Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Winter Reading 2016 Give Me Wings


Imagine being born a slave, being told to spy on your own mother, living with the knowledge that you could be sold away at any time. We can't, because we are fortunate enough to have been born in a time and place of freedom. But Ella Sheppard was born in 1851, in the state of Tennessee, and she was asked by her mistress to report anything suspicious her mother said or did. Now, imagine going from that start in life to leading a choir that sang for Queen Victoria herself. A true rags to riches story, right?

Give Me Wings is not just Ella's story, although she features in it prominently. Using her as a central figure, the story traces the Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. In the aftermath of the war, schools for blacks (as they were often referred to at that time), either former slaves or others, were established across the South by the American Missionary Association. Fisk Free Colored School in Nashville was one of the schools. But financial woes plagued the school and in an effort to raise funds, it was decided to form a singing group to give concerts. The result was the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The details of their rocky beginning and the road that eventually took them to London and a European tour are covered in a narrative supported with primary sources such as photos, maps, song lyrics, and paintings. The story also draws in other prominent figures of the period, including: Mark Twain, Lyman Beecher, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass.

Altogether a well-told and informative look at a piece of American and Tennessee history that deserves our attention. This would be an excellent addition to any school library or history classroom collection.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Design the Life You Love

I enjoy planning and organizing, so the idea of this book appealed to me. Once I began reading it, I enjoyed the way it was presented. The process that the book will take you through is explained up front, and plenty of examples are given for each step along the way. Since the author is a designer, the approach she uses draws heavily on that background with lots of visual organizers like idea maps, graphs, and diagrams. There are also times when lists, charts, and poems are used to gather your thoughts. The main thrust of the book is to deconstruct your life and examine all the existing elements, and then reconstruct it with the things you want to keep and eliminating the things you don't love.

There are so many positive points about this book. It includes various types of responses to the different prompts so that no matter what style of learner you are, or how best you express yourself, you will have opportunities to work from your areas of strength and explore new methods, too. I also appreciated the way each step was presented and then a time limit for the response was given, and each one was a small chunk that felt do-able and not overwhelming. There were also extra pages for some of the responses in case you decided after your first effort that you wanted to try a different approach, and there were even more templates in the back of the book. The construction of the book itself is very sturdy, which is a good thing for something you may be carrying around with you or revisiting often. The cover is thick but flexible, and it even has an elasticized band for closure. 

This would make an excellent gift, especially at this time of year when many people are thinking of New Year's resolutions. If you know someone who is at a point where they are considering making some changes or perhaps you are looking for ways to improve your own level of satisfaction with your life, then order a copy of this book. It will be very helpful.

For more details visit the author bio or book info provided by the publisher.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Friday, December 4, 2015

Blog Tour Monsterland

Monsterland Blog Tour Header Image

Book Review: Monsterland, by Award-Winning Author Michael Phillip Cash

Warning! This book is not for the faint of heart, or those hoping that the monster will turn out to be Old Man Withers in a creepy mask and Scooby-Doo will thwart his plans. No, this is a tale of real monsters and what happens when you mix them together in a theme park with a crowd of excited teenagers, celebrities, and politicians. As it asks on the back of the book, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Have you ever debated with your friends about which monster is the biggest and meanest? You know how it is; you're all sitting around and someone asks, "Who would win in a faceoff - King Kong or Godzilla?" Wyatt Baldwin (no relation to Alec), and his friends Howard and Melvin often spend their time at work debating just such deep questions. Then again, working at the Instaburger isn't exactly a demanding job. But when they win behind-the-scenes passes to the new theme park Monsterland, it looks like they will finally get to see some of the creatures they have only read about or watched as CGI and special effects in movies. So the guys, along with Wyatt's younger brother Josh, are there for the big opening night. Jade, the girl of Wyatt's dreams is also there, along with her bully of a date and her friend Keisha, who has a crush on Howard.

But wait, you say, where do the monsters come from? Well ... vampires have been around all along, living on the fringes of society. Werewolves were discovered by accident in the Everglades. And the "vitality challenged" zombies are the victims of an incurable virus and have been quarantined into detention camps to protect the rest of the world’s population. It turns out that fear of contagion from the virus has pretty much thrown the world into a steep economic decline. So the world's leaders are overjoyed that Dr. Vincent Conrad has offered to take all the infected off government hands and confine them to the multiple parks he has built around the world, and he will even use profits from the parks to research a cure.

There are those who think it sounds too good to be true, like Wyatt's parents, but his stepfather is at the park on opening night, too. He is part of the local law enforcement contingent there to help protect the VIPs. It seems like the perfect time for the kids to experience the park - heightened security from park employees, the Secret Service, and local police - special passes to see how the park is run, and the chance to finally satisfy their curiosity about the creatures they have debated about for so long. Once the park opens at sunset, the crowd rushes in to experience all the thrills and chills. And it is an experience they will never forget.

The descriptions of the various areas of the park are creepy enough to give us goose bumps. As readers, we can only imagine how spooky they would be in person. Here's a taste of the main entrance square: "The village was a parody of any Main Street ... a maze of rutted paths, buildings squeezed together from different centuries ... a bizarre assortment that jarred the nerves." The enclave for each type of monster is decorated differently. For the werewolves there are bayou-like dense vegetation, bird calls, and banjo music. The vampires have a "techno paradise" with rubber streets that muffle any sound and gleaming chrome buildings that "grew out of the black depths." Perhaps the most macabre are the pastel suburban homes set aside for the zombies, with attendants washing the blood and guts off the streets.

Author Michael Phillip Cash takes on several heavy themes in his latest story. Among them are the threat of pandemics and how governments deal with the diseases and the victims, corporate and political greed, the difficulties of divorce and blended families, bullies, and more. Whether you enjoy stories with action or mental stimulation, Monsterland has it all covered, along with the creation of a sinister atmosphere that has you glancing over your shoulder as you turn the pages. If you enjoy horror, suspense, and thrillers, then grab a copy, but take my advice - read with the lights on.

About the Book

Monsterland Michael Phillip CashMonsterland

Written by Michael Phillip Cash Welcome to Monsterland – the scariest place on Earth. All guests can interact with real vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by an actual werewolf on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville. Wyatt Baldwin, a high school student and life-long movie buff is staring bleakly at a future of flipping burgers. Due to a fortuitous circumstance, Wyatt and his friends are invited to the star-studded opening of Monsterland. In a theme park full of real vampires, werewolves and zombies, what could possibly go wrong?
Monsterland contains solid ingredients for a horror feast: stupid teens, smart teens, a little challenged romance, family dynamics, action, blood and gore. Will civilization ever be normal again? You’ll have to read it to find out. We dare you!”—The Children’s Book Review
Ages 14+ | CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform | 2015 | 978-1517180676 Add this book to your collection: Monsterland Available Here: Amazon-Icon

About Michael Phillip Cash

Michael Phillip CashMichael Phillip Cash is an award-winning screenwriter and novelist. He’s written eleven books including the best-selling Brood X, Stillwell, The Flip, The After House, The Hanging Tree, Witches Protection Program, Pokergeist, and Battle for Darracia series. Michael resides on the North Shore of Long Island. He writes full-time with his screaming monsters in the background. Website | Facebook | Twitter

Monsterland Tour Giveaway

Monsterland, by Michael Phillip Cash | Giveaway
Would you rather be a werewolf, a zombie or a vampire? Enter to win an autographed copy of Monsterland, by Michael Phillip Cash; plus a living dead themed travel mug and a $50 Amazon gift card!
Giveaway begins November 14, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 16, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST. US addresses only.

Monsterland Tour Dates

Thursday November 12 2015 The Children’s Book Review Tour Kick-Off & Giveaway Tuesday November 17 2015 The Review Wire Book Excerpt from Monsterland Tuesday November 24 2015 Guest Post written by Michael Phillip Cash Tuesday November 17 2015 Suz Reviews Author Interview with Michael Phillip Cash Sunday November 29 2015 The Cover Contessa Guest Post written by Michael Phillip Cash Tuesday December 1 2015 DCC Mealy Author Interview with Michael Phillip Cash Wednesday December 2 2015 Once Upon a Twilight Book Excerpt from Monsterland Saturday December 5 2015 The Fairview Review Monsterland Book Review Tuesday December 8 2015 Just Another Mom Monsterland Book Review Monday December 14 2015 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers Monsterland Book Review Tuesday December 15 2015 Inspired by Savannah Author Interview with Michael Phillip Cash

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 The Ghetto Singer: A Berlin Jazz-Legend Remembers


The title may actually confuse some readers, because when they hear "ghetto," they think of gangs in New York or similar settings from a movie. The fact that ghettos can actually be in any large city worldwide seems to occur to only a small percentage of people. It wasn't as misleading to me because of all the WWII stories I have read over the past year; many of them mentioned the Jewish ghettos created by the Nazis to contain unwanted citizens. So I decided to read this book based on my interest in history and my love of music. 

It seems that Coco Schumann and I share that love of all things musical. During his long and interesting career he has played almost every type of popular music and had the privilege of meeting or even performing with legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Watching through Coco's eyes and seeing the music scene change over the years (some of them long before I was even born), was like seeing a time-lapse movie of pop culture. The book covers the pre-war years of 1930s Germany up to the present day and the songs and styles of the times are his anchors in each decade or era.

For those who have never heard of Coco Schumann, he is a musician born in Germany to an "Aryan" father and Jewish mother after World War I. Even though his father had served in the German army during WWI and his family had a long history of service and loyalty to their country, Coco was sent to a concentration camp along with thousands of others from the Berlin area. He actually spent time in three camps - Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Dachau. As with anyone who survived the horrors of the camps, it is a miracle he lived. But it is an even greater miracle that he has remained as positive and friendly as he is. He credits music with saving him, both literally and figuratively. It saved him physically because the camp officers enjoyed having musicians to play for them and entertain them, so they spared his life. But it also saved his sanity and humanity by giving him something to cling to as an anchor and a connection to better times.

Since Coco never emigrated to America, his name is not well known except among music aficionados. His biography tells of how he first became attracted to the musical scene in Berlin and spans his career in Germany and abroad, with performances on board cruise ships, in jazz clubs, for campaign rallies, TV and radio shows, jazz competitions, and countless other appearances. The book does talk about his time in the ghetto and in the camps, but without going into excruciating detail. Instead, it focuses on the music and its importance to him.

For history buffs this is an interesting addition to the literature about the time period of the Nazi rise to power and its effects on European Jews. For music lovers, it traces the influence of war and culture, as well as technological breakthroughs such as TV and radio, on popular music. This is a book that keeps readers interested and ready to hear more.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.