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I read because I must. It's like breathing to me. And I love talking about books. But I'm also an Arsenal fan, a wine drinker, a music lover and weirdly obsessed with pop culture. I mostly blog about books, but sometimes about things I'm thinking or doing. When I'm not on the blog, I'm managing software implementations.

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Scar Tissue

Posted on 28 Apr 2016 In: Reading

scar tissue I’m excited to be a stop on the Chick Lit Plus blog tour for MC Domovitch’s new release Scar Tissue.

 

From the book summary:
When successful model Ciara Kelly wakes up in hospital, remembering nothing of the weeks she has been missing, her only clues are the ugly words carved into her skin. According to the police she was a victim of the Cutter, a serial killer who has already murdered three women. For her protection the police and her doctors give a press conference, announcing that because her amnesia is organically caused, her memory loss is permanent. But, whether her memory returns or not is anybody’s guess.
Overnight, Ciara’s glamorous life is gone. Her scars have killed both her modeling career and her relationship with her rich boyfriend. With nothing to keep her in New York, she returns to her home town of Seattle, moves in with her sister and goes about building a new life. But when her sister lets it slip that Ciara’s memory is returning, the killer comes after her again. If Ciara is to stay alive, she must keep one step ahead of the Cutter.

I read Scar Tissue on a recent flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta- that’s right. I read it fast because I wanted to know what was going to happen next.  There were twists I wasn’t expecting, which made the story more interesting.  There were a few times I wanted to shake Ciara because I thought she could make better choices, but overall, she was more clever than I initially suspected.

Without giving spoilers, there were parts of the story that I though were a bit predictable, but not to the detriment of the story.  And there was a part of the plot that I felt resolved a little quickly, but that also does not take away from the story overall.

I liked the fast pace, the twists and turns, and  I especially liked not figuring out the identity of The Cutter before the end of the story.  There are incredibly manipulative characters you love to hate, and a heroine you root for. So if you’re looking for a thriller that keeps you turning the pages, consider Scar Tissue.  You can get your copy here.

Other Blog Tour Stops:

April 25 – The World As I See It

April 26 – Musings From an Addicted Reader

April 28 – British Bookworm Blog

April 29 – Chick Lit Plus

May 2– Awesome Clubs

 

Author Bio
mc domovitchMonique Domovitch lives with her physician husband and their two dogs. They divide their time between their farm on the west coast, their home in Toronto and the Florida Keys. She started writing later in life, after retiring from her television career, “proving that one is never too late to follow one’s dreams,” as she points out. When she is not writing or traveling, she is an avid redecorator. Which might explain why we move so much,” she says, laughing. “Once a house has been re and re-done, it’s time to move on.” Monique is working on her ninth book, a sequel to Scar Tissue, tentatively titled Seeing Evil.

You can visit her site here: http://www.MoniqueDomovitch.com

 

The Things I Learned In College

Posted on 31 Mar 2016 In: Reading

screenshot120Harvard. Brown. Princeton. Yale. Mention these institutions of higher learning, and most people think “The Ivies…”  They are only some of the schools comprising the Ivy League.  If you’re like me, you didn’t attend one of these schools. Your image of them is what you’ve read or seen on screen.  You might think they’re full of very smart, very wealthy kids looking like ads for Tommy Hilfiger and Lily Pulitzer.    You might be right. They do have a reputation, after all. But how accurate is it?  Sean-Michael Green wanted to know what makes the Ivies so unique.  As a life-long lover of learning, it was a natural curiosity for him. So he spent an academic year visiting each of the eight Ivy League schools for several weeks to learn more about them.  The Things I Learned in College is his recollection of  that adventure.

I loved college.  I still like wandering through campuses. If it weren’t for tests and papers- and no salary- I’d be a professional student.  So this book was naturally intriguing to me.  I found it to be a fun read. Green gives us glimpses into the students he meets, events he attends, and the atmosphere of the schools themselves.  In other “I went under cover to college” books, the authors have had to be less than forthcoming about their identity (think The Unlikely Disciple) in order for them to get the experience they needed.  Green was not constrained by this need and was able to be upfront about his project. And because he was trying to write authentically about these schools, those he met had nothing to lose about being honest with him.

Green calls out what lives up to the stereotypes at these schools, and debunks those things that are just legend. He reminds us that regardless of the intellect and privilege that are indeed present in these institutions, these are still students.  I loved being able to see these little glimpses into these schools. Some feel like I would love them. Others clearly are not right for my personality.

The book made me want to tour the colleges myself. My biggest complaint about the book is that it doesn’t go quite deep enough.  I’d like to know a little more about the students Green met.  I’d like to see a bit more of the inner life of the schools.  Still, if you’re like me and love school,  love learning, then I think you’ll enjoy The Things I Learned In College. 

The Things I Learned In College will be released on 12 April 2016, and is available for pre-order now.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Posted on 3 Mar 2016 In: Reading

whiskey-trio

I’m so excited to announce my first collaboration with Silver Screen Capture, where blogger Stephen Brown and I talk about the page to screen journey of various books into film. Our first collaboration is Kim Barker’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (The Taliban Shuffle MTI): Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stars Tina Fey and opens in theaters on Friday, 4 March. Stephen and I saw an advance screening Tuesday night. Read on for my review and then a Q and A with Stephen and me.

Kim Barker was a reporter with the Chicago Tribune newspaper.  The Iraq war was the sexy war. No one payed much attention to what was going on elsewhere in Asia, particularly Afghanistan where the US also had troops on the ground, and Pakistan, our allies in the “War on Terror”.  Enter Kim, expendable because she’s a journalist, single, and childless. And bored.   And looking for a reason to not really have to commit to her boyfriend, Chris. What better way to dodge making a decision than by signing up for a gig in Afghanistan and reporting on the war for a few months.

It’s easy to expect a memoir like this to be filled with colorful characters and edge-of-your-seat adventures, and there are certainly plenty of those in the book, but they aren’t what makes it a compelling read to me.  No. That comes from a different part of the story.  The part that I found most compelling was Kim’s descent into addiction- not to booze or opiates produced from the plentiful Afghan poppy fields- but to the place and the lifestyle itself.  It took a lot for her to realize that living in Asia, embeds with the Military, the next big disaster or bombing was taking her too far out from other integral parts of her life.

What you’ll get in the book that you don’t get in the film  is a better understanding of the Afghan and Pakistan cultures. The ancient relationships and rivalries between loosely aligned tribal groups. The obvious disconnect between a strict Muslim culture that also produces the bulk of the world’s supply of opiates. The culture that provided alcohol to foreigners although it is strictly banned in their religion.   It illustrates perfectly why the American (and NATO) military involvement in these countries is different than anything we had seen before, and why “success” has been such a moving target.

This isn’t Eat, Pray, Love  or  Wild where there is some great character-defining epiphany.   Instead, it is a recounting of a woman’s journey into a dangerous place- dangerous in general, made more dangerous by her gender- and dangerous in the way it becomes so intoxicating.   So much flux, as it is set against the backdrop of layoffs in the print journalism industry unprecedented to this point.  At what point do you stop running and start living life on different terms?

Read on for the Q and A between Stephen and me, and don’t forget to check out the movie review here.

Question: What made this an important story to tell?

Stephen Brown: Although the characters and contours could be sharper, the film depicts men and women driven by destiny to be superb stewards of their craft, be it military peacekeeper or crusading journalist. The protagonist’s strong POV offers an unusual portal into the story and a meaty, unapologetic female lead role.ashleywilliams-stephenbrown

Ashley Williams: This is a great question because there are two broad aspects with which to answer it. The first is understanding the drive of someone to put themselves in a war zone and continual danger. Kim essentially becomes a junkie- addicted to Afghanistan, seeking out ever more dangerous assignments- until it nearly destroys her. And in the book, we get so much more backstory about Afghanistan and Pakistan and why our military efforts have been so protracted. It really highlights how much the American mentality is ineffective in dealing with the cultures of Afghanistan and Pakistan

Question: What about this work is effective on the page? What makes it cinematic?

Ashley Williams: The visuals in the film really bring this story to life, but there is a humanity in the story told on the page that really made this an interesting read to me. Kim really came to care for many of the people she met in these countries. She is also able to talk a lot in the book about the seeming contradictions in the culture. It’s this next layer, of really being able to glimpse what day to day life was like, that kept me turning the page.

Stephen Brown: The you-are-there quality is dialed up to great effect, with several of the close encounters with deadly assaults among the most jarring. I did feel more could be done with the atmosphere of the “fun house” where all the journalists were lodged and that some of the relationships with locals could have been more vividly developed.

Question: What were the biggest changes made from book to film?

Ashley Williams: I laughed when I saw this question. Because SO MUCH! First, in the book, there’s Kim was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, not a TV reporter. Aside from that, though, the film focuses specifically on Afghanistan. During the years Kim was over in Asia, she was based in India, and shuffled between Afghanistan and Pakistan with some regularity (hence the book title, The Taliban Shuffle). The whole Pakistan experience is missing from the film, but in the book, we get a good glimpse of the political climate in both places during the War and how that impacted our military effectiveness. Also, the Billy Bob Thornton character isn’t in the book.

Question: What did casting bring to the experience?

Ashley Williams: Tina Fey was spot on. Farouq, too. No one else really matters in going from page to screen because the other film characters are amalgams of people in the book.

Stephen Brown: Tina Fey owned the part with such command that I could imagine no one else in the role. I’m delighted she went out on this limb.

Question: Memoirs are notoriously tricky to adapt. They can range from cerebral (think My Week with Marilyn based on The Prince, the Showgirl and Me: Six Months on the Set with Marilyn and Olivier by Colin Clark) to adventurous (such as 127 Hours based on Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston). Where does this adaptation of The Taliban Shuffle fit in?

Stephen Brown: Despite the fact that it is very entertaining, this film won’t go down as among the best of this genre. I will say it compared favorably to Eat, Pray, Love and was an interesting examination about what an unmarried single woman in mid-life can do to shake things up considerably. These memoirs seemed destined to get the movie treatment.

Ashley Williams: I agree that the book won’t go down in history the way a memoir of say, Sandra Day O’Connor or Ruth Bader Ginsberg might. And I admittedly haven’t read many other memoirs of reporters embedded in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. The film and book are so different, I really am not sure they are comparable. But comparing this memoir to the book Eat, Pray, Love or the inexplicably popular Wild, the difference for me is that Barker doesn’t come out of this with an amazing epiphany or self-actualization moment. She’s an ordinary woman who ended up in this extraordinary situation and she learned a lot about herself, but I read this more as an exploration of how running from something can take us to places we never expected. That circumstances can drag us more deeply into something than we desire, and at some point, we have to decide how we want to live.

Did you have favorite plot points?

Stephen Brown: There weren’t that many standout moments, but I actually liked a sequence in the last fifteen minutes when a minor character is re-introduced, and a moment of catharsis ensues.

Ashley Williams: It’s so funny that Stephen mentions his favorite fifteen minutes at the end of the film, because this was glossed over in the book, awarded three to five sentences max. For me, in the book, it was Kim’s going away party, the resolution of her friendship with Farouq.

Question: So was it overall something you’d recommend?

Ashley Williams: Yes, both the book and the film. The book because it’s a perspective I don’t think we have seen a lot of in a tense region that is so different than our own. And the film because I was thoroughly entertained.

Stephen Brown: Absolutely. I was very pleasantly surprised and entertained. This isn’t one of those film experiences that stays with you a long time, but it is far more accomplished than expected.

 

Thank You, Ms. Lee

Posted on 19 Feb 2016 In: Thinking

A friend texted me just moments ago. The great Harper Lee has passed.  I’m not ashamed to say I am shedding a few tears.

Before  JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series, Harper Lee was my first literary hero.  I know – heroes are a dangerous thing, and perhaps we shouldn’t have them- but I don’t know that I fully agree with that.  I stand by the term for Harper Lee.

I’m a lifelong reader, but To Kill A Mockingbird sparked something in me that no other book had.  I still have the highlighted, underlined, dog-eared copy from Mrs. Reid’s ninth grade English class.  But I also have hardback of both the 35th and 50th anniversary editions.  Every couple of years,  I return to Maycomb county and its sultry summers; its small town community; its characters. Oh, the characters.

Harper Lee gave us three of the greatest literary heroes- Atticus Finch, who did the right thing because he believed in justice. He wasn’t perfect, and we’re shown more of his flaws in Go Set A Watchman but what an example of doing what is right instead of what is easy, despite your own personal prejudices.

Scout Finch- first as a six  year old child whose prejudices haven’t formed yet- who sees the world not as black and white but as people, and therefore can say things that need saying.  This child stopped a lynching by asking Walter Cunningham how his entailment is going. She brought out humanity in angry men.  Then later as a grown woman, railing against a deep-rooted system of racial inequality. The heartbreaking moment when her father, her hero, is knocked off his pedestal. Who can’t relate to finding out your parents are human, too?

And Boo Radley.  Oh, Boo.  You who watched over Jem and Scout all their growing up years.  You who reached out for friendship in the only way you could. You who risked your own life to save theirs.   You mockingbird.  It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. Sheriff Tate understood that as well as Atticus did, but it took Sheriff Tate to make Atticus see that about you.

Harper Lee wrote of the South whose legacy I grew up in. The cadence and language of To Kill A Mockingbird is so true. And the mannerisms.  “Don’t take a check from the Delafields without a discreet call to the bank first…”  I grew up with families knowing families for generations, and this type of relating to each other is so common.

I heard that Harper Lee never wrote another book after To Kill A Mockingbird because she said what she needed to say.  I have no way of knowing if this is true.  But I do know that her books have made a mark in my heart, in my soul, that few other books have ever come close to touching.

She lived 89 years- a long life by any standard. That doesn’t make it any easier to hear that one of my heroes is no longer on this earth. This beautiful, sunny day is a little dimmer since I’ve heard of her passing.  But may her legacy live on for years to come.

Rest in Peace, Ms. Lee.

Novelista Girl

Posted on 9 Jan 2016 In: Reading

12314540_1095265770491611_1199191014369046918_o Meredith Schorr’s Novelista Girl is out! Although it can be read standalone, Novelista Girl is the follow up to Blogger Girl.

From the Book Summary:
Kim runs the most popular chick lit book blog on the web, loves playing house with her sexy lawyer boyfriend, Nicholas, and is finally pursuing her life-long dream to become a published author. At first glance, her life is five-pink-champagne-flutes worthy.

But is there more to the story than meets the eye?

After hearing the phrase “chick lit is dead” more times than she’s read Bridget Jones’s Diary, Kim is driven to desperate measures, seeking advice from up-and-coming chick lit author, Hannah Marshak, her high school nemesis and resident “mean girl.” As if Kim doesn’t have enough on her plate balancing her secretarial duties with her blog Pastel is the New Black, shrugging off the growing pile of agent rejections, and keeping her best friend from turning green over Kim’s budding friendship with Hannah, Nicholas is so blinded by his career ambitions, he doesn’t see that their home sweet home could use more than a dash of sugar.

This is the year when all of Kim’s dreams—professional and romantic—are supposed to come true, but will the story have a happily ever after or will Kim end up unpublished and all alone?

This is trademark Meredith Schorr.  If you haven’t read Blogger Girl, you’ll find you like – and in the case of Hannah, love to not like so much-the characters.  And much like in A State of Jane, there were the occasional moments where I found myself frustrated a bit with Kim. That’s not a criticism- it’s that frustration you sometimes get when you see a friend obsessing over something or overreacting to a situation and you have to let them sort it through themselves.

What I like most about Meredith’s books is that her characters are relatable and the storylines are authentic. Our heroine is not over-the-top glamorous, she has insecurities, she makes mistakes. And even though she’s landed the perfect guy, that doesn’t mean that everything is smooth sailing.  The storyline isn’t contrived, or unrealistic.  It’s chick lit, yes, but it doesn’t come across saccharine like some stories do, and that makes it fun and appealing to read.

If you like Chick Lit, you can’t go wrong with reading Meredith Schorr, and if you haven’t checked out her books yet, what are you waiting for?

I read an Advance copy of Novelista Girl, so I expect there might be minor changes from the version I read.  And as always,  I present an honest review.

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