Thursday, December 30, 2010

*Spoiler Alert* Favorite Scene | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I finally got out to watch HP7 Part 1, the first half of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, and as I expected, it was dark, violent and disturbing.

One of my favorite characters in this series is Dobby, a house-elf who undergoes an outstanding character transformation. If you've read these books and appreciate Rowling's skill at character development, you'll enjoy Dobby's performance in the scene below.

If you've NOT read the series, but plan to, or are only half-way through, whatever you do, please don't watch. Try and resist the temptation; I stumbled on some spoilers that I later regretted, snooping around Rowling's author site.

This scene gives me a radical case of goosebumps.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can’t believe it. I’m done. There are no more Harry Potter books to read. No more elves, owls, thestrals. I’ve finished DEATHLY HALLOWS and am happy to report that I have fallen completely in love with the entire series, its characters, creatures and author. Although this last book starts off a bit slow, the tension quickly builds, and turns into a nail-biter. DEATHLY HALLOWS is filled with so many poignant examples of love, courage and friendship, that I will never forget Harry’s losses, as he faces having to make the ultimate sacrifice for the “greater good.”

And to think that I resisted reading these books because of the media blitz. Well I’m glad I kept an open mind, because had I not read them, I would’ve deprived myself of a wonderful reading experience. Rowling is a master plotter and gifted storyteller. I now understand why so many of my friends, who are readers, continue to read this series many times over.

I've included some links to J.K. Rowling's last interview with Oprah Winfrey that I'd never seen. She doesn't completely rule-out revisiting Harry at some later date. :)

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Thursday, December 2, 2010


The Love Goddess' Cooking SchoolThe Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delicious. Entertaining. Sexy. Fun. Just a few of the words I'd use to describe Melissa Senate's The Love Goddess' Cooking School. This delightful story is brimming with sympathetic characters, complicated relationships and mouth-watering Italian recipes that will make you want to whip out the cooking utensils. Senate adds the perfect amounts of humor, talismans, family-ties, magic and love to deliver a fresh and memorable reading experience. The perfect book for my week-long cold.

To learn more about Melissa Senate and her other books, please visit her website at, or click here to read the first chapter of THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL. Facebook Twitter

Order on-line:

Friday, July 30, 2010


Book 2
The Fury and Dark Reunion
by L.J. Smith
Drawing August 2nd

You ever see reports on the news of the same person hitting the lottery more than once? How about that friend of yours who happens to pick the winning ticket at every fundraising event you attend with them? Yeah. Well. I always wonder about those people because I'm not one of them. I never win anything fun.

Which leads me to why I'm so happy.

I love THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, and although I've never missed an episode of the TV series, I haven't gotten around to reading any of the books. So when I saw that dedicated writer and blogger Julie A. Lindsey would be giving away the entire series, in four separate drawings on her blog MUSINGS FROM THE SLUSH PILE, I dared to enter.

And guess what? I won the first book in the series, THE AWAKENING and STRUGGLE. *happy dance* Thank you, Julie.

The next drawing is in a couple of days on August 2nd, when she'll be giving away Book 2: THE FURY and DARK REUNION. If you love this TV series, and have not read any of the books, I encourage you to enter!

Thank you again, Julie!

Follow Julie on Twitter: @JulieALindsey

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"It's Not You, It's Me," says the girl, to her e-reader.

These are words frequently heard when somebody's about to get dumped. The girl talking here happens to me and the e-reader, yup, you got it, my new Nook. Now don't get me wrong. I love my Nook. It's sleek, portable, has a nice leather cover and can download a book faster than I can brew a cup of coffee. It's become as much a part of me as my iPhone. With so many fine attributes then, what could possibly trouble me?

Well, I'll tell you. I WANT MY BOOKS. PAPER BOOKS.

Yes, I know. E-books are the future. I get that like I get the benefits of electronic medical records. But why can't I have both? Why can't I have a paper book with the option to download the e-book for $0.99, or vice versa? Buy the e-book at the e-book price and pay the difference to own the tangible book if I wish to add it to my "physical" library?

I'll give you two scenarios that I've faced where I've felt penalized for owning an e-book:


A romance author I follow recently posted that she'd be doing a reading and book-signing at a local book store. As it so happens, hers was one of two books I'd recently downloaded to my Nookie. Unfortunately, the book signing was more than an hour away and during my son's bedtime, so I had to forego it. But what if I'd been able to go? What would I have had her sign? A bookmark? My arm? Is there such a thing as an e-signature or e-autograph for readers who own the e-book version of an author's book?


Another author I follow recently published a YA book that was not available at the bookstore and that I didn't want to wait to have delivered. After a lot of deliberation, I checked my Nook. Yay, the book was available for download. I read it. I loved it. I then wanted it in paper form. Why should I pay full price to own the paper version?

Which is exactly what I did with one of my books on the craft that I'd recently read and loved but didn't want to tote with me on vacation. I probably don't have to tell you what I ended up doing. Yes, I now own both versions.

Maybe I'm mental. Please me tell I'm not the only one and make me feel better.

What's been your experience with your e-reader? Do you or have you had your druthers before downloading a book, only to later wish you owned the paper version?

I'd love to know.

My Nook Going for a Ride
Stack of Books at Hannafords, York ME
(Proceeds go to Big Brothers Big Sisters)
Nook was in my pocketbook and I still bought books.
Vacation Book Bag
(See Nook Jammed with Books?)
Books on the floorboard of my truck that
I purchased at the York Public Library's book sale.

"Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing. It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total."
~Forsyth and Rada, Machine Learning

Monday, April 26, 2010


I have to confess that the first thing that drew me to PERFECT CHEMISTRY was the cover art, as it was the first YA book I'd ever seen with a Hispanic male on it, and second, upon reading the back and learning that one of the points-of-view was that of a Mexican gang-banger, I couldn't resist. I grew up in a Southern California barrio surrounded by gangs, and although I don’t know what it means to belong to one, I certainly know what it's like to live in constant fear of them.
On the surface, Chicago high-school seniors Brittany Ellis and Alex (Alejandro) Fuentes have nothing in common. She’s the rich “snow girl” obsessed with projecting a perfect image, and he’s a feared Mexican gang member believed to be involved in drug deals and drive-bys. When they’re forced to pair-up by their chemistry lab teacher, not only do their masks gradually come off, but sparks fly -- aversion giving way to sympathy, mutual understanding and attraction.
Elkeles alternates between two first-person points-of-view that are so dramatically different that the constant switching jolted me. Having said that, once I got into the rhythm, I looked forward to getting the opposing character's perspective.
I started out disliking Brittany's self-absorbed, rich girl from the South Side, wanting to appear perfect persona. That didn't last long, though, as once I discovered her true motivations and feelings, my dislike quickly gave way to sympathy.
I found Alex's perspective most compelling as he sheds light on the tragic circumstances that led to his life with the Latino Blood, the gang’s role in his and his family’s lives, and the consequences he'd face should he ever refuse certain duties, or decide to leave. Without giving anything away, his story gave me insight into aspects of gang membership I’d never really considered.
As I saw the story through Alex’s eyes, I wondered how non-Spanish-speaking readers might get through all the Spanish words; there are A LOT of them. Perhaps the author and publisher suspected that their target reading audience would be like me, Spanish-speaking. If you do decide to read this book and are not bilingual, I suggest you have a Spanish/English Dictionary handy, or you might find yourself frustrated.
My only complaint about this otherwise insightful and easy-to-read story is the ending, that in my opinion, didn't fit the story. But that's me. I'll leave it to others who've read this book to weigh in with their opinions.

To learn more about the author, Simone Elkeles and PERFECT CHEMISTRY, visit:

Friday, March 5, 2010


SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT, Beth Hoffman's debut novel, is a beautifully written story set in the late sixties, seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl, who's left to care for her mentally ill mother, by her traveling salesman father. Hoffman does a wonderful job of grabbing the reader's attention from the beginning, as CeeCee is left vulnerable and isolated, fearing that she will develop her mother's mental illness. Her only two escapes from her dreary existence are her massive book collection, and Mrs. Odell, a sympathetic neighbor who loves CeeCee when nobody else seems to care.

When you think the story couldn't get any worse, when CeeCee is twelve, her mother is hit and killed by an ice cream truck (The Happy Cow Ice Cream truck). Shortly thereafter, CeeCee's whisked away by her Great Aunt Tootie to Savannah, Georgia where she's immediately enveloped by love and kindness. In Savannah, she learns the true meaning of "family" and "friendship," discovers her inner fire, and slowly opens her heart and mind to the promise of the future.

Hoffman's writing style is clear and concise, her voice is silky-smooth and peppered with humor, her descriptions are vibrant, and her secondary cast of characters is three-dimensional and "unforgettable." Yeah. In case you haven't picked up on it, I absolutely loved this book. The author moved me to the point where I wanted nothing more than to see this little girl, abandoned by her father, flourish.

This book is a "must read" for all readers of young adult fiction and women's fiction. I'm dying to find out what the future holds for Little Miss CeeCee. I'll never look at southern ladies, slugs, and bras, quite the same way again. I'm sure you'll feel the same.

Click here to visit Beth Hoffman's website and to read her advice to writers.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


When we're growing up, our parents tell us not to brag too much about our achievements. So when Twitter friend and follower, Portia Sisco awarded me The Silver Lining and Honest Scrap Awards, I felt a little guilty that I couldn't wait to show off my shiny new badges. Thanks for the double-whammy, girl! All kidding aside, I am grateful that she's found a kernel of inspiration in my fledgling blog. 

Before I get to my responses, I'd like to recommend two entries Portia recently posted on her blog. In case you haven't met her, she blogs about "the paranormal and anything else that goes bump in the night." But When Will You Send It? and Make Them Hurt touch on two aspects of writing that we can all relate to, the external pressure to submit a manuscript before the writer "knows" it's ready, and having the fortitude to inflict some "pain" on our characters. By pain, she doesn't mean torture, but believable pain in the form of obstacles and challenges that fit the plot. Check them out.


Thank you, Portia, for considering me a part of the silver lining in this journey. You, and several of the supportive friends I've met on Twitter, have inspired me at moments when self-doubt has temporarily paralyzed my finger tips. Finding you, the wonderful people at Writer's Digest, and my writing teacher has truly been a blessing, in what most times seems a solitary endeavor.

HONEST SCRAP -- Say it isn't so.

With the Honest Scrap, I'm supposed to share ten things about me that you might not know. So, here goes:
  1. English is my second language. I started kindergarten not understanding one word the teacher spoke. Seared into my memory is the first time I had to "ask" to use the bathroom, which I liken to an episode of Charlie Brown. "Mwa-mwa-mwa-mwa-mwa." Yup. That pretty much sums up my first couple of years of school.
  2. After my son's birth, I worked in the beauty industry between corporate gigs -- I'm licensed to cut, color, re-texturize (a fancy word for perming and straightening, same chemical, different process), manicure, do nail enhancements, apply lash extensions, remove hair, perform facials, and my favorite to this day -- do make-up. Although it's very hard work, I enjoyed all of it, except for the cutting part.
  3. Ezzy is a nickname I picked-up while on the playground in the fourth grade. I was born "Esmeralda." Honestly, I would've been happier with either Monica or Natalie. Esmeralda? That's the name of a witch or gypsy.
  4. I grew up in Southern California and moved to Boston twelve years ago to attend law school.
  5. My favorite shows growing up were Night Gallery, Creature Feature, The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Star Trek. I love suspense, not gore.
  6. I'm scared to death of spiders. I'm not kidding, either. Petrified.
  7. I've never cared for Barbie. Cared even less for The Bratz Dolls. Ack.
  8. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was the first "older" novel I read as a little girl (maybe nine or ten). I developed a crush on Mr. Darcy and a taste for an intelligent story with romance intertwined, at a very young age.
  9. I'm shy under most circumstances (ISTJ).
  10. My fingers shook the first time I submitted a writing assignment for critique. I've come a long way in two years.  
The Awards go to ...

Instructions on The Silver Lining are to award it to bloggers who inspire you in some way. The Honest Scrap Award is pretty simple. List ten things about yourself that some of your blogger friends might not already know about you. I've chosen six people whose tweets I look forward to every week, as their energy is infectious. Have fun!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Yes, I know. Guess you could say I'm a little behind in my -- um -- reading.

HARRY POTTER and THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN follows a more vocal and mature Harry, Hermione and Ron through their third year of wizardry training at Hogwarts.

Plot Synopsis (Skip to "The Writing" if you've read book.)

Harry discovers that Sirius Black, a madman believed to be responsible for Harry's parents' death, has escaped from The Prison of Azkaban and is en route to the castle to kill him. Making matters worse, Harry learns that Black attended Hogwarts with his parents, was their best-friend, and Harry's godfather.

Dispatched from Azkaban to keep Black out of Hogwarts are frightening, soul-sucking, flying dementors that look like grim reapers with wings. Whenever Harry is around these horrid creatures, he hears his mother's cries for mercy just before Voldemort takes her life. The dementors represent Harry's worst fear and become a power to be reckoned with when he's forced to face them at the end of the book.

Although I sympathize with Harry and his plight, the character whose struggles resonate with me the most are Hermione's. Her sincere effort to always "do the right thing" gets her into trouble throughout the book, and her dogged determination to be the "best" student she can be comes at a cost. Her relationship with both Harry and Ron becomes further strained when she reveals that Harry received an anonymous gift, as she's convinced its been cursed and sent by Sirius Black. Although Harry's safety is at the top of her mind, her actions further complicate her situation. Additionally, her cat, Crookshank's repeated attacks on Ron's pet rat, Scabbers, don't help matters.

Hagrid, Hogwart's groundskeeper, gets his heart's desire and finally becomes a professor. And what better class for him to teach than The Care of Magical Creatures? His confidence is shattered when on the first day of class, Draco Malfoy provokes Buckbeak, a winged hybrid eagle-horse creature, that Hagrid incorporates into his lesson. Harry, Hermione, and Ron must then race against the clock to save Buckbeak after he's sentenced to death by the Ministry of Magic for having attacked Malfoy.

The Writing

As a student of writing, I can't help but wonder about Rowling's creative process. What's her secret sauce? Does she write at 4 a.m. or 4 p.m.? Does she surround herself with flow charts, characterization sheets, and note cards? Where does she get her ideas? Does she produce a meticulous outline the length of a manuscript, prior to starting to write, with various what-if scenarios hashed out?

Otherwise, how might one explain this author's ability to plot so many overlapping story lines that leave not one loose-end untied, revealing clues throughout the story and delighting the reader with a satisfying pay-off at the end? Is it enough to say that she's just a gifted writer with years of experience?

Aside from being a "master plotter," Rowling engages the reader with the subtle lyrical tone of her work, writing in clear and concise sentences. She also breaks a few rules. For example, I was surprised by her repeated use of exclamation points, sometimes WITH entirely capitalized sentences. Rowling also frequently uses adverbs both in and outside of dialogue tags. So what?

Although the majority of the story is told from Harry's perspective, Rowling slips in-and-out of Ron's and Hermione's points-of-view in a manner that is neither jarring, obtrusive, nor annoying. She changes perspectives in a way that flows naturally with the storytelling, only when necessary, and for very brief periods of time.

In case you're thinking I loved everything about this book, I didn't. Two things drove me nuts. First, had I known there were going to be "so many" creatures, I would've kept a sticky note with the book and listed them, as by the time I got three-quarters of the way through, and a creature's name came up, I didn't remember which creature was which. Second, although Quidditch is a clever sporting event for wizardry types, I couldn't get into the matches and skimmed these portions of the book, which really isn't surprising, given that I don't even watch Muggle sports.

Some of you die-hard Potter fans and devout YA readers might be asking, what's taken me so long to get with the program? Don't shoot me for admitting to this, but I've been reticent to reading a series intended for nine to twelve-year-olds. Having said that, I'm delighted at how much Harry and his friends matured over the course of the first three books and anxiously await discovering what the future holds for them.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

GIRLS IN TRUCKS by Katie Crouch

GIRLS IN TRUCKS is Katie Crouch's national-bestselling debut novel about Sarah Walters' journey into womanhood as a Southern debutante-in-training and member of the exclusive Camellia Society. I had to take a week to think about this story before writing this post because, although I loved Crouch's voice and her ability to capture the reader's imagination with her character's humorous insights, dialogue and depictions, I had trouble reading it.

The beginning grabbed and held my attention with Sarah's engaging and witty first-person account of life with her family and friends, living in a sometimes stifling culture bound by tradition and obligation. I was so captivated by Crouch's authentic voice and Sarah's quirky personality, that when the book abruptly switched to the third-person point-of-view, it jarred me, leaving me feeling as if I'd accidently picked up a different book.

The third-person narrator covers Sarah's entire college experience in a single chapter, putting distance between Sarah and the reader at a time when she begins her downward spiral into a life of promiscuity and illicit drug use. Although, I understand why Crouch switched to the third-person, as a reader who'd connected with Sarah, I felt cheated.

When the author later returned to the first-person point-of-view, I had difficult relating to Sarah's offensive behavior and could only interpret her actions to be a rebellion to the restrictive lifestyle she'd adhered to as a member of the Camellia Society. Sadly, I couldn't stand seeing her on the page, as she'd become an unlikeable character bent on destroying herself. Additionally, her unrequited love for an abusive man, her affair with her best-friend's husband, and her addictions disturbed me.

Two things that didn't work for me as a reader were the various points-of-view Crouch employed and the portions of the book that were written in short, journal-type entries. Although the author illustrates her skill in writing from all points-of-view (third, first, second, omniscient), I found the abrupt changes distracting in a book of this length. Also, the short sections left me wanting to know more of the story. I will look forward to seeing if her next novel is written in the same format.

In spite of this, Crouch's unique voice and style kept me flipping the pages. This book touches on everything: sexuality, friendship, infidelity, drug abuse, mental illness, alcoholism, physical abuse and death.

I plan on rereading this book for style and recommend it to other students of writing. I'd be interested in others's impressions.

For more information on Katie Crouch, you can visit her website at

Monday, January 4, 2010


THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER is seventeen-year-old Macy Queen's touching story about loss, love and the pursuit of perfection. Her story takes place during the summer and is set against the humorous backdrops of two jobs, one at the local library's reference desk, and a second she falls into by chance, with a catering company named WISH.

Macy agrees to take the job at the library, which she soon equates to having her teeth pulled, as a favor to her brainiac boyfriend. The catering job, in addition to teaching her the ins-and-outs of the catering business (and the fine art of dodging hors d'oeuvres chasers), helps her understand, with the help of her new friends, that flaws aren't imperfections. Rather, they are what make us unique.

Sarah Dessen's voice and conversational writing style drew me in, leaving me feeling by the end of the story that Macy was somebody I knew well-enough to be my friend. I laughed. I cried a bit in places. And I wrung my hands in others.

I found the plot to be compelling and filled with relatable, well-developed characters whose authentic voices surprised me straight through to the end.

This is the first Sarah Dessen novel I've read. I look forward to reading her others, which include:
To learn more about Sarah Dessen, you can visit her website at