January 29, 2012

Book Review: NATURAL SELECTION by Dave Freedman

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  A shocking biological discovery.  A previously unknown predatory species.  Evolving just like the dinosaurs.  Now.  Today.  Being forced out of its world and into man's for a violent first encounter.  

Weaving science and thriller in a way not seen since Jurassic Park, Natural Selection introduces a phenomenally dangerous new species that is rapidly adapting in a way never before seen.  A mystery.  A chase.  A vast expansive puzzle.  A team of marine scientists is on the verge of making the most stunning discovery in the history of man.  In their quest for answers, they engage a host of fascinating characters.  The world's premier neurology expert.  A specialist on animal teeth.  Flight simulation wizards, evolution historians, deep sea geologists, and so many more.  Along the way, the team of six men and women experience love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal.  Together, they set off to exotic locales.  Literally to the bottom of the ocean.  To a vast and mysterious redwood forest.  To an unknown complex of massive caves.  When people start dying, the stakes are upped even further.  Then the real hunt begins . . . 

Loaded with astonishing action sequences, Natural Selection is that rare breed of thriller, filled with intricately layered research, real three-dimensional characters, and tornado pacing.

My Review
I read a lot of books.  A lot.  Even before I began reviewing them, I always had a book in my hand or in my bag.  True crime is among my preferred genres.  I don't scare or get freaked out easily.  Natural Selection scared me.  More than once I found myself actually speaking to a character, saying "No!  Don't go there!" or "No!  Don't touch it!"  If I could have continued reading with my hands over my eyes, I think I would have.  

Natural Selection is a cyclone of crazy action, biological discoveries and academia and a very well thought out "what if" involving nature that rivals Jaws.  It's a fast paced and gripping horror story involving flying predators - - imagine Jaws in the air, if you will.  I was utterly obsessed and I loved it.  

I have no idea whether or not the science that Mr. Freedman mentions is factual or even plausible and, frankly, it's irrelevant because the story is just so damn good.  It will make you really wonder what exactly lives in the deepest depths of the ocean or the furthest corners of the forests that we know nothing about - - and when and if those unknown species will choose to make their presence known to us and how they will do it.  Read Natural Selection and this thought will give you chills.  

Oftentimes books like this will have fairly expendable and tertiary characters - - much like watching a slasher film, I can usually pick them out quickly, dubbing them "Victim" because their presence will be limited and their only real role is to be fodder for the villain/antagonist.   Natural Selection has a strong and solid cast of characters, ones that are all relevant to the story and some that you will  genuinely care about.  Worrying about their fates,  and having them pitted against methodical killers, make this book a real nail biter.  

Has Hollywood heard of this book yet?  It would be a fantastical summer blockbuster.  Until that time, though, get yourself to your local bookseller and pick up a copy of this book.  You won't regret it.  

Well done, Mr. Freedman.  I look forward to your future efforts.  (Please, please, please write more like Natural Selection!)

Natural Selection is available for purchase at major booksellers now, 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.  

January 27, 2012


I am happy to welcome Daniella Brodsky, author of the newly re-released Princess of Park Avenue, to Psychotic State Book Reviews for her first visit.  Welcome, Daniella!

A Message from Daniella

Dear readers new and old,

I am thrilled to announce the re-launch of one of my favorite backlist titles:  PRINCESS OF PARK AVENUE on sale NOW.  For those of you who became fans later in the game, I am calling this launch series my 'Dirty Literary History'.  The name is tongue in cheek and only an attempt to let you know that it's a bit more lighthearted and comedic than my current work.  But it's got the same power to teach us something about ourselves that I believe all good art (if I may be so bold) does.  And I'm going to go out on a limb and toot my own horn here once again (I know!  You don't even recognize this Daniella, right?) . . . As I read through to re-edit PRINCESS (because I'm a perfectionist and love to see how much I've learned in the last decade too), I laughed my ass off (figuratively; I still have an ass, so don't worry).  The story is funny, and the observations about pop culture's ugly side seem all too relevant today.

For those of you who've been with me since THE GIRL'S GUIDE TO NEW YORK NIGHTLIFE days (or even the days when I wouldn't go anywhere without my Minnie Mouse), and maybe even attended that fabulous launch party with all the free booze in the middle of a blizzard (maybe even won a ritzy prize to take home), I'd love to hear your thoughts on how this Brooklyn v. Park Avenue love story fits into your view of Daniella Brodsky's body of work.  To me, PRINCESS is about the stunning contradictions in each of us.  But no matter which way I look at it, Lorraine Machuchi was - - and still is - - one of my favorite characters, and I hope you enjoy spending some time with her in this revamped edition . . . as much as I have.  Any guesses on which real life personage the Pizza Boy may have been inspired by are totally welcome (and will most likely be denied).  As for who would play Lorraine in a film version, my vote goes to Anne Hathaway - - she's from Brooklyn!  If you'd like to make a pick or just want to say hey, visit the PRINCESS OF PARK AVENUE Facebook page.  For info on my other titles, visit my website.

The great thing about the democratization of the book industry is that we all have a voice - - which means we have influence over the kinds of books that make it in today's marketplace.  If you've enjoyed any of my books, please tell the world via a review or a "like" at any of my Amazon book pages, which can be found via my author page.  You wouldn't believe how influential one opinion can be today.  However you make your voice heard, it's an exciting time!

Keep reading!

Daniella Brodsky

Author Bio

Daniella Brodsky was born in Queens, New York, in the town of Little Neck, which is as notoriously tagged as the inspiration for West Egg in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby as it is for being the Queens town with the least street cred:  "Isn't that on Long Island?"  No, it isn't.

The good news is that she now lives in Australia, where nobody is likely to argue the credibility of either claim, possibly even far enough to assert a stake in the Little Neck Clam fame too.  Unfortunately, it appears she's inherited a new problem though.  "Where in Australia do you live?"  "In the capital."  "Sydney?"  "No, Canberra."  "Never heard of it."  Right

In between, Daniella's lived in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, Las Vegas, London, Connecticut, and Washington D.C.  She earned a BA from New York University in Greenwich Village, where creative writing instructors first hinted she may actually have something there.  She was unconvinced, but kept being drawn back.  Mere blocks away, it was in 2000 that she officially told that doubting voice to shove it when her first novel, Diary of a Working Girl, was published.  Diary of a Working Girl was adapted by Disney for the feature film Beauty and the Briefcase, starring Hilary Duff, and debuted on ABC Family Network on April 18, 2010. 

Daniella's subsequent novels - - The Velvet Rope Diaries and Princess of Park Avenue - - soon followed (and all originally published by Penguin).  It was with the release of her fourth novel Fear of Driving that she explored new geogrphical territory and understood how powerful a place can be in a story.  When she left New York for rural Connecticut it was a fertile time for her imagination - - driving, seeing how pumpkins grow on vines, not in a box at the corner bodega, deciding whether it's safe to tiptoe past twelve deer on the way to her car. 

Her new home in Australia offers novel experiences galore and she's discovered travel to be the most nourishing food for a creative mind.    

Her first young adult novel, One Trick Pony, was published in hardcover in 2007.  Back when she could stay out past 10:30, Daniella was also the creator and author of The Girl's Guide to New York Nightlife series as well as a freelance magazine journalist.   She has been featured on Good Day New York, The WB Morning News, NPR and in The New York Times, The New York Post and The Hartford Courant.  Her nonfiction work has been published in leadiong publications such as Time Out New York, The New York Post, Men's Health, Cosmopolitan, Shape and Self

Daniella continues to be fascinated by what makes us who we are and what we can do about it.  She is working on three new novels and a non-fiction title about writing. 

January 26, 2012

Book Review: PRINCESS OF PARK AVENUE by Daniella Brodsky

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  You can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but can you take Brooklyn out of the girl?

Lorraine Machuchi has held on tight to her Brooklyn home, and to Tommy, the neighborhood guy she's been pining over for years.  But the very guy she tossed everything away for just told her he'll never wind up with her - - a girl who's not going anywhere.  

That's the kick in the pants she needs to cross the bridge to Manhattan, where she starts coloring hair at a swank salon.  There she meets a new and fascinating species:  The Park Avenue Princess.  Sure, their $400 cashmere sweaters, charity balls for poor girls with small boobs, and "sexy" yoga are a bit over the top for someone like Lorraine, but sometimes even a Brooklyn girl can learn to love her own inner princess.

My Review
The above synopsis reads like a great little chick lit book, the premise sounds fun and the cover is great, isn't it?  I wanted to like Princess of Park Avenue and I can't say I disliked it but something just didn't click for me and it left me with mixed feelings.  

I found myself reading quickly through parts, as well as having to reread certain sections, because the book seemed to feel a bit lethargic.  There were sections that left me questioning why they were included as they seemed to slow the pace down.  

Being horribly anal about spelling and grammatical errors, the copy of Princess of Park Avenue  I received made me distracted and, at times, I was busier noticing the errors rather than investing myself into the book.

I had a hard time connecting with Lorraine and considering that, it's the likeliest reason that the book just didn't do it for me.  Perhaps if I had been able to relate to Lorraine, the typos would not have bothered me so much.  

I didn't care for Tommy and it left me puzzled that Lorraine would devout so much of her life to him - - 20 years!  While we have all had our "Mr. Wrongs" I was frustrated that a woman over thirty was pining after a man who made it so clear that he would never give her what she wanted.  And while, happily, Mr. Right did show up I wanted Lorraine to realize it much sooner than she did.

I did like Lorraine's relationship with her friend Chrissy - - it was nice to read of a friendship laced with somewhat derogatory nicknames meant affectionately, and two friends who had been such for a long time.  The Bobbsey Twins, indeed.

I also really enjoyed reading of Lorraine's Park Avenue apartment - - I would just love to have such incredible, borrowed digs!  Even with the impossibly big Pooh-Pooh!

And I have to give Princess of Park Avenue originality points for the e-Bay style introductions to each chapter, with items from Lorraine's past up for sale.  Each item somehow tied in to what happened in the chapter.  It was a cute idea and did make me smile.

So although Princess of Park Avenue wasn't my cup of tea it may be an enjoyable read for you. 

The Princess of Park Avenue is available for purchase at major booksellers now, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.  

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

With thanks to CLP Blog Tours for including me on this virtual tour! 

Visit CLP's blog tour page for Princess of Park Avenue and leave a comment for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!  

January 25, 2012

On a Break!

Lana Turner & John Garfield from The Postman Always Rings Twice

Between the holidays, traveling and then suffering with the flu, I gave myself a much needed break (which explains the lack of posting around these parts recently).

Have no fear!  I am back and ready to go, with a review tomorrow of Daniella Brodsky's Princess of Park Avenue, a guest post by Ms. Brodsky on Friday, as well as reviews of What Would Jane Austen Do?, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, Natural Selection, The Black Shard, among others and all coming soon!

Happy Wednesday!

January 7, 2012

Book Review: THE GILDER by Kathryn Kay

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Set against the exquisite backdrop of Florence, Italy, The Gilder is a compelling and beautifully wrought novel of secrets, friendship, betrayal, and the simple choices that change us forever . . .

In Marina Nesmith's skilled hands, even the most tarnished picture frame or objet d'art can be made perfect once again.  Her life, too, seems flawless, at least on the surface.  But more and more, Marina is conscious of what she lacks - - someone to share her joys and sorrows with, confidence in the decisions she's made, and the courage to tell her teenage daughter, Zoe, the truth about her father.

Then Marina is invited to return to Florence, where she lived years before while learning her trade as a gilder.  In those heady days, she wandered the city's picturesque streets, marveling at the masterpieces in the Duomo and the Pitti Palace.  In the church of Santa Croce, she met Thomas, an American photographer who, along with his wife Sarah, introduced Marina to a thrilling, bohemian world of art and beauty.  Through them, she also learned about love, lies, and the way one mistake can multiply into many.  Now, as her past and present collide, Marina will finally have to move beyond the intricate veneer she's crafted around herself, and find the life that she - - and Zoe - - have been looking for.

My Review
I am an armchair traveler and I am crazily attracted to books that take place in England, France and/or Italy.  So I jumped up and down to accept The Gilder for review.   And while I enjoyed The Gilder, I didn't love it the way I hoped I would.

Let's start with the good.  First, the cover.  It's just gorgeous.  I love the vibrant red of the door and shutters, I love the flowers and vines draped across the building.  It is just so European; it speaks to me and makes me want to pick up the book and delve right in.

As I mentioned above, I love books set in Europe.  The Gilder excels at this particular point, bringing Florence, Italy to life in vivid, spectacular fashion, from descriptions of the narrow streets to the architecturally stunning buildings to the breathtaking art to the mouthwatering foods.  Truly, the city of Florence should be paying Ms. Kay a commission for her selling of it as any reader will immediately want to book tickets to this incredible city after reading the book.  I know I did.  I have always wanted to visit Italy and now I am fairly itching to get on the next plane out.

Another positive point of The Gilder is main character Marina.  She is frustrating at certain points in the book, yes, but aren't all our friends at some times?  Marina is painfully real and to me, that makes her more likable.  Ms. Kay's writing of Marina is so fluid that Marina's joy at experiencing Florence the first time feels like a personal recounting - - the sights and smells almost literally come alive from the page.  Likewise, Marina's pain and tragedy are told with the frank rawness of an open wound.  I sympathized with her over her no-win situation and actually wanted to give her a hug.

Ms. Kay's writing is warm and passionate and she made me care about her characters and, again, she made Florence, Italy come alive.  It was a pleasurable few days spent with Ms. Kay and her book of this exciting, incredible city.

So why didn't I love the book?  I'm not sure exactly why.  Other than the colorful descriptions of Italy, I liked the second part of the book better than the first.  There were certain portions of the first section that dragged a little bit for me.  I am on the fence about the book's ending, which made sense but was still frustrating.

In spite of these issues, I would still recommend The Gilder for lovers of books that take place in Europe and/or books about the arts.  It's a pleasant diversion and an absolutely lovely look at Florence.

The Gilder is available for purchase at major booksellers now, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.  

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.

With thanks to Crazy Book Tours for including me on this virtual tour! 

Upcoming Virtual Tour Stops for The Gilder:

1/10/2012 - CelticLady's Reviews
1/11/2012 - Novel Reflections
1/12/2012 - Practical Frugality
1/14/2012 - The Bookish Mama
1/15/2012 - Sherri's Reading Jubilee
1/16/2012 - Books in the Burbs