Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Welcome to the May meeting of our Book Review Club! We have a wonderful line-up of books this month. Interestingly enough, we've reviewed more adult books by far. Always a little out of step, I chose two young-adult books. ;) Please grab a coffee and a cookie and make yourself comfortable. Below my review are links to a slew of great reviews by fellow bloggers.

Just last month, my good friend Maureen McGowan (we met online, then discovered she lives within walking distance of one of my sisters in Toronto!) celebrated the release of TWO young-adult books. Both Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer are part of the Twisted Tales series, where fairy tales get a contemporary makeover. In these delightful totally revamped versions, the very capable heroines save themselves and land the prince. In addition, these books are reader interactive, meaning the reader makes choices regarding the path of the story. You can just imagine how much Child #4 is enjoying Maureen's books!

Here's a quick recap of the stories a la Maureen McGowan:

"Seeking to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother, Cinderella perfects her ninja skills and magic talents in secret, waiting for the day that she can break free and live happily ever after." (from

"Sleeping Beauty, instead of sleeping for one hundred years, is cursed to wake only at night and everyone else in her kingdom has the opposite curse – except the minions of an evil vampire queen out for revenge. True love will break the curse, but it’s hard to meet boys when they’re all asleep while she’s awake!" (from Maureen McGowan)

I caught up with Maureen and asked her some questions.

Me: Maureen, I've always had you pegged as a genius. And these books clinch it! I mean, seriously, CINDERELLA and SLEEPING BEAUTY must have been really tough to write. You had to come up with and keep track of a variety of plot lines. How tough was it? Are you an outliner or a panster? Were there moments when you were pulling your hair out?

Maureen: Genius! Ha! I wish. There were many times while writing this book when I concluded I was exactly the opposite of a genius. And yes, hair pulling was involved. ☺

Normally, I’m a hybrid between a plotter and a pantser. I like the idea of plotting and outlining in theory, but if I’m not forced to do a full synopsis before starting, I typically give up at some point, assuming I’ll figure it out as I go along. Even when I do have a book fully plotted ahead of time, I usually think of something great while writing that takes me off in other directions. Then I have to stop midway and re-plot.

The Twisted Tales books forced me to plan more than I usually do, because the alternate routes circle back into common sections. It was both really fun and really hard to imagine different ways in which the plot could unfold yet still lead to a single ending.

Me: Where do you do most of your writing? At home? At a coffee shop? In sweats?

Maureen: All of the above. ☺ I typically like to work in coffee shops, but it depends on the time of year, my mood, and how disciplined I’m feeling. I was at a talk with screenwriter and director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers) recently, and he said he always writes in public. His reason resonated with me. He said: because writing is such a solitary profession, working in coffee shops or hotel lobbies makes him feel like part of humanity. I’d like to think that’s my reason, too. (And not the easy access to butter tarts.)

Me: What are you working on now?

Maureen: My taxes. Oh, you meant writing-wise… I’m revising a dark young adult novel set in a post-apocalyptic world and just starting another young adult novel that, well, I’m not really ready to talk about, yet.

Me: Thanks, Maureen! Best of luck with the Twisted Tales books and ALL your writing projects!

And here's a rare photo of Maureen at the age of 13, the age of many of her readers. I don't think she could be cuter! Maureen's wearing her favorite sweater.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Maureen!

As promised, here are links to amazing reviews by amazing reviewers! Pleae click through to discover books you'll want to read.


Stacy Nyikos: A MILLION MILES FROM BOSTON by Karen Day (middle grade) **A mother + daughter review**

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES by Barrie Summy (middle grade, mystery) *Honestly, I didn't pay her!*

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: CHIME by Franny Billingsley (young adult, fantasy)


Scott Parker: SUPERMAN by Tom De Haven

Sarah Laurence: THE TIGER'S WIFE by Tea Obreht (literary)

Stacy of The Cat's Meow: THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER by Jael McHenry (women's fiction)

Patti Abbott: EMILY, ALONE by Stewart O'Nan

Kaye of the Book Review Forum: HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford

Beth Yarnall: IMPULSIVE by HelenKay Dimon (romance) and PERFUMED HEAT by Judy Mays (erotica)

Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: HEADS YOU LOSE by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward (crime fiction/mystery)

Beth of From the Desk of Bee Drunken: THE CAZALET CHRONICLES by Elizabeth Jane Howard



(Reviewers: You more than know the scoop by now. ;) If I missed your link or made a mistake, email me or leave a comment, and I'll hop right to correcting my mistake. Thank you all so much for your reviews!)

Thank you for visiting!


  1. Maureen, funny premises! I loved the bit about Sleeping Beauty having a hard time meeting guys, although I have to say my teenaged boy and his friends are up late at night - she should try X-BOX. They only say they're sleeping. I suppose revision is not unlike writing multiple plot lined books. It does sound tricky.

    Barrie, terrific review and interview. I love the personal touch and enthusiasm. Thanks for starting my day with a laugh. Look for my email with the code correction. Thanks for hosting the book review.

  2. Ohmigosh, these sound like too much fun!

  3. What is the ideal age group for these books? I'm a little surprised that Sleeping Beauty can't find any boyfriends. Most of the teenaged boys I know keep similar hours to her!

    Interesting insight to the writer's tendency to hang out in coffee shops. I wonder if McGowan is a Starbucks person -- or an independent.

    BTW, I've actually managed to finish a book review! Thank goodness England has a generous head-start on the day.

  4. Great interview, Barrie! The books sound like fun...can't get my mind around the interactive aspect, though. I can't IMAGINE writing that--it must have been like juggling while typing and changing a baby. Kudos to Maureen for pulling that off!

  5. I usually really like fairy-tale rewrites, but I don't know if I can stretch that far.

  6. Thanks Barrie for featuring my books!!

    Sarah and Bee,
    My Sleeping Beauty doesn't have it so easy with the meeting boys at night thing. The boys in her kingdom are all cursed to fall asleep at sundown, just as she wakes. (I did a bad job of my blurb. I should have just used the one from the back of the book. LOL)

    Bee, I'm finding readers of all ages are enjoying the books--even boys!-- and I've heard from girls as young as 10 and up to adults.

    Ellen, you described what it was like, perfectly! To add to the complexity, the publisher initially wanted every section to be exactly the same length. That, I have to say, was the part I found most frustrating. And in the end, they decided it didn't matter.

  7. The Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty books sound wonderful! Such creative twists to the original stories.

    Note to the other reviewers: I'll be out of town for a couple of days but I'll try to catch up and read everyone's reviews when I can.


  8. That is an adorable pic and Maureen is definitely a genius - absolutely brilliant - and the books really sound so fabulous!

  9. So sad I missed doing a review. Between 2 grandkids with chicken pox, son-in-law running for the Green Party in our Canadian Federal election, doing a newsletter for my hospice group...
    Well, now I've run out of things to read.
    This is good timing for me! I have a couple of things to put on the list.


Comments are always welcome!