The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Lauren Baratz-Logsted and
The Twin’s Daughter, Petal’s Problems

February 07, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Twins, particularly identical ones, are a story unto themselves and for Lauren Baratz-Logsted (The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness) they became the inspiration of her most recent YA novel, The Twin’s Daughter. As the author explained:

“I love anything to do with twins and I wanted to write a story about a side of the story I’d never seen: that of someone who’s a child of an identical twin.”

The child/teenager is 13 year old Lucy Sexton, who would rather be educated than waste her time doing needlepoint and other proper, “ladylike” activities of England’s Victorian period. And it’s through Lucy’s sensibly curious, yet ultimately horrified mind that readers watch the story unfold.

Synopsis of The Twin’s Daughter:

Lucy Sexton is stunned when her mother’s identical twin sister shows up at the family’s front door one day. Separated at birth, the two sisters have had dramatically different upbringings — and have never known of the other’s existence. Lucy’s mother soon becomes determined to transform her sister Helen into the kind of lady that all of society will admire. And the change in Aunt Helen is indeed remarkable. But is it just Lucy’s imagination, or does Aunt Helen seem to delight in being mistaken for Lucy’s mother….especially where Lucy’s father is concerned? Then one day Lucy is horrified to stumble upon the scene of a brutal murder in her own house. Who is behind the vicious slaying — and who has been left alive?

The murder victim is one of the twins, however which one is it – Lucy’s mother or her aunt? In a December 2010 Red Room blog post, The Twin’s Daughter as it Was, Lauren writes:

“That question – “‘WHICH ONE?'” – drives the rest of the story.”

Of course the author thought she knew “which one” but points out that a major difficulty in writing a suspense novel is not knowing when the reader will figure things out. If the “Aha” moment comes too early, does it spoil the suspense?

Lauren called in outside readers to determine at what point they guessed “which one” and was the story suspenseful? All agreed it was suspenseful and the timing of their “knowing guess” didn’t deter from their reading. The manuscript was fine as it was, nothing had to be changed until the author began thinking, “What if I switched things around so that the ending was now a surprise even to me?”

And that’s exactly what she did, thereby turning The Twin’s Daughter into one of the most puzzling, second guessing mysteries one could ever hope to read!

As a book for all ages, this is more than a thrilling mystery. Lauren Baratz-Logsted shines in portraying Lucy as an adolescent who possesses strength and independence, while still being naive to the details of the world. Readers will watch her grow, mature, fall in love, and face a hard truth that molds the rest of life. She’s a believable character — a great role model — who bravely faces her bittersweet reality and comes to terms with it.

The Twin’s Daughter, complete with its murder mystery, is filled with lessons learned. The Gothic tale has a charm all its own, one that will linger with wonder at how Lauren fooled us all!

* * * * *

For readers/visitors unfamiliar with the Sisters 8 Series, the presentation/review of Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Marcia’s Madness is the perfect place to fill in the background.

Written by the Logsted family, about a family of eight sisters, Lauren explains what she, Greg, and Jackie wanted to create:

“One thing we have strived to do with The Sisters 8, since all three of us our huge fans of Roald Dahl, we’ve tried to emulate him to the extent that we do the best to make the quirky humor work for readers of all ages in addition to the targeted audience of 6- to 10-year-olds. We hope we have succeeded.”

With the introduction of a new book featuring another sister, every six months or so, The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems was released in October 2010 with this synopsis

Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no! May is almost over and that means only one thing: Petal’s month is about to begin. For most people, this would be a good thing. They would look forward to discovering their gift and their power. But not our dear Petal. As far as Petal is concerned, it could stay May forever.

At least the sisters have some excitement in their future: The wedding of Aunt Martha and Uncle George will bring them, the Petes, and the cats to Paris, where fun—and a little bit of danger—will come as surely as the changing of the month.

Rather than spoil the story, let it simply be noted that Petal is one sister reluctant to receive her “power.” Of course she can’t escape it….ah, yet that’s the story which, according to Kirkus Readers, is filled with “thrills, suspense and hijinks [that] should satisfy adventure-seeking young readers.”

The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems — it’s a must to either begin or add to the Sisters 8 Series!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter AND the entire Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. PLEASE indicate which book(s) you prefer. As always, comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Dee DeTarsio and The Scent of Jade

January 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Without question Dee DeTarsio is a visual writer who has a gift for creating vivid images through her choice of words. In her guest post, she refers to her style of writing as Tell A Vision and Dee’s debut ebook novel, The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition], showcases her talent in a romantic adventure tale.

Inspired as well as motivated by her husband’s challenge to create women’s fiction that was truly adventurous, the author began with the “what if” scenario of a woman on a resort vacation, what could possibly go wrong? Dee personally hates camping, is afraid of the dark, likes a full stomach, and her coffee hot, so she literally turned the tables on her protagonist Julie, making her as uncomfortable as possible. The result evolved into Romancing the Stone meets Survivor and the following synopsis:

When an ancient jade relic that holds secrets to global warming ends up in the hands of a not-so-perfect heroine, she is thrust in a fish-out-of-water adventure, lost in the Costa Rican rainforest.

“Romancing The Stone” meets “Survivor” for Julie Fraser, who was minding her own business, living her life as snug as a bug in a rut in San Diego, California. As the least adventurous person she knows, Julie finally whooped it up one day to jet off and surprise her husband, who was on a business trip in Costa Rica. Reeling from the discovery that her husband wasn’t who she thought he was, she accidentally steals an ancient artifact and is chased through the wilds of the rainforest, not knowing where to turn, literally, or whom to trust. She knew she should have stayed home.

Can a monkey, a blonde Juan, a foreign scientist, a mysterious ‘love potion’ and the jade stone itself (that may hold secrets to global warming), help Julie on her mission to find and forgive her husband?

The stolen idol catapults her on a quest, as she discovers truths along the way about herself and her place in the universe. The Scent of Jade is creative and unique with surprising twists–in turn suspenseful and heartbreaking, combining humor and romance to reach the payoff ending. Original characters keep the pages turning.

The Scent of Jade spins its story with wit and wisdom, drawing those who love mystery, suspense, romance and adventure. While there are no vampires, readers are invited to enjoy the intrigue…

And now for Dee’s lush video that artfully captures the storyline:

(If the video isn’t visible, please watch it here.)

Kindle’s Amazon Customer Reviews are glowing and the author appears to have found her niche in the romantic adventure genre. Usually, when women’s fiction is described as “fun,” it’s more than likely to be classified as “chicklit.” However The Scent of Jade takes readers outside of their comfort zone just enough to make the novel a plausible fantasy escape rather than “fluff.”

In other words, there’s nothing predictable about Dee DeTarsio’s entertainment of almost non-stop action combined with the detailed description of the rain forest/jungle and the determined, yet haplessly human Julie. Yet how did the author successfully “show” rather than “tell” with her words and what of her research? Dee says:

“I love great big fat juicy adjectives, from the sounds they make to the smells they make me think about. Being a television writer forces me to write to video, and I think that it is an automatic translation to the life around me and right into the stories I tell…matching words to pictures!

“Our planned research trip to Costa Rica was actually derailed–so I had to rely on details from travels to Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean for my tropical sensations. I had done a lot of preparation for our trip, and just continued my research. I love the history and mystique of Costa Rica and didn’t really feel like I had a choice setting it anyplace else, because of the story I wanted to incorporate with the jade stone.”

About the jade stone….Dee confirms that there’s actually one that has been in her husband’s family for years. Although the stone doesn’t have a carved face, it’s a beautiful, heavy piece that appears in the video. She also admits that it served as another inspiration for her storyline and helped prompt her extensive research.

“I love ancient civilizations and history and have always been fascinated imagining myself living back then (although I’m sure I wouldn’t have survived.). I watched several documentaries and read all I could get my hands on about Costa Rica, South America, Mesoamerica and Mayans. Imagine the first person who picked up a stick and scratched out symbols to communicate. The bonus of having a carved jade god worshipped by early civilizations kind of began to feel real!

“I wrote THE SCENT OF JADE in about 8 months. I lived and breathed it, researching probably every day I wrote, to feel the full flavor. The universe did seem to provide clues along the way to help enrich the story.”

And “real” — in regards to environmental description and historical legend — is very close to the way one feels about The Scent of Jade. Also to be fair, yet not critical, there were definitely passages where I felt as though I was reading a screenplay. The novel simply reels off in your mind with its quirky characters, exotic location, a legendary idol, and more.

Indeed Dee is working on the screenplay, paring down the novel to 120 pages or approximately half of the book’s page count. Talented and ambitious, this self-published author appears destined to do it all and that’s why, if you have a Kindle, it is highly recommended that you purchase The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]. For less than a dollar, the ebook is a ticket to escape to a tropical locale, enjoy a feel good romantic adventure, and become part of what is certain to be a “happily ever after” story — that being Dee DeTarsio’s success!

Book Giveaway: For those readers who have Kindles, The Divining Wand will honor the first 10 comments — left on this post until Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST. — with a download of The Scent of Jade.

Jennifer McMahon’s Dismantled

June 16, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Although Kristina Riggle’s Real Life & Liars debuts today, Founder Deb Jennifer McMahon (New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not To Tell and Island of Lost Girls) also celebrates this day with the release of her third adult novel, Dismantled.

In reading from the book’s front cover: “One of the brightest new stars in literary suspense.”__Los Angeles Times, those of us who waltzed along with that Debutante Class of 2007 always knew that Jennifer’s success was imminent. Her Wednesday posts were laid bare with emotion — either raw and chilling or poignantly heartbreaking –, yet always beautiful. The reluctant Deb claimed to want to be Peter Pan and never grow up, however she has.

Here’s a Synopsis of Dismantled:

“The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Island of Lost Girls and Promise Not to Tell returns with a chilling novel in which the secrets of the past come back to haunt a group of friends in terrifying ways.

Dismantlement = Freedom

“Henry, Tess, Winnie, and Suz banded together in college to form a group they called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Following the first rule of their manifesto—”To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart”—these daring misfits spend the summer after graduation in a remote cabin in the Vermont woods committing acts of meaningful vandalism and plotting elaborate, often dangerous, pranks. But everything changes when one particularly twisted experiment ends in Suz’s death and the others decide to cover it up.

“Nearly a decade later, Henry and Tess are living just an hour’s drive from the old cabin. Each is desperate to move on from the summer of the Dismantlers, but their guilt isn’t ready to let them go. When a victim of their past pranks commits suicide—apparently triggered by a mysterious Dismantler-style postcard—it sets off a chain of eerie events that threatens to engulf Henry, Tess, and their inquisitive nine-year-old daughter, Emma.

“Is there someone who wants to reveal their secrets? Is it possible that Suz did not really die—or has she somehow found a way back to seek revenge?

“Full of white-knuckle tension with deeply human characters caught in circumstances beyond their control, Jennifer McMahon’s gripping story and spine-tingling plot prove that she is a master at weaving the fear of the supernatural with the stark realities of life.”

Now read the Critical Praise for Dismantled:

“Outstanding…By alternating the present-day lives with the origins of the Dismantlers, McMahon allows the inexorable sense of dread to build incrementally. Perhaps most memorable are not the young artists but Emma, a child whose intense imagination only adds fuel to the slow-burning fire.” __Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In her third, elegantly spooky mystery revolving around the vulnerability of a young girl and a haunting past, McMahon fashions a fresh and entrancing ghost-in-the-woods tale replete with startling psychoses, delectable Hitchcockian motifs, and dangerous attractions.”__Booklist

“A failed marriage. A long-buried secret. A lonely child’s imaginary friend. From these simple ingredients, Jennifer McMahon has constructed a fun, twisty thriller. Expect DISMANTLED to earn comparisons to THE SECRET HISTORY.”
__Stewart O’Nan, author of SONGS FOR THE MISSING

“McMahon’s gift is the deliciously twisty way she subverts all your expectations, keeping you guessing with wry wit and feverish chills.”__People

And, by clicking this widget, you can Browse Inside and read the beginning of Dismantled:

Dismantled is available for purchase at IndieBound, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Just imagine some of us knew her when…. Congratulations Jennifer!