Thursday, August 25, 2011

Crafting Believable Characters - Author Guest Post by Pamela Samuels Young

I am honored to have Pamela Samuels Young do a guest post for my blog as part of her blog tour for Murder on the Down Low. I have posted a review of the book and an interview with the author this week, please check them out! I asked Ms. Samuels to expand on her development of characters since she did such a phenomenal job with her characters in the novel. They are indeed one of the most fascinating parts of the novel! Enjoy :)

Crafting Believable Characters

For me, creating characters is the part of the writing process that I enjoy the most. Many writers spend time drafting elaborate character sketches and profiles. While I often spend months outlining my plot, I don’t do any advance planning regarding my characters. Their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, simply develop as the mystery unfolds.

In writing Murder on the Down Low, I wanted to emphasize the friendship between the four main characters, Vernetta, Special, Nichelle and J.C. It was my goal to present four women who are strong and caring, as well as vulnerable and flawed. As it is in real life, no one has a picture perfect life. They all have personal challenges to overcome.

Murder on the Down Low is my third novel in the Vernetta Henderson mystery series, which also included Special. So from that perspective, Vernetta and Special were easier to write because I was so familiar with them. While Nichelle and J.C. are new to the series, I found it easy to build them into the close friendship between Vernetta and Special.

In Murder on the Down Low, Vernetta, a lawyer, is wrestling with her desire to make partner amid roadblocks posed by a junior associate.

In my first two novel, Every Reasonable Doubt and In Firm Pursuit, Special was an outrageous character who spoke her mind and went wherever her emotions took her. That also holds true for Special in Murder on the Down Low. I wanted the reader to actually feel her pain and anger over the senseless death of her cousin. I have to admit that I had a lot of fun thinking up nasty things for her to do to express her wrath.

I intentionally painted Nichelle as the more emotional member of the foursome. At one point in the story, she suggests that another character do something illegal to help Special. While at first this might seem to be inconsistent with Nichelle’s caring personality, I viewed it as an example of the depth of her concern for Special.

J.C. is the stronger, more emotionally reserved member of the foursome. She fits the stereotype of a female cop. Her vulnerability is evident when she finally confides in the other women about a very personal aspect of her life.

Murder on the Down Low is a fast-paced, sometimes shocking, murder mystery. But it also a tale of the power and beauty of friendship.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Author Spotlight: Pamela Samuels Young & GIVEAWAY!

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela Samuels Young, author of Murder on the Down Low. I thought her answers were fascinating and am so excited to share them with you! And if you think this interview is good, you are in for a real treat when you read Pamela's book!

1. Are the names of the characters in your novels important? How and why?

Yes. A name has to have the right feel for the character I have in my head. I often start with one name and keep switching it until it has the right feel for me. In the book I’m working on now, Attorney-Client Privilege, which is the next book in the series after Murder on the Down Low, I’ve changed one character’s name three times.

2. Why do you write for children instead of adults or vice-versa?

I write for adults because as a lawyer, I love legal thrillers. I don’t consider the legal fiction genre suitable for children.

3. Who would play you in a film of your life?

Wow, now that’s a question. I’d love to see Angela Bassett play me on the big screen.

4. What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

Perseverance. You have to understand that rejection is part of the business. Nine publishing houses rejected Murder on the Down Low, yet readers love it. You have to believe in yourself and believe in your talent. No matter what.
5. What do you find to be the biggest challenge when writing?

My biggest challenge as a writer is describing people! It’s just awkward for me. When I’m really having a hard time, I’ll go to Starbuck and see if I seen someone who looks like one of my characters and jot down their physical traits. I also don’t like to describe my characters in too much detail because I like to leave that up to the imagination of the reader. So you’ll usually find minimal physical descriptions of my characters.

6. Do you enjoy giving interviews?

Yes, if the questions are interesting (like yours)! I like meeting readers even more. If you look at the tour page of my website, you will see that I’m everywhere. I’ve met with over 100 book clubs and I’m starting a campaign to increase that number to 500. So if any of your readers are in a book club, please email me. I would love to attend their book club meeting via speakerphone or Skype.
7. How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?

That’s an interesting question that I’ve never thought about. I think the fact that my mother was always reading and always made books available to me led to my becoming a journalist and later an author. I can still remember the book club magazine arriving in the mail every month. I would get to pick out a new book every month and that was so exciting. I think I was in the first grade when she started that. But … I never dreamed of becoming an author.
8. What inspired you to write your first book?

When I finished law school, I developed a passion for reading legal thrillers. But I never saw women or people of color depicted as attorneys in any of the books I read. I would close the novels feeling satisfied with the story, but disappointed about the lack of diversity of the characters. One day, I decided that I would write the kind of characters that I wanted to see. In the process, I discovered my passion!
9. Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes, short chapters, snappy dialogue and fast-paced action, ala James Patterson. Long before I was published, my writing coach suggested that I read some books in my genre and study the story structure. I chose The Firm by John Grisham and Roses are Red by James Patterson. I actually studied the dialogue, the action, the description, the length of the chapters, how the authors opened and closed each chapter. My enjoyment of those two writers helped me develop my writing style.

10. You state Author’s Note section that a main purpose of this novel was to promote education within the black community about AIDS/HIV and encourage women to get educated, get tested, and protect themselves. Do you think this is happening?

I pray that it is! There are so many dedicated health care workers out there trying to get the message out, but they have a tough job. There’s such a focus on sex in our society. Watch TV with the sound off sometimes and just look at the images. Everything is so sexual. In commercials, in cartoons, on the news (our news anchors are even showing cleavage, at least in Los Angeles). People young and old think it’s okay to “hook up.” Meantime, HIV is quickly expanding its reach. Oprah did a show featuring six white women over 50 who were infected with HIV by the same man. They didn’t’ think they needed to use protection. People still mistakenly believe AIDS is a gay disease. You don’t get infected with HIV because you’re gay. You get infected with HIV because you’re available.

Click HERE to visit Pamela Samuels Young's Website
Read excerpts from all of her books HERE

Pamela has graciously offered to visit your book club meetings via Skype or speakerphone - if you are interested, please leave your contact information below and I will pass it on.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Murder on the Down Low by Pamela Samuels Young - Review

Murder on the Down Low was an intriguing read, something outside of what I normally would pick up, but I am so very glad that I was able to get my hands on this for review. If I could sum up my impression after reading it would be to say that this is a touching novel about friendship, with a huge emphasis on education regarding controversial issues like AIDS/HIV and sexuality.

Book Summary:

A high-profile lawsuit erupts into chaos, revealing its place in a larger spree of violence in this scandalous tale of lust, lies, and vengeance. A brazen gunman is targeting prominent African American men on the streets of Los Angeles, and police are completely baffled. At the same time, savvy big-firm attorney Vernetta Henderson and her outrageous sidekick, Special, lead the charge for revenge against a man whose deceit caused his fianceĆ©'s death. For Special, hauling the man into court and suing him for wrongful death just isn’t good enough. While she exacts her own brand of justice, a shocking revelation connects the contentious lawsuit and the puzzling murders.

My Thoughts:

I really did enjoy this book, and was completely sucked into finding out who was responsible for all of the murders against the prominent African-American men. More than that though, I was completely taken with the relationship between the four main characters. The author did a tremendous job writing so that readers really felt how close they were, how they had each others' backs no matter what, and the lengths that they would go to to defend each other. Each woman played such a key role in the storyline and they even though they were each fighting their own personal battles, they came together when the time called and showed strength and class.

I have to admit that this book educated me quite a bit, which I am sure was part of the author's intention. I was uneducated about the term "down-low" even though I have used it as slang from time-to-time. I was not knowledgeable about the lifestyle that men on the down-low lead, probably as uneducated as their spouses who in this novel, had to find out the hard way. I was also not as educated on HIV/AIDS in the black community and the author really does show readers the impact of what an entire community being uneducated has done.

I loved how the author also got across the message the groups and organizations formed out of anger and with goals to hurt those that have hurt them are not the right way to go. The scene in the book when Nichelle is giving a speech at the SADDDL luncheon is one of my favorites in the book.

Another part of the book that captivated me was chapter 75 when Nichelle visits her old teacher, Professor Curtis Michaels. He educated her on all things related to gay issues, men on the down-low, and sexuality in our society in general. This chapter was strategically placed to educate the reader on the background information needed to solve the murders. I thought this chapter in itself was quite a lot of great information to take in.

Another aspect of this novel that I appreciated was the short chapters. This made it such a quick read and I really liked changing back and forth between the characters frequently - it made the read that much more interesting because it was always changing directions.

This is not a book I would have picked up on my own, but I am very glad that it fell into my hands...there is something to be learned from everything we read, and this book is a great combination of education and a great murder mystery.

Visit Pamela Samuels Young's website HERE
Buy Murder on the Down Low from Barnes and Noble HERE

Blog Tour - Indian Summer by Emily Cale & GIVEAWAY

Welcome to today's tour stop for Indian Summer by Emily Cale presented by The Bookish Snob Promotions! I am very excited to be featuring this book and hope you enjoy your stop with my blog! And you can view the entire tour stop schedule HERE.

About the Author:

Emily Cale spent the majority of her childhood as a visitor to the worlds of her favorite authors. With encouragement from her English teachers, she put pen to paper and began imagining her own stories. Preferring the fascinating lives of her characters, she majored in creative writing. When not lost in a manuscript or a good book, she enjoys crocheting, rock climbing, and playing board games. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and a very spoiled cat.

Book Summary:

Excited to return to field work, Dr. Cara Newman arrives in India ready for a new experience. She'll stop at nothing to make sure her plans to find the nearly extinct Indian wild dog go exactly as she imagines. What she isn't ready for is Jai.

Jai Subramanium isn't sure his new partner is up to the challenge. After years behind a desk, she might not be capable of dealing with the difficulties of navigating the terrain and surviving hours under an unbearably hot sun. What he doesn't expect is the uncontrollable passion between them.

Their forbidden romance isn't the only thing at risk, a group of hunters threaten the lone dog, and places Cara and Jai's relationship and careers in jeopardy.

Author Interview:

1. Describe what it’s like to be an author in three words.

Wonderful. Rewarding. Crazy.

2. What is your favorite genre of literature?

This is such a hard question because I read in a lot of different genres. Obviously, I’m a big fan of romance, but I also read a lot of mysteries and young adult books.

3. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I can actually pinpoint this time exactly. I was in eighth grade and one of our assignments for English class was to write a novella. I spent every spare moment I had perfecting my story. It was the first time I really thought about the fact that there is a real person writing all the books I read. After that, I was always scribbling bits of fiction and poetry on various sheets of paper and dreaming of the day when I’d be a published author.

4. What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read?

Ahhh! Another hard question. I have a lot of favorite books, but the book I tend to read over and over again is From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. It’s a children’s books, but one of the first stories I ever fell in love with.

6. What message, thoughts, or ideas do you want readers to take away from Indian Summer?

One of the messages I really want people to take away from this book comes from the struggle that the hero and heroine have between their two cultures. Jai is Indian and has a very different view of the world than Cara. I know a lot of people who’ve struggled with this in real life, myself included, and I hope that I’ve been able to capture part of that struggle and shown that learning to understand both sides can be rewarding.

7. Any sneak peeks at what is upcoming from you?

Next up from me will be contemporary western novella titled “Getting Ahead”. It’s about a star barrel racer recovering from an injury. Her career is everything to her and she’s determined to keep her entire focus on riding. While she’s training, she meets and ex-bareback rider who helps her with more than getting back on her horse.

It should be available from Breathless Press sometime this fall.

8. What is it that you like to do when you’re not reading/writing?

When I’m not reading/writing as the author part of me, I’m usually doing the same thing as the side of me that is working on getting a PhD. When spare time appears, I can be found playing board games or baking some crazy concoction.

Emily Carle is offering to giveaway an eBook copy of Indian Summer to one luckY winner - just leave a comment below with your email address to throw your name in the hat!

Next stop on the Indian Summer blog tour? Me and Reading @

Click HERE to purchase Indian Summer on AMAZON
Click HERE to purchase Indian Summer on BARNES AND NOBLE

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Matha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady - REVIEW

This is a great biographical piece on the life on a historical figure that doesn't always get the deserved recognition because of her marriage to perhaps the most well-known man in our nation's history. This is a great look at her life, her trials and tribulations, and her marriage to George Washington and it follows her from her early years in New Kent, Virginia through the American Revolution, presidential years in New York, to her ultimate death at Mount Vernon.

Book Summary:

With this revelatory and painstakingly researched book, Martha Washington, the invisible woman of American history, at last gets the biography she deserves. In place of the domestic frump of popular imagination, Patricia Brady resurrects the wealthy, attractive, and vivacious young widow who captivated the youthful George Washington. Here are the able landowner, the indomitable patriot (who faithfully joined her husband each winter at Valley Forge), and the shrewd diplomat and emotional mainstay. And even as it brings Martha Washington into sharper and more accurate focus, this sterling life sheds light on her marriage, her society, and the precedents she established for future First Ladies.

My Thoughts:

I really liked this book and enjoyed taking a short trip through our nation's early history through the eyes of such an endearing and tremendous lady. Martha Washington was a huge influence on her husband, George Washington, and therefore ultimately a huge influence on our nation's early years.

The author did a tremendous job compiling the research required for such a person and her clear and concise details piece together this story beautifully. I can only imagine the painstaking time spent sorting through thousands of primary resources in an attempt to give readers a complete picture of her life, and her importance.

I also credit the author with making readers fall in love with Martha, her endearing qualities, and her demeanor and character. Her devotion to family and home are so strong and as a woman I felt like no matter who and where you are, those are qualities that we want to embrace as she did.

The portraits the author included in the middle of the book are fantastic and give readers a clear picture of who the people being described are.

I think the cover is striking, and absolutely beautiful but I have some reservations about it. Every image I have seen of Martha Washington looks nothing like that, so I would be curious to know how and why this image was chosen.

Click HERE to read a previous post featuring a fascinating historical fact :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Supper Table With No Chairs and Everyone Using the Same Spoon?

If you follow this blog you know that I am a huge fan of historical fiction - I plan it out so that every other book I read is something historical, that way I can get a taste of everything but also stick with what I love.

I am currently reading a biography on Martha Washington, and can I say how beautiful this cover is? I love looking at it and think it does our First First Lady justice in every way! As I was reading today, I came across this passage and wanted to share - I found it fascinating, and something that I did not know.

"The new fashion called for individual chairs, plates, flatware, glasses, and napkins for each diner. Chairs were expensive, highly prized status symbols. Besides those at the table, extras were proudly lined up around the dining room walls and down both sides of the entry hall, their stately march a testament to their owners' opulence and good taste. Planters bought an abundance of all the necessary items to provide for their dinner guests, but matched sets of everything were more desirable - a concept that would have dumbfounded previous generations of Virginians. Symmetry and balance ruled eighteenth-century taste."

Compare that description to what dinner guests might have experienced before the eighteenth century:

"During meals the table was set with a motley array of pewter, pottery, and even wood; common drinking vessels were passed around; knives were the usual eating utensil, and prudent visitors carried their own in case there weren't enough to go around; spoons were often shared as everyone dipped into the serving vessels; and the few chairs in the household were supplemented by stools, benches, and chests. And those were the planters' households!"

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett - Review I don't even think I can do this book justice with a review, it is that amazing. If you haven't already read this, get to a local bookstore immediately and pick up a copy!

Book Summary:

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

My Thoughts:

I simply cannot spell out for you how good this book is. I am a lover of historical fiction anyway, and this book was right up my alley.

These are characters that I will not soon forget - Abileen stole my heart in the first chapter and still has a grip on it. Minny is what every book needs...a strong character who doesn't easily show her weakness, fiercely loyal, smart to a fault, and simply amazing to have as a friend. Skeeter, the white woman who doesn't follow the society rules of the South and proves that there isn't always a dividing line between whites and blacks. She takes a leap and proves that she is more than she gives herself credit for.

This story is told through those three characters and they all are interwoven as they together write the book. There is so much raw truth to this book, so much to love and so much to hate - all at the same time, and so much to feel. As a reader, I couldn't help but feel as if I was right there experiencing the triumph and heartbreak along with them. I also appreciated that there wasn't a stereotypical happy ending for all of the characters, but they all realize that things are happening for a reason and they will have to allow the events to unfold their destinies.

It is novels such as this that make it so important for all viewpoints of history to be documented. The view of the black maid wasn't deemed important for years and years, but it is that viewpoint that really enables us to look at how life in the South was during the 1960s. And it enables us to have such a clear picture of it that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past.

Kudos to this author, who took her own experiences with her black maid as a child and turned them into this masterpiece. Just as Constantine would have been proud of Skeeter, Demetrie would have been proud of Kathryn Stockett.

Favorite Passages:

I simply cannot type out all of the passages that I loved in this book - it would be much longer than the whole blog post already is, but I will say to go get the book and you will understand why this is a bestseller...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blog Hop & Follow Friday - 8/12

Happy Happy Friday! I am participating in two different blog "hops/follows" this week - so welcome :)

First, there is the Book Blogger Hop hosted by, another great book blog to check out...her question this week is:

What are the books in your collection with the craziest book titles?

I don't have this title, but I found it online and thought it was so hysterical I wanted to share:

Maybe it's the pose, maybe it's the 80s look, maybe it is ridiculous that a book would be putting the blonde, blue-eyed, cute male as what everybody wants to be. I mean, can they be more enthralled with him? Geez...

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

How have your reading habits changed since you were a kid?

I have been through "reading phases" in my life - I read a ton as a child, not as much as a teen, none (except required textbook reading) in college, and as an adult I cannot get enough. Now I teach middle school and an challenged everyday to get my teens to pick up a book when I know it was nearly the last thing I wanted to do too. An uphill battle, but one worth fighting and I will never give up the fight.

Have a great weekend, and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Abattoir (An Ellie Danson Mystery) by M.K. Carver - Review

I took a huge detour recently from the type of literature I have been reading all summer and picked up The Abattoir (An Ellie Danson Mystery) by M.K. Carver. Despite it being so very different from what I usually read, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in one day because I just couldn't put it down!

Book Summary:

A Killer Goes Public

A cunning, vicious serial killer stalks the glamorous Meatpacking district in lower Manhattan. Bored with killing in secret, he raises the stakes by leaving cryptic clues in his victims’ own blood.

A Cop in the Cross-Hairs

Detective Ellie Danson is tapped to tag along with an investigator from the Homicide Squad at Manhattan South, due to her knowledge of the city’s red-light districts. When the killer develops a fascination with her that comes to border on obsession, Ellie begins to wonder just how high a price she’ll have to pay to draw him out.

Closing the Circle

As she closes in on the killer, his kills become even more gruesome, violating every rule of common decency in his quest for inspiration. With her life hanging in the balance, Ellie manages to bend a few rules of her own, leading to shocking revelations and a desperate, final confrontation that only one will survive.

My Thoughts:

This novel really was a "on-the-edge-of-your-seat" thriller. The very first opening scene grabs your attention, as it is pretty vividly gives you the picture of the serial killer and what his crime scenes are like. Like I said previously, I usually don't pick up novels like this, and while this one isn't for those with a weak stomach, I thought that the author did a phenomenal job describing the horrors of a serial killer with a sort of decency, which I appreciated!

A very endearing person, the main character, Ellie Danson, is a female cop trying to make her way up the ladder despite being in a man's world. I love how the author portrayed her and she is a main character that you could really identify with because she is so down-to-earth and real. I was plagued by her relationship with Jay, but after further thought I realized that I find a lot of similarities with the way Ellie dealt with other people and how police and people in other high-stress jobs deal with people. I think throughout the novel I wanted to strangle Ellie for her standoffishness (is that a word?) towards Jay. The whole bit about her not wanting to wear the necklace, then not wanting to go with him places (even though his mother was a royal pain)...I just equated it in the end with other friends that are married to/in a relationship with policemen. There is a certain wall up...and Ellie had that wall, she didn't want to be "too close." I equated Ellie's treatment of Jay to that.

But then to find out that he had paid for a huge chunk of her apartment! I got downright mad at her! I just felt that he was presented as so charismatic, charming, and obviously so in love with Ellie - she just didn't seem to return the same feelings.The author really presented all of this so realistically.

There was a side story throughout the novel about a character named Fantasia who was living on the streets - the author tied this story in well with the main plot line concerning the killer. Both well complimented the other and helped the novel come full-circle at the conclusion.

M.K.'s writing really captivates you, and you are in for a thrilling ride throughout this novel. And the notion that the good guys win against a terrible monster brings this novel home. Kudos to the author, readers will not be disappointed!

This ebook is only 99 cents! Get it now!

Click HERE to purchase this book on
Click HERE to purchase this book on

E-Books Accelerate Paperbacks

I posted a link to the blog Facebook page - click HERE - not long ago about a recent article in the NY Times explaining how the publishing industry is changing, and how it used to be a year or more after a hardback book came out before there would be a paperback version available...but that is changing.

Here is one excerpt from that article:

"It used to be like clockwork in the book business: first the hardcover edition was released, then, about one year later, the paperback.

But in an industry that has been upended by the growth of e-books, publishers are moving against convention by pushing paperbacks into publication earlier than usual, sometimes less than six months after they appeared in hardcover."

This was reinforced this morning when I received an email from Simon and Schuster announcing the upcoming release of David McCullough's The Greater Journey: Americans In Paris IN PAPERBACK! I have had my eye on this book since its initial release so to hear the paperback is coming out so soon is great! Of course, it doesn't ship until spring 2012 but even announcing it is happening sooner. Many other books can be on your doorstep in paperback as little as 6 months after their original publication date.

E-Books have revolutionized the publishing industry in many different ways and I am sure that even more changes are coming in the future as more and more people get e-readers.

Read the entire NY Times article HERE.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke - Review

Man, oh man, this book has taken me F-O-R-E-V-E-R! I have seriously been deadlocked trying to get through it, and I had just responded earlier this summer to a Friday Follow question saying that usually I finish ALL books, regardless of how they are. I almost gave up on this one so many times...but I persevered and finished, and I am glad because the ending was pretty good.

This book (along with the other two in the trilogy) is a August book club selection for my teacher bookclub and our meeting is Friday, and I just started the third one, which is 660+ pages...yeah, not sure I will have finished it by then!

Book Summary (from Goodreads):
Just a few chapters into Inkspell, Mo (a.k.a. "Silvertongue") sagely says to his daughter, "Stories never really end, Meggie, even if the books like to pretend they do. Stories always go on. They don't end on the last page, any more than they begin on the first page." A fitting meta-observation for this, the unplanned second installment in Cornelia Funke's beloved now-trilogy. Of course, it's that sort of earnest, almost gushing veneration of books and book-loving that made the absorbing suspense-fantasy Inkheart so wonderful in the first place, with that lit-affection getting woven integrally into the plot (Inkheart being both Funke's first book in the series, and the fictitious book within that book, authored by the frustrated Fenoglio, now trapped within the book, er, within the book. Fenoglio, perhaps not surprisingly, self-referentially wishes in Inkspell that he had written a sequel to Inkheart.) Inkspell should serve as a special treat for fans of the first book, as characters from Inkheart who have found themselves in the "real world" (if there is such a thing) find themselves read back into their own mythic, word-spun world--along with some of our favorite "real-world" characters. As with the previous book, Funke's greatest accomplishment here is telling such a rich and involving (and fun!) story, while still managing sweet, subtle commentary on the nature of words and meaning. Expect a tantalizing finale, too--as Funke says, "No reader will forgive me the ending, though, without a part three." (Ages 8 and up) --Paul Hughes

My Thoughts:

Like I mentioned in the opening, this was a tough one from me and I believe it was for a couple of reasons. I have always had a hard time with fantasy and this has been no exception. But like most things in life, you don't know until you keep trying. This was a book club selection, so I committed to read - and finish - it!

Second, I feel like Cornelia Funke has WAY too much downtime between events that grab your attention. I think she is trying to give readers A LOT of background on the setting of the Inkworld, but it ends up just making the novel drag too much. What baffles me about this is that I really did get into it when another big thing would happen, but then it would start dragging again and I would lose interest. I am hoping the third one, Inkdeath, isn't like that, but I have a sneaking suspicion otherwise. But, I just have to know what happens to Meggie, Mo, Elinor, and of course Dustfinger so I will keep reading.

What I loved about this book, as I did with the first one Inkheart, was the beginning passages from other books. The author ends up exposing the reader to a ton of literature just through those opening quotes she includes - books that I have always wanted to read but never have are in there and have peaked my interest even further. I think that is really exceptional, and the author did a great job choosing, and placing, these quotes.

I have two favorite characters in this series - Dustfinger and Elinor. I have really enjoyed seeing them evolve and cannot wait to find out what happens to them.

I gave this book 3/5 stars and I am sticking with that rating - I am hoping to be able to hand out a 5/5 as I finish the third book this week and next!

Summer Giveaway Hop WINNER!

A HUGE thank you to EVERYONE who stopped by my blog last week and entered the summer giveaway hop - I am so very lucky to have so many amazing people following me :) Trust me, there are more giveaways planned - one the first week in September so be ready!

This giveaway's winner is: SARA! Sara got married this summer and had a bookish moment right before she walked down the aisle...nothing better than that!

Big thanks to Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer for hosting this giveaway - looking forward to the Back To Books giveaway in a few weeks :)

Happy Reading Everyone!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In My Mailbox (For Two Weeks!)

I wasn't able to get around to doing an In My Mailbox post last week, so this is two weeks worth of books and a really cool library find.

I got a title from Candlewick Press this week called Mitchell's License. It is a really beautiful picture book all about getting ready for bed. With two young kids of my own, we have found this book a real treasure! It also came with a really neat Story-Hour Kit that features activities that you can do with your child in addition to reading the story.

I received this graphic novel as a win from Goodreads - I am not that into graphic novels, I find them difficult to read but this one looks like a good one that I can share with my students.

More wins from Goodreads - Blood Money by Brian Springer and Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst.
I won these two vampire titles from another blog giveaway, I may feature them later as a giveaway on here too.

I picked up The Execution of Willie Francis by Gilbert King for $5 - it looks like a great piece of historical literature and it is a nice big hardback book!

I just had to order these because they are the two August titles for my teacher book club. I already had The Help on my Nook, but I just really wanted a hard copy too! I am super excited to read the James Patterson novel about middle school...I plan on reading this aloud to my students this year.

Another win from Goodreads...this one looks great!

I ordered another Glenn Beck title and have his newest book Broke coming in the mail this week. I highly recommend all of his books.

And onto my awesome library find...when I went in to my local library, I stumbled across a rack with all of these bookmarks that give titles for each grade level. Being a middle school teacher, I was sad to see that they only went up to 5th grade, but both of my kids are young so they are useful for us at home. They are nice, sturdy bookmarks, and they really do have some great titles on them. I think these are perfect when you are compiling summer reading lists!

What great titles were in your mailbox this week?