Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop! Win a box of books (US only)

Hoppy Easter 2 
4th Annual Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop
April 17th to 24th
Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Read Now Sleep Later

It's been a while since I've done one of these, so it's time! I still have a lot of books to give away on my shelf, so I figure I'll give them a good home-- to one of you! Sorry, this is US only, as shipping costs are terrible.

So the winner will get a box of books! You can choose one of the books that you want from my shelf, and then the rest will be random, but since I used to be only a YA reviewer, they are all YA books. 

Here's a current picture of my giveaway shelf (some of these are signed by the author!), so you can pick which book you want in the box!

I'm not responsible for books that didn't make it because of shipping issues, and all entrants to the giveaway need to be over 13 years old.

That's about it! Enter away!

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Enter some other great giveaways, links are below!
 
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cover Reveal: Illuminosity (Transcender 3) by Vicky Savage and $50 Amazon GC giveaway!

Dear Readers:
I'm so excited to welcome back one of my all time favorite self published authors, Vicky Savage! As you know, I've raved about her first two books in the Transcender trilogy, which have been romantic, fast paced, and basically, just a lot of fun! You all need to read them if you haven't already.

Drum roll, please...

Here's the cover!



Isn't it amazing?? I love the gorgeous purple colors!

Book Description:

In this highly anticipated conclusion to the Transcender Trilogy, Jaden Beckett faces her greatest challenges to date. Her choice is clear: leave the love of her life or face certain death.

With Warrington Palace under siege, Jaden and Ryder are wrenched away from each other, as the powerful Inter-Universal Guidance Agency seeks Jaden’s ultimate demise. Heartsick and alone, she begins a new chapter of life as a Transcender, only to discover that her fiercest battle has yet to come.
Is Jaden safe anywhere in the galaxy? Or should IUGA ask itself that question, having underestimated her before?

With her usual wit and tenacity, Jaden fights to discover her place in the multiverse, the true meaning of destiny, and the keys to the mystery of eternal love.

About Vicky:
Prior to becoming an author and publisher of young adult fiction, Vicky Savage enjoyed many diverse occupations; flagman on a construction crew, trial lawyer, and healthcare company executive, to name a few. She is currently working on Book 3 of the Transcender Trilogy, as well as collaborating on a screenplay. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her boyishly charming husband, handsome son, and two effervescent dogs.
Visit the author at www.vickysavage.com

You guys have to get your hands on this book! And for those of you who haven't read the first two, get on that!

And now, enter to win some terrific prizes!

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Character Interview with Don Tillman, PhD from The Rosie Project and INT giveaway of signed copy!

Dear Readers:
I'm very lucky to have Don Tillman, PhD on the blog today. He rarely makes public appearances like this, so savor it while you can! I certainly did :-) I do believe this is now the most memorable character interview I have ever done.

The Rosie Project Goodreads Book Description: An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.






About Graeme: 
GRAEME SIMSION is a former information technology and business consultant who decided to re-invent himself as a screenwriter. Somewhere along the way, he became a novelist instead. The Rosie Project is his first book. A sequel, The Rosie Effect, will be published later this year. Graeme lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Interview with Don Tillman
1. Thanks, Don, for stopping by the blog today! We're excited to get to ask you some questions. First, tell us what your perfect day would be like. 
No deviation from schedule.
2. What is the most memorable event from your childhood?
Being unreasonably evicted from religious education class.
3. What is your favorite book and why? Favorite movie?
Book: Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. It contains some fictional material that is nevertheless interesting and has an interesting discussion of artificial intelligence and recursion. Movie: To Kill a Mockingbird due to the positive effect on Rosie who finds the Atticus Finch character sexually attractive.
4. I hear you learn very fast. What skill set that you don't have would you like to learn most?
You have been misinformed. Probably your impression was based on anecdotal evidence in a limited domain – e.g. cocktail making in which focus and a good memory were critical. I am not surprised by your mistake. Physicians are notorious for overvaluing personal experience and anecdotal evidence. It took me an extremely long time to learn to catch a ball. “Don’t have” is imprecise. I obviously have some skills at reading and remembering faces, but they are well below average, leading to problems in fulfilling cocktail orders when people change positions. Plus some other difficulties.
5. I know you have quite a detailed list for the perfect woman. If you were able to advertise with only 5 words, what 5 words would you use? 
Before meeting Rosie: I require a rational partner.

In the hypothetical situation in which I could apply what I learned from the Rosie Project prior to commencing the Wife Project: Partner required for joint projects.

6. If you could meet one historical figure, who would it be and why? And what would be your most burning question?
This is a tricky question as few historical figures could provide interesting information, as our scientific knowledge has since progressed. I could ask Fermat for the proof he claimed to have found for his “Last Theorem” but I would almost certainly find that he had made an error and in any case we have now solved the problem. Hence I choose Y-Chromosomal Adam, the member of homo sapiens sapiens from whom all living humans are descended from patrilinealy. I choose the male ancestor, as we know more about Mitochondrial (“African”) Eve due to the ability to trace mitochondrial DNA. I presume I would be provided with the capability of conversing in his language. I would gain vast amounts of information just by looking around – at animals, Adam himself, even verifying that the location was indeed Africa. I would ask: What is your daily routine?  

7. Can you tell us a story about your most memorable student? 
No. I am forbidden by the Dean and the University legal department from discussing the Gender Misidentification Disaster.
8. Why genetics? 
Due to studying computer science originally and being stereotyped as a computer geek, which was annoying. Genetics was also interesting, from a mathematical perspective, and provided me with two degrees with strong synergies. I also thought I would avoid the geek label. I was incorrect – whatever profession I had chosen would have been suffixed by ‘geek’.
9. If you were only able to eat one meal for the rest of your life-- what would it be and why? 
The same meal every day? Incredible idea. Do you ask all interviewees this question? As a physician you should surely be aware that it would be difficult to provide correct nutrition with invariant meals. My solution would be to choose a large, multi-course meal with excess amounts of each course so that I could provide dietary balance and variation by varying the relative amounts consumed of each course. Since the question is hypothetical and my answer unlikely to be of practical value, I consider it wasteful to spend significant time on it. The following answer is indicative and only principal components are shown. All dishes are assumed to be accompanied by variety of nutritious grains and vegetables.

New Zealand Bluff oysters
Miso soup
Tuna sashimi
Lobster salad
Barbequed Kangaroo Fillet
Cheese including Roquefort, Gorgonzola and truffled Brie
Fruit

Your question has motivated me to make a real margarita to accompany my virtual meal.

I hope you guys enjoyed this interview as much as I did! I can say with certainty that I have never and never will again interview someone quite like Don.

Now enter the awesome giveaway to win a signed copy of The Rosie Project! It's INT!

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Interview with Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project and INT giveaway of signed copy!

Dear Readers:
I'm beyond thrilled to have Graeme Simsion on my blog for an interview, as his novel The Rosie Project is my favorite read so far this year! As you all know, I used to have this blog exclusively for young adult reads, but recently opened it up to adult books. Boy, am I glad because I got to find absolute gems like this book!

The Rosie Project Goodreads Book Description: An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.



My Rating: 5 Couches!

My Review:  I won this book last year from Dubray Books, and I'm only sorry it's taken me this long to review it. After reading and reviewing a bunch of okay books, this one completely took me by surprise and blew me away in the best way possible.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion stars Don Tillman, a professor of genetics, who has difficulty relating to other people and appears to be somewhere on the autistic spectrum with OCD tendencies. This book is entirely in his perspective in first person and gives us a very entertaining as well as moving account in the head of someone like that. Don is striving to learn the skills to find the perfect woman and even comes up with a very detailed questionnaire to do so. But then he meets Rosie, his polar opposite, and she turns his very regimented world upside down. Can he figure out what he really wants and how/if he should change?

I loved this book from start to finish. We get the dry and very detailed account of how he sets up his day from the first pages. I've read some negative reviews that pan the book on this aspect, but these pages are vital to set up the character and reveal a very unique viewpoint that has rarely been attempted before. It was a risky move, but one that I believe completely pays off.

Don is such a great character-- and while he does have these strange quirks and difficulties relating to other people, it's fascinating to see him dissect each interaction and what he gets out of it. Sometimes he's completely wrong, and sometimes, he's way more perceptive than others around him who are clouded by their emotions. I love how Simsion makes him so likeable even when his behaviors come off negatively and even maliciously to others around him. Rosie is also wonderful and provides a great counterpoint to Don's rigidity. Side plots include his best friend Gene who is sex-crazed and has an "open" relationship with his wife.

I just couldn't see how realistically Don could change and how he and Rosie could have any interactions that would bring him together. But the way Simsion masterfully does this pulls the whole story together and it ends in the only way it can.

Overall, brilliantly written, unique, funny and equal parts moving (to the point this reader was bawling her eyes out at the end), and probably the best book I've read this year. A must read. Everyone should go out and buy it now.



About Graeme: 
GRAEME SIMSION is a former information technology and business consultant who decided to re-invent himself as a screenwriter. Somewhere along the way, he became a novelist instead. The Rosie Project is his first book. A sequel, The Rosie Effect, will be published later this year. Graeme lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Author Interview

1. I know this book started out as a screenplay. Can you tell us a little about the development of the story and how you decided to make it a book?
In 2007, I enrolled in a screenwriting program and decided I needed a story to work on – so I would get immediate practice in applying what I was learning. I settled on a story inspired by a good friend of mine who had struggled for many years to find a partner. I ‘workshopped’ it verbally with my partner over several days hiking in New Zealand, and by the time I began the screenwriting program, I had a solid outline. It was a drama, the love interest was a geeky Hungarian physicist named Klara, and it was called, pretentiously, The Face of God. I had a lot still to learn. 

I worked on the script for five years, and it changed hugely as I learned the craft. After two and a half years, I threw most of it away, keeping only the character of Don Tillman (though I changed his job from physicist to geneticist) and the jacket incident. I rewrote it with a much stronger female character (inventing Rosie was the toughest job), plus the father project subplot and new supporting characters.
 
In 2012, having found a producer but no money, I decided to re-imagine the story as a novel. There was a practical aspect to my decision: it’s easier to publish a novel than to fund a movie. But I had also had a good basis for fulfilling a lifetime ambition to write a novel. Novels are generally a better vehicle for dealing with a character’s inner world, and I found I was able to develop Don’s character more fully and also introduce observational humor that was not possible in the screenplay. 

2. I'm fascinated by your main character, Don Tillman. Can you tell us how you decided for him to be your main character and to write the book in first person?

Don was always the main character. The Rosie Project and its earlier incarnations have always been about Don and his world-view, and the story and supporting characters have been a vehicle for interrogating them. I believe that good stories grow out of character, and that ‘voice’ is critical to telling them well. Don gave me both of those elements. He’s a type of person familiar to many of us, but not well represented in literature, perhaps because there are not many Dons in the literary world. My previous life in information technology served me well here.
I decided to write in first person to make the most of Don’s voice, and to take advantage of the insight and humor that an unreliable narrator can bring. The reader has to do a little work – deciding how to interpret what Don says – but in doing so, he or she learns more of how Don’s mind works.
3. Your other characters were just as colorful. Did any of your characters surprise you-- who and which one?
Not really. I felt I was always in control of the main characters. Claudia gave me the most problems in portrayal: I saw her as a strong woman with conflicted feelings about Gene – someone who had signed up for an open marriage but had grown out of it. But some readers are always going to see a woman who tolerates infidelity as weak. It’s a difficult topic to play with – people have strong conditioned reactions which are less predictable than (say) their take on Don.
One minor character who developed without any effort from me was the Dean. She had a job to do in the book, but quietly took on a personality of her own and a slightly bigger role. Most of my readers have sympathy for the Dean, but I had one academic reader (who has Asperger’s Syndrome) who wrote me that he found her despicable.
4. If Don could become friends with someone from another book, movie or show, who would it be and why? 
Not Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory! Readers regularly say that reading The Rosie Project is like being in Sheldon’s head – there’s some truth in this, but they’re missing the differences (we need more aspies in literature so we start seeing beyond the similarities). And look what happened with the Apricot Ice Cream Disaster. Two rigid people need only a small point of difference to fall out. 
I’m going for Dr. David Huxley, Cary Grant’s character in Bringing Up Baby. They could happily talk shop – a paleontologist and a geneticist will find plenty of interest – and commiserate about their crazy partners. 
5. What authors have inspired you and in what way?
Many, many authors, at different times of my life. I sometimes go back to authors I loved even just a few year ago and find my tastes have moved on, but can’t deny their influence. Everyone my age has been influenced by Hemingway, directly or indirectly, just as every singer-songwriter has been influenced by Dylan. I read a lot of science fiction as a teenager, and in those days the high concept was king, with plot a close second. John Irving’s slightly heightened characters and situations probably influenced the tone of Rosie.  And I read many authors whose influence is probably not visible in my work. John Mortimer is probably as close to a role model as I’ve found – interspersing more serious fiction and memoir with his Rumpole of the Bailey series.
6. Can you tell my readers a little about the editing process and how having a different set of eyes helped you write this book?
I used to be a consultant and I learned a lot about giving and taking advice (in fact I supported myself through the screenwriting program by giving seminars on consulting skills). So I have a strong appreciation of the value of advice and collaboration. I had great input from my teachers and my writing group when Rosie was a screenplay, then from trusted readers and my editors at Text Publishing in Australia and Simon & Schuster in the US.
Outsiders are, in my experience, astute at pointing out problems that you can’t see yourself, but much less valuable in offering solutions (though they can contribute to a collaborative process). The typical editor’s comment says “This is not working – I suggest you do this.” The first part is helpful, the second generally not!
7. I hear you have a sequel to The Rosie Project coming out later this year. Can you tell us a little bit about it without giving anything away?
You hear right, though “later this year” applies to Australia. Publication dates in other countries have not been announced yet. Don’s life is not over at the end of The Rosie Project. In The Rosie Effect, Don faces a new set of challenges which he addresses in his unique way.
And now, wonderful readers, enter for the chance to win a signed copy of The Rosie Project -- this is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway! Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster for providing this chance, especially to those abroad. 
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Interview with Hannah Parry, author of Isabella Rockwell's War, and INT Giveaway!

Hello, readers! I'm thrilled to have Hannah Parry here today, the first author interview I've done in a while! She wrote the wonderful Isabella Rockwell's War, which is one of the best middle grade books I've read in a while. You should all give it a shot!

Isabella Rockwell's War Goodreads Book Description: Raised in 1820’s India, twelve year old Isabella Rockwell can ride and shoot as well as any of the soldiers in her father’s regiment. These skills, however, are of no use to her when she finds herself on the frozen streets of London, orphaned and alone.

Tormented by guilt over the deaths of those who loved her, she vows never to be responsible for anyone’s life again. If she can scrape together enough money, she will return to India. But Isabella cannot shake the creeping feeling that something is not right; that something threatens not only her new best friend, but the throne of England itself. 


Having survived this far on her wits alone, will Isabella escape back home to India? Or will she stay with Alix, a girl whose fate seems to be tied up with Isabella’s own? A fate which will have consequences far beyond those Isabella could ever have imagined.

Winner of the Children’s 12+ Fiction Category at Winchester Writer’s Conference, UK. 2012.


My Rating: 4 Couches

My Review: Isabella Rockwell's War by Hannah Parry stars Isabella who is a courageous twelve year old in a bad position. She lives in India but because of terrible circumstances, she is forced to leave by herself to go to England, a cold, harsh place she's never known. Her choices as she arrives are thus: either become a street runaway and have independence or stick around and be sent to an orphanage where she'd work as a servant. She decides to run away and the group of kids she meets and a beautiful girl she saves changes her life forever.

I admit that I got behind on my reading and so I didn't pick up this book until a few days ago. I'm hitting myself, because this is one of the gems in the self publishing world. The tone of the book reminds me of a mix of The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. It's been a while since I read a middle grade book, but this is one that doesn't dumb down the story for its readers. The pacing is great, and I really liked Isabella as a protagonist, who carries the story with her spunkiness. The twists are great too-- I definitely didn't suspect the right person!

The only thing I would suggest is having us meet Alix a little quicker since she is even mentioned in the synopsis. Otherwise, I think this is a very strong debut.

Overall, a really great middle grade read that I'll definitely suggest to that age group to read. 




About Hannah
Hannah Parry was born in the United States, but grew up in the United Kingdom.  She completed a Masters Degree in Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, London in 2011.   Her short stories for adults, “The Chrysalis” and “For What It’s Worth”, have both been published, and her first novel “Isabella Rockwell’s War” won first prize in the 12+ fiction category at the Winchester Writers Conference in June 2012.

She lives in a field outside London, with her husband and daughter and too many pets.  She has just finished writing the sequel to Isabella Rockwell’s War, Fever Quest, for publication in February 2014.

Interview with Hannah 
1. Tell us a little bit about your story to becoming a writer!
I  always read a lot, but I didn’t really think about writing until I was in my thirties.  When I was in my twenties I used to scribble stuff (usually how sorry for myself I was feeling!) in the back of my address book, but I didn’t really appreciate what I was doing at the time.  When my niece, Isabella,  was born in 2002, I wrote her a little picture book story which no one wanted to publish, but one very kind agent wrote back to me and said ‘keep writing’.  So one day, I sat down and started to write the kind of book I would have loved when I was twelve, and it grew into Isabella Rockwell’s War.

2. Why did you feel drawn to write Isabella's story? And why middle grade?
When I was twelve all I really wanted to do was ride horses and run around, which is why I think this ended up Middle Grade rather than Young Adult.  I had a very soft spot for Zachariah and kept thinking something might happen between him and Isabella, but it just never materialised.  I just don’t think she was old enough.  It’s quite nice to have the possibility of a relationship lurking around in the background, though, – especially as I’ve just finished the second one and have a third in mind.

3. I love your characters. Were any of them inspired by people you know? Did you have a favorite character? Which one was the most unexpected? 
It’s not so much that the characters were inspired by people I know, more that as I created the characters they would speak and behave in a way I would recognise as being similar to someone I knew.  I didn’t do it intentionally and no, I’m not going to tell you who… 

Apart from Isabella, I am very fond of both Midge and Abhaya, Isabella’s nanny who doesn’t appear in person, just in Isabella’s thoughts.  I didn’t have to think about either one of them – they just talked their way in!   The most difficult to write was Zachariah, he was a real dark horse, but his past had been so troubled, I think he would always be the type of person for whom talking about his feelings would be hard. 
 
Prince Ernest is the one who taught me to listen to what’s going on with the book and not to force it into what I think it should be.  (Someone very famous said about writing that ‘the book’s the boss’ – I think this is what they meant.)

4. Which authors and books have inspired you?
I’m so thrilled you compared it to The Little Princess, as that is one of my all time favourites.  The author MM Kaye wrote two love stories set in India at the time of the Indian mutiny in 1857 – The Far Pavillions and Shadow of the Moon.  The Indians tried to depose the British who had made India part of the British Empire because of its wealth.  There was terrible bloodshed, and many thousands of English were killed, but what moved me the most was MM Kaye’s story  of Indian servants giving up their lives to save the children of the British families they served.  I kept thinking about why a person would be that self-sacrificing and this is where the book really started, with Isabella and Abhaya.

5. What words of advice do you have for aspiring writers?
If you want to write, you must read.  And then you must write.  And then you must show people what you have written (this is the hard part…)  I joined an online writing group, so no one could see me crying when they said my writing was rubbish (which it was).  But I got better, because those people taught me.  And I was happy to be taught, after I’d sulked for a bit.

6. What's next? Will we ever see Isabella and her friends again?
Yes, hooray – I finally finished the sequel to Isabella Rockwell’s War and it is called Fever Quest.  It is with an editor at the moment and I am hoping it will be out at the beginning of May.  The cover is being designed now which is thrilling.  It was harder to write than IRW, but the early readers seem to like it – I’m just hoping the editor does!  In the meantime I have bitten off all my nails…
 
Hannah, thanks so much for joining us today! And now, Hannah has generously offered THREE, count them THREE great prizes! Each winner will receive a signed copy of Isabella Rockwell's War + $20 Amazon GC!
 
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