Friday, January 24, 2014

Feature and Follow Friday!

Yes, I finally get to share some of the wonderful blogs that I follow!! It's not very often in the last year that I've had time to do something like this, so I'm very proud to be able to participate.

So, how does this work? Well, the goal is to increase blog followers and make friends. First leave your name here on this post (using the linky tools - you'll find them toward the bottom) and then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (and the easiest way to do that is just to grab the code under the Feature Follow picture at the bottom of this post and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "Hi" or make some other type of comment in their comments section (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you, it's a win-win situation!! Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you.

This week's question is: What books are you looking forward to reading in 2014? 
It's definitely hard for a reader like me, who has over 5,400 books on her "To Read" list on Goodreads to narrow it down to 10, so I just picked the top two that are series I follow, and the others are random picks form my "To Read" list!

1. Cress by Marissa Meyer
2. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
3. Cryonic by Travis Bradberry
4. Sawyer and Finn: The War Years by Richard Adams
5. When Stars Die by Amber Forbes
6. The Twible by Jana Riess
7. Girl with Flying Weapons by Aya Ling
8. Living Dead Lovers by Jonathan Dunne
9. Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes
10. The Immortal Game by Joannah Miley

Please follow me via any of the options on this blog (rss feed, google plus, etc).

This week’s featured blog is:

Guest Blog Post and GIVEAWAY by Elisabeth Elo!!

It's been a while since I've been able to host a giveaway, so when author Elisabeth Elo offered to write a guest blog post to promote her new book, North of Boston, and then give away a copy, I jumped at the chance! You will find her guest blog below, and once you are done reading you can enter for your chance to win a copy of her fantastic book! The contest is open to US addresses only - please be aware if you win and you are not at a US address I will have to draw a different winner!!

Thanks and enjoy!
“How Much of Your Novel is Autobiographical?”
by Elisabeth Elo, author of North of Boston

I’ve never solved a crime or swum in freezing water (although the ocean around here is pretty cold even in summer).  My family isn’t from Russia, I didn’t go to boarding school, I never stood to inherit a business, and I haven’t been to Baffin Island.  There’s a lot in North of Boston that has nothing to do with my life.  I remember telling friends, “It’s a really crazy story,” as if I was bewildered by it.  Which I was. 
But when the novel was finished and people started asking me questions about it – one of the most common ones being “How much of the story is autobiographical?” – I began to realize that there’s actually a lot of me in the book.  They’re just not the parts of me I would have put in a book had I been making conscious decisions about content.  In some cases, they’re events that I didn’t consider particularly important while they were happening, or ones that I didn’t remember at all, even while I was creating some version of them in the novel.  But they showed up in the pages anyway, with some pretty deep feelings attached to them.  
I didn't remember until after I finished the book, for example, something that happened in high school when I was working at an aquarium: Some of us used to swim after hours with two dolphins named Salty and Spray who had been together in captivity for over a decade.  At the end of the summer Salty died of a skin infection, and Spray went to the bottom of the tank, rarely surfaced, and refused to do the shows that she had enjoyed for years.  She died in a few months time.  Whatever the medical reason, it was clear to the people who cared about her that she’d died of a broken heart.  What I learned about marine mammals from that experience obviously never left me. 
I didn’t remember until after I’d finished the novel a lobsterman friend of ours who had died suddenly.  There was nothing nefarious in his death, but it was still a very sad event as he left twin daughters behind.  Years rolled by in which I didn’t think about him very much.  It was only when I was writing the Q & A for my website that he came back to me full-force and I realized he was the model for Ned. 
There are numerous other examples of that phenomenon in the book – submerged events and situations in my life that floated up unbidden and found life in the pages. 
The specifics of plot and character are obviously important aspects of the book, but they are also relatively superficial.   If Pirio wasn’t a perfumer, she could have been a chef.  If she didn’t meet Martin when she was in Labrador, she could have met someone else.  You can always trade one thing for another. 
It’s the thematic material that brings depth and meaning to the story, and this stuff generally comes straight from the author’s heart.  We can’t fake it or disguise it; sometimes we ourselves don’t understand it.  Loss, wonder, friendship, work, responsibility to others, relationship to the environment – the way these issues and others like them are treated in a novel reflects the author’s own experience and expresses her deepest preoccupations. 
Why do I have my character spend so much time taking care of an alcoholic friend, worrying about her child and wondering what her role should be?  You guessed it.  There’s no easy answer here.  Why is she incapable of dealing with her mother’s death and avoids signs of her father’s illness?  Right again.  Both my parents died before I was twenty-five.  How does she manage to go from the drawing rooms of Beacon Hill to the bar rooms on the waterfront?  Well, I grew up near the trolley track that separated Dorchester and Milton, city and suburb.  In one direction, everyone got richer; in the other they got poorer – all within the space of a few blocks.  I went to an ivy league college on scholarship and made friends in the monied class, but at home I frequented the kinds of places where my classmates weren’t likely to show up.  For years I studied subjects like post-structuralist literary theory during the day and counseled drug addicts at night. 

It may be true that writing fiction is a form of therapy, if by that we mean that writers take things that are emotionally rich or troubling to them (they don’t get to choose) and put them on the page.  But that doesn’t mean writers are neurotic, it just means we’re like everyone else -- trying to play the best hand with whatever cards we’ve got. 
Enter to WIN Elisabeth's book North of Boston!! 

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Recommended Read - North of Boston by Elisabeth Elo

North of BostonNorth of Boston by Elisabeth Elo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fast, gritty thriller with an interesting female protagonist. It touches on murder, spies, government agencies, domestic violence, and alcohol and drug addiction all while spinning a web of mystery around a boating accident with unusual circumstances. While I loved the main story, I did sometimes stumble over the unusual names and wished a couple of parts had been a little less predictable, while other parts could have been left out since they didn't seem to play much of a role in the grand scheme of the story. However, overall this was a solid read!

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Recommended Read - The Book of Tomorrow by Cecila Ahern

The Book of TomorrowThe Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love love LOVE this author (not to mention look up to her) so I bought the book simply because she wrote it - and I wasn't disappointed! I will say there were a few parts that were a little predictable, but overall this was a charming story with the lesson that sometimes it's better not to know what tomorrow holds. Left me with a wonderful warm feeling and a smile!

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Recommended Read - A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White

A Place at the TableA Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Food is interwoven into the very fabric of our culture, and this was an incredibly woven story of intersecting lives and the lies we sometimes tell ourselves due to societal pressures. I loved the characters and the use of food to portray past, present, and future. This was a great book!

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Recommended Read - Do You Believe in Magic? by Paul A Offit

Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative MedicineDo You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Paul A. Offit
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think a lot of people these days turn to alternative medicine after they've tried traditional medicine and it doesn't work. But this book is eye-opening to several difficult realities of alternative medicine, including the lack of regulation! I will say it was a little one-sided; I would have liked to see the author include at least a few examples of alternative medicine that does work because I'm sure there is some. But overall this was a well written and thought-provoking read that encouraged me to swear off my vitamins!

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Recommended Read - The Thinking Woman's Guide To Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real MagicThe Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine stepping into a new world of archaic standards but endless magical possibilities. Ms. Barker does just that in this aptly titled book! A hefty tome, this story contains characters that are very interesting, though I will admit that the overall story started weirdly - until I realized that it was a stylistic choice to help portray the confusion of the main character as she deals with the chaos in her life. I would have liked to see a little more character development with the Faitoren, as most of them were treated rather one-dimensionally. However, overall this was a well-written and interesting book that I thoroughly enjoyed!

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Flop - The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

The Art of Thinking ClearlyThe Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think a more apt title for this book would be "The Art of Thinking Negatively." It felt like a very dismal view of humanity, compounded by an immense pessimism. It brought up several outdated studies of different biases, but I didn't really see anything new or intriguing. Instead of providing help to think clearly, it just made me want to second guess every decision I've made, and really made thinking more confusing as a whole. If you like a bunch of short chapters about how everything you think is wrong, then you might like this book. Otherwise, you will probably be like me and decide this isn't a book for you.

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Recommended Read- Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved Cinder, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this second installment of the series! The storyline is enriched by the addition of some amazing new characters, and the plot only improved from the last book. Scarlet was just soooooo good and I am sad that I have to wait for the next book in the series to come out!

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Flop - Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay

Sight Reading: A NovelSight Reading: A Novel by Daphne Kalotay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This just felt like another cliche book about cheating and the mundane-ness of marriage. None of the characters were unique or particularly memorable, and it felt pretty "circle of life." Technically it was well-written, but all the good grammar and proper phrasing can't cover the fact that the story didn't come across as having much soul to me. It was just so-so.

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