"A Passion for Reading"

“The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.”
~Elizabeth Hardwick

I like this quote because I can consider the word "gift" in two ways.  On the one hand it could be used in the context of having a gift for something, as in a passion for reading is a talent you can possess.  But I can also look at this as seeing gift in terms of something we can pass on to others.  Looking at the second meaning of gift, is there someone in your life who you would say has given you a passion for reading?

NaNo Note (5) - The Winner's Circle!

For the fourth year in a row, I have written a (draft of a) 50,000 word novel in less than 30 days.  I sit here now with a sigh of relief and a strange bit of pondering that I really don't know where two thirds of this story actually came from.  But I finished.  And it feels good to have this accomplishment under my belt.

For those that took on this endeavor with me, thank you for coming along on this wild ride.  I congratulate my fellow 50K club, and I also applaud all participants, regardless of word count.  Even writing a few thousand words in the month, is a few thousand words that you otherwise would not have put to paper! 

I'm not currently seeking to seriously edit or pursue publication for my work, but I enjoy and I celebrate the simple task of creating. Let us never underestimate or undervalue the joy of creating simply for creation's sake.

Here's to all my fellow writers and here's to thinking ahead - even now! - to NaNoWriMo 2011! 

Color Me Grey

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Since this is a day about showing gratitude, I want to say a big thank you to Authors, and especially Independent Authors, because your writing makes my life richer. As I dabble in NaNoWriMo and attempt to create my own novel length work of fiction, I recognize that good writing is not something that just happens.  Constructing a story and putting it to paper in creative and artful words is a challenging task. And that's not even mentioning the world of editing and polishing.  Authors, I admire you.  I salute you and I thank you. Indie authors, doubly so.  There's a bit of a stigma attached to embracing the title of published author without the protective shield of a publishing house, but I know that some of my favorite works this year have been by those courageous writers.  Thank you for daring to put your work out there.  It is every bit as brilliant as those that publishers choose to print and I, for one, am glad to support your efforts!  

On that note, I'm pleased to spotlight a novel I read last month by author J.C. Phelps.  If any readers out there hesitate to check out independently published books fearing a lesser quality of writing, be assured that Phelps composes novels of high caliber and tons of fun.   

Move over James Bond, there's a new secret agent hitting the scene. Petite and polished Alexis Stanton hardly seems the type, but raised in a family that gave etiquette equal time with special ops training, she proves she's not one to be underestimated.

After quitting her dullsville job doing data entry, Alex responds to a mysterious newspaper job advertisement and realizes right away that her special training is exactly what White and Associates are looking for. Employed by the mysterious and attractive Mr. White, Alex is given the new moniker Ms. Grey and instantly thrust into secret missions with her life on the line. She may be in over her head, but she's not about to show it because she's also having the time of her life.

Color Me Grey was a fun and exciting book. J.C. Phelps keeps the action and suspense high and manages to hint at romance just enough to make the characters exceptionally intriguing. I loved Alexis Stanton as the heroine - she's tough but also smart and sensitive; larger than life but still easy to relate to. The book was well written with a perfect pace, and as all my favorite series entries do, it tells a succinct story while still keeping readers eager for its sequels. There's nothing Grey about whether or not Phelps knows how to write - clear as black and white, she is a wonderful storyteller and an awesome author to check out!

And while I'm on the topic of thanking people, thank you to all my blog readers that have joined, followed, and commented in the past six months.  I never knew that book blogging would be such a fun and rewarding experience.  I've really enjoyed interacting with so many other readers through this blog and I've loved every bit of it.  Before I get too sappy, I'll throw out a question for discussion: Do you read independently published books?  Why or why not? 

NaNo Note (4)

I've passed 40,000 words which I suppose makes this the home stretch.  The only problem is, I have no idea how to end this thing.  Just when I thought I'd reached some sort of denouement, one character had a surprise revelation about another and now they don't even know if they can trust each other, let alone solve the massive problem looming over the world.  I guess for me it's easier to write conflicts than resolutions.  It seems it's always easier to find problems than to solve them.  Eighty percent done with this thing, the end is in sight.  Thanks so much for all the encouraging comments along the way!

Firelight (Fall into Fantasy) - Plus a swag giveaway!

I want to thank Casey over at The Bookish Type for inviting me to participate in a multi-blog review-fest of some very exciting new releases in the Young Adult Fantasy genre!  Throughout the months of October and November various bloggers have been reading and reviewing a host of really intriguing books and several of them are quickly climbing up my TBR list.  For this event I'm pleased to share with you my review of Firelight by Sophie Jordan.  I hope you enjoy my review and check below for details about the swag giveaway!  Also, click over to The Bookish Type and check out all the other great reviews, interviews and contests going on with Fall Into Fantasy!

Sophie Jordan's Firelight tells the story of Jacinda, one of a strange race of draki - dragons that can take human forms. Jacinda is especially unique in that she is a fire breather, possessing a talent that many in her tribe thought to be extinct. Of course, standing out is not always a good thing and when her gift places her in danger, her mother decides to take Jacinda and her sister and leave the tribe of draki for a life as normal humans.

After moving to the desert, Jacinda finds the draki side of her dying and fights to keep her heritage alive. One boy at her school seems to ignite her dragon side, but Jacinda recognizes him as a hunter that she once escaped from. He rejected the chance to kill her when he first saw her as a draki, but none of the hunters know that the draki can appear human and Jacinda's relationship with him puts her entire species at risk.

I really enjoyed how Sophie Jordan handled the dragon mythology in this book. Instead of sticking to traditional dragon lore, Jordan created her race of draki as unique and original creatures. I liked how there were unique talents among them and was intrigued that some members of the tribe were not able to transform at all. The details of the urban fantasy world drew me into the story and led me to care more about Jacinda and her friends.

For me, the biggest downside of Firelight is that it has a very unsatisfying conclusion. I didn't know before reading it that this was the start of a series, but even with books that have sequels planned, I prefer when the first book is still a succinct standalone story. There was very little resolution in this one and the novel definitely left me eager for Jordan's next book. All in all, Firelight is an interesting fantasy work that sets up a unique story. Hopefully fans will not have to wait too long for a sequel to extend Jacinda's adventure.

As a special bonus for Fall Into Fantasy, Casey is sponsoring a Firelight Swag Giveaway!  If you would like to win a Firelight bookmark, sticker, and postcard autographed by author Sophie Jordan leave a comment on this post between now and November 30th!  Contest is open internationally and the winner will have three days to respond by email to claim the prize before a new winner is chosen.  To enter leave a comment below including an email address (ex: herbookself AT gmail DOT com) and answer the following question inspired by this novel:  If you could transform into any mythical creature, what would you become (and optionally, why)?

The Ear of Corn (Fairy Tale Fridays)

The Ear of Corn is a story by The Brothers Grimm that is more a fable or a legend than what I usually think of when I hear "fairy tale".  I've lived in the Midwest region of the United States my entire life so I'm no stranger to fields upon fields of corn which often are, as the saying goes, "knee high by the fourth of July".   And yet, I've never given much thought to the origins of corn.  It's something I just take for granted as having always been here.

At the same time, I love stories that involve how things came to be.  As a child I remember loving Just So Stories by Kipling and others in that same style - the ones that had fables of how the camel got his hump or why the elephant has a trunk and the giraffe a long neck.  I think The Ear of Corn story fits in with these types of origin tales.  The story relates how corn used to grow with multiple ears on a single stalk.  Because mankind didn't appreciate the plentiful nature of corn, God removed the crop and only returned it to it's single ear per stalk form after hearing cries from the people.

I really like the quote from this story that says,

"Men however are so made, that when they are too well off they no longer value the blessings which come from God, but grow indifferent and careless."

I think this is an interesting reminder about living life with a spirit of gratitude.  Often times on or around Thanksgiving and Christmas people talk about how blessed they are to have things like family, shelter, food, jobs, clothing, and other things that they otherwise take for granted.  I certainly won't speak out against this notice of life's everyday blessings, but why not make it a point to appreciate them every day, all year long?  Similarly, around the holidays people often take the time to recognize those less fortunate and give more to charity, participate in service projects, and make an effort to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick.  Why not take these same steps to help others in January, April, and August?  I think this story makes a good point - that holds true today - about how we recognize blessings most when times are leanest.  I'm glad that we have a holiday in the US that's devoted to giving thanks, but I also wish that more people (regardless of religious or nonreligious affiliation) would take the opportunity to do so on a daily basis.  

What are your thoughts on this story?  Do you agree that people appreciate blessings less when they are well off?  Do you give thanks - and give to others - daily or only around the holidays?  Share your thoughts here or post your own Fairy Tale Fridays post and link up with Tif at Tif Talks Books!

Fairy Tale Fridays is a weekly meme hosted by Tif of Tif Talks Books.  Check out Tif's site for more information on upcoming Fairy Tales to read and discuss!

Author Interview - Heather Webber

Earlier this year I had the fun opportunity to sit in on a panel discussion at the Printer's Row Literary Festival in Chicago.  The discussion was about cozy mysteries and one of the authors was Heather Webber, a writer I knew from her book Truly, Madly that I read back in January.  I was already impressed with Heather's writing so it was a pleasure to find a fun and witty personality behind the smart books she authored.  While waiting on Deeply, Desperately (the recently released sequel to Truly, Madly), I dove into Heather's other mystery series starring gardener Nina Quinn and greatly enjoyed A Hoe Lot of Trouble.  So without further ado, it should come as no surprise that I am thrilled to welcome to my blog author Heather Webber!

*applause, applause*

Thanks for agreeing to this interview!  When writing mystery novels, how do you find the balance between making the central case challenging for the reader to solve, while still providing enough clues so the solution does not seem too far fetched?

For me, it’s really about the characters. Because my mysteries are character driven, I make sure I have plenty of interesting suspects with strong motivations. All my clues usually come from those characters and their behaviors and are tied into the crime in some way. If I’ve introduced a motivation for murder, I make sure that it’s resolved and not left hanging. Hopefully it all makes sense and ties together by the end of the book.

Is it hard to keep things fresh and unpredictable when writing multiple books in a series? Which is more enjoyable for you, starting a new series or continuing a current one?

Tough one! There is something so fun about creating a new series, but for me, it’s also really hard. The rest of the series is based off that very first book. If I decide three books in that I don’t like a main character, I’m out of luck! There’s a lot of planning ahead that has to be done.

Writing a book in the middle of the series is fun because I know the characters, know how they’re going to react in certain situations, and I love to see how they’ve grown throughout the series. That’s my favorite part—seeing the characters grow and evolve.

Do you think Nina Quinn and Lucy Valentine would be friends? How do you imagine a lunch date between them would go?

I think they’d definitely be friends! Imagining it is making me laugh. A lunch between them? Nina would probably talk Lucy into getting into trouble with her, and Lucy would probably be thinking of a way she could move her parents (or Dovie!) into Nina’s neighborhood. Both would be talking about their complicated love lives.

Have you always wanted to write mystery novels? Are there other genres you've considered writing?

I started my career writing romances, and I think my readers would be able to tell I still love that genre. I love the puzzle of the mysteries, and I love the characterization and happily-ever-afters of romance—so I usually to blend all three in every book I write.

You recently announced on your blog that you were given a Kindle for your birthday (and by the way, happy belated birthday). As a reader, how do you like the switch to digital books? As a writer, in what ways does the digital movement influence your work?

Thanks! I think digital books are here to stay and that authors would be best served to learn as much as we can about them. E-books haven’t made much impact on my writing life yet—but I have many friends who are starting to publish books that never sold traditionally. It’s also a great market for short stories and novellas that are often hard to place in the print market. As a reader, having a Kindle has been great. It’s hard to beat the instant gratification of buying a book with one click. Hard on the book budget, though! I’m working on the balance of buying print versus e-books, because I do still love holding a book in my hands.

Absolutely, Positively (Lucy Valentine book 3) is due out in February, and like many of your readers, I'm pretty excited about it!  What other projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a couple of new projects. One’s a paranormal mystery series, and the other is more of a cozy/traditional mystery. I also have the beginnings of a paranormal romance series—but that’s still in the brainstorming stages.

Thanks again for being part of this interview!  Where can we find out more about you and your work?

The best places are my website (www.heatherwebber.com) and my blog (www.heatherwebber.blogspot.com), which is updated four to five days a week. I’m also on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Heather-Webber/107003867409).

Check out all the fun facts on Heather's blog and check out the wonderful adventures of Nina Quinn and Lucy Valentine in Heather's books at your local bookstore!

Deeply, Desperately

It's probably pretty obvious that I read a wide variety of books.  Sometimes it depends on my mood, sometimes I just want a change from whatever genre I just finished.   Needless to say, I always enjoy when I find an author who writes with as much variety as I enjoy reading.  Heather Webber is that sort of writer.  Though some classify her strictly as a mystery author, there's definitely more to her stories than just "who dunnit".  Earlier this year I read and reviewed the first in Webber's Nina Quinn series (A Hoe Lot of Trouble) but bringing even more variety to the mystery genre is Webber's protagonist Lucy Valentine.  This series (which began in the book Truly, Madly) combines mystery, Chick Lit, supernatural, humor, and a dash of romance.  I recently picked up the second in this series and enjoyed it equally as much as the first!

Lucy Valentine is back! The Valentine family is known for being successful matchmakers - able to find perfect love for everyone but themselves - but Lucy's talent is a little different. With the touch of a hand she can locate missing objects, and sometimes even people those objects were given to. Her own new branch of the family business specializes in tracking down Lost Loves. Her partner - and boyfriend - is the handsome detective Sean Donahue but Lucy's not sure if their relationship can survive "Cupid's Curse", the family legacy that dooms the Valentine matchmakers to always be unlucky in love. On top of everything she's got a missing persons case to solve; one friend trying to break up another friend's engagement; and an annoying reporter following her every move.

As in Truly, Madly (book one of the Lucy Valentine series), Heather Webber constructs a fabulous story. The characters are wonderfully interesting and the plot is well layered with multiple story lines. There is plenty going on but every aspect is balanced, woven together such that nothing gets confusing or lost in the mix. I love the supporting cast and Lucy's friends and family are realistic characters that I could see myself being friends with or related to. And Lucy Valentine is all heart: smart, spunky, clever, and wise with just a touch of vulnerability. Caring and kind to everyone around her, but still capable of anger, envy and suspicions, ensuring that the reader find hers fully lovable and delightfully real.

With psychic mystery, sweet romance, and witty humor, Deeply, Desperately is a terrific sequel that does not disappoint after the delight of book one. Equally as good as the first in the series, the novel is a fun entry into Lucy Valentine's adventures and I can't wait to see what Webber concocts for book three!

I love the creativity that surrounds this series and I love the fun characters that populate all of Heather Webber's books!  What's your favorite book or series that combines a mix of genres?

Stay tuned this week for my interview with Heather Webber

NaNo Note (3)

It's day 14 and I have just over 26,000 words written of my novel.  I'm doing a good job staying ahead of the daily minimums but I'm hitting the difficult middle of my story and definitely starting to slump a bit.  Interrestingly enough, I'm not the only one who finds middles challenging.  In a pep talk email this past week, author John Green (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines) had this to say about writing the middle of a novel:

Why do I quit halfway in? I get tired. It's not fun anymore. The story kind of sucks, and it's hard to sit down every day and spend several hours eating from a giant bowl of suck. And most of all, like the kid who spends hours preparing plastic armies for war, I enjoy setting things up more than I enjoy the battle itself. To finish something is to be disappointed. By definition, abandoned novels are more promising than completed ones.
You have likely reached the moment in this insane endeavor when you need a rock-solid answer to the question of why, precisely, you are trying to write a novel in a month. You have likely realized that your novel is not very good, at least not yet, and that finishing it will be a hell of a lot less fun than starting it was.
And it's true.  Starting, for me, is the fun part.  I like introducing characters much more than I like giving them purpose, destiny, and fulfilment.  But at the same time, I've passed the halfway mark.  I've started something that deserves to be finished.  If I've written 25,000 words in half a month, I can certainly write 50,000 in thirty days.  Here's to the second half!

A Cup of Friendship (ReCOVERy Friday)

Welcome back to another ReCOVERy Friday - a meme hosted by Miss Page-Turner's City of Books.  Obviously I've had a busy week working my way towards the halfway point of NaNoWriMo (more on that this weekend) but I wanted to jump in again with this fun artwork based meme.

This is how it works:

  1. Think of a book cover you like (e.g. because of its cover art, model, author, title etc.) Doesn’t matter if it’s an old or new one, you just have to enjoy it!
  2. Create a ReCOVERy Friday post for your blog and post it with the whole wonderful weekend ahead
  3. Maybe add some sentences and explain why you like the cover…
  4. Then add your ReCOVERy Friday post to the link list on Miss Page Turner's site so everyone can enjoy it
  5. Check out other ReCOVERy Friday posts if you like to compare them, chat about them, get inspiration and just have fun! 

The book I want to spotlight this week is one that I'm really excited to read, although it won't be released until January of 2011.  Check out this cover for Deborah Rodriguez's A Cup of Friendship

For the artwork alone, I like the centered title and the symmetry of the open windows and the chairs.  The tea setting on the table with the chairs turned toward it, looks comforting and inviting and adds to the warmth of the word "friendship" in the title.  I also like the color scheme with the bright paint on the window designs and the contrast against the mustard colored walls. 

Like Deborah Rodriquez's first book, Kabul Beauty School, this one takes place in Afghanistan an I think the cover does a nice job of conveying that.  What has me even more intrigued by this book though, is the very small subtitle - "A Novel".  Kabul Beauty School was a nonfiction memoir of Rodriguez's life as an American hairdresser living in the Afghanistan but in her newest book she tackles a fiction story.  I'm really intrigued to read this one as I felt that Rodriquez had a great voice in relating the life stories of her friends in Kabul and I'm curious to check out an entire book in her narrative style. 

Do you have a favorite cover of the week?  What do you think about A Cup of Friendship based on cover alone? 


    Corrag, the titular character of Susan Fletcher's work, has been haunted by the word "witch" her entire life. The moniker has often been accompanied by scowling glances and thrown stones. It is the word that took her mother from her and sent Corrag fleeing to Scotland from the English town where she was born. Small but hardy, young Corrag survived and made a life for herself among the MacDonald clan but when politics, oaths, and kingship debates bring a bloody massacre to Glencoe, the word witch places Corrag behind bars sentenced to death.

    It is in her jail cell that the story of her past unfolds, told to Charles Leslie an Irish propaganda writer who seeks Corrag's testimony about the 1692 massacre. Her narrative spills out in a stream of consciousness flashback that is interspersed with Leslie's reflections on her words told in letters to his wife in Ireland. This alternative method of storytelling may be off-putting to some readers, but I found it to be a clever and unique way of slowly revealing the personalities and stories of both Corrag and Leslie.

    Susan Fletcher did a great job with this work. The setting of Scotland in 1692 was wonderfully detailed and the facts blended beautifully with fiction. There was plenty of foreshadowing but the pacing of the story was still well done. I loved the characters and especially appreciated how the relationship between Corrag and Leslie changed over time even though there was never any direct dialog between them. Filled with action, emotion, politics, and history, Corrag is a remarkable work of historical fiction that fans of the genre will not want to miss.

    A copy of this book was provided through Library Thing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for a review.  This review represents my honest and unbiased opinions.  Corrag is on sale November 15.

    "The Skill of Writing"

    "The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think."
    ~Edwin Schlossberg

    Well, I'm pretty certain my NaNoWriMo projects don't create much context for thought besides the thought of "what possessed her to compose such drivel?" but I do like this quote a lot.  What writers would you say have created a context for you to think in?

    NaNo Note (2)

    Remember, remember the fifth of November....

    ...when I hit 10K ahead of schedule.

    I thought I would chime in with a quick update on my progress so far for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  I'd say overall I'm doing well this year.  I've stayed ahead of the daily minimums, which for me is crucial when I hit the middle portion of my story that more often than not spells a heap load of writer's block.

    As for what I'm writing about, there's a title and brief story description on my NaNoWriMo author page.  The story sounds a lot better in that snippet than it does in my first 11,000 words, but I'm hoping that I can put some hard effort into pulling the shining story in my mind out of the slogging drivel I seem to typing out each day.

    But as always, I just need to keep reminding myself that this is a draft.  Drafts don't have to be perfect.  They don't even have to be pretty.  The bottom line is that in just over three weeks, a story that's been simmering in my head for years will finally have made its way to paper (or actually computer screen, but you get the drift.)

    Cheers and best wishes to all of those making this journey with me as well.  You have no idea how much your growing blue bars inspire and encourage me.  I would never attempt such insanity on my own and for this, I thank you all most kindly!

    Author Interview - Stefani Deoul

    Imagine if you will the sights and sounds of beautiful carved horses dancing in a circle to lively calliope sounds.  This is the wonder of a carousel and it is with this imagery in mind that I'm pleased to welcome another author to my blog.  Joining me today is Stefani Deoul author of The Carousel!

    *applause, applause*

    The Carousel is a story of one woman's journey, but it is also about the community spirit and collaboration of the town around her. Have you ever had a teamwork experience like the one in your novel?
    I have been exceptionally fortunate, in many ways I get to spend my life that way. As a television producer, I land in new cities, with a new script and need to build a community of artists and peers- actors, directors, designers, crew - to execute this vision. And within each and every one of those journeys, I have met so many exceptional people; some who are only there for that specific time and place, and some who have remained friends throughout the years. So in one sense, I get to build a "carousel" with every episode I produce.

    Your town is filled with a wide variety of characters and each has their own story and journey. To which character do you most relate or connect? Are any of them based on people you know?
    I don't know that anyone in the book is me or a specific person. Now, having said that - there are aspects of characters that belong, in bits, to me and in bits to people I have known. I think I can honestly claim to be the "bit" who doesn't understand why anyone would cover up perfectly good hardwood floors:) Get an area rug! Okay - even a BIG area rug! Sheesh! Other people in the book, - I honestly haven't got a clue where they come from.

    Was it challenging to write this novel with so much of your main character - including her name - hidden throughout the story?
    Oh yeah. :) The very next piece I wrote, I must have stated the main character's name ten times in ten lines. But in an unexpected twist, it wasn't writing her that I found difficult. From a "name" point of view, I knew who she was. From an emotional pov, I journeyed with her. So it wasn't really until the editing that the challenges presented themselves. I mean, I thought all was clear as could be. Then came all those pesky "other people", better known as readers and editors, and suddenly I learned that my clarity wasn't necessarily clear at all and I was going to have to distinguish her presence without diluting the drama. Next story - ten times in ten lines!

    I've always loved merry-go-rounds and you have great details in this book about the design and construction of wooden horses. Was this a topic with which you were previously familiar or did you do research specifically for the book?
    I did a tremendous amount of research. I believe the detail makes everyone's journey credible. And I knew nothing, I mean nothing, about carousel construction when I began. When I began this story (the first thirty pages) I was unaware exactly how long it takes to build one horse - never mind that it would take all those years to realistically complete a carousel. You can well imagine that both transformed, and informed, the structure of the novel.

    If you were designing your own carousel horse what would it look like? What name would you choose?
    I'm not sure I know the name, but I believe my horse would be a Pegasus, for my horse would need to have wings and fly.

    From your author bio, I see that you have experience working on television production (including some shows that I loved!). How did you switch from the screen to the page? Which do you prefer?
    First, the producer in me says thank you. As to how I switched from screen to page. I have several big-time dreams - one of which was to write a novel. I've done some other writing and this was one of those holy grail kind of things. I always thought "one day when I have nothing else to do with my time." And then, my industry had a strike. There was no work. Soooooo -I gave it a try. Thirty days later - I had a draft. Now just to be clear, I had a draft that still needed work, but it was a draft.

    For your second question, as to which I prefer, I don’t have a good answer. Producing is a pretty external job, novel writing - not so much. Being able to have both in my life is kind of extraordinary.

    What projects are you currently working on?
    Haven, a series I produce which airs on the SyFy Channel, has just been picked up for a second season and I'm working on another novel, having just completed a short story, titled June 28th.

    Where can we find out more about you and your work?
    I have a Carousel Facebook Page and my publisher, A & M Books (AandMbooks.com) is kind enough to post some links on my behalf. And going back to your very first question, there's also a youtube promo, which was made possible by some of the community I have met along the way.

    Let's take a peek at that video:

    And now - if I might ask for your indulgence - a note from this writer.
    Dear Lisa -
    First - Thank you for reading my book.
    Second - Thank you for your reviews and for this interview.
    And Third - more than anything - thank you for being someone who introduces her blog by saying "I read. I love to read. I love to read a lot." It makes both the writer in me AND the reader in me feel so incredibly welcome.
    Thank you.
    And thank you, Stefani!  The Carousel is on sale now!

    The Carousel

    Lights, music, motion, animals - what is there not to love about a merry-go-round?  As a child, I remember being enamored by carousels, and as an adult, I still see a bit of magic in them.  I'm never surprised when the local carnivals come to town; and even with the Ferris wheels, fun houses, bumper cars and kiddie roller coasters, the longest lines always seem to form in front of the carousel.  It is this wondrous appeal of a carnival contraption that lies at the center and forms the heart of a great new debut book I had the privilege to read and review this year.  

    The Carousel by Stefani Deoul tells the story of a woman on the road who wearily stumbles into a small town and is captivated by a group of carousel horses at the local scrap yard. The horses seem to call out to the broken stranger; and she soon finds herself embarking on a project to restore the animals and gift the town with a brand new carousel, as well as a community project. The mysterious woman, who becomes known simply as the merry-go-round lady or the boss, acts as a catalyst to bring the town together and she finds herself pulled into friendship with several of the local residents, despite her secret past.

    Overall, this was a really interesting story. I loved Deoul's descriptions of the horses that the townspeople carved and restored - each one unique and individual. However, I wish more of the protagonist's mysterious past had been revealed bit-by-bit throughout the book, rather than all at once at the end of the story. Without even learning her name, I never truly connected with her as a character, but I did like that she was the one who brought the other characters together. The supporting cast in the story was very extensive and they felt like a real community. The magic of the carousel brought new life to the town, and as a whole, The Carousel is a great story about restoration in both art and life.

    Were you fascinated by merry-go-rounds as a child?  Was there another aspect of carnivals or fairs that captivated you?

    And stay tuned this week for my interview with author Stefani Deoul!


    Fourteen-year-old Billy Harriman knew his life would be turned upside down when his father died, but what Billy didn't know was that there was more to his dad's life than anyone really knew. Everyone called his father a hero for working as a presidential adviser, but soon Billy finds out just how appropriate the moniker is - and that superhero is an even more accurate description. Eventually Billy discovers that he's inherited his dad's special talents, but alongside that birthright comes a host of enemies too.

    Hero was a fantastic book. Mike Lupica does a great job of creating believable young adult characters - filling their vocabulary with sports analogies and pop culture references and populating their lives with schoolwork, bullies, concerned parents, and caring friends. Though Billy turns out to be far from ordinary, he and his friend Kate are everyday teenagers and young readers will instantly connect with and invest in them.

    Filled with excitement, action, and suspense Hero is a novel that is as much about growing up as it is about saving the world. Lupica invaluably fills a niche market in literature writing books geared towards young boys. Though adolescent males interested in sports will happily devour his earlier works (such as Heat and Travel Team) Hero will likely draw new fans to Lupica, perhaps from fantasy or graphic novel markets. Yet, regardless of age, gender, and typical genre preference, Hero is an enjoyable work. The book tells a complete story but readers may be left with crossed fingers - or gripping a lucky coin - in hopes that Lupica has more adventures in store for Billy Harriman, the new fourteen-year-old superhero.

    This review was written for LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program; a copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review.  This review represents my honest and unbiased opinions.  Hero is on sale November 2, 2010.