Readers' Favorite

May 3, 2014

Series Saturday: Clipped Wings by @HelenaHunting

by Donna Huber

Cupcakes and Ink
Sometimes I really like a good "damsel in distress" kind of story, but not one where the male sweeps in and all is magically better. Even in these stories I still want some realism. I want the guy to be caring and supportive so that the girl can overcome the obstacles more or less on her own. When I saw that Helena Hunting's Clipped Wings and Inked Armor had been published I couldn't resist checking it out. Now a three book series, I read it in chapter by chapter installments a few years ago. It was an irresistible read then, and still very captivating today.

I started with Clipped Wings, but there is a prequel novella called Cupcakes and Ink. For those that came out of the same fandom, the novella is an "outtake". The opening scenes of Clipped Wings are told from the other character's point of view. What I liked best about Cupcakes and Ink is the internal dialogue that I thought was missing in Clipped Wings. It creates an emotional bond between the reader and the character at a level that I didn't think was accomplished in the first book. I think you could read Cupcakes and Ink first or like me read it after Clipped Wings, but I do encourage you to pick it up. Especially, if you prefer character driven stories. A little more depth is given to Tenley and Hayden as their initial thoughts on each other are revealed.

Buy Cupcakes and Ink at Amazon

Clipped Wings
Having read the original draft, I knew the basics of the story of Clipped Wings and was looking forward to re-reading some of my favorite moments and re-connecting with the characters that I had come to care for. I was also curious as to changes that may have occurred in the final product. Even though the book is now available, I assume the copy available through Netgalley is the advance e-galley. Since I read the original story, I have a different perspective than a reader who is for the first time meeting Tenley and Hayden. I noticed scenes that had been omitted. I'm hope in the final published version that the jagged edges left behind were smoothed out. I noticed a few references to scenes that were no longer in the story. As I mentioned the emotional connection with the characters was lacking in Clipped Wings for me. There is a great deal of attention to the physical connection between the two. Though I was familiar the story, the characters were different and I don't think they were as well developed as they could have been. The secondary characters barely had any personality. Even with these flaws, I was still captivated by the story and was drawn back to it again and again because of the potential I knew it had.

Now had I read Clipped Wings when it first came out and did not know how the story played out (in a broad sense), I don't think I would have been very happy with how it ended. Good news for me, and for you if haven't started the series. I was able to get Inked Armor immediately from Netgalley and you will be able to get your own copy in a few days (May 13).

Buy Clipped Wings at Amazon

Inked Armor
I liked Inked Armor better than Clipped Wings. Maybe because I was able to reconnect and get better feel for Tenley and Hayden because I read Cupcakes and Ink before starting Inked Armor. For one, it felt a lot more polished (again, I'm reading advance copies that may or may not have been all the way through the editing process). I still think it was missing something and the more I think about it I realize that a lot of the little details were omitted. Presumably for length. I don't remember what the final word count was on the original, but it was a MEGA story. In the original story we got more details on Tenley's tattoo, but outside of the wings and flames we don't know what it looks like. The stories behind various aspects of the tattoo had connected the reader to the character and without the details, the reader looses that connection. The loss Tenley endured is even glossed over in many ways. The characters that died are just nameless, faceless people and without knowing them we don't know Tenley as well nor fully understand the devastation of losing everyone she loves.

Even Hayden's own spiral into darkness and the recovery seemed compressed, a bit more rushed than I would have liked. I love a story that delves into the character's psyche and there is a lot below the surface of Hunting's characters. I would have preferred for a sex scene or two to have been deleted if length was really that big of a deal. My long time readers know that I don't care for purely physical sex scenes in books, though in this particular series the early sex would have only been physical because of where the characters are in their own emotional development. However, the scenes do not convey any more intimacy as Tenley and Hayden begin to unload their emotion baggage.

Buy Inked Armor at Amazon

I know it might sound like I didn't like the series, which is not true. Was I a little disappointed? Yes. But I think it had more to do with me and not the books. A lot of factors played into why I loved the original so much that weren't reproduced in this reading. Having to wait sometimes weeks between updates increased anticipation. Also you couldn't go to any of the fandom forums without finding others talking about it which added to the fun. And third, I knew how it would end. Had I never experienced any of that, how would I felt about Helena Hunting's Clipped Wings series? I would have still enjoyed it. In truth, I'm probably being harder on the series because I loved the original so much. I'm happy that others will get to experience this tale. Hunting's writing and storytelling ability is good. If you are looking for an quick read to lose yourself in this weekend, then pick up Cupcakes and Ink along with Clipped Wings so you will be already for Inked Armor later this month. Oh and it looks like we'll get another "outtake" novella this summer with Cracks in the Armor.

Buy Cracks in the Armor at Amazon

Book Info:
format: ebook and paperback
published: 2014 by Pocket Star (Simon and Schuster)
source: Netgalley
read: April 2014

Girl Who Reds is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon. Free e-galleys were provided for this review.
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May 2, 2014

Daniel Lance Wright: The Contrarian

One in Lubbock
I’ve always been one and never realized it, until I received a rejection letter some time ago that caused me to ponder it, and then later believe it – fully. That’s enough set-up suspense. I’m referring to the fact that I am a contrarian.

Reflection on it began when a Houston publisher sent me a very nice rejection letter on a manuscript I’d queried him on. He complimented the writing, the structure and the style and then dropped a bomb. He didn’t think it would sell. That began a rampant flow of analytical juices flowing through my brain.

Buy One Day in Lubbock at Amazon

I’ve always been told to write what I know. I’ve been doing that, and did on that particular manuscript. But, if it won’t sell, what’s the point – personal satisfaction? Here’s where my drummer and I split from the parade and head out alone; you know, that different drummer we always hear about. When I first began writing novels, working with subjects I had knowledge of never crossed my mind as an intelligent choice. It just came naturally to do it that way, but for a totally different reason than you might imagine. It was a conscious choice to not write another murder, military, detective, cop, espionage, or medical thriller. There are many fine authors that are all over those genres and, at any given time, half or more are on the New York Times Best Seller List. Smart money said do it. But, I had to be the contrarian and take my chances in less plowed fields.

Once I figured out that that choice would likely keep me on the verge of destitution, it became clear that I’ve always had a penchant for going against the norm. That rejection, for that reason, was not an isolated case.

Here’s how I view it: If everyone is cheering one team, I root for the other. If market advisers say a stock is the buy of the century, I’m looking at a little known competitor. At a party, when all the guys buzz around a blond model in the center of the room like green flies on a manure heap, I drift to the girl standing alone and appearing amazed by the pattern on the wallpaper. I could go on but I think you get the point.

So, you see, this behavior is nothing new. It’s just that, now, I realize it. I have risked much opposing popular views – sometimes for no good reason. Still, I’ve come to believe it’s not what I am but who I am, cast in that proverbial stone.

I realize that if I would have chosen to go along with popular beliefs more frequently, I might be driving a luxury car and living in an expensive loft somewhere. I suppose though, if I’m going to be a contrarian, I might as well be the best one I can be.

About the Author:

A lifelong Texan, Daniel (Danny) Lance Wright is a freelance writer and novelist residing in Clifton, Texas with Rickie, his wife of 42 years. Wright spent the first nineteen years of his life on a cotton farm on the South Plains and the next thirty-two in the television industry.

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by guest writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.
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May 1, 2014

Getting Books to Review

by Donna Huber

It has been a while since I wrote a tips post aimed about beginner book bloggers. I was reminded of what it was like starting out when I interviewed people for the staff reviewer position. One of the questions that most of them had for me was how would they get books to review. Whether you are starting your own blog or writing reviews for other sites, these steps will help you land books by your favorite authors.

Review Your Own Books

A big appeal to book reviewing are the free books you score. If you are a person that reads two or three books a week, I can only imagine what your book budget looks like. However, to start getting those free books you will need to prove yourself as a reviewer. I recommend reviewing books you already have on hand or have gotten from the library. It will provide a few examples of your reviews and will also give you a chance to develop your review policy. After just a few books you should be ready to move on to the next step.

Seek Out Authors

You will need to start small. Self-published and indie authors are always looking for reviewers. Look around Twitter and Facebook and make sure you are building your own following. Advertise you are open for reviews and join blogger directories. Do not hesitate to approach authors about reviewing their book. Most will be flattered and offer you a free book. Also check out small and indie publishers to see about reviewing books for them.

For traditionally published authors, you may need to first review one of their books that you either purchase or borrow from the library/friend. But once you have reviewed one of their books, seek the author out on Twitter or Facebook (most have a profile in one or both places). Send them a note mentioning you reviewed their book; be sure to include the link to your review. This has been a successful approach for me.

Join Netgalley

For how much I love indie authors, it is still pretty cool to get asked to review a big name. However, it can be difficult to get your foot in the door, or your name on their list. One of the best ways to get your name noticed by major publishers is to create a profile at Netgalley. You will want to include stats about how many people follow you on social media and visit your blog. Then request any egalleys that you find interesting. Remember to go back to leave feedback. And do be aware that the galleys often have archive dates and once downloaded will expire after 55 days. Even if you would prefer to get paperbacks and hardcovers, Netgalley can be instrumental in getting major publishers to pitch their upcoming releases to you. I'm pretty sure having a Netgalley profile is the reason the first publicists started contacting me.

Use Your Network

Is there a book out there you really want, yet you don't see it on Netgalley and a publicist pitch hasn't hit your email for it? Start looking at who you know that might help you reach your end. For this step to be effective you must nurture your relationships. When agents and publicists pitch books to you be sure to follow-up. Even if you don't want to review the book, let them know it isn't something you are particularly interested in. Be sure to thank them and indicate that you are open to future pitches. If possible, consider doing a spotlight of some sort for the book. Yes, it will take effort on your part but it will pay out when they are able to help you score that wanted book. I wanted to read Going Solo. As mostly a fiction genre reviewer, I knew that my name may not be on the publicist's radar. However, I had been in contact with a publicist from the same publisher and I shot off an email. The publicist was happy to pass on my interest and a few days later I had a copy of the book in my hands. Just today, I reached out to the publicist that has been my contact for Deborah Harkness's All Soul's Trilogy. I know advance copies of The Book of Life will be hard to come by, but I'm perfectly happy to read an e-galley and I let her know that by inquiring if/when will it would be available on Netgalley. *Fingers crossed that it will work*

Don't have a contact at a particular publisher? Reach out to other reviewers you are friends with and see if they have a contact. Again, nurturing relationships with people in the industry is important. In addition to agents and publicists, I'm friends with bloggers, librarians, and bookstore owners. They all have their own set of contacts and because I've been known to help them out in the past, they are usually willing to help me if possible.

By following these steps, you too will be buried under a pile of books to review.

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April 30, 2014

Jinx Schwartz: Plotter? Pantser? or Hipster/Googlester?

Some writers outline.
Some have a beginning and end in mind, then outline as they go.
Many have the plot, chapter by chapter, all worked out.
There are as many writing habits as there are writers.
Me? I'm a hipster/Googlester.

Keeping in mind that I am writing the sixth book in a series, I'm a step ahead with my main character, Hetta Coffey, and her sidekick, Jan. All I have to do is:
1. Figure out where Hetta is
2. Why she's there
3. What the problem(s) seems to be
4. What the problem(s) really is
5. How Hetta's going to deal with it (them).
6. Do it all without boring the living hell out of the reader!

Hetta Coffey Boxed Set
Keeping a series fresh, book after book, is a problem in itself. Being a big fan of series, I've been a disgruntled reader on occasion, and the last thing I was to do is disgruntle my readers.

Buy Hetta Coffey Boxed Set at Amazon

And therein lies the problem. I can plot and plan to my heart's content, but then, thank goodness, Hetta takes over, sends me into Google research, and then hip-bumps me onto a whole new path.

I admit to being a research junkie, and it has been a road to adventure for Hetta's antics.

For example, in Just Deserts,  Hetta lands a job at a mine on the Arizona/Mexico border , and I was all set with where the story was going. Great. But then, while running off the rails during research (which I'm prone to do) I found a blurb in the news reporting Jihadist camps in Mexico! Say what? Who knew some of the indigenous Indians down south in Chiapas were being recruited? Heck, who knew there were even radical Muslims in Mexico? So, I was off on another trail, because if anyone on the planet can unearth—and become embroiled in—a terrorist plot, it is Hetta.

The problem with being a Googlester is, like Facebook, Google is a giant, time-sucking vortex that I happen to find way to irresistible.

Conventional wisdom says, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.  Okay, at my age (don't ask!)  I think I know a lot, but is what I know interesting to others? Probably not. Can I use my own experiences as a launch pad for books that grab and hold a readers attention? Heck, yeah.

I imagine most books begin with authors asking themselves, "What if?"

"What if a young man who finds out he's adopted, and has magical powers?"

"What if, during the civil war, a beautiful young woman falls in love with the wrong man?"

"What if a woman is pushing forty, looking for love in all the wrong places, and buys a yacht as a man-trap." Bingo!

About the Author:

Jinx Schwartz is the author of the award-winning Hetta Coffey series.
JUST ADD WATER, first in the series, introduces Hetta, a sassy Texan with a snazzy yacht, and she's not afraid to use it. JUST ADD SALT, JUST ADD TROUBLE, JUST DESERTS,and JUST THE PITS follow her into hot Mexican water. JUST NEEDS KILLIN' is scheduled for July 2014 release.
Her other books: The Texicans (Texas 1806-1836 Historical Western), Land of Mountains, a YA/TWEEN set in Haiti in the 1950's, and Troubled Sea, a thriller in Mexico's Sea of Cortez.
Jinx spends equal time in Arizona and Mexico.
Twitter  *  Facebook  *  website 

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. The views, opinions, and beliefs of guest writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.
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April 29, 2014

Review: The Sound of Crickets by @MarissaFarrar

by Claire Rees

The Sound of Crickets
The Sound of Crickets by Marissa Farrar is written as a blog and as e-mails between four women. They met online after one of the women (Amelia) put up an ad asking for people to join a blog to talk about everyday life. The women are from different places and each have a different home life and work situation.  Most women reading this book will be able to relate to one or more of the women in the book. They have their ups and downs, adultery, cancer, new jobs and babies and share their experiences, through the blog and e-mails to each other.

I very much enjoyed this book, I could relate to one of the women quite easily and agreed with a lot of what she said and did. It is written well and will leave you feeling happy and sad for the characters depending on what they are going through at that point in their lives.

Buy The Sound of Crickets at Amazon

I totally fell in love with the book and its characters, the ladies are so witty, charming, caring and funny, they form strong bonds of friendship almost immediately despite the fact that they have never met face to face but only online. They support each other in their times of need but they also tell each other the harsh truths when needed. I found myself missing the characters once I had finished the book and wondering what was happening in their lives now.

It shows how important online relationships can be and how easy it is to make strong lasting friendships.

I would recommend The Sound of Crickets by Marissa Farrar to all those who love books about real life issues, and blogging and funny, warm touching stories.

Book info
Format: ebook
Published: April 2014
Source: Author
Read: April 2014

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. A free book was provided by the source.

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April 28, 2014

Character Wendy Interviews Author @BarbSilkstone

About the Interviewer: 
Wendy Darlin was born in the back of a canoe on the Peace River and raised by her grandmother, a former Romanian Rockette. Wendy graduated with honors from Carl Hiaasen High School in Miami.

Early career highlights include: Diaper bag inspector at Disney World where she holds the record for discovering the largest cache of smuggled-in bottled drinking water.

Divorced from James Crocowski, aka The Croc, an over-the-edge hedge fund manager and Ponzi schemer, Wendy formed her own real estate company, Darlin Realty at the age of twenty-four. Since then she has unheated hot Florida real estate developers, unseated corrupt judges, and exposed toxic pollution in the Everglades.

Part-time real estate broker and full-time assistant to renowned archaeologist, Professor Roger Jolley, Wendy is regarded as a female Indiana Jones. Fearless in her quest to recover stolen antiquities, and right the wrongs of land developers and other scum-suckers, she fears only three things: heights, getting her face wet, and holes in fabric.

The Interview: 
Wendy and Barbara sit at a street cafĂ© somewhere on Miami’s South Beach surrounded by Art Deco architecture. A soft breeze wafts in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Wendy Darlin: It’s nice to finally have a peaceful chat with you. Usually you have me up to my nose in alligators and thugs, while you sit comfortably at your computer. Which leads me to my first question. Why do we have to get up so early? I mean, come on… 4 a.m.? 

Barbara Silkstone: That’s when my creative juices start flowing. I can’t control my internal clock.

Wendy Darlin: How did you come to write me? 

Barbara Silkstone: You were lodged in the back of my brain. I had to get you out. Your constant snark was driving me crazy.

Wendy Darlin Tomb Raider Box Set
Wendy Darlin: And why did you inflict your phobias on me? 

Barbara Silkstone: I thought I could shed them if I passed them on to you.

Wendy Darlin: But they’re so weird. Fear of getting your/my face wet? And then you dunk me in every body of water on the planet? Cut me some slack. And why the fear of holes in fabric? Do you know how much I hate that?

Barbara Silkstone: I’m the one who has to live with it.

Wendy Darlin: Half the time when I talk I sound as if I’m channeling Raymond Chandler.

Barbara Silkstone: You are. Haven’t you noticed your adverb-lite diet?

Buy Wendy Darlin Tomb Raider Box Set at Amazon

Wendy Darlin: When did you first discover your passion for writing?

Barbara Silkstone: I always enjoyed humor and horror – closely related genres. In the eighth grade I started an underground newspaper patterned after Mad Magazine. Unfortunately our nun did not appreciate my demented humor. Threatened with excommunication I took my underground newspaper further underground. 

Wendy Darlin: Who are your writing inspirations? Where do I come from?

Barbara Silkstone: You’re a mix of Moonlighting and Daffy Duck.

Wendy Darlin: You mean that television show from the 1980’s with Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis?

Barbara Silkstone: Yup. Your fiancĂ© Roger Jolley is Bruce Willis but without the sharp edges. 

Wendy Darlin: I am pretty snarky.

Barbara Silkstone: Don’t you love it?

Wendy Darlin: How do you come up with such clever dialogue?

Barbara Silkstone: I eat out alone, a lot. You can overhear the best conversations when you single-dine. I was at a nice Chinese restaurant recently. Two young men in business attire were seated within eavesdropping distance. First they shared the latest on their baby daughters and the best environmentally safe disposable diapers, then they went on to dissect ESPN and some sports dudes, and then they shared their concerns with the recent increases in the price of a good lap dance. One recommended a new spot where a good lap dance could still be had for under $100. These are the moments a dialogue writer lives for. 

Wendy Darlin: Where did you grow up?

Barbara Silkstone: I spent the first four years of my life in our hall closet trying to turn into a black panther so I’m not sure exactly where I grew up. Wherever it was, it was dark and smelled of mothballs. 

Wendy Darlin: What are cooking up for me in my next adventure. I just solved the murders in Miami Mummies. What could be worse?

Barbara Silkstone: Marriage. You and your lover, archaeologist Roger Jolley are headed for a destination wedding.

Wendy Darlin: But I’ve been married… to the Croc.  Don’t want to do that again.

Barbara Silkstone: Sorry, but a character has to grow. You can’t canoodle with Roger forever. We have to take your relationship to the next level.

Wendy Darlin: Don’t make the wedding thingie all sappy.

Barbara Silkstone: Have I ever?

Wendy Darlin: What are you calling this book?

Barbara Silkstone: Vulgarian Vamp

Wendy Darlin: Oh sugar!

About the Author:
Barbara Silkstone is the best-selling author of the Wendy Darlin Tomb Raider series that includes: Wendy and the Lost Boys, London Broil, Cairo Caper, Miami Mummies, Wendy Darlin Tomb Raider Boxed Set. Her Criminally Funny Fables Romantic Suspense series includes: The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters; Wendy and the Lost Boys; Zo White and the Seven Morphs. For a squirt of paranormal comedy try: Cold Case Morphs. True fiction fan? Try: The Adventures of a Love Investigator.
Silkstone’s writing has been described as “perfectly paced and pitched – shades of Janet Evanovich and Carl Hiaasen – without seeming remotely derivative. Fast moving action that shoots from the hip with bullet-proof characterization.”
 Twitter  *  Facebook  *  website  *  blog

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by guest writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.

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April 27, 2014

New Feature: Two Cents Discussion

What does a book lover love besides reading books? Talking about books. One of the reasons Girl Who Reads got started was because I love talking about books and reading related topics with other book enthusiasts. To allow us to talk a bit more about books, each week at Girl Who Reads there will be a discussion topic and everyone is welcomed to throw in their "two cents". You can do that by leaving a comment or if you are also a blogger and think your readers would want to get in on the discussion, you can post your response on your blog and link to it.

Each Sunday, a new topic will be introduced and then we can spend the week talking about it. For bloggers that like to schedule their posts ahead of time the following week's topic will be at the bottom of the post. And for the bloggers that fly a little more by the seat of their pants, the linky will be open all week so you can join in any time.

As the feature title indicates, I don't expect your "two cents" to be an in depth analysis (not that there is anything wrong if you want to do that). Instead, I hope you will participate in the discussions that occur here, on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, your own blog, etc. I want this to be fun and maybe get you thinking a little bit, but above all I want this to be a time for the community to engage with one another.

For the first week, we will start off kind of easy. So put on your thinking caps and come by next Sunday (the post will be live at 7 am US eastern time on May 4) to talk about...

What makes a book your favorite?