Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Books Week Challenge Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

First, let me tell you that in one school district, and no I don't remember which one because I read through all of the ones posted on the ALA website and couldn't remember or find it when I needed it (should have taken notes!)  banned not only all of the published books from this series but any future publications.  So they are banning books that they don't even know the content of from their shelves.  Can we say First Amendment rights, anyone?

Okay, first I'll tell you what I didn't like about this book. LISSA.  Could she have been anymore pathetic and weak?  Every time they said her name I thought of a limp lifeless runway model.  I didn't know why the author didn't just have Rose carry her everywhere.  Okay, she did lose her family in a horrible car crash and almost lost Rose.  That was awful, but it was also well over two years ago.  Seek therapy if you're still that lifeless.  She is so obviously depressed and Rose should know that through their connection.  Now I did like the fact that she didn't jump right back into the politics and phoniness of the royals.  So I'll give her some points for that.  But it just seemed like she was always depressed and worried or anxious and because of the connection between her and Rose, it got to Rose, too.

Now Rose, on the otherhand was truly a strong female protagonist.  She took her punishment like a man.  She was snarky and bold.  She held her head up even when everyone was laughing at her and whispering behind her back and she took her job as Lissa's guardian seriously.  She listened in through her connection to her moods and was a huge help to her when she was down.  She saved her life on more than one occasion and she put her party hard and play hard life behind her for the sake of keeping her best friend safe.

The story begins with Lissa feeding off of Rose.  Apparently this is a big no-no in the Dhampir/Moroi society.
They have been absent from the school for two years, on the run for some reason we don't know until much later in the book.  Rose looks out the window while Lissa is in the kitchen fixing food for her when she sees a man obviously watching her and she knows this is it.  The school has found them.  Why are they so important?  Lissa is a Moroi princess, the last in her bloodline.  Rose is too weak after having her blood taken to run fast enough to get away, so they are caught.  Back at school they never reveal the real reason they ran and the princess is not punished because Rose, as her guardian should never have let her run and should have brought her back.

The mental/emotional/ psyhic connection they have between each other is unexplainable and only known by a few people.  Even less people know the powers that Lissa has.  Slowly the girls are accepted back into the fold and then Mia, who seems to hate Lissa for an unknown reason, destroys Rose, even makes the stalwart Rose cry.  And Lissa's plan to get her back is to slowly get back into the royals good graces and control the rumors about Rose.  In the meantime, Rose is enduring solitary confinement in her room and harsh training sessions with the gorgeous Dimitri.

Tensions build slowly until Lissa and Rose have a fight and are no longing speaking to each other.  Rose is miserable and Lissa appears to be as well.  Rose has been doing research on St.Vladimir, the saint that the academy is named after.  She was actually listening to the priest when he mentioned the saint and "the shadow kissed Anna" who went everywhere with him and helped him stay sane as he healed the sick.  They had the same type of bond that Lissa and Rose have and she tried to figure out what Shadow Kissed means.  Then a frightening vision brings Rose to Dimitri and the head of the Academy to save Lissa.
The story line was a little slow for me in parts and of course the ending left lots of loose threads because this is a series.  It was tidy, but the conniving little Mia is still out there gathering information on Lissa from somewhere, privy to secrets she shouldn't have.  And anyone could go Stigori at any time, even Lissa. 
I'm not dying to read the next book, but I probably will just to see if Lissa gets a steel rod implanted in her back so she doesn't have to have Rose hold her up all the time.

Definitely for older teens as there is some sexual content in it.  I'm assuming that's why the whole series was banned.  I'm sure what happened in the book is tame to some of what's happening in that school district.  But, again, if the kids want to read it, they'll get their hands on it one way or another.  Banning it only makes it more tantalizing.

Heather in Sandwich

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week Challenge SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. (Summary from Good Reads)

Move over Tyger, Tyger.  Sorry Kersten Hamilton.  I have just found the best book I've read this year.  I wouldn't have normally read this book.  It took me out of my comfort zone and hit a little too close to home.  I wonder how many female bloggers have read this book and written that.  How many of us, male or female know someone that has been raped, sexually abused, forced into sex with a boyfriend or husband.  But this novel isn't about me or my experience.  It's about the experience of a thirteen year old girl who gets drunk at a party one night and finds herself losing her virginity to a senior boy she doesn't know.  After he's done he just walks away and leaves her there and she calls the police.  Someone takes the phone from her and realize she's called the police and they scatter.  She crawls home.  She is unable to tell anyone about what happened.

She has two parents who are so wrapped up in themselves that they only see the surface of Melinda, that her grades are dropping from solid B's to failing, she doesn't talk, no friends.  They think she is rebelling and punish her by grounding her.  In a word they are STUPID!  I can relate to this as well.  When my depression first hit,  I stopped eating, went to bed at 8:00 and started drinking.  My parents never noticed that I cried all the time.  My father would yell at me because I didn't eat when previously he was disappointed because I was overweight.  Melinda seemed to be eating more.  She exhibited classic signs of depression, but her parents were so sure she was just doing it for attention.  I wanted to shake them and yell at them and say, "She's not talking.  At all!  Why don't you ask her if everything is okay???  Take her to a therapist obviously not all is well."  But no rescue on the parental front.  And no friends.

Her friends desert her because of what she did at the party, even her best friend.  And the only friend she can find is a new girl that doesn't know her reputation.  They are friends in a way.  Throughout the whole novel, Melinda answers people through her mind, but she cannot speak to them.  At one point, she feels like her throat is closed up and she'll never speak again.  "IT" as she calls the boy who raped her, torments her just by being around.  He taunts her by whispering things in her ear, standing close behind her, and then he starts dating her friend, her ex best friend.  She tried to warn her anonymously in a letter she sends to her house, but her friend doesn't listen.  She writes his name on the wall in the bathroom under the heading "Boys to Stay Away From".  A few days later, a friend from art class who has forgiven her brings her back into the bathroom to show her all the other comments under his name.  Melinda feels vindicated when she reads them.  Apparently he has treated other girls the same way.

All through the novel, Melinda has been working on an art project, trying to draw a tree.  She hasn't been able to get it right the whole year.  She's been skipping classes and spending time in the janitor's closet she's cozied up for herself and she's hung up a picture of Maya Angelou over an old mirror.  She usually sleeps in there then writes a late pass for herself to get out of class.  It's only toward the end of the year that she begins to feel like she can start to Speak.  She starts with saying "No" to decorating for the prom to the girl that was friends with her then dumped her so she could be with the "Marthas".  She says no to an oral report on the suffragettes.  Her friend, David speaks up for her, but tells her she should have spoken because that's what the suffragettes did.  Things finally come to a point when "It" catches her alone after school cleaning out her janitor's closet.  He closes them in and locks it.  And she learns to speak.  She yells and screams and he tried to stop her but it's too late, people are there outside the door.  She has broken the mirror behind the Maya Angelou poster and is holding a shard against Andy Evans throat.  She unlocks the door and the whole girls Lacrosse team is there.  One  of them runs to get help.  We assume he is brought to justice, but don't hear what happens.

It is the last day of school and Melinda's tree still isn't done.  She is finally able to make it, feels her soul and puts it on paper.  Mr. Freeman the art teacher gives her an A+.  She is crying and he comforts her with a joke and hands her a box of tissues.  "You've been through a lot, haven't you?"  he says to her.  After a few more sentences about how the ice in her throat melts and the words float up she says, "Let me tell you about it."

This is the most moving story I've ever read.  I think ever kid that goes through tenth grade should read it maybe even earlier.  It should be required reading.  It's disturbing that in the back of the book Ms. Anderson is asked "Have any readers ever asked questions that shocked you?"  and her answer is" it's from guys that liked the book but are confused by why Melinda was so upset about being raped."  She says they are not taught "the impact that sexual assault has on a woman."  And that parents don't want the subject of rape to be discussed in a book for teenagers but that according to the Department of Justice, 44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18 and 46 percent of those victims are between the ages of 12-15.  And that's the ones that are being reported.  Many of us never speak up because of shame, guilt or fear.  Melinda was brave and strong, it just took a long time for her to find her voice.

Mr. Scroggins, who complained that this books was "soft porn" has obviously never read this book.  The rape scene is so fast that you hardly know it happened and there is nothing graphic about it.  And that's it.  I can't see what he's complaining about.  I've seen t.v. commercials that are much worse.  Many t.v. shows shown during Prime Time are much worse.  Thank God for books!  I can't imagine why anyone would want to ban this book.  It will always be timely because of the subject matter. 

I know I did a complete review of the book, but I couldn't get the book from my library, there are three copies in our system .  I reviewed it for anyone that can't get a copy or doesn't want to read it.  It is definitely a simplified version with so much left out.  It is such a well written book and we hear most of the story from inside Melinda's head.  She is numb almost the whole school year.  If your child is going off to college, pack this book for them to read.  It's so important for our kids to know that they have to tell.  I wish there was a simplified version of this for elementary school kids.  I know parents would shriek,  but it might help a little girl who is being abused by her father and doesn't know that it is wrong.  Or doesn't know who to tell.  Or is afraid.  I don't mean to be on my soapbox, but it could happen to your son or daughter, grandchild, niece, nephew, mother, sister anyone, particularly females.

Heather stepping off her soapbox in Sandwich

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Floodgates by Mary Anna Evans

Centuries of tragedy shadow New Orleans—wars, slavery, and a monumental flood that killed a thousand people and still threatens to wash all that history away.Faye Longchamp and her team of archaeologists, fighting to save New Orleans’ past, are horrified when they discover a corpse that’s far too new to be an archaeological find. The police presume it’s just another dead body in the long, sad sequence of dead bodies left by Hurricane Katrina, until Faye shows them a truth that only an archaeologist could see: the debris piled on top of the dead woman is all wrong. Someone brought Shelly Broussard to this flooded-out house and left her dead body behind. Presumably, that someone was her killer.Faye and her assistant Joe Wolf Mantooth are drawn into the investigation by a detective who believes their professional expertise is critical to the case. They quickly learn that trouble swirled around the victim like winds around the still, quiet eye of a hurricane. Is Shelly’s heroic rescue work in the aftermath of Katrina the key to her death? Or does the sheaf of photos in her work files hold the answer? Will Faye and Joe be the next innocents engulfed in this deadly deception?(Image and summary from Good Reads)

Faye Longchamp is working on a historical site that may or may not be the site of a former plantation next to a National Park, a battlefield in New Orleans that sits next to the Mississippi River.  The story takes place post Katrina and the effects of Katrina on the residents can still be seen in their eyes, in their loss, and in their stories they have to share.  One of the park rangers, a young man, agrees to take Faye to the ninth ward where so much damage was done and people are still living in their FEMA trailers two years later.  Faye can't believe the complete devastation and that it is taking so long for insurance companies to declare these places condemned so they can start fresh.  They encounter a church youth group trying to clear a house out of debris until they discover a body.  When the police come, Faye has already used her scientific reasoning to decide it was murder and not drowning.  The body was weighted down with dumbbells so it wouldn't float.
The police detective hires her as a consultant and they work together along with Joe who shows up a few days later after he gets a school break to help out.

During this time Joe and Faye along with one of Faye's co -workers,Nina almost drown in the Mississippi.  Nina has to be hospitalized so she takes the time to do some "consulting" this time with Joe.  But he is so fascinated with the way water flows away from the water and he and a writer are seemingly always discussing the early days of New Orleans and the sewage systems.  In the meantime, the body has been identified as a fellow archaeologist that Nina  knew well.  She finds another archaeological team working another site and gets some insight into Shelly, the dead body.  She had a good eye for spotting things no one else would see in aerial view photos and could pick out tiny details.  And she worked for the company that Nina's boyfriend works for and after Katrina, they were all in the same place doing what they could to send rescuers to places where the aerial photos showed survivors.  Shelly's parents didn't survive, rescuers didn't get to them in time.  But, then Shelly survived Katrina, but died a few days later.  Faye is sure the two are connected.

It's hard to have an archaeological dig in New Orleans.  First off, it's below sea level, so pumps are used to keep water out of the dig sites.  Then, pounded by several hurricanes and floods, sediment washes over the layers of dirt making it difficult to determine if the piece of pottery found is from some one's collection broken during Katrina and settled into the earth and washed over with sediment or if it belonged to the plantation site below it.  I'm simplifying things as I am not an archaeologist, but you can imagine the trouble I'm trying to describe.

And then there is the personal relationship between Joe and Faye.  They are engaged, but Joe is nine years younger than Faye and she feels the difference is a problem.  None of the men in her family have ever stuck around, whether they left or were killed.  She's throwing road blocks up to getting married and tells Joe Christmas, this novel is taking place in April.  We get a rare insight into Joe's point of view and he says basically, "Hell no.  I don't care how I have to convince her, but we aren't waiting that long."  Faye has to come to terms to the fact that Joe loves her.  His head doesn't turn at the women that look at him, it goes deeper than her skin.  They almost think like a team and she learns that in this novel.  It turns out nicely.
Again, no sex, not even a kiss, just part of the story.

The story has a great ending best last line ever!  A must read if you enjoy this series!

Another great mystery for anyone interested in the history of New Orleans, Katrina, early drainage systems in New Orleans, a good mystery and archaeology.

Remember, I started the series with the last book called Strangers.  I posted that review July 6th of 2010 if anyone wants to read it.  In that one, Faye is pregnant with their first child.  I have no idea if that is their only child or not.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Banned Books Week Challenge ttyl by Lauren Myracle

Audacious author Lauren Myracle accomplishes something of a literary miracle in her second young-adult novel, ttyl (Internet instant messaging shorthand for "talk to you later"), as she crafts an epistolary novel entirely out of IM transcripts between three high-school girls.

Far from being precious, the format proves perfect for accurately capturing the sweet histrionics and intimate intricacies of teenage girls. Grownups (and even teenage boys) might feel as if they've intercepted a raw feed from Girl Secret Headquarters, as the book's three protagonists--identified by their screen names "SnowAngel," "zoegirl," and "mad maddie"--tough their way through a rough-and-tumble time in high school. Conversations range from the predictable (clothes, the delicate high-school popularity ecosystem, boys, boys in French class, boys in Old Navy commercials, etc.) to the the jarringly explicit (the girls discuss female ejaculation: "some girls really do, tho. i read it in our bodies, ourselves") and the unintentionally hilarious (Maddie's IM reduction of the Christian poem "Footprints"--"oh, no, my son. no, no, no. i was carrying u, don't u c?").

But Myracle's triumph in ttyl comes in leveraging the language-stretching idiom of e-mail, text messaging, and IM. Reaching to express themselves, the girls communicate almost as much through punctuation and syntactical quirks as with words: "SnowAngel: 'cuz--drumroll, please--ROB TYLER is in my french class!!! *breathes deeply, with hand to throbbing bosom* on friday we have to do "une dialogue" together. i get to ask for a bite of his hot dog.'"

Myracle already proved her command of teenage girl-ness with Kissing Kate, but the self-imposed convention of ttyl allows a subtlety that is even more brilliant. Parents might like reading the book just to quantify how out of touch they are, but teens will love the winning, satisfyingly dramatic tale of this tumultuous trio. (Ages 13 to 17) --Paul Hughes(Taken from Good Reads)

My review contains slight spoilers*towards the very end.

I thought it would be hard to read this book because it would be written in text language, but it was simple.  I saw the objectionable parts, but in actuality they were learning opportunities.  The story begins with an overly happy Snow Angel dispersing daisies to both Mad Maddie and Zoe Girl.  I don't think a more unlikely trio could be found than these three.  Snow Angel/Angela is all about clothes, makeup and boys.  She is vivacious and eternally happy.  Mad Maddie/Madigan is no nonsense tough and tomboy all the way.  She dresses tough and nobody messes with her. And Zoe Girl/Zoey is reserved, perfect, quiet, the voice of reason and a blend in the crowd kind of dresser.  In any case, they've all 3 been BFFs since seventh grade.

The beginning of tenth grade is a beginning of changes for all of them.  Angela falls fast and hard for a  boy she dates for a week and then stalks him when he decides he likes another girl.  It shakes her confidence and she can't seem to let go of him.  Her friends are ready to pick up the pieces when she's crushed, but they aren't ready for how she reacts and don't listen to their advice telling her it's over.

Maddie becomes friends with the teen queen Jana who she couldn't stand just days earlier and starts ditching her friends for Jana.  Angela cannot understand and Zoey tried so keep the peace between the two.  Maddie continually defends her friendship with Jana and she and Angela grow further and further apart.  In the meantime though, Maddie is telling Zoey things she tells her not to tell Angela and telling Angela things not to tell Zoey.

And then there is Zoey and Mr. H.  He's invited her to Young Life on Friday mornings which she attends and enjoys.  He picks her up at her house and takes her to the meetings.  Then he asks her to church.  She attends and enjoys it.  And then it's bingo at his mother's nursing home.  All the time she's convincing herself that it's all innocent while Angela is telling her it isn't and Maddie is just making fun of the religious part of it.  Zoey isn't sure what it is.

Then Halloween night, something happens to Maddie that changes everything and tests their friendship to its boundaries.  Will it survive and will they be there for each other when another one of the trio needs their support and rescue?

As far as banning the book, the worst of it was mentioned in the summary.  The other scenarios showed what can happen when you drink alcohol and the other cautions about student/teacher relationships.  I think Lauren Myracle handled both very well and the characters she chose to deal with those were the right ones.  It was a great book and I can't wait to read the others.  I definitely think this is for the 14 and up crowd but it's very timely especially with how readily available alcohol is to kids these days and more and more teacher/student relationships are being reported, whether consensual or not.  Myracle shows the manipulation that can happen and how all of a sudden you're stuck or trapped into a situation you can't believe you're in. 

Heather in Sandwich

Monday, September 20, 2010

Findings by Mary Anna Evans

Faye Longchamp is overjoyed to be back home, being paid to do archaeological work she would have done anyway--excavating a site once owned by her own family. That joy ends abruptly when intruders break into a dear friend’s palatial house and leave him dead among the scattered remains of Faye’s artifacts. None of the valuable artworks lining the walls of his home are taken. The open wall safe is untouched. Choice artifacts are left in their cases. There seems to be no motive at all for the vicious crime…unless the thieves were aware of the fabulous emerald he had been holding minutes before his death. But how could they have known? Faye had only uncovered it that very evening, and she had told no one.When his widow asks Faye to organize the relics left broken on the floor by the intruders, Faye realizes that there actually is something missing—not an emerald nor a valuable painting, but simply her own field notes. Faye’s professional curiosity leads her to seek the story behind the mysterious emerald, and her grief drives her to find out how her fieldwork was connected to her friend’s death. As she delves into these secrets, she comes to realize that the key to all her questions must be buried in the field notes now held by the killers…and those notes are written in her handwriting and signed with her initials on each page. The intruders have shown that they are more than willing to kill for that information. It is only a matter of time before they come for Faye. (Summary from Good Reads.)

Whew!  Where to begin on this one.  A lot happens in Findings.  We still see Ross Donnelly, the lawyer from the previous book that Faye was seeing.  He comes to Florida, after a tragedy strikes to help her through this rough time.  But Faye isn't really one to lie down and cry about things.  When another murder happens and the victim dies in her arms she has to do something.  This victim, Wally from the first book, leaves her a note in her pocket and a message in her ear just before he dies.  She finally figures the clue out and she and Joe go on a treasure hunt in the library of rare books at the university and on her own island.  They have to piece together a book of old handwritten letters and match the dates with Faye's great-great-great Grandmother Cally's letters about the plantation and the visitors to find out about the rare emerald Faye found and if their was any more to the story that the visitor that came left any more jewels or gold behind.

During this time, Ross tries to convince Faye that she isn't safe and she needs someone smarter than Joe to look after her.  And after a few more accidents, Joe comes to that conclusion as well.   Ross tries to force Faye's hand telling her she can live in Atlanta and they can visit Joyeuse on the weekends, but the University doesn't even have an archaeology department.  When she asks, "But what about Joe?"  she realizes, she could give up Joyeuse if she had to, but not Joe.  And she tells Ross to stop telling her what to do.  Needless to say he's gone the next day.   She and Joe are careful in their investigations but they get outsmarted and are left to fend for themselves together against a double threat.  And Faye realizes the one thing she can't lose has nothing to do with her plantation house, but she may just lose it before she ever had it.  The ending, the final sentence leaves you hanging but you know anyway without the words being said.

Mary Anna Evans says in the back of the book that she realized that the whole book was a love story and it was.  Several love stories in one, from the past and present.  This has been my absolute favorite and as far as cover love goes, this one is much better than the last two were.  A definite step up!

So, who should read this book?  Everybody!  It's a love story, but not gushy at all.  It's got archaeology, history, Civil War, a lot of facts and things I never thought about or was taught when we learned about the Civil War,  mystery and suspense it covers just about every genre.  A teen could definitely read this.

Also, the author has started including questions and answers in the back and it gives a lot of insight into how she prepared for the book and how it just wrote itself.  Plus she gives her references.  I'm off to read the next one, Floodgates now.  Review to follow.

Heather in Sandwich

Friday, September 17, 2010

Banned Books Week Challenge Picture Book Walter the Farting Dog

Walter the Farting Dog by, William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray
                                        Illustrated by Audrey Colman

Objections to Walter the Farting Dog is that it mentions the word fart 24 times.  I could only find it 20 times, but hey maybe I missed it on the four times I went through it.

The dedication has an oval shaped grey and white dog with bright blue eyes behind bars, Walter at the pound, looking so pitiful.  It reads  "For everyone who's ever felt misjudged or misunderstood."  And those sad blue puppy dog eyes look out at you begging you to read the book.  Now who could resist that?  I guess the person that counted how many times the word fart or some version of it was used and that includes the front flap and title page.

Well, obviously Walter has a gas problem.  I understand.  I live with three human males and two male dogs.  They all fart.  I've been known to do it, too.  It's like the book Everybody Poops.  I didn't see that on the banned books list.  Wonder why that's acceptable?  I digress.  Walter has a problem to the extreme.  They try different food, take him to the vet, give him a bath, everything to make him smell better.  But nothing helps his gaseous problem.  He farts a lot and the odor is terrible.  Betty and Billy love him anyway but Daddy insists he has to go back to the pound.  Walter, depressed eats a 25lb bag of fart free biscuits which made him have to fart even more, but determined not to fart, he holds the gas in despite the excruciating pain.  And that's how the burglars find Walter and tie his snout up so he can't bite or bark.  He saves the day in a much more unconventional way.

One thing my kids noticed about this book, besides laughing at the word fart, was there was a hidden spider on each two spread page.  They had more fun looking for that than the word fart.  After we read it a few times, the novelty of the word fart wore off and all the subsequent books weren't purchased because of the Fart aspect so much as because they loved the character.  We even have a stuffed animal that is supposed to make a noise that sound like a fart, but it sounds more like a raspberry. 

I don't know who the word police are they came up with what is a bad word and what isn't so  I don't know if fart is a bad word.  In my house growing up, it was.  At a boyfriend's house it was a word they used to tease each other with.  To some children they may hear it so often it isn't even funny.  To others it may be like hearing one of the biggies (it is a picture book).  So in my opinion, a parent can choose to read it or not, but it's a cute book and whether kids get the lesson or not, it's really fun to say fart so many times and see kids giggle so much.  Say underwear and see if you don't get the same reaction.

Who is this for?  Any group who has someone different in their group that doesn't fit in.  I'd say that means just about all of us.

Heather in Sandwich

BBAW What the Future Holds for Me

It has been a great week getting to know bloggers I've never heard of before.  If they don't join the hop, it's hard to find them.  My favorite part of the week was the Interview Swap.  My Interview was with
Candace at Beth Fish Reads.  My interview is probably already in my archive but it is worth reading if you haven't read it.  She also has an article on Audiobooks which is excellent at the BBAW blog, here.
Also you can find a listing of the other Interview Swaps and you'll find some interesting blogs.  Candace also interviewed me if you want to know a little more about me.

The second part of today's BBAW Treasure is what are my goals for the coming year.  Keep on blogging for one.  I hope to learn how to be a lot less verbose and more succinct without giving away too much of the story.  I'd like to up my following to 500, a lofty goal, but "reach for the moon you might land among the stars."  I'd like to be able to stick to one meme and follow through with it other than the hop.  And I'd like to post on a novel at least 3 times a week.  In the meantime, I might might might, share some of my writing.  On another blog.  It won't be fancy and it will be old writing as well as new.  But it'll be like dipping my toe in the water.  I've never shared my writing, creative writing, and I'll be putting it out there for you all to honestly say, "That stinks" or "interesting" or whatever you want to say as long as you don't attack me personally.  That's just an idea.  We'll see what comes of it.

I think Book Blogger Appreciation Week is a great thing to do.  I'm told it's always the third week in September so look for it next year.  And check the links out for the Interview Swaps.  I found one very poignant memory of  9-11 that no one has viewed at Greg McConnell's blog called Behind the Curtain.  Also you have to check out Dead White Guys an irreverant but hillarious site.  And I found a GATOR on  the Blogosphere at The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia and we have a lot in common besides attending the best school in the South.  It has been so much fun and I'll continue to visit the websites.  Thanks to everyone for sharing themselves with us!

Heather in Sandwich

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBAW New Treasure

Tyger Tyger: A Goblin Wars BookToday for Book Blogger Appreciation Week we are supposed to talk about a book we read that was out of our genre or that perhaps another blogger talked us into reading that we may not have read.  I know the book I'm going to choose but no one really talked me into it.  I'd seen it around the blogs and being  promoted on blogs just as an upcoming book.  No reviews or anything just an upcoming book.  So I asked for a copy of the ARC from Net Galley.  I  received the e-book and put it on the back burner for awhile, then felt obligated to review it since I had requested it.  The book was tyger, tyger by Kersten Hamilton.  It was one of the best books I've read this year!  It was a book  about Zombies of all things, but of all things they were described as beautiful.  And the Irish folklore included was wonderful.  I loved every part of the book.  I thought it was flawless though some people would disagree with that.   I just couldn't believe I'd read a book about Zombies and loved it so much.  So, I recommend to everyone to read tyger, tyger.  I've read it, but I'll have to have the hard copy.  And it is a series, so there is more to come! I can't wait.  The link to my review is here.

                                     Heather in Sandwich

Effigies by Mary Anna Evans

Archaeologist Faye Longchamp and her friend, Joe Wolf Mantooth, have traveled to Neshoba County, Mississippi, to help excavate a site near Nanih Waiya, the sacred mound where tradition says the Choctaw nation was born. When farmer Carroll Calhoun refuses their request to investigate an ancient Native American mound, Faye and her colleagues are disappointed, but his next action breaks their hearts: he tries to bulldoze the huge relic to the ground.

Faye and Joe rush to protect history--with their bodies, if necessary. Soon the Choctaws arrive to defend the mound and the farmer's white and black neighbors come to defend his property rights. Though a popular young sheriff is able to defuse the situation, tempers are short.

That night, Calhoun is found dead, his throat sliced with a handmade stone blade. Was he killed by an archaeologist, angered by his wanton destruction of history? Neshoba County farmers have been plowing up stone tools like the murder weapon for centuries. Did one of them take this chance to even the score with an old rival?

The sheriff is well-aware that Faye and Joe were near the spot where Calhoun's body was found and their combined knowledge of stone tools is impressive. They had motive, means, and opportunity....but so does almost everyone in Neshoba County. (Summary from Good Reads)

Tempers are hot in Mississippi as an archaeological team planning to dig on one of the archaeologists own land spots a Native American Mound and can't resist the urge to poke around in it.  When the owner of the land, Mr. Calhoun, spots them not only does he threaten to bulldoze the mound, but the people protecting it themselves.  Faye of course, is determined to get a look at the mound legally,  or illegally, and one night as she and Joe are investigating it, someone, presumably Calhoun races at them with a bulldozer with enough power to plow down trees.  Joe with his uncanny ability to traverse through nature leads Faye to safety only to find a pot farm in the middle of a clearing in the woods and someone chasing them, again presumably, Calhoun.  But then they find Calhoun dead at the site of the pot farm and everyone is confused including the small town sheriff.

Throw in a senator come back to seek justice for the near death beating he took when he was eighteen in the same county who keeps passing out, then seems to be fine in the hospital and relapses every two days out of the hospital.  Add an unwilling widow to let the excavation of the mound occur and an Atlanta lobbyist after Faye's heart and there is a tangled mess to sort out.  Again, without realizing it, Faye is caught in the middle, figuring things out slowly, pointing the finger first one way then another until a harrowing conclusion finds her, Joe and another archaeologist in a fight against nature for their lives.  The downfall of the murderer is anticlimactic after what Faye has been through the previous night.  And when Ross, the lawyer/ lobbyist dating Faye sees her with Joe he realizes he has some competition whether she knows it or not.

In this book, Faye appreciates Joe more.  She still treats him a little like a child, but only because of his trusting nature.  She trusts his instincts with nature completely.  She notices him more.  He changes from his homemade buckskin pants to jeans and a plaid shirt and she notices, but she likes him better in his old stuff.  Yet she still thinks, "Wow" when she sees him.  Joe is also smart enough to know the things she likes about him and he plays on those things.  Their relationship is definitely growing closer, but she is dating Ross who shows up in the next book. 

Effigies was very intense in the final confrontation with the killer.  I knew Faye would live, but I wasn't sure about the archaeologist with them.  It was dramatic and I could feel their fears and panic.  I had to stop reading at times, but I can't tell you why because it would give details away which would spoil it.  This would be a great book for anyone who loves archaeology, history, books about Mississippi, mysteries and Native American folk lore as one of the characters tells some of the stories of the Choctaw Native Americans.  This is an unforgettable novel.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW Interview With Beth Fish at Beth Fish Reads

As part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, today I am interviewing a
book blogger and she is interviewing me.  I came up with some questions
after exploring her site and the interview is below.

Today, I am interviewing Candace at Beth Fish Reads book blogging site.
 I had a great time getting  to know Candace through her blog site and emails.
 As well as exploring her site, I found some new sites to explore by looking
 at some of the sites she follows.  Candace focuses on reviewing mainly Penn-
 sylvania authors.  She's also an excellent photographer as you'll see at her
 blog and has some yummy recipes.  I really enjoyed interviewing her.  I hope
 you'll enjoy her blog.

1.Why don't you have the google friend connect like a lot of bloggers do?

I don't have a Google friend connect because I don't like the way the widget looks on my blog. Don't get me wrong, it looks great on other people's blogs, but my sidebars are cluttered enough as it is, and that's one item I've learned to live without. People can still follow me through Google by clicking on "follow me" in the navigation bar at the top of my blog.

2. How do you find PA writers?

Sometimes they find me! But I have made requests on Twitter, searched online, and used my library's reference desk to find Pennsylvania authors. I also get a lot of recommendations from friends. Another way I find PA authors is by reading the author biographies that are found in most books and on publishers' websites.

3. You are in a lot of challenges. How do you find the time?

Hee. I don't actually challenge myself all that much. I make sure every challenge allows a great deal of overlap in terms of books. I love it when a single book counts for three or four challenges. Oh, and I refuse to stress over challenges. I finish them or not. There are no challenge police.Challenges are a way to have some fun reading, to stretch yourself a bit, to meet other bloggers, and to support your friends.

4. Which is your favorite genre?

I don't have one. I read a lot of literary fiction, biography, cozy mysteries, and fantasy/paranormal, But I also love historical fiction, history, and dystopian. Oh yeah, and there is food writing! I can't pick just one.

5. Today, right now, what is your favorite book

I don't know! I can never answer this question because as soon as I name a book, I think of some other favorite book. Last week finished and reviewed Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay and loved it.Currently, I'm reading Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman and I really like it too (so far).I'm listening to Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time Part I. This is a reread for me -- I read all four books in print when I was in graduate school. The audios were released just this summer and I love having the chance to revisit the books in this medium.

6. Today, right now, who is your favorite author?

I don't have one. For food writing, I love M. F. K. Fisher. Other than that, I usually answer this question by saying whoever I'm reading right this second.

7. When do you read, at night, at lunch hour, when you get home from work?

I mostly read for pleasure in the evenings after work and for at least part of the weekend. Because I work from home and read all day as part of my work, I don't read for pleasure during the day. It'd be too confusing. I do quite a bit of reading through audio books. That way I can read while doing (non-noisy) housework, when cooking, when gardening, and when I take my daily walk.

8. How has blogging changed your life?

I've made some great friends through blogging. And my life got very much busier. It has been fun to connect to the reader side of the book business and to be more social during the day. I've enjoyed interacting with authors as a reader instead of as an editor, and I love attending book festivals and trade show and hooking up with my blogging buddies.

9.Which do you prefer photography (your pictures are beautiful) or critiquing books?

Thanks! I love playing with my camera and have it with me almost all the time, but I could happily live without it. I don't think I could live without books. So if I had to choose, it'd be critiquing books. But you're not planning on taking away my camera, are you? Phew!  (No! I'd never take your camera away.  Your pictures are too beautiful.  Just take a picture of an old beaten up run down door for me and let me know when you show it.  I'm into rustic doors.)

10. Do you watch t.v. or listen to music while you blog?

No. I cannot write or read or work with background noise. So if I'm writing blog posts or reading other blogs, the house is usually silent or I am in a room without the TV.

Thanks so much for hosting me, Heather. It's been great fun to get to know you.

And it's been a lot of fun, more than I thought it could be over a computer through emails, getting to know you!  Thanks for the interview!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Bloggers Appreciation Week First Blog I Discovered

Monday—First Treasure

We invite you to share with us about a great new book blog you’ve discovered since BBAW last year! If you are new to BBAW or book blogging, share with us the very first book blog you discovered. Tell us why this blog rocks your socks off and why you keep going back for more.

So, being new to blogging this year I'll tell you about the first blog I found.  I don't even know how I found it.  I might have typed in Book Bloggers or Book Blogging in Google by saved in my favorites first is   Addicted 2 Novels .  Now I didn't know about following or email subscriptions so I saved it in my favorites to go back to it from time to time to see what was going on.  I learned about new books and started following on more and more.  I never commented.  What would I have to say about books.  I thought Book Bloggers were second only to authors.  It was a special club.  Now I've taken the plunge and realized today, I never joined  Addicted 2 Novels.  It's still in my favorites.  So I joined today and am now a follower of the first blog I ever read !  Thanks Lena!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Relics by Mary Anna Evans

Faye Longchamp, back in school to pursue her dream of becoming an archaeologist, has been asked to run a project for which she is barely qualified, under the direction of a man who doesn't seem to like her much. Her assignment: to uncover the origins of a mysterious ethnic group. The Sujosa have lived in Alabama's most remote hills for centuries and have shown impressive immunity to many diseases...including AIDS. Late one night, Faye awakes to find the house in flames. She saves herself and one of her housemates. But her friend Carmen, the project historian, never had a chance. Then within days, an 18-year-old boy jumps from a cell phone tower that, when completed, would connect the outside world to the Sujosa community.... Mary Anna Evans has degrees in physics and chemical engineering, but writing about archaeologist Faye Longchamp lets her indulge her passion for history, archaeology, science, and architecture. Relics is second in this award-winning series, after Artifacts, and followed by Effigies and Findings. (Summary From Good Reads)

Faye Longchamp and her friend Joe are in Alabama on an assignment with Faye as the leader of the archaeological team to learn more about the elusive Sujosa Native Americans.  From the start things aren't going well as an effigy falls on her car out of a tree on her drive to the Sujosa community.  It's just a joke, but Faye isn't laughing.  Then she discovers they renowned archaeology professor who has been there for the last month has had three lazy men digging in a forty year old trash heap, not an archaeological mound like she had expected.  She has to be careful not to step on toes because he's the leader of this government funded project so she can't ask him if he's and idiot for digging at that site.  She has to go along with it for a week and then find a new site which she'd already picked out after careful study of maps and discussions with her archaeology friend, Magda, who's on maternity leave or would be  there with her.

She also finds that the Sujosa don't want them there.  She goes out with an oral historian and finds that no one wants to talk to them.  Doors slammed in faces, abusive men, vicious dogs after them, and then a house fired kills one of them.  The house fire is suspicious to Faye because it was caused by a heater that she knows wasn't in the room and more strange, the worker's aluminum is missing completely and Faye knows it was there at bedtime.

Faye is threatened when she fires her workers for being lazy basically, but one comes back hat in hand an is apologetic and gets his job back and begins to help Joe.  We aren't privy to how Joe knows how to do the work the right way only guessing that Faye taught him when he helped her potherd in the previous book.  And while Faye finds an interesting doctor to take her to a high school football game and show some interest in her, Joe finds out why he is unable to read from a tutor sent to help the students on the same project and he falls in love.  And Faye finds herself realizing she's underestimated Joe's intelligence, I'd have to call it street smart or perceptions and observations.  She's constantly looking down on his intelligence, thinking he's barely at borderline normal.  He always seems smart to me.  He's definitely always there at the right time for her.  But I feel like Faye looks down her nose at him a little.  And it can't be racial discrimination because Faye herself is a mixture of Native American, African American and Caucasian, probably the same mix as Joe just in different amounts.  I think its her way of keeping him at a distance because she always thinks of him as handsome and she'll look up at him and think "mmm-hmm" or yummy just not in those words.

Another tragedy strikes the Sujosa community and this time it's one of their own, a promising young boy who was destined to go to school on academic scholarship and marry his sweetheart rescuing her from a  lifetime of taking care of her dying mother.  The hatred of the  "outsiders" ratchets up several notches after his death.
Faye finds roadblocks to her digging projects until she discovers a property dispute may save the day.
But it may also cost her her life and that of her friend.

Of course we know she doesn't die because the series would end, but it's very close this time and what has to be done to bring a very unlikely killer down is against the rescuer's principles.  And when things couldn't get worse for him, they do.

Surrounding all of this is the mystery of where the Sujosa originated.  They have a remarkable ability to not contract AIDS even when exposed to it and the whole attention turned to them because of that fact.  But only a few of the purest blooded Sujosa have this immunity those with an almost turquoise colored eye color. and and unusual lack of pigmentation in one section  of their otherwise dark hair.  And through her research, Faye discovers something else going on in the Sujosa community that could be cause for murder. And several members of the community are in on it?  Are they the ones that killed Carmen and helped the boy fall to his death or is it about something else?  As always I'm following along with Faye's train of thought because she's so logical and I think.  Yep, it's gotta be that person.  You nailed it.  Then I realize there are way to many pages left for us to be right.  So always expect a twist that you never say coming.  NEVER! 

I had a good time reading this one though I got bogged down a little in the archaeology parts.  And I wanted to be an archaeologist.  I think it's because I've read three of these in a row for the last three nights.  I'd recommend this to any history buff, archaeology lover, mystery lover, folklore lover or just a good fiction lover.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Banned Books Week Challenge


In the spirit of celebrating our right to read whatever we choose and to publish what other might consider "wrong" I am joining the Banned Books Week Challenge to bring awareness to the ludicrousness (and I'm not talking about the rapper) of some requests made to ban books.  As a child I was never restricted from reading anything.  I don't know if my parents didn't care or if they thought I had the sense enough to read material appropriate for my age.  Certainly the librarians never said anything to me.

I recall in the Bible Belt where I lived at the time that people wanted to banish the Harry Potter books from the schools and libraries.  These books were flying off the bookstore shelves like Harry on his Nimbus 2000.  Kids were buying  books!  And people wanted to stop it.  Where's the sense in that?  Are they not smart enough to know that children know there are no such things as magic and witch craft and flying brooms and magic wands.  It's why the books are found in the FICTION section of the bookstore and library.  But perhaps these same people didn't go into the bookstore or even open the book.  Maybe they don't care if their child has a love of reading.  But I guarantee you, their kids were borrowing those books and reading them.  It makes them more enticing if they think they aren't supposed to read them.  I know, "Are you there God, It's me Margaret was talked about in whispered tones among the girls in my circle because somebody's mom didn't want us to read it.  You can bet the one girl that owned it loaned it to all of us!

And they thing about censorship is why is someone else allowed to tell me what I can and can't read.  What's best for me?  There is enough governmental control already.  I don't need five people who call themselves concerned citizens deciding what my children should read.  That's my job and right as a parent.  And I don't want them removing my access to these books at the library so that I cannot read them.  That's an infringement of my rights and I don't really understand how any book gets banned based on that.

That's my rant for now.  My children will be reading at least one of the books on the list if they haven't already, if their schoolwork allows for it.

If you'd like to join please visit Steph Su Reads and look for her post on Banned Books Week on the right hand side of her page.  Also the lovely banner at the top and on the right hand side of my site is courtesy of
Donna at Bites and it was at her site that I first found out about Banned Books Week.

Heather in Sandwich

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

Evie has to be one of the most likeable characters in the weird world of paranormals that I've ever met.  She is funny even if she thinks she isn't, especially with the comments she makes to herself in her head.  She's smart, smarter than the people she works for who trust faeries to work for them.  She used to be in love with one, but now she knows he's trying to use her for something.  Something not good.  But no one will listen.  She's lived most of her life in the cold sterile environment of the IPAC where she goes out and tags and bags paranormals because she has an unusual talent of being able to see through the glamour of paranormals to their true selves.  She's able to identify the bad guys.
Then something she's never seen enters IPAC.  Actually, he breaks in.  And she captures him.  With her pink bedazzled taser she named Tasey.  And that's when life turns upside down for her.  He tells her more about the thing killing paranormals and about life outside IPAC.  She gets excited about lockers and driver's license.  It all seems so unreal to her.  Paranormals seem normal to her.  Then her world is turned upside down and she gets to experience all these things for the first time.  She can't go back to IPAC, she doesn't have a family, so where can she go?  And all the things she's learning about IPAC, the bad things they do, true?  What did she really know about them?  Can she trust her knew friends and will she bring the thing that's killing paranormals to her doorstep?
I read this in one night.  It was so engrossing.  It started off light and easy and progressively got more complex, with trying to figure out who this thing was that was killing paranormals was and what the prophecy was trying to say.  Reth the faery that kept touching her and filling her with fire was increasingly scary showing once again that faeries aren't to be trusted.  Their is no sense of trust at IPAC.  Evie is only given information on a need to know basis.  And she always wants to know more.  The story is told from her point of view and she really does have a great sense of humor which lightens tough situations.  She grows from just accepting her life to wanting more, wanting school and a family and a boyfriend, a locker and a driver's license.  She wants to be a normal teen.  I think there will be a sequel.  The writing was seamless and all the characters where easy to understand.  I loved Evie and Lend. (I know I didn't mention him.  Read the book).  I don't trust IPAC or Raquel.  But we'll see.  I hope Evie gets to have a normal life.
I definitely recommend this book for any middle schooler on up.  Swear words are 'bleep" and there is no sex.  Such a great book by a first time author!  I just loved it!
Heather in Sandwich

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

I have read so many mixed reviews about this book that I didn't know what I was getting myself into.  But somewhere on someone's blog there was a link to read the first few chapters of the book and I was hooked.  I had read complaints that Haven was stupid for this and that and for believing this and that.  She was seventeen.  I was stupid at seventeen too.  I believed it when a boy said he loved me and he didn't.  I believed people that said they were my friends when they were just using me for a ride.  We are naive at that age and given her sheltered life in Snope City Tennessee?  Can you be any more sheltered?

I didn't fault Haven for any of the mistakes she made.  I'd have made the same ones.  When she didn't trust what she was being told by someone she thought she could trust it made perfect sense for her to do what she did.  When she went to the Ouroboros Society, it made sense that she trust some and not others.  That she was confused all the time.  That she misinterpreted things.  She didn't remember the past.  Only when she had those past life dreams that left her in a dead faint.  And they even misled her. 

I think as a mystery/romance this was a great book.  It had lots of twists and turns and kept me guessing right up to the very end.  I had no idea who she could trust except for her friend Beau.  I hated her Grandmother and hoped she'd drop dead of a heart attack or something but I guess she represents prejudice or something.  Beau was a great friend and Leah was an interesting character as well.  The romance between Haven and Ethan was just enough to make it believable but not over the top gushy.  It's probably the fastest I've ever read a book.  It was cut up into small simple chapters and the writing was simple and flowed easily into the next chapter.

I have discovered that YA books read quicker and simpler than adult books.  I'm reading a mystery series and it takes me a lot longer to read those books than the YA books.  And it isn't because I'm not interested.  I'm very interested and am trying to find time all day to get back to my book, but the story is more complex, the characters more complex and the wording.  I just never noticed until I started reading this series. 

In any case, I loved The Eternal Ones and I'm glad I didn't listen to the bad reviews.  I know we can't all like the same things.  We all have different tastes.  But it was an interesting idea and I was never confused about who was who.  Just confused about who to trust, just like Haven was.  I loved the suspense  and finding out who the villain was.  I can't wait for the next book.



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