Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Royal Street~ Review

Title: Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans #1)
Author: Suzanne Johnson
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

My thoughts:

Yep, I have a thing for YA urban fantasy. And dystopia but that is another story.  Maybe it is because when I was a YA we didn't have such cool books.  I always loved supernatural stuff, but there just wasn't much out there.  At least not that I knew of.  So I am apparently addicted to it as an adult. I just really like them. Its almost a secret I don't like to share. ;)

I also have a thing for books that are set in New Orleans~it is my favorite city to visit by far, and sometimes I dream about living there.  I have a good friend who grew up in and lived in New Orleans until about 8 years ago, and  I ask her about it every chance I get without bugging her too much. She puts up with me though.  This book got my attention because on our honeymoon, my husband and I stayed on Royal Street.  Then I saw that the book takes place before/during Hurricane Katrina. I was in New Orleans with my family a week before the hurricane hit - in fact my brother got an eye ulcer while we were there, and if it hadn't gotten better, we would have been there during the hurricane.  My father went back down with the Red Cross as a volunteer as well.  I just feel a huge connection to the city.  It was also a little strange to read it when I did, because of Hurricane Isaac and its threat to the city.   I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will all be ok down there.

So, now that you know my life history ~ I thought this book was entertaining.  Johnson made up some of her own rules regarding ghosts, and they worked for me.  Sometimes they don't for me, like the shiny vampires in Twilight.  Johnson created this world where famous ghosts can exist as long as people still talk about them and remember them.  I think this was a way to get famous New Orleans ghosts like Marie Laveau, Louis Armstrong, and Jean Lafitte to be characters in her story.  At first I was skeptical of this device, but then it grew on me and I liked it.  

This book reminded me a bit of the Harry Dresden series, and while I liked Royal Street, it is not quite as good as Jim Butcher's books.  But this is the first book I have read in the series, and I think it has potential.    I do plan on reading the next in the series, River Road in the future.  Royal Street was just a fun read with ghosts and wizards, in my favorite city, although the parts regarding the devastation that Hurricane Katrina left behind were very moving. 

The Sisters Montclair~ Review

Title: The Sisters Montclair
Author: Cathy Holton
Source: Librarything

Goodreads Summary:

The last thing twenty-one-year-old Stella Nightingale wants is a job as a caregiver for wealthy Alice Montclair Whittington. Alice, a ninety-four-year-old Southern grande dame with a dry sense of humor and a wicked tongue, has already run off a long line of caregivers. But Stella, a former runaway from a broken home who’s only recently begun to put her life back together, is desperate for work. And she figures she can handle Alice. 

But strange things are happening at Alice’s rambling mountaintop estate. As an unlikely friendship develops between the two women, Alice, whose memory comes and goes, begins to reveal long-ago tales of her illustrious past, tales that pose more questions than they answer. Who is her mysterious sister, Laura? Why won’t Alice and her sister, Adeline, ever speak of her? And why are the other caregivers afraid to go down in the basement?

As Stella tries to separate fact from fiction in Alice’s life, she struggles to overcome her own devastating family secret, compelled by a deepening friendship that will change the lives of both women forever.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book more than I thought I would.  I wasn't sure if the dynamic between Stella and Alice would be too cheesy or too forced, but I think the Holton did a wonderful job creating a believable relationship between the two.  

Stella is 21, a bit unconventional, and probably not what Alice, a 94 year old woman from the rich part of town, expected as her caregiver.  When we meet Stella, she is a bit of a lost soul, living with a boyfriend who is not very nice to her.  She doesn't seem to have great self esteem, and we learn that when she was 16, her mom gave her a hundred dollars and left her in Birmingham to fend for herself.  Alice however grew up with advantages, money and loving parents.  However, neither Stella nor Alice were happy.  

Stella grows to care about Alice, and enjoys Alice's stories.  Alice likes that Stella understands her.  Both women carry secrets around in them like poison.  Through Alice's dreams and stories, and Stella's therapy sessions, we learn the big secrets within, that they both need to set free before they themselves become free.  I loved Alice and her stories.  Her character was definitely a hoot, but more importantly, a strong woman.   Stella learns to be strong from Alice, probably the best gift Alice could have given her. 

There were so many passages I felt I could relate to in this book ~ I think readers always look for bits of themselves in books, and when you find that, characters you relate to for some reason or another, no matter how small,  it is gratifying. I found bits of myself in very small passages in this book.  I had read Cathy Holton's book Summer in the South, and while I liked it, I was so-so on it.  I think however Holton put her heart and soul into this one.  

Top Ten Tuesday~Bookish Confessions

Top 10 Tuesday is a post hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week's topic is Top Ten Bookish Confessions.

1.  Sometimes, I like to read the end of a book first.  

2.  I read multiple books at a time, and I usually group them by the time of day- my morning book, my afternoon book, my evening book, the book I read in bed.

3.  I read all the time - sometimes even while I am cooking or eating or brushing my teeth or walking room to room.  It used to drive my mom crazy..

4.  For a while I didn't go to the library, and our monthly budget for books was out of control.  Now I go to the library  once or twice a week.  I buy only the books from authors I love.   Even though I don't buy as many books, we still have a lot.  I don't have room for them all and they are everywhere I can put books.  When Billy and I first moved out, I had books in my kitchen cupboards and pantry, mixed in with our food and bowls and cups.

5.  I love the feel of a book, and the smell of new books.  But I do read digital books too. 

6.  I don't mind reading a series out of order.  Yes, I said it.  I prefer to read them in order, but if I don't its not a big deal.  

7.  I underline parts I like in books I own.  And I write in them.  

8.  I prefer a physical book to an e-book, but I will read digital books as well.

9.  I am careful about who I loan my books out to.  I like to get them back and in pretty much the same condition as it was when I loaned it to you, although I don't freak out about wrinkles in the spine.  

10.  I have certain books I read every year around the same time. For example, I always read Watership Down in the spring.

11. I am not a picky reader, but I do run into books I really don't like.  Twilight and 50 Shades for instance. I read them, but didn't care too much for them.

12.  I really like happy endings.  I know they are not always possible, but I really like them.  Sometimes I get mad when I think a book should have one and it doesn't.

How about you? Do you have anything to confess?

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week.   

Read Last Week:

Last week was a rough week for our family, and I did not get a chance to write my reviews. I will be working doubly hard this week to catch up. :)  

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare:  This is maybe my favorite in the series so far.  It might even be where I stop reading; I started City of Fallen Angels and I hate it. Jace is so mopey and Clary really wimpy all of a sudden. But I really liked City of Glass.

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes:  My friend Chrissy gave me this to read, and I could not put it down! I stopped reading at 2 am one night, and I couldn't fall asleep because this book freaked me out so bad.  But I love being scared like that. This book was fabulous.

Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson: An urban fantasy that takes place in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina.  Chilling to think that another hurricane might strike New Orleans on the exact same day as Katrina, or even close to it.

Love Letters from Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball:  These books continue to be graceful easy reads.  

Reading This Week:


My plan this week is to work on my pile of books I have won or have committed to review through NetGalley or Librarything.  

The Sisters Montclair by Cathy Holton:  I started this last night and I love it! Today is a rainy day, the perfect kind to finish a book. I won the book from librarything.

The White Forest by Adam McOmber: From Netgalley.  I love to read anything gothic, and when I saw this on a few other blogs last week I knew I had to read it too.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh:  I won this from Librarything as well.  It looks pretty good.

Into the Pumpkin by Linda Franklin: I work in a school library, and our students love Halloween books. They ask about them their first day of library circulation, so I have to get them out the first month of school.  We are always looking for more fall and halloween books, and this one looked like it had amazing illustrations. A NetGalley book.

I hope you all have a great week!




Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week.   

Read Last Week:

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare: I am definitely addicted to this series. I love this world Clare has created.
City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare: The second in the Mortal Instruments series ~ gosh do I have questions! (review soon)
The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King: One of my top ten favorite authors.  I have loved everything he has ever written, just some more than others.  
At Home on Ladybug Farm by Donna Hall: Yep still loving this quaint little series.  It is interesting to read the Clare series and this one simultaneously though.  I think they keep each other in check in my brain. 
Wake by Amanda Hocking: I thought this was going to be a mermaid story like The Little Mermaid, but these mermaids have teeth!
Reading This Week:



City of Glass by Cassandra Clare: Yep, I am reading this series until I finish. 
Love Letters from Ladybug Farm by Donna Hall: Aww, this sounds cute!
Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson: I picked this up at the library, since I am already deeply involved in urban fantasy already. 
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes: This was recommended by my friend Chrissy.  I am excited to read it!

I hope you all have a great week!



Saturday, August 18, 2012

City of Bones- Review

Title: City of Bones
Author: Cassandra Clare
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . . 

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

My thoughts:

I read this book one day while my husband was working, ignoring the housework and errands that needed to be done.  I paid attention to my animals, but that was the only thing that could drag me away from this book.  I have read the Infernal Devices series, so I knew I had to go back and start this one.  I am glad I did!

I think the idea of the Nephilim is a very cool one~ I love this world that Clare has imagined.  It is pretty different that other worlds in other books, and I think it is very well thought out and written.  There are the Shadowhunters, werewolves, vampires, warlocks, fairies, anything you can think of in this book, but I think they are all blended into the story nicely.  

The romantic relationships in this book were the only things weird to me.  I love the character Magnus Bane, but I wonder about his age and his flirting with teenagers.  Maybe I have his age wrong?  And then Jace and  Clary! What! Read below the spoiler line for more on this, if you have read this book or series, or if you aren't planning on reading it.  

Other than those issues, I am excited to see where Clare takes this series.  It is an interesting world she has created, and I am definitely going to read on.  


Jace and Clare. Brother and sister. That can't be right, right? Would Clare really do that to readers, make a series where the main character love interest siblings? How do you keep that interest going for readers over a series, I mean, you can't really ever want them to get together?  I hope that it ends up being wrong. I feel that it will all be a hoax or a mistake or something, because I can't believe we would be led to this point for nothing. Right? Right? Lol.  Anyone else read this book or series?  What do you think?

The Wind Through the Keyhole - Review

Title: The Wind Through the Keyhole
Author: Stephen King
Source: my brother

Goodreads Summary:

In The Wind Through the Keyhole, Stephen King returns to the rich landscape of Mid-World, the spectacular territory of the Dark Tower fantasy saga that stands as his most beguiling achievement.

Roland Deschain and his ka-tet—Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy, the billy-bumbler—encounter a ferocious storm just after crossing the River Whye on their way to the Outer Baronies. As they shelter from the howling gale, Roland tells his friends not just one strange story but two . . . and in so doing, casts new light on his own troubled past.

In his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt-ridden year following his mother’s death, Roland is sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape-shifter, a “skin-man” preying upon the population around Debaria. Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, the brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast’s most recent slaughter. Only a teenager himself, Roland calms the boy and prepares him for the following day’s trials by reciting a story from the Magic Tales of the Eld that his mother often read to him at bedtime. “A person’s never too old for stories,” Roland says to Bill. “Man and boy, girl and woman, never too old. We live for them.” And indeed, the tale that Roland unfolds, the legend of Tim Stoutheart, is a timeless treasure for all ages, a story that lives for us.

King began the Dark Tower series in 1974; it gained momentum in the 1980s; and he brought it to a thrilling conclusion when the last three novels were published in 2003 and 2004. The Wind Through the Keyhole is sure to fascinate avid fans of the Dark Tower epic. But this novel also stands on its own for all readers, an enchanting and haunting journey to Roland’s world and testimony to the power of Stephen King’s storytelling magic.

My thoughts:

I love the Gunslinger series, although I am a few books behind.  The Wind Through the Keyhole is number 4.5 in the series, according to King.  Which is precisely where I left off, on number 4.  

I loved this book.  It begins with Roland and his gang making their way along the beam, following Oy, and then they all have to take cover - the Starkblast was coming.  Oy, a billy-bumbler, has the ability to detect starkblasts, which are huge blizzard storms, where the wind blows so hard and so cold that anything living outside would die.  Roland and the others gather 'round the fire they have built inside an abandoned hotel, and Roland tells them a story, about one of his adventures when he was young.  

The cool part is that while Roland is telling the story to Jake, Susannah, and Eddie, the younger version of himself in his story, is telling another story, to another child.  A story within a story within a story, the Droste Effect, but with words.  I enjoyed both of the stories, but the story that the book gets its title from was the best.  A starkblast also happens in all three stories.  

King says in his prologue that even if you haven't read the series, you can read this book.   I can see why he says that, since there is not much actual advancement in the series, just Roland telling tales. King writes in his introduction as well the things he feels a reader should know before reading the book.  I have read books in the series, so I didn't have any problems with this one.  I would be curious to know what people think of the book if this is the only one they have read though. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

August Book Club - Gone Girl

Hostess: Jill
Book: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Food: Jill's own recipe Spicy Vegetable Pasta, fresh veggies with mozzarella, a watermelon-strawberry-raspberry fruit salad, crackers and spinach dip, and a Heath Bar trifle that was her grandma's recipe
Wine of the Night:  Lulu 
Month: August

We were not able to discuss this book because most of the book club members are still working on it, and there is no way those who have read it can discuss it without spoilers! And we do not want to ruin this book.  So, tonight we ate and drank and laughed and laughed.  

First the conversation was about old 80s tv shows - Facts of Life, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Mr. Belvedere, Webster, Punky Brewster, Webster and of course Gimme a Break with tiny Joey Lawrence and Nell Carter!  I was a huge Facts of Life fan, while Alyssa loved Punky Brewster.  I had to reveal that I couldn't watch Punky Brewster because it creeped me out, that this little girl met an old guy in a parking lot and went home with him.  Isn't that exactly what we were taught not to do? Lol.  Mary loved Mr. Belvedere, and Jill Growing Pains, which I think came later because I loved that too.  Question: Does anyone remember what tv show came on after Facts of Life? Because we felt something did, but couldn't remember.  

We also talked about my weird husband and the elaborate joke he played on me before he was married, movies like 21 Jump Street (which I couldn't watch either, because it was nothing like the tv show, even though Channing Tatum is in it), Magic Mike, and Step Up Revolution.  We talked about how Jill is going to a Broadway play in October starring her favorite actor, and that we though she should treat it like a concert, hooting at the stage.  (we really don't want her to do this)

We used the time to just catch up on each others lives, have fun, relax, drink wine, laugh, forget anything going on in our lives for that moment, except that moment.  We lived in the moment.  We missed two of our friends tonight, who had important life things to do, but we know we will see them next month, at Jennifer's house. We will catch up to them and hear about their lives and how tonight went.  And it will be just as fun, like it is every month.  Hanging out with your friends just having a good time. 

I did review Gone Girl in June, here is my review if you are interested. 

September's book club is Jennifer's, and her book pick is Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

At Home on Ladybug Farm - Review

Title: At Home on Ladybug Farm
Author: Donna Ball
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

A year after taking the chance of a lifetime, Cici, Lindsay, and Bridget are still trying to make a home for themselves on the newly-renovated Ladybug Farm. Life in the Shenandoah Valley is picturesque, but filled with unexpected trials? such as the introduction of two young people into the ordered life the women have tried to build for themselves.

As the walls of the old house reveal their secrets and the lives of those who have gone before begin to unfold, the cobbled-together household starts to disintegrate into chaos. And when one of their members is threatened by a real crisis, they must all come together to fight for the roots they?ve laid down, the hopes they share, and the family they?ve become. 

My thoughts:

I love this series like I loved the Mitford series by Jan Karon.  So easy and sweet, mostly happy endings, which are sometimes needed.  I believe in happy endings, and I am happy when  I get them.  You also know what to expect from these books, which is good too sometimes.  

This book continues along the same vein as the first, this time with the addition of Cici's daughter Lori, and more about Noah, a teenage boy they are unofficially fostering.  The young adults add a new perspective to the book that was missing in the first, and are also trying to find themselves and their place in the world.  

Interspersed throughout the book are flashbacks to the house through the hundred some years in its history, from the civil war on up.  We are introduced to the inhabitants of Blackwell Farms, and what had transpired through the years.  These were my favorite parts in the book I think, and also served another purpose - that you learn at the very end of the book. 

Ciao Giveaway Winner!

And we have a winner!!!!  

Czarina Winter!!

Thanks for playing, I will be contacting you shortly!

Czarina Winter, Mary, also shared that her favorite book series growing up was The Babysitter's Club! 

Wake - Review

Title: Wake
Author: Amanda Hocking
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Fall under the spell of Wake—the first book in an achingly beautiful new series by celebrated author Amanda Hocking—and lose yourself to the Watersong.

Gorgeous. Fearless. Dangerous. They're the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Lexi and Thea have caught everyone's attention—but it’s Gemma who’s attracted theirs. She’s the one they’ve chosen to be part of their group.

Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

My thoughts:

I have a thing for mermaid stories.  I like them best when they are soulless and evil though, like the ones in Pirates of the Carribean.  Maybe it all started with the Disney version of Peter Pan, I don't know, but that is one of my favorite movies of all time.   I enjoy Hocking's books because although she writes in the supernatural type genre, she writes about something different than witches, ghosts, vampires, and werewolves.  Her last book was about trolls, and now sirens.  Huzzah Hocking!

So, I was excited as I read this book because the mermaids are not really mermaids, they are sirens of myth.  They are evil and heartless and to be honest were a little scarier than even I wanted!  Their origin story was well done and interesting, but part of the story required that there always be four sirens, and for some reason that bothered me.  I can't explain why, but it did.  Irriational and a small thing, but there it is. It bugged me. Lol.

The main characters of Gemma, Harper, Alex and Daniel was pretty good.  I loved Harper and Daniel's story, and I was rooting for them the whole way.  I kept expecting him to be something more than what he was, so we will see in book two of this series.   Harper reminds me of myself in a way, how she takes care of her younger sibling.  My brother is six years younger than me,  and I took care of him a lot when he was younger and my mom was at work.  So I totally can see where Harper is coming from. I loved Gemma and her dedication to her swimming, and her growing relationship to Alex, although in some parts the descriptions of Alex made me think he might be a little off.  

The big showdown was pretty cool, and a little sad. The ending of course was a cliffhanger, and now I have to wait until Winter 2013 to see what happens.   I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week.  

Read Last Week:

Ciao by Bethany Lopez:  An insightful read about the lives of today's teens. You can also win this book!

The Secret Sense of Wildflower by Susan Gabriel: Beautifully written and powerful.  

A Year on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball:  A cute fun little read for the summer.

Reading This Week:


The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King: I will always love Stephen King, I have been reading him for longer than I can say. My brother gave me this book to read.

At Home on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball: I want to know what happens next!

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty:  I love the 20s and Louise Brooks - I was so excited to see this book!

Wake by Amanda Hocking:  I enjoyed Hocking's Tryll series, so I am looking forward to this one.


Friday, August 10, 2012

A Year on Ladybug Farm - Review

Title: A Year on Ladybug Farm
Author: Donna Ball
Source: Library

Goodreads Summary:

Tired of always dreaming and never doing, Cici, Lindsay, and Bridget make a life-altering decision. Uprooting themselves from their comfortable lives in the suburbs, the three friends buy a run-down mansion, nestled in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley. They christen their new home "Ladybug Farm," hoping that the name will bring them luck.

As the friends take on a home improvement challenge of epic proportions, they encounter disaster after disaster, from renegade sheep and garden thieves to a seemingly ghostly inhabitant. Over the course of a year, overwhelming obstacles make the three women question their decision, but they ultimately learn that sometimes the best things can happen when everything goes wrong...

My thoughts:

This was just a cute little fun read, perfect for summer's lazy moments. Cici, Lindsay, and Bridget throw caution to the wind, and buy a farm in the Shenandoah Valley, changing their lives completely.  Before the farm they had lived respectable, safe lives.  Once they buy the farm, their lives turn upside-down, and one thing after another happens.  They begin to doubt themselves and their decision, as they battle unforeseen issues.  However, through it all, they remain great friends, and the end is heartwarming.

Reading this book made me want to buy a farm in Shenandoah Valley! It made me want a huge garden overflowing with vegetables, bushes dripping berries, a dog, sheep, and a deer! All the talk of the wonderful jams and soups and bread and whatever made me very hungry and domestic feeling.  I must admit, after I read this book, I spent a day making 8 loaves of zucchini bread and plan to make a few jars of jam and some pickled stuff too.  And that is not  something I really do.  But this book was about daydreams coming true, and that is appealing to me.  I am sure it is to everyone! 

It made me wonder what I would have on my farm? I think I would grow lavender and raspberries, and have a bunch of goats.  And a lot of cats and dogs. And bunnies and chickens.  I would never eat any of them as a vegetarian, but I would love to have them on my farm. 

What about you? What would you have on your farm?

The Secret Sense of Wildflower - Susan Gabriel

Title: The Secret Sense of Wildflower
Author: Susan Gabriel
Source: Author per author request

Goodreads Summary:

  Set in 1940s Appalachia, The Secret Sense of Wildflower tells the story of Louisa May “Wildflower” McAllister whose life has been shaped around the recent death of her beloved father in a sawmill accident. While her mother hardens in her grief, Wildflower and her three sisters must cope with their loss themselves, as well as with the demands of daily survival. Despite these hardships, Wildflower has a resilience that is forged with humor, a love of the land, and an endless supply of questions to God, who she isn't so sure she agrees with. When Johnny Monroe, the town’s teenage ne’er-do-well, sets his sights on Wildflower, she must draw on the strength of her relations, both living and dead, to deal with his threat. 

With prose as lush and colorful as the American South, The Secret Sense of Wildflower is powerful and poignant, brimming with energy and angst, humor and hope. In its ability to create a truly original Southern voice, The Secret Sense of Wildflower establishes Gabriel as a thoughtful and powerful Southern writer.

My thoughts:

I was pretty blown away by how good this book is.  I didn't read it with any expectations, hadn't heard anything about it really, so when I read it, I realized from page one that it is a a well written, powerful book.

As it begins, we learn that Louisa May "Wildflower" and all her sisters have names from the book Little Women.  All use those names except for Louisa May, who prefers Wildflower, as that was the name given to her by her beloved father, now deceased.  Wildflower mourns the loss of her father everyday, and doesn't understand why her mother is always picking on her.  She takes care of the stray cats that live under her house, that her father fed before her, and is kind of like a stray herself, with her mother lost in grief and bothering with Wildflower only when she has a criticism. Her sisters are good and keep an eye on her, and their husbands are protective of Wildflower as well, like true big brothers.

But Wildflower can't be watched 100%; not that she is bad or a troublemaker, but because the mountain is vast and contains its own dangers out of eyesight, such as Johnny Monroe.   Johnny is the teenage thug, and while I felt sorry for him at first, my sympathy faded fast.  And if you ask my friends, that rarely happens- I often feel sorry for the "bad guy", feeling they were shaped that way by circumstance.  Well, Johnny started that way, but Gabriel created a character I can't even feel that sorry for.   An event takes places that shakes up Wildflower's world even more, and the remainder of the book is about how she and her family deal with the aftermath.

Wildflower is strong and resilient, much like her name. She took a lot of licks but still kept on going.  I also would have had the biggest crush on her older sister Jo's husband Daniel, if I were Wildflower. I definitely did while reading the book! He evidenced himself to be the most thoughtful and kind character, and it was easy to see why the family loved him. I really enjoyed this book, although parts of the book were intense emotionally. The message is one of hope, even when you feel sometimes there isn't any.

Ciao - A Review

Title: Ciao
Author: Bethany Lopez
Source: Author Review Request

Goodreads Summary:

Melissa has had a fantastic summer hanging out with her friends and making new ones. Life as she knows it will change when they all come together to begin their sophomore year at Dearborn High. Connections will be made and friendships will be tested. Will Melissa’s family and friends be able to help her through the challenges she will face in the upcoming months?

My thoughts:

The Stories About Melissa is a three book series so far, and each book has revealed to the readers a slice of teen life that is purely accurate.  Is Melissa perfect? No, but she is perfectly a teenager, with all the mistakes and angst and drama that goes along with that age.  

In this book, Melissa gets caught in her own love life dilema.  Remember those days? The days of does he like me, doesn't he, nervous to talk to them, butterflies in your stomach, excitement about going out with someone you have had a a crush on - remember all that? At the beginning of the summer, she has the chance to go out with either Jimmy or Brian.  She doesn't want to screw her friendship with Jimmy up though, so she doesn't make a decision.  But when her new friend Cassie tells Melissa that she, Cassie, likes Jimmy, Melissa realizes that perhaps she did like Jimmy.  However, she doesn't say anything and acts happy for her friends, even though she is a little upset. Melissa also starts dating Brian.

However, this book is more than just who is dating who and who is wearing what; Melissa and her gang suffer a terrible loss, and they handle this loss with maturity and compassion.  And yes, confusion and sadness.  It adds a certain depth to the story, and cements Melissa's place in the heart's of readers.  

I think that this book is written with bravery and unique insight and  into the minds of teenagers.  I think that today's young adults can relate to the issues and feelings in this novel, and maybe even learn a thing or two.   

The giveaway for this book is still going on!! Please enter for your chance to win a copy of Ciao by Bethany Lopez!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Author Interview - Susan Gabriel

Hey all, as part of my self-proclaimed "Indie Week" I would like you to meet Susan Gabriel, author of Seeking Sara Summers and The Secret Sense of Wildflower.  When presented with the opportunity to review The Secret Sense of Wildflower, I jumped. I am a huge reader of all things Southern, maybe because as a Northerner, it is an area I find fascinating.  One of my best friends is a transplant from New Orleans, and it is something we talk about, North vs. South. (without all the fighting)  I had the opportunity to get to know Susan Gabriel a little better through my author interview, and I know that you will enjoy reading what she has to say about writing, and her books as much as I did.  My review of The Secret Sense of Wildflower will be coming out soon.

What can you tell us about your upcoming release, The Secret Sense of Wildflower?

The Secret Sense of Wildflower is southern gothic fiction, set in the Appalachian mountains in 1941. It’s the story of Louisa May “Wildflower” McAllister whose life has been shaped around the recent death of her beloved father in a sawmill accident. While her mother hardens in her grief, Wildflower and her three sisters must cope with their loss themselves, as well as with the demands of daily survival. Despite these hardships, Wildflower has a resilience that is forged with humor, a love of the land, and an endless supply of questions to God, who she’s not so sure she believes in anymore. When Johnny Monroe, the town’s teenage ne’er-do-well, sets his sights on Wildflower, she must draw on the strength of her relations, both living and dead, to deal with his threat.

How did you choose the genre you are writing in?

As a southerner, I swore I would never ever write southern fiction. I had enough crazy characters in my gene pool that I didn’t want to spend any time there. But never say never, as they say. In some ways it feels like southern fiction chose me, instead of me choosing it. But it turns out I’m pretty good at it. To me, the thing that makes southern fiction “southern,” is not only that the characters are down to earth and sometimes bigger than life, but also that the land plays a big part in the stories. The landscape is often its own character and plays a central role.

I also write contemporary fiction (that isn’t southern), children’s books and poetry.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

I had a huge debate over this with a screenwriter once. She swore that none of her work was autobiographical, but my argument was that your work can’t help but be autobiographical, simply in terms of what you notice as a writer. I notice sounds and smells and see things in a way that is totally unique to me. My imagination is the instrument I use to tell a story, so it can’t help but be a reflection of me in some way. Length of paragraphs, turn of phrase, word choice, my choice of metaphors are all, in a way, my tiny fingerprint. That said, Wildflower’s story is not my personal story.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck blew me away the first time I read it. I wanted to be able to write like that some day. And, of course, I loved To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish so much that Harper Lee had kept writing. My fantasy is that she did continue but it was under a pen name and someday we'll discover the connection.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I am a very intuitive writer. The Secret Sense of Wildflower, started with a voice, eleven years ago, at four in the morning, a voice that woke me up from a deep sleep. It was the voice of a girl who began to tell me her story: “There are two things I’m afraid of,” she said. “One is dying young. The other is Johnny Monroe.” A day or two before, I had visited the small cemetery located in the southern Appalachian Mountains where many of my family were buried. I spent an afternoon walking among the final resting places of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as ancestors I had never known. Had I accidentally brought one of them home with me, who needed her story told?

Rest assured, mental illness does not run in my family. But for a fiction writer, to get the voice of a character so clearly is really good news. I, however, wanted to go back to sleep. Who wouldn’t, at 4 o’clock in the morning? For a time, I debated whether or not to get up. I ultimately decided that if I didn’t claim this moment, the voice might find someone else to write her story.

Needless to say, I turned on the light, picked up a pen and a pad of paper and began to write the story of Louisa May “Wildflower” McAllister. It took months of listening to her and seeing the scenes of her life play out in my imagination. Then it took years of revising and revisiting the story to polish it and get it ready.

I have seen photos of famous authors offices where they write, and stood in Hemingway's' office. What is the environment like where you write?

I live in the mountains of North Carolina, so everywhere I look are oak trees, wild dogwoods, birds and an occasional deer. In the winter I can see seven mountain ridges from my office. In the summer, it’s just a blur of green. My office has two giant windows and just off my office is a screened in porch, so lots of times I have sliding glass doors open to the outside. I am very lucky that I live in a beautiful place. It’s a humble place, but the setting is amazing and inspiring, which really helps since I spend a lot of time at home writing.

Laptop or desktop or Ipad?

Laptop for writing something new. Desktop for putting in changes. Various chairs around the house depending on the season, both inside and outside. I follow the sun in winter and seek out shade in summer. Also, I have a couple of favorite coffee shops that I escape to whenever I want to get out of the house.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

I don’t know any writer who doesn’t have critics. I had a woman email me recently who told me that I had totally failed with the Johnny Monroe character. She said I hadn’t said enough about how he got the way he was, which was basically a predator. However, the book is from Wildflower’s point of view, so she only sees him in a one-sided way: as a threat. I actually did write several things that hinted at his background and how he came to be the way he was (I won’t go into detail here so I won’t reveal the story too much to your readers). A careful reader will find those.

What has been the best compliment?

Readers give me a lot of compliments. I’m pretty accessible through my website and blog so people email me and tell me how moved they were by the book and how Wildflower’s courage gave them hope in their own lives. That means a lot. If they take the time to email me, it is usually because they really liked the book and they’ll tell me why. I’ve had people say about both novels that they couldn’t put them down. That’s always a really good sign. It means the story kept them engaged. That’s a huge compliment to a writer.

On a professional level, to get a starred review on Kirkus reviews was a big deal for me. I’ve been writing in utter obscurity for so many years and been rejected a zillion times, so to have such a respected reviewer say that The Secret Sense of Wildflower was “a book of remarkable merit” and “A quietly powerful story, at times harrowing, but ultimately a joy to read” was an unexpected gift. This kind of praise will keep me going for years. But truly, reader’s comments mean even more than I can say.

What project are you working on now?

I am revising a novel that I wrote a few years ago that I just love. It will be a joy to revisit the characters. I’ve missed them. It’s set here in the mountains of North Carolina on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. It has a wise woman in it and her grandson who finds a priceless star ruby in the roots of a tree and must decide what to do with this treasure.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I hang out in coffee shops with my mate and talk philosophy and current events. I take my dogs for walks, have lunch with friends, all the usual stuff. I also spend a lot of time reading…no surprise…and watch a lot of films. I enjoy listening to professional storytellers when I have an opportunity, as well. I love stories in all forms.

Finally, for fun, chocolate or vanilla?

Definitely chocolate, preferably with almonds. Yum.

Tea or Coffee?
 Organic assam tea, loose leaf. A part of my every day writing ritual: make myself a pot of tea.

Paris or London?

How about London during the day and Paris at night, with a stopover in Italy, where my first novel was set? If I had to choose one, though, I’d probably say Paris. I've never been there and I would love to experience it.

Erin, thanks so much for the opportunity to answer these questions and talk about the book. Writers are nothing without readers. Y'all are the best!

You are welcome Susan! I enjoyed your book and getting to know you better through the interview. Thanks for answering! I am glad you were unable to keep your vow about southern fiction, because I sure enjoyed reading your southern gothic!

Ways to connect to Susan Gabriel:

Ways to connect with me:
“Like” The Secret Sense of Wildflower on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheSecretSenseofWildflower
Follow me on Twitter: https:/www.twitter.com/susangabriel