Monday, May 27, 2013

Sights From This Spring

I am already jumping into gardening, canning and all things spring/summer.  Here are some sights from my spring so far (and if you couldn't tell, I have been playing around with PicMonkey a bit):


Those carrots were left over from last year - I can never seem to grow good carrots so I guess the trick must be to leave them in for a year and a half!





We hatched 30 baby chickens in my classroom this year, this is one just hatched in the above picture!

Spring has sprung and I couldn't be happier!


Keep It Pithy by Bill O'Reilly

I am a big fan of anyone who is a straight-shooter, anyone who isn't afraid to tell the truth, or speak their opinion regardless of how popular or unpopular it is.  I think this is the predominate reason I really like Bill O'Reilly and after reading several of his books, watching his news program, and even following his Talking Points via email, it all reinforces just how much I agree with many of his viewpoints.

Keep It Pithy is a neat book - short, concise, a quick read.  It is conversational meaning that O'Reilly is writing like he is having a conversation with you.  There are many different examples of how he uses bold and italics changes to emphasize his point or pose a question to the reader.  And while I usually find this difficult to read I didn't with this book.  It was very simple to follow along and honestly it made me read more quickly because it was broken up into smaller chunks.

He makes no apologies and clearly states that this read is entirely based on his opinions and he wants to give readers a clear and pithy summary of his viewpoints.  Along with that, he is teaching readers how to keep it pithy in their political conversations.  The subtitle states it all, Useful Observations in a Tough World. 

Great Book: 4/5


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ingenue (Flappers #2) by Jillian Larkin

The first one was so good I just had to delve into the second.  While I appreciate the story continuing, I did find this one a little harder to get through (at least compared to the first.)  That being said, I have read a number of reviews that say the second is the slowest - and it wasn't bad by an means, just slow - of all three so I am definitely still looking forward to reading the third, Diva.

About the Novel:

Power . . . love . . . scandal . . .
There’s never enough to go around.

In the city that never sleeps, Lorraine Dyer is wide awake. Ever since she exposed Clara Knowles for the tramp she was—and lost her closest confidante in the process—Lorraine has spent every second scheming to make her selfish, lovesick ex–best friend pay for what she did. No one crosses Lorraine. Not even Gloria.

True love conquers everything—or so Gloria Carmody crazily believed. She and Jerome Johnson can barely scrape together cash for their rent, let alone have a moment to whisper sweet nothings in the dark. And if they thought escaping Chicago meant they’d get away with murder . . . they were dead wrong.

Clara was sure that once handsome, charming Marcus Eastman discovered her shameful secret, he’d drop her like a bad habit. Instead, he swept her off her feet and whisked her away to New York. Being with Marcus is a breath of fresh air—and a chance for Clara to leave her wild flapper ways firmly in the past. Except the dazzling parties and bright lights won’t stop whispering her name. . . .

INGENUE is the second novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic Flappers series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . where revenge is a dish best served cold.

About the Author:

Jillian Larkin’s fascination with flappers and the 1920s began during her childhood, which included frequent home screenings of the classic Julie Andrews/Carol Channing film Thoroughly Modern Millie. She lives in New York.

My Thoughts:

Let me first say that this cover is the most appealing to me out of all three.  I just love how sleek and sophisticated it looks, very much a representation of exactly what comes to mind when I think about the 1920s.

This novel was a slight bit slower of a read than the first one but it was still a great novel and I was still enveloped right into the 1920s.  This novel was set in New York after Gloria and Jerome move away together.  An interesting twist was the heavy focus on Lorraine in this novel.  She was the center focal point and the entire storyline was told through her viewpoint which I liked.  Lorraine is an interesting character and very representative of girls out there who have not yet found their niche and sometimes find themselves sucked into the latest and greatest, even when it isn't good for them.

Another interesting part of this novel is the appearance of Gloria's father - he comes in a big way although his role in the second really is just setting it up for his even larger role in the third (the final book opens with a scene involving him and Jerome.)

The only part of this novel that I found somewhat hard to wrap my mind around is how Lorraine managed to find graces with the biggest mobster and then be hired to run one of his clubs.  I realize she was the bait but it still seemed a little farfetched and her naivety really does shine through as she finds herself in way over her head.

The setting is amazing, the fashions fun to imagine and the characters fun to follow, I look forward to seeing what the third and final novel in this series has to offer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Vixen (Flappers #1) by Jillian Larkin

Vixen was chosen as our March young adult read for the teacher book club I belong to - I have to confess,
as I was reading I had to keep reminding myself that these were actually KIDS because much of the lifestyle they are living is very adult, very VERY adult!

About the Book:


Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . .

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . .

From debut author Jillian Larkin, VIXEN is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes.

About the Author:

Jillian Larkin’s fascination with flappers and the 1920s began during her childhood, which included frequent home screenings of the classic Julie Andrews/Carol Channing film Thoroughly Modern Millie. She lives in New York.

My Thoughts:

Wow, this book packed a punch!  Such a punch that I had to keep reminding myself that it characters were kids!  The lifestyle is so adult, which I am sure is accurate for the upper elite in major cities in the 1920s.

I couldn't put this book down because it truly kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.  Each chapter follows from one of three points of view - Gloria, Clara, or Lorraine.  Gloria and Lorraine, best friends forever, have a fledgling relationship that as the girls get older is tested past its breaking point.  Clara, Gloria's country cousin who has a secret and sordid past of her own is trying to fit in to the Chicago scene without arousing any suspicion about her past in New York.

Throughout book one we follow the girls as they discover the speakeasy scene in Chicago and get caught up in all of its glory...we follow them as they fall into forbidden places both figuratively and literally.  The plot line is fast and easy to follow and the characters are charming and have depth to them.  But most of all, the setting makes this book - the 1920s are a fascinating time period which provides an amazing backdrop for Jillian Larkin's dynamite series.

I am about three-quarters through the second book, review coming soon!


 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dispatches From Bitter America by Todd Starnes

I needed this book - at a time where there seems to be so much going wrong with our country, our world, and our lifestyles in general, it was so comforting to read something so humorous from someone whose beliefs are aligned with my own.

About the Book:


FOX News Radio reporter Todd Starnes is a self-professed “gun toting, chicken eating son of a Baptist” whose Dispatches from Bitter America is “a collection of stories from my travels across this country (and) conversations I’ve had with regular folks who have deep concerns about the direction we are going as a nation.”

In his award-winning, satire-meets-serious writing style, Starnes jumps headfirst into the current culture war, taking on the topics that are dear to every American: religion, health care, freedom, country music, barbeque, and so forth. Along the way, he shares exclusive interviews with political commentator Sean Hannity, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, cooking sensation Paula Deen, and pop singer Amy Grant, always hoping to go from bitter to better.

Endorsements:

"In Dispatches From Bitter America this 'Great American' finds that not only is our American way of life under attack, but also that most Americans do in fact love God, this country, their families, and are anything but bitter!"

Sean Hannity, New York Times best-selling author, FOX News host of Hannity

"Todd Starnes combines sound research with his signature wit to tell the stories of regular Americans who are standing up to a secular movement that seeks to remove all religious expression from the public square. This is a compelling book that puts our entire existence into the perspective of eternity."

Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council

About the Author:


Todd Starnes is the host of FOX News & Commentary — heard daily on hundreds of radio stations. Throughout his journalism career, Todd has covered a number of high profile stories — taking him from Wall Street to the White House.

He is a regular contributor of FOX & Friends and FoxNews.com. He writes a weekly column for Human Events and TownHall.com.

Todd is the author of two books. “Dispatches From Bitter America”  is a collection of essays detailing how President Obama has declared war on the values that made this country great.
The book is endorsed by Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Gretchen Carlson and Mark Levin.

“They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick” was published in 2009 and became a best-seller. The book was a collection of humorous and inspirational stories from his open heart surgery in 2005.
In his spare time, Todd is active in his church, plays golf, follows SEC football, and eats barbecue.

My Thoughts:

Like I said, I needed this book - I needed someone else to reinforce all of these DUMB things happening in our country are just that - DUMB!

I needed someone else's fresh and funny perspective about the state of our nation.  Todd does that in a way like no one else - in a way that has you laughing your head off but then shaking your head wondering how in the world we got into this mess.

Splashed throughout are religious Christian references which I appreciated.  He is a Baptist, like me, so I could absolutely relate.

I like his writing - and I will definitely be recommending this book to my friends...both liberal and conservative!



 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Gone Girl by Jillian Flynn

I wondered how in the world I would start this book review because this book had me gripping my Nook from about page 100 on and I just knew the twists and turns would deem it worthy of a five-star review.  And I did indeed give it five stars on Goodreads.  However, after pondering the ending and discussing with a few friends I am conflicted.  Should you read the book?  YES!  But there are some things that I had hang-ups with.

About the Book:

Marriage can be a real killer.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.


About the Author:

"Gillian Flynn is the real deal, a sharp, acerbic, and compelling storyteller with a knack for the macabre."
–Stephen King

Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.

Her book has received wide praise, including from authors such as Stephen King. The dark plot revolves around a serial killer in a Missouri town, and the reporter who has returned from Chicago to cover the event. Themes include dysfunctional families,violence and self-harm.

In 2007 the novel was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Writer, Crime Writers' Association Duncan Lawrie, CWA New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers, winning in the last two categories.

Flynn, who lives in Chicago, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated at the University of Kansas, and qualified for a Master's degree from Northwestern University.

My Thoughts:

Well, first of all - THE GIRL CAN WRITE!  The story is unbelievable (literally) at times and I wonder what kind of creative genius it takes to come up with a plot and characters like this!

I was literally gripping the sides of my Nook, furiously flipping pages trying to figure out where in the world this story was going - I had no idea.  From about page 160 on there were literally twists and turns and angles that I never could have imagined all the way through the end of the novel.

I loved how the author took two characters and made me as a reader figure them out - and then by the end of the novel there were complete 180 degree turns in my thoughts on them.  She paints Amy in a way that only someone with a touch of creative genius could.  I loved it.

My issues are with the language - I get that she was trying to drive the point home about how these characters would have been speaking and thinking in real life but I just felt it unnecessary.  The story is a winner, without the frequent cursing.

I also had a hard time with the ending - talk about leaving you hanging!  I imagine that is because the author has big plans for a sequel so we can find out what becomes of this crazy couple in the future.  I sure hope so because there is no way you can figure it out from the way this novel ends!

I am a Gillian Flynn fan and I look forward to reading more from her!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Color Is Your Wallpaper? by Steven C. Macon

Look around you. See beyond your noses! What color is your wallpaper? Yes, that’s right, what color is your wallpaper? If I was to ask you right now, without looking, could you tell me what color your wallpaper is? What kind of design it has on it? Wait a minute, you say that’s not fair! You might shout back, “Who cares what color my wallpaper is?” That’s precisely the point. Nobody really cares but you. After all, you or your spouse picked it out. You might have remembered what it looked like the day you picked it out. But what about now, one month later, or perhaps ten years later? How well do you see your surroundings?

About the Author:

Steven C. Macon was born in North Carolina, but spent most of his adult life in the sunny state of Florida. While attending college Steven was involved with many of the campus newspapers and magazines. He worked for a short season as a circus clown and puppeteer. There was another period in his life where Steven spent time jumping out of airplanes for fun. He obtained a Master Skydivers rating while a member of the US Parachute Association. Steven also participated in community theater. One of his major accomplishments was backpacking Yosemite. His hobbies include photography and likes to dabble with painting landscapes, still-life’s and various other sundry subjects. Steven and his wife, Debra, now reside in southwestern Virginia with their four cats.

Check out his website HERE.


My Thoughts:

I received this book as a recommendation from my brother-in-law who is a good friend of the author.  I appreciate that and the chance to read something by this author - I am a big fan!

This book screams wisdom and pay attention to the little things!  While I was reading Macon's book, I felt like I was sitting beside an old friend...someone who has been around the block, realized what's important, and then wants to share that wisdom and those life lessons with me.


The whole premise behind the book is look around you...pay attention to what you're missing.  While we are so caught up in "life" and our image, our appearance to others, there is a whole world right around us that is so much more important.

Macon is obviously a Christian and he imparts much of that simple knowledge that we can gain from living in faith and living by the bible on us in this book.  It is packed with verses that support his life lessons and it takes you a step further than just reading - it fills you up spiritually and enriches the reading experience by bringing the knowledge right into your lap.

Let me share one of my favorite excerpts from this book:

We can approach our lives like a race track.  We can be so concerned on speed and getting to the finish line that we fail to see the rest of the track along the way.  Let us not be so consumed with the world view of purpose.  But let us be consumed with the God-view of purpose.  Live life one day at a time.  Remember what color your wallpaper is and stop and smell the coffee along the way.  When we are young life seems to go on forever.  When we are older, life seems too short.  We are eternal beings.  We will live forever and this is our proving ground (emphasis mine).  How you view life, how you view others and your surroundings will determine how you live your life.  A steady pace usually wins all races or at least gets you over the finish line.  Measure your time and don't let jobs or circumstances rob you of the small things in life.  You only have one life and regrets will be minimized if you are not in such a hurry to get to the end of it.

This book makes you stop...and think.  And if you're like me, you need that reminder to slow down every now and then because when we get to the end, we want to remember not to wonder.

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

I recently attended a workshop on the amazing 2012 young adult literature that came out - the presenter spend the entire day talking books, what could be better?

One of the novels she presented (which made it on her top 15 of 2012 list) was Chomp by Carl Hiaasen.  She read an excerpt that was hilarious and it quickly rose to the top of my TBR pile.  I settled in on this rainy weekend to read it and boy was it worth it!

About the Novel:

Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he's grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one.

When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called "Expedition Survival!", Wahoo figures he'll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show's boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo's acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who's sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out.

They've only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna's dad shows up with a gun . . .

It's anyone's guess who will actually survive "Expedition Survival". . . 


About the Author:

Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida, where he still lives with his family. After graduating from the University of Florida, he began writing for the Miami Herald. As a journalist and author, Carl has spend most of his life advocating the protection of the Florida Everglades. He and his family still live southern Florida.

Check out a recent interview with the NY Times HERE.

 My Thoughts:

Plain and simple, this book is adorable!  I understand that Mr. Hiaasen's novels all have similar covers and are really eye catching, especially for kids.  He is one of those young adult authors who really understands who he is writing for and his novels fit the mold of what a young adult novel should be.

The setting really adds and element to this story as well - the Florida Everglades.  I have read that all of his novels are set there so this makes them all the more appealing in my opinion.

He adds in the perfect mixture of suspense, adventure, and humor and it all fits perfectly together!  His witty one-liners are blended in perfectly and throughout the novel I found myself laughing out loud!

I think beyond the plot and humor the characters are what makes this novel.  I know Wahoo is the center of the novel but Mickey captured me from the start!  I loved his spunk, his no-nonsense attitude and his outlook on life.  He is a great role model for not just Wahoo, but Tuna as well.

This is definitely one I would recommend to my students and children, add it to your collection - it will stay checked out!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.


Check out the tour schedule for this book here: http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2013/01/05/pump-up-your-book-presents-the-aviators-wife-virtual-book-publicity-tour/

Praise for the Book:

“Vivid and mesmerizing, The Aviator’s Wife takes us behind the scenes and into the heart of the woman who loved and married Charles Lindbergh.  That was her destiny – a life that took her soaring into the skies and then plunged her to earth, a story of both triumph and pain that will take your breath away.” —Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker


About the Author:

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the nationally bestselling Alice I Have Been and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

Her latest book is the historical fiction, The Aviator’s Wife.

Benjamin lives in Chicago, where she is at work on her next historical novel.

My Thoughts:

What a beautiful book, from the cover straight through to the writing and the back cover.  And what a read!

The relationship between Charles and Anne is beautifully illustrated in this novel and it truly makes this read worth reading.  Good historical fiction places the reader right smack in the middle of the part of history being written about - and you are able to see the events of the time period through a character's eyes and that makes it much more believable and understandable.

Melanie's writing is magical and brings these characters to life in a way that only writers of GOOD historical fiction can do.  Not only did I enjoy following the relationship, I also loved the history woven in throughout.  I learned A LOT, and that is the second goal of this genre.

Great book, amazing author and someone to follow!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Cutest Book Intro I've Read in a Long Time

Mickey Cray had been out of work since a dead iguana fell from a palm tree and hit him on the head.

The iguana, which had died during a hard freeze, was stiff as a board and weighed seven and a half pounds.  Mickey's son had measured the lifeless lizard on a fishing scale, then packed it on ice with the turtle veggies, in the cooler behind the garage.

This was after the ambulance had hauled Mickey off to the hospital, where the doctors said he had a serious concussion and ordered him to take it easy.

And to everyone's surprise, Mickey did take it easy.  That's because the injury had left him with double vision and terrible headaches.  He lost his appetite and dropped nineteen pounds and lay around on the couch all day, watching nature programs on television.

"I'll never be the same," he told his son.

"Knock it off, Pop," said Washoo, Mickey's boy.

Mickey had named him after Wahoo McDaniel, a professional wrestler who'd once played linebacker for the Dolphins.  Mickey's son often wished he'd been called Mickey Jr. or Joe or even Rupert - anything but Wahoo, which was also a species of saltwater fish.

It was a name that was hard to live up to.  People naturally expected somebody called Wahoo to act loud and crazy, but that wasn't Wahoo's style.  Apparently nothing could be done about the name until he was all grown up, at which point he intended to go to the Cutler Ridge courthouse and tell a judge he wanted to be called something normal.

"Pop, you're gonna be okay," Wahoo would tell his father every morning.  "Just hang in there."

Looking up with hound-dog eyes from the couch, Mickey Cray would say, "Whatever happens, I'm glad we ate that bleeping lizard."

On the day his dad had come home from the hospital, Wahoo had defrosted the dead iguana and made a peppercorn stew, which his mom had wisely refused to touch.  Mickey had insisted that eating the critter that had dented his skull would be a spiritual remedy.  "Big medicine," he'd predicted.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Quilt Walk by Sandra Dallas

It is 1863 and Emily Blue Hatchett has been told by her father that, come spring, their family will leave their farm, family and friends in Quincy Illinois and travel the Overland Trail to a new home in Golden, Colorado. Emmy and her mom have mixed feelings about the trip and are saddened by all they must leave behind.

When Emmy s grandmother comes to say goodbye, she gives Emmy a special gift, something to occupy her time along the trail.

The journey by wagon train is long and full of hardships and Emmy s experiences along the way bring the period of westward expansion, as well as issues facing women, to life for young readers.


New York Times best-selling and award-winning author Sandra Dallas brings her much-admired storytelling talent to middle-grade readers for the first time. She is the author of eleven adult novels as well as ten nonfiction books. Sandra s novels with their themes of loyalty, friendship, and human dignity have been translated into a dozen foreign languages and have been optioned for films. Sandra is the recipient of the Women Writing the West Willa Award and two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award.


About the Author:

Award-winning author SANDRA DALLAS was dubbed “a quintessential American voice” by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. Sandra’s novels with their themes of loyalty, friendship, and human dignity have been translated into a dozen foreign languages and have been optioned for films.

A journalism graduate of the University of Denver, Sandra began her writing career as a reporter with Business Week. A staff member for twenty-five years (and the magazine’s first female bureau chief,) she covered the Rocky Mountain region, writing about everything from penny-stock scandals to hard-rock mining, western energy development to contemporary polygamy. Many of her experiences have been incorporated into her novels.

While a reporter, she began writing the first of ten nonfiction books. They include Sacred Paint, which won the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Western Heritage Wrangler Award, and The Quilt That Walked to Golden, recipient of the Independent Publishers Assn. Benjamin Franklin Award.

Turning to fiction in 1990, Sandra has published eight novels, including Prayers For Sale. Sandra is the recipient of the Women Writing the West Willa Award for New Mercies, and two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award, for The Chili Queen and Tallgrass. In addition, she was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Assn. Award, and a four-time finalist for the Women Writing the West Willa Award.

The mother of two daughters—Dana is an attorney in New Orleans and Povy is a photographer in Golden, Colorado—Sandra lives in Denver with her husband, Bob.

My Thoughts:

I thought this was just an adorable story and one that I can wholeheartedly recommend to my younger middle school students without reservation.  I have fallen in love with the book, the story, the characters and this author!

What I liked most about this book was how perceptive Emmy Blue was.  She was such a cute character and I loved that she was so tough on the outside but showed so much vulnerability on the inside.  Her story is endearing and readers will connect immediately with her as a character.

I think the author peppered JUST enough historical detail in this story to make it interesting.  Students studying this time period in history could use this as a great piece of historical fiction to give them a great visual of what life on the trail was like.

The only suggestion I would have is that I really needed to hear what became of the little boy who suffered the snake bit and turned back for home.  A letter, a package, something to let readers know what became of him!  But then again, I am a sucker for a little mystery in a story!

Happy Reading!
 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Every Day by David Levithan

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.


About the Author:

David Levithan (born 1972) is an American children's book editor and award-winning author. He published his first YA book, Boy Meets Boy, in 2003. Levithan is also the founding editor of PUSH, a Young Adult imprint of Scholastic Press.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely have a love/hate relationship with this book.  I was hanging on every word for a while wanting to figure out what would become of "A" and Rhiannon, but this book took me a few places I am not sure I wanted to go.

I love the idea, the concept of waking up as someone different every day.  I think the idea is so unique and creative and kudos to the author for making it truly come alive.  I also think the author's purpose for this novel is to make the reader think about how truly different we each are and how to appreciate those differences.  With "A" waking up each day and experiencing someone totally and completely different he has such a sensitivity to that fact.  I loved it...

What I didn't like was how different he consistently took the the main character.  At times I felt like he put him in certain characters just to make a point instead of intrigue readers.  Every other one was someone who was in a morally compromising situation and I really tired of it after a while.

I have to tell you that while I completely understood why he ended it the way he did I hated the ending.  I love what "A" did for Rhiannon but I didn't like that we didn't find out what became of him...UNLESS, the author is setting "A" up for a sequel.  If that's the case, I can overlook what was an extremely frustrating ending for me!

I loved the writing style and while this is my first experience with this author I look forward to checking out some of his other work to see if it fits my tastes.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Journey as a Combat Medic by Patrick Thibeault

First let me say, I am a BIG supporter of our military and absolutely LOVE supporting and showcasing books that are written by our bravest.  It is an honor to feature Mr. Thibeault and his amazing novel today, please check it out - it is well worth the read!

My Journey as a Combat Medic is a no-holds-barred look at the modern medic in the US Army, allowing us a glimpse at the training as a soldier and as a specialist, as well as deployment and front line duties and the impact of service on civilian life, including an honest look at PTSD, from the author's own personal experience. Rather than a technical manual, My Journey as a Combat Medic is a detailed firsthand account, concluding with a letter to new medics, providing a career's worth of advice and knowledge as they begin their journeys. This book is about the soldiers who bring compassion and humanity to the battlefield.

Description of My Journey As a Combat Medic:
Publisher: Osprey Publishing, July 24, 2012
Category: Military Medic, Memoir
Tour Dates: January, 2013
Available in: PDF, Kindle , 176 pages

Praise for My Journey as a Combat Medic:
"Outstanding!   This book is an easy read and is not your typical war book. The author does an incredible job of showing the reader just how he was able to bring a sense of decency and respect and compassion to the battle zone. I highly recommend this book!"- Cafeguy, Amazon.com Reviewer

" I knew I would enjoy this book from the very first page when Author Patrick Thibeault described jumping off an airplane as a paratrooper.  Then reading about him being a medic, training, traveling all over the world! It's inspiring. It's short, to the point, with stories of experience and emotion rather than historical facts and war strategies. Thibeault writes what he saw, felt, heard. He manages to add light touches of humor during not so humorous circumstances. It's very personal. I couldn't put his book down, finishing in just a couple hours. It's a beautifully written book about a modern day hero."- Cher, Goodreads.com Reviewer

" Patrick Thibeault, a retired US Army Sergeant, offers a candid and, for the most part, positive description of his 20 years as a combat medic. With common sense and compassion, he did his best to heal the injured - ally and enemy alike. In retirement now, he endures a constant struggle with PTSD but has found some positive therapy in his pets - a dog and 2 cats. This book is a good read."- Maria, Goodreads.com Reviewer

About Patrick Thibeault:

Patrick Thibeault was raised as an Army brat. He lived in Germany, Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Fayetteville, North Carolina and his father was stationed in Seoul, South Korea where he attended Seoul American High School and graduated in 1989. During his time in Korea, Patrick watched several of the Olympic games in person as they were in Seoul, South Korea in 1988. He grew to respect and understand the different cultures he encountered.

Upon graduation from high school, Patrick enlisted in the Army becoming a paratrooper medic. The first unit that he was assigned to was the elite 3rd Battalion / 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). Patrick deployed to Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm back in 1990. During his tenure with the 160th, Patrick had the opportunity to grow both as a soldier and as a medic. He attended SERE school (Survival training), went to Army enlisted flight medic school at Fort Rucker, and attended Primary Leadership training at Fort Stewart, Georgia among other types of military training. He deployed both stateside and overseas with the 160th and even spent some time on the USS. Theodore Roosevelt. During his time with the 160th, he was on both on enlisted crewmember flight status and parachute status.
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He then joined the Kentucky Army National Guard. Patrick deployed twice to Ecuador during his time with the Kentucky Army National Guard. He continued to grow in the medical field and nursing field and started nursing school at Eastern Kentucky University. Patrick's first job as a nurse was as a registered nurse in Indianapolis,Indiana. Patrick transferred to the Indiana Army National Guard where in 2000, his entire brigade travelled to Fort Polk, Louisiana to participate in the combat simulations at the Joint Readiness Training Center or JRTC.

He graduated with his bachelor's degree in nursing in May 2003 from Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2004, he deployed with his unit, the 76th Infantry Brigade in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His unit was part of Task Force Phoenix. This task force trained the conventional Afghanistan Army and had soldiers embedded into these Afghanistan units both during training and combat operations. Patrick worked briefly as a liaison for Task Force Phoenix at Bagram Airbase before going back out into the deserts of Afghanistan to serve as a medic.

Patrick started on his master's degree to become a Family Nurse Practitioner upon returning from combat in 2005. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in December, 2008. Patrick then transferred to the 138th Field Artillery Brigade, part of the Kentucky Army National Guard, where he remained till he retired in January, 2011. Patrick currently works part time in a medical intensive care unit part time as a registered nurse and works full time in a urgent and primary care clinic as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

Hobbies include Corvettes,writting poetry, working out, Star Trek, and reading medical books. He is married to his wife Connie. They have a dog named Rocco and two cats named Savannah and Georgia. He named his cats after the beautiful city of Savannah and the other cat after the state of Georgia when he was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, in Savannah,Georgia.

His awards and decorations include the Combat Medical Badge, 2nd award from both Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom. The Meritorious Service Medical from Afghanistan, the Air Medal from Desert Storm. Patrick also has earned the Expert Field Medical Badge, parachute wings, and the enlisted crewmember aviation wings.

Currently Patrick is working on a book of combat medic poetry, a book about working as a nurse and a nurse practitioner from the perspective of a man and a fictional book about a time travelling medical provider who gets stuck in the past while trying to learn medicine and nursing and working on his website at http://www.medicstory.com/

My Thoughts:

Like I mentioned above, I am a huge supporter of our military - patriotism was instilled in me at a very young age and there is no job more important in my book.  I am honored to feature this book and author today on the blog, his book is amazing and well worth the read!

What I loved most about this book was the look I got as a reader at just what goes into this heroic job.  The author is dynamic in his decsriptions of what the warzone is like and how essential a combat medic's role is to those there.  I loved that he showed how such a raw and real role can be transformed in the approach - how despite such difficult circumstances, a combat medic can still bring a human touch to what he is dealing with.  That is the true human spirit at its finest.

To me, part of the healing process when you have been in such a place dealing with war front and center is to process those experiences by putting pen to paper.  I am thankful that Mr. Thibeault did just that and it is a great example of what our bravest go through to protect us.

Thanks for the look inside Patrick, I enjoyed every single minute.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Deep Connections by Rebecca Graf

Publisher: Silver Tongue Press, August 23, 2012
Category: Paranormal/Suspense/Romance
Tour Dates: January, 2013
Available in: Print, PDF, and Kindle , 298 pages


Deep Connections is the story of a woman who finds herself caught in a love-triangle with a stalker closing in on her. Brenna sees herself just as a high school English teacher. Slaton sees her as his soulmate. Eaton sees her as a serious girlfriend. To someone in the shadows, she is the fulfillment of a prophecy. Through her, he will exact his revenge. Through her, he will conquer those around him. Someone has to die in order for him to have her. Brenna has to make a decision that will forever change of life and that of everyone around her.

 
Praise for Deep Connections:

 " Deep Connections is a riveting romantic suspense thriller that will captivate you from the beginning and hold you captive until the end. If you like a scary novel with a twist of paranormal and romance in the mix, then this is the book for you. This is the first book in a series, and the end will leave you hanging and wanting more, only to make you wait for it to be continued in the next book of the series, Dark Connections."- Kathleen Higgins-Anderson, Jersey Girl Book Reviews

 " Deep Connection is a unique thriller that will keep you guessing until the end. Who is stalking Brenna and why? As the layers of mystery unfold, you will be pulled into the twists and turns Ms. Graf has so wonderfully written. Wrapped around the mystery is a love triangle between Brenna, the cute sheriff's deputy and the handsome Native American lawyer. Who will win her heart and save her from the evil stalking her? Read the book and find out. I had a hard time putting this one down. I am waiting for the sequel as I am sure it will also be a fantastic read."- Marianne Spitzer, Goodreads.com Reviewer

 " This is not a story to read by yourself at night, in a dark and quiet house. Believe me, I tried it, and I actually got a little nervous. It has a good amount of suspense and scariness, and I just couldn't put it down. I had to know what happened. "-Monica, The Readathon

 " This was one of those books that I read in 2 days when I could steal time away from life. And when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about when I'd be able to get back to reading it.  The biggest disappointment, however, comes at the VERY end: When I discovered the story will continue in "Dark Connections" and that I have to wait for it to be released Winter 2013-2013! I want it NOW!"-L. Ocko, Amazon.com Reviewer

About the Author:
 
Rebecca Graf is a wife and mother of three when she is not writing. From writing online for various companies to book reviews to her own novels, Rebecca spends most of her days reading and writing.

She worked as an accountant for 20 years before taking a chance and trying to make it as a writer. She has been published on sites such as BellaOnline.com, HubPages, and Natural Family Today. She also freelances where she writes for several different companies.

She is an avid reader and has found a love of writing all types of genres. She self-published her first children's book, A Gift for a Mouse two years ago. Since then, she has started her own publishing company with a friend. Deep Connections is their first publication.

Website: www.rebeccagraf.com
Twitter: @rebeccagraf
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RebbecaGraf


1.    What inspired you to write your first book? 

I had always felt an urge to write, but it wasn’t until I had a dream that kept occurring that I began to write just to get it out of my head. It was driving me crazy. It wasn’t a big dream or extra special, but it kept bothering me. From there it developed into a story.

2.    Do you have a specific writing style? 

My friends tell me I’m big on suspense. I like to drop hints but never really tell the reader what is going to happen next. My love is cliffhangers which I hate to read but sure love to write.

3.    How did you come up with the title? 

I was playing along with a title with a friend and we kept saying, “They have a deep connection.” Finally, it hit us that we had to go with that title.

4.    Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

That love of family can be strong. Family doesn’t have to be blood related. It is the ones who are there for you and will risk their lives. That is what happens with Brenna. She has many who would give up their lives for her.

5.    How much of the book is realistic? 

Mmmmm. That’s a good question and hard to answer. I think a deep love is realistic. I think finding people who love you is realistic. The rest is way out there.

6.    Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? 

Nothing personal really is in the story. Some mannerisms come from me or my husband but overall everything is completely from my imagination.

7.    What books have most influenced your life most? 

I think C.S. Lewis’ work has been huge. His works, even the fiction ones, are so deep and thought-provoking. My favorite author growing up was Nancy Keene of the Nancy Drew series. From her I discovered an intense love of reading.

8.    If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Oh, my. That could really vary, but I have to admit that I have found Sophia Knightly to be one. I love her work and her writing style. I can go to her with questions and she is willing to take the time to work with an amateur.

9.    What book are you reading now? 

I’ve got a ton of books I need to review. There are literally hundreds of them sitting on my shelf. So, I really can’t answer that aside from my school books.

10. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? 


Oh, yes. I guess it depends on what you mean by new. If you mean new to me, then oh my yes. Aiden James is one of them. I love his work and he keeps me hooked. Lauren Carr is another one I am in love with. Marianne Spritzer is a great one that I’ve become good friends with, and so many more that I can’t name them all.

11.    What are your current projects? 


I am working on the sequel to Deep Connections. Dark Connections should be out in a couple of months. The very first draft of the third book is done but needs a million tons of work. In addition to that, I’m working on a couple of others including a couple of romantic thrillers and a comedy. With a friend of mine, we are writing a fantasy story that should be out this year, too.

City of Gods: The Descendant by S.J. McMillan


In 700 A.D. Teotihuacan, Mexico, the High Priest believed himself to be a powerful as the gods. He set a plague on the city as a demonstration of his power. The Gods took pity on the remaining loyal congregation. They granted each survivor immortality and an extraordinary ability. Three loyal survivors were given a mission of great importance: train the lone human descendant of their civilization to stop the evil priest from damning the rest of humanity.

Now in San Diego, California, the time has come to finally make Katalina Deckard aware of her destiny. Her life has been a constant struggle since the loss of her parents when she was young. These struggles have made her a fighter, but she doesn’t believe they have prepared her to save the world. Her friends, who have survived for so long, must convince her that she has what it takes to accept the mantle of the Redeemer.


Release Date: November 16th, 2012
Genre: Urban fantasy

About the Author:



I live in Southwest Missouri with my super supportive husband and our three energetic young rascals. I work as an administrative assistant during the week. Now I get to add published author to my list of roles I play in life.

Being an author was not my first career choice. In my younger years I wanted to be a dancer, but dance lessons are expensive! I also wanted to be Dolly Parton from The Best Little Whore House in Texas. I could really belt out Itty Bitty Piss Ant Country Place, just ask my parents, or their former neighbors.

After a slew of other interesting job choices, I just could not shake the writing bug I picked up in high school. I started writing poetry and still write a poem whenever inspiration hits me. I also love to read, especially paranormal romances and urban fantasies. The love of reading is what spawned the desire to try my hand at writing a novel of my very own. 

I love creating the characters and giving them their own personalities and voices. I have also come to enjoy writing fight scenes. My husband (the wonderful man that he is) will act them out with me so I know exactly how I need to show it to the audience. Call us crazy if you like, but it's really fun to act out a scene using a broom handle as a spear and a foam baseball bat as an axe.

I hope you enjoy City of the Gods: The Descendant. The second book of the trilogy is being edited and I’m working on the third and final book now. I love to hear from fellow authors and readers. You can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mcmillansj, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcmillansj, or swing by my website at www.mcmillansj.com.

Excerpt:

“Who did this?” Tristan asked quietly, almost more to himself than to Kat.

“Probably that bastard Ryan. He is going to pay for every last thing he demolished,” Kat replied, assuming Tristan was speaking about the chaos throughout the rest of the house. She stepped forward and looked around the room once more. It was then that she noticed the black flowers sitting on her dresser. Kat walked over and pulled the small white card from them. She opened the envelope to reveal a card with a beautiful picture of the same flower in white. Tristan came to stand behind her as she opened the card. It was a simple message, but one she would not soon forget.
I am coming for you.

Tristan plucked the card from her hand and reread it. Kat stood frozen in place, shocked and confused. Her mind raced with unanswerable questions. Who was coming for her? What did they want from her? Was this actually some sick joke Ryan was playing or was someone really coming to get her? Her stomach churned and her head began to pound. She doubled over in pain while fear of the unknown trespasser flooded her brain. It was all too overwhelming.

Kat hugged her arms around her stomach. Her legs gave out and she fell to her knees on the floor. A cold sweat broke on her forehead. Kat was almost glad when black spots started to swim in her vision. She tried to ask Tristan for help, but she could not find her voice. Dizziness engulfed her, and she felt herself begin to fall the rest of the way to the floor. Tristan caught her just before her head and the floor collided. She could barely hear his concerned voice calling her name as the blackness surrounded her.

“Katalina, open your eyes.” Tristan shook her a bit, hoping she would regain consciousness. Sabine and Vivian had heard the commotion, rushed into the room, and directly to Kat’s side. To Tristan’s great relief, Katalina’s eyes opened a crack, enough to see the intensely harsh gaze she gave him. Tristan looked to the girls, who looked equally surprised by her reaction.

“Katalina?” Tristan questioned.

“Leave her alone,” Katalina responded and her nearly black eyes closed once again.

 
  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Well, this book really did achieve everything I thought it was going to - it has an amazing storyline, believable characters, a setting that is realistic, emotions that tug at your heart, wit that has you laughing out loud, and an ending that is filled with real and raw emotion.

I was laughing, I was crying, and I was wondering how in the world I would survive once I turned the last page.  These characters became my friends, my closest pals while I was reading and I didn't want their journey to end.

The emotions dealt with in this novel are real and it is refreshing to see an author portray such an honest and heartfelt approach to cancer and all of its terrible side effects.  I thought his treatment of a delicate topic was such a good approach.

Beyond the obvious issue of cancer and sickness the underlying theme here is friendship, love and how when we least expect it our lives can be interrupted in a great or sometimes not so great way - Hazel Grace sure found that out when she met Augustus.  Issac sure found that out when he had his sight taken from him and Hazel's parents realized that as they watched their daughter deal with her own limitations as well as those of Augustus.

I can't recommend this book enough, it will really be worth your while to pick it up - I would however say that I think it is appropriate for high school students and adults.

About the Book:

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.


About the Author:

John Green's first novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association. His second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His next novel, Paper Towns, is a New York Times bestseller and won the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best YA Mystery. In January 2012, his most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, was met with wide critical acclaim, unprecedented in Green's career. The praise included rave reviews in Time Magazine and The New York Times, on NPR, and from award-winning author Markus Zusak. The book also topped the New York Times Children's Paperback Bestseller list for several weeks. Green has also coauthored a book with David Levithan called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, published in 2010. The film rights for all his books, with the exception of Will Grayson Will Grayson, have been optioned to major Hollywood Studios.

In 2007, John and his brother Hank were the hosts of a popular internet blog, "Brotherhood 2.0," where they discussed their lives, books and current events every day for a year except for weekends and holidays. They still keep a video blog, now called "The Vlog Brothers," which can be found on the Nerdfighters.