Friday, December 21, 2012

We Have a Winner!


Jennifer Surgenor come on down! You won an amazing, can't put down book. Email me your mailing address and I'll send Gone Girl off to you right away. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2012

On the Road

Did you guys hear that Jack Kerouac's famous On the Road has been adapted into a movie? I just may have to go see it.

I took an American literature course in college and we studied The Beat poets, Kerouac among them. I adored reading about the Beat Generation. They were trying to figure themselves out in the world and were hungry to do so. I could related to that feeling especially at 21.

My favorite quote from On the Road is the following: “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 

What prose! On the Road is the biographical cross country account of Kerouac and his friends. It's a novel about searching for oneself in the world and searching for the truth within oneself. 

Kerouac helped coin the term 'beat' for his generation of the late 1940s. They were the generation of the Cold War, McCarthyism, and there was, of course, experimental drugs--which Kerouac and other Beat writers used as inspiration and deemed as a kind of religious experience. 

Kerouac searches for his place in the world and that's what all characters seek to do. As readers we must understand how their world works and where they fit within it. It's an age old question too, though one that's never quite answered. It's likely why On the Road has been beloved for all these decades. It wasn't just the novel of a generation but a beautiful summary of a shared experience that transcends individuals and ages. 

Here's the trailer:



So tell me, did you love On the Road? Will you go see the movie?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: Gone Girl

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn

I read or, rather, devoured Gone Girl with my book club a couple of months ago and had promised to include a review here. Since it's taken me forever to post something and we're now officially into December, I thought I'd do a Christmas giveaway (directions below).

When I first finished Gone Girl all I could think was holy sh*t! Flynn has masterfully crafted a thriller with unexpected twists and turns, more so than I had expected and right up until the end. Even when I thought I knew the characters, they surprised--and disappointed--me once again.

The book opens on Amy and Nick Dunne's 5-year wedding anniversary. It's also the day that Amy goes missing, seemingly pulled from her house after an altercation. From there, the reader is thrown into two worlds: current day alongside Nick and the introduction of Nick and Amy from 5 years prior, thanks to Amy's diary. It's a neat spin on alternating perspectives.

In this section of the book we get a feel for Amy and how she and Nick came to be. We also see how Nick handles the pressures of the press and the eyes of an entire town suddenly thrust upon him.

You'll find yourself analyzing suspects and debating about why Nick may or may not have taken his wife and, if so, where she could be. It's not until the next section that the reader is introduced to two massive surprises: Nick's potential motives if the case went to trial, and Amy's not so deadly disappearance.

Hereafter the characters are wild cards, most particularly Amy. As a reader I felt betrayed at the person I believed her to be from the diary. As a writer I felt intrigued that Flynn would create such a untrustworthy, undermining, sociopath that her sheer presence leaves the reader on the edge of their seat.

And each time I rested just a little, Amy surprised me with something else--something more.

I even had to re-read the last page multiple times. I flipped it over just to be certain that it was indeed the end. That this was where the story had finished. That this was the truth of what became of Amy and Nick. And then I leaned back in my seat and said, "Wow."

Giveaway rules:
1. Contest is open now until December 20th (winner will be announced on the block December 21st)
2. You must be a follower of the blog
3. You must email me an entry, subject line "Gone Girl Giveaway"
4. Extra entry for each of the following: Tweet "Check out @SCookRay #bookgiveaway of GONE GIRL" or Facebook post the link or include a comment to this blog post.
5. Book giveaway is limited to U.S. only.

Good luck!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Robert Pattinson Tells Us What He Really Thinks of Twilight

Although I've seen barely any previews of Breaking Dawn and the couple I have seen look awful, I can't help but go see the last and final installment. I'm too invested now and, of the books, I really liked Breaking Dawn. I still loath that they broke it up into two movies but there's nothing to be done about that now. Expect a review to be coming shortly.

In the interim, enjoy this series of clips. Gives you a sense of how Robert Pattinson really feels about Twilight:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WTF Wednesday

1.  Uma Thurman had a baby. Have you guys all heard this? Except the baby's name is Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson. Seriously. That's 7 names, 6 if you're gracious with the hyphen. And believe me, I already know all too well how confused people seem to get from something as small and un-intimidating as a hyphen. But this poor kid won't be able to remember let alone spell their full name until their age is in double digits. Come on. WTF?


2. This guy thought this tattoo would be a really good idea. Sure, someone paid him $15k which is a lot of cash but $15k and a permanent tattoo on my face doesn't really sound like an even trade. And, now, I'm sure he's regretting it even more. Dude, haven't you watched The Hangover, Part 2. Face tattoos are  a no-no.


3. Relationship news: RPaztz, as you all likely know by now, are back together. Yeah, that might be a WTF in and of itself. But, really, what I want to know is: didn't they learn anything from their time apart? Must they still dress like matching, unshowered hobos? Thank goodness they get cleaned up for their movies.

In other relationship news, a little more breaking, these guys have called it quits:

My WTF moment is actually less about them and more about me. The other morning my husband was reading the paper and got to the entertainment section and said, "Oh, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez broke up" and somehow this came out of me, "NOOOO! What?! Seriously?" and then my alter -ego had to talk my fangirl back to a calm place. I never knew I was so vested in the tweeny bopper romance. They were cute and sweet and somehow normal despite the huge glare of the spotlight so, perhaps, that's what I liked most. There's not enough of that in Hollywood if you ask me. Nevertheless, I didn't see this coming--and neither did my fangirl self.

4. So I promised to give an update on how my NaNoEditingMo is going (since I'm editing this month rather than writing anew). Well, between work and commuting that's about 13 hours of my days lately and every time I get home I'm exhausted (like mono exhausted) and have a headache, so....it could be better. After a week I made it 1/15th of the way through my novel which, if I keep it up, means 60% done in a month. Not entirely shameful but not as ambitious as I would like. So I ask, who cares about daylight savings? If we're going to alter time, why not add more of it and, if we can't, then I need to do what what Michael Keating did in Multiplicity. I need a clone (or several).
No cloning technology available to the public yet? WTF?

So please share, what have been some of your struggling or head-scratching moments been lately?












Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day!

I try not to get too political on this blog but, regardless of where you stand on the spectrum, this is a huge election and it's so critical that you vote. And today is election day, so get out there!

I can't help but think of countries where citizens are still fighting for the right to vote or endangering themselves when they do so. As a woman, I'm also reminiscent of the days when women's right to vote was still a contensious issue so I go to the polls very thankful of where we are today and, also, optimistic of where we're going tomorrow.

Since the rhetoric coming from the media and both camps are likely to be strong-worded and, if political ads have been any indication, likely negative, I thought I'd share a funny clip with all of you to lighten the tension.

So, without further ado, I bring you funny man and one of my favs Will Ferrell:


Monday, November 5, 2012

B*tches in Bookstores

You guys, have you seen this?! It's hilarious and awesome. Anyone who tackles a remake of a Jay-Z and Kanye West song to spin the lyrics as an ode to their bibliophile ways is sure to grab my attention. Enjoy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

November marks National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a fact I loathe. Not NaNoWriMo itself, which I think it great, but the fact it takes place in November. Typically, between my family and my in-laws, I celebrate three Thanksgivings (and all out of town!) which means I have about 1/2 the month to achieve the same end goal if I'm to participate successfully.

For those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it requires you write 50k words in a month (which, to me, is really a novella but just go with it). It's a huge feat nevertheless. I'm also not a speed writer but tend to re-read passages I've written along the way and tweak where necessary. NaNoWriMo is not the time for those kinds of tricks. To hear some kinds of tactics you should consider visit here.

This year, I do have a couple of new novel ideas but I'm also trying to do an edit to a WIP I have--and one that, along with my blog, has been woefully ignored for the last couple of months due to crazy hours at my job (which consequently pays for my very nice new MacBook so I can't complain). So I'm dedicating the month of November, at least what parts of it aren't lost in transit and fattening up, to wrapping up my edits. Instead of a word count each day or week, I'll have a certain number of chapters that need to be edited.

In short, I'm turning my YA urban fantasy into a YA urban fantasy spy thriller. Given my husband works heavily in defense and getting his master's in military war strategies, I have an in-house researcher so the only hindrence is time. But that's the beauty of NaNoWriMo--everyone has to do their work and do it quickly.

So I'm committing to the cause, in my own special way at least. And to hold me accountable, at the end of each week I'm going to post how many chapters I've edited  and I encourage you to provide updates too if you're participating.

So what are your thoughts about NaNoWriMo: love it or hate it? Are you participating, and if you have in the past, what advice would you share?




Monday, October 22, 2012

Cover Love

It's been a while since I've done a cover love post so I thought I'd share a few that have caught my eye.

1. Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Here's what it's about: Payback is paradise in this start to a trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian.
Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes—and three girls secretly plotting revenge.
     KAT is sick and tired of being bullied by her former best friend.
     LILLIA has always looked out for her little sister, so when she discovers that one of her guy friends has been secretly hooking up with her, she’s going to put a stop to it.
     MARY is perpetually haunted by a traumatic event from years past, and the boy who’s responsible has yet to get what’s coming to him.
     None of the girls can act on their revenge fantasies alone without being suspected. But together…anything is possible.
     With an unlikely alliance in place, there will be no more “I wish I’d said…” or “If I could go back and do things differently...” These girls will show Jar Island that revenge is a dish best enjoyed together.

Something about the cover struck me as both beautiful and innocent meets Gossip Girl. It was the juxtaposition of the soft tones and the girls' clothing and expression. Reading the jacket confirmed that this cover is right on. If you missed it, Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian participated in this year's National Book Festival in Washington, DC.

2. Son by Louis Lowry
Here's what it's about: They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive?  She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.
Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

OMG, right?! A sequel to The Giver!!! I'm sure many of you have read this New York Times bestseller and, as you can see, this cover is in a similar vein and complementary color palette. It's been a while since The Giver came out so I'm sure this is going to be a good one, and definitely one to appease all those fans out there.


So, what good looking books have you seen lately?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Swagger Song

I bring you Monday morning's swagger song. This is sure to get you going for the week. I, for one, am LOVING this song! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Firefly Lane Book Review

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Kate Mularkey and Tully Hart meet in the turbulent summer of 1974 in the eighth grade. Kate doesn't have much style or many friends but then the "coolest girl on earth" moves next door. Their friendship isn't immediate but when Tully comes home one night after a party upset and raped, Kate finds her and swears to keep her secret. And that one night changes them both forever.

In Firefly Lane we follow these two women through 30 years of friendship. First, as Kate is wide-eyed at Tully's coolness factor and Tully is in awe of Kate's non-disfunctional family--particularly Kate's loving mother. They spend warm nights sneaking out for ride bikes along the bumpy dirt path of Firefly Lane. They sit by the riverbank and dare to dream of what the world might have in store for them. And from those early budding moments of friendship on, they are no longer Tully and Kate but TullyandKate. Inseparable.

We follow them through college as Tully finds a cause to dedicate her fierce determination and desire to be the center of attention: television journalism. Meanwhile Kate daydreams of love and struggles to find out what, if anything, truly motivates her besides her loyalty to her dear friend. Through several years that follow, Kate continues to play side kick to Tully. But then Tully gets her first big break: an internship at a local station and, of course, has to get Kate a job there too.

Kate believes she has less sense of self than Tully because all she truly wants is an "ordinary" life: to be a wife and a mother. Kate feels she's betraying women like her mother who weren't given the same kind of opportunities to go to college and pursue careers. Hannah certainly makes clear the kinds of changes that have occurred along the political landscape for women from not only generation to generation but decade to decade, something that adds an additional and enjoyable layer to this book.

Firefly Lane is a story about best friends and the roller coaster emotions of life: jealousy, betrayal, heartache, laughter, margaritas, and most of all--a North Star, someone always there to be guided back to no matter what. Firefly Lane so vividly details these women and their interwoven lives that you genuinely feel as though you know them, as if you've lived there right beside them. Kristin Hannah has done a beautiful job and written a wonderful story here that's sure not to disappoint.

When I was in the final chapter of the book I got off the DC Metro and walked to my car. Only I couldn't drive home. I couldn't dare leave until I had finished my journey with these women. And so, I sat in the dark with just my little car light on, tears streaming down my face, heart swollen, as I read through the final pages. I've read about Oprah feeling the need to buy The Color Purple for every one of her girlfriends when she first finished it. Well this is my Color Purple. Every one of my closest girlfriends is getting a copy of this for Christmas. I loved it. And, in many ways, I feel like I've lived it. I have these friends, these anchors in my life to which I owe so much and for whom I know I would do anything. No matter what transpires in time or how many days or weeks pass between phone calls, there are some friends that are our soul mates--we're tethered together forever.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I Miss Harry Potter

I have to confess, I'm a late bloomer party crasher when it comes to Harry Potter. I've seen more movies than I've read books, however, I am making my way through the novels now and, yes, even checked out the Universal Studios Hogwarts (which was AMAZING by the way!).

So while I may not be as big a fan out there as many of you, I can't help but wish there were more novels out there with fun, fantastical worlds that come alive so vividly. I know it's not fair to compare other story ideas to such a mega hit, but I love getting swept up in in that "other worldly" kind of way--where anything is possible.

In the interim (while we wait for another great fantasy or the new soon-to-be-released JK Rowling book) I thought I could share this delightfully fun play on words because, really, who doesn't love Harry Pottery mixed with a Jay-Z reference?





What do you miss most about Harry Potter?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

This Made Me Laugh So Hard I Cried

I only just discovered Bad Lip-Reading, the group that takes everything from Presidential speeches to popular film clips and dubs them with, well, bad lip reading. This one is from The Hunger Games. It's so ridiculous that by the end you'll be laughing too:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Statistics

I don't check my Blogger statistics nearly as much as I should. In fact, I didn't even realize until the other day that I could check out exactly where my followers are from. I was astounded, flattered, and flabbergasted that some of you have found me in the big, wide, world of the blogosphere.

This is, however, what I love about the Internet. In this whole big world we can connect with one another and it can feel so much smaller and more manageable. We can literally create virtual communities that despite time zone differences and various cultural cues, our love of literature has brought us all together.

Without further ado, my followers reside from all of these following FABULOUS places round the globe. In no particular order we have:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Russia
  • Canada
  • Jordan
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Serbia
  • Taiwan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Philippines
  • Switzerland
  • Germany
  • Ukraine
  • Egypt
If you're a follower and you don't see your country on there, let me know. If you do, thanks for finding me and for making me feel a little more loved. I adore you all and while each post may not always get a comment, I can see from Blogger's tracking capabilities that you are out there and you are reading and that's enough for me. 

As always, if there are posts you'd like to see more of or just general conversations you'd like to start, I'm all ears. And if you'd just prefer to keep reading along as I continue this journey and my miscellaneous ramblings, that's okay too!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Club is BACK!

I was so sad last year when my book club went defunct. What can I say? We were just a bunch of overly busy, super extended, live all over the DC metropolitan area, kick-a*s ladies with a love for literature but schedules that would not always cooperate. But I refuse to give up and slowly, out of the ashes, a new book club is arising with a few of the old same friends and some new ones to come on board. This time we've created a bit of a closer parameter to where we all live in the city for a (hopefully) increase success rate.

So break out the wine and a year worth of great reading! To kick things off we're joining the rest of America's book clubs in selecting the #1 book club read in the Nation: the thriller Gone, Girl by NYT bestseller Gillian Flynn. If you haven't heard of it  yet I'm sure it's only a matter of time. If you're reading it on your own, let me know what you think and if you don't have a book club then come join ours virtually. My review will take place at the end of September so you have plenty of time to get through those pages, though I'm told once you get going you won't be able to stop.

When I put out a tweet asking for book club reads, even Lisa and Laura Roecker of The Liar Society fame said it had to be Gone, Girl hands down. And so it shall..

Here's what it's about:

Marriage can be a real killer. On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 
   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?


So what do you think? Have you read it? Are you intrigued? Does your book club have plans to read it and if not, what are you reading these days?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Swagger Song

This is a unique but very artistic video for a new song that I am sooooo digging at the moment. It's called "Little Talks" by a group named Of Monsters and Men. I was immediately intrigued by the name which makes me think of the book Of Mice and Men though I can't find online whether the Icelandic indie folk rock band was inspired by the novel or not. If so, extra brownie points for them as I adore that book as I'm sure you all do too.

Regardless of the inspiration for the band name, I hope you love this little ditty they've created. It's a fabulous swagger song to be-bop to as these summer days wane and the loveliness which is fall (and my favorite season) starts to get underway.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WTF Wednesday

This WTF Wednesday post includes the weird, the over the top, and the just not fair.

1. How can she play the guitar with this ICEBERG on her finger? In case you haven't heard, Avril Lavigne, at just 5'1, is now engaged (who knew she was even dating?!) and accepted this whopper of a  14 karat diamond ring. There are no words except, "WOWSER."



2. Did you guys get a chance to see rhythmic gymnastics during the London 2012 Olympics? All I could think of was Will Ferrell during his Old School ribbon dance. Only in real life it looked a lot more like this:

Will someone please explain to me how this possible? Seriously? I'm sore just looking at her.

3. Weird: Apparently post birth placenta eating is a new trend. Really?! According to this article about actress January Jones, she's one of many celebrities in on this very odd behavior. All I can say is, "WTF?"



4. The over top comes to us thanks to the longest bridal dress train EVER! It's nearly 2 miles long. Nope, that's not a typo or a workout but, rather, the length of the train which according to the article would require 4 football fields to cover and an entire NFL team to hold up. To top it off, she was hoisted up in a hot air balloon. High maintenance much?




5. First off, huge congrats to Jennifer Aniston for her engagement. I hope this means the gossip mags can finally stop writing articles about Jennifer vs. Angelina (though for the record I was always Team Aniston). Engaged or not, these pants take "boyfriend jeans" to a whole new--and low--level.



6.  I'm sure by now you've at least seen one if not both of the Hemsworth boys: Chris and Liam, pictured below. Talk about good genes. I'm not sure whether I'd rather date them or be related to them if it means I get to look this good! SO. NOT. FAIR.


So what WTF moments have you had or seen lately?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hooked

I just started the book Hooked by Les Edgerton (review on that to come soon) and I just had to share his dedication page quote. It's lovely and inspiring and so, so, so, true! It's for all the writers who didn't have an easy path or a straight journey but, rather, the ones who took rejection, poured themselves into revisions, and kept at it until their book was as good as it could be--until it was an extension of themselves. It's for the writers who continue to stoke the fire in their belly to do what they were born to do: write.

Here it is:

"This book is dedicated to all the writers who didn't give up, no matter how long the odds or how fierce the struggle or how much the naysayers scoffed at their labor. To those who through their sweat, blood, and toil become our conscience and our heart and our soul, and who continually elevate us all as humans. You are a special breed, and I love you all."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Words

I saw this movie and can't wait for it's opening. It's about a man (an aspiring novelist) on the brink between a dead dream and a dark secrete. I LOVE it. What do you think; does it look interesting (Bradley Cooper eye candy aside)?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WriteOnCon!!!!

That's right, today kicks off WriteOnCon--the free, online, children's writers conference. If you haven't been, I highly recommend it. There are forums to participate in, query and opening page critiques, sessions led by publishing professionals from literary agents to editors as well as published writers themselves. It takes place today and tomorrow, so what are you waiting for? It's free--and fun!



Thursday, August 9, 2012

Suspense

The U.S. Women's Soccer Team plays the Japanese today in the gold medal match in the Olympics. This is the re-match of all re-matches after Japan beat us in the World Cup finals (and in penalty kicks no less)!

I am SOOOOO looking forward to it. It's anticipated suspense. If any of you watched the U.S. beat Canada in the semi-finals earlier this week then you'll know that it was quite possibly one of the most exciting women's soccer games in history. Canada would score, then we'd counter. Canada would score again, and we'd come back. There were shots dinging off the goal crossbar, dives, controversial calls, and one of the highest scoring games in Olympic history. And then...at the end of regular play, it was still tied 3-3. That means overtime. As the clock ticked, each team kept getting closer and closer but, still, no more goals. It began to look like this, too, was going to end in penalty kicks and, in fact, the first penalty kick showdown in Olympic soccer history!

Let me tell you, there's nothing worse than deciding a big game in penalty kicks. It's incredibly exciting to watch but it's nerve-wracking as all h*ll.

As regular overtime had ended it left just three minutes of injury time on the board and that too was washing away quickly as both teams struggled to find energy after 119 minutes and 40 seconds of soccer. Our goalie Hope Solo prepared herself in the goalie box for what she--and the world--was certain would follow. And then with 20 seconds left in the game Heather O'Reilly sprinted down the right side of the field like a shooting start and sent up a ball like a Hail Mary, praying that it would find one of our players amidst the heavy Canadian defense. The ball lingered in the air, seconds passing and then...Alex Morgan rises up just a few extra inches above the defense flanking her sides. In that brilliant second, her head meets the ball and finds that sweet spot in the back of the goal. Morgan lands on the ground in the process failing to even witness the history she'd just made, though in the loud uproar of cheers ensured she felt the weight of it nevertheless.

This picture below captures fellow forward Abby Wamback's immediate reaction. It shows that kind of exhilarated excitement that can't be faked.

This is U.S. player Abby Wambach celebrating the down to the wire semi-final win against Canada. Don't you just wish you could bottle up this feeling?!

My hope for today's game is another heart pounder of beautiful soccer between the world's greatest women's soccer teams. Last time against Japan we were quite literally that team in the photo in White with our heads hung low, the sting of disappointment or, rather, heart break. But that's the suspense and the beauty of sports: anything's possible. I said to my husband after the Canada game that I was worried that Japan had an edge going into today's match since they'd have much fresher legs; their game was earlier than ours and they didn't have to play that extra 30 minutes of overtime. Then I saw shots like this one of Wamback and I changed my tune. While there's motivation for the Japanese to stay on top, never underestimate the power of of sweet revenge or a team fresh off a comeback and ready for more.

And this, too, is what we all need in our writing. We need action and the pacing to back it up. We need there to be those lingering questions about how the story will end, which side will win. We need to have that scoreboard counting down the dreaded seconds in the background and ensure the reader knows just what, exactly, is at stake. And when we do it right and the guy (or gal) our readers have been cheering for wins, we want the reader to not only be satisfied, we want them to be celebrating right alongside with them. We all want to be Abby Wamback.

Monday, August 6, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Winner, winner chicken dinner! Do you guys know this saying? I had never heard it before I started playing--and losing--at board games this summer with my 11-year-old cousin. Now, it's like a song on the radio that I just can't get out of my head.

I am not, of course, giving away a chicken dinner but rather a Sarah Dessen book which means a great read (as most Dessen books are)! That lucky winner is Malvina. Congratulations!

Malvina, please email me your mailing address so I can send the book along. Thanks so much for following and supporting the blog. As always, thanks to everyone who entered and if there are other contests you're looking forward to or other books you wish to see reviewed on the blog, just let me know.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Olympics

I love the Olympics. Most particularly I love watching sports or, really, anything competitive. I also love an excuse to visit a pub with friends and cheer loudly with the occasional smack talking. The Olympics play into all of these things.

What the Olympics make me think of most, however, is this old picture I tore out of a magazine when I was seventeen.

I don't remember the magazine but I distinctly remember the photo. It had three little girls standing in a line, all wearing bathing suits in the hot summer sun. Their mouths smiled widely at the camera. There was no drama. No sucked-in bellies. No vanity. No insecurity. There were just three adorable, beautiful, perfect little girls. The caption read, "Remember when you loved your body?"

At seventeen this ad really resonated with me. The Olympics are all about country pride and culture--and yet it's counter culture. Instead of make-up laden underweight women, it's like one giant advertisement for healthy, powerful bodies and proof that these bodies come in a million different shapes and sizes and are still beautiful and capable all the same. I LOVE that!

But what about you? What do you love most about the Olympics?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review & Giveaway

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Here's what it's about: Rogerson Biscoe, with his green eyes and dark curly hair, is absolutely seductive. Before long, sixteen-year-old Caitlin finds herself under his spell. And when he starts to abuse her, she finds she's in too deep to get herself out...


Dreamland is by no means a fast-pace, can't put down book but it's well written and pulls you in. This is primarily due to Dessen's ability to tap into true to life events. At no time did I feel like I was reading a book but, rather, watching a life slowly unravel. Caitlin has wanted to have some kind of attention her entire life and, instead, all eyes were always on her sister Cass. But when Cass suddenly leaves and Caitlin's on her own, Caitlin doesn't know how to navigate the landscape. In fact, the irony is that at a time when Caitlin could finally be out front in center at school, in front of her parents, and even on her new cheerleading team, she slinks even further back into the shadows. 


Unfortunately this is all too easy to do since there's a continued preoccupation to bring back Cass who has runaway. Caitlin forgoes any and all opportunity to demand attention. In her eyes, Cass' disappearance takes away the person with whom she's always felt tethered and now Caitlin feels more alone than ever. She, like the rest of the family, allows herself to be numbed by this. Caitlin's mother offers opportunities for attention and yet the only attention Caitlin ever pursues is with her new boyfriend Rogerson--an intelligent, lost soul with a dark streak.


I applaud Dessen for tackling such a serious topic. I could relate to Caitlin wanting to both stand out and be noticed by those important to her but also her desire to blend in. I think boyfriends and even friends can often start to reshape a person's life sometimes with--and without--their consent. Caitlin doesn't realize so much that it's happening until she's already in love and already compromising so much of herself. I had not yet read a YA book about intimate partner violence but this is a topic that's incredibly important. I fear if this was released today, at a time of almost overcrowding in the YA market, that it would not have stood out which would have been a shame because this is definitely worth reading.


If you'd like a chance to win it, all you have to do is the following:


1. Be a follower of the blog
2. Email me at scookraymond@gmail.com. Subject line "Sarah Dessen Contest"
3. Extra entries if you 

  • tweet "Check out #bookgiveaway #contest by @SCookRay" and then include a link to the contest
  • Facebook post about the contest
  • write a comment in the comment box
4. Contest ends at 5 pm EST on August 5. Winner will be announced on August 6. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Here's what it's about: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?


The beginning of this book--the transition of Anna to her new Parisian elements--took too long. Perkins could have established Anna at the new school, introduced us to her friends, and grounded her in the world much more succinctly in order to create rising tension from the get go. Perhaps I'm being ruined by reading so many more adventurous (whether it be paranormal, mystery, urban fantasy, etc.) genres lately. But I LOVE contemporary and always have. So I persevered. Plus I'd heard fabulous things about this novel and it's rocking 4.3/5 stars on Good Reads. 


And then it happens. Just like crushes in high school do.  One day there's not much going on and then a tornado sweeps through and we're being carried away. That's what this book does to you, only unlike a tornado you don't see it coming. One day I was starting to grow a little bored with it and then the next I found myself  lying in bed well past my bedtime to find out if FINALLY St. Clair and Anna will get together already!!! 


Once Anna and St. Clair's relationship grows some legs, we're thrown into the "does he or doesn't he like me?" question full force. Perkins perfectly portrays the world of mixed signals, close calls, and the sighs and highs of first love. All in all it's a fun and entertaining read with great food references and splashes of Parisian sights. To make things even more tasty, St. Clair has the seemingly perfect combination of all things: great Hollywood hair, confidence yet also vulnerability, an extensive vocabulary (for us nerds out there), a British accent, and fluent in French. *swoon* Extra huge bonus points too because he gives Anna a book by my absolute favorite poet Pablo Neruda. 


As more and more YA novels seem to portray teen characters acting like adults, this novel felt very authentically high school to me.


What good books have you read lately?



Monday, July 23, 2012

Swagger Song

I am loving this song whether walking from the metro to work, going for a run, or writing about my character entering a new and exciting scene. With the Olympics coming up the video also has a cool story angle to it too.

Enjoy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vacation!!!!

I'm off on vacation...


Okay, confession: I'm not on this sandy white beach or swimming in the turquoise water or even anywhere remotely close to this exotic vacation. I'm in Upstate New York. Still...when I think "vacation" this is what I think of.

Photos like this have a certain quality to them. You find yourself relaxing just at the thought of being there, just at the image.

My vacation is not quite as exotic. AT ALL. I'm going to my family reunion, followed by a few days of hiking in the mountains.

It will be relaxing though and in an effort to keep it relaxing I'm limiting my Internet activity (or trying to), which means the blog is on vacation this week too. However, I will making it worth the wait.

When I return, I'm posting 3 book reviews and 1 book giveaway! (Can anyone say, "Sarah Dessen"? Hint, hint.) What book you ask? You'll have to return and find out.

In the mean time, what does vacation mean to you?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Last Night at Chateau Marmont

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

Here's what it's about: Brooke loved reading the dishy celebrity gossip rag Last Night. That is, until her marriage became a weekly headline.Brooke was drawn to the soulful, enigmatic Julian Alter the very first time she heard him perform “Hallelujah” at a dark East Village dive bar.Now five years married, Brooke balances two jobs—as a nutritionist at NYU Hospital and as a consultant to an Upper East Side girls’ school, where privilege gone wrong and disordered eating run rampant—in order to help support her husband’s dream of making it in the music world.Things are looking up when after years of playing Manhattan clubs and toiling as an A&R intern, Julian finally gets signed by Sony. Although no one’s promising that the album will ever hit the airwaves, Julian is still dedicated to logging in long hours at the recording studio. All that changes after Julian is asked to perform on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno—and is catapulted to stardom, literally overnight. Amazing opportunities begin popping up almost daily—a new designer wardrobe, a tour with Maroon 5, even a Grammy performance.At first the newfound fame is fun—who wouldn’t want to stay at the Chateau Marmont or visit the set of one of television’s hottest shows? Yet it seems that Brooke’s sweet husband—the man who can’t handle hot showers and wears socks to bed—is increasingly absent, even on those rare nights they’re home together. When rumors about Brooke and Julian swirl in the tabloid magazines, she begins to question the truth of her marriage and is forced to finally come to terms with what she thinks she wants—and what she actually needs.

Weisberger came to fame with The Devil Wears Prada. She's also written Chasing Harry Winston and my favorite, Everyone Worth Knowing. Last Night at Chateu Marmont is an enjoyable read although not my favorite of Weisberger's books. While each of Weisberger's novels are chick lit with a serious twist, this dug deeper than others (which I respect) but muddled there too long for my taste. 

Brooke is a wonderfully relatable character. What's so interesting about this read is that it takes all of the things that Brooke and her husband Julian had wished for each other. She doesn't have to work two jobs to support them. He makes his big break and can finally meet his parents' expectations of him. Money is no longer a worry. Brooke is even an US Weekly gossip mag lover like myself. What they didn't expect is all the stresses that would come when the world is suddenly watching what they thought was a happy marriage--when they, themselves, end up on the very pages they used to watch so fervently. 

Weisberger writes an accurate portrayal of life in the limelight. How publicity to advance Julian's career sometimes feels like its own kind of betrayal. And the problem with living the glamorous beautiful life is that all the glamorous beautiful people are there to tempt you.

You read this novel and realize how fragile relationships are and how we all, in our own special way, crave attention whether it's from a certain few or from the masses. It's important, however, not to forget where you came from and who has been there all the way to support you. My only request of Weisberger would have been to better straddle the balance between a  a relationship unraveling (with the tension, twists, and turns this storyline can provide) and that of a marriage counseling session. 

Still, if you're looking for a summer read, this is still a possible contender. 


Friday, July 6, 2012

Great Video

I heard the song, "How Far We've Come" by Matchbox 20 last night on the radio. I had completely forgotten about it and was immediately reminded what a phenomenal song it is and how full it is of meaning. I couldn't find the original music video for it anywhere (though if you can find it, I strongly encourage you to check it out). I did, however, come across this very well done montage geared entirely towards the environment.

It reminded me of how books and their visual covers can be such perfect matches. This video perfectly blends the lyrics with visual images that underscore their meaning. I hope you enjoy!






Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Women's Sports Foundation

Last month marked the anniversary of Title IX. As you most likely know by now, I have a serious love of soccer and, really, any and all sports. I grew up surrounded by older althletic brothers but, still, I'm certain I would have found sports all on my own or, as a friend of mine has said, sports would have found me. Because that's how soccer has been. It's been the one consistent love of my life. In fact, it's been the longest-running relationship I've ever had.

I adore sports especially women's sports as I've seen all the ways it can keep kids out of trouble and, for young girls, the ways it gives them confidence about their abilities, about what's possible with hard work and dedication, and how it helps them escape from society's obsession with unrealistic body ideals. Legs are meant to be strong and sturdy to kick a ball rather than frail and rail like to balance on a pair of heels. For all of these reasons, I adore this brand new commercial brought to us from the Women's Sports Foundation. They say that by the age of 14, girls will abandon sports at twice the rate as boys. Let's help reverse this trend because there's so much that sports can bring to a life. There are lessons about sharing, about team work, about how to win and lose gracefully, how to prove to yourself that you're capable of things you never imaged and YES, how your body is beautiful and it's meant to be strong and taken care of.

I encourage you to share this with the girls and women in your life. Enjoy!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bella vs. Buffy

This was too good not to share:


Thursday, June 28, 2012

What to read this summer

Not sure what summer reads to pick up? Then check out this wickedly cool chart for some suggestions.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cover Love

Here are the two books I just received from Amazon for my soon-to-be vacation reads. Soooo excited!

1. A Summer in Europe by Marilyn Brant
Here's the description: On her thirtieth birthday, Gwendolyn Reese receives an unexpected present from her widowed Aunt Bea: a grand tour of Europe in the company of Bea's Sudoku and Mah-jongg Club. The prospect isn't entirely appealing. But when the gift she is expecting -- an engagement ring from her boyfriend -- doesn't materialize, Gwen decides to go. At first, Gwen approaches the trip as if it's the math homework she assigns her students, diligently checking monuments off her must-see list. But amid the bougainvillea and stunning vistas of southern Italy, something changes. Gwen begins to live in the moment: skipping down stone staircases in Capri, running her fingers over a glacier in view of the Matterhorn, racing through the Louvre, and taste-testing pastries at a Marseilles cafe. Revelling in every new experience -- especially her attraction to a charismatic British physics professor -- Gwen discovers that the ancient wonders around her are nothing compared to the renaissance unfolding within...


First, this is the prettiest cover EVER! I'm such a sucker for a beautiful landscape and then you add the mountains, the water, and EUROPE and there was no question I had to read this book. I know I'm going to like it too. One of my absolute best friends was also my roommate during our study abroad and, together, we have traveled all over. From pints of Strongbow in England to world famous chocolate in Belgium, the Eiffel Tower in France to a wine tasting tour through Italy, we've hit it all. I can't claim I found this book but once it was brought my attention I knew I'd not only read it but that we'd read it together. And that's exactly what we're doing. It's a chance to connect with an old friend, relive our one amazing semester in Europe, and have our very own long distance book club. It's going to be great, and if you don't have a summer read picked out the I invite you to read along too. There will be a review forthcoming with lots of opportunity for you to add your own angle to the conversation.


2. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah 
Here's the description:In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.


So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness. 

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .
For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

I'm a little late to the party with this one. It's already a NYT bestseller and apparently I know tons of people who have read--and adored--this novel. When seeking some new reads this title was repeated again and again. So, there was only one logical thing to do: move it up on my TBR list stat and that's exactly what I've done. There's something truly special about a book that transcends so much time with the same characters--it's like we're growing up alongside them. It creates a richer reading experience (at least as far as the characterization is concerned) and I can't wait!

What books are you dying to get your hands on this summer?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

WTF Wednesday

Keeping up with the blog has been harder than usual lately. Time seems to have sped up and there just simply isn't enough of it. WTF? Doesn't the sun know I have more stuff to do?! These are the times I wish I were a vampire and didn't need sleep and when I just feel like doing this:



If you don't recognize the clip, it's from Garden State, one of my absolute favorite movies. This idea, however, of just screaming out into the dark abyss or across the ocean or on a mountain top isn't something new. It's been recycled and yet we all identify, don't we? We all have our WTF Wednesdays as well as our WTF weeks where we just want to scream.

Sometimes that scream gets bottled up into something else, some other distraction. Right now, for me, that's the Insanity Workout (supposedly the hardest workout available on DVD) because, apparently, I'm insane and also online book buying (thank you Amazon!):*



The first is burning off all that crazed energy and the second is offering that wonderful, blissful escape. I'm trying to wait until my upcoming beach vacation but I'm sooooo excited to get my hands on some new, fabulous reads because, well, I'm a bibliophile through and through. And, really, there's nothing better at the end of a crazy day, week, month, hour, you name it, than a great book. Well, maybe a great book with a nice glass of wine :-)

What have been your WTF moments lately and how do you deal?



*Stay tuned: on Friday I reveal my cover loves and my new book buys.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Breaking Dawn Part 2 Trailer Released

Did you guys see this?



I can't help it. I'm excited. Don't lie, you are too (at least a little).

Monday, June 11, 2012

BEA Conference

If you're like me, then all last week you followed the blog posts and tweets about BEA (Book Expo America Conference) but from your arm chair seat. I ADORE Jennifer Weiner who recently gave a keynote speech followed by a Q & A and I just had to share:






Friday, June 1, 2012

Dear Me....

A writer friend of mine just did a post about what she'd say to her twenty something year old self. I love this idea and have seen it similarly done with YA writers to their teen selves.

For me, the two biggest differences between where I was in my teens or early twenties versus now is that I feel like I've finally arrived. My younger self was always trying to prepare for life. It was always about what the next step was going to be whether it was getting into college or finding a first job or what city to live in or if I'd ever get married. But, now, all of those nagging questions have been answered. I found a city I love (DC), a great job with people I adore, and I did find the guy after all.

I'm not sure when it happened but somewhere along the way from 20 to 30 I stopped picking away at the pieces of me and started celebrating all of me. I became comfortable and confident and, now, I feel completely at peace. Finally, all that prep work is done. I'm living my life--and I'm loving it.

So here's my letter to my twenty something year old self (which could also very well be a note to my teen self too).

Dear Twenty Something Self,

1. STOP freaking out about how things will turnout and just live. Because it WILL all work out. The job. The boy. All of it. Just not at all how or when you thought. But trust me. When you get there you'll know and it's good. Really good.

2. Enjoy your metabolism. Enough said.

3. Never apologize for who you are or what you want.

4. ALWAYS remember Henry Ford's advice, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right."

5. Start reading YA sooner!

6. Start writing fiction sooner. Yes, fiction.

7. Do not dye your hair yourself. Just trust me on this one.

8. Take less money if it means more happiness. (You do this by the way! Good choice.)

9. Keep drinking wine and dancing barefoot. It keeps you sane.

Sincerely,
31-year-old (*gasp*) Sarah

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Revisions

I have a love/hate relationship with revisions. Okay, full disclosure, it's a little more hate and a little less love. It's like training. I just want a toned body not necessarily all the exercise that goes with it. But that's how it works.

The love part kicks in when I suddenly realize I've done it (or I'm doing it!). A few months ago I received invaluable feedback about my WIP. It all made perfect sense. I agreed with it in full. Sign me up. On board. Here we go...

Only how?

I genuinely had no idea where to begin. And once I began there just seemed to be more and more and more to do. It ended up a little something like this:

-Cut 20,000 words
-Re-arrange much of what's left
-Write a new 15,000 words
-Revise everything
-Cut another 10,000 words
-Write another 6,000 words

And now I'm about to re-read it in full once again! I've killed off more darlings than I ever have before but with each execution I ask myself, "Does this advance the plot?" Not a subplot but THE PLOT.  The answer determines if it stays or if it goes.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review: The Lucky One

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

When U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a photograph of a smiling young woman half-buried in the dirt during his third tour of duty in Iraq, his first instinct is to toss it aside. Instead, he brings it back to the base for someone to claim, but when no one does, he finds himself always carrying the photo in his pocket. Soon Thibault experiences a sudden streak of luck—winning poker games and even surviving deadly combat that kills two of his closest buddies. Only his best friend, Victor, seems to have an explanation for his good fortune: the photograph—his lucky charm.

Back home in Colorado, Thibault can’t seem to get the photo—and the woman in it—out of his mind. Believing that she somehow holds the key to his destiny, he sets out on a journey across the country to find her, never expecting the strong but vulnerable woman he encounters in Hampton, North Carolina—Elizabeth, a divorced mother with a young son—to be the girl he’s been waiting his whole life to meet. Caught off guard by the attraction he feels, Thibault keeps the story of the photo, and his luck, a secret. As he and Elizabeth embark upon a passionate and all-consuming love affair, the secret he is keeping will soon threaten to tear them apart—destroying not only their love, but also their lives.


Filled with tender romance and terrific suspense, The Lucky One is Nicholas Sparks at his best—an unforgettable story about the surprising paths our lives often take and the power of fate to guide us to true and everlasting love.




I saw Nicholas Sparks speak a few years ago at the National Book Festival. I had fallen in love with The Notebook like most of America so I thought he'd be interesting to hear. He followed John Irving's talk in the fiction tent. Talk about opposites! (But that's another post altogether.) Sparks' spoke mostly about his work in progress at the time: The Last Song. The book they were pushing in the Festival's make-shift bookstore, however, was The Lucky One. I remember thinking it sounded interesting but then saw the long, long, long line to buy it. I assumed I might pick it up at another time but with so many books on my TBR list, that simply didn't happen. Then the movie came out.


I've mentioned before that I can't watch a movie and then read the book it's based on. I can do the opposite however. And, thus, my attention was turned back to The Lucky One. I'm not always a fan of alternating prospective and this is alternating third person perspective, something else I'm even less used to reading. Sparks makes it work, however, and the characters all seem incredibly real and, at least for Elizabeth and Logan, completely relatable and enjoyable. Elizabeth's ex-husband Keith definitely sells the all-around creep persona. To this end, you will genuinely feel like you know these people, their motivations, and all the intricacies of their complicated relationships.


I haven't read a ton of Sparks' work but I've read some. The characters in The Lucky One are 29 years old and yet they have old souls, likely due to their circumstances: Logan's war experience and Elizabeth's single mother status and primary caretaker role. For this reason I think the book will attract a wide audience across age groups. It's also a universal story of love and acceptance and about finding one's way in the world. 


The story could have benefitted from some more action sprinkled throughout. As it stands, much of the beginning and middle portions of the novel are character development and the groundwork upon which a romance could build. There are, of course, twists and turns although given the alternating third person perspective, the reader already knows the information the characters themselves are shocked to discover. For this reason, the tension is a little deflated. I didn't find myself tiring during these sections but by the end, when the tension rises, the stakes are high, and the action is great, I realize that Sparks can really shine in an action scene. I wish there had been more.


All in all, this story is a quick and overall enjoyable read for someone who wants to experience a second chance at love with a couple of likable characters. You'll also find yourself believing a little more in luck or at least experiencing increased faith that positive thinking can do wondrous things.


Did you read the book or the movie? What did you think? Where does this rank with other Nicholas Sparks books you've read? 







Monday, May 21, 2012

Swagger Song

I have a couple of book reviews coming up on the blog this week but first, for this dreary, rainy, cold Monday I have a swagger song to hopefully lift your spirits. So here's to bundling up at home or the office, sipping a nice vanilla chai latte, and listening to a great new pick me up song. Enjoy!