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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

June 13, 2014

Giveaway: Magicians Trilogy Swag

We are continuing our Summer of Swag Giveaways this week with some goodies from Lev Grossman's Magicians Trilogy. (There's still a little time left in last week's giveaway to win Diana's commonplace book from Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness).

This summer, Viking is thrilled to release THE MAGICIAN’S LAND, the spectacular conclusion to Lev Grossman’s New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy (On-sale: August 5, 2014; 978-0-670-01567-2; $27.95).

The Magician's Land
The trilogy opened with The Magicians which Junot Díaz called, “Stirring, complex, adventurous…[a] superb coming of age fantasy.” NPR called the sequel The Magician King “a spellbinding stereograph, a literary adventure novel that is also about privilege, power and the limits of being human.” Legions of fans now await The Magician's Land, a novel full of the subversive brilliance that has put Grossman at the forefront of modern fantasy, which will bring the Magicians trilogy to a shattering, triumphant conclusion.

Familiar faces return alongside new characters in The Magician's Land. After being booted unceremoniously from Fillory, Quentin Coldwater returns to his alma mater, Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic, to stake out a new life as a teacher. But the past catches up to him, and before long, he and the brilliant student Plum must set out on a black market adventure, taking him to old haunts, like Antarctica, and to buried secrets and old friends he thought were lost forever. Quentin discovers a spell that could create a magical utopia, a new Fillory—but casting it would set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them, he must risk sacrificing everything.

The Magician's Land is a tale of love and redemption—the story of a boy becoming a man, an apprentice becoming a master, and a broken land finally becoming whole.  Old readers will devour the rich and riveting final book, and the completed arc will welcome newcomers who can binge-read the series in full. You can learn more about Lev Grossman on his website and follow him on Twitter @leverus.

Pre-order The Magician's Land at Amazon

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Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are at Amazon through the link above. Giveaway is sponsored by the publisher.

June 12, 2014

Finding Time for Reading

by Donna Huber

Summer is here in the Northern Hemisphere and after the long, cold winter, the sun is beckoning us to frolick in its warmth. Well, maybe not frolick. Instead, it probably means a topsy turvy schedule and your reading time is finding itself diminished. Yesterday on the radio they were talking about the ways Moms find time away from their children. One of the top ways is hiding in the bathroom. There are a few ways to work reading into your busy summer schedule without resorting to the bathroom hideout.

Re-read Your Favorites

Do you have a series that you have wanted to go back to the beginning? Or maybe it is a stand alone. I use to read A Tale of Two Cities every summer during college. I didn't always read the whole thing, just my favorite parts. There were a few chapters in the beginning that I found boring and since I was familiar with it I just dove into the story.

You might be thinking, but I've already done reviews for those books. Have you ever felt differently about a story after reading it a second time? Or perhaps there were things you missed in the rush to find out what happened at the end. I know there are things I missed the first time I read A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night because I got so caught up in the story. So maybe there is a new angle you can take for the review. What books are worth a second (or third) read?

A good thing about re-read your favorites is that you might not have to pay as close attention (keeping one eye on the kids that you now have to entertain an extra 8 hours a day).

Read Short Stories and Novellas

If you are really wanting new books for reviews, then I suggest short stories and novellas. I think just about all authors are turning to short stories and novellas. Definitely the indie author is because they need inexpensive reads to attract new readers to their works, plus they are trying to build a backlist of titles quickly. Maybe there is a series that looks interesting, but aren't sure if you want to devote yourself to it. See if their is a short story or novella associate with it. One of my favorite authors has a couple of short stories as part of her Hitwoman series. I highly recommend Hitwoman Gets Lucky and The Mutt and The Matchmaker by JB Lynn. They are hilarious, making them a great vacation read.

Another author I enjoy reading has recently started releasing short stories based on his Immortal series. Check out the Immortal Chronicles by Gene Doucette. There are also stand alone short stories as well as a number of anthologies out there. I liked The Ivory Tower by Kirstin Pulioff.

These shorter works are great when you don't have a lot of time. You can read one while waiting for swimming lessons to finish up or the few minutes of quiet you have before the household awakes.

Other Options

Make reading a family affair. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour for reading each day. Parents who model good reading habits for their children help make them life long readers. Also there's educational benefits to reading during the summer. Depending on the kids' ages, you might try starting a family book club. Either you can all read the same book and then come together to discuss it. Or read the book together with each family member taking a turn reading out loud.

Squeeze every minute out of the day. I have been known to pull out my Nook while waiting in line at the grocery store. If you don't have an ereader, be sure to keep a paperback in your car or bag.

How else do you find time for reading during the summer months?

June 11, 2014

Masters of Their Fates: The Fault in Our Stars

by Alison DeLuca

The Fault in Our Stars
Last month we promised a closer look at this book as well as the movie version. I bought John Green’s novel last year to take to Ireland with my family; we were staying on a beautiful beach in Renvyle among sheep farms and tiny pubs where The Quiet Man was filmed. At night, exhausted after tramping around Connemara and climbing Diamond Hill with my family, I sat and read chapter after chapter. I just couldn’t put the book down.

My fifteen-year-old niece (also staying in the house with us) had already read Fault several times. We had several intense discussions about the plot and characters - fascinating to me, since I love to get a glimpse inside the teenaged mind whenever I can. She adored Augustus and Hazel Grace, wanted to read An Imperial Affliction, a book mentioned in TFiOS. Meanwhile, I sneaked a few looks at the Goodreads reviews – mainly positive, although a lot of them stated the conversations between Augustus and Hazel Grace were too highbrow, too adult for teens.

It didn’t seem to bother my niece one bit.

In fact, the smart tone was one reason why I loved the book (cigarette metaphor and all) – John Green refused to ‘dumb down’ the characters. The author said he worked as a chaplain at a children’s hospital, and stories about sick kids “oversimplified and sometimes dehumanized them.” For me, at least, Augustus and Hazel Grace were extremely vibrant – and for my niece as well. Gus was alive, that good-looking boy. And Hazel sprang right off the page, irony, oxygen tank, and all.

The movie has garnered good reviews from Time and the Boston Globe; it also hit the cover of Entertainment Weekly. I was shocked to see they left off Hazel’s breathing nubbins on the magazine – and my nine-year-old daughter picked up on it as well: “Mommy, where are Hazel Grace’s breathing tubes?” Chew on that, EW, and remember sometimes the flaws (and the faults) of fiction make it beautiful.

I decided to read TFiOS after I saw a piece of fan art with Gus and Hazel saying “Okay” to each other. She intrigued me so much I knew I had to have the book, so I loaded it into the Kindle just in time for the Ireland trip. There, tucked in an attic room looking over Renvyle sands, I read it twice in a row – once in great, greedy gulps, a second time more slowly to taste the language. Yes, the egging episode was shocking. Yes, the novel is sad. Yes, the cigarette metaphor was weird. But I loved Green’s bravery in confronting issues of life and death with desperate, chaotic, adolescent adventure – a confrontation with life grown-ups rarely understand.

It helped the title came from my favorite lines from Julius Caesar: “Men at some time are masters of their fates / The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

If you haven’t read the book and enjoy YA real-world fiction, do load it onto your Kindle or Nook for the beach or lake, wherever your summer destination may be. Make certain to bring tissues as well, though. And take a few hours to see the movie.

I read two other books during the vacation: Ready Player One and Ruby’s Fire. They were both YA-centered fantasy and perfect material for travel and summer reading. Next month I’ll talk about those books as well as a few other suggestions for poolside and movie night.

Buy The Fault in Our Stars at Amazon

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books. She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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June 10, 2014

Review: Summer on the Short Bus by @BethanyCrandell

by Donna Huber

Summer on the Short Bus
I didn't know what to expect with this book, but I like coming of age/self discovery kind of books so thought I would give it a try. I can't say Summer on the Short Bus by Bethany Crandell met by expectations, because I didn't have any expectations. What it did do was make me laugh out loud, think about my own reactions to those that are different from me, and get a little misty-eyed as reconciliation is attempted.

Summer on the Short Bus is not your typical young adult novel, yet it is the perfect young adult novel. Teens today don't need another fairy tale of finding their dream guy or becoming the next superstar. 

Cricket is at a crossroads in her life. She's about to turn 18, needs to make decisions about her future, and maybe for the first time forced to grow up. She's your typical rich kid brat that has been shipped off to boarding school by her dad. Is she really a rebel or is she just wanting to get her father's attention. Sure he loves her, yet he never says it nor does she see him all that often. Her mother died when she was very young and most of her parenting came from the housekeeper. Cricket committed one rebellion too many. Instead of her summer vacation in an exotic locale with her BFF, her dad sends her camp. But it isn't just any camp.

Buy Summer on the Short Bus at Amazon

With clever writing and irreverent narration, Summer on the Short Bus is an eye opening experience for not just the characters. I have a number of coming of age stories and I think Crandell has given us one of the most brutally honest looks at what it means to "grow up".

To me it wasn't just Cricket that needed to step up and take responsibility. I understand her dad is grieving, but he had a child who didn't deserve to lose both parents.

You may even find yourself being challenged. I know I was quick to think Cricket was just another spoiled brat that needed to grow up and realized that life isn't all about her. But that is just part of the facade she has erected to protect herself.

There are some pop culture references that will date the book quickly, but it did offer a great deal of comic relief.

Do you like your young adult books with a little more substance, yet want it to be a fun read? Then toss Summer on the Short Bus by Bethany Crandell into your beach bag for a great summer read.

Book Info
paperback and ebook
Published April 2014 by Running Press Kids
ISBN13: 9780762449514
Source: Publisher
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 for this review.

June 9, 2014

Interview with Naomi Zener

If you were to describe your book in only one word, what would it be?


What would you say inspired you to write it?

A hodge podge of personal experiences as a lawyer, my love of Los Angeles (and anything California), the unprecedented intergenerational wealth transfer and ensuing legal battles set to occur with the demise of the parents of the Baby Boomer generation, and then the Baby Boomers themselves.

What was the source of inspiration for your protagonist? What about your antagonist?

I would be lying if I denied that parts of Joely Zeller weren't modelled after me. While I never was jilted by a gay fiance (I've been happily married to and with the love of my life for close to 13 years and we have two kids), I do have a Master of Laws in Trust Law and I studied Estates law in school and was fascinated by both the area of practice and my professional experiences as a young lawyer having trained for a while in that field. I ended up becoming an entertainment lawyer and spent a fair amount of time in Los Angeles, so all of that combined went into the basic foundation for Joely. However, everything else that went into Joely was pure fabrication based on inspiration of what I've seen, heard or spoken about with friends, some of whom are lawyers and some who are not. As for the antagonist, there are a few. Chip is a composite of a number of people I've had the displeasure of encountering, working with or for in my professional life.

What’s the longest time you’ve spent working on a project?

Five years on Deathbed Dimes. I'm currently working on the second draft of my second novel, which hopefully won't experience the same long (and hopefully not longer) trajectory from idea seedling to published novel.

Deathbed Dimes
Would you say becoming an author has changed you? In what way?

It absolutely has changed me, but it is not the fact that I'm now a published author that has changed me. Once I realized that I could write, get lost in a world of characters and stories of my own creation, I found my passion. My children, my family are the lifeblood to my being, but writing is my soul.

Was there ever a time, during your work on the e-book/book, when you felt like giving up? What made you change your mind?

Constantly. With every lit agent's rejection letter. Every time I faced a rewrite. But, if one word was used to describe me, it would be tenacious.

Buy Deathbed Dime$ at Amazon

What does your day-to-day life consist of? What else do you do, aside writing?

I'm still a practising entertainment lawyer and I have a baby boy who is 8 months old and a daughter who is 2.5 years old. I also have a husband that gets some of my attention some of the time ;).

How do you deal with bad reviews or acid criticism? What would you advise other authors to that effect?

I know that not everyone is going to like me, as a person, or as a writer. Criticism, when constructive, motivates me to do better in all aspects of my life. I welcome it. I don't welcome personal attacks or abuse - that stuff I simply ignore, although I do have to admit that I enjoy a good debate, so if someone goes after me personally, they picked the wrong person with whom to spar. I've developed a fairly tough elephantine skin when it comes to rejection because I know that in the creative arts, everyone's taste is so subjective. What used to hurt deeply to my core, may only sting for a second, or not at all, depending on who is delivering the message.  I live by a few mottos: "I'm not mean, I'm honest," and "Suck it up, buttercup."  If I can be honest with others and hope not to hurt someone, then I should be able to accept the same. And, even if my feelings are on the precipice of being hurt, I remind myself to toughen up, take it, learn from it and move on.

What are you working on right now?

My second novel and writing for my satire blog: .  The novel is tentatively entitled Platinum Palms, and revolves around the lives of three generations of women, each with their own personal struggles, achievements and foibles, who come together to help, in essence, raise a child.

What have you learned from your current project?

First and foremost, I've learned how to be a better writer and be self-critical. I've learned how to abandon ship when necessary, veer off course when the characters and story need me to take a sharp left and the importance of getting your audience to love the characters you want them to love, and dislike or possibly even hate those you want them to hate. My debut novel, Deathbed Dime$ is my freshman novel, yet it gave me my PhD in writing. It started out as a personal endeavour five years ago, a box to check off on my bucket list, but then ignited a passion for writing that had been hidden and remained dormant deep in my psyche.

What is your revision process?

A learned author, Brian T. Francis, gave me the best piece of advice I've received to date. Only return to the work to revisit, revise and redraft once you've forgotten the process of writing the last draft in the first place. I think I've been doing that without realizing it, but when he enunciated those sound words to me, a light bulb went off, and I've stuck with it. For now, the second draft of my novel is undergoing a quasi-revision process: I'm reading it and making notes. I've forgotten the process of writing it, but yet I'm not quite yet ready to commit to a second draft. I love the book and the characters, but like a good second date, you don't want to rush it. I want to build my anticipation and excitement to write. I think I should be there in a few weeks time.

Why do you write?

To nourish my soul. To feed my passion. To keep me sane and happy.

Have a favorite quote or personal motto?

"I'm not mean, I'm honest."

Cats or dogs?


Dinner by candlelight or a night out clubbing?

Sleeping - I'm a mom of two kids under the age of 3!

About the Author
Naomi Elana Zener is a new writer with a fresh satirical voice. Her début novel entitled Deathbed Dime$ was released on May 30, 2014 by Iguana Books.
In addition to her freshman novel, Naomi writes satire and fiction on her blog Her vociferous blogging has been read and appreciated by industry bigwigs such as Giller Prize winner Dr. Vincent Lam and New York Times best-selling author and journalist Paula Froelich. Passionate about the creative process and writing, Her articles have also been published by Erica Ehm's She's currently working on her sophomore novel.
Naomi was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. She obtained her BA in Political Science at McGill University, her JD at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and her LLM at the University of Toronto. She is licensed to practice law in both Ontario, Canada, and California, USA. Naomi became an entertainment lawyer and started practicing in Toronto, advising several production, distribution, and broadcasting companies during her decade-long career.
Naomi currently resides in Toronto with her husband and two children. 
website  *  Facebook  *  Twitter  * 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 guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.

June 8, 2014

Two Cents Discussion: Why Do You Read?

If you missed out on last week's discussion on what makes a book a classic you can still add your thoughts. I thought this week would be fun to talk about why we read. I'm sure we all have different reasons.

Why Do You Read?

When I hear people say they don't read, I'm don't know what to think. Reading seems to be at the core of who I am. But it did get me thinking about why I read. Is it just because it was something that my parents encouraged when it was a child? Or was it because I was an on the outskirts of the "in crowd" and I find solace in books as a teen? Do I read because I have learned life lessons and explored worlds beyond my own within the pages of a book?

I think part of the reason is I was exposed to books at a young age. I remember climbing in my Mom's lap to read each night. I remember the first time I "read" the book on my own.

As I got older, books were an escape, but also a reminder that there was more out there than the cliquish community I was in. I didn't feel so alone when reading. It gave me hope. I could read about the awkward tween who found friends and acceptance.

Now I read for entertainment. When television stopped using analog waves, I stopped having television (used an antenna, but am too far away to pick up digital). So I began to read more.

I still read to explore new worlds, but also to connect to people. Through books I can "walk in another man's shoes". Reading is still an escape, but not because I'm an unhappy teen, but as a way to deal with life's stresses.

I read because I have to. Yes, I feel obligated to read the books I've received for review, but the compulsion is more than that. I can't drive by a sign without reading it, even if I drive by the same sign every day. I will read the cereal box and shampoo bottle. Did you know there's a warning on deodorant that says to use on armpits only?

I read for many reasons. Why do you read?