Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Speak" - a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

"Speak" tells the story of a young teenager who teeters on the precipice of that tenth circle of hell - High School - as the one thing no teenager entering high school wants to be: a social pariah. The whole unfortunate chain of events that ripped Melinda from her comfortable circle of friends began at a end-of-summer party that started with booze, and ended with a call to the police.

Melinda makes the 9-1-1 call that would bust up the festivities, but it was the last cry for help this traumatized girl would make over the next nine months. In fact, she stops speaking almost entirely over course of the school year, treacherous terrain she navigates as the weirdo loner. There are no friends left who would dare speak to the snitch who broke up the party, which makes the natural dissolution of middle school friendships much more painful.

Instead Melinda is trapped in her own head, where she is free to say, often with acerbic wit and wry observations, what her mouth can no longer say. It is there we meander through the tightly woven recesses of her mind to untangle what has rendered our heroine mute.

The book hit my radar during "Banned Books Week." This YA title tackles very adult material in the inciting incident that propels Melinda onto her journey to rediscover her voice. This seems to upset some folks who would prefer to whitewash information handed to impressionable teenagers, to reinforce this facade that nothing bad can happen to you until you hit that magical birthday that makes you old enough to deal with your circumstances.

If only we could so easily "ban" the behavior that facilitates the need for such a book.

When I was in ninth grade, much like Melinda, I found my voice right in front of my speech class, where I acknowledged that I was a survivor of rape. My season of silence lasted nine years before I finally just let it erupt out of my soul like a painful volcano. It was a moment that shocked the entire class into silence, because I'm sure many in the class could never have expected that one of their classmates withheld such a painful secret.

Maybe many believed the facade that such a thing could never touch the sweet sanctity of childhood. They were fortunate enough that such a concept was blissfully foreign to their own particular experience.

What I didn't expect were the girls who came to me later in private to tell me their own stories - stories of incest and rape and the same binding shame that had kept us all silent until one brave voice decided to speak up.

We were all in this bubble of silence, thinking we were alone, never knowing we were part of a growing, muted society who didn't get the memo such things just weren't supposed to happen to young kids.

That's the real facade.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 44% of sexual assault survivors are under the age of 18. More than that, "girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault."

When you factor in that 60% of rapes go unreported, that means that there are teenagers out there struck just as mute as "Speak's" heroine. These are victims locked deep in the recesses of their own mind, told by those whom they trust that childhood is a safe place where these things are simply not up for discussion.

In a shocking demonstration of perfect irony, those who would ban such a book indeed silence a character who fought so hard and so bravely to find her voice... the only thing that would help her heal.

I have to admit, I made the same mistake. Though my novel, Dirty Little Secrets, features a similar painful coming-of-age for a 19-year-old girl, I did not market my book to the YA market. I felt the subject matter too dark, too traumatic. But in all fairness I did wallow a bit deeper in the mud than Anderson, whose book balanced a 13-year-old (PG rated) point of view with very adult subject matter.

My book is more in-your-face and not quite as delicately self-censored. If my book was banned, I'd understand.

"Speak" being banned makes no sense to me.

The story itself is well-crafted and a very quick read (I finished it in a matter of hours.) Anderson gives you enough detail to understand the pain and isolation without making it too sensationalistic. "The Event" is delivered over a couple of paragraphs, like ripping the band-aid off of a healing wound. It isn't explicit, just very matter-of-fact.

She uses imagery like the seasons turning and visuals like seeds and trees to demonstrate growth and the passage from one growth period to another. I would have preferred to see the turning point at the end of the book more foreshadowed as to how she finally resolves her silence in a very dramatic, yet almost non-organic way. It was satisfying, but there was that very slight kernel of non-plausibility that stole some of its thunder.

It's the only real complaint I could muster for this important piece of work, which should never be silenced to "protect" our kids.

To really protect your kids, give them a safe haven where all discussion is allowed and welcomed.

Always, always, ALWAYS give them the permission to speak.

**** - highly recommend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"The Green Lantern"

2011 promises to be the Year of the Comic Book Movie, AKA The Year The Coolest Wife Ever Will Be Dragged to the Movies for Stuff She May Or May Not Like Just To Make Her Fanboy Husband Happy.

So far we've had "Thor", "The Green Lantern" and "X-Men First Class". Still to come: "Captain America" and "Cowboys vs. Aliens". Aside from "X-Men First Class", I plan to see all of them. As the wife of a Fanboy Geek, it is my solemn duty to attend such movies in support of my loving husband's dorkdom, and generally I have a good time doing so, though there have been some real stinkers along the way.

Amidst the rubble arise such gems as "Iron Man", "Spider-Man" and even "The Dark Knight". Even "Hellboy II's" nod to Barry Manilow gave me a geeky fangirl moment of my own.

Generally my enjoyment of said popcorn fare depends on two things: It's either got to take the silliness of the genre very tongue-in-cheek, or seriously enough to make me buy the outrageous concept.

This means the hero has to be irreverent and fun, or the villain has to be extremely dark and maniacal, i.e. "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight."

Gauging my comic book movie criteria above on the trailer for "The Green Lantern," I was generally excited about opening night.

The character of Hal Jordan promised to be irreverent, cocky and funny, and let's face it...Ryan Reynolds is not hard on the eyes. He's also got a charming quality about him that makes him highly watchable, so allowing him to carry the movie was a-okay with me.

Just give him the opportunity to take his shirt off and I'll be there opening night... gar-on-teed.

I realize going into these movies that the plots are going to be absurd, and the story will depend more on special effects rather than character development. Why critics continue to bash these popcorn movies for being anything other than this is beyond me.

The good news is that "The Green Lantern" is a good time. The plot is a little cluttered and scattered, and the character development plays second fiddle to the heavy-handed theme of "Will vs. Fear," but the audience I shared this midnight showing with didn't seem to mind much. They laughed at all the right spots, and there were no grumblings of discontentment as the credits rolled. Most even stayed through the credits for the special tag at the end (which made absolutely no sense in the context of the story BUT was a toss to the diehard fans and sets it up for a sequel.)

Yes, it was heavy on the exposition - much like "Thor" before it. I suppose it's hard to get around given that we're covering decades worth of information to get the non-geekboy audience members on the same page.

Still, it's a little boring and wish we could find a better way to do it as it definitely treads on the "show don't tell" rule. Had I been writing it I would have been tempted to keep the otherworldly stuff till Act II just to juxtaposition this new information with Hal's character development. I think it would have been more spectacular that way, but unfortunately I was not one of the five or six writers they had tossing spices in the opinion was not a factor.

(But to its credit, "The Green Lantern" doesn't do an unsuccessful bait-and-switch at the beginning like "Thor," which tried to cash on in Jon Favreau's ingenius "Iron Man" scene sequencing but failed miserably.)

Hal Jordan is a lot more interesting as a character than Thor as well - and certainly experiences no shortage of wiseass quips to keep the audience entertained as he stumbles through poorly defined character development. Frankly I don't buy that the thing standing between Jordan and his duty as a Green Lantern is fear. He's far too reckless (as demonstrated in the opening scene where he has a dogfight with unarmed jets) to be that compromised by fear. None of his interactions with other characters were fleshed out enough to support this theory, either.

Another character who suffers from a lack of focus and development was Hector Hammond, as played by Peter Sarsgaard. From the absolute glee he derives out of portraying this character you know immediately something big is going to happen - and it does - but his character suffers from a lack of foreshadowing that would have given the Big Event a little more punch.

And speaking of punch...

There are some definite cringe-worthy cheese moments throughout the story. The minute the narrator attempted to explain that green was the color of will I turned to my husband with a, "You gotta be shittin' me, right?" woeful glance of wifely tolerance. No offense to the fans out there but the color thing was a big cheese sticking point for me, as were some of Hal's constructs* when trying to fight the bad guys... i.e. the big green fist used to knock out a bad guy.

I mean, really?

(I know it's a comic book thing like "HULK SMASH" but ooooboy. Serve me up some wine to go with that big ol' block of cheese.)

*For those who don't know, the ring gives the Green Lantern power to create anything from his imagination to use in battle to defend the universe from evil. So as you can see, criticizing such a movie for being cheesy would be like getting mad because a camel's back is all lumpy.

It's just really hard to be mad at this movie for not being more than it was set up by its source material to be. In the end, despite it's flaws, I had a good time. Some movies are just meant to entertain, and this hit that mark for me.

Audiences are going to like it more than critics, but I'm okay with that... especially when the steaming pile of movie mush that is "Superman Returns" rates at more than 70% on Rotten Tomatoes where my own not-so-guilty pleasure "Pirates of the Caribbean" has an ugly green splat next to its name.

I know what I like.

And I liked the The Green Lantern.

It didn't earn the five-star review I gave "Iron Man" - but I'd watch GL again before "Thor."

It ranks up there with "The Incredible Hulk" as pleasantly re-watchable, and a movie ticket not wasted.

Plus it has Ryan Reynolds without a shirt.

What else could a non-geekboy dutiful wife want?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"My Immortal" - the new Kindle release from Ginger Voight

“If you love him, you will do it.”

These vague words had haunted reporter Adele Lumas for nearly as long as she could remember, in fractured dreams where she was pursued by an unknown but threatening entity. She believed the disturbing phenomenon a by-product of her mental ailments, such as schizophrenia, where hushed voices plagued her waking life as much as the monsters in her dreams tormented her.

This, compounded with the devastating events surrounding her origin, kept Adele in a lonely cocoon where she had but one purpose: she tenaciously pursued every human monster that dared rear its head in her small Massachusetts town.

Things take a turn for the worse when Adele begins to have different dreams, where she is no longer the hunted. Instead she stalks children in a relentless pursuit of blood. As disturbing as these dreams were, nothing could have prepared Adele for the shocking discovery that the victims in her dreams were real children being systematically hunted by a mysterious serial killer who would drain their tiny bodies of blood, and then steal them from the grave.

Her sanity is ultimately questioned when she encounters the killer face to face and she realizes the killer isn’t human at all. It is a vampire… and it is getting much too close for comfort by attacking those who are close to her.

As Adele struggles to maintain her perspective in this impossible situation, a beautiful man enters her life and makes her feel anything but odd or weird. He makes her feel beautiful, desired… loved. It was the first such time in her life where she even entertained the idea of romance, mostly because there is a connection to this man she cannot explain. Even more disconcerting, it is almost impossible to resist – as though she and this stranger are tied together by an unbreakable bond.

Adele begins to piece together the puzzle, which suggests she has a connection to the vampire in ways she could have never imagined. Painful revelations force her to reckon with the ominous request of her dreams. What is she willing to do for love?

And who is she willing to sacrifice?

“My Immortal” is a paranormal romance that blends vampire lore with reincarnation, which explores the idea of soul mates and sacrifice. Written by author Ginger Voight, “Love Plus One,” “Under Texas Skies,” it blends her two loves of the romance and horror genres into a sensual, spooky suspense.

Read the top rated novel excerpt here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

June Giveaway - Romance Package Worth Over $60

The June Giveaway Package features a little romance and a little luxury.

The first part of the Giveaway is my new book "My Immortal," set for release in June 2011 in both paperback and for your kindle. The paperback, valued at $12.99, will be included in your package, and will be signed by me.

You can read the top rated excerpt here.

Because this novel is a paranormal romance, and if you're like me you like to luxuriate while you read romance novels, I've decided to introduce some of you to one of my favorite places EVER... Lush Cosmetics. This green, organic company makes all kinds of beauty products out of fresh, natural ingredients to turn a regular bath, shower or beauty regimen into a fragrant, luxurious spa experience.

They've got patchouli... they've got glitter. They've got fizzy bath bombs that turn bath time into something special, whether you're alone or with someone.

*cough* Sex Bomb *cough*

Some of my favorite goodies from Lush:

I could go on and on, but I'd rather just go take a fragrant bubbly bath. ;)

Check em out, they're awesome. The winner of this package will get a $25 gift certificate to either introduce you to their wonderful products OR let existing fans indulge in some of their favorites.

To top it all off I'll include a $25.00 Amazon gift certificates so you can buy even more romance novels, like...oh... I dunno....


This allows the winner to spend some time reveling in a little R&R. (Romance, and more Romance.)

This brings our Romance package to a value of over $60.

There are unlimited entries to this month's contest. You can enter by commenting on this blog, by retweeting the contest on Twitter or by joining my fan page on Facebook.

Thanks for playing and good luck!