Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: Rumor Has It

Summary: Would you be tempted?

Newly single, Tilly Cole impulsively accepts a job offer in a small town as a “Girl Friday.” Fun job, country house, fresh start, why not? But soon she finds herself in a hotbed of gossip, intrigue, and rampant rivalry for the town’s most desirable bachelor—Jack Lucas.

Rumors of Jack’s “love ’em and leave ’em” escapes abound, and Tilly decides to do the mature, sensible thing... avoid Jack at all cost. But the more time Tilly spends with Jack, the more the rumors just don’t make sense. Tilly doesn’t know what to believe... and Jack’s not telling. -- Sourcebooks Landmark

I am a huge fan of Jill Mansell and I just love that Sourcebooks is releasing her books here in the United States. So far I have read three of her books and enjoyed all of them (PERFECT TIMING - review, MILLIE'S FLING - review, and MIRANDA'S BIG MISTAKE -review.) And I recently read a fourth, her the latest one RUMOR HAS IT. I don't read a ton of chick-lit anymore, but I always make an exception for Ms. Mansell!

I'm having a hard time writing this review because I feel as if I've already covered pretty much everything in my other three reviews. It's not that I didn't really, really enjoy RUMOR HAS IT. It's just that Ms. Mansell's books tend to follow the same basic format. Girl meets boy and really likes him (and then doesn't), but there are always reasons that they can't get together...until the end of the book. Chick lit at it's best!

In the case of RUMOR HAS IT, the girl is named Tilly and after she gets dumped by her boyfriend, she leaves London and heads to the country where her best friend Erin lives. She gets a new job as an assistant to an interior designer -- who just happens to have a teen daughter and is also gay! And she meets the town heart-breaker Jack! Although she is very attracted to Jack (and senses that he feels the same way), she tries to protect herself and keep her distance.

It's a very cute, albeit somewhat predictable, love story -- but that's why I read these books. But what I really appreciated about RUMOR HAS IT are all of the terrific supporting characters and side stories. As is the case with every Jill Mansell book, I love that she has so much going on besides the traditional "chick lit" story. And I really appreciate that although the books are light and funny, there always seem to be at least one story with some substance.

When I sat down to read RUMOR HAS IT, I was expecting an easy read that would make me laugh. I wasn't disappointed. But I was a little bit surprised by the seriousness (and sadness) of one of the storylines. I don't want to give away too much, but there are a few scenes in this novel which really touched my heart and even gave me a little lump in my throat. I so appreciate how Ms. Mansell is able to balance the mix of chick lit and heartache -- it's one of the reasons to me that her books really set themselves apart in this genre.

If you are a fan of chick lit (and especially Brit chick lit) or a fan of Jill Mansell, then you won't want to miss RUMOR HAS IT!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.

Shelf Discovery Challenge Wrap-Up's that time -- the end of the Shelf Discovery Challenge. I'm not the best person for completing challenges, but I'm happy to say that I did finish my own! The minimum required amount was six books, and I read twelve. Here's my list:

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume - review
THE CAT ATE MY GYMSUIT by Paula Danziger- review
FIFTEEN by Beverly Cleary - review
DEENIE by Judy Blume - review
BLUBBER by Judy Blume - review
IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD by Judy Blume - review
THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON'T by Judy Blume - review
TIGER EYES by Judy Blume - review
FOREVER by Judy Blume - review
THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Rankin - review

I don't know about those of you who participated in this challenge, but I thought this was extremely fun! It definitely brought back a lot of childhood memories. However, I feel like there are still so many books from SHELF DISCOVERY that I didn't get around to reading. I have a big box in my basement with about 20 more books that I have collected over the past six months that I still want to read. So...I have decided that I will be starting a SHELF DISCOVERY 2 Challenge come fall (probably September!) I am hoping that many of you will want to "play" again, and I'm also hoping that I will also attract some new participants.

In the meantime, I have another fun challenge which is officially starting tomorrow. It's the 2010 EW Summer Book Reading Challenge. You can read about the details here. It's a fun, no-pressure challenge (perfect for summer reading) and the books look terrific. I'm hoping you'll consider joining. You only have to sign-up for 1 book -- how easy is that?

Just a little reminder: I have a post where you can link to your Shelf Discovery Challenge wrap-up. You can add your link anytime, but please try to do so by May 15th because I will be selecting the winners the following day!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Club Exchange: Christy English

Earlier today, I reviewed an extremely interesting novel about the relationship between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alais of France called THE QUEEN'S PAWN by Christy English. I thought the author did a good job with presenting the historical information in a new light.

I was so happy when Ms. English agreed to write a guest post for my Book Club Exchange feature. I hope you will find her thoughts about book clubs, and especially those that talk about her book, as interesting as I did.

Is there anything more fun than reading a book and then getting together with intelligent friends to talk about it? That is what I love best about book clubs, as a reader and as an author: a chance to talk to other people about the world I just experienced on the page.

I have been a reader for much longer than I have been a writer. THE QUEEN’S PAWN is my first book, and I am just now getting the opportunity to discuss my novel with book clubs, answering their questions and listening to how the book club members experienced it. But for years, I was a member of a book club of my own.

I loved the moment after we all arrived, when we each had our wine or our cake or whatever food/drink combo the hostess had so kindly set out for us. When pleasantries were behind us, and each one of us brought out the book we’d read, and we started to talk.

There is something truly magical about diving between the pages of a good book. As a reader, every time I open a novel, I hope to be transported, to be carried away to another time and place by the author, and by the characters she writes about. At a book club, we all sit down together and enter that world again. We can talk about the characters as if they are in the room: what about the story inspired us, what we hated, what we loved. The best books bring out strong emotions in me; I loathe the villains with passion, and I embrace the characters I love. Book club shows me that I am not alone. Other people love these characters, too.

As a writer, I have had similar experiences when speaking with people about the novel I’ve written. Sometimes people don’t understand what I am trying to do, and that is fine, because I realize that I will not be able to reach everyone with my work. But more often, people embrace my characters. They become transported by the world I have created, and love Eleanor and Henry, Richard and Alais, as much as I do. When that happens, we end up talking about these people, not as if they died 850 years ago, but as if they just walked out of the room, as if they are people that we know and love now, today.

That is the beauty of a book club: being able to share the experience of a story with like-minded people. Each of us reads alone, but coming together in a group reminds us that there are some things that novels do for all of us. They make us learn and grow, and sometimes we even laugh at the same things our friends laughed at in a book. And some points in the book we’ve read made us all cry. I love that most about book clubs I think, both as a reader and as an author: the moment of a shared experience, when we realize that just as we recognize bits of ourselves in the characters on the page, we also recognize bits of ourselves in the people around us. When we read a book, and then share it with our friends, we realize that we are not alone. That’s what good books are for, to bridge the gaps between us.

To invite Christy English to join your book club for discussion of THE QUEEN’S PAWN, please leave a comment at her website

Christy English is a writer of historical fiction centering on Eleanor of Aquitaine, Alais of France, and the Plantagenets of the 12th Century. Look for her novel THE QUEEN’S PAWN from the New American Library, an imprint of Penguin.

Her second novel, about Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to Louis VII of France, TO BE QUEEN, will be published by the New American Library in April 2011.

A huge thanks to Ms. English for sharing some of her book club experiences with us. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.

Review: The Queen's Pawn

Summary: A historical novel of the legendary Eleanor of Aquitaine and the one person she loved more than power-her rival for the throne.

At only nine, Princess Alais of France is sent to live in England until she is of age to wed Prince Richard, son of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Alais is an innocent pawn on the chessboard of dynastic marriage, her betrothal intended to broker an uneasy truce between the nations.

Estranged from her husband, Eleanor sees a kindred spirit in this determined young girl. She embraces Alais as a daughter, teaching the princess what it takes to be a woman of power in a world of men. But as Alais grows to maturity and develops ambitions of her own, Eleanor begins to see her as a threat-and their love for each other becomes overshadowed by their bitter rivalry, dark betrayals, conflicting passions, and a battle for revenge over the throne of England itself.

I have been reading my fair share of historical fiction lately, and I have to admit that I think I've just about hit my limit. After awhile, some of the stories about kings and queens tend to run together for me. However, one book that I recently enjoyed was THE QUEEN'S PAWN by Christy English; and I do think the author brought something fresh and original to her novel.

THE QUEEN'S PAWN tells the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her "adopted" daughter Princess Alais of France. I was somewhat familiar with Eleanor's story (because of my historical fiction reads, not because I know anything about history), but Alais was a new character for me. There is no doubt that the author had plenty of material with the character of Eleanor. I found her actions -- both the good and the bad -- to be absolutely fascinating.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Ms. English portrayed these characters of Eleanor and Alais, and I especially appreciated the dynamics of their complex relationship. In so many ways, there were many of the elements of a classic mother/daughter story. Alais never knew her mother so she was desperately looking for a mother figure, and Eleanor found herself immediately falling in love with the young Alais. And while both women were deeply devoted to each other and probably best friends, their relationship definitely had its fair share of ups and downs. I think part of the reason for this complex relationship was because they were so much alike.

When Alais grows up and becomes a threat to Eleanor, the dynamics of their relationship take a sudden turn. I really appreciated how the author portrayed their relationship because it was so complex, and it was probably my favorite part of the novel. There is no doubt that both women loved each other; and yet, they also demonstrated a tremendous amount of deception and jealousy. I was definitely curious about how the events and their relationship would finally be resolved.

I liked that Ms. English decided to tell Eleanor's and Alais' stories in their first person voices. The chapters alternated between the two characters, and I loved getting each character's opinion of the events. Both were incredibly smart and manipulative women, and I found their behavior to be very entertaining. I thought Ms. English did a great job of capturing their separate and distinct voices. I also thought the transitions between the characters was very smooth and easy to follow.

One thing that I really appreciated about Ms. English's novel was her notes in the Afterword. As someone who really doesn't know much about history, I tend to use historical fiction as my "history class." I rarely know what is based on the facts and what is entirely made up. I really like that the author took the time to explain what parts of Eleanor's and Alais' story were less than factual. And while there is no doubt that she did take a lot of liberties with their stories, at least I knew what I was reading. I felt as if I could truly appreciate how she incorporated the fictional aspects with the facts, and I understood her reasons for doing so.

THE QUEEN'S PAWN would make for a very interesting book club discussion mainly because of the relationship between Eleanor and Alias. These two women were definitely dynamos! There is a reading guide in the back of the book -- here's the link. I thought the questions brought up some interesting points. Some of the topics that you might want to explore include religion and the church, mother-daughter relationships, love, marriage, adultery, and forgiveness.

I think fans of historical fiction will definitely want to take a look at THE QUEEN'S PAWN.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel. Make sure you check out Ms. English's guest post for my Book Club Exchange feature.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review: The Heart is Not a Size

Summary: Georgia knows what it means to keep secrets. She knows how to ignore things. She knows that some things are better left unsaid. . . . Or are they?

When Georgia and her best friend, Riley, travel along with nine other suburban Pennsylvania kids to Anapra, a squatters' village in the heat-flattened border city of Juarez, Mexico, secrets seem to percolate and threaten both a friendship and a life. Certainties unravel. Reality changes. And Georgia is left to figure out who she is outside the world she's always known.

Beth Kephart paints a world filled with emotion, longing, and the hot Mexican sun.-- Harper Teen

I know this is going to sound strange, but I've been procrastinating reading THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE by Beth Kephart. You see... I absolutely love Beth and I even consider her a friend. I think she is a marvelous author and I've loved the other books that I've read by her. So I admit that I was a little nervous when I picked up THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE. What if I didn't love it?

I had no need to worry because Beth does not disappoint with THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE -- I absolutely adored this book. I found that when I was reading this novel, I treasured each and every word. THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE isn't a long book, and yet, it delivers a beautiful story with a very powerful message. I really get the impression from this novel (and really every Beth Kephart novel) that she chooses each word for a specific reason and to elicit a particular feeling in the reader. She is an amazing storyteller!

One of the main reasons I enjoyed this novel so much was because I really loved the character of Georgia. I actually think I had a lot more in common with this character than I do with most teens in today's books. I realize that it has been quite awhile since I was Georgia's age, but I found myself really relating to her on quite a few levels. I was very similar to Georgia because I, too, was always the nice, responsible girl. I also experienced a lot of the pressure and anxiety that Georgia experienced (albeit, it probably was self-inflicted.)

If you've ever read a Beth Kephart book, then you know that there are just tons of beautiful passages -- she really has a unique way with words! As I read THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE, there were quite a few times where I found myself pausing and just taking in her writing; however, there was one passage in particular that really struck a chord with me:

" You grow up being told that responsibility is a good word, that you should step forward first, that you should manage; but the truth is: Too much responsibility gets you into trouble. It boxes you in, divides you into two very different, separate people. Your responsible, sold version is what everybody comments on: Georgia's reliable. Georgia will do it. Georgia always knows what she is doing. She will come through. Your private, hidden self, meanwhile, would shout a different story."

I swear Beth could have been writing this about me. I had these exact same feelings as a teenager (and sometimes I still do!) I read a lot of books, but rarely do I experience the emotion that I did while reading THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE. And that was just as it related to the character of Georgia. The entire trip to Mexico also touched my heart.

I was also deeply affected by the parts of the story about Juarez -- how could any reader not be touched by how these people live? I appreciated that Beth gave us an insider's look into a squatters village in Mexico -- she actually took a trip to Juarez and helped build a community bathroom there. I've seen pictures and news stories about the living conditions of these people, yet I think THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE brought the reality to home for me. After I finished this novel, I wanted to do something to help...something to make a difference. And I love Beth for not only helping me to have this awareness, but also for bringing this reality to the attention of today's teens.

Needless to say, I think THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE is a perfect discussion book, especially for mother-daughter book clubs. There are so many important themes in this novel which would be perfect to explore deeper with a teen (or even an intuitive tween.) And many of the topics deal with some very sensitive, yet important, situations that aren't always easy to bring up with your daughters. Some of the topics which warrant further discussion include friendship, mother/daughter relationships, family dynamics, eating disorders, poverty, anxiety, insecurity, sacrifices, gratitude, and self discovery.

THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE is a very special book to me. I can't wait to share it with Booking Daughter because it's exactly the type of book that I want her to read. There is a very real character in Georgia that I know she will love, but there is also a wonderful message about giving back and helping those who are less fortunate than us.

THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE has a Facebook fan page and there is also a website devoted to the book. Make sure you check out the site because there is a contest for an autographed copy of THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE and this beautiful fair trade necklace from Ten Thousand Villages (valued at $44.)

A huge thanks to Ms. Kephart for sharing a copy of her novel with me.

Wondrous Words Wednesday - April 28, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy aka Bermuda Onion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.


shippon - With Liza helping him, he set up a dairy in the shippon over in the next field. (p.77)

shippon: a cow barn or cattle shed.

clemmed - "I'm fair clemmed," our Jamie replied. (p. 142)

1530–40; akin to ME forclemmed (ptp.) pinched with hunger, OE beclemman to fetter

What new words did you discover this week?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: The Fiddler's Gun

Summary: America is on the brink of war with England, and Fin Button is about to come undone. She’s had it with the dull life of the orphanage, and she’s ready to marry Peter and get away from rules, chores, and a life looked after by the ever-watchful Sister Hilde. But an unexpected friendship forms between Fin and the fiddle-playing cook, Bartimaeus, which sets her on a course for revolution. With Bart’s beloved fiddle and haunting blunderbuss as her only possessions, Fin discovers her first taste of freedom as a sailor aboard the Rattlesnake. She’s hiding some dark secrets, but there are bigger problems for the crew—they are on the run from the Royal Navy, and whispers of mutiny are turning the captain into a tyrant. When Fin finally returns home, will she find Peter still waiting, or will she find that she’s lost everything she once held dear-- Rabbit Room Press

You guys all know how awesome My Friend Amy is, right? Well, besides thinking she is just the sweetest thing, I also love her book recommendations. I have her to thank for another terrific book. This time it's THE FIDDLER'S GUN by A.S. Peterson. I admit that I probably would have never picked this one up on my own, but I am so glad that she recommended it. I thought this young adult book was wonderful!

THE FIDDLER'S GUN really has a lot to offer teens (and maybe even tweens.) It is an action-packed adventure that will appeal to both boys and girls (although probably more to girls since the main character is female.) It is definitely a fun-ride, but it is also much more than that. THE FIDDLER'S GUN has a wonderful character in Fin, and I thought Mr. Peterson's writing was great. This book also gives the reader a great deal to think about, and I just love books that keep you thinking even after you've finished reading them!

Fin is just a perfect character for this adventure story. She is extremely brave (sometimes to the point of being stupid), but she is also loyal and kind. Although I considered many of her actions to be violent and even gruesome (and no doubt wrong), I found myself loving her. I do believe that she always wanted to do the right thing in her mind. I liked that she didn't fit in with society's expectations and was an outsider in almost every situation she faced, but that she stayed true to herself. Fin grew up a lot throughout the course of this novel and changed in many ways, but I loved that continued to be such a complex and emotional character.

I also really enjoyed all of the historical elements of this story. The book takes place right before America goes to war against England -- a time I personally find fascinating. I thought Mr. Peterson did a remarkable job of incorporating real life characters, events and places into the fabric of the story. It just all seemed so natural. Never once did it feel like I was reading a history book, but I still managed to learn a great deal about that time period.

Another thing that really stood out to me about THE FIDDLER'S GUN was Mr. Peterson's writing style. I loved how he told this story. The book kept my attention throughout partly because the story itself was so excited, but there was definitely more to it than that. Mr. Peterson's prose was almost poetic at times. I found myself re-reading paragraphs just because they were so eloquent and really hit on something. Needless to say, I was very impressed!

What I found so amazing about THE FIDDLER'S GUN is how much this book managed to accomplish in less than 300 pages. There was action, adventure, and lots of brutal battle scenes. But at the same time, the book was just filled with the theme of love. The novel also demonstrates that we aren't perfect creatures, but we must do our best and stay true to ourselves. I also really appreciated all of the over-arching themes of guilt, forgiveness, and redemption.

I think our mother-daughter group is a little young for THE FIDDLER'S GUN, but I can't wait until they are old enough to read (and appreciate) this novel. I think THE FIDDLER'S GUN would make an excellent book club discussion book. As I was reading this novel, I kept finding myself wanting to talk about Fin's characters with others. I was so excited to see that there is an in-depth discussion guide available for this book. It is excellent and includes separate questions on the characters, setting, plot and themes. There are also some "Points of Interest" topics which exhibit some of the real-life people, places and situations that are similar to the story. Some of the themes that exist in this novel include secrets, love, guilt, redemption, doubt, and forgiveness. The book is available in bulk pricing and there are some unique extras for book clubs who are interested. You can read the details here.

I highly recommend THE FIDDLER'S GUN to not only teens, but adults too. It is a very entertaining story that also had a great deal of depth. I am so glad that it's the first book in a series because I can't wait to read more about Fin and her adventures!

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this novel.

Author Interview: Jennifer Cervantes

Yesterday, I reviewed a fantastic MG novel called TORTILLA SUN by Jennifer Cervantes. I definitely think that Ms. Cervantes is a beautiful writer and I love how she incorporated so much magic into her story.

I am so grateful that Ms. Cervantes agreed to answer a few of my questions about her new book. I hope you'll enjoy getting to now this new author as much as I did.

Booking Mama: How did you come up with the idea for TORTILLA SUN?

Jennifer Cervantes: I start each manuscript with a seedling of an idea and then I let the writing take me from there. With TORTILLA SUN, I knew I wanted to write a middle grade story set in New Mexico that highlighted the magical elements of the culture and setting here. I think, too, that my childhood memories of spending time in New Mexico influenced this book. My grandmother made the absolute best homemade tortillas, and even homemade butter to slather on them. Yum!

Booking Mama: TORTILLA SUN is a beautiful story that's also filled with some elements of magic. What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing this story?

Jennifer Cervantes: Staying in a positive place where I didn’t judge my work in a harsh way. I think so many writers, or any artist for that matter, can view their work with way too critical of an eye. Aside from this, I had lots of challenges but one of the biggest was getting the magical elements just right. I wanted to create a story where readers could get completely lost in the possibility of magic in the everyday world of Nana’s village.

Booking Mama: I absolutely loved twelve-year-old Izzy, the main character and narrator of the story. Was it difficult to get inside the mind of a young girl and write in her voice?

Jennifer Cervantes: I’m glad because I love her too. It wasn’t hard at all.I still remember this age vividly and I’m still a kid at heart and hope I always will be. It helps too that I have three daughters. I pay very close attention to the way they talk and sometimes I interview their friends when they come over. I’ll ask them: “So, if such and such happened what would your exact words be?” Now, they ask me to refrain a bit more because their friends end of spending lots of time answering questions and not as much time hanging out with them. :)

Booking Mama: When did you realize that you wanted to be an author?
Jennifer Cervantes: This realization came to me much later in life. As a child I was an avid reader. I’d read anything I could get my hands on, but I could never have dreamed I would contribute my own voice to children’s literature. It wasn’t until I was much older that the muse came calling and now I can’t imagine NOT writing. I really don’t know how I went so many years without it.

Booking Mama: Why did you decide to write middle grade fiction as opposed to adult books or even young adult books?

Jennifer Cervantes: This is such an enchanting age when the world is filled with promise, hope, and possibility. I wanted to contribute in some way to this time in a child’s life.

Booking Mama: Besides writing books, you also are a mother to three daughters. How do you balance writing books and being a mom?

Jennifer Cervantes: I think like all mothers, I have to work hard to balance my professional life with my family life. I am fortunate to teach at the university which allows me a flexible schedule. I write at soccer practice, piano practice, etc. I carry a notebook and pen with me everywhere since I never know when inspiration will strike. :) Aside from making time to write, I really try to make time to take care of myself, too. If I am replenished then I have so much more to give.

Booking Mama: Are you currently working on another novel? If so, can you give us any hints?

Jennifer Cervantes: I just finished a new ms untitled as of this writing. It’s about a ten year old girl Named Nema Paz. She wonders where everyone gets their talents. They have to be something someone is born with, which means she should have found hers by now. This story is close to my heart for a couple of reasons. First, I think so many kids, and even adults, aren’t quite sure what their “talents” are and we spend too much time comparing ourselves to other people. Second, I wanted to write a story filled with humor and laced with the human elements I try to bring to all of my writing. And of course, I love the characters: Nema, Oscar, and Chit Chat Malone--a cowboy ghost. :)

Booking Mama: Who are some of your favorite authors who have inspired your writing?

Jennifer Cervantes: Wow! This is tough. I love so many authors, but those that first come to mind would include Pam Munoz Ryan, Shannon Hale, Sharon Creech, and Deborah Wiles. There are also some debut authors who are richly talented and whom I am lucky to know and to share this journey with.

A huge thanks to Ms. Cervantes for answering all of my questions!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Review: Tortilla Sun

Summary: When twelve-year-old Izzy discovers a beat-up baseball marked with the words "Because…magic" while unpacking in yet another new apartment, she is determined to figure out what it means. What secrets does this old ball have to tell? Her mom certainly isn't sharing any—especially when it comes to Izzy's father, who died before Izzy was born. But when she spends the summer in her Nana's remote New Mexico village, Izzy discovers long-buried secrets that come alive in an enchanted landscape of watermelon mountains, whispering winds, and tortilla suns. Infused with the flavor of the southwest and sprinkled with just a pinch of magic, this heartfelt middle grade debut is as rich and satisfying as Nana's homemade enchiladas. -- Chronicle Books

TORTILLA SUN by Jennifer Cervantes is a wonderful novel for middle graders! I thoroughly enjoyed this story because it was partly a coming-of-age tale (and I do love those types of books). But I also found myself loving other parts of the story -- especially the magical ones. It truly is a gem of a book that is guaranteed to please both kids and adults.

One of the main reasons that I enjoyed this book so much is because I fell in love with the character of Izzy. I found Izzy to be very believable, and I think tween girls not only will fall in love with Izzy like I did, but they will relate to her in many ways too. Izzy is a normal tween -- she is smart, funny, and very creative. But she has also has had to deal with a lot of things that aren't so typical. Her father died before she was born, and her mother has never really talked about him or her past with Izzy. In addition, she has had to move around a lot and start new schools and make new friends (I could really relate to this part of her character.) When Izzy has to move to New Mexico and live with her Nana for a few months because of her mom's job, it's natural that Izzy doesn't want to go. But it's her visit to a small village in New Mexico which allows Izzy to truly learn about herself and heritage.

I'm sure that Izzy had always wondered about her family and especially her father; but I think at 12 years old, Izzy is at the age where she really wants to know about her background. When she discovers a baseball with some writing on it, she suspects that the baseball and handwriting might have belonged to her father, and finding out about her past suddenly becomes more urgent. The baseball has the words, "Because....magic," and Izzy becomes determined to find out what the missing word is and what it all means. So there is actually a little element of mystery in this novel too!

Even though the book only covered a relatively short period of time, I enjoyed seeing how much Izzy matured from the time she left her mother and began living with her Nana. I think part of the reason that Izzy grew up so quickly was because she was finally able to learn about her father; and with this knowledge, she grew to better understand herself and her mother too. Another reason I think Izzy matured was because of the influence of her Nana. Izzy's Nana was an incredibly special women with so much insight into life. I just loved her and her unique perspectives on everything -- from why she named a bedroom to how to make the perfect tortilla. I also loved what a beautiful friend she was, and I thought she just embodied love and family.

As a mom, I appreciated that there were so many valuable messages in this book about love, family, friendship, and even magic! I especially liked that the author conveyed that life can sometimes be magical and we just have to "know" it's there.

TORTILLA SUN is Ms. Cervantes debut novel and I have to say that it's a fantastic beginning to what I hope is a long career in writing MG books. I absolutely loved the author's writing style and the way she told this story. In addition, I loved how she captured the essence of the southwest in her beautiful descriptions of the the people, the village, the land, the myths, and the food! I was so impressed with how she not only created a wonderful character in Izzy, but she managed to incorporate the magical elements into this story in a very believable way.

TORTILLA SUN is a great book to discuss with middle graders whether it be for a mother-daughter book club or for the classroom. The story is a good one (and I think kids will enjoy reading it), and there are also many issues that warrant some further discussion. Some of the topics that you might explore include mother/daughter relationships, grief, sacrifice, love, family, friendships, guilt, secrets and magic! There is a reading guide available which has questions that are especially designed for tweens. And since the author included a recipe for Nana's flour tortillas in the back of the book, you could certainly include some southwestern food and traditions into your meeting to make it even more memorable.

Thanks to the author and publisher for sending me a review copy of this book. Make sure you stop by tomorrow because Jennifer Cervantes will be stopping by to answer a few of my questions.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Author Interview: Barbara Dee & Giveaway

I am so glad to welcome Barbara Dee, author of the new middle grade novel THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON. I reviewed this book yesterday, and I'm happy to say that Ms. Dee has written another fantastic book!

Since Ms. Dee writes books for tweens and I just happen to have my very own tween right here, I thought it might be cute to do something a little different with this Q&A. So I asked the 10 year old Booking Daughter to help me come up with some questions. I think she did a pretty good job!

Booking Daughter: What inspired you to write THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON?

Barbara Dee: I was thinking about what happened to me in seventh grade: I had a great group of best friends I’d known forever, but I was starting to get a little restless. So I became friends with a wilder girl who got me into some mischief—but she kept me laughing, and she taught me a lot about myself.

Booking Daughter: Are any of the characters based on people you know?

Barbara Dee: The main character, Evie, is sort of based on me in middle school. All of the other characters are completely made up.

Booking Daughter: Do you have a favorite book from the ones you've written so far?

Barbara Dee: Ack! Don’t even ask that! That would be like asking a mom which kid is her favorite. My favorite book is always the one I’m writing!

Booking Daughter: What made you decide to become a writer?

Barbara Dee: Really, I never decided it, I just WROTE. When I was a kid I always had a journal going. And of course I was always reading. My mom was always saying, “Barbara, put away that book and go to bed!”

Booking Mama: Why did you decide to write books geared towards middle graders?

Barbara Dee: I guess it’s because when my own kids were that age, they’d outgrown the Children’s section of the library, but they weren’t quite ready for some of the darker stuff in YA. I’ve always felt that middle graders needed more choices, so I wanted to write funny books that took them seriously.

Booking Daughter: So far, I have read three of your books which qualify as realistic fiction. Have you ever wanted to write another genre like fantasy or adventure?

Barbara Dee: Glad you asked that! I’m actually thinking about trying a comic fantasy. It wouldn’t be a fantasy like the kind Cassie reads in JUST ANOTHER DAY—more of a realistic book with fantasy elements. But right now it’s just sort of floating around in my head.

Booking Mama: Who are some of the authors and what are some of the books that have inspired you as a writer?

Barbara Dee: Whew, there are just so many! But I have to say that HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh was a big book for me, because it was about a girl who loved to write (even when writing made her life tricky). And I remember being blown away by THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, because it has such a unique voice. It’s also funny and sad at the same time, which is a combination I look for in books and movies.

Booking Mama: Are you currently working on another novel right now? Any hints about the storyline?

Barbara Dee: I’m about to send my editor a revision of my next book, which will be out next spring. It’s called TRAUMA QUEEN, and it’s about a middle school girl who has The Most Embarrassing Mom Ever. Really, I’m totally serious.

A huge thank to Ms. Dee for answering all of our questions. Ms. Dee has also graciously given me a cute little THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON-themed goody bags (a replica of Evie's amber necklace, lip gloss, sugarless bubble gum in a cute little pouch.) I will throw in my gently-read ARC copy of THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON too! To enter the giveaway for the book and goody bag, just leave a comment with a way to contact you. The giveaway will be open until Saturday, May 8th at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you in the U.S. and Canada only. Good luck!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kid Konnection - Review: This Is Me From Now On

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a (hopefully) regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. Today, I are going to share with you great book from one of my favorite middle grade authors -- Barbara Dee.

Summary: Sometimes your life just needs a little jolt.

This is what Evie's new friend Francesca tells her, and soon enough, Evie's life has had something more like an earthquake. Francesca thinks life is dull unless you go after everything you want and say everything on your mind all the time--and sometimes that includes giving other people a little behind the scenes help to give them what she thinks they want.

Evie can't always tell if she's horrified or fascinated by everything Francesca convinces her to do, but ultimately, she comes to see friendship--and life--in a whole new light. -- Aladdin Mix

The more I read from Barbara Dee, the more I realize how much I love her books. Her latest novel THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON is no exception. THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON is a story about Evie, a middle grade girl who becomes friends with the new girl, Francesca. Francesca is pretty much the opposite of Evie -- she's brave, aggressive, and even a little bit interfering, and Evie's life turns upside-down as a result of their new friendship.

Francesca is exactly what Evie needs at this point in her life because her friends keep telling her that she is a rut. When Francesca enters the picture, everything begins to change for Evie. Evie not only questions some of the outrageous things that Francesca does (and some of the things that Francesca makes her do!), but she also begins to really examine who she is and who she wants to be. She also begins to really explore what friendship is all about. THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON truly is a special story about a young girl discovering herself!

Ms. Dee has also written JUST ANOTHER DAY IN MY INSANELY REAL LIFE (my review) and SOLVING ZOE (my review.) Both Booking Daughter and I enjoyed these books a great deal. In fact, I personally hand-sold quite a few copies of SOLVING ZOE at our elementary school's book fair. I think one of the reasons that Ms. Dee's books are so good is because the characters and their feelings are so real. She manages to touch on so much of what I remember from being a tween -- insecurities, additional responsibility, friends, boys, school, etc. And I think today's kids can really relate to her stories and their messages.

Another wonderful thing about THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON is the amount of humor that Ms. Dee incorporated into this book. It truly is a funny and often times laugh out loud book. I love how Ms. Dee managed to write a story with unique characters that's also fun to read. But on top of that, she also includes such valuable messages about self-discovery and friendship. As a mother, I can't recommend her books enough.

I also think THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON would make a great pick for mother-daughter book clubs (or even an after-school book club for girls!) THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON introduces a lot of issues that tweens deal with on a regular basis. Reading this book together with your daughter might allow both of you to learn more about each other. Some of the topics in THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON include learning about yourself and who you want to be, self-esteem issues, making new friends and keeping old ones, discovering boys, and figuring out how to "read" other people. There is also a reading guide available here.

If you aren't familiar with Barbara Dee's middle grade books yet, then you are really missing out! They are the perfect blend of memorable characters, interesting storyline, humor and valuable life lessons.

Thanks to the author for sending me a review copy of her latest novel. Make sure you stop by tomorrow because Ms. Dee has agreed to answer a few questions. And I have a little something for one lucky reader!

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Mistress of Rome

Summary: Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress's rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome's newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome's aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian's games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor's mistress. -- Berkley

I have been on a major historical fiction kick lately, but MISTRESS OF ROME by Kate Quinn really stood out for me. I am a huge sucker for anything having to do with ancient Rome -- I am just fascinated by the entire time period. In fact, I even took three years of Latin in high school; and I was one of those "geeks" who actually enjoyed watching I, CLAUDIUS every Friday afternoon. So when I found out that there was going to be a novel about an emperor, a slave girl, and a gladiator, I couldn't wait to read it.

MISTRESS OF ROME was such an entertaining read. Of course, I loved the backdrop of the novel and all of the history surrounding ancient Rome; however, I also found myself really enjoying the characters and their lives. This book really did have a little something that will appeal to every reader, although I thought MISTRESS OF ROME was really first and foremost, a love story with memorable characters. I couldn't help but love Thea the young slave girl and Arius the fearless gladiator -- they were almost like star-crossed lovers. But this novel also had some other terrific elements like love triangles, deception, secrets, loads of action, and even some twists and turns.

There were actually quite a few interesting characters in this story -- a few I liked and a few I hated (but I think I was supposed to!) The dynamics between the characters were what really made this book to me! There was so much desperation in the characters' actions, and almost felt as if I were watching an ancient soap opera unfold (I mean that in a good way!) In fact, I think MISTRESS OF ROME would make the perfect movie or even a mini-series because the story just lends itself to that format. But maybe I'm just thinking about how much I loved ROME on HBO and how much I miss it!

While I did feel that many of the characters were pretty complex and well developed, I found that a few of the characters were rather one dimensional. The main character that I am referring to is Lepida, the very beautiful and rich heiress. When the book starts, Thea is Lepida's slave girl; and the reader clearly sees how abusive Lepida is to Thea. Throughout the course of the novel, their paths continue to cross; and Lepida gets even more evil if that's possible. In many ways, I absolutely loved reading about Lepida and all of her dastardly deeds; however, she was almost a caricature of "bad woman" because she had absolutely no redeeming qualities. Having said all of this, I did enjoy Lepida's character and she definitely made the book more scandalous (and therefore interesting.) My issue was that I wanted to feel that she was slightly human and I never did see that in her character.

I was very impressed that MISTRESS OF ROME is Ms. Quinn's debut novel because it's definitely a winner. I was very excited to lkearn that MISTRESS OF ROME is the first book in a series -- Ms. Quinn also has two more books in the works. I can't wait to read more about these characters and ancient Rome! If you'd like to learn a little more about Ms. Quinn, check out her guest post for my Book Club Exchange feature.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend MISTRESS OF ROME to my book group. It wouldn't be our standard pick, but I do think everyone would get caught up in the story of Thea and Arius. And it actually would make for a very fun summer selection because this book is an ideal "escape read!" There is a reading guide available with some interesting questions, and I am pretty sure that it would be a good time to discuss a few of the characters (especially the evil Lepida and Emperor Domitian.) Some of the topics for discussion include secrets, honor, fate, adultery, double standards, family dynamics, and forbidden relationships. It really is a juicy book filled with so much scandal!

MISTRESS OF ROME did not disappoint! I was hooked on this story from the get-go, and I found myself not wanting the book to end. I found the characters to be very interesting and the storyline was filled with so much drama and intrigue. MISTRESS OF ROME is guaranteed to entertain and just might be the ideal summer read!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Club Exchange - Mary Sharratt & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed a wonderful book called DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL by Mary Sharratt. If you read my gushing review, you know how much I enjoyed this story about the Pendle witches in early 1600s England. It really is a must-read book for lovers of historical fiction!

I am just so excited that Ms. Sharratt has taken time to write an essay for my Book Club Exchange feature where she discusses the importance of book clubs and readers. Even though she finds that she isn't able to meet with her fans in person very often, she still realizes how valuable they are to her writing!

A Hermit’s Guide to Book Groups

Book clubs are such a blessing to authors. In this digital age of apathy, distraction, and short attention spans, book groups are champions of the written word. They just don’t talk about books—they inspire a genuine passion for reading.

Alas, I must hang my head in shame and confess that I am not the book group maven I long to be. Mostly geography gets in my way. An American expat, I live in the beautiful Pendle region of Lancashire in Northern England. This wild brooding landscape inspired my new novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, which draws on the true story of a family caught up in the Pendle Witch Hunt of 1612. The downside of being so close to nature and such dramatic history is that I live like a hermit in this rural area. On an average day I see more sheep and horses than people. Most of my audience is in North America, an ocean away, which makes even speaker phone visits to book groups a challenge.

Still I yearn to make that connection to readers however I can. For a hermit like me, going on book tour, both a traditional city to city tour and a virtual blog tour, is essential. I simply have to connect with my readers, face to face or online. A writer is not a writer without her readers.

Readers are the reason we write, the reason we get up in the morning and sit for hours in front of our computer screen.

An astute author can learn as much from book groups as from professional editors and critics. My good friend, the brilliant novelist Sandra Gulland, gives a draft of her latest novel to her book group and lets them rip it apart for her so that she can learn from their insights before she puts in the final revisions.

While I don’t have a home circle book group to critique my drafts as Sandra does, I can say that for me, the writing process does not come full circle until I have that dialogue with my readers and listen to their experience of reading my novel. Only when this happens do I feel my book has “hit home.”

My most moving experience as a writer to date happened because of a book club.

Once, at a reading in Saint Paul, Minnesota, a woman presented me with an exquisite piece of origami work and invited me to unfold the sumptuous crimson paper. This creation was an invitation to join their book group discussion of my first novel, Summit Avenue. The origami artist had taken such care, using quotes from my novel, and designing the piece so that it opened like a heart. Reader feedback rarely gets better than this.

For the publication of my fourth novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill, even I, the hermit, am getting into action. For a few weeks, I shall say goodbye to my beloved horse and board a plane for the Virginia Festival of the Book where I’ll be joining the fabulous Barbara Drummond Mead’s Book Group Choices discussion panel. A bit later I’ll be heading off to Gunflint Lodge in Northern Minnesota for the Books in the Woods reading retreat, one of the few places where one can be a secluded hermit and a book group maven at the same time. At Books in the Woods, I’ll be leading a discussion on Louise Erdrich’s masterpiece, The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse. As a writer, you learn a great deal about your craft from discussing the work of stellar writers such as Erdrich.

And so it begins. Book groups have cast their spell on this hermit.

Giveaway alert: I have a copy of DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL to give to one reader. All you have to do is leave a comment (with a valid email address) telling me why you want to read this book. The giveaway will be open until Wednesday, May 5th at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with a U.S. or Canada mailing address. Good luck!

Mary Sharratt is the author of the critically acclaimed novels SUMMIT AVENUE, THE REAL MINERVA, and THE VANISHING POINT. She is an American writer who lives in Lancashire, England, literally on the spot where the Pendle witch hunt unfolded. All the major characters and events portrayed in the novel are drawn from court clerk Thomas Potts's account of the 1612 Lancashire witch trials, in which seven women and two men were hanged as witches.

A huge thanks to Ms. Sharratt for sharing some of her thoughts about book clubs. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: Daughters of the Witching Hill

Summary: Daughters of theWitching Hill brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching account of a family sustained by love as they try to survive the hysteria of a witch-hunt.

Bess Southerns, an impoverished widow living in Pendle Forest, is haunted by visions and gains a reputation as a cunning woman. Drawing on the Catholic folk magic of her youth, Bess heals the sick and foretells the future. As she ages, she instructs her granddaughter, Alizon, in her craft, as well as her best friend, who ultimately turns to dark magic.

When a peddler suffers a stroke after exchanging harsh words with Alizon, a local magistrate, eager to make his name as a witch finder, plays neighbors and family members against one another until suspicion and paranoia reach frenzied heights.

Sharratt interweaves well-researched historical details of the 1612 Pendle witch-hunt with a beautifully imagined story of strong women, family, and betrayal. Daughters of the Witching Hill is a powerful novel of intrigue and revelation. -- Harcourt Mifflin Court

I love historical fiction and I admit that I'm fascinated by the entire concept of witch hunts. So when I sat down to read DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL by Mary Sharratt, I was definitely expecting to enjoy this novel. But I had no idea how much I'd end up loving this book! In fact, I hesitate to even write this review because I absolutely adored this novel; and I don't want to build your expectations up too high so that you'll be disappointed if you aren't as enthusiastic about it as I am. But I do have to say that I thought this book was excellent!

DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL is based on the true story of a family that was involved in the Pendle witch-hunt of 1612. The author, Mary Sharratt, actually lives in Lancashire, England -- right near the location where this witch-hunt took place. Evidently, there are images of witches everywhere, and the author couldn't help but become interested in this story. She began reading about the Pendle witches and researching them; and the result of her endeavors is a terrific (and heartbreaking) novel.

I can't rave enough about Mary Sharratt. I really appreciated how she incorporated the historical facts into this novel. She did a remarkable job of blending fact with fiction (and I really don't think that's an easy thing to do.) I loved learning about the traditions and practices of that time period, especially as they related to "witchcraft" and religion. But I also think she did a great job of giving the background on the Pendle witches and their families. After reading DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, I can actually say that I learned not only a great deal about the witch hunts, but I also learned about the religions and political environments in England in the early 1600s.

I also think the author did an amazing job of bringing her characters to life. DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL was told by two different characters -- Bess Southerns, the "ringleader" of the witches and her granddaughter Alizon. I was so impressed with how the author captured Bess' voice and I loved getting inside her mind and seeing her version of events. I admit that I was a little sad when Bess' section of the story ended and Alizon's began because I loved Bess so much. However, I was equally blown away by how Ms. Sharratt portrayed Alizon, and I ended up really liking her too. The two characters' voices were very separate and distinct; and I felt that both were very believable. I thought it was fascinating to see what each of them thought of their gifts, and how each of them chose to handle them.

Another thing I really think made this book extra-special was how much it affected me. Usually I read historical fiction to learn about an event. (You might remember that I said I like to be entertained while I learn!) However, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL was so much more than that for me. Part of the reason was because of Ms. Sharratt's research and writing style, but I also think that the story touched my heart because I became so attached to the characters. It's probably obvious that their story has a tragic ending, but their entire lives were just so sad. They were extremely poor and often times struggling for work and food; and they also had to face a lot of tragedies. And added to those things, they were also considered different because of their cunning and healing abilities. My heart just went out to the entire family, and I felt very much a part of their lives as I read their story.

As you can probably tell, I thought Ms. Sharratt's writing was wonderful. I have never read any of her other novels, but I can't wait to now! She has written quite a few other books, and I think THE VANISHING POINT and THE REAL MINERVA look terrific. I was in awe of how well Ms. Sharratt created the essence of the characters and their time periods in this novel. If her other books are even half as good as DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, I'll be in for a treat!

DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL would make an excellent book club discussion book. Not only is the story fascinating (and I'm pretty sure everyone who reads this book will agree with that), but it is also beautifully written. I also think that there are many themes to discuss in this novel including England's history, religion, the power of prayer, healing, friendship, loyalty, family dynamics, mother/daughter relationships, fear, forgiveness, and redemption to name just a few. This book is rich with topics that warrant further analysis, and I think most book clubs would love to discuss this novel. There is a reading guide available.

Check out this video. You'll get a hint at the history behind DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL as well as the author's writing voice.

Thanks to Diane Saarinen for allowing me to participate in this book tour.

Wondrous Words Wednesday - April 21, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy aka Bermuda Onion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

NEXT by James Hynes

cordillera - How it got there, under the elastic of his shorts, he had no idea, but now he had a red cordillera around the crater of his navel, a little archipelago of pustules that oozed clear liquid, and he was lying in warm water with a coffee cup full of warm Domeboro's solution on the edge of the tub. (p. 60)

cordillera: a chain of mountains, usually the principal mountain system or mountain axis of a large landmass.

caesura - He's aware that his fall represents a caesura, and it doesn't really matter whether he's been out for hours or minutes or only seconds: the break somehow stands for infinity, and now, on the other side of it, everything is strange and as sharply defined as a cartoon. (p.141)

caesura: any break, pause, or interruption.

detumescent - "I'm sorry," Kevin says, shifting in his seat, detumescent at last. (p.242)

detumescent: reduction or subsidence of swelling.

What new words did you discover this week?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Author Interview: Jackie Collins & Giveaway

I am so excited about today's post that I can hardly stand it! Jackie Collins, yes that Jackie Collins!!!, agreed to answer a few of my questions about her latest best-selling novel POOR LITTLE BITCH GIRL. Believe me when I say that this is one of the highlights of my blogging days!

As far as I'm concerned, Jackie Collins is an absolutely goddess in the writing world. She has 27 best-selling novels and has sold over 400 million books! I hope you'll enjoy this interview half as much as I did!

Booking Mama: POOR LITTLE BITCH GIRL was so good! The characters were larger-than-life and their actions were so scandalous. It almost seems as if you managed to capture some current/real life events in this story. What made you decide to write this novel?

Jackie Collins: It's all about catching a headline before it happens, as was the case with the cheating politician, Gregory Stoneman, in "Poor Little Bitch Girl." And also I was inspired by the Spitzer and the call girl case in New York. I just put my own tilt on real life events. Plus I love writing strong women and sexy men.

Booking Mama: You have written so many terrific best-selling books (isn't it a crazy number like 27?) during your career. Is there one that stands out for you as a favorite or one that you are most proud of?

Jackie Collins: "Poor Little Bitch Girl" is my 27th novel, and of course it's my current fave. But of all my books "Chances" stands out, because in "Chances" I created the Santangelo family, and the infamous Lucky Santangelo - who you all seem to love. Lucky kicks it. She's the best and most fun to write, and she's coming back in "Goddess of Vengeance."

Booking Mama: You have an amazing ability to entertain in your books. I think one of the reasons for this is that you have a knack for giving readers an inside glimpse at the Hollywood life. Are any of your books/stories based on real people that you've encountered? If so, has anyone you've known ever seen themselves in your books? What was their reaction?

Jackie Collins: Every guy in Hollywood thought he was the lead character in "The Stud." Yes, I often draw on real life celebrities and change the names to protect the not so innocent! When you read one of my books, you are not getting the front page of a tabloid, you are getting the real deal.

Booking Mama: When I told my friend that I was reading POOR LITTLE BITCH GIRL, she smiled and said that you taught her everything she knows about sex! Then we started reminiscing about how we read your books in our teens -- probably a little younger than your intended audience! I was wondering if it's easy for you to write those sexy scenes? Are there any challenges you face coming up with "fresh" ones?

Jackie Collins: I have been told about the sex scenes teaching girls plenty so many times!! I have a multi-generational audience, they start reading me at 14 or 15 and just keep going! Mom, dad, sister, the entire family!

Booking Mama: As I read POOR LITTLE BITCH GIRL, I couldn't help but think it would make a great movie. Is there any talk that your novel will be made into movie?

Jackie Collins: Yes, I really hope so. I have a direct to DVD premiere movie coming out soon called Paris Connections. It features one of my characters, Madison Castelli, from "Lethal Seduction" and "Deadly Embrace."

Booking Mama: I loved so many of the characters in this book (even the "bad" ones.) Is there any chance that we'll see more of these characters in a future novel?

Jackie Collins: Definitely. My next book "Goddess of Vengeance" will feature Lucky, her hot son Bobby, and my new fave character, Denver Jones. I'm also thinking of bringing Frankie and Annabelle back.

Booking Mama: And that leads me to my next question. What's next for you? What are you currently working on?

Jackie Collins: A fun play called "Jackie Collins - Hollywood Lies," a photo book, my new novel, my autobiography, and the Lucky Santangelo cookbook. Other than that I'm just sitting around doing nothing!

Photo credit: Greg Gorman

A huge thanks to Ms. Collins for taking time from her very busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.

Giveaway Alert: I am so excited that I have a copy of POOR LITTLE BITCH GIRL to giveaway to one lucky reader. To enter, all you have to do is tell me why you want to win this book! Please leave a valid email address with your comment. This giveaway will be open until Monday, May 3rd at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you in the US only. Good luck!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Announcing the 2010 EW Summer Books Challenge

I am a huge fan of the magazine Entertainment Weekly, and I especially enjoy their write-ups on books. When I receive my copy every Friday, the first thing I do flip to their book recommendations and see what they have to say about the new releases. I won't say that I agree with them 100% of the time, but I definitely find myself agreeing more often than not.

So a few days ago (thanks to a few fellow book bloggers), I saw their on-line slide show of EW's 18 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Summer. Of course, I immediately wanted to read many (if not most) of them. And then I thought "why not see who else wants to read some of them over the summer?" One thing led to another, and I decided to set up a very informal challenge!

I'm probably one of the worst people to be starting another challenge because I'm not doing a great job with the ones I've currently signed up for. And, I pretty much know that I'm not going to read all 18 of the books, but.....I just couldn't help myself.

Here's EW's list of the summer's must-reads:

THIS BODY OF DEATH by Elizabeth George (April 20)

by Roopa Farooki (April 27)

GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok (April 29)

by Julie Orringer (May 4)

by Nathaniel Philbrick (May 4)


by Sebastian Junger (May 11)


by Aimee Bender (June 1)

by Stephenie Meyer (June 5)

by Justin Cronin (June 8)

by Michael Koryta (June 9)

by Allegra Goodman (July 6)

LUCY by Laurence Gonzales (July 13)

RED HOOK ROAD by Ayelet Waldman (July 13)

I CURSE THE RIVER OF TIME by Per Pettersson (August 3)

YOU LOST ME THERE by Rosecrans Baldwin (August 12)

by Suzanne Collins (August 24)

Since I want this to be fun and stress-free (just like a summer vacation!), I've decided to include lots of levels, and the first one only challenges you to read one book -- how easy is that? (And I know almost every one of you will be reading MOCKINGJAY before the summer ends.) The names of levels might look familiar to you. Remember those swimming lessons you took at the YMCA when you were a kid?


1-3 Books: Polliwog
4-6 Books: Guppy
7-9 Books: Minnow
10-12 Books: Fish
13-15 Books: Flying Fish
16-18 Books: Shark


The 2010 EW Summer Books Challenge will run from May 1, 2010 through September 6, 2010 (Labor Day). I know summer doesn't officially start until June, but I figure it's always a good idea to get a jump-start on the fun! To join me in this challenge, all you need to do pick your level of participation (you can always go up levels, but not down.) Then after you read a book, just write a review to share your thoughts with others!

Sign Up:

You can join this challenge at any time during this summer. All you have to do is grab the challenge button at the top of this page and write a post announcing your participation in the challenge -- remember you don't need to pick the specific books, just your level. Once you have posted your 2010 EW Summer Books challenge post, come back to this post and click on Mr. Linky. Please leave your name and link directly to your introductory post (not just to your blog’s home page.) If you don’t have a blog, no worries -- you can just leave a comment on this post telling me you want to participate.

On May 1st, 2010 I will place a 2010 EW Summer Books Challenge button in the upper right hand corner of my blog. When you click on this button, you will see a post where all the participants are listed as well as the links to the reviews.

I haven't worked out all of the prize details yet, but I promise that there will be some prizes. I do know that your chances of winning will increase with each review you write. In other words, your name will be thrown in the hat each time you post a review.

I'm asking you to check out the list of books and see if a few don't interest you. Then, I'm really hoping that you'll decide to join me for some fun summer reading!

And remember how I said that I'm not doing so well on a lot of my challenges? I'm only going to sign up for the Guppy Level -- 4-6 books -- I'd hate to not complete my own challenge!