July 26, 2011

Book Review: THE BIOGRAPH GIRL by William J. Mann

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Grab your seat for a wild roller-coaster ride through the 20th century, led by a sassy, chain-smoking 107-year-old actress named Florence Lawrence. From her vaudeville childhood as "Baby Flo, The Child Wonder Whistler" to the snowy Bronx backlot where she shot her first motion picture, the lovely Florence Lawrence commanded - and demanded - attention. By 1910, she was the legendary, enigmatic Biograph Girl, hounded by shrieking fans and blinding flashbulbs - the world's very first movie star.

Yet, inevitably, the rabid interest in her faded - far too soon for a girl whose true identity had been lost amidst the glamorous trappings of Hollywood's glowing dawn. Reduced to MGM walk-on roles, a bedraggled, forgotten Florence Lawrence finally ended her life in 1038 with a lethal ingestion of ant paste.or did she?

Sixty years later, the fiercely competitive Sheelan twin brothers, Richard and Ben, discover a feisty, mysterious old lady named Flo Bridgewood telling tales of the McKinley assassination and the sinking of the Titanic. The twins share little more in common than identical features and a burning ambition to succeed. Muscular golden boy Richard is a gay journalist with too many credit cards and an unproduced screenplay in his drawer. Rebellious Ben is a notorious womanizer and independent filmmaker be his ticket to fame. Neither suspects that chance meeting is about to launch them into a mystery-shrouded journey that spans not just an entire century, but one woman's remarkable life - and supposed death.

But what of the girl they buried in 1938, whom the Beverly Hills Hospital identified as Florence Lawrence? What was Flo's connection to her death? The questions begin to mount. How - and why - did Flo stage her own death sixty years before? What other secrets does The Biograph Girl hold - and will her current turn in the spotlight end with the same kind of tragedy as the last?

The Biograph Girl is truly a chronicle of the 20th century - a sweeping epic packed with history, wisdom, humor, passion, and the golden age of movies

Let me get right to the point.  The Biograph Girl was a delight to read.  I loved it from the first page to the last.  Of course the subject matter was right up my alley - - - classic Hollywood (the 1910s and 1920s are the bulk of the flashback story here), glamorous ladies, fashions, fashions, fashions, the movies and a mystery.  How can you possibly go wrong?
 
Author William J. Mann, who also penned the sharp nonfiction biography Wisecracker, simply does not.  He nails the character of Florence Lawrence, who was indeed the world's first movie star, and events from her actual life - - including her unusual death in 1938 from ant paste - - and manages to create a solid, entertaining and historically accurate book. 
 
I loved the character of Florence, especially Florence as a 107 year old wisecracking and smoking lady who still has a razor sharp mind and the guts to speak it.  I could easily envision her, painted fingernails, caftan and all.  Mr. Mann created a wonderful character and it did give me pause to think if the real Florence Lawrence had lived, would she have been the delightfully acerbic centenarian that he penned?  
 
The side story of brothers Richard and Ben were almost filler to me, as I adored Flo so much.  They had an interesting background and it made for a good plot point but I was always happy to get back to Flo current day and Flo in the past.  
 
I really enjoyed the "what if" nature of The Biograph Girl and the fascinating turn of events that Mr. Mann spun in order to allow Florence Lawrence, the movie star, to die and Flo Bridgewood to live.  Since urban legend and suppositions have been spun for years about many public figures and celebrities (Garbo, Elvis, Jim Morrison, even Jimmy Hoffa) it's a unique take on the public's fascination with escaping and/or faking death. 
 
The Biograph Girl isn't an official biography, although it does detail many real life events and aspects of Florence Lawrence's life, including her background, rise to fame and her marriages, as well as her topple from stardom.  If nothing else, Mr. Mann's book gives a voice to the real Florence Lawrence and allows a new generation to understand why she exploded into stardom and, just as quickly, fell from Hollywood's graces.  
 
For readers who obsess over Hollywood as much as I do, as well as readers who enjoy historical fiction (and even a good mystery thrown in), I would not hesitate to recommend The Biograph Girl.  It's the type of book that will keep you flipping the pages, guessing what will happen next and keep you up at night.  A real winner.
 
The Biograph Girl is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.
 
FTC Disclosure: This book was borrowed from my local public library. I was neither compensated nor paid in any way for this review.
 

The real Florence Lawrence
 
 


 
 
 


 

July 25, 2011

Book Review: THE LIFE AND LOVES OF A SHE DEVIL by Fay Weldon

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  This is not a book for everyone, but its admirers are vigorously enthusiastic. For example:
Rhoda Koenig in New York Magazine, who calls it ". . . a novel of blazingly hot revenge, one that amply illustrates the saying about heaven having no rage like love turned to hate, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." 
Or Rosalyn Drexler, who said on the front page of The New York Times Book Review, "It affords a scintillating, mindboggling, vicarious thrill for any reader who has ever fantasized dishing out retribution for one wrong or another."
Or Carol E. Rinzler, who wrote on The Washington Post Book World's front page, ". . . what makes this a powerfully funny and oddly powerful book is the energy of the language and of the intellect that conceived it, an energy that vibrates off the pages and that makes SHE-DEVIL as exceptional a book in the remembering as in the reading . . . . a small, mad masterpiece."



I picked up this book from my local library thinking it would be the literary equivalent of the 1989 movie with Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr.  I love the movie with inexcusable glee - - it's a guilty pleasure, the revenge is wonderfully satisfying and Meryl Streep is incredible, as always.  Unfortunately I was sorely mistaken.

First, the book is quite different from the movie.  Or perhaps I should say that the movie is quite different from the book, since the book came first.  I felt sympathy for the movie version of Ruth.  She was unattractive (although not the towering giant as portrayed in the book) and put upon by her husband, who had absolutely no problem being unfaithful.  Despite destroying her husband's life one calculated step at a time, you still want movie Ruth to succeed and best not only cheating Bob but also the annoyingly pink romance author Mary Fisher who embarks on an affair with Bob.  

Not so with the literary Ruth, who comes across as cold, uncaring and almost sociopathic.  In other words, completely unsympathetic.  Her actions felt extreme, to say the least, from the destruction of the family home, leaving a pet inside, to abandoning her children to the care of their cheating father and his mistress, who was hardly maternal, to her almost casual and callous attitude toward sex post-split.  I felt absolutely no bond or connection with her whatsoever, nor did I understand what drove her.  

The plot could have been a fantastic one - - betrayed wife seeks revenge.  It could have been a serious book or a tongue-in-cheek, campy styled one.  Either would have worked but The Life and Loves of a She Devil doesn't seem to know which direction it should take - - serious cautionary tale or humorous tale of love gone wrong?   Not knowing what direction to take left me, as the reader, in the same state of confusion.

I expected that The Life and Loves of a She Devil would be humorous, witty and cutting.  It was certainly cutting but the wit and humor was lacking.  Scenes that were funny in the movie came across flat out mean in the book (if they were included in the book).  For me, I simply did not enjoy reading about Ruth, who was allegedly symbolizing the liberated and independent female of the age (late 70s/early 80s), acting more like a felon than a strong woman.  By the end of the book, I simply didn't like her.

Had I not seen She Devil and adored the movie for its late 80s overblown silliness, I likely would not have finished the book.  The first chapter drew me in but I quickly lost interest.  I persevered and finished the book but only because I continued to hope that the story would improve.  

I personally did not care for the book and would not recommend it.  If you are looking for a wife's revenge tale, The First Wives Club might be a better choice.  However, I would not hesitate to recommend She Devil for its guilty pleasure and the always impressive Meryl Streep. 

FTC Disclosure: This book was borrowed from my local public library. I was neither compensated nor paid in any way for this review.

From the 1989 She Devil:

MAILBOX MONDAY: July 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books is hosting during the month of July.

Here are the goodies I received last week:



Voices from the Tomb: A Short Story Collection by James Hagerty (received from the author for review)

SYNOPSIS:  Rattling skeletons or real blood-and-flesh beings…the reader is asked to choose, form a judgment. Eight stories of misfits—four male, four female—driven to the edge by loneliness. The stories court the horror genre, but are much more. They are existential in that the characters ask, like Hamlet, “To be or not to be.” Theobald Titus, a concert violinist, lusts after adolescent boys while married to a supportive, socialite wife. “Srebrenica” revisits the horror of Bosnia through the hazy memory of an expatriate portrait painter. Picacho del Diablo pits a conflicted college grad against a Baja California mountain. For a deformed and maladjusted accountant, permanent hooky from work leads to double murder. The tutor, Nicole, meets an “eligible” suitor with fish breath. Dil, an escapee from a mental institution, terrorizes a solitary widow who dreams of being a Rockette. The last story, a novelette, dances a fine line between dreams and reality; the orderly unfolding of time and its disintegration. This fragmenting, while fearsome, hints at a higher cohesion in the pageant of life.



To The Moon and Back by Jill Mansell (received from Sourcebooks for review)

SYNOPSIS:  Hiding from her past, Ellie is looking for a fresh start. But then an old friend tracks her down, forcing her to face what she has been trying so hard to escape. Meanwhile her boss Zack seems to have it all, everything except the woman he loves.











Mr. Darcy's Undoing by Abigail Reynolds (received from Sourcebooks for review)

SYNOPSIS:  A passionate new Pride and Prejudice variation explores the unthinkable-Elizabeth accepts the proposal of a childhood friend before she meets Darcy again. When their paths cross, the devastated Mr. Darcy must decide how far he'll go to win the woman he loves. How can a man who prides himself on his honor ask the woman he loves to do something scandalous? And how can Elizabeth accept a loveless marriage when Mr. Darcy holds the key to her heart? As they confront family opposition and the ill-will of scandal-mongers, will Elizabeth prove to be Mr. Darcy's undoing?



Mr. Darcy's Bite by Mary Lydon Simonsen (received from Sourcebooks for review)

SYNOPSIS:  In the tradition of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange (35,000 copies sold) this fresh, original paranormal Jane Austen sequel by bestselling author Mary Lydon Simonson explores Mr. Darcy as the leader of a secret world of werewolves threatened with extinction.

Elizabeth comes to realize that she loves him in both his incarnations, and all his servants protect his secret. But then Elizabeth must confront a shocking danger to her beloved with every full moon, when Darcy is alone and exposed to those who hate wolves...





The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley (received from Sourcebooks for review)

SYNOPSIS:  When Eva's film star sister Katrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Cornwall, where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Katrina's ashes and in doing so return her to the place where she belongs. But Eva must also confront the ghosts from her own past, as well as those from a time long before her own. For the house where she so often stayed as a child is home not only to her old friends the Halletts, but also to the people who had lived there in the eighteenth century. When Eva finally accepts that she is able to slip between centuries and see and talk to the inhabitants from hundreds of years ago, she soon finds herself falling for Daniel Butler, a man who lived - and died - long before she herself was born. Eva begins to question her place in the present, and in laying her sister to rest, comes to realise that she too must decide where she really belongs, choosing between the life she knows and the past she feels so drawn towards.


A great book week, don't you think? 

What goodies arrived in your mailbox this week?



July 19, 2011

Book Review: A WEEKEND WITH MR. DARCY by Victoria Connelly

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Full of characters obsessed with Jane Austen and set in Jane Austen locations in England, this lively modern Jane Austen romantic comedy trilogy features two pairs of lonely hearts who find each other and themselves at a Jane Austen Addicts weekend.

Dr. Katherine Roberts is a Jane Austen lecturer at St Bridget's College, Oxford, who secretly loves the racy Regency novels of Lorna Warwick. But Lorna is really a man who's slowly been falling in love with Katherine. He's hoping that the Jane Austen Addicts weekend will be the perfect opportunity to declare his feelings...





Jane Austen fans, rejoice!  Here is another entry into the healthy genre of Austen inspired sequels and this one is a solid winner.   Author Victoria Connelly takes real life Austen addicts, with Austen inspired weekends and tours, and uses that to base her clever, romantic and intriguing A Weekend With Mr. Darcy around.

While I have a deepening love and obsession with all things Jane, and I do adore the Austen inspired works and variations that take place in the Regency era, I also have a healthy affection for those books set in contemporary times as well.  In the penmanship of Laurie Viera Rigler and Shannon Hale, Ms. Connelly does a praiseworthy job of satisfying Janeites as well as fans of the contemporary romance genre.

I loved reading of the Jane Austen Conference taking place in Hampshire, I loved reading of the events and the fictitous Purley Hall.  It made me desperate to be an attendee myself. 

The best part of A Weekend With Mr. Darcy were the characters and their accompanying stories.  While Katherine was intelligent and strong, I felt a particular kinship with Robyn and her fractured devotion to the immature Jace while fighting an attraction to the man-on-a-horse Dan.  Who couldn't love a hero of a man who is first introduced literally on horseback? 

By the same token, I liked Warwick.  I liked his personality, I liked his secretive nature; in short, I liked everything about him.  At first I thought Katherine was a little bit too uptight for him but I came around in short order. 

While A Weekend With Mr. Darcy is chock full of romance there are no scenes that would cause the more gentle reader to blush.  (There are one or two intimate scenes but they are written with the utmost decorum).  Neither is there objectionable language, although as viewers from the outside, we are treated to one or two persons under the influence who make for some genuine entertainment. 

I would not hesitate to recommend A Weekend with Mr. Darcy to any reader beloved of Jane Austen and/or Pride and Prejudice.  Despite the Mr. Darcy reference in the title, the book is really more of a love story for Jane Austen than the penultimate Austen hero. 

A Weekend with Mr Darcy is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission. 

For information on author Victoria Connelly, please visit her website

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

July 18, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY: July 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books is hosting during the month of July.

Here is the goody I received last week: 


Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in Rural France by Karen Wheeler (received from Sourcebooks for review)

SYNOPSIS:  In her mid-thirties Karen has it all: a career as a fashion editor, a handsome boyfriend, a fab flat in west London and an array of gorgeous shoes. But when her 'plus one' leaves, she wonders if there is more to life than high fashion. So, she hangs up her Manolos and waves goodbye to her city lifestyle, deciding to go it alone in a run-down house in rural Poitou-Charentes, western France. Once there, she encounters a host of new friends and unsuitable suitors, soon learning that true happiness can be found in the simplest of things - a bike ride through the countryside on a summer evening, or six glasses of Pinot in a neighbor's garden. If you've ever dreamed of chucking away your BlackBerry and down shifting, Tout Sweet is perfect summer reading. 

Tout Sweet sounds fabulous, doesn't it?  I am literally itching to get started on this one!

What goodies arrived in your mailbox this week? 

Book Review: MAKING IT IN HOLLYWOOD: WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO DO IT by Bryan Hidalgo and Gail O'Donnell


BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Learn the secrets of how to become a successful actor, screenwriter, director, or producer from the people who've made it—and are continuing to make it! Authors Bryan Hidalgo and Gail O'Donnell have interviewed more than 100 of today's top actors, screenwriters, directors, and producers—including Oscar and Emmy winners—who reveal, in their own words, how they started, how they work, how they got where they are today, and how you can get there too. The result is a truly inspirational compilation of interviews, with answers, encouragement and guidance straight from the horse's mouth. Discover where to start, what training to pursue, when to get an agent, how to be your best at auditions, and much more, from interviews with stars, creators, writers, directors, or producers of such hit TV shows as LOST, 24, HOUSE, THE SHIELD, SEX AND THE CITY, BREAKING BAD, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, HAWAII FIVE-O, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, GREY'S ANATOMY, CRIMINAL MINDS, SOUTHLAND, LAW AND ORDER: SVU, MEDIUM, CASTLE, ONE TREE HILL, BOSTON LEGAL, WITHOUT A TRACE, SONS OF ANARCHY, DEXTER, NIP/TUCK, MOONLIGHTING, X-FILES, and OZ, and motion pictures such as TWILIGHT, MARLEY & ME, HAIRSPRAY, PULP FICTION, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, STAR TREK, X-MEN, SERPICO, BACK TO THE FUTURE, SPIDER-MAN, JURASSIC PARK, MRS. DOUBTFIRE, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, FORREST GUMP, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, TRUE LIES, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, HAROLD & KUMAR, AUSTIN POWERS, EAT PRAY LOVE, AMERICAN BEAUTY, THE PROPOSAL, and FACE/OFF, among many others. Sit down with Hollywood's finest and let them help you start "Making It In Hollywood"! For each book sold, a portion of the authors' royalties is donated to Save The Children. Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. For more than 75 years, Save the Children has been helping children survive and thrive by improving their health, education and economic opportunities and, in times of acute crisis, mobilizing rapid lifesaving assistance to help children recover from the effects of war, conflict and natural disasters. For more information or to make a donation, visit savethechildren.org.

Making It In Hollywood is a must-have bible for the aspiring actor, screenwriter , director and/or producer.  If you have ever wondered how your favorite (or not so favorite) stars made it and what their thoughts are on auditioning, New York versus L.A., and the most challenging part of their career, authors Bryan Hidalgo and Gail O'Donnell have assembled a 624 page manual of success tips for you.

The book is assembled in sections for actors, screenwriters, directors and producers, with persons listed in alphabetical order.  The actors are asked the same group of questions geared specifically toward the acting field; the screenwriters posed questions directed toward writing, etc.  Their answers are varied and interesting.

I found that, in reading Making It In Hollywood,  I gained new respect for actors I had previously not thought much of.  Those I particularly enjoyed reading about, based on their answers, were Victor Garber, Tony Goldwyn, Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Meloni, to name but a few.  It was gratifying to read of how these successful actors suffer self esteem issues and fears of rejection, just like the rest of us.  I also appreciate the honesty of those who claim simple luck for their success, and that, plain and simple, the money for what they do is fantastic. 

I was also pleased that Leslie Dixon and Nora Ephron were included, as they are two writers that I greatly admire and whose work I enjoy (and in the case of Nora Ephron, a talented director as well).

For anyone who looks to make a career in the entertainment industry, or who merely enjoys reading about it, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Making It In Hollywood.   

Making It In Hollywood is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.  For each book sold, a portion of the authors' royalties will be donated to Save The Children. 

For information on authors Bryan Hidalgo and Gail O'Donnell, please visit this website.

Review copy of this book provided by the authors in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

July 17, 2011

SUMMER READ SATURDAY: July 17, 2011


Welcome to another installment of Summer Read Saturday, where we share a good summer beach read with other readers. Please join in by commenting on this post or sharing your own Summer Read Saturday post below. Grab the button above or on the left sidebar to share.

Here is what I am sharing from my beach bag this week:

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE BY J.K. ROWLING

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable. For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.


J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (and the entire Harry Potter series, in fact) epitomizes my Summer Read Saturday.  Why?  Because it's a series that grabs you from the first page of the first book, entertaining, light and fun, and it's a read for both adults and kids alike. 

Harry is a terrific hero, one that both kids and adults can relate (and aspire) to.  What kid (or adult as a kid) hasn't dreamed of coming out of his or her shell and sporting magical powers?  His journey from the Dursleys' home to Hogwarts is the literary equivalent of Disneyland - - a thrilling fantasy ride that is sure to satisfy. 

Harry Potter has enough wonderful qualities to allow and encourage multiple rereads - - another checked box in the "summer reads" category. 

As an added benefit, the movies are fantastic and readily available, making for a perfect counterpart to the book series.  The last Harry Potter movie in the series just opened this past weekend - - have you gone to see it?  And if so, what did you think? 

What is your summer read for this week? 

Giveaway Winners: FLASHBACK by Dan Simmons


And the lucky winners of a brand new copy each of Flashback by Dan Simmons are . . .







MarthaE

&

Nancy

Congratulations, ladies! I will be emailing both of you directly to get your mailing address for your new book.

A big THANK YOU to all who visited my blog and entered this giveaway. I do appreciate each one of you taking the time to visit and post here. I hope you all will stick around for future giveaways, reviews and interviews.

Thank you again to Anna Balasi, Hachette Book Group and Little, Brown and Company for making this giveaway possible.

Compliments to randomizer.org for selecting the lucky winners.

Happy reading!


July 11, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY: July 11, 2011


Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books is hosting during the month of July.

These are the goodies that I received over the last two weeks (since I missed my Mailbox Monday last week):

Making It In Hollywood: What To Do and How To Do It From More Than 100 of Today's Top Actors, Screenwriters, Directors and Producers by Bryan Hidalgo and Gail O'Donnell (received from the author for review and blog tour through Pump Up Your Book)

SYNOPSIS:  Learn the secrets of how to become a successful actor, screenwriter, director, or producer from the people who've made it—and are continuing to make it! Authors Bryan Hidalgo and Gail O'Donnell have interviewed more than 100 of today's top actors, screenwriters, directors, and producers—including Oscar and Emmy winners—who reveal, in their own words, how they started, how they work, how they got where they are today, and how you can get there too. The result is a truly inspirational compilation of interviews, with answers, encouragement and guidance straight from the horse's mouth. Discover where to start, what training to pursue, when to get an agent, how to be your best at auditions, and much more, from interviews with stars, creators, writers, directors, or producers of such hit TV shows as LOST, 24, HOUSE, THE SHIELD, SEX AND THE CITY, BREAKING BAD, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, HAWAII FIVE-O, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, GREY'S ANATOMY, CRIMINAL MINDS, SOUTHLAND, LAW AND ORDER: SVU, MEDIUM, CASTLE, ONE TREE HILL, BOSTON LEGAL, WITHOUT A TRACE, SONS OF ANARCHY, DEXTER, NIP/TUCK, MOONLIGHTING, X-FILES, and OZ, and motion pictures such as TWILIGHT, MARLEY & ME, HAIRSPRAY, PULP FICTION, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, STAR TREK, X-MEN, SERPICO, BACK TO THE FUTURE, SPIDER-MAN, JURASSIC PARK, MRS. DOUBTFIRE, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, FORREST GUMP, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, TRUE LIES, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, HAROLD & KUMAR, AUSTIN POWERS, EAT PRAY LOVE, AMERICAN BEAUTY, THE PROPOSAL, and FACE/OFF, among many others. Sit down with Hollywood's finest and let them help you start "Making It In Hollywood"! For each book sold, a portion of the authors' royalties is donated to Save The Children. Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. For more than 75 years, Save the Children has been helping children survive and thrive by improving their health, education and economic opportunities and, in times of acute crisis, mobilizing rapid lifesaving assistance to help children recover from the effects of war, conflict and natural disasters. For more information or to make a donation, visit savethechildren.org.

Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwell, received from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. for review

SYNOPSIS:   Forbidden relationships are the most tempting. And the most dangerous. 

It was a crime of passion-or so the police say. Valerie Solara has been charged with poisoning her best friend. The prosecution claims she's always been secretly attracted to Amanda's husband...and with Amanda gone, she planned to make her move. 

Attorney Izzy McNeil left the legal world a year ago, but a friend's request pulls her into the murder trial. Izzy knows how passion can turn your life upside down. She thought she had it once with her ex-fiance, Sam. Now she wonders if that's all she has in common with her criminally gorgeous younger boyfriend, Theo.

It's Izzy's job to present the facts that will exonerate her client-whether or not she's innocent. But when she suspects Valerie is hiding something, she begins investigating-and uncovers a web of secret passions and dark motives, where seemingly innocent relationships can prove poisonous...

What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?

July 9, 2011

SUMMER READ SATURDAY: July 9, 2011


Welcome to another installment of Summer Read Saturday, where we share a good summer beach read with other readers. Please join in by commenting on this post or sharing your own Summer Read Saturday post below. Grab the button above or on the left sidebar to share.

Here is what I am sharing from my beach bag this week:

DEATH ON THE NILE BY AGATHA CHRISTIE

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Hercule Poirot is perhaps Agatha Christie's most interesting and endearing character; short, round, and slightly comical, Poirot has a razor-sharp mind and puts unlimited trust in his "little grey cells." Those little cells come through for him every time, enabling Poirot to solve some of the most baffling mysteries ever conceived. In Death on the Nile, Poirot, on vacation in Africa, meets the rich, beautiful Linnet Doyle and her new husband, Simon. As usual, all is not as it seems between the newlyweds, and when Linnet is found murdered, Poirot must sort through a boatload of suspects to find the killer before he (or she) strikes again . . .






Let's face it - - choosing an Agatha Christie book is a bit of a cheat because you generally can't go wrong with a book by Ms. Christie.  Why did I choose Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile is one of my absolute favorite Christie reads - - it features the sly Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, a wonderful array of characters and the mystery is suspensful and very satisfying.  Murder victim Linnet Doyle is not wholly sympathetic; she has enemies that would enjoy seeing her dead, making the list of potential suspects a lengthy one.  In short, Death on the Nile is a classic Christie.

Dame Agatha is a good fit for all readers in that there is no objectionable language, no sex and, given that her mysteries revolve around murders, the books go very light on the violence.   It's a fascinating look at criminal detection pre-CSI, folks. 

As an added bonus, the 1978 movie featuring Peter Ustinov as Poirot, along with Bette Davis, Maggie Smith and Mia Farrow, is a feast.  The 1930s style fashions are to die for (literally!) and the stable of acting talent is impressive. 

I recommend pulling out the book poolside, enjoying an afternoon with Poirot and Christie, and then curling up that evening with a big bowl of popcorn or chips and seeing how well the 1978 movie follows the book (and, if you're me, fantasizing about those luscious gowns ladies of the 1930s got to wear). 

If you'd like to add Death on the Nile to your library, please shop at my Amazon store here.

What is your summer read for this week? 

July 7, 2011

Author Interview: Mary Lydon Simonsen


    I am happy and excited to welcome Mary Lydon Simonsen, author of the newly released A Wife for Mr. Darcy, back to Psychotic State Book Reviews today to discuss her newest release, what Austen hero tops her list and how she pens those wonderful variations.

Hi Mary!  Welcome back to Psychotic State Book Reviews!  I appreciate you being brave enough to come back for more chatting.  

MLS:  Thanks, Lori. It’s always a pleasure to visit with you.

You have a new book out - - A Wife for Mr. Darcy.   This is your second reworking on the Darcy and Lizzy love story.  What is it about them and their story that draws you in?  

MLS:  That’s easy: the main protagonists. I love Elizabeth Bennet’s personality, especially her confidence and sense of self-worth. At the time of Darcy’s first proposal, he was not worthy of her love, and so she refused him. That took courage. As for Mr. Darcy, who doesn’t like a man that has all his attributes, as well as being handsome and rich, and is capable of change? He probably even asks for directions.  

You have tackled Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.  Any chance you will take on another work of Jane Austen’s?  

MLS:  I already have. I have written a short story parody of Sense and Sensibility: Elinor and Edward’s Plans for Lucy Steele (available for .99 on Nook and Kindle). In this short story, the two lovers plot how to get Lucy to break her engagement to Edward. I also have an Emma parody running around in my head. Thank you for asking.  

How does one go from a legal secretary to working in special education to well respected author?  

MLS:  I did not go to college right out of high school. Instead, I went to work for a law firm and took college courses at night. After my kids went off to school, I wanted to go back to work, but be available to them, so I took a part-time job in the school they attended. When a position opened up in special ed, the principal offered it to me because he knew that both of my daughters had learning disabilities and that I had read a lot about how to help them. Given this opportunity, I was able to help others. As for being a well-respected author, ah, gee, thanks. I always wanted to write a novel, but the pieces didn’t fall into place until I was sidelined by knee surgery. I got bored and started to write something that had been swirling around in my head for years.  

How did you get started on your first novel?  

MLS:  I had written a detailed family history about the town near Scranton, Pennsylvania where my parents grew up. It was a dirty coal-mining town and provided lots of interesting stories about my Irish ancestors. That history gave me an idea for my first novel, Searching for Pemberley. The main character, Maggie Joyce, was from this little town. Maggie eventually ended up in England right after World War II. When she learns that Austen may have based her characters on actual people, she sets out to find the real Mr. Darcy, and in doing so, finds her own.  

How do you successfully marry being a wife, a mother and a writer?  

MLS:  Being a wife and writer is easy. My husband of thirty-five years, Paul, is an easy going fellow who encouraged me to write my first novel. We sit back-to-back in our home office and get along famously, especially since I make him lunch every day. I didn’t start writing until I was 55, but for some reason, it just comes. I have never had writer’s block. The mother part is a little more difficult. Because I work at home, I am accessible all the time, and that means that my older daughter and her two children (Kaelyn, 8, and Skyler, 6 months) will drop by at anytime. But I’ll be a writer forever; they will only be little for a short while.  

Do you have any unusual routines or idiosyncrasies when writing?  

MLS:  I try to write in the morning because I’m pretty sure my grandchildren will be visiting in the afternoon. But I do most of my plotting while cleaning house, especially mopping the floor. I have this cool Velcro mop, and because my dog sheds enough to make a brand-new puppy every day, I have a lot to mop and a lot of time to mull over my next story. (I also have a Tuxedo cat, but she’s shy. She doesn’t like me to talk about her.)  

What one “must have” item is a necessity for you when writing?  

MLS:  A comfortable chair. I can write for hours at a time, and I really need a good chair. 

Writing can be a very lonely endeavor.  How do you handle the solitude?  

MLS:  I don’t have solitude. My husband and I share an office. My daughter, who lives at home, is in and out, and my daughter and grandkids visit almost every day. Since I grew up sharing a bedroom with five sisters, I learned early on how to get things done with lots of people around.  

What has been your own favorite work and why?  

MLS:  I really enjoyed writing Anne Elliot, A New Beginning. Because it is a parody, I was completely liberated from the usual restraints imposed on a writer by the societal norms of the Regency Era. In this story, Anne pairs up with a street urchin in Bath to uncover Mr. Elliot’s dark secrets. Great fun!  

What inspires you to pick up the pen, so to speak, and put words to paper?  

MLS:  I love working with Austen’s characters. Although Jane Austen gave us great stories, she left enough details out of her novels so that authors, like me, can take her beloved characters and put them in different situations. There are endless possibilities.  

For a fun and random question, please rank Austen’s heroes in order of your preference:  Darcy, Charles Bingley, Edward Ferrars, Colonel Brandon, Edmund Bertram, Henry Tilney, Mr. Knightley and Frederick Wentworth.   (If you’re feeling brave, explain your order!)  

MLS:  Captain Wentworth (I like that he has a job), Darcy, Mr. Knightley, Henry Tilney, Charles Bingley, Colonel Brandon, Edward Ferrars and Edmund Bertram.  

And finally, what one word best describes A Wife for Mr. Darcy

MLS:  Humorous.  

Thank you so much, Mary, for returning to me and my readers and best of luck with A Wife for Mr. Darcy

MLS:  Thank you for having me. This was fun.

For more information on author Mary Lydon Simonsen, please visit her blog.

To purchase A Wife for Mr. Darcy, please visit my Amazon store here.

A Wife for Mr. DarcyA WIFE FOR MR. DARCY BY MARY LYDON SIMONSEN
AVAILABLE NOW!

When he meets Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy is already courting another young lady and now, in addition to his original qualms, Darcy has a real matter of honor to overcome...




So, readers, here is a question for you.  Do you agree with Mary's assessment of Captain Wentworth being the quintessential Austen hero?  If not, who tops your list?