Saturday, December 30, 2017

Winter Reading 2018 Last Stop in Brooklyn (Mary Handley #3)


Mary Handley has been building her private detective business for a few years now. She agrees to take on a case for a man who fears his wife is cheating on him. It is not something she normally would pursue, but the man's mother is a friend of Mary's mother. Along with the marital fidelity case, she is also asked to look into a murder case from 3 years before. The accused man's brother is sure of his innocence and wants Mary to find proof. It seems that his brother was charged with a Jack-the-Ripper style murder, mostly on circumstantial evidence and the fact that he was Algerian. As usual, her investigation causes conflict with political powers in New York and Brooklyn. Police don't look kindly on those who say they arrested the wrong man, and the crooked cops don't want anyone looking too closely at their affairs.

For those who have read Mary's other adventures, the return of Brooklyn's first female detective will be a welcome reunion of reader and character. Those who are encountering Mary for the first time, will be amazed at the painstaking recreation of 1894 New York. Many notable figures of the day have a place in the story, including - Andrew Carnegie, Jacob Riis, Russell Sage, and Theodore Roosevelt. It is incredible how many real events and people are worked into the plot. Even the booths of Coney Island, the prevailing prejudice against immigrants, and the attitudes toward women are present. Mary is a complex character with intelligence, courage, stubbornness, loyalty, and a determination to succeed despite society's restrictions and the disapproval of her own mother. Readers will be eagerly awaiting her next appearance when they reach the last page.

Please visit the publisher's website for more information about the book or the author.

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Winter Reading 2018 You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living


Pulled from many of Nouwen's writings, including his books and letters, this collection provides a thought for each day of the year. These thoughts cover topics such as gratitude, love, talents and gifts, and compassion. Nouwen draws on his own life experiences, readings, study with Christian leaders, and time living among the mentally handicapped. He explores how embracing our own brokenness and shortcomings allows us to feel closer to others, growing in understanding and our ability to serve. 

This is a good choice for someone looking for daily readings that prompt deep thinking and soul-searching. Nouwen's own honesty about his failings pushes readers to be more honest with themselves about their own shortcomings and what is needed to lead more deeply spiritual lives. The passages range from a paragraph to nearly a page in length, making them easily included in daily meditation and study. 

Visit the publishers' website for more information about the book, and about the author.

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Book Giveaway - Creation: The Chronicles of Ara

I have made tremendous progress on clearing off my desk, and the arm chair, get the idea. Here is another book that would love to find a good home.

When J.R.R. Tolkien is summoned to authenticate a recently-discovered "lost" book of Beowulf, events are set in motion that years later will unveil an imminent tragedy: The entirety of the world's art and invention has been inspired by a corrupted muse, who has implanted a series of codes within the works of history's most influential authors, warning of humanity's end and a new dawn of time. (plot synopsis from back cover)

Good luck - and happy holidays!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fall Reading 2017 Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961


This book is a great resource for students or classes studying the Civil Rights Movement and especially the Freedom Riders. It is packed with archival photos of the riders, as well as images of other protests such as marches and sit-ins. Key figures in the Freedom Ride such as the riders, organizers, and "Bull" Connor are shown, but there are also images such as signs posted by the KKK welcoming visitors to Tuscaloosa and even one shot of a young child wearing the white robe and hood of the KKK. The text walks through events in chronological order, narrating the actions of the riders, the response of law enforcement and those opposed to integration, and comments on what was shared about the ride in the media of the time. 

The format of the book is large, like a coffee table edition. This makes the photos an excellent size for viewing details. The font size is correspondingly large, as well. A section on "Landmark events before the Twelve Days in May" serves as background for the story, highlighting court cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. The story of the ride itself begins with a cast of characters, "Who's on the Buses?" which gives the name, race, and age of each rider. The closing section of the book gives a more detailed description of each rider's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Back matter also includes a bibliography, source notes, index, and picture credits.

Highly recommended for middle grades and up, especially classrooms and school libraries providing U.S. History materials to students. I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Giveaway: Pumpkin Spice Secrets


Just as Maddie picks up her favorite pumpkin spice drink from the coffee shop counter, she spills it all over the cute guy standing behind her! Luckily, her embarrassment evaporates into a crush when she starts chatting with him -- his name is Jacob, and he's just starting in her grade at her middle school. 

But before Maddie can tell her best friend Jana about him at lunch the next day, Jana announces her huge new crush -- on the same guy! Maddie doesn't want to cause trouble, so she keeps her feelings hidden. Jana will get over her crush soon, right? 

Add major school stress to Maddie's secret, and it's a recipe for disaster. Can she keep her cool and work things out with both Jacob and Jana before it all turns into a total mess?

Giveaway Perfecto Pet Show: (Bobs and Tweets #2)


I found an ARC of Bobs and Tweets #2 while cleaning house for the holidays. It needs to go to a good home - it could even make a nice gift for some young reader you know.

Fall Reading 2017 Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race


With the box office success of "Hidden Figures" and the demand for more books such as Hidden Human Computers (by Duchess Harris), it is not surprising to see that publishers have stepped up to fulfill the need. Hidden Women tells the story of six African-American women who worked with NASA and its predecessor NACA, to help win the Space Race. Their stories are interwoven with historical events such as Gagarin's first orbit of the Earth, Civil Rights sit-ins, and JFK's dream to have America be the first to land a man on the moon.

Katherine Johnson, Miriam Mann (grandmother of Duchess Harris), Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Annie Easley, and Christine Darden are included in this discussion of the role African-American women played in the country's space program. Through the details of their careers, readers learn of the many challenges facing these women. While other workers were given paid leave to attend college, or received funds from NASA to pay their tuition, these ladies had to take unpaid leave and find their own way to finance college degrees. Even if they did have degrees, they were still assigned to pools of workers, rather than being given the same pay and projects that the white men at NASA enjoyed. There were also segregation issues such as not being allowed to live in the dorms on base, having to sit at separate tables in the lunchroom, or use separate restrooms. 

Despite all the negative aspects of their jobs, these women still accomplished remarkable things. Some calculated trajectories to safely get astronauts to the moon and back again, others plotted out the safe rendezvous between two spacecraft or made rockets flying with extremely volatile fuel safe to use. Some tested aircraft and spacecraft designs in wind tunnels, or developed new computer code to use with the FORTRAN they had already learned. They all exceeded the expectations of everyone around them in the work place, proving that women and people from diverse racial backgrounds were just as capable as the white men on the job.

A final chapter visits with three women who are currently working in the space industry and contrasts their experiences with those of the early pioneers like Johnson and Easley. Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, bibliography, source notes, and index. There is a list of books for those who wish to read more about the topic, and also critical thinking questions that would be useful for a book group or class book study. The archival photos throughout the book show all the featured women, as well as several of the astronauts and rockets mentioned.

Recommended for middle grades and up.

Fall Reading 2017 Garvey's Choice


Nikki Grimes just continues to amaze me, although by now I expect it to happen. In Garvey's Choice, she tells the story of an overweight boy whose father pressures him to try sports when he would rather read. It is a novel in verse, using the tanka form. Some pages have a single tanka, others have several which serve as separate stanzas. The book is from Garvey's point of view, so readers know his thoughts and feelings as kids at school call him names, his father complains to his mother about his lack of interest in football, and even his sister calls him "Chocolate Chunk" or "Sweet Chunk." But he has his friend Joe, and then he meets a new kid at school named Manny and they become friends, too.

The poetry captures the impressions of each moment perfectly.
"Over breakfast, Dad
eyes me like an alien
never seen before.
Sometimes,  I swear that he's
hoping to make first contact."

Highly recommended for middle grade readers and up. At once a story of growing up, finding yourself, and also finding a way to connect and learning that maybe connection is what your parent was after all along.

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Fall Reading 2017 Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!


Welcome to Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hard-Core Lady Types. The campers in Roanoke cabin (April, Ripley, Jo, Mal, and Molly), are ready for adventure. While working on their Living the Plant Life Badge, they discover a field full of unicorns near a strange pink and purple mountain. And when the girls decide to climb the mountain and earn an Extraordinary Explorer Medal, things really get crazy. That's right, crazier than wearing a live raccoon on your head the way Molly does. Even crazier than unicorns smelling "like sweat sock stew." So prepare to be taken for a ride that includes things like the Sound of Muesli badge, accordion music, and inventions for toasting multiple marshmallows over a campfire. The girls all have their own style and strengths - inventing, leading, enthusiasm, etc. - but they all know the first rule of Lumberjanes; "Friendship to the max!"

For those looking for diversity and LGBTQ titles, Unicorn Power includes a camper named Barney who were previously a Scouting Lad, but "being a Lumberjane was a WAY better fit because Barney did not feel like they were a lad." (Barney uses they rather than he or she.) And Jo has two dads, who have made her a wonderful workshop for all her tinkering an inventing. The dads are mentioned a couple of times, but not do not appear as characters in the story.

I received an ARC in a giveaway by the publisher.

Fall Reading 2017 Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story


Have you ever wondered about the explorers who tried to find the North Pole before Henson and Peary succeeded? This book takes you on an adventure of over two years as the crew of the Jeannette tried to reach the top of the world. In the days after the end of the Civil War, the Navy helped to set up an expedition sponsored by a wealthy newspaper tycoon. The crew packed supplies - including telephone and telegraph wires and electric light bulbs (from Edison himself) - and planned to return within a year and share all the knowledge they had gained with the world. Instead, the new inventions could not be made to work, their ship was trapped in ice, and they were pushed further and further from land and any hope of rescue. Read all about the emergencies, the celebrations, the fights between polar bears and sled dogs, and everything else the crew endured in their efforts to get back home to their loved ones.

Filled with excerpts from the journals of the captain and crew, along with newspaper clippings and photos, this detailed account of the expedition is supported by the primary sources worked into the text. Back matter includes an author's note, bibliography, source notes, and picture credits. Perfect for fans of the I Survived... series. Recommended for middle grades and up.

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Giveaway: Michael Okon book set

I've been fortunate enough to collect several copies of Michael's books (writing as Michael Okon and under the pen name Michael Phillip Cash). If you enjoy chills and thrills, then this is an author you need in your to-be-read pile. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling in his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.
Author bio from

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Giveaway Gemini

Once again I found a few minutes to work on clearing off my desk and found more books that need good homes. This one is an ARC of Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee. According to Google Books:

In this “thought-provoking and engaging” (School Library Journal) debut novel, Sonya Mukherjee shares the story of sisters Clara and Hailey, conjoined twins who are learning what it means to be truly extraordinary.

Seventeen-year-old conjoined twins, Clara and Hailey, have lived in the same small town their entire lives—no one stares at them anymore. But there are cracks in their quiet existence and they’re slowly becoming more apparent. Clara and Hailey are at a crossroads. Clara wants to stay close to home, avoid all attention, and study the night sky. Hailey wants to travel the world, learn from great artists, and dance with mysterious boys. As high school graduation approaches, each twin must untangle her dreams from her sister’s, and figure out what it means to be her own person.

Told in alternating perspectives, this unconventional coming-of-age tale shows how dreams can break your heart—but the love between sisters can mend it.


Fall Reading 2017 No Time to Spare


I love Ursula K. Le Guin's writing, so I knew I would enjoy this book before I even started it. I saved it to read as I relaxed on the couch late in the evening, or as I ate my dinner - sometimes letting my meal grow cold while I was distracted at laughing or nodding at something Ursula had written. This book is actually a collection of blog posts that cover a wide range of topics. She discusses going to the animal shelter to find a new cat, and then has subsequent entries about Pard's antics around the house. There are serious pieces about the difference between knowledge and belief, or why women never seem to win the "big" literary awards. And there are musings on the nature of utopia and what it would look like. 

Whatever she is writing about at the time, her beautiful style and personality always come through. Writing about old age or the literary life or even rounding up rattlesnakes in the backyard (with Denys Cazet), her wit and word choice make each idea or event come to life. It makes sense that she would have that gift, because she has been so busy experiencing her life for so many years. As she remarks, "I still don't know what spare time is because all my time is occupied. It always has been and it is now. It's occupied by living." Amazingly, we get the chance to see some pieces of that occupation as we read her thoughts - and whether we agree with her that writers of all kinds should stop relying on the F--- word so much (yes, please), or laugh at her suggestion that we should spare the feelings of vegetables and become Ogans (living only on oxygen) - we will be thinking and examining our own beliefs and deeply engaged throughout the process.

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fall Reading 2017 Apex (Hunter #3)


In this third installment, Elite Hunter Joy is still trying to uncover what the head of PsiCorps is plotting. Abigail Drift is well known for her ambition, but could she actually be planning to sabotage the Hunters just to make her own service look good? And why are the attacks from the Others suddenly so organized? It seems that there is now field leadership in the attacks and a malicious intelligence is out to wear down the defenses of Apex City and all the smaller human settlements. How do you fight enemies on two fronts, especially when one is supposed to be on your side?

With all the political intrigue, monstrous attacks, and general tension cranked up from the first two books, Apex will have readers staying up past bedtime or ignoring their responsibilities to keep reading and see what happens. Great action. Massive intrigue. Heroics. Everything you need in a good read. Pick up the whole series if you don't already have them.

Fall Reading 2017 Ninth City Burning


Imagine a world that has been at war for 500 years. And the war is one that stretches across many realms - on planets that vary as widely as they are scattered across the universe. Back on Earth, in the realm of Hestia, the world that was left after the first attacks of the aliens has been split into enormous cities that are numbered rather than named. Within the cities, young people are tested and trained to become officers, fighters, and other necessary personnel. Settlements outside the cities provide food, raw materials, and draftees to help fight the war. 

Fans of books like Starship Troopers or Ender's Game will notice some similarities. There are the troops trained as grunts to provide manpower and the whole world organized around the war effort. There are academies to train bright young scientists, strategists, and officers. But what Black has added is the concept of thelemity, or what some might see as magic or psychic powers. When the aliens invaded, they somehow activated sources of this power on Earth and contact with the power activates those who can use it. It can supply power to large groups or create devices that store the power for specific tasks and can be used by ordinary humans. Some can use it to control giant war machines (like those in "Pacific Rim" or other giant robot stories); these are the equites who go into battle against the aliens' larger weapons.

Several characters are the focus of the story, with chapters switching back and forth to show what is happening around each of them. As we watch the action unfold, we can see how one part of the war effort affects the others and the connections between the different characters. We can also see how much the culture of Earth has changed since the time of the first attacks. Everything is focused on survival and maintaining the war effort. Things like literature, music, and art have been lost and neglected as unnecessary to the ongoing struggle. Citizens of the settlements live on a need-to-know basis and are not told many of the important details of the war and how it is waged. And those roving bands who live outside the settlements don't even know there is a war going on, or who is fighting it.

The story is one that pulls you in as a reader - enticing you with glimpses of the bigger picture and making you curious as to how this world functions and if it will survive. The characters all have their strengths and weaknesses. Naomi fears she will not live up to her sister's accomplishments. Torro wants to stay in Granite Shore with Camareen and bitterly resents the draft that takes him away. Vinneas is a brilliant tactician, yet he manages to naively put forward opinions that the high command doesn't appreciate. None of them are perfect; they are humans doing the best they can in harsh circumstances. Yet we can identify with them through some of those weaknesses and root for them to come out victorious.

If you like complicated world building, Sci-Fi story lines, military Sci-Fi, or abilities similar to the force or even magic, then you should give it a try. When you reach the end, you will still be ready for more of these characters.

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Fall Reading 2017 The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief


After reading the second book in this series (The Witch at Wayside Cross), I had to go back and find the first one. I enjoyed the explanation of where Di Lane had come from, which was lacking in the second book, since she had already been introduced. The details of her job interview with Jasper Jesperson, the details of the household's arrangement, and other questions I had were all satisfied. 

And then there was the mystery - a case of a sleepwalker who has no recollection of his nighttime wanderings, a rash of disappearances among the mediums in London, and the appearance of two new psychics on the scene. Could they all be related? Everything from midnight stakeouts to seances appear in the course of the narrative and Lane's experience with the SPR (Society for Psychic Research) and Jesperson's familiarity with Eastern philosophies and snake charmers all play a part in unraveling the plot. 

The characters of Jesperson and Lane are entertaining and remind me of those in the Jackaby novels. There is the slightly eccentric Jasper Jesperson, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of many subjects including poisons and occult practices. And Miss Lane with her background in the world of psychics and her logical good sense. There is also a similarity to the household of Lockwood and Co. with the partners sharing a London home that also serves as their base of operations. I like the way Jesperson sees Lane as a partner, and not an assistant or underling. He realizes that she has her own strengths and abilities, but he also wants to protect her - as we all wish to protect our friends. 

Anyone who enjoys a blend of historical fiction and urban fantasy will enjoy this kickoff to the series.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fall Reading 2017 The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross


Fans of historical fiction/urban fantasy, rejoice - Jesperson and Lane are on the case. In this second outing of the private detectives, they find themselves outside London in the quiet of the countryside. Having seen a man die on their front steps, the detectives have gone to look into his last days and try to find out what could have caused his demise. Was it heart failure as the police surgeon ruled, an overdose, or perhaps witchcraft? They must speak with the local vicar and his family, the three sisters residing at Wayside Cross, Felix Ott and his followers in the School of British Wisdom, and various servants and local residents.

The characters of Jesperson and Lane are entertaining and remind me of those in the Jackaby novels. There is the slightly eccentric Jasper Jesperson, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of many subjects including poisons and occult practices. And Miss Lane with her background in the world of psychics and her logical good sense. Together they can look into mysterious deaths in London and around Wayside Cross, research the local shrieking pits, hunt for an abducted baby, and look for clues about the actions of the deceased and those closest to him. 

I like the way Jesperson sees Lane as a partner, and not an assistant or underling. He realizes that she has her own strengths and abilities and has no qualms about letting her pursue leads on her own. At the same time, they are both aware of society's views on unmarried men and women working together and make sure to keep the gossips from having any ammunition. Both of them seem much more open-minded than most of the people they encounter. 

Anyone who enjoys mystery, and perhaps some magic, mixed in with historical fiction will probably have a grand time with the Jesperson & Lane series. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

100 Days of Cake Giveaway

As we approach fall break, I am still clearing off my desk and making room for the latest titles in my TBR pile. Please enter to win a paperback copy of 100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My Trip to ALA Midwinter 2017

Thanks to the Humanities Tennessee Award, I was able to travel to Atlanta and attend ALA Midwinter 2017. Although I have attended an International Reading Association conference before, this was my first time to attend an ALA conference and I was very excited about the opportunity. I arrived at my hotel and was pleased to find that it was within walking distance of the convention center and would make a great base of operations for my stay.

My friends, Rob and Pam Taylor, picked me and took me to dinner at a wonderful place, Bocado. Between the great food and the even better company, it was the perfect start to my visit.

My new pal, Oscar
On Friday, January 20, I checked in with the registration desk and explored the convention center. I wanted to make sure that I knew where all the sessions were being held so that I wouldn't miss anything. That afternoon I attended "OITP - Libraries Ready to Code: Google's CS First program & other free resources." There is great interest among my students in starting a Computer Club, so I have been researching the different programs available to use in elementary schools and a chance to meet with experts on CS First was very useful. I made a new friend named Oscar, who was also attending the conference. Unfortunately, he was too large to bring back in my carry-on bag.

The Opening Session featured W. Kamau Bell, political comedian and podcast host. The conference program described him as, "Bell is the ACLU’s Ambassador of Racial Justice and serves on the advisory boards of Race Forward, a racial justice think tank, and Hollaback, a non-profit movement to end street harassment. "

Exhibit Hall Grand Opening
Then it was time for the grand opening of the exhibit hall, and I was swept up in the crowd rushing to see what review copies and refreshments were on offer. I had emailed all the friends from various publishing offices that I knew were coming to the conference, so I pulled out the map from my program and began putting faces with all those e-pal names. I also managed to fill several promotional tote bags with ARCs (advance reader copies) and other giveaway items. When I returned to my hotel room, stuffed with snacks and feeling like a Sherpa hauling enough supplies for a party of 10, I spread out all my loot and admired it.
January 21 began with a panel discussion featuring Susan Tan, LeUyen Pham, and Scott Westerfield. They talked about many topics, including their work in the medium of graphic novels and also the issue of diversity in publishing for children and young adults. I had the chance to speak with each of them afterward while they autographed books for me.

Kwame Alexander
A session that afternoon featured my friend, and Nashville native, Jessica Young along with Linda Ragsdale and Susan Eaddy. They discussed "how books can be seeds for growing a more compassionate world." I met several other authors, including poor Kwame Alexander, whom I stalked and then went fan-girl on. He was very kind as I gushed praise at him and then begged him to take a selfie with me. (Mr. Alexander, if your're reading this, I really do appreciate your patience.) He was there promoting several of his books, including Solo and Animal Ark. The poems he has created to accompany the beautiful photographs of animals around the world are incredible and the Animal Ark collection is as much a coffee table book as it is a children's title.

At the August House booth I met Rob Cleveland and then won a door prize drawing for one of his books, which I had him autograph. Rob is a storyteller and has written many of the books in the Story Cove series, which collects folk tales from around the world. I chose The Bear, the Bat, and the Dove: Three Stories from Aesop. I visited with Charles Ghigna, the author of Strange, Unusual, Gross, & Cool Animals a book of fascinating facts from Animal Planet. Anything gross or unusual is a big draw for elementary school boys, so I knew they would love the book. And I had the pleasure of meeting Reem Faruqi and hearing about the inspiration for her book, Lailah's Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story. With the need for diverse books, it is fortunate to find a picture book about something like a lunchbox that younger children can relate to.

Planting Seeds of Peace Panel
Rob Cleveland
Charles Ghigna
Reem Faruqi
Kit Seaton & Leila del Duca
All the excitement in the exhibit hall was followed by a panel with Kit Seaton and Leila del Duca. They discussed  "how the YA Fantasy and Science Fiction genres are opening up to diversity and increased representation, broadening horizons not only for characters but for authors and audiences as well." Kit and Leila are the creators of Afar, a graphic novel with a young woman of color as the protagonist who is able to travel to other worlds and visit their cultures in her dreams.

Becky Coyle
Dr. Duchess Harris

January 22nd began with a presentation by Deputy Sheriff Becky Coyle on how she came to write picture books about "the role of school resource officers, lockdown drills, and school security in her new series, Police in Our Schools." Next, I heard Duchess Harris talk about her work on Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASA. Dr. Harris is "the granddaughter of Miriam Daniel Mann, who was a Hidden Human Computer at NASA from 1943-1966." Her presentation included some of the family photos and other archival images of Mrs.Mann and her coworkers.

In the middle of the day, I attended the Boyds Mill Press ALA Midwinter Spring 2017 Preview Luncheon. Along with a tasty meal, those in attendance also saw all the upcoming titles from the publisher and heard book talks on each one. Among those present were John Schu (author of the blog - "Mr. Schu Reads"), and Della Farrell, an editor for School Library Journal. After a brief visit to the exhibit hall, it was time for the ALA President's Program, featuring Kwame Alexander. Mr. Alexander discussed how his "work is inspired by his belief that poetry can change the world, and how he uses poetry to inspire and empower young people all over the world."

Congressman John Lewis
The end of the day had two very exciting events. First, I waited in line with many others to meet Congressman John Lewis and have him sign a collection of his graphic novel series, March, about the Civil Rights Movement and the 1963 March on Washington. And then I was a guest at an author dinner sponsored by Sourcebooks, where I was able to chat with Jen Calonita (author of the Fairy Tale Reform School series), and Carol Weston (author of The Speed of Life). Several of the folks from the Sourcebooks offices were there along with other librarians and Deborah Ford, the Director of Outreach for the Junior Library Guild. We talked for hours about all sorts of literacy topics, Jen and Carol autographed books for us, and we finally traveled back to our hotel rooms full of delicious Italian food from Pasta da Pulcinella and clutching our goodie bags. (It was also my first Uber ride, which made me feel very cosmopolitan.)
Sourcebooks Author Dinner

The last day of the conference began with the event I had been waiting for - the announcement of the ALA Youth Media Awards! I was fortunate enough to bump into Deborah Ford while waiting to enter the auditorium, so I sat with her and Susan Marston during the ceremony. It was fun to watch the two of them do mini celebrations every time a JLG title won an award, but we cheered for all of them. I was especially pleased at the number of awards March garnered; as a graphic novel about a tumultuous time in American History, it was very gratifying to see it receive so much recognition. And I had just shaken the hand of the author the day before.

 A few more sessions with publishers such as Animal Planet, Time for Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and HarperCollins filled the rest of the morning, along with one last trip through the exhibit hall looking for any other titles that I just had to take home with me. Then we all gathered in the auditorium for the Closing Session with Neil Patrick Harris. As a parent and a debut middle grade author, Mr. Harris shared his feelings about books. “Books are awesome. Reading and books have become a mainstay in my family, and they have gotten me thinking in a new way about the power of storytelling,” he commented. “Playing with elements of magic, adventure, and friendship, The Magic Misfits is the kind of series that would have thrilled me as a kid, and I hope it does just that for today’s young readers.” He also talked about his work  playing Count Olaf on the Netflix "A Series of Unfortunate Events" which is based on the bestselling series of books.

I came home with over 100 new books - review copies, published copies, autographed copies - and business cards from all the new friends I had made, as well as memories of all the events and speakers. Thanks to the generous invitation to the Boyds Mill luncheon from Kerry McManus, I met Della Farrell and she invited me to apply as a reviewer for School Library Journal. I have been submitting reviews since March and it is still an amazing thrill every time I see my name next to one of the reviews in the magazine.

Jen Calonita
I've also been able to share stories with my students about the authors I met and how they were inspired to write their books. Seeing an author's autograph in a book and learning that I actually sat down and ate dinner with that author makes them realize that writers are real people, and that perhaps one day they may become writers, too. I've book-talked  many of the titles to the other teachers in my school as well as the other librarians in my district, suggesting lessons or units they might complement. Hidden Human Computers is perfect for a unit on Civil Rights or the Space Race. Becky Coyle's The Lockdown Drill can help young students understand why we have such practice sessions, reduce their anxiety, and introduce the concept of community helpers such as police and EMTs. When I do my yearly unit on holidays, Lailah's Lunchbox will be included to show children how the holiday of Ramadan might be observed by someone their age. It's impossible to list all the titles and ideas without filling pages of text, but I know the results of this conference will be felt for a long time to come.

If you have never heard of the Humanities Tennessee Outstanding Educator Awards and you (or someone you know), are a teacher for 3rd - 12th graders in the Volunteer State, please look into it. If you are chosen, the award benefits your school and your own professional development. I had the chance to learn about award-winning books, meet authors and even an historical icon such as Congressman Lewis, and expand on what I have to offer the staff and students at my school - all due to the award funding my trip to the conference. It is the best professional development experience that I have ever had.

Footnote: Quoted materials about the sessions and speakers was taken from the conference schedule provided by the American Library Association.  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Summer Reading 2017 Artemis

Let me start off by saying that I was very excited to read a new book by Andy Weir, mostly because I loved The Martian. But Jazz is nothing like Watley, so I admit to being a little discouraged as I read. Okay, now that we've cleared the air...

If you enjoy stories that are scientifically detailed and could plausibly happen in the future, then you should enjoy Artemis. As usual, Weir has done his homework and gotten the various science facts worked out. Rather than a combination Boy Scout/MacGyver (a la Watney), we have a protagonist who has made bad life decisions and lives outside the law. Jasmine Bashara is an entertaining mix of smuggler, entrepreneur, and 20-something on a quest to redeem some of her earlier mistakes. The way she goes about this redemption is what leads to the action of the story. The plot involves multi-million dollar business deals, criminal cartels, assassins, and other components of many crime caper movies. For the science geeks there are plenty of gadgets, chemistry, pressure differentials, and other principles and factoids. 

I've read plenty of science fiction stories, some set on the moon (Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress comes to mind), but this book makes it seem very much like a small town. Limiting the number of inhabitants and having a single law enforcement officer gives it the feel of a frontier town in the Wild West days, which means readers who enjoy space frontier stories can enjoy it - even though it is set so close to home. There is also the fact that Jazz is a female protagonist and the administrator of Artemis is also female, so those who enjoy strong women as lead characters are also in luck.

Altogether, not as much my cup of tea as The Martian was, but still a solid Sci-Fi read and entertaining while keeping true to the science.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Giveaway - Mask of Shadows

If you haven't picked up a copy yet, don't despair. I want to pass my ARC on to a loving home. Please enter below and good luck, auditioner!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Goblins of Bellwater Launch & Giveaway

Prize Descriptions

Grand prize package:

• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• $10 Starbucks gift card
• “Flowerwatch” necklace/pocket watch
• Artistic guided journal/sketchbook
• Copy of Brian Froud’s Goblins!

Air prize package:

• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• Air-element necklace
• 1 oz of Goblin Market tea from Dryad Tea

Earth prize package:
• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• Earth-element necklace
• 1 oz of Goblin Market tea from Dryad Tea

Fire prize package:
• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• Fire-element necklace
• 1 oz of Goblin Market tea from Dryad Tea

Water prize package:
• Signed paperback copy of The Goblins of Bellwater
• Water-element necklace
• 1 oz of Goblin Market tea from Dryad Tea

Q & A With Molly Ringle
The Goblins of  Be llw at e r

How closely did you follow Chris:na Rosse<’s poem “Goblin Market” as a basis for the   story?

I call this a book “inspired by” Rosse6’s poem rather than saying it’s “based upon” it, because I did veer from the poem a significant amount. I first read the poem a few years ago, and it intrigued me deeply. It’s evocaAve and strange, and, like a fairy tale, has many symbols and events that could be interpreted as having several different meanings. My assignment to myself was to use it as a jumping-off point for a modern paranormal novel, which would then go its own way as the plot required. What I kept from the poem was the basic surface framework: we have a pair of sisters, grown but on the young side, one of whom becomes enchanted by eaAng goblin fruit in the forest and begins wasAng away as a result, alarming the other sister into seeking a way to save her. Since Rosse6’s poem ends with a fast-forward to the women being “wives” and telling their children about their adventures, and since I wanted to write a paranormal romance anyway, I gave my modern sister characters a pair of men to get involved with, in a double love story with eerie angles that I think match the eeriness of the original poem. Mind you, another interpretaAon of the poem is that the two women aren’t really sisters but lovers, which would be a different route to take and which I think would be lovely to see too!

For those of us who haven’t been there, what is Puget Sound like and why did you choose it as a se<ng for a retold fairy  tale?

Puget Sound is a vast area of Pacific seawater, meandering into countless inlets and coves in skinny, deep Lords leM behind by glaciers. SeaNle and Tacoma and Olympia lie on its shores, on some of its largest bays, but it also has many wilder and more rural shores, especially on the western side where it backs up against a huge naAonal forest on the Olympic Peninsula. That’s the region where my grandparents bought a vacaAon cabin decades ago, and where my family has been going for many vacaAons ever since. I can safely say it’s one of my favorite places on Earth. In order to agree, you have to enjoy a cool, rainy climate and all the thick moss and ferns and mushrooms and huge evergreens such a climate produces, and I happen to love those things. Fairy tales, at least those from Northern Europe, almost all involve a deep dark forest. That’s where the faeries, witches, werewolves, vampires, elves, and all the other interesAng beings live. Everyone knows that. I haven’t spent much Ame in the forests of Europe (alas! I will someday), but I reckoned our Pacific Northwest deep dark forests were more than adequate for housing supernatural creatures. My grandmother used to tell us that the mossy ruins of big tree trunks in the Puget Sound forests were the homes of Teeny-Anies, whom I always took to be faeries. So I set the story there, at the edge of the Sound, where saltwater meets woods and where the Teeny-Anies live.

What is the significance of the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) in this story?

The four elements are common fixtures in many ancient cultures, and have remained popular into the modern day. One of my favorite TV shows is Avatar: the Last Airbender, which uses the four-element framework brilliantly in its world-building. In reading up on faery lore for this book, I found that scholars oMen classify types of fae under the four elements, and since that appealed to me, I did the same. As one of the characters in The Goblins of Bellwater muses, there’s something human and emoAonally real about looking at nature that way, even if we technically know, thanks to science, that nature contains far more than four elements. And in my novel, the only way to break the goblin spells involves respecAng and trusAng each of the four elements, even when they’re at their most daunAng.

Why do you think fairy tale and other myth and legend retellings are so popular right now?

I think they’ve always been popular! Maybe it’s a case of selecAon bias, because I personally have always been into ghost stories, fairy tales, and other supernatural lore, but it seems to me that human culture has never stopped telling such stories. As scholars of fairy tales will tell you, reading and wriAng about fantasy and the paranormal may look like escapism from reality, and someAmes I tell myself that’s what I’m doing, but in truth these stories end up giving us all the useful lessons about real life that any good stories do: empathy, courage, love, respect for nature and community, and the importance of thinking fancifully and creaAvely.

What are the goblins like in this book?

In keeping with both the “Goblin Market” poem and the bulk of faery lore, they are mischievous and villainous. They laugh a lot, but they are decidedly laughing at you, not with you. They steal, and in parAcular they lust aMer gold. Like other fae, they enjoy making deals with humans, but humans would be wise not to enter into such deals, as the obligaAon tends to be heavier than it sounds at the outset. These goblins go further than merely theM, too; they assault and someAmes steal away humans and turn them into fellow goblins, and at other Ames enchant them into wandering unhappily in the woods unAl they waste away and die. Although the goblins are someAmes amusing in their level of wiNy rudeness, they are nearly all amoral and highly dangerous to get involved with. Only a scant few of them, who were once humans, manage to retain any human empathy. However, not all of the fae in my book are this cruel—the goblins are the worst of the lot! Others are willing to be quite helpful to humans as long as they are respected in return.

What kind of magic system does this book involve?

In this book, my main characters are ordinary humans who can’t do any magic, but they become involved in the dealings of the fae realm, which is a bit like another dimension. It can be entered or glimpsed by summoning the fae (which includes goblins), who might or might not answer you. But you’re luckier on the whole if they don’t, because many of them are treacherous, and the realm itself is a wilderness containing many uncanny dangers. From the point of view of the human characters, the magical rules and the cultural norms of the fae are nonsensical, almost inexplicable, but since some of these people have fallen under curses, they have to step in among those dangers and work with the rules as best as they can anyway.

What do you find most challenging in wri:ng a novel?

At first, it’s usually ge6ng to know the characters. I tend to start with a general idea of who they are, but then when I begin wriAng, I realize there’s too much I sAll don’t know about these people and therefore they aren’t coming across as real yet. It slows me down in the early stages while I take breaks to write notes in which I interview them and figure them out. I also have a perennial problem with wriAng antagonists. They have to do fairly awful things (being antagonists and all), but I sAll want them to feel like real people (or other beings), and therefore I have to get into their heads and figure out why they would feel jusAfied in doing such a thing. It’s not a comfortable place for my mind to go. I suppose that’s why I gravitate more toward romance and lightheartedness: I much prefer spending Ame with those who love and laugh.

What are the easiest parts of wri:ng a novel for you?

No part of the process is exactly easy. But someAmes lines will occur to me seemingly out of nowhere when I’m wriAng, and they’re perfect for the moment; or I’ll find my characters talking to each other in my head when I’m not wriAng. And I love those moments, because for them to have come to life in my imaginaAon like that, it means I must have done sufficient groundwork in figuring out the world and the characters. So although the groundwork is the hard part, it pays off and leads to easier parts later!

How did the wri:ng of this novel, a fairly short stand-alone paranormal, compare to the wri:ng of the Persephone trilogy?

It was far simpler! The Persephone’s Orchard trilogy had dual Amelines, for one thing: the ancient world in Greece, and the reincarnaAons of those people in the modern day. For another thing, it had far more characters, both in original and reincarnated versions. And for any series, you need to have plot arcs that stretch over the whole series as well as smaller ones that get wrapped up within each volume; and you have to keep the whole thing internally consistent in terms of mood and themes and character personaliAes. It turned out exhausAng enough that I didn’t want to write another series again anyAme soon. So I picked The Goblins of Bellwater as my follow-up project: small cast, straighaorward plot, and simple Ameline. Most of the acAon takes place within about six weeks, in this small town, which is indeed a contrast to the millennia of world-spanning events covered in the trilogy!

Would you want to live in any of the fic:onal magical worlds you’ve created?

Strange though it might sound, I’d love to visit the Underworld as I wrote it in Persephone’s Orchard and its sequels. I made it much less scary, for the most part, than it is in tradiAonal Greek mythology; and besides that, I love caves and glowing things, and definitely would be interested in a ride on a ghost horse as long as an immortal was keeping me safe during it. As for the fae realm we see in The Goblins of Bellwater, I’d like to catch glimpses of it, and of the fae themselves, but I wouldn’t want to actually enter the realm. Too perilous!

What are you wri:ng next?

One of the genres I love, and haven’t wriNen enough of myself, is male/male love stories, so I’ve been working on a couple of those. One is contemporary, no magic or supernatural stuff, and it’s undergoing the feedback-and-revision stage right now. Another will involve a fae realm like that of The Goblins of Bellwater, only in a new locaAon in the world, a ficAonal se6ng I’m creaAng. I sAll have to figure out how this place works and what its magic system is like, in addiAon to ge6ng to know the characters, but I’m excited about the idea and it has definitely taken root in my brain.

What are the most magical places you’ve been to in real life?

Puget Sound and its surrounding forests and mountains—which is why I chose the area for the enchanted lands in The Goblins of Bellwater. Also some of the forests and meadows in the WillameNe Valley in Oregon, where I grew up. Oregon and Washington are both overflowing with natural beauty and I’m spoiled to have spent most of my life here. In addiAon, some places in Great Britain have felt quite magical to me, such as Tomnahurich (Hill of the Fairies) in Inverness, Scotland; or Old Town Edinburgh with its many close alleys and dark medieval buildings and brick-paved streets; or Westminster Abbey, not only because of its beauty and its many graves of astoundingly famous historical figures, but because when I first visited it as a 19-year-old, I’d never been in any building anywhere near that old before (having grown up in the Pacific Northwest), and it blew my mind.