Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading...it is a chance for bloggers and readers to share "teasers" from what they are currently reading in hopes to connect others with novels.

The rules are simple:

1-Grab whatever you are currently reading
2-Open to a random page
3-Choose two sentences/passages/teasers and post them
4-Remember not to give any "spoilers!"
5-Give the author/book information so that others can check it out

I am currently reading Abandon by Meg Cabot. I haven't gotten that far into it yet, but so far it is really good.

Here are my teasers:

"Don't bother looking up at me like that," my captor warned me. "It won't work. I've been doing this for a long time. I know all the tricks. And batting those big brown eyes at me won't do a thing, I guarantee."

"But is anyone had mentioned to me before I moved here that the name of the place meant Island of Bones in English - and WHY the Spanish explorers who'd found it had named it that - I probably would never have agreed to go along with Mom's 'we're doing to make a new start in Isla Huesos' plan."

Happy Reading!

New Facebook Page For My Blog

Happy Tuesday everyone! I just set up a new Facebook page for this blog and would love it if you would hop over there and check it out! This is my attempt to "mainstream" my book blog posts onto a more official page versus my personal account page!

Crush Control by Jennifer Jabaley - Review

I ordered this book on recommendation from Kristi The Story Siren, and it turned out to be just as great as I thought it would!

Summary from Goodreads:

Willow has spent most of her life as her mother's sidekick in a popular Las Vegas hypnotism show. So when she and her mom move back to their sleepy southern hometown to start over, she thinks she's in for a life of quiet normalcy. Except that her new life turns out to be anything but, when she kinda sorta hypnotizes Quinton, the hottest guy on the football team, to fall madly, deeply, head over heels in love with her. But what started out as an innocent way to make her best friend, Max, jealous soon gets way out of hand, and Willow begins to wonder if the mind - and more importantly, the heart - is something you can really control.

My Thoughts:

I really did enjoy this light, quick read. Willow is a great character and I didn't find it hard to identify with her. To me, she is indicative of so many teenage girls out there whose only desire is to fit in, or be accepted and she makes some bad decisions in her quest to do just that.

I really liked the idea of her making a transition from glitzy Las Vegas to a sleepy little Georgia town, it really added to the overall story.

Of course, Willow learns some valuable lessons and lucky for her she doesn't do enough damage that it can't be reversed. She comes to know who is important to her, who is true, and why she needs to remain true to herself if she wants to truly find her niche.

One part of the novel that I really appreciated as a teacher is how the author made a point to show that academics were important to the "popular" crowd. Many times in reality they are not, so it is nice to see that showcased here.

While this novel wasn't full of memorable passages for me, I did see one passage that I wanted to share:

"I thought about Mia's beach photo and realized that maybe there was no perfect model family. Maybe the more you try to mold and create something, the more likely it is to crack. Maybe, instead, we all had to find our individual best selves and that happiness would bond us together as a whole."

I would HIGHLY recommend this novel - it is the perfect light summer read! And since I haven't read Jennifer's other novel Lipstick Apology it is definitely on my TBR list now!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Waiting On My Doorstep...

I returned from Florida yesterday and to my delight had three books waiting for me - always a wonderful thing! I am super excited to get these books:

Summary from Goodreads:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Summary from Goodreads:

One hour to rewrite the past...

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

And a freebie I won from Goodreads:

Summary from Goodreads:

In the desert near Jerusalem, an archaeologist is murdered after he uncovers stunning evidence in a Dead Sea scroll about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The two-thousand-year-old parchment containing enigmatic references to not one but two messiahs is stolen before it can be fully translated.

In Rome, a charismatic American priest with long-hidden secrets is elected pope, setting off widespread panic among some of the faithful who question whether he is the anti-Christ or the world’s new savior. As the conspiracy over the scroll explodes into a political and religious standoff, two people find themselves on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of unknown assassins in their search for truth.

Archaeologist Jack Cane and Israeli police inspector Lela Raul must solve the mystery of the Second Messiah and uncover the real secret behind the message of Jesus before they are permanently silenced and the scroll and its contents are forever lost to humanity.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Turtle In Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm - Review

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm is the sweet tale of Turtle, a young girl who is moved unexpectedly to Key West while her mother gets her life together enough for them to be together again. You know this book is going to be good when you read this on the back cover:

Folks have always told me that I look like Momma. Our eyes are different, though. I think the color of a person's eyes says a lot about them. Mama has soft blue eyes and all she sees are kittens and roses. My eyes are gray as soot, and I see things for what they are.

Summary from Goodreads:

Inspired by family stories, two-time Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Holm beautifully blends family lore with America's past in this charming gem of a novel, rich in historical detail, humor, and the unique flavors of Key West.

Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.

Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

My Thoughts:

I loved this story - it really is a light and quick read, and gets into some interesting parts of Key West history that are not very well known. Like any "beach town" the local culture is rich and any kid would be lucky to grow up amongst it. Turtle is unexpectedly thrown into the mix of that culture and learns quickly how very lucky she is. The time of this novel is during the Great Depression when Key West, Florida has been hit hard. The essence of that time really does come through as the novel unfolds.Not only does Turtle learn about the nuggets of culture connected with this area, she learns a lot about herself, family, and begins to morph into an independent young lady. She earns the respect of not only The Diaper Gang, a group of unruly young boys, but also Nana Philly, her crotchety old grandmother. She learns to stay away from scorpions, call all the town locals by their well-earned nicknames (Slow Poke, Pork Chop, Too Bad), and navigate her way to a pirate's buried treasure.

Like with many of the books I read, I am always taken by the flavors of local culture and this novel is no exception. Turtle is an old soul, and she says some great things throughout this novel:

"Me? I think life is more like a cartoon written by Mr. Disney - The Three Little Pigs. Some big bad wolf is always trying to blow your house down."

"What's it with folks always talking about where they're from? You could grow up in a muddy ditch, but it's you're muddy ditch, then it's gotta be the swellest muddy ditch ever."

"He gives me a stern look...'You in the habit of giving grown folks advice young lady?' 'Sure,' I say, 'You're the ones who need it the most.'"

"Now we're just all standing around, staring at the pile of dirty coins. You'd think when a dream comes true you'd scream until your heart gives out, but the reality is you just turn dumb from the wonder of it all."

"Maybe the real treasure has been right here on Curry Lane all the time - people who love Mama and me...a real home."

Another great part of this book was the Author's Notes where she describes the inspiration for the story (her Conch great-grandmother) and how she weaves the flavors and neat parts of the local area into her story...to me, this information is almost as good as the story itself.

Steadily Reading Saturday

Steadily Reading Saturday is a weekly meme hosted here to highlight what it is that we are spending our weekends steadily reading.

I have had plenty of time to read recently, so I have been working my way through quite a few books - it is nice to be a teacher and be able to spend my summers catching up on everything I want to read during the year but can't seem to find time for!

Currently, I am steadily reading Turtle In Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. I knew this would be a quick read, and it is proving to be just that. Here is the summary from Goodreads:

Inspired by family stories, two-time Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Holm beautifully blends family lore with America's past in this charming gem of a novel, rich in historical detail, humor, and the unique flavors of Key West.

Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.

Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

What are you steadily reading this Saturday?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Author Spotlight - Katrina Parker Williams

I have had the recent pleasure of "meeting" a fabulous author who I am very excited about sharing with you. Katrina Parker Williams is the author of works such as "Missus Buck," Trouble Down South and Other Stories, and Liquor House Music.

The following is taken from her website:

Katrina Parker Williams teaches English composition and grammar at a community college. She is a Barton College graduate with a B.S. in Communications and a Masters of Education in English from East Carolina University. She is also the author of a fictional novel titled Liquor House Music. Her works have appeared in Charlotte Viewpoint, Muscadine Lines, Usadeepsouth, and on the Wilson Community College website. Her writings have recently been published at The Saints’ Placenta, All Things Girl, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Pens on Fire, and Muscadine Lines.

I had the recent pleasure of reading "Missus Buck" and her collection of short stories "Trouble Down South and Other Stories" and speaking with Mrs. Williams recently:

Describe what it is like to be an author in three words.
It is fabulous!

What is your favorite genre of literature?
Historical fiction

At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be an author?
In 1997 I fell ill and decided then that if I did not do what I always dreamed of, I may never get the chance. I had written several short stories but never submitted them for publication. I sent them out, a few were published, and from then on I knew I wanted to write.

What would you consider to be the best book you have ever written?
I think Trouble Down South and Other Stories is my best. I spent a lot of time researching for many of the stories to ensure they were historically accurate - even though it is fiction.

Describe the process of getting a book self-published.
I went through Amazon's self-publishing website. There is a step-by-step instruction manual telling you how to upload your book to the Mobi format so that it reads accurately on the Kindle. I created a cover, and boom, my book was ready for publication.

What message do you want readers to take away from Trouble Down South and Other Stories?
I want them to understand the plight of African Americans over the course of our short United States history. It was not long ago that these events happened.

Any sneak peeks at what is upcoming from you?
I have just published a short story "Missus Buck" on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I am working on four additional short stories that I plan to publish as singles and then later as an omnibus.

What is it that you like to do when you're not reading and writing?

I love to paint. I like to paint in watercolors because the medium is so challenging. I also like to paint with acrylics.

Works by Katrina Parker Williams:

Find Katrina on Goodreads
Katrina's Blog
Katrina's Short Story "Miss Pimmelly's City"

Check out her stories, you won't be disappointed!

Follow Friday: Water Steps by A. LaFaye

Friday's are Follow Friday over at parajunkee.com and while I am not that into paranormal young adult lit, her blog is awesome :) This week's question is:

Q. In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer...let's talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

I read a book last summer called Water Steps by A. LaFaye. This book included selkies (also known as silkies or selchies) which are mythological shapeshifting creatures that are found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish, and Scottish folklore. While I don't usually like books like this, A. LaFaye is amazing and I really enjoyed reading her work. And I love folklore, so it really did fit with the novel.

Here is a summary of the novel from Goodreads:

Kyna likes her friends, her purple hair, and taking photographs. But there's something she definitely doesn't like: the water. Every time she comes near it, she feels the sinister pull of the depths trying to draw her down to a watery grave. Even the calm water in the bathtub reminds her of the torrential storm that took the lives of her sailing family when she was just a baby. But Kyna's adopted parents love nothing more than to swim and splash about in lakes and streams, or even the local pool. When they decide to spend the summer at a beach house on Lake Champlain, Kyna is convinced that they're trying to teach her something about water that she's not ready to learn. Little does she know that the water will reveal far more than she ever could have imagined. Inspired by Champ, the legendary monster living in Lake Champlain, Water Steps finds novelist A. LaFaye at her best, expertly interweaving themes of adolescent fears and fantasies, the frustrations and rewards of family, and a world of mystery and magic under the placid surface of nature.

Have a great weekend, and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Trouble Down South and Other Stories - Review

Katrina Parker Williams weaves storytelling into many of the significant events throughout American history and she does a great job demonstrating the impact that those events on the blacks living throughout the South.

Trouble Down South and Other Stories contains twelve short stories, and each addresses a different historical event or human condition. Readers cannot help but feel sympathetic to the treatment that blacks throughout Southern history have endured, but there is also a sense of pride to be taken from this collection in just how far our country has come over the last two centuries.

From the collection, I most enjoyed "Slave Auction" a companion story to "Missus Buck" which takes readers through a slave auction where Horatio and his mother are sold to different masters. It is a degrading, humiliating, and heartbreaking experience and Williams does a fantastic job taking readers right up to the auction block where they experience the emotions of those experiencing it.

I most identified with "Ms. Pimmelly's City" where the main voice describes the city in which she lives, and the multitudes of different people all who inhabit that city. The story ends with "I grew up in this town. Well, rather in one of the townships of Wilson. Elm City. I know these people. I understand these people. They are me. Who am I? I am Ms. Pimmelly. A teacher to these people."

Katrina Parker Williams does know the people she writes about, and she does a fantastic job relating them to the reader. And her delivery is not bitter, but driven by a need to educate those of us who did not experience these injustices and make sure we never repeat them.

Kudos to Ms. Parker, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Being "Bookish" On Vacation

Anyone reading this blog probably has the same problem that I do - being on vacation is all the more reason to be "bookish" and do "bookish" things. Time away from the kids, or just away from the hustle and bustle of work and being a homeowner means I might actually get to read more than a couple of chapters each night!

Here are some of the "bookish" things I have been doing while on vacation - and they really are super cool!

At Books Plus - Fernandina Beach, I met a great local author and ended up purchasing her novel Hurricane.

She and I talked for a bit and she told me a little of the history of her family in this area, and the premise behind the novel. This is the charm about small bookstores...the people you meet and the local books you are able to pick up.

I was also lucky enough to stop by another small, but super cool bookstore called The Book Loft - and it truly was just that, a loft house filled with books!

I snagged two great historical fiction novels - One Thousand White Women: The Journals of Mary Dodd and Year of Wonders.

I am definitely looking forward to reading and reviewing all of these! And as much as I love Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com, there is nothing like a small bookstore...and I am loving visiting them so much!

"Slave Auction" by Katrina Parker Williams

Ms. Williams has written another short story that I am really taken with. "Slave Auction" is a companion story to "Missus Buck" but from Horatio's perspective as he is sold from his mother and sent to live with Massa Norris and the other slaves on his Texas plantation.

This short story was in one word - AMAZING. Another reviewer described it as a short story that packed a lot of punch and that is very accurate.

I was a little confused about how the "deals" were worked out so that Horatio was purchased by a plantation where some of the slaves were his family, but not confused enough that it impacted the story.

Parker's writing is so true...and clear. I love how she tells these stories that some would find too difficult to tell. Some parts of this were hard to read, particularly when Horatio and his mother are being sold and she pleads with the white man who bought her to buy her son and he does not.

The author has told me that she plans to one day put these short stories into a novel, and I am looking forward to reading that!

Currently, I am reading Trouble Down South and Other Stories which is an anthology of Ms. Parker's stories in one book - review coming soon!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus - Review

On a flight to Florida, I was able to finish the novel and am glad I finally did, it was definitely a great read. Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

In 1841, a Japanese fishing vessel sinks. Its crew is forced to swim to a small, unknown island, where they are rescued by a passing American ship. Japan’s borders remain closed to all Western nations, so the crew sets off to America, learning English on the way. Manjiro, a fourteen-year-old boy, is curious and eager to learn everything he can about this new culture. Eventually the captain adopts Manjiro and takes him to his home in New England. The boy lives for some time in New England, and then heads to San Francisco to pan for gold. After many years, he makes it back to Japan, only to be imprisoned as an outsider. With his hard-won knowledge of the West, Manjiro is in a unique position to persuade the shogun to ease open the boundaries around Japan; he may even achieve his unlikely dream of becoming a samurai.

My Thoughts:

This novel is a Newberry honor, so I expected great things from it before I started. If you like historical fiction, you will like this one although it is somewhat different from most other historical fiction novels I have read.

The absolute most appealing part of the book for me was the illustrations, many of them done by the main character in real life...and the tidbits of samurai code that are included throughout. They truly take the book to a new level.

Another bonus were the treasures at the end of the book - the epilogue, historical notes, Japanese glossary, and further suggested reading. As a teacher, I find these gems to be the most useful and it is always neat to see how the plotline differed from the real events of history, and it is nice to be able to point my students toward more reading if they are interested.

I enjoyed Manjiro's story, and I learned a lot about Japanese culture of the mid 1800s, which I knew little about. I think this novel really sets an interesting stage for what happens later between the United States and Japan. Manjiro played an important role in forming a relationship between the two countries, and his experiences as a result are like no other.

Favorite Passages:

"The gist of the poem, he thought, was that we should do the best we can with whatever fate the gods give us in our lives, and perhaps we can inspire others who come after us."

"Americans might not be so terribly different from us, he thought. 'Yes, I will take the advice of my pillow,' Manjiro said. 'I will sleep on it.'"

"I may have fallen seven times, but I got up eight."

"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time."

"In the words of the ancients," his mother had told him, "one should make one's decisions within the space of seven breaths."

"The most beautiful things of this earth are the most fleeting."

"Birth and family are of little consequence (in America); individuals earn positions according to their abilities. Respect for personal rights is a basic principle of that society."