Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Release: The Girl He Knows by Kristi Rose

Hey Coffee Addicts!

I'm a little late (more like a lot late) getting around to this due to illness and work stress, but I'm really excited about this book so I knew I wanted to get it posted.

A couple weeks ago, my friends at Jen Halligan PR sent me the synopsis of The Girl He Knows  by Kristi Rose. It was released on August 18th (see? Really late) by Lyrical Press. You can see more about the book and Kristi Rose's book tour on JenHalliganPR.com. Expect a review from me soon.

“Sweet Jesus,” I whisper. Panic seizes me as I glance to my left. Lying next to me is my best friend’s older brother, Hank. I've known Gigi and Hank my entire life. This is her childhood bedroom, now a converted guest room, and the voice on the other side of the thin door is their mother, Ms. Becky. I’d rather face all of hell’s demons than have her find me here, in her guest bed, naked, with Hank.
Waking up naked next to a good looking man is not a bad way to start the day. Especially since Paisley missed all those opportunities in college, when she was too busy supporting her no good, thankfully now, ex-husband. The problem? This hottie is Hank, her best friend’s older brother, a guy she’s known her entire life.

Stopping after one night is the right thing to do. Being with him clearly breaks the best friend code, and from his career as a Naval officer to his Boy Scout reputation, everything about him screams monogamy and commitment. Two things Paisley has had enough of.

When Hank presents a “no strings attached” offer, it’s too good to be true. She can enjoy him while still embracing being single. But, poor choices force her to confront old fears of love and loss, and Paisley has to decide if Hank is worth the risk. The alternative is never experiencing the real deal. Or far worse, settling for less.

About Kristi Rose

Kristi Rose was raised in central Florida on boiled peanuts and iced tea. She’s lived by an active volcano, almost fallen off a mountain, and was married in Arkansas by a J.O.P in flip flops named Earl. Today, as a proud military wife and mother of two, she’s been lucky enough to travel the world. No matter where she is, she enjoys watching people and wondering what’s their story? That’s what Kristi likes to write about: everyday people, the love that brings them together, and their journey getting there. Kristi is a member of RWA. You can follow Kristi at www.kristirose.net, like her Facebook page: Kristi Rose, or send her a tweet @krosewrites. The Girl He Knows is her debut novel.
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review: Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney (feat. Grethen Wieners)

"I've been single for my entire life. Not one boyfriend. Not one short-term dating situation. Not one person with whom I regularly hung out and kissed on the face."
So begins Katie Heaney's memoir of her years spent looking for love, but never quite finding it. By age 25, equipped with a college degree, a load of friends, and a happy family life, she still has never had a boyfriend ... and she's barely even been on a second date.
Throughout this laugh-out-loud funny book, you will meet Katie's loyal group of girlfriends, including flirtatious and outgoing Rylee, the wild child to Katie's shrinking violet, as well as a whole roster of Katie's ill-fated crushes. And you will get to know Katie herself -- a smart, modern heroine relaying truths about everything from the subtleties of a Facebook message exchange to the fact that "Everybody who works in a coffee shop is at least a little bit hot."
Funny, relatable, and inspiring, this is a memoir for anyone who has ever struggled to find love, but has also had a lot of fun in the process. 

I first came across this book on one of my Twitter browsing adventures looking for news to pass on. I came across a tweet by Grand Central Publishing to announce the publication of a new book called Never Have I Ever. We all know or have played this infamous drinking game. It piqued my interest. As soon as I read the premise, I knew I had to read this book, and I was not disappointed.

According to Katie Heaney, author of the book Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date, there are two types of dating personalities: the lighthouse and the Bermuda Triangle.

A lighthouse is a person who other people are inexplicably drawn to. They emit a light that draws people toward them, like the Greek sirens beckoning sailors to shore and into their waiting arms. (Albeit, this is not the function of an actual lighthouse, but work with her, okay?) Lighthouses are rarely, if ever, single, and even when they are a gaggle of sailors is waiting in the wings for the chance to come ashore. My brother, for
instance, is a lighthouse. From high school onward, seeing my brother single was like witnessing a solar eclipse. Intriguing and fleeting. Whenever one of his long-term relationships ended, nary would he take a breath before he was diving into another. I was both envious of his ability to bounce back after each break up and awed by this infinite capacity to love others. (I am happy to say sorry, ladies, he's engaged to a wonderful woman. His light is off.)

On the other end of the spectrum is the Bermuda Triangle. In the words of Katie Heaney, "the Bermuda Triangle is so far from sailors' minds that it is even really on the map." The Bermuda Triangle doesn't push sailors away or try to capsize their ships, and it may be a great place once you're there. You may even want to get lost in it. The trouble with the Bermuda Triangle is that so few sailors cruise it's way that it doesn't know how to react when one does. It gets nervous, spills something, tells a joke nobody gets, comes on to strong with its wave action, and ultimately ends up with a shipwreck or two.

I, much like Katie, am a Bermuda Triangle.

I think that's one of the reasons I related so much to this book. It felt like many of Katie's anecdotes could be torn out of my own diaries. I could relate to her experience finding her way through high school, navigating the different cliques and social circles, searching for a best friend. Unlike Miss Heaney, I did have one "boyfriend" in high school, though I sometimes doubt I could call him that, and have not had a relationship since. But our college experiences were nearly identical. I could see myself making many of the same dating mistakes Katie made. Not only could I see it, I've done it. I've though a guy was interested in me only to find out he started seeing someone else. I've sought advice from all of my friends on how to send a text that exuded confidence and interest but was still casual and aloof. I've drunkenly made out with a stranger at a party just to prove I could. Most importantly, much like our author, I was and am perpetually single. And I completely understand her hesitation to jump into a relationship just for the sake of having one.

For Katie Heaney, dating is just not a priority. Instead, she finds great pleasure in cultivating and nurturing her friendships. The most prevalent of these friends is her friend Riley. At first, I couldn't understand why they were friends, but I started seeing a lot of the same traits that Riley has in my own friend. I think we all have that one friend that is the complete opposite of ourselves and that we would never let go for the world. For Katie, that's Riley. This relationship is by far the most important in the entire book, and I would definitely read a buddy memoir just about their antics together.

The most important thing to understand about Never Have I Ever is that despite the depiction that Katie is clueless about dating and socializing with the opposite sex, she is actually pretty together and she does get it. Sure dating is great, but it doesn't have to command your life. In this society where sex is everywhere, but women are further scrutinized for embracing their sexuality, books like this one help us to explore women's freedom to choose their own sexual identity. I highly recommend this one.

Overall rating: 5 espresso shots!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Early Review: Melt by Selene Castrovilla

MELT is a brutal love story, set against the backdrop of The Wizard of Oz. Sixteen year old “good girl” Dorothy just blew into the small town of Highland Park – where the social headquarters is Munchkinland (Dunkin’ Donuts.) There, she meets Joey – a “bad boy” who tells no one about the catastrophic domestic violence he witnesses at home. Can these two lovers survive peer pressure, Joey’s reputation, and his alcoholism? And then there’s his family's secret – about to be unleashed. 
Told in dual first person, Joey's words are scattered on the page - reflecting his broken state. Dorothy is the voice of reason - until something so shattering happens that she, too, may lose her grip. Can their love endure, or will it melt away? 
MELT is based on true events. It is both a chilling tale of abuse, and a timeless romance. It will hit you like a punch in the face, and also seep through the cracks in your soul.

Before I begin this review, let me preface by saying that I read an advanced unedited copy of Melt so many of my comments on the book should be taken with a grain of salt. It is possible that the particular issues I had with the book have been worked out for the finished novel.

I really liked the premise of this book going into it. A book with The Wizard of Oz as its backdrop? A book about love enduring domestic violence, alcoholism, and all those all-too-real challenges? Yes, please. In my opinion, there are far too many books that shy away from tough topics like this, and I truly commend Selene Castrovilla for taking on the task. She certainly has a gift for engaging readers. The scenes where she tackles the domestic violence issue are gripping.

I liked Castrovilla's decision to tell the story from both Dorothy and Joey's alternating perspectives. It was an interesting choice to write Joey's side of the story as poetry. It worked for his frame of mind, though it was sometimes inconsistent (which I guess was the point, so good job). I also had an issue with Joey's voice in his chapters not being consistent with his voice in Dorothy's chapters.  I'm not an expert, but I don't think your voice changes that much between your speech and your thoughts, and his speech was much more eloquent. His voice in his chapters seemed, for lack of a better word, ghettoized. More on this in a minute.

However, I have to admit this book left me wanting. It just didn't live up to my expectations.

1. I came into this book expecting a lot more of The Wizard of Oz to be involved. All I really got was a comment about Dorothy's name, a lot of use of the word melt, and a reference to Dunkin' Donuts as "Munchkinland." Oh, and quotes from the book at the beginning of section, or "parts" of the book. I don't see how this book was "set against the backdrop of The Wizard of Oz," because it wasn't. The references just seemed hollow, unnecessary, and distracting from the story.

2. The relationship between Dorothy and Joey was cliche. She's the rich new girl in town, he's the bad boy from the other side of the tracks (literally). They fall instantly in love over croissants and jelly donuts (which he uses as a metaphor for himself), and have a magical love current that moves between them when they touch. I had hoped this magical love touch would manifest itself in some Wizard of Oz alternate universe reincarnation type scenario, but nothing came of it. Word to all authors, PLEASE, stop with the Insta-love thing. It's not realistic.

3. Not only was the relationship cliche, it was pretty shallow. The characters, especially Joey, had depth, but it never really showed through in the narrative. The story just seemed to lack in character development.

As I said above, please take these comments with a grain of salt. I did read an unedited copy, and I'm sure many of these problems have been or will be resolved. And I promise that I will update this review after the book is released on... November 6! Give this book a shot (or a double). It has potential, so I'm giving it 3 espresso shots.

Thanks to Jen Halligan and the staff at JHPR for sending me the ARC for Melt

Have a great weekend!

Overall Rating: 3 espresso shots

Enter for a chance to win a copy of Melt

One winner will receive a signed ARC of MELT and $25 Amazon or B&N gift card (US/CA only). Three winners will receive an ebook copy (international).
***Any contestant that uses dummy or contest only accounts to enter will be disqualified.***
Enter HERE

About Selene Castrovilla

Selene Castrovilla is an award-winning teen and children’s author who believes that through all trends, humanity remains at the core of literature. She is the author of Saved By the Music and The Girl Next Door, teen novels originally published by WestSide Books and now available digitally through ASD Publishing. Her third children’s book with Calkins Creek Books, Revolutionary Friends, was released in April 2013. She is also a contributing author to UncommonYA. Selene holds an MFA in creative writing from New School University and a BA in English from New York University. She lives on Long Island with her two sons. Visit her
website www.SeleneCastrovilla.com for book excerpts and more information!

Updates! (Back on the Habit)

Hello readers and coffee addicts!

Sorry I've been away for a while. I promise it was for good reason.

I am hopping back on the cafeholic bandwagon with a bang. I have a lot of stuff coming up, including an ARC review for Melt by Selene Castrovilla which will be posted TOMORROW for Melt's early review blog tour. I hope to post a eulogy for a certain one-legged heartthrob of the TFIOS persuasion in the coming days (LONG OVERDUE, I know. I just saw the movie last week, and now I am pumped to get that posted.

I also have a review of Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney that I've been working on, plus additional discussion on sexual identity in books and my feels about erotica as a genre.

All of this and more should be posted in the next week or so. So please keep an eye out, and I will see you cafeholics later!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The New Voices of 2013

Explore the New Voices of 2013

Library Lines
September 5, 2013

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a month-long education program about the publishing industry in Denver, CO. I learned about the editing process, how to market books, and just how precarious the industry can be, especially for new unknown writers. In most instances, marketing and word-of-mouth among voracious readers decide whether a new author's book will be successful and whether the author's next book will see the light of day.

On the third day of the the program, we sat in the sauna of a classroom; our necks craned left or right to listen to our next presenter. He was Peter Heller, one such writer whose first novel The Dog Stars was published in 2012 to a swell of good reviews and became a national bestseller. We sat in our rows of desksour jaws slack and our eyes wide, and we hung on his every word as he told us the adventurous tale of how he became a writer and about the editorial process for The Dog Stars. In the case of the charismatic Heller, word-of-mouth and glowing reviews helped sell thousands of copies of his books, but not all books are so lucky.

With the growing number of books published each year, including those that are self-published, we are overwhelmed by the number of options. This often leads us to retreat to our Old Faithfuls, the authors we return to over and over because we already love their stories, characters, or writing styles, and are less inclined to take a chance on an unfamiliar voice.

I have a challenge for you this month: I challenge you to read a book by a new author published within the last year. Experiment with a voice outside your comfort zone or try an unconventional story you wouldn't read normally. Then pass it on to your friends. To help in your search, here is our list of the top six debut novels of 2013:

The Fields by Kevin Maher
A brilliant debut by a remarkable new voice in Irish fiction, Maher immediately hits a comic stride in his novel about a 13-year-old boy who sinks into trouble as he learns how to be a man. A story of first love, first loss, astral healing, multiple worlds theory, cancer, family dynamics, and Bronski Beat, The Fields will have you laughing out loud as you race through the pages to the satisfying end.

The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown
In an idyllic Connecticut community, secrets are commonplace. For Sadie Watkins, they define her life. What happened that summer so many years ago that changed everything? In this debut psychological suspense novel, Karen Brown expertly weaves past and present to unravel mysteries of mother/daughter relationships, missing girls, adultery, and the nuances of growing up. (Review coming soon)

Tampa by Alissa Nutting
A story ripped from the headlines (Debra Lafave, 2005), Nutting's novel explores the psyche of Celeste Price, a middle school teacher who elicits an affair with a 14-year-old student. Unapologetic and insatiable, Celeste acts as a prism for us to view our societal views of female teacher-male student relations. Nutting skillfully raises questions about our values and leaves the reader wondering how we might answer them.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
At age 10, Alex Woods had the misfortune of being struck by a meteorite. He survives, but is irreparably scarred. Now, at age 17, he finds himself hiding from bullies in the curmudgeonly Mr. Peterson's garden. The Universe Versus Alex Woods draws you in as Alex and Mr. Peterson explore the fundamentals of human rights, the tragedy of everyday living, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut, and the intricate networks the connect our world. If you enjoy unique experiences, this is a must read.

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley
When a tragic fall puts Dr. Matt Beaulieu's wife on life support, Matt reluctantly agrees to let her go, knowing it was her wish that he not prolong her life. That is, until he and her doctors discover she's pregnant. Now he must decide whether to do as his wife wished or keep her alive to save the child they both longed for. Sibley writes with grace, sensitivity, and compassion in this emotionally resonant and thought-provoking tale about life and death, faith and medicine, and illuminates the power of love to divide and heal a family in the wake of an unexpected tragedy. This book will stay with you long after the last page is read.

The Ghost Bride by Yangze Choo
Both a love story and a ghost story, The Ghost Bride fuses Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and dreamlike twists to tell the story of Li Lan, a young woman wedded into one of China's most esteemed families. The catch is her husband is already dead. Each night, Li is drawn into the dark realm of the Chinese afterlife, navigating both the land of the dead and the territory of her own heart. Fans of Lisa See and Amy Tan will be captivated by this new startling, original voice.

C.S. Lewis once said, "Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become." New authors enrich our literature with new perspectives on human nature and society, new ways to understand our desires, instincts, and reactions to circumstances. Treat yourself to a new flavor, the way you travel to a new exotic location or taste a spicy new dish you always wanted to try, all from the comfort of your favorite recliner. And remember to pass it on.

To round out the Top Ten, check out:

For more on my adventures at the publishing program in Denver, check out followtheminion.blogspot.com

Friday, August 30, 2013

Why We Love Superheroes

Summer is for Superheroes
Library Lines 7/21/13

What is your favorite part of summer? Is it savoring the last minutes of the sun at the end of a great beach day? Is it the smell of the rain as the latest named hurricane swirls its path across the state? Or maybe it’s the feel of heat against your skin as you flip burgers on your Weber grill at the 4th of July barbeque? My favorite part of summer is the movies. What is better than getting out of the sweltering heat for two hours to sit in a cool theater enjoying a movie and buttery popcorn with friends? I know summer is at its peak when my movie views are as high as the temperature on the thermometer.
            My favorite of all is seeing the newest superhero movies. When I first saw the ad for the new Man of Steel movie, I think my fangirl squeal could be heard from two houses away. There is just something about superheroes, no matter how many times the story has been told, that makes people flock to them like zombies to brains. Which made me wonder: Why do we continue to love superheroes? What is it that makes them remain relevant across generations and eras?
That's why.
            To find the answers, I began browsing through Sebring Public Library’s collection of graphic novels and comic book guides and discussing them with fellow superhero-loving friends. Holy spandex, Batman! What I discovered was a treasure trove of mythology rivaling the Greeks mixed with artistic value rivaling an Andy Warhol original. From All-Star Superman to The Essential Wolverine, every square was intricate in its use of bold color, the contrast of light and dark, and nuanced evocation of emotion—and brimming with more action than a James Patterson novel. Graphic novels prove their artistry can stand up to the great pop artists while telling a riveting story.           
            But any comic book nerd can tell you that superheroes are more than beautiful, graphic pictures and word bubbles on a page. The true magic of superheroes lies in their symbolism. In a huge way, superheroes are to us what Hercules and Odysseus were to the Greeks. In a world where bad things happen, sometimes with no logical explanation, we long for a world where everything is black and white, good and evil, with no shades of grey in between. So we create stories that explain why bad things happen and we create a hero that can slay the evil in our lives. The Greeks and Romans had them, as did the Norse, and the Egyptians.
Norse never looked so good...
            As with the Greek myths, a superhero gives us someone to look up to and inspire us to be better. We can see this in every origin story: a superhero is faced with a life-altering experience we can relate to, whether it is a tragedy, destiny, or just sheer luck. The superhero finds meaning in the event, discovers his/her strengths, and chooses to use them for the greater good. They show us how we can aspire to greatness, if we can only find a catalyst to push us in that direction.
            Some may argue that comic books, specifically superhero comics, are static; never changing and overly simplified. However, I would argue, and I’m sure other comic enthusiasts would agree, that superheroes are not static, but traditional. Unlike action heroes, they don’t represent the age in which they are created (i.e. James Bond represents the agent of the Cold War era and Jason Bourne represents the digital age). Superheroes are symbols of a more resonant and prolonged struggle: the interior battle of humanity, the battle of good and evil. And each superhero has an individual ambition he/she aspires to protect: Superman stands for truth and is a symbol of hope. Batman stands for justice. Green Lantern represent will, whereas as a Red Lantern represents rage and Yellow Lanterns represents fear. Superheroes amplify the best and worst qualities of the human experience, and therefore resonate with readers on a deeper level than the artificiality of action heroes.

The reason superheroes remain relevant and will stay relevant is basic human psychology: we need heroes. We need someone to look up to. We need someone to show us that human decency and justice still exist, that hope is alive in a world going to the dogs, and that good can, and will, triumph over evil.
So even when we’ve seen Peter Parker get bitten by a radioactive spider more times than we can count, or seen Krypton blown to smithereens as Clark’s ship sails into the dark oblivion, there will always be someone to tell the same story with fresh insight and a personal perspective. We all approach the story differently, therefore, we all find something unique to like about them, whether it is from an artistic, emotional, or entertainment value. I, personally, will see Man of Steel, because, aside from my love of comic book mythology, I can’t wait to see in which direction Christopher Nolan takes Superman’s tale.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book News: A Literary Merger

I still haven't quite decided how I feel about this news, especially since it was just broken today. It may be my biggest dream come true or my darkest nightmare come to life. It's hard to say right now, seeing as I don't know how everything is going to play out and what may develop. But here is what I know:

Two of the most popular book websites online are getting married.

From Publisher's Weekly
Amazon has acquired Goodreads.com, a Web site featuring user-generated reviews of books. The purchase comes amid mounting rumors that Goodreads, which CEO Otis Chandler launched in 2007, might start selling books directly from its site. 
Goodreads, which is one of the most popular among a raft of sites created as a book recommendation engine--members are directed to titles by seeing what their friends are reading, or have recommended--does not currently sell any books, but many in the industry saw it as an ideal sales outlet.
The details of the sale were not disclosed, neither were the details of what will happen to Goodreads' format in the long-term, though it was mentioned that Goodreads would remain independently controlled. What I will admit is exciting about the merger is that Amazon's lists of self-published and international books will be more readily available to Goodreads users.
By joining the Amazon family, the Goodreads team will be able to invest more in the things that our members care about. We’ll also be working together on inventing new services for readers and authors. As part of this, we’ll be increasing the size of our team over time, and will be able to add lots of great new features that members and librarians will be excited about!
I can’t make this clear enough – we plan to continue growing Goodreads and investing in making it a great community for librarians, and everyone else.
We said in our blog post that our team gets out of bed every day motivated by the belief that the right book in the right hands can change the world. Now Goodreads can help make that happen in an even bigger and more meaningful way as part of the Amazon family. 
Like I said, I'm not sure how to feel about this union, but I guess I'll have to live with it one way or the other. I'll never give up my Goodreads! But, still...

For the full story, Click Here. Until later! Have a good weekend everyone!