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1. The Badger Knight - a review

Erskine, Kathryn. 2014. The Badger Knight. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)


After the great plague, Adrian's father is overly protective. Having lost his wife and daughter, he is determined to protect his12-year-old son, Adrian.  Small and weak, Adrian has what we now call asthma and albinism. In the rural England of the 1300s, however, his condition is more often considered an unlucky and unholy affliction - rendering him only slightly more popular than Thomas the leper. Though he is quick of mind, skillful with a bow, and able to scribe, he is nonetheless treated as useless and dim-witted.

When the Middle March is threatened by war with the Scots, Adrian sees a chance to prove his mettle,

"Soon I hear the blacksmith's voice in my head: Nock! Mark! Draw! Loose! I spread some dirt under my eyes to counteract the bright sun, close my left eye, ready  my bow, and take aim at a single leaf fifty feet away.  On my second shot I split the leaf in two.  As I practice more, I can hit a leaf on my first try, even when it sways in the breeze.  I lose all sense of time and feel like I'm in another world.
Until I hear someone approach through the woods, and I grab my arrows, stowing them quickly with my bow inside the tree trunk.  For years I haven't been discovered and I don't intend for anyone to find me out now.  When the time is right, I will shock them all.  So I stand and look up at the branches to divert attention away from the trunk and to show that I'm simply addlepated Adrian looking at birds."

The Badger Knight is a historical fiction adventure that touches upon many common themes (bullying, friendship, gender bias, coming of age, survival, the nature of good and evil) as Adrian goes off to war and becomes a man - not by might, but by right.

 "... I'm reminded of Nigel and his search for the truth.  I think of what I always believed to be truths — Scots are pagans, thieves are bad, knights are noble, girls are weak, war is glorious — and how these "truths" aren't real at all.  They're things I was taught or everyone believes, just as all people who look like me are supposedly angels or, more often, devils.  I didn't believe Nigel when he said that scribing was power, that seeking the truth and sharing it is mightier than being a soldier.
     Now I see what he means."

The Knight Badger is rich in historical details - from the minor particulars of everyday life and the societal hierarchy of medieval England to the gruesome manner of medieval warfare. Erskine offers an unvarnished look into the lives of serfs, tradesmen, religious leaders, free lances, city street urchins, and robber barons. The author's thoughts on the nature of war are on display throughout, but readers are encouraged to come to their own conclusions and examine their own biases.

A solid adventure story that should appeal to boys and girls.  There is room for a sequel.

On shelves 8/26/14.   Target audience: ages 8-12, Gr 3-7
352 pages

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2. Sharing a Read-Aloud Between Grandparents and Grandchildren

Do you have grandmother memories that you treasure? I have so many, and luckily for me, as I launch my new picture book, My Bibi Always Remembers, about a grandmother elephant and her little grandbaby, I have a reason to revisit them all!

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3. Poetry Friday -- Retro Post


I'M YOUR MOM

I'm your mom when you're in school.
I mom you sharply when you're cruel.
I mom you gently when you're hurt.
I mom the buttons on your shirt!

(I mom the music teacher's tie.)
I always mom you when you cry.
(I mom the plants on the windowsill.)
I mom you when you're feeling ill.

I'll never be your mom at home.
I'll never see what you'll become.
I'll never tuck you into bed,
Never hold your feverish head.

But I'm your mom when you're in school
And I'll mom you into shape with rules
Because I love you like you're mine...
I hope your real mom doesn't mind!

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2011


This poem first appeared on the blog in April of 2011, but besides linking to it in a post this week, and sharing it with my current students, I have connected with several students from former classes this week, and my heart is filled with joy that they carry good memories of being in my 5th grade class. As I set out on the year's journey with a group who won't be sharing memories or stories of influence for 7+ years, it's good to be hearing from these former students!

Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Check it Out.


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4. Beauty and the Beasts

★★★★/★★★ Dear Reader, This past week, I completed The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. This is a debut work of historical fiction with a generous serving of dark fantasy. The title characters are mythological beings who display human bodies but retain troublesome superhuman capabilities. The Golem is an animated creature from Jewish mythology. She was formed from clay by a

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5. What The Hale! By Elizabeth Langston and Lisa Amowitz

What The Hale! By Elizabeth Langston and Lisa Amowitz

Elizabeth: Last winter, my editor sent me a suggestion that has since changed my life. I had three books releasing in 2014 and no book covers. The publisher, Spencer Hill Press, had another author—Lisa Amowitz—who also designed books covers. Did I have time to work with her?

I couldn’t say “yes” quickly enough. I’d seen other covers that she’d designed and coveted them! Within days, Lisa and I were messaging feverishly, tossing out ideas, zeroing in on concepts, agreeing (and disagreeing) in a burst of creative energy that felt amazingly natural.

Lisa: First let me say that working for a small publisher, I often get the chance to work directly with authors. Elizabeth and I clicked immediately and what started as a professional relationship quickly evolved into a friendship. We found that despite being polar opposites in temperament and background, we somehow connected on a deeper level.

Elizabeth: Unexpected but true! Even though we’d ended our collaboration with the book covers, Lisa and I enjoyed our budding friendship so much that we just had to stay in touch.

Fast forward to March. After I’d spent a long weekend doing historical research in Williamsburg, Virginia, I came home and messaged to Lisa that I’d visited one of the film locations for the TV series TURN. Immediately, she started gushing about Revolutionary War spies and, in particular, Nathan Hale. Yeah, yeah, whatever. I love history, but I rarely obsess over guys who’ve been dead since the 1700s. (I reserve my obsessions for alive-but-inaccessible guys, like Michael Fassbender.)

Lisa: I also shared my (then secret but now totally out in the open) insane and immature crush for actor Benedict Cumberbatch, and after a conversation about the show TURN, I was amazed when Elizabeth did not laugh about my odd fascination for Nathan Hale. (Yes--between Cumberbatch and Hale, I’m used to plenty of eyerolls and blank stares from friends and family--though more with Nathan. Benedict seems to be quite popular these days.) When Elizabeth did not laugh in my face, I popped the question: “Do you want to co-write a YA story about Nathan Hale?”

I’d already read her writing and knew our styles would mesh beautifully. But the main thing is that I knew that Elizabeth had something important that I lacked—Elizabeth knew how to do historical research, something I’d tried, but had only gotten so far with before I’d given up in despair.

Given the complete lack of enthusiasm for my Nathan Hale fixation from everyone but my mother, I was stunned by her answer.

Yes, she, said--when do we start?

Elizabeth: I was really excited about the idea. Although I’d never vacationed before with a friend, here I was, agreeing to fly up to New York for five days to hang out with Lisa and see if this passionate interest in colonial history and Nathan Hale could result in a book. Even more, we had to discover if we had the personalities, skills, and time to make this project happen.

We held our writing retreat in July—and here are three of the lessons we learned.

Process. Your writing processes can be different—but you have to respect that and find a way to make them compatible. Lisa likes to write in chronological order. I like to jump around. At our retreat, we created a detailed synopsis of the whole book. Lisa uses it to write in order. I can still jump around.

Contribution. You both have to feel like you can contribute some unique and important to the project. For me, it’s my understanding of the colonial American world. For Lisa, it’s her deep knowledge of Nathan Hale and New York.

Voice. Your voices have to complement each other. I have a lighter voice with an old-fashioned feel. I’ll be writing mostly in the POV of our colonial heroine, a girl who begins our story at age 16. Lisa has the darker, edgier voice. She’ll channel Nathan Hale—a guy who always suspected that his life would be short—although maybe not even he would’ve guessed it would end at age 21.

Lisa: I’ll wrap this up by saying that the thing I feared most about our visit would be that I would prove to be “too much” for Elizabeth. At Spencer Hill Press, my nickname is The Squirrel on Crack, given my extroverted New Yorkie personality, my tendency to talk very fast and a LOT, and my frenetic multi-tasking. I was nervous. I thought Elizabeth would have the need to hide from me for many hours out of the day.

What I found instead, was that while she’s a more laid back and soft spoken Southern lady, her energy level is just as intense and hard-driving as mine. We worked relentlessly for ten to twelve hours a day, like two bloodhounds tracking down a trail. We had to make a special time each day for “playtime” in which we ended up plotting each other’s OTHER books (and drinking some very sweet wine).

In short, like in a good relationship, opposites attract. We have found that our opposite temperaments and capabilities are actually our strengths, and that the one area in which we are similar--DRIVE, PASSION and COMMITMENT (and love of a good yarn) was just the impetus we’ll rely upon to bring this project to its completion.

Here I am with the plot map we produced on one of our more intense worksessions.

What the Hale!

Elizabeth: Last winter, my editor sent me a suggestion that has since changed my life. I had three books releasing in 2014 and no book covers. The publisher, Spencer Hill Press, had another author—Lisa Amowitz—who also designed books covers. Did I have time to work with her?

I couldn’t say “yes” quickly enough. I’d seen other covers that she’d designed and coveted them! Within days, Lisa and I were messaging feverishly, tossing out ideas, zeroing in on concepts, agreeing (and disagreeing) in a burst of creative energy that felt amazingly natural.

Lisa: First let me say that working for a small publisher, I often get the chance to work directly with authors. Elizabeth and I clicked immediately and what started as a professional relationship quickly evolved into a friendship. We found that despite being polar opposites in temperament and background, we somehow connected on a deeper level.

Elizabeth: Unexpected but true! Even though we’d ended our collaboration with the book covers, Lisa and I enjoyed our budding friendship so much that we just had to stay in touch.

Fast forward to March. After I’d spent a long weekend doing historical research in Williamsburg, Virginia, I came home and messaged to Lisa that I’d visited one of the film locations for the TV series TURN. Immediately, she started gushing about Revolutionary War spies and, in particular, Nathan Hale. Yeah, yeah, whatever. I love history, but I rarely obsess over guys who’ve been dead since the 1700s. (I reserve my obsessions for alive-but-inaccessible guys, like Michael Fassbender.)

Lisa: I also shared my (then secret but now totally out in the open) insane and immature crush for actor Benedict Cumberbatch, and after a conversation about the show TURN, I was amazed when Elizabeth did not laugh about my odd fascination for Nathan Hale. (Yes--between Cumberbatch and Hale, I’m used to plenty of eyerolls and blank stares from friends and family--though more with Nathan. Benedict seems to be quite popular these days.) When Elizabeth did not laugh in my face, I popped the question: “Do you want to co-write a YA story about Nathan Hale?”

I’d already read her writing and knew our styles would mesh beautifully. But the main thing is that I knew that Elizabeth had something important that I lacked—Elizabeth knew how to do historical research, something I’d tried, but had only gotten so far with before I’d given up in despair.

Given the complete lack of enthusiasm for my Nathan Hale fixation from everyone but my mother, I was stunned by her answer.

Yes, she, said--when do we start?

Elizabeth: I was really excited about the idea. Although I’d never vacationed before with a friend, here I was, agreeing to fly up to New York for five days to hang out with Lisa and see if this passionate interest in colonial history and Nathan Hale could result in a book. Even more, we had to discover if we had the personalities, skills, and time to make this project happen.

We held our writing retreat in July—and here are three of the lessons we learned.

Process. Your writing processes can be different—but you have to respect that and find a way to make them compatible. Lisa likes to write in chronological order. I like to jump around. At our retreat, we created a detailed synopsis of the whole book. Lisa uses it to write in order. I can still jump around.

Contribution. You both have to feel like you can contribute some unique and important to the project. For me, it’s my understanding of the colonial American world. For Lisa, it’s her deep knowledge of Nathan Hale and New York.

Voice. Your voices have to complement each other. I have a lighter voice with an old-fashioned feel. I’ll be writing mostly in the POV of our colonial heroine, a girl who begins our story at age 16. Lisa has the darker, edgier voice. She’ll channel Nathan Hale—a guy who always suspected that his life would be short—although maybe not even he would’ve guessed it would end at age 21.

Lisa: I’ll wrap this up by saying that the thing I feared most about our visit would be that I would prove to be “too much” for Elizabeth. At Spencer Hill Press, my nickname is The Squirrel on Crack, given my extroverted New Yorkie personality, my tendency to talk very fast and a LOT, and my frenetic multi-tasking. I was nervous. I thought Elizabeth would have the need to hide from me for many hours out of the day.

What I found instead, was that while she’s a more laid back and soft spoken Southern lady, her energy level is just as intense and hard-driving as mine. We worked relentlessly for ten to twelve hours a day, like two bloodhounds tracking down a trail. We had to make a special time each day for “playtime” in which we ended up plotting each other’s OTHER books (and drinking some very sweet wine).

In short, like in a good relationship, opposites attract. We have found that our opposite temperaments and capabilities are actually our strengths, and that the one area in which we are similar--DRIVE, PASSION and COMMITMENT (and love of a good yarn) was just the impetus we’ll rely upon to bring this project to its completion.

Here I am with the plot map we produced on one of our more intense worksessions.



About The Authors

Elizabeth Langston lives in North Carolina, halfway between the beaches and the mountains. She has two daughters in college and one husband at home. When she's not writing software or stories, Elizabeth loves to travel with her family, watch shows on dance or Sherlock, and dream about which restaurant ought to get her business that night.

WHISPERS FROM THE PAST, the 3rd book in Elizabeth's WHISPER FALLS YA time travel series, releases in October. I WISH, the 1st book in her new YA magical realism series, releases in November. Learn more about Elizabeth at http://www.elizabethLangston.net .


blog | twitter | facebook | website

About Her Book

Lacey Linden is hiding the truth of her life—a depressed mom, a crumbling house, and bills too big to pay. While her high school classmates see a girl with a ready smile and good grades, Lacey spends her evenings seeking ways to save her family. On a get-cash-quick trip to the flea market, Lacey stumbles over a music box that seemingly begs her to take it home. She does, only to find it is inhabited by a gorgeous "genie." He offers her a month of wishes, one per day, but there's a catch. Each wish must be humanly possible.

Grant belongs to a league of supernatural beings, dedicated to serving humans in need. After two years of fulfilling the boring wishes of conventional teens, he is one assignment away from promotion to a challenging new role with more daring cases. Yet his month with Lacey is everything that he expects and nothing like he imagines. Lacey and Grant soon discover that the most difficult task of all might be saying goodbye.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads





LISA AMOWITZ was born in Queens and raised in the wilds of Long Island, New York where she climbed trees, thought small creatures lived under rocks and studied ant hills. And drew. A lot. She is a professor of Graphic Design at her beloved Bronx Community College where she has been tormenting and cajoling students for nearly seventeen years. She started writing eight years ago because she wanted something to illustrate, but somehow, instead ended up writing YA–probably because her mind is too dark and twisted for small children.

Her first book, Breaking Glass, was released by Spencer Hill Press in 2013, and she has three more novels scheduled for release: Vision, the first of the Finder series in May 2014, its unnamed sequel in 2015, and Until Beth in Spring of 2015.


blog | twitter | facebook

About Her Book

The light is darker than you think…

High school student Bobby Pendell already has his hands full—he works almost every night to support his disabled-vet father and gifted little brother. Then he meets the beautiful new girl in town, who just happens to be his boss’s daughter. Bobby has rules about that kind of thing. Nothing matters more than keeping his job.

When Bobby starts to get blinding migraines that come with scary, violent hallucinations, his livelihood is on the line. Soon, he must face the stunning possibility that the visions of murder are actually real. With his world going dark, Bobby is set on the trail of the serial killer terrorizing his small town. With everyone else convinced he’s the prime suspect, Bobby realizes that he, or the girl he loves, might be killer's next victim.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

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6. Window of Isolation: Louisiana's Leprosarium

Carville: Amid Moss and Resurrection Fern
Poems by Gina Ferrara

Poet Gina Ferrara's new chapbook, Carville Amid Moss and Resurrection Fern
(Finishing Line Press 2014) delivers a new way of looking at leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease. The beauty of these poems is arresting and surprising, given the once taboo subject of leprosy. The leprosarium at Carville operated for over a hundred years.

As a child in catholic school in New Orleans, Ferrara grew up hearing about lepers. Four years ago, when she visited the colony in Carville, Louisiana, she learned more about the lives of the patients. Carville is located off River Road, near Baton Rouge. However, it is essentially in the middle of nowhere. Ferrara captures that sense of isolation in her Carville Poems. The title references the fact that moss and resurrection fern can be found in the oak trees at Carville. Ferrara was taken by the physical beauty of the landscape at Carville and how the beauty of the land was intertwined and connected to the personal experiences of the patients. From "A Perfect Terrain": 'Drenched in moss and resurrection fern, the oaks stayed stoic--/a perfect terrain for the ostriches, swift-footed and flightless/that would never arrive.'

In writing these poems, Ferrara never lost sight of the loneliness experienced by Carville residents. "I wanted to convey how people who had the disease became isolated--very removed from the lives they had lived and previously known, " she said. "They no longer saw their families or loved ones. They had to establish a new and different way of living."

Residents at Carville may have been isolated, but they lived life to the fullest, put on dances and Mardi Gras balls, and published a newspaper with a circulation of over 250, 000. The poem, "Tea Hour on Point Clair Road," shows how the ladies would take their tea, 'The fingerless/Even the unmarred waited for the sips and stains of tea hours,/ Something miraculous as a cure/under a sun no longer at apex.'

Gina first began writing the poems in the spring of 2010 and finished the book over a period of two years. She approached Finishing Line Press because they had published her first poetry chapbook, The Size of Sparrows, in 2006. She met one of  the patients, Pete from Trinidad, who was about ten years old when he arrived and is now in his eighties. He is one of the last patients to live there, rides around on his bicycle, and is eager to talk to visitors. The lyrical poems, along with photographs by Elizabeth Garcia, offer a window into life at Carville, Louisiana.
Gina Ferrara


Carville in the Spring
Gina Ferrara

Sugar surrounds this sanctuary
far from ordinary or Galapagos.
The road ends each time
I check my appendages
for open wounds, red splotches in tandem.
I remember the last pliant hand I held.
Would the constellated sky feel like a hand?
Each finger with its own unblemished identity—
supple and tapering to a square tip,
the bony range of knuckles
buckling only to brush inside my palm.
I squint and scan for semblances of past lives.
Who is the gypsy? Who is the physicist?
I have my suspicions.
Today a woman arrived.
She strolls through the covered corridors
with memories of her identity and scepter,
helpless and unable to reign over the bacilli
waiting to uprise in time as unwanted suns.

Gina Ferrara's work has previously been featured on La Bloga. Her latest full-length poetry book, Amber Porch Light was also recently reviewed by Frank Mundo in the Examiner.


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7. Publishing in ... Spain

       There have been bad numbers from all over, over the past few years, but few as dismal as this: at The Bookseller Benedicte Page reports that Spain's domestic market sees 12% drop in 2013. That's turnover -- but even so:

The latest survey found 154 million copies were sold in 2013, a decrease of 9.6% on 2012 numbers. Publishing numbers were down 3.5% year-on-year to 76,434 titles.
       Disappointingly, too: "Studied by genre, fiction saw the biggest revenue fall, down 17.2% to €469m" (Come on, you Spaniards -- no matter how bad things are, there's always room for ... fiction ! Always ! Fiction is what matters ! Buy some !)
       It's hard to ascribe plummets like this to the absence of one or two blockbusters; this is a much broader problem -- not a good sign at all.

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8. Stuff You

Isn't it marvellous how, when you get a blog that is successful, all those people in comics who treated you like raw crap want to be added to your networks on things like Face Book or Linkedin?

Oh, cynics might say that way these people get their posts seen more easily.  Surely not?

Their chances of being added to my "networks"?  The same as Obama and Putin being caught out in a gay sex scandal.

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9. Childish Things? by Anna Wilson

I have read a lot of teen fiction this summer because I like to keep up to date, and also so that I can recommend titles to my own teenage children.

Actually, who am I kidding? I read these books because they are so damn good! I would go so far as to say that often so-called “teen fiction” is better written and more original than that on offer for adults.

Of course I am not alone in thinking this. Gillian Tett, writing in the Financial Times earlier this week, discussed the fact that:

“Booksellers now estimate that almost half of young adult books are being read by people who are over the age of 18.”

She pondered on why this was, coming to the conclusion that:

“Teenagers now face a world where boundaries are becoming blurred on many fronts [. . .] the lines between childhood and adulthood, good and evil, friend and foe, male and female are no longer clear-cut. Once teenagers expected to know what “side” they were on (even if this was the anti-adult side); today, the world is no longer black and white. There is category collapse.”

“Category collapse” is exactly right if by that Tett means that we are reading back and forth across the age ranges. However, exactly the opposite has happened when it comes to how books are shelved. The boundaries that have been created to delineate adult novels from those considered to be for teens are surely artificial?

What makes, say, Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden an adult novel but puts E Lockhart’s We Were Liars squarely in the teen category? Morton’s book tells a story from the point of view of characters between the ages of ten and ninety, so it cannot be the age of the protagonists. The subject-matter in Morton’s novel would not be an issue for teens either, and as the mother of a fifteen-year-old girl I would almost prefer her to read Morton’s book for the content than some other teen titles which have much more troublesome subject matter. Equally I delighted in the writing in Lockhart’s novel and gasped aloud at the reveal and have been recommending it to adults and teens alike.

Why was Claire King’s The Night Rainbow published for adults but Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur for children? Both books tell a story about grief, loss and depression from the point of view of a young child and both have content that is perfectly suitable for young teens. There are many other examples I could give, some of which, such as Joanna Nadin’s Eden, have been promoted by publishers as a “cross-over” read, openly acknowledging that age-banding is a conceit, and at times a not very helpful one. And what about Plath’s The Bell Jar and du Maurier’s Rebecca . . .?

Is the answer that, actually, “category collapse” has happened in general, across the media and in our choice of leisure time activities? I am quite happy to sit and watch Friday Night Dinner or The Big Bang Theory with my kids, for example, and they will happily watch The Village or Downton Abbey with me. I will read a book and hand it on to them and they will do the same. We will go as a family to swing between the trees at Go Ape or take surfing lessons together. None of this was the case when I was growing up. Kids’ books were for kids and kids’ activities were for kids. Adults kept their lives quite separate.

Nowadays, though, we seem to actively turn away from the edict: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

I, for one, am happy with this “category collapse” as it gives me licence to stay in touch with my inner child and even (she says, hopefully) to be in with a chance of understanding my own children’s lives. I also feel that the calibre of writing in teen fiction is excellent and this is something that the world has woken up to.

We are giving the “adults” a run for their money, and this can only be a good thing.



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10. Amis, not in Germany

       An Interesting Q & A (in German) with Martin Amis in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung -- summed up by Philip Oltermann and Anne Penketh in The Guardian, in Martin Amis's holocaust 'comedy' fails to find German publisher, as the German publisher of his last few duds books, Hanser, has declined to publish The Zone of Interest -- the big question being (this being the German market): is it because it is about Auschwitz, or is it because it is crap ?
       Amis doesn't seem to have ever really caught on in Germany, and you can see that he's a tough sell there under the best of circumstances (among his works' main qualities is his style, and that's tough to translate effectively/well).
       Understandably Interestingly, recent French Amis-publisher Gallimard has also passed on this one (though another French publisher did pick it up) -- though Amis suggests in his FAZ-interview that that likely has more to do with a general editorial shift at Gallimard, rather than the subject-matter at hand. (Presumably, that's how his 'literary agent' -- Andrew Wylie -- is trying to spin things to his no-doubt irritated client .....)

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11. Jungle Grumble - the Paperback!


The day before I left for Brazil, the postman bought me another of those fun packages. I have already had an advance copy of my next book Jungle Grumble, so I have seen it, but this new copy is the paperback.


It's due out in October, although I am not sure which end. Not long though now!


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12. Ramuz revival ?

       At English PEN, Michelle Bailat-Jones writes about Charles Ferdinand Ramuz -- trying to sell him as a: "contemporary of Robert Walser" (because that's relevant to .. anything) and how he: "is now being introduced to a new readership as the 'dams' between languages break down", in "You must keep feeding the lake".
       Hey, I'm a Ramuz fan -- The Young Man from Savoy, yes ! -- but let's get real. Walser was a long-overlooked genius; Ramuz's When the Mountains Fell (Eng. 1949) was an early Pantheon title (yes, as far back as the Jacques (not André ...) Schiffrin days) that was a freaking Book-of-the-Month-Club title (you young 'uns won't remember, but that was a big, big deal back then). Ramuz has been mainstream (and, since, admittedly, completely forgotten ...).
       Good to see some attention for Ramuz, but, please, some perspective -- which includes not trying to compare him to Walser.

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13. Smek for President: Review Haiku

Some prior knowledge
is helpful, but you'll still root
for Tip and J.Lo.

Smek for President by Adam Rex. Disney, 2014, 272 pages.

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14. Book Blogger Hop - 8/29 - 9/4

 Question of the Week:

Do you request notifications of new replies when you post a comment on a blog post?

My Answer:

It depends on the interest I have for the post.

More times than not, though, I do request notifications of new replies.

I like to know what others are thinking about the subject or book being discussed.

What about you?





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15. Spotlight and Giveaway: Heroes are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

 

Heroes Are My Weakness by: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Releasing August 26th, 2014

Avon Romance

New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips is back with a delightful novel filled with her sassy wit and dazzling charm

The dead of winter.
An isolated island off the coast of Maine.
A man.
A woman.
A sinister house looming over the sea …
He’s a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She’s a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids’ puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.
But she’s not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they’re trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.
It’s going to be a long, hot winter.

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Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19367048-heroes-are-my-weakness?from_search=true

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Author Info

Susan Elizabeth Phillips soars onto the New York Times bestseller list with every new publication. She’s the only four-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award. Susan delights fans by touching hearts as well as funny bones with her wonderfully whimsical and modern fairy tales. A resident of the Chicago suburbs, she is also a wife, and mother of two grown sons.

Author Links

Website: http://susanelizabethphillips.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanElizabethPhillipsNovels

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sepauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/41313.Susan_Elizabeth_Phillips

 

Excerpt (Chapter 1):

Annie didn’t usually talk to her suitcase, but she wasn’t exactly herself these days. The high beams of her headlights could barely penetrate the dark, swirling chaos of the winter blizzard, and the windshield wipers on her ancient Kia were no match for the wrath of the storm that had hit the island. “It’s only a little snow,” she told the oversize red suitcase wedged into the passenger seat. “Just because it feels like the end of the world doesn’t mean it is.”

You know I hate the cold, her suitcase replied, in the annoying whine of a child who preferred making a point by stamping her foot. How could you bring me to this awful place?

Because Annie had run out of options.

An icy blast rocked the car, and the branches of the old fir trees hovering over the unpaved road whipped like witches’ hair. Annie decided that anybody who believed in hell as a fiery furnace had it all wrong. Hell was this bleak, hostile winter island.

You’ve never heard of Miami Beach? Crumpet, the spoiled princess in the suitcase retorted. Instead you had to haul us off to a deserted island in the middle of the North Atlantic where we’ll probably get eaten by polar bears!

The gears ground as the Kia struggled up the narrow, slippery island road. Annie’s head ached, her ribs hurt from coughing, and the simple act of craning her neck to peer through a clear spot on the windshield made her dizzy. She was alone in the world with only the imaginary voices of her ventriloquist dummies anchoring her to reality. As sick as she was, she didn’t miss the irony.

She conjured up the more calming voice of Crumpet’s counterpart, the practical Dilly, who was tucked away in the matching red suitcase in the backseat. We’re not the middle of the Atlantic, sensible Dilly said. We’re on an island ten miles off the New England coast, and the last I heard, Maine doesn’t have polar bears. Besides, Peregrine Island isn’t deserted.

It might as well be. If Crumpet had been on Annie’s arm, she would have shot her small nose up in the air. People barely survive here in the middle of the summer let alone winter. I bet they eat their dead for food.

The car fishtailed ever so slightly. Annie corrected the skid, gripping the wheel more tightly through her gloves. The heater barely worked, but she’d begun to perspire under her jacket.

You mustn’t keep complaining, Crumpet, Dilly admonished her peevish counterpart. Peregrine Island is a popular summer resort.

It’s not summer! Crumpet countered. It’s the first week of February, we just drove off a car ferry that made me seasick, and there can’t be more than fifty people left here. Fifty stupid people!

You know Annie had no choice but to come here, Dilly said.

Because she’s a big failure, an unpleasant male voice sneered.

Leo had a bad habit of uttering Annie’s deepest fears, and it was inevitable that he’d intrude into her thoughts. He was her least favorite puppet, but every story needed a villain.

Very unkind, Leo, Dilly said. Even if it is true.

The petulant Crumpet continued to complain. You’re the heroine, Dilly, so everything always turns out fine for you. But not for the rest of us. Not ever. We’re doomed! Doomed, I say! We’re forever¾

Annie’s cough cut off the internal histrionics of her puppet. Sooner or later her body would heal from the lingering aftereffects of pneumonia¾at least she hoped so¾but what about the rest of her? She’d lost faith in herself, lost the sense that, at thirty-three, her best days still lay ahead. She was physically weak, emotionally empty, and more than a little terrified, hardly the best state for someone forced to spend the next two months on an isolated Maine island.

That’s only sixty days, Dilly attempted to point out. Besides, Annie, you don’t have anywhere else to go.

And there it was. The ugly truth. Annie had nowhere else to go. Nothing else to do but search for the legacy her mother might or might not have left her.

The Kia hit a snow-packed rut, and the seat belt seized up. The pressure on Annie’s chest made her cough again. If only she could have stayed in the village for the night, but the Island Inn was closed until May. Not that she could have afforded it anyway.

The car barely crested the hill. She had years of practice transporting her puppets through every kind of weather to perform all over the state, but even a decent snow driver had limited control on a road like this, especially in her Kia. There was a reason the residents of Peregrine Island drove pickups.

Take it slow, another male voice advised from the suitcase in the back. Slow and steady wins the race. Peter, her hero puppet¾her knight in shining armor¾was a voice of encouragement, unlike her former actor-boyfriend-slash-lover, who’d only encouraged himself.

Annie brought the car to a full stop then started her slow descent. Halfway down, it happened.

The apparition came from nowhere.

A man clad in black flew across the bottom of the road on a midnight horse. She’d always had a vivid imagination¾witness her internal conversations with her puppets¾and she thought she was imagining this. But the vision was real. Horse and rider racing through the snow, the man leaning low over the horse’s mane streaming. They were demon creatures, a nightmare horse and lunatic man galloping into the storm’s fury.

They disappeared as quickly as they’d appeared, but her foot automatically hit the brake, and the car began to slide. It skidded across the road and,with a sickening lurch, came to a stop in the snow-filled ditch.

You’re such a loser, Leo the villain sneered.

Tears of exhaustion filled her eyes. Her hands shook. Were the man and horse indeed real or had she conjured them? She needed to focus. She put the car into reverse and attempted to rock it out, but the tires only spun deeper. Her head fell against the back of the seat. If she stayed here long enough, someone would find her. But when? Only the cottage and the main house lay at the end of this road.

She tried to think. Her single contact on the island was the man who took care of the main house and the cottage, but she’d only had an e-mail address to let him know she was arriving and ask him to turn on the cottage’s utilities. Even if she had his phone number¾Will Shaw¾that was his name¾she doubted she could get cell reception out here.

Loser. Leo never spoke in an ordinary voice. He only sneered.

Annie grabbed a tissue from a crumpled pack, but instead of thinking about her dilemma, she thought about the horse and rider. What kind of a crazy took an animal out in this weather? She squeezed her eyes shut and fought a wave of nausea. If only she could curl up and go to sleep. Would it be so terrible to admit that life had gotten the best of her?

Stop it right now, sensible Dilly said.

Annie’s head pounded. She had to find Shaw and get him to pull out the car.

Never mind Shaw, Peter the hero declared. I’ll do it myself.

Buy Peter¾like her ex-boyfriend¾was only good in a fictional crisis.

The cottage was about a mile away, an easy distance for a healthy person in decent weather. But the weather was horrible, and nothing about her was healthy.

Give up, Leo sneered. You know you want to.

Stop being such a douche, Leo. This voice came from Scamp, Dilly’s best friend and Annie’s alter ego. Even though Scamp was responsible for many of the scrapes the puppets got into¾scrapes heroine Dilly and hero Peter had to sort out¾Annie loved her courage and big heart.

Pull yourself together, Scamp ordered. Get out of the car.

Annie wanted to tell her to go to hell, but what was the point? She pushed her flyaway hair inside the collar of her quilted jacket and zipped it. Her knit gloves had a hole in the thumb, and the door handle was icy against her exposed skin. She made herself open it.

The cold slapped her in the face and stole her breath. She had to force her legs out. Her beat-up brown suede city boots sank into the snow, and her jeans were no match for the weather. Ducking her head into the wind, she made her way to the rear of the car to get her heavy coat, only to see that the trunk was wedged so tightly into the hillside that she couldn’t open it. Why should she be surprised? Nothing had gone her way in so long that she’d forgotten what good fortune felt like.

She returned to the driver’s side. Her puppets should be safe in the car overnight, but what if they weren’t? She needed them. They were all she had left, and if she lost them, she might disappear altogether.

Pathetic, Leo sneered.

She wanted to rip him apart.

Babe… You need me more than I need you, he reminded her. Without me, you don’t have a show.

She shut him out. Breathing hard, she pulled the suitcases from the car, retrieved her keys, snapped off the headlights, and closed the door.

She was immediately plunged into thick, swirling darkness. Panic clawed at her chest.

I will rescue you! Peter declared.

Annie gripped the suitcase handles tighter, trying not to let her panic paralyze her.

I can’t see anything! Crumpet squealed. I hate the dark!

Annie had no handy flashlight app on her ancient cell phone, but she did have… She set a suitcase in the snow and dug in her pocket for her car keys and the small LED light attached to the ring. She hadn’t tried to use the light in months, and she didn’t know if it still worked. With her heart in her throat, she turned it on.

A sliver of bright blue light cut a tiny path through the snow, a path so narrow she could easily wander off the road.

Get a grip, Scamp ordered.

Give up, Leo sneered.

Annie took her first steps into the snow. The wind cut through her thin jacket and tore at her hair, whipping the curly strands onto her face. Snow slapped the back of her neck, and she started to cough. Pain compressed her ribs, and the suitcases banged against her legs. Much too soon, she had to set them down to rest her arms.

She hunched into her jacket collar, trying to protect her lungs from the icy air. Her fingers burned from the cold, and as she moved forward again, she called on her puppets’ imaginary voices to keep her company.

Crumpet: If you drop me and ruin my sparkly lavender dress, I’ll sue.

Peter: I’m the bravest! The strongest! I’ll help you.

Leo: (sneering) Do you know how to do anything right?

Dilly: Don’t listen to Leo. Keep moving. We’ll get there.

And Scamp, her useless alter ego: A woman carrying a suitcase walks into a bar…

Icy tears weighed down her eyelashes, blurring what vision she had. Wind caught the suitcases, threatening to snatch them away. They were too big, too heavy. Pulling her arms from their sockets. Stupid to have brought them with her. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But she couldn’t leave her puppets.

Each step felt like a mile, and she’d never been so cold. Here she’d thought her luck had begun to change, all because she’d been able to catch the car ferry over from the mainland. It only ran sporadically, unlike the converted lobster boat that provided the island with weekly service. But the farther the ferry traveled from the Maine coastline, the worse the storm had become.

She trudged on, dragging one foot through the snow after the other, arms screaming, lungs burning as she tried not to succumb to another coughing fit. Why hadn’t she put her warm down coat in the car instead of locking it in the trunk? Why hadn’t she done so many things? Find a stable occupation. Be more circumspect with her money. Date decent men.

So much time had passed since she’d been on the island. The road used to stop at the turnoff that led to the cottage and to Harp House. But what if she missed it? Who knew what might have changed since then?

She stumbled and fell to her knees. The keys slipped from her hand and the light went out. She grabbed one of the suitcases for support. She was frozen. Burning up. She gasped for air and frantically felt around in the snow. If she lost her light…

Her fingers were so numb she nearly missed it. When she finally had the flashlight back in her grasp, she turned it on and saw the stand of trees that had always marked the road’s end. She moved the beam to the right, where it fell on the big granite boulder at the turnoff. She hoisted herself back to her feet, lifted the suitcases, and stumbled through the drifts.

Her temporary relief at having found the turnoff faded. Centuries of harsh Maine weather had stripped this terrain of all but the hardiest of spruce, and without a windbreak, the blasts roaring in from the ocean caught the suitcases like spinnakers. She managed to turn her back to the wind’s force without losing either one. She sank one foot and then another, struggling through the tall snowdrifts, dragging the suitcases, and fighting the urge to lie down and let the cold do what it wanted with her.

She’d bowed so far into the wind that she nearly missed it. Only as the corner of a suitcase bumped against a low snow-shrouded stone wall did she realize that she’d reached Moonraker Cottage.

The small, gray-shingled house was nothing more than an amorphous shape beneath the snow. No shoveled pathway, no welcoming lights. The last time she’d been here, the door had been painted cranberry red, but now it was a cold, periwinkle blue. An unnatural mound of snow under the front window covered a pair of old wooden lobster traps, a nod to the house’s origins as a fisherman’s cottage. She hauled herself through the drifts to the door and set the suitcases down. She fumbled with the key in the lock only to remember that island people seldom locked up.

The door blew open. She dragged the suitcases inside and, with the last of her strength, wrestled it shut again. The air wheezed in her lungs. She collapsed on the closest suitcase, her gasps for breath more like sobs.

Eventually she grew conscious of the musty smell of the icy room. Pressing her nose to her sleeve, she fumbled for the light switch. Nothing happened. Either the caretaker hadn’t gotten her e-mail asking him to have the generator working and the small furnace fired up or he’d ignored it. Every frozen part of her throbbed. She dropped her snow-crusted gloves on the small canvas rug that lay just inside the door but didn’t bother to shake the snow from the wild tangle of her hair. Her jeans were frozen to her legs, but she’d have to pull off her boots to remove them, and she was too cold to do that.

But no matter how miserable she was, she had to get her puppets out of their snow-caked suitcases. She located one of the assorted flashlights her mother always kept near the door. Before school and library budgets were slashed, her puppets had provided a steadier livelihood than her failed acting career or her part-time jobs walking dogs and serving drinks at Coffee, Coffee.

Shaking with cold, she cursed the caretaker, who apparently had no qualms about riding a horse through a storm but couldn’t summon the effort to do his real job. It had to have been Shaw riding the horse. No one else lived at this end of the island during the winter. She unzipped the suitcases and pulled out the five dummies. Leaving them in their protective plastic bags, she stowed them temporarily on the sofa, then, flashlight in hand, stumbled across the frigid wood floor.

The interior of Moonraker Cottage bore no resemblance to anyone’s idea of a traditional New England fishing cottage. Instead her mother’s eccentric stamp was everywhere¾from a creepy bowl of small animal skulls to a silver-gilded Louis XIV chest bearing the words pile driver that Mariah had spray-painted across it in black graffiti. Annie preferred a cozier space, but during Mariah’s glory days, when she’d inspired fashion designers and a generation of young artists, both this cottage and her mother’s Manhattan apartment had been featured in upscale decorating magazines.

Those days had ended years ago when Mariah had fallen out of favor in Manhattan’s increasingly younger artistic circles. Wealthy New Yorkers had begun asking others for help compiling their private art collections, and Mariah had been forced to sell off her valuables to support her lifestyle. By the time she’d gotten sick, everything was gone. Everything except something in this cottage¾something that was supposed to be Annie’s mysterious “legacy.”

“It’s at the cottage. You’ll have… Plenty of money…” Mariah had said those words in the final hours before she’d died, a period in which she’d been barely lucid.

There isn’t any legacy, Leo sneered. Your mother exaggerated everything.

Maybe if Annie had spent more time on the island she’d know whether Mariah had been telling the truth, but she’d hated it here and hadn’t been back since her twenty-second birthday, eleven years ago.

She shone the flashlight around her mother’s bedroom. A life-size mounted photograph of an elaborately carved Italian wooden headboard served as the actual headboard for the double bed. A pair of wall hangings made of boiled wool and what looked like remnants from a hardware store hung next to the closet door. The closet still smelled of her mother’s signature fragrance, a little-known Japanese men’s cologne that had cost a fortune to import. As Annie breathed in the scent, she wished she could feel the grief a daughter should experience following the loss of a parent only five weeks earlier, but she merely felt depleted.

She waited until she’d located Mariah’s old scarlet woolen cloak and a pair of heavy socks before she got rid of her own clothes. After she’d piled every blanket she could find on her mother’s bed, she climbed under the musty sheets, turned out the flashlight, and went to sleep.

***

Annie hadn’t thought she’d ever be warm again, but she was sweating when a coughing fit awakened her sometime around two in the morning. Her ribs felt as if they’d been crushed, her head pounded, and her throat was raw. She also had to pee, another setback in a house with no water. When the coughing finally eased, she struggled out from under the blankets. Wrapped in the scarlet cloak, she turned on the flashlight and, grabbing the wall to support herself, made her way to the bathroom.

She kept the flashlight pointed down so she couldn’t see her reflection in the mirror that hung over the old-fashioned sink. She knew what she’d see. A long, pale face shadowed by illness; a sharply pointed chin; big, hazel eyes; and a runaway mane of light brown hair that kinked and curled wherever it wanted. She had a face children liked, but that most men found quirky instead of seductive. Her hair and face came from her unknown father¾“A married man. He wanted nothing to do with you. Dead now, thank God.” Her shape came from Mariah: tall, thin, with knobby wrists and elbows, big feet, and long-fingered hands.

“To be a successful actress, you need to be either exceptionally beautiful or exceptionally talented,” Mariah had said. “You’re pretty enough, Antoinette, and you’re a talented mimic, but we have to be realistic…”

Your mother wasn’t exactly your cheerleader. Dilly stated the obvious.

I’ll be your cheerleader, Peter proclaimed. I’ll take care of you and love you forever.

Peter’s heroic proclamations usually made Annie smile, but tonight she could think only of the emotional chasm between the men she’d chosen to give her heart to and the fictional heroes she loved.  And the other chasm¾the one between the life she’d imagined for herself and the one she was living.

Despite Mariah’s objections, Annie had gotten her degree in theater arts and spent the next ten years plodding to auditions. She’d done showcases, community theater, and even landed a few character roles in off-off Broadway plays. Too few. Over the past summer, she’d finally faced the truth that Mariah was right. Annie was a better ventriloquist than she’d ever be an actress. Which left her absolutely nowhere.

She found a bottle of ginseng-flavored water that had somehow escaped freezing. It hurt to swallow even a sip. Taking the water with her, she made her way back into the living room. 

Mariah hadn’t been to the cottage since summer, just before her cancer diagnosis, but Annie didn’t see a lot of dust. The caretaker must have done at least part of his job. If only he’d done the rest.

Her dummies lay on the hot pink Victorian sofa. The puppets and her car were all she had left.

Not quite all, Dilly said.

Right. There was the staggering load of debt Annie had no way of repaying, the debt she’d picked up in the last six months of her mother’s life by trying to satisfy Mariah’s every need.

And finally get Mummy’s approval, Leo sneered.

She began removing the puppets’ protective plastic. Each figure was about two and a half feet long, with moveable eyes and mouth and detachable legs. She picked up Peter and slipped her hand under his T-shirt.

“How beautiful you are, my darling Dilly,” he said in his most manly voice. “The woman of my dreams.”

“And you are the best of men.” Dilly sighed. “Brave and fearless.”

“Only in Annie’s imagination,” Scamp said with uncharacteristic rancor. “Otherwise, you’re as useless as her exes.”

“There are only two exes, Scamp,” Dilly admonished her friend. “And you really mustn’t take out your bitterness against men on Peter. I’m sure you don’t mean to, but you’re starting to sound like a bully, and you know how we feel about bullies.”

Annie specialized in issue-oriented puppet shows, several of which focused on bullying. She set Peter down and moved Leo off by himself, where he whispered his sneer inside her head. You’re still afraid of me.

Sometimes it felt as if the puppets had minds of their own.

Pulling the scarlet cloak tighter around her, she wandered to the front bay window. The storm had eased and moonlight shone through the panes. She looked out at the stark winter landscape¾the inky shadows of spruce, the bleak sheet of marsh. Then she lifted her gaze.

Harp House loomed above her in the distance, sitting at the very top of a barren cliff. The murky light of a half moon outlined its angular roofs and dramatic turret. Except for a faint yellow light visible from a room high in the turret, the house was dark. The scene reminded her of the covers on the old paperback gothic novels she could still sometimes find in used bookstores. It didn’t take much imagination for her to envision a barefoot heroine fleeing that ghostly house in nothing more than a filmy negligee, the menacing turret light glowing behind her. Those books were quaint compared to today’s erotically charged vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters, but she’d always loved them. They’d nourished her daydreams.

Above the jagged roofline of Harp House, storm clouds raced across the moon, their journey as wild as the flight of the horse and rider who’d charged across the road. Her skin turned to gooseflesh, not from the cold but from her own imagination. She turned away from the window and glanced over at Leo.

Heavy lidded eyes… Thin-lipped sneer… The perfect villain. She could have avoided so much pain if she hadn’t romanticized those brooding men she’d fallen in love with, imagining them as fantasy heroes instead of realizing one was a cheater and the other a narcissist. Leo, however, was a different story. She’d created him herself out of cloth and yarn. She controlled him.

That’s what you think, he whispered.

She shivered and retreated to the bedroom. But even as she slipped back under the covers, she couldn’t shake off the dark vision of the house on the cliff.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

***

She wasn’t hungry when she awakened the next morning, but she made herself eat a handful of stale granola. The cottage was frigid, the day gloomy, and all she wanted to do was go back to bed. But she couldn’t live in the cottage without heat or running water, and the more she thought about her absent caretaker, the angrier she grew. She dug out the only phone number she had, one for the island’s combination town hall, post office, and library, but although her phone was charged, she couldn’t get a signal. She sank down on the pink velvet couch and dropped her head in her hands. She had to go after Will Shaw herself, and that meant making the climb to Harp House. Back to the place she’d sworn she’d never again go near.

She pulled on as many layers of warm clothes as she could find, then wrapped herself in her mother’s red cloak and knotted an ancient Hermès scarf under her chin. Summoning all her energy and willpower, she set out. The day was as gray as her future, the salt air frigid, and the distance between the cottage and the house at the top of the cliff insurmountable.

I’ll carry you every step of the way, Peter announced.

Scamp blew him a raspberry.

It was low tide, but the icy rocks along the shoreline were too hazardous to walk along at this time of year, so she had to take the longer route around the saltwater marsh. But it wasn’t just the distance that filled her with dread.

Dilly tried to give her courage. It’s been eighteen years since you made the climb to Harp House. The ghosts and goblins are long gone.

Annie pressed the edge of the cloak over her nose and mouth.

Don’t worry, Peter said. I’ll watch out for you.

Peter and Dilly were doing their jobs. They were the ones responsible for untangling Scamp’s scrapes and stepping in when Leo bullied. They were the ones who delivered antidrug messages, reminded kids to eat their vegetables, take care of their teeth, and not let anyone touch their private parts.

But it’ll feel so good, Leo sneered, then snickered.

Sometimes she wished she’d never created him, but he was such a perfect villain. He was the bully, the drug pusher, the junk food king, and the stranger who tried to lure children away from playgrounds.

Come with me, little kiddies, and I’ll give you all the candy you want.

Stop it, Annie, Dilly said. No one in the Harp family ever comes to the island until summer. Only the caretaker lives there.

Leo refused to leave Annie alone. I have Skittles, M&M’s, Twizzlers…and reminders of all your failures. How’s that precious acting career working out?

She hunched into her shoulders. She needed to start meditating or practicing yoga, doing something that would teach her to discipline her mind instead of letting it wander wherever it wanted¾or didn’t want¾to go. So what if her acting dreams hadn’t worked out the way she’d wanted.  Kids loved her puppet shows

Her boots crunched in the show. Dead cattails and hollowed reeds poked their battered heads through the frozen crust of the sleeping marsh. In summer, the marsh teemed with life, but now all was bleak, gray, and as quiet as her hopes.

She stopped to rest once again as she neared the bottom of the freshly plowed gravel drive that led up the cliff to Harp House. If Shaw could plow, he could get her car out. She dragged herself on. Before the pneumonia, she could have charged uphill, but by the time she finally reached the top, her lungs were on fire and she’d started to wheeze. Far below, the cottage looked like a neglected toy left to fend for itself against the pounding sea and rugged Maine cliffs. Dragging more fire into her lungs, she made herself lift her head.

Harp House rose before her, silhouetted against the pewter sky. Rooted in granite, exposed to summer squalls and winter gales, it dared the elements to take it down. The island’s other summer homes had been built on the more protected eastern side of the island, but Harp House scorned the easy way. Instead it grew from the rocky western headlands far above the sea, a shingle-sided, forbidding brown wooden fortress with an unwelcoming turret at one end.

Everything was sharp angles: the peaked roofs, shadowed eaves, and foreboding gables. How she’d loved this Gothic gloom when she’d come to live here the summer her mother had married Elliott Harp. She’d imagined herself clad in a mousy gray dress and clutching a portmanteau¾gently born, but penniless and desperate, forced to take the humble position of governess. Chin up and shoulders back, she’d confront the brutish (but exceptionally handsome) master of the house with so much courage that he would eventually fall hopelessly in love with her. They’d marry, and then she’d redecorate.

It hadn’t taken long before the romantic dreams of a homely fifteen-year-old who read too much and experienced too little had met a harsher reality.

Now, the swimming pool was an eerie, empty maw, and the simple sets of wooden stairs that led to the back and side entrances had been replaced with stone steps guarded by gargoyles.

She passed the stable and followed a roughly shoveled path to the back door. Shaw had better be here instead of galloping off on one of Elliott Harp’s horses. She pressed the bell but couldn’t hear it ring inside. The house was too big. She waited, then rang again, but no one answered. The doormat looked as though it had been recently used to stamp off snow. She rapped hard.

The door creaked open.

She was so cold that she stepped into the mudroom without hesitating. Miscellaneous pieces of outerwear, along with assorted mops and brooms, hung from a set of hooks. She rounded the corner that opened into the main kitchen and stopped.

Everything was different. The kitchen no longer held the walnut cabinets and stainless steel appliances she remembered from eighteen years ago. Instead the place looked as though it had been squeezed back through a time warp to the nineteenth century.

The wall between the kitchen and what had once been a breakfast room was gone, leaving the space twice as large as it had once been. High, horizontal windows let in light, but since the windows were now set at least six feet from the floor, only the tallest person could see through them. Rough plaster covered the top half of the walls, while the bottom was faced with four-inch-square once-white tiles, some chipped at the corners, others cracked with age. The floor was old stone, the fireplace a sooty cavern large enough to roast a wild boar…or a man unwise enough to have been caught poaching on his master’s land.

Instead of kitchen cabinets, rough shelves held stoneware bowls and crocks. Tall, freestanding dark wood cupboards rose on each side of a dull black industrial-size AGA stove. A stone farmhouse sink held a messy stack of dirty dishes. Copper stockpots and saucepans¾not shiny and polished, but dented and worn¾hung above a long, scarred wooden prep table designed to chop off chicken heads, butcher mutton chops, or whip up a syllabub for his lordship’s dinner.

The kitchen had to be a renovation, but what kind of renovation regressed two centuries. And why?

Run! Crumpet shrieked. Something’s very wrong here!

Whenever Crumpet got hysterical, Annie counted on Dilly’s no-nonsense manner to provide perspective, but Dilly remained silent, and not even Scamp could come up with a wisecrack.

“Mr. Shaw?” Annie’s voice lacked its normal powers of projection.

When there was no reply, she moved deeper into the kitchen, leaving wet tracks on the stone floor. But no way was she taking off her boots. If she had to run, she wasn’t doing it in socks. “Will?”

Not a sound.

She passed the pantry, crossed a narrow back hallway, detoured around the dining room, and stepped through the arched entry into the foyer. Only the dimmest gray light penetrated the six square panes above the front door. The heavy mahogany staircase still led to a landing with a murky stained-glass window, but the staircase carpet was now a depressing maroon instead of the multicolored floral from the past. The furniture bore a dusty film, and a cobweb hung in the corner. The walls had been paneled over in heavy, dark wood, and the seascape paintings had been replaced with gloomy oil portraits of prosperous men and women in nineteenth-century dress, none of whom could possibly have been Elliott Harp’s Irish peasant ancestors. All that was missing to make the entryway even more depressing was a suit of armor and a stuffed raven.

She heard footsteps above her and moved closer to the staircase. “Mr. Shaw? It’s Annie Hewitt. The door was open, so I let myself in.” She looked up. “I’m going to need¾” The words died on her tongue.

The master of the house stood at the top of the stairs.

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16. Dash, by Kirby Larson -- heartfelt story about World War II from a kid's point of view (ages 9-12)

Even as a child, I loved the way historical fiction whisked me away to live in another time and place. These novels helped me understand what it might have been like to live through difficult times in history. But they also gave me strength and courage to face my own difficulties. In Dash, by Kirby Larson, Mitsi Kashino and her family are forced to leave their home during World War II simply because they are Japanese American.

Dash
by Kirby Larson
Scholastic, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
*best new book*
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has meant that everything has changed for Mitsi. Her best friends are avoiding her, she's getting mean notes in her desk at school, and everyone is looking at her strangely. At least she has her sweet dog Dash to keep her company. When Mitsi's best friends don't even send her Valentine's Day cards,
"Loneliness wrapped around her like a snake. She never, ever dreamed that her friends would desert her like this. How was she going to make it through the rest of the year? The rest of her life?"
Young readers will be able to empathize with Mitsi, especially with the way she finds comfort in art and in her dog. When her family receives the order to move to Camp Harmony and leave Dash behind, Mitsi is devastated. Larson builds the story carefully, first helping readers connect to Mitsi and then showing them how she felt torn from everything she knew. The story is infused with heart and feeling, but it never gets bogged down. I loved the period details, from the game "Hinky Pinky" or the slang Mitsi and her friends use ("I'm busted flat. Can't help.").

Through all of the loneliness and hardship, Mitsi holds onto her dream of being reunited with Dash. She receives letters from Dash, who is staying with a kind friend Mrs. Bowker, and finds solace in being able to write him back. As the Kirkus starred review states,
"Larson makes this terrible event in American history personal with the story of one girl and her beloved pet...This emotionally satisfying and thought-provoking book will have readers pulling for Mitsi and Dash."
For an in-depth review, head over to Librarian's Quest and her post: "Not Ever Again". I so agree with Margie when she writes, "Our hearts are bound to Mitsi as she struggles to understand, as she develops skills to adjust and survive and writes letters to Dash (Mrs. Bowker) and receives messages in return."  I'm certainly looking forward to sharing this with students and seeing how they relate to Mitsi. If you liked this, you'll also certainly like Duke, also by Kirby Larson. Check out what our students had to say about Duke in last year's Mock Newbery discussions.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Scholastic Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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17. In Chicago Tribune: Books with purpose demand urgent reading

Earlier this summer the impeccable Bill Wolfe invited me to write a short piece for his beautiful blog, "Read her Like an Open Book" that focuses on the work of women writers (their methods, their work). I had been thinking a lot about books that matter and the clicking tock, about the world we're in and the role of writers. And so I wrote a quick piece on the topic that began an interesting conversation out there in the virtual world.

A few weeks later urgency was still on my mind, and my dear friends at Chicago Tribune gave me room to expand on the thesis. This time I included books—both fiction and nonfiction—that have lately impressed me as significant.

That piece runs here today.

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18. Make Rainbow Cookies for Your Next Picnic.

I recently attended my niece Gabby’s 11th birthday party where one of the desserts were some gorgeous sugar cookies she made.  Though dazzling to the eye, the recipe is simple to make and should be a definite crowd pleaser at your next picnic, barbeque or party.

GABBY’S RAINBOW SUGAR COOKIES:              
The cookie’s are simple. Just use your favorite sugar cookie recipe – we even used a box mix. Then:

Divide the dough into 4 even portions and place in four separate bowls.
Choose 4 food coloring colors
Dye the dough to your desired color by adding the food color a few drops at a time to each portion.
Mix the food coloring into the dough (use a spoon to mix unless you wish for stained hands) and add more if you wish for a more vibrant color (remember you can always add more but you can’t take it away so be careful.)
Then take teaspoon-sized portions of the colored dough from each of the four bowls.
Set the four balls tightly next to each other in a 2X2 square configuration.
Then, begin to roll the four balls together pulling gently outward to make a long hotdog shape.
Coil the hot dog shaped dough around itself and bake as directed in the recipe.
Enjoy your creation!  It makes great ice cream sandwiches with a scoop of your favorite flavor ice cream sandwiched between two cookies.
gabby and cookies 2


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19. Wire heraldics


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20. Book Beginnings - 8/29/14


*Please join Rose City Reader every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.  *Taken directly from Rose City Reader's Blog Page.

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Giveaway of Juliet's Nurse


ENTER HERE UNTIL SEPTEMBER 4.

USA ONLY
***************** 
This week's book beginnings is taken from NEVERHOME by Laird Hunt.

 "I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the Republic.  I stepped across the border out of Indiana into Ohio.  Twenty dollars, two salt-pork sandwiches, and I took jerky, biscuits, six old apples, fresh underthings, and a blanket too."

I have only read two pages, and it seems interesting.
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Books finished but can't keep to myself. 

THE WINTER GUEST by Pam Jenoff
 
THE WINTER GUEST is another WWII story beautifully told by Ms. Jenoff.

I love Pam Jenoff's books.  If you haven't read any of her books, you should look into them.  

This book was wonderful as well.  Review in the book's title.

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THE WISHING TIDE by Barbara Davis


Loved, Loved, Loved this book.

Review is in the book's title.

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Another book I loved.

Review is in the book's title. 
 
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What are you reading that you can't keep to yourself?  :)

*****************




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21. not yet!

Trying out new things on vacation!






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22. Review of the Day: Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood

BadByeGoodBye Review of the Day: Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah UnderwoodBad Bye, Good Bye
By Deborah Underwood
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
$16.99
ISBN: 978-0-547-92852-4
Ages 3-7
On shelves now

As a mother who recently spent the better part of twenty hours in a car with a three-year-old and a three-month-old baby, I feel a special kinship with parents who have also engaged in the ultimate endurance sport: travel with children. If you feel no particular sympathy for those engaged in this activity that is because you have not experienced it firsthand yourself. But even when my daughter was projectile vomiting regularly and even when the breast pump tipped to one side spilling milk all over my pants and EVEN WHEN I found myself wedged in the backseat between two car seats trying to change my son’s diaper on my lap while parked, I could still feel grateful because at least it was just a vacation. It wasn’t like we were moving to a new town or anything. Because if I’d had to deal with the abject misery of my three-year-old on top of the vomit/milk/diapers I don’t know how my sanity would have remained intact. And yet, other parents do it all the time. Every day someone somewhere packs up all their worldly possessions, their pets, and their miserable offspring and heads for a whole new life. It’s daunting. You can’t help but admire their guts. And boy, you’d sure like to hand them a book that they could use to show their kids that as scary as a move like that can be, ultimately it’s going to be okay. Enter a book so sparse and spare you’d never believe it capable of the depth of feeling within its pages. Deborah Underwood lends her prodigious talents to Bad Bye, Good Bye while artist Jonathan Bean fills in the gaps. The effect is a book where every syllable is imbued with meaning, yet is as much a beautiful object as it is a useful too.

“Bad day, Bad box” says the book. On the page, a boy wrestles with a moving man for possession of a cardboard box, doomed to be loaded into the nearby moving van. The boy, we see, is in no way happy about this move. He clearly likes his home and his best friend, who has come with her mother to bid him goodbye. On the road he and his little sister pitch seven different kinds of catfits before sinking into a kind of resigned malaise. Time heals all wounds, though, and with the help of a motel swimming pool, diners, and multiple naps, they arrive in their new town in the early evening. As the family and movers pile boxes and other things into the new house, the boy meets another kid who just happens to live next door. Together they collect lightning bugs and star gaze until that “bad bye” at the beginning of the book morphs into a far more comfortable “good bye” when the new friends bid each other goodnight.

This isn’t Underwood’s first time at the rodeo. The art of the restrained use of language is sort of her bread and butter. Anyone who has seen her work her magic in The Quiet Book is aware that she says loads with very little. I sincerely hope someone out there has been bugging her to write an easy book for kids. The talent of synthesizing a story down to its most essential parts is a rare one. In this book there is a total of 57 words (or so). These usually appear in two word pairs and by some extraordinary bit of planning they also rhyme. We begin with all “bads”. It goes “Bad day, Bad box / Bad mop, Bad blocks / Bad truck, Bad guy, Bad wave, Bad bye.” The book then slips into neutral terms as the initial misery wears off. Then, as we near the end the “goods” come out. “Good tree, Good sky / Good friend, Good bye.” Such a nice transition. You could argue that it’s pretty swift considering the depths of misery on display in the early pages, and that’s not too far off, but kids are also pretty resilient. Besides, motel swimming pools do indeed go a long way towards modifying behavior.

Jonathan Bean’s one to watch. Always has been. From the moment he was doing Wendy Orr’s Mokie & Bik books to the nativity animalia title “One Starry Night” to all those other books in his roster, he proved himself a noteworthy artist. Watching his work come out you have the distinct sense that this is the calm before the storm. The last minute before he wins some big award and starts fielding offers from the biggest names in the biz. In this book I wouldn’t necessarily have said the art was by Bean had I not seen his name spelled out on the cover. It’s a slightly different style for him. Not just pencil and watercolors anymore. A style, in fact, that allows him to try and catch a bit of Americana in the story’s pages. When Underwood writes something like “Big hair, White deer” it’s Bean’s prerogative to determine what that means exactly. His solution to that, as well as other sections, is layering. Time and landscapes are layered on top of one another. America, from diners and speed limit signs to windmills and weathervanes, display scenes familiar to traveling families. A great artist gives weight and meaning to the familiar. Jonathan Bean is a great artist.

Now the cover of this book is also well worth noting. I don’t say that about a lot of picture books either. Generally speaking a picture book’s cover advertises the book to the best of its ability but only occasionally warrants close examination. Jonathan Bean, however, isn’t afraid to convey pertinent information through his cover. In fact, if you look at it closely you’ll see that he’s managed to encapsulate the entire story from one flap to another. Begin at the end of the book. Open it up. If you look at the inside back flap the very first thing you’ll see underneath the information about the author and the illustrator is the image of the boy in the story straining against his seatbelt, his face a grimace of pure unadulterated rage. Now follow the jacket to the back cover of the book and you see the boy crying in one shot and then looking miserably back in another. The weather is alternating between a starry night sky and a windy rainy day. Move onto the front cover and the rain is still there but soon it turns to clear skies and the boy’s attitude morphs into something distinctly more pleasant. In fact, by the time you open the book to the front flap he’s lifting his hands in a happy cheer. The attitude adjustment could not be more stark and it was done entirely in the span of a single book jacket. Not the kind of thing everyone would notice, and remarkable for that fact alone.

People are always talking about “the great American novel”, as if that’s an attainable ideal. We don’t ever hear anyone talk about “the great American picture book”. I don’t know that Bad Bye, Good Bye would necessarily fit the bill anyway. This is more the picture book equivalent of On the Road than To Kill a Mockingbird, after all. It’s a road trip book, albeit a safe and familiar one. For children facing the frightening prospect of the unknown (and let’s face it – adults hardly do much better) it’s good to have a book that can offer a bit of comfort. A reassurance that no matter how things change, good can follow bad just as day follows night. They are not alone in this uprooting. Somewhere out there, in another car, with another family, there might be a kid just as miserable as they are and for the exact same reason. And like all humans this knowledge ends up being comforting and necessary. Therefore give all your love to Bad Bye, Good Bye. It has necessary comfort to spare.

On shelves now.

Like This? Then Try:

  • A New Room for William by Sally Grindley
  • Herman’s Letter by Tom Percival
  • The Good-Pie Party by Liz Garton Scanlon
  • Alexander, Who Is Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst
  • Tim’s Big Move by Anke Wagner

Misc: And I interviewed Ms. Underwood about the book here.

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23. Review: Brazen

Brazen by Katherine Longshore. Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA). 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: England. 1533. Fourteen year old Mary Howard is being married to Henry FitzRoy, also 14 but already the Duke of Richmond and Somerset.

Henry FitzRoy (Fitz to his friends) is the only living son of Henry VIII. That he is a bastard means that he can never inherit his father's throne, but he is important and Mary's marriage to him is important. She, now is important.

Only -- not so much. Henry VIII doesn't want the marriage consummated - both from a belief that it's not healthy for the young teens, as well as knowing that such a marriage can easily be annulled if necessary.

If the king's new bride, Anne Boleyn, delivers the longed for legitimate son, Fitz's role remains the same. But if not.... well, what if Fitz was made legitimate?

What is it that the young and noble do with their time? Mary and Fitz and their friends form a circle of teens whose time is dedicated to sports, and flirtations, and poetry and song and dance. The most important dance being, of course, keeping the King happy.

The Good: I loved the first of Longshore's books set in the court of Harry VIII, Gilt. Gilt, set in 1539, is the story of Henry VIII's wife Catherine Howard, told from the point of view of one of the queen's friends. I didn't read the next book, Tarnish, about Anne Boleyn coming to Henry VIII's court for a very simple reason.

Anne Boleyn breaks my heart. Every time. And I didn't know if I could read about her, young and hopeful. So I avoided Tarnish.

Longshore fooled me, though! When I heard about Brazen, I didn't think about years. I thought, oh, an interesting look at the young Tudor court. And since Reign is one of my current favorite TV series (all about the young Mary Queen of Scots) and because I loved Gilt, I said yes.

I'm glad I did. Even though Anne turns up, a new mother, with all her future yet to come falling apart. Because I loved Brazen. I loved young Mary, wanting to have fun but also knowing the seriousness of her situation, the need to successfully navigate the Tudor Court. And I loved reading this Anne, an Anne who is smart and strong and fights as best she can, having done her own dance of destiny -- and who, despite her best efforts, has it all crashing down on her. Because Henry VIII is a man who is ruined by the power he has; and Anne does not give him a son quickly enough to satisfy him. I love how despite the danger and risks, Anne insists on her own autonomy and personhood.

Early on, Mary overhears an argument between Anne and the King. He tells her, "You should be content with what I've done for you. And remember I made you what you are." She responds, "I am myself! I am Anne Boleyn. You have not made me!"  And he says, "I can make you nothing." And this is where I knew Longshore got Anne, her "I am myself," her belief in herself.

I loved Brazen so much that I'm willing to have Gilt rip out my heart.

But now, back to Mary. I love the friendship she shares with Madge Shelton and Margaret Douglass. I love how Brazen shows the importance at that time of family, titles, money, and access to the king. Or rather, the danger.

Brazen captures the always-moving court and what that means to the members, to never stay in one place, to have their lives be spent in the rooms that are not their own, with rank and location determining where one sleeps for those weeks or months. Each section is titled by where the court is currently: Hampton Court Palace, 26 November 1533; Greenwich, December 1533; Greenwich Palace, 1534; Whitehall, 1534; Hatfield Palace, 1534. And that only brings us to page 72!

Brazen is also about being young. And wanting to be in love. And being in love. And not wanting to repeat the mistakes of parents. And it's also about words: Mary and her friends like songs and poetry, and one way they communicate with each other is by a shared book (based on the Devonshire Manuscript).

And yes.... it's a Favorite Book Read in 2014.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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24. A back-to-school reading list of classic literature

With carefree summer winding to a close, we’ve pulled together some reading recommendations to put you in a studious mood. Check out these Oxford World’s Classics suggestions to get ready for another season of books and papers. Even if you’re no longer a student, there’s something on this list for every literary enthusiast.

Timon of Athens

If you liked Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, you should read Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare. Like Miller’s Willy Loman, Timon does not enjoy an especially happy life, although from the outside it seems as though he should. Timon once had a good thing going, but creates his own misery after lavishing his considerable wealth on friends. He eventually grows to despise humanity and the play follows his slow demise.

If you liked Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, you should read The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois. Many argue that each of these texts should be required reading in all American schools. The Souls of Black Folk sheds light on a dark and shameful chapter of history, and of the achievements, triumphs, and continued struggles of African Americans against various obstacles in post-slavery society.

The IliadIf you liked Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, you should read The Iliad by Homer. Written 2,700 years ago, The Iliad may just be the original anti-war novel, paving the way for books like Slaughterhouse-Five. Illustrating in poetic form the brutality of war and the many types of conflict that often lead to it, the periodic glimpses of peace and beauty that punctuate the story only serve to bathe the painful realities of battle in an even starker light.

If you liked The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, you should read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. This 19th century Victorian novel explores the survival of good, utilizing England’s workhouse system and an orphaned boy as vehicles to navigate its themes. Dickens was considered the most talented among his contemporaries at employing suspense and violence as literary motifs. The result was a classic work of literature that continues to be a favorite for many.

The Scarlet LetterIf you liked The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood you should read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If strong female protagonists are your thing you will probably enjoy Hester Prynne, who endures public scorn after bearing a child out of wedlock, and faces a punishment of wearing a red “A” to designate her offense. Despite the severe sentence, Hester maintains her faith and personal dignity, all while continuing to support herself and her baby—not an easy feat in a 17th century puritan community.

If you liked One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you should read The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. A colorful and eclectic assortment of characters make the best of a long and arduous pilgrimage by entertaining each other with tall tales of every genre from comedy to romance to adventure. If you enjoy certain aspects of Garcia Marquez’s writing, namely the fantasy elements and large cast of characters in One Hundred Years, you will probably appreciate those same characteristics in this novel, which was written 600 years ago and is still admired today.

My AntoniaIf you liked The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, you should read My Antonia by Willa Cather. A similar tale of survival in a harsh new land, My Antonia provides the context for a romance between two mufti-dimensional characters. Cather offers readers a glimpse into settler life in the nascent stages of American history, with vivid landscape descriptions and universal themes of companionship and family as added bonuses.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/08/daniel-deronda-book-design/#sthash.BydtPSF1.dpuf
For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/08/daniel-deronda-book-design/#sthash.BydtPSF1.dpuf

If you liked One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, you should read The Trial by Franz Kafka. Psychological thrillers don’t get much better than The Trial, a book that incorporates various themes including guilt, responsibility, and power. Josef K. awakens one morning to find himself under arrest for a crime that is never explained to him (or to the reader). As he stands trial, Josef gradually crumbles under the psychological pressure and begins to doubt his own morality and innocence, showing how Kafka used ambiguity brilliantly as a device to create suspense.

Featured image: Timeless books by Lin Kristensen. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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25. Unwind by Neal Shusterman, 352 pp, RL: TEEN

Unwind is the first book in the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman. Unwind was published in 2007, fourteen years after the thought provoking, conversation starting Newbery winner, The Giver and one year before the book that made "dystopian" a household word, The Hunger Games. I was a bookseller when The Hunger Games was published and my fellow booksellers and I avidly passed around the

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