to keep us all safe. So he feels at odds with his element.

For me, my element always came easy. It felt natural; I’ve enjoyed watching it grow and learning to manipulate it. My heart is so drawn to the water, that’s why I love sailing so much. I’m at my happiest when I’m on the sea. It makes me feel alive. I have to admit though, since Megan’s been around my power has been sort of erratic. It’s something I’m not used to, and it makes me respect Rían even more.

I know you said you didn’t want to talk about Megan, but can you just tell us a little about when she first came to Kinsale.

It was really strange. We were all a little out of sorts, you know, just not feeling ourselves. At first we thought there was danger near. Our marks react to impending danger, but it felt different this time. Then we noticed the fourth mark. The arc started to grow. We didn’t know what was happening at first. Then Megan showed up. Man, phew, when I first saw her it was like… it’s hard to explain, it was like I’d found something I’d lost. It sounds pathetic I know, but it was one of those moments where you suddenly realize you were missing something up until that exact moment. I couldn’t think straight. Everywhere I went she was there, looking… well you’ve seen her, she’s stunning. She just blew my mind. Rían and Fionn absolutely freaked of course. They couldn’t accept that the fourth had made her way to us. We’d all written off the chances of our generation of Marked being completed, but there she was one day, unconscious in my arms. There was no going back after that.

So do you think you’ll make it as a couple?

You’re digging again. I don’t want to talk about it. Sure we have our problems, but doesn’t everyone?

Some quick fire questions!

Cookies or Cake?

We call cookies, biscuits, but I’d have to go for Cake.

Favorite song?

Mirror ball, by Elbow.

What’s on your iPod?

Elbow, Coldplay, The Verve, Moby, Radical Face, Snow Patrol.

Ideal weekend getaway?

A cottage on a deserted West Cork beach on a stormy weekend…with Megan.

Thanks for talking to us. Can I just say…Megan’s a lucky girl.

Oh give over! You should use that line on Rían.

Oh I have. Yum.

Scavenger Hunt

In Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon there are four elements that make The Mark. In the DeRise family there are already three elements. Read the passage below to determine which element Adam DeRise might represent.

“Whatever hit me had snapped all of the oxygen from my lungs before dunking me in the sea. I sucked in a vast breath and chocked on the salt water that swirled its way into my body…Then I got warmer…I was underwater, but no longer felt the panic of water filling my lungs…I was breathing...I was cocooned.”

To read more from Carrier of the Mark check out our sneak preview on our inkpop Facebook page. Read part of the original manuscript discovered and selected for publication HarperCollins Publishers on

Check out the next stop on the Carrier of the Mark Blog Tour: Tuesday, September 20th @ Reading Angel!

Monday, September 12, 2011

BBAW Day #2--Interview with Carrie of NomadReader

I always love the BBAW Interview Swaps because it's a fun chance to get to know other bloggers better. I had the pleasure of interviewing Carrie of
nomadreader: book, film, theater and food from reviews from a travel-loving librarian this year. She's pretty awesome. She posted a quote from The First Husband on her tumblr that got me interest in reading it and then it ended up being one of my favorite books so far this year!

Anyway! Here's our interview!

If you could become one character in a book, who would you choose?

My first thought was to think big and decide "who has the most money?" If I could dream myself into anyone, it would be someone with the means to do little else but travel and read. But if I have to give up my family and friends, I want to take on someone else's happiness more than anything. The first two characters who came to mind are both from Laura Dave's novels. Emmy from London is the Best City in America or Annie from The First Husband. It's perhaps more of a testament to how much I love Laura Dave's characters than in anything.

Have you ever regretted reading a book? Why?

Not really. I'm a big believer in no regrets in life and reading. Every experience, and every book, gives me something to learn from. Granted, I have finished some books and asked myself "why did I just spend hours of my life reading that book?" When it happens, I spend a little time thinking about what kind of reader I want to be. There are simply too many good books out there, and I want to read as many of them as I can, even as my definition of what makes a good book changes over time.

What has been the best experience you've had as a book blogger?

I have been blessed to form relationships with so many authors and readers through book blogging. In some ways, I cherish the international relationships most because it's a wonderful reminder of the size of our world and the power of literature. Hearing Viv Groskop, my favorite columnist at The Guardian, tweet that she comes to me for Orange Prize coverage was pretty amazing. If I had to pick one though, it would be at BEA 2010 when I stood in line for a long time to get an ARC of The Passage by Justin Cronin. At the time, it seemed I was the only book blogger who didn't have an early copy. When he asked who to sign the book to, I told him I was nomadreader. "No way!," he exclaimed. "You're nomadreader?" And he gave me a high five in the middle of the Javits Center. It was affirming and so much fun.

If you could only save ten books from extinction, what would they be?

I can't. I would fight the law mandating this horrible policy. I would go to war. I would do whatever it takes to save as many books as possible from extinction.

What's the biggest challenge you face as a book blogger?

Finding balance is hard for me. Like many book bloggers, I'm an extrovert who loves to read. I so enjoy the community of book bloggers and following industry news. There simply aren't enough hours in the day to read all the books I want to, read all the blogs I want to, watch all the television I want to, or see all the films I want to. It's a good problem to have more hobbies, interests and passions than you have time for, but it's also easy to feel the pressure to keep up in these cases. For me, balancing my time among my interests is sometimes challenging. There are weeks I only post once, and there are weeks I post every day. There are weeks I'm never on Twitter. When I start to feel pressure to do things a certain way, or keep up a frenetic pace, it stops being fun. I think I'm at a really good place balancing my blog with my life. It's a source of joy for me, but I don't want reading or blogging to be a source of stress.

Thanks so much Carrie! Everyone go visit her now, add her to your google reader, etc. and enjoy BBAW!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

BBAW 2011 Day One: Community!

BBAW stands for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. It's an annual celebration for book bloggers to acknowledge all the hard work we do and the great community we have. Everyday there is a prompt to discuss on our blogs.

While the awards are a fun part of BBAW, they can never accurately represent the depth and breadth of diversity in the book blogging community. Today you are encouraged to highlight a couple of bloggers that have made book blogging a unique experience for you. They can be your mentors, a blogger that encouraged you to try a different kind of book, opened your eyes to a new issue, made you laugh when you needed it, or left the first comment you ever got on your blog. Stay positive and give back to the people who make the community work for you!

I am so grateful to book blogging and book bloggers for completely expanding the way I read and think. Book bloggers are so different...we come from many different walks of life and backgrounds. We have very strong differing opinions on things, the only thing we ultimately share is a love for books. What I have loved about BBAW in the past is the way we're able to celebrate that shared love as the most important thing.

This time I thought I'd give a shout-out to the group of people who are helping me organize the Inspys. The INSPYs are a blogger award for faith driven fiction. I don't think I can tell you the hours that go into making it work...the reading, the plotting, the discussing, etc. It's a lot of work. And a lot of fun. I hope if you have an interest in faith driven fiction, you'll check out their blogs:
Books, Movies, Chinese Food
Relz Reviez
Overweight Books
Michael D. Bobo

And go learn about all the other people that make this book blogging community work!


Friday, September 9, 2011

What will you be watching this Fall?

So...I do watch a fair bit of TV. And the pilot season this year was so strong in comparison to last year that I'm looking forward to checking out a lot of new shows. A lot of the new shows I'm interested in don't start until mid-season, though.

In any case, I know a few other bloggers have been posting what they'll be watching so I figured I'd do the same because new shows start next week already! A TV fan's favorite time of year.

Terra Nova--end of the world and dinosaurs. Was there every any doubt? I've seen rumblings of troubled production on this one, so I'm not sure it will be smooth sailing, but I'll still give it a chance.

Gossip Girl--Because I'm still hoping there was a point to the mess of last season. (delusional) Also, I'm attached to the cast and some of the fandom.

Ringer--Sarah Michelle Gellar!! To be honest, this show seems similar to The Lying Game which I've been underwhelmed by and I also saw some critics having a spat over whether or not it was actually any good on Twitter, so my expectations are very tempered, but I'm still hoping.

Revenge--I love Emily Van Camp and everyone seems to love this show. It would be fab to find another delicious, soapy show to enjoy. You can never have enough.

The Vampire Diaries--Everyone already knows I love this show.
The Secret Circle--I really enjoyed the pilot. I love this kind of supernatural teen show.

Nikita--I was really impressed with the development of this show over the first season. I'm actually trying to rewatch the first season now and I find I'm enjoying the earlier episodes more than I did when they were on the first time.

Once Upon a Time--brought to us by LOST writers and boasting a fantastic cast, I was utterly charmed by the pilot and am hopeful that I'll continue to enjoy the show. Hannah and Deb are supposed to watch and tweet with me.

So that's what I'm looking at. I can't believe there's a show everyday. I hated all the shows so much last year I didn't have that. Of course, if something's not very good I'll drop it. There's only so much time and I enjoy reading, too. ;)

What are you planning on watching?


BBAW is Next Week!

BBAW is next week, y'all!

Here are a few items of note:

  • Daily Topics are up. Forget awards, this is the real heart of BBAW--interacting with one another and celebrating the fine work we do if I do say so myself.
  • I am still in need of publisher/author sponsored giveaways so if you're interested please email me!
  • There was an error on the original ballot and we had to reissue a ballot for Best Book Blog Meme. Please cast your vote again in that one category.
  • Raych writes our wonderful year in review every year and she's looking for what happened of note this year. Please drop by and tell her!

And...that's all! I hope all of you book bloggers will join in!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Because There Will Never Be Enough Words

What we do as book bloggers, one of the things I hope gets celebrated next week during BBAW, is we love books. We love books and authors even when they might not be the authors talked about in mainstream media outlets or selling millions of books.

Beth Kephart, one of my favorite authors, has a new book coming out You Are My Only. Sometimes I feel like all I do is talk about Beth, and her books and how wonderful she is. And then I'll find a friend that has no idea how I feel about her books and I realize I can never really talk enough.

Beth is a true friend. She emails me when I fall off the face of the earth, she thinks of others no matter how hard things are for herself, and most of all she gives us all the gift of her observations and writing.

I wrote on Sunday a little bit about what You Are My Only meant to me. Last year I did an interview with Beth during the release of Dangerous Neighbors. Beth has shared some ideas about the evolution of writing, she has shared about what O Holy Night means to her, and I've talked about the Beth Effect.

Beth put her faith in me to help promote her books online last year. We no longer have any sort of professional relationship for those who might be wondering. She is just one of my favorite authors and people I've met in this online world. She sees the good where you might be surprised to find it, she cherishes the moments in life we often overlook. She is generous in spirit, gifted with words, and in my opinion one of the most underrated authors of our time. I will never understand how her books get overlooked or ignored. But she has a wonderful group of devoted fans and I'm grateful for that.

I wish there was a way I could get the world to pay attention to You Are My Only. When I read it, I fell deeply in love with it, I was encouraged in my heart of hearts, I was dazzled by the beautiful language, I cried, and most of all, I was thankful to be alive. But I have only this little blog here and its limited reach.

Maybe together we can make a difference? You Are My Only releases October 25th. For two weeks if you help spread the word about You Are My Only, you will be entered to win a prize! All the details are at Chick Loves Lit right now. This little project is organized by There's a Book, Bookalicious, Chick Loves Lit, and myself.

I hope you'll join in! I don't think you'll regret it, You Are My Only is a treasure of a read, the kind that sticks with your for a long while.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review: She Makes It Look Easy by MaryBeth Whalen

When Ariel moves into a new neighborhood, she hopes to make some friends to help ease her lonely days. She's a mother to three and her husband is constantly traveling and working. So when her neighbor Justine reaches out to her, Ariel is delighted.

Ariel quickly finds herself looking up to Justine. She seems to have it all together--her children are always cleaned and well dressed, the house is clean, and Justine runs multiple things at the church. Justine takes her under wing in a way, and Ariel is grateful...only Justine doesn't open up her heart to Ariel as much as she wishes she would.

Justine, alternately, feels like she's trapped in a loveless marriage and is exhausted from everything she does. Her best friend lived in Ariel's house before Ariel moved in and she feels all alone without joy in her life.

She Makes It Look Easy is about the complex relationships between women--about how sometimes you feel you can understand someone from what they project to the world when something completely different is going on within them. Whalen tells her tale from alternating viewpoints, though I do feel she devoted much more time to Ariel than to Justine. Even so, I feel she did a good job of painting what was going on in Justine's mind.

I thought She Makes It Look Easy was a really interesting story and I appreciated the way it portrayed what sometimes happens. It's so easy to judge another person by how their lives appear on the surface and to envy them. But it's impossible to know what's going beneath the surface and even what might motivate them to act and behave the way they do. It often requires taking the focus off ourselves and putting it on someone else.

I have to admit that at first I thought this story might go into a certain bold direction and then it ended up being totally different. That's okay, though, it was still a book I wanted to keep reading to the end. (a rare feat these days)

Rating: 4.25/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Christian Fiction
Source of Book: Received from publisher for review
Publisher: David C Cook


Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Small Moments

When discussing books and movies and stories that people like we often talk about plot or character or the beautiful use of language. I was thinking the other day though, that so often what sticks with me, the thing that carves a spot for a book, movie, or even song in my heart is whether or not that book has the ability to capture the small moments in life. By that I mean something as simple as the quick flash of revelation, the moment you realize you're happy, shared affection and intimacy between characters that conveys more than words and big actions and gestures ever could.

These moments bring a story out of the realm of the imaginary and ground them in the real world, they make these stories stick because they feel so real.

I don't think there's any exact formula for achieving this of course (for an author) because an element of it still comes down to whether or not they use the words that register with your heart while you're reading. Have you been self aware enough in life to recognize these moments yourself? Do you take mental snapshots of the simple, ridiculous, and sweet moments of life?

It's no surprise that the books I've loved this year are the kind that excel at that, and the one that comes to mind most immediately is You are My Only by Beth Kephart. Anyone who has read one of Beth's books know she's an observer, that her books are about characters being torn open and stitched up with hope, that healing never ever comes apart from healing together. I haven't yet been able to write a proper review for this book, because no other book this year has affected me like You Are My Only did. It's a beautiful and powerful book on its own, but it's also a book that met me exactly where I needed to be met at the moment in life. And I think that's also a little bit of what having a favorite author is all about...they always write in such a way that you marvel at their gift for knowing bits of your heart you can't express yourself.

This has been a strange reading year. I feel like I've been reading more for the mind (and I don't mean academically sadly) than the heart. So the heart books are winning out big time.

So creating those scenes...including warm comfort foods always helps, those intimate moments between characters, those minutes when you they realize something about themselves...creates a lasting story for me.

What authors do you think are good at doing this?


Friday, September 2, 2011

CFBA Book Spotlight: The Survivor by Shelley Shepard Gray

About the Book: One of today’s most beloved authors of inspirational Christian fiction, Shelley Shepard Gray completes her acclaimed Families of Honor series with The Survivor—a poignant and beautiful story of love and faith in a small Amish community. Delving once more into the lives of these devout and fascinating folk, as she did in her popular Sisters of the Heart and Seasons of Sugarcreek novels, Gray tells the story of a young Amish woman who has survived the ravages of cancer, but now longs for the love of the one man who can heal her lonely heart. Like Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brunstetter, and Cindy Woodsmall, Shelley Shepard Gray introduces readers to characters they will never forget as she masterfully depicts a world of simple living, abiding faith, and honest emotions.