Ode to Childhood: Poetry to Celebrate the Child edited by Samuel Carr

Source: Sterling Children’s Books
Hardcover, 96 pages
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Ode to Childhood: Poetry to Celebrate the Child by Samuel Carr is a collection of poems from a variety of poets about children, parenthood, and their own childhoods, and no collection about children would be complete without William Blake, who has four poems included.  Blake is a poet that spoke about the innocence of childhood in a great many poems, which can be found in his Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.  His childlike lines and voice evoke the childlike quality readers will immediately reference in their own experiences, but his poems also speak of a duality in childhood between desire and the more enlightened search for knowledge.  He demonstrates that children learn from the reactions and action of others in “Infant Sorrow,” learning that smiles get reactions that wailing did not.

Longfellow image

Reprinted with permission from Ode to Childhood © 2014 Batsford, distributed by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by TFL from the London Transport Museum collection.

While each poem in the collection is about children or childhood, they are by turns nostalgic for a childhood lost, a celebration of innocence and play, and a homage to the joys that children bring to parents, others, and themselves.  Many of these poems are from classic poets and could be harder to comprehend upon first reading because of the difference in modern language, but the gist of the poems can be easily discerned from the overall atmosphere in the poems.

From “The Schoolboy” by William Blake (page 76)

I love to rise in a summer morn
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the sky-lark sings with me.
O! what sweet company.

But to go to school in a summer morn,
O! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

The rhymes and rhythms of these poems could be read aloud almost like lullabies, but there are deeper meanings and stories that are told.  Coupled with the vibrant drawings that pop when readers turn the page, nostalgia for a by-gone era can take over –  remember scampering through those hills, playing follow-the-leader, or just chasing other kids around.  Ode to Childhood: Poetry to Celebrate the Child by Samuel Carr is not just a celebration of childhood or innocence, but a celebration of life.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WIN ODE TO CHILDHOOD edited by Samuel Carr, tell me a childhood memory in the comments. You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter. Giveaway ends April 15, 2014, at 11:59 PM EST

Book 8 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.

Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad, illustrated by Benny Andrews

Source: Sterling Children’s Books
Hardcover, 48 pages
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Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad, illustrated by Benny Andrews for ages 8+, is a collection of poems that won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 2007.  Hughes’ poems grew from a love of Whitman and a desire to express the joys of Black culture through verse and in an unapologetic way — and many of his poems are steeped in the urban experience from New York’s Harlem to Washington, D.C.  where is poem “Big Buddy” has become an anthem for the Split This Rock Poetry Festival.

Hughes’ introduction is long, and well it should be given his influence and his numerous works, but there is enough in here to conduct an entire lesson on about American culture in the 1920s and beyond.  Like in the other books of this series, there are accompanying illustrations and explanations of what the poet thought or where the inspiration came from, and more importantly, dialects, unusual terms, and geographic locations are explained in the footnotes at the bottom of the page.

From “I, Too” (page 22)

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

The beauty of Hughes’ poems is the ways in which he illustrates not only the beauty of his people, but that of America with his people in it.  Infusing poems with a musicality of jazz or blues evokes an even greater emotional response when read aloud.  Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad, illustrated by Benny Andrews, is poignant, fun, and full of history.  Poems that are less about the darker side of life and more about the joys that we find within it.

Also in the series:

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WIN POETRY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE PRIZE PACK, name a favorite poet or poem in the comments. You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter. Giveaway ends April 15, 2014, at 11:59 PM EST

Book 7 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.



For today’s 2014 National Poetry Month: Reach for the Horizon tour stop, click the image below:

Going Over by Beth Kephart

You must start with the toe-tapping video for Going Over by Beth Kephart. The music, the quotes from respected authors, the story summarized in the most eye-catching video about 1980s Berlin, at the height of punk rock and in a city fiercely divided arbitrarily by a literal wall and its politics, with Germans caught in the middle.

Source: Chronicle Books
Hardcover, 264 pages
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Going Over by Beth Kephart, which reaches stores in April, examines the division of a country and how it effects its people who are separated from their loved ones by a wall and barbed wire. Ada Piekarz, a professor of escapes and a graffiti artist, and her mother, Mutti, and grandmother, Omi, live in Kreuzberg, West Berlin, while Omi’s sister Grossmutter and Stefan live in Friedrichshain, East Berlin. Ada and her family can cross into East Berlin for visits occasionally, but the distance in time and space is too far for love to grow uninterrupted between Ada and Stefan, though it does remain strong in absence. Amidst this love story between Ada and Stefan is the love of a family, Omi and Grossmutter, who hold onto their pasts tightly, even the painful events when the Soviets and then the Stasi came.

“Omi is hiding. The shelter is dark, but Omi will be found, and her mother, and her best friend, Katja, too, who can trade cigarettes for flour, a used pair of boots for a wool jacket, a tulip bulb for a bird in a cage, and who will grow up and be old, who will become Stefan’s Grossmutter.” (page 111 ARC)

Kephart balances the points of view of Stefan and Ada beautifully, and the tension is built page after page as Ada says she can no longer wait for Stefan to decide whether to escape to West Berlin or not. Stefan is unsure if he should leave his grandmother who has lost so much, but he’s also feeling the guilt that comes with leaving her and being part of the reason she has already lost so much. Grossmutter is a woman who was talented and strong, but with the erection of a wall and the loss of her family, she’s become frail — at least on the outside — but she still has the power to surprise even her grandson.

Ada fronts strength, but even she has her limits as a punk painter of walls. She loves Stefan so much that it hurts, but she also loves the kids she cares for at the daycare where she works, including Savas. Savas’ story is here to remind us that Germans were not the only ones harmed by the wall and the separation of the country, but so too were the Turks who were called in to fulfill jobs that remained vacant. His family lives in the Turkish section of Germany, run by its own rules and rarely subject to German authority. It is this separation that leads to tragedy. Kephart demonstrates that differences make us stronger, that love can bind us together, and improve our lives despite the obstacles.

Kephart’s Going Over is stunning, and like the punk rock of the 80s, it strives to stir the pot, make readers think, and evoke togetherness, love, and even heartbreak — there are lessons in each.

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of 10 books, including the National Book Award finalist A Slant of Sun; the Book Sense pick Ghosts in the Garden; the autobiography of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, Flow; the acclaimed business fable Zenobia; and the critically acclaimed novels for young adults, Undercover and House of Dance. A third YA novel, Nothing but Ghosts, published in June 2009. And a fourth young adult novel, The Heart Is Not a Size, released in March 2010. “The Longest Distance,” a short story, appears in the May 2009 HarperTeen anthology, No Such Thing as the Real World.

Kephart is a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize, among other honors. Kephart’s essays are frequently anthologized, she has judged numerous competitions, and she has taught workshops at many institutions, to all ages. In the fall of 2009, Kephart will teach the advanced nonfiction workshop at the University of Pennsylvania.

Click here for the discussion questions for Going Over.

Also, a free sampler for Kindle.

5th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; this is set in Germany.



11th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.




To win 1 copy of Going Over by Beth Kephart, leave a comment about your favorite 80s band!

You must have a U.S. or Canadian address to enter. Leave your comment by April 5, 2014, 11:59 PM EST

A Year With Six Sisters’ Stuff: 52 Menu Plans, Recipes, and Ideas to Bring Families Together

Source: Shadow Mountain
Paperback, 242 pages
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A Year With Six Sisters’ Stuff: 52 Menu Plans, Recipes, and Ideas to Bring Families Together is a selection of 52 menus with recipes for main meals, desserts, appetizers, salads, and side dishes.  These menu plans can make the busy family life a little bit easier when you have a plan for every evening meal of the year, thanks to these ladies.  Each menu plan includes the ingredients, the steps for creating the meals, and pictures of the final product — and these pictures will make your mouth water.  Although there are some recipes you’ll have to modify if you have allergies — which is easy enough with some ingenuity — for the most part these recipes will allow you to use what ingredients you have on hand or in the cupboards.  For those who like to plan ahead, they can map out a week’s worth of meals and shop accordingly.

For instance, in menu 45 — Parmesan Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms, Spinach Lasagna Rolls, and Garlic Breadsticks — I used the ingredients I had in the house to make the lasagna rolls, but not the other elements in the menu plan.  Making the stuffing for the rolls was as easy as mixing the cheese ingredients with egg and chopped spinach, but rather than use traditional lasagna noodles, I used my no-boil lasagna noodles.  Here’s the crazy part — I boiled them, but just long enough to make them pliable for rolling purposes — and that took less time that it would have if I used normal lasagna noodles, though these no boil noodles are shorter.  The recipe does make exactly 9 rolls and if you run out of sauce from a jar, you can always do what I did and used diced Italian-seasoned tomatoes from a can.  Here’s a picture of what they looked like before they went in the oven for 40 minutes:

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

And I can tell you, my husband is not a big spinach eater, but he gobbled these right up.  My next attempt at using the cookbook was for my daughter’s belated birthday bash with Anna and her family.  We used Menu # 27, which included Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese, and Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies.   Everything from this seemed to go over really well, though the cookies came out very cake-y and Anna and I prefer more crunchy cookies.  Also, my daughter selected her own dessert — rather than birthday cake — from a Menu # 48, Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Parfaits, which were really easy to make.

The chicken nuggets took the longest to make because of all the steps with cutting the chicken breast and preparing the breading, but you could cut out some steps by purchasing Kabob-ready chicken pieces.  The slow cooker mac-and-cheese took the next longest amount of time, and we wondered if cooking the pasta beforehand was necessary, but we did shorten the timing in the cooker because 2 hours seemed way too long.  The parfaits were easy to do once you made the box pudding and the brownies — all that was left was assembling them in dishes.  We also took from Menu # 1, the strawberry lemonade slush, which just needs lemonade from frozen concentrate, frozen strawberries, water, and some lemon-lime soda.  Check out the rest of the photos.


After a big day at the house with friends, I hopped back into the cookbook to make something for breakfast that I’ve never made before — Egg Souffle from Menu #26. if you’re like me and get freaked out by large words like Souffle…this cookbook is for you. It made this so easy. After preparing the souffle and cooking it in the oven, I made bacon to go with it, rather than the French toast and strawberry sunrise drink — that will be for another day. Delicious, light, and moist.

A Year With Six Sisters’ Stuff: 52 Menu Plans, Recipes, and Ideas to Bring Families Together is not just a menu planning helper or cookbook, there are fun activities for the family to do together — like having a night where you shop for anything for dinner and end up with a smorgasbord of everyone’s favorites from cookies to bananas and pizza. Everyone at my house loved the food and it was something we’d definitely try again, and I cannot wait to try out more of these recipes.

About the Authors:

The Six Sisters—Camille, Kristen, Elyse, Stephanie, Lauren, and Kendra—grew up in Utah, but a few of them have lived in other parts of the country since moving out of the house. Between them there are five nieces and three nephews, and all of the sisters love playing “aunt.” The sisters started the blog in February 2011 to keep in touch while they were apart, but it has since gained popularity, garnering more than 9 million viewers per month and more than 307,000 followers on Pinterest. Check out their Facebook page.

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The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland

Source: Berkley/NAL, Penguin Group USA
Paperback, 416 pages
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The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland, the second book in the Renegades of the Revolution series, set during the Revolutionary War uncovers the double-dealing spying that occurred on both sides of the war, as well as the privateering that local businessmen resorted to when the British cut the colonies off from trade and banned them from trading with other countries, while levying extraordinary taxes.  Sarah Ward finds her ship, the Sally, boarded by the British crew of the Wasp, and she has little recourse but to dress as a boy to protect her younger brother Ned from being pressed into military service.  Despite being loyalists, she takes the only action she can in expelling the threat and taking the Wasp’s Captain James Sparhawk prisoner.

“Boston’s North Shore had been the haunt of pirates for a hundred years, almost every inlet and harbor a supposed hiding place for their loot.  Blackbeard’s silver was rumored to be buried somewhere in the Isles of Shoals; the hoard of Quelch in a cave at Marblehead; that of Veal in the Lynn Woods.  The American Main was the stuff of pirate legend.” (page 201)

Readers will be captivated by the headstrong and stubborn Sarah Ward as she navigates the town of Salem, which considers her the jilted lover of Micah Wild, a savvy businessman looking out for himself, and her loyalties to her family.  Her father, a pardoned pirate, is captive in his own body, while Mr. Cheap is a loyal shipman who is protective of the family and its interests.  Enter Sparhawk and his reputation as a rake, who is charmed beyond reason by Sarah.  He cannot think straight around her, and against his better principles and naval code, agrees to follow along in her scheme to keep her safe from Wild’s wrath regarding the demolished Sally and the lost French gold.

Thorland’s series is detailed in its history, is trussed up in mystery and romance, and unfolds like a spy thriller as all of the characters become embroiled with one another’s affairs.  These are the kinds of Revolutionary War books readers will love because they are rich in history and imagination.  The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland is a captivating book that will have readers up late at night rushing through the pages to finish.  The midnight candles will be burning with this sexy read.

Thorland answered a few questions for the blog tour today:

Q: Sarah and James have such intense chemistry. Is that easy to write? How do you make two characters seem so attracted to each other?

A: I’m interested in love stories where two people meet who have the potential to become true partners in life, and who will challenge one another to become their best selves. That begins with the ability of the hero and heroine to see through the masks they’re both wearing. And I think that’s where chemistry comes from—the process of the hero and heroine stripping each other down to their essential selves. Seeing and accepting each other, as Rainer Maria Rilke put, “whole against the sky.”

Q: What is your favorite thing about writing historical romance?

A: There’s so much to love in this category. But let’s boil it down to its essentials: my favorite thing is going on an adventure with a heroine—a heroine who will be rewarded with love at the end of the story.

About the Author:

Graduating from Yale with a degree in Classics and Art History, Donna Thorland managed architecture and interpretation at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem for several years. She then earned an MFA in film production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She has been a Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellow and a WGA Writer’s Access Project Honoree, and has written for the TV shows Cupid and Tron: Uprising. The director of several award-winning short films, her most recent project aired on WNET Channel 13. Her fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Donna is married with one cat and splits her time between Salem and Los Angeles.

Check out my other reviews for this series:

The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

7th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





ENTER TO WIN — The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland

U.S. addresses only.  Leave a comment by March 17, 2014, at 11:59 PM EST

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

Source: Random House and TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 256 pages
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The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith is a fresh short-story collection that spans the Vietnamese culture, myths, and the immigrant experience, straddling reality and the magical.  The Vietnam War hovers in the background of the characters’ lives as the mothers struggle to garner U.S. visas for themselves and their children born of American soldiers in “Guests” or in “Boat Story,” where a grandson asks his grandmother to explain her escape from Vietnam during the war.  Kupersmith’s style is clear and engaging, and the myths and magical moments are told in a storytelling style that is reminiscent of the oral traditions in Vietnamese culture.

“Whatever spirit had reanimated the corpse must have been a feeble one, for the body moved clumsily, legs stiff but head dangling loose as it struggled to keep its balance on the angry waves.  Grandpa sank down to his knees next to me, and we peered over the gunwale in helpless horror as the body tottered closer and closer.” (Page 8 ARC)

From ghosts in the Frangipani Hotel to the spirits in the woods, Kupersmith weaves in magic and myth seamlessly with reality. Her characters are oddities and not; they are rational but also open-minded about the unseen.  From the twin girls who border on feral to the young man who finds a ghost in the hotel, her characters are both real and unreal — they have a mystical quality.  The prose is witty, with a few moments that will leave readers chuckling.  At other times, the stories tackle serious issues like immigration and the soldiers who leave women behind with babies when the war is over, though with a sense of irony that never feels misplaced.

She can lull readers into a sense of complacency before her prose unsettles their world, and the mark of a great storyteller is one that can shift from male and female points of view with ease and who can create stories that will stay with readers long after they’ve been read.  The stories in The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith shift in setting and time, but the roots do not change, merely grow and curl as the tales unfold.

***U.S. residents can enter to win 1 copy of Violet Kupersmith’s The Frangipani Hotel by leaving a comment by March 10, 2014, 11:59 PM EST.***

About the Author:

Violet Kupersmith was born in rural Pennsylvania in 1989 and grew up outside of Philadelphia. Her father is American and her mother is a former boat refugee from Vietnam. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College she received a yearlong Fulbright Fellowship to teach and research in the Mekong Delta. She is currently at work on her first novel.

7th book (Vietnam War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.



6th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





10th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Source: TLC Book Tours and Random House
Hardcover, 352 pages
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A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith is set in the 1930s when the United States was sending the mothers of soldiers overseas to France to the cemeteries where their children had been buried after WWI.  Smith bases her novel on the diary of Colonel Thomas Hammond, who began his career in the military with one of the pilgrimages of the Gold Star Mothers, and he appears as a young principled officer seeking to live up to his family’s illustrious military history.  As these mothers make their journey across the Atlantic to pay respect to their lost sons, Hammond is unaware how much the journey will affect him and these women.  Smith builds the story from a small island town in Maine where Cora Blake struggles alongside her neighbors to make ends meet as the United States wallows in Depression to the deepest emotional hum a human being can experience at a foreign graveside in a country that is still rebuilding after war.

“He was in grave number 72, identified by his dog tags, which were apparently nailed to a stake.  The second card asked that she state her relationship to the deceased and answer yes or no to the question: ‘Do you desire that the remains be brought to the United States?’” (page 15 ARC)

Cora Blake is a young widow, who also has lost her son to a war in Europe, but she’s just beginning to breathe and learn that there could be happiness around the corner with Linwood Moody, a recently widowed soil scientist.  Mrs. McConnell is an Irish-American who knows the struggle of working for the wealthier classes, while Minnie is a Russian-Jewish immigrant who has seen discrimination first hand.  Mrs. Russell is a woman who has been struggling with mental breakdowns for much of her married life, but is determined to see where her son died.  Just as determined as Mrs. Russell, railroad-heir Mrs. Olsen is seeking some form of closure from this trip.  Smith shines in her characterization of these mothers, showing how they are bonded over grief, but also that class distinction and experience can still separate them.  It’s a novel about the struggles for equality that still threatened to separate every American — immigrant or not — but how the great tragedy of war made no such distinctions when taking their sons.

“Cora’s world had expanded so rapidly, but not from the vista.  She remembered what Selma told her in the women’s waiting room in Boston.  ‘You got a lot to learn.’” (page 89)

Smith’s research into the time period, the Gold Star Mother’s tours, and the war itself — including the artillery and tactics used — shines through in the story, the plot, the characters, and the emotional roller coaster these women find themselves on.  Once in France, these women are swept along with military precision, but even the military is not prepared for the will of a mother’s love and her defiance against being told what will placate them the easiest.  They are here for the full experience, they want the truth of their sons’ sacrifices and will accept nothing less.  Along the way, they are treated to the best France has to offer, the eccentricities of Paris artists, the bigotry of Europeans who see Americans as arrogant, and the mysterious ways in which injured soldiers and American reporters, like Griffin Reed, cope.

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith is stunning without being overwrought with emotion, weaving the lives of these women and their children into reader’s minds and souls.  In reflective prose, Smith deftly handles the grief of these women, the tension between grief and duty, and the peace that comes from knowing their loved ones are at rest.  From the cutting edge of facial reconstruction to the remnants of war that could still be found in the weeds of Verdun, Smith has crafted a novel that breathes life into history, ensuring that we never forget the past.

To win a copy of this book, you must be a U.S. resident, age 18 and over.  Leave a comment below by Feb. 14, 2014, at 11:59PM EST.  

4th book (WWI) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.




7th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.




4th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; this is set in France.




4th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Brady Needs a Nightlight by Brian Barlics

Source: TLC Book Tours and Black Rose Writing
Paperback, 32 pages
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Brady Needs a Nightlight by Brian Barlics, illustrated by Gregor B. Jones, is a children’s book for ages three and up.  The cartoon-like illustrations by Gregory B. Jones are cute and the colors are vivid and bright.  They allow readers to get a complete picture of Brady’s world and what he dreams most about.  Barlics gets it right with the rhyming and the use of poetic stanzas as a way to capture young readers’ attentions.  The author clearly thinks with a youngster’s mind as they fear the unknown or things they don’t understand.  Things that make noise and shadows in the night can be frightening for children at any young age, which is why many request night lights and other comforts in bed.  Barlics has crafted a story to help kids understand that there’s nothing to fear and that it’s okay to go to sleep at night.

The story is creative and ironic at the same time, since the bat is clearly a creature that thrives in the night and he improvises by finding something that can light up his evening.  My daughter is just starting to be afraid of the dark as she gets closer to age three, but she has her star-light turtle and her glow worm to make her night better too.  Young kids can easily follow along in the story and even relate to Brady’s trials and fears.  Brady Needs a Nightlight by Brian Barlics is a cute story with a good message that can help parents appease the fears of their young readers in a fun and creative way.

About the Author:

Brian was born and raised in New Jersey and currently lives in Northern California. He is a Pediatrician with a strong love for children and is dedicated to their health and well-being. He believes not only in the physical health of children but also in the enrichment of their minds and building of their character. He is a strong advocate of the well-supported idea that reading to your child encourages a strong parent-child bond, promotes literacy, and helps them tap into their seemingly endless imaginations. He has recently started a new venture as an author of children’s books. His award-winning book “Brady Needs a Nightlight” is now available and might become your child’s favorite bedtime story!

Connect with Brian on Facebook.

Brady Needs a Nightlight is a Mom’s Choice Awards Silver Honoree!

If you want to win a copy of Brady Needs a Nightlight by Brian Barlics, please leave a comment below by Jan. 13, 2014, at 11:59 p.m.  U.S. and Canadian residential addresses only.

1st book for the 2014 New Authors Challenge.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Mulling Over It – Writing Platform 21 by T. R. Patrick

Platform 21 by T.R. Patrick is the first book in the Beyond the Veil science fiction series.  Today, T.R. Patrick, who received the “Best Debut Author of 2013″ award from the Bookworm Best Awards, will share a little bit about the creation of his book.  And there’s a giveaway.

Here’s a little bit about the book:

Luke’s life is about to take a dangerous turn. But first he has to die.

In the year 2052, high school sophomore Luke Gibson considers himself an average teenager in a world on the brink of monumental change. Joining his parents and sister, Laura, at the first World Energy Initiative Conference, he is among thousands gathered in a Denver arena to celebrate free renewable energy when a massive earthquake strikes killing everyone in the stadium. The last thing Luke sees before his death is a girl reaching out to him—a stranger whose face he remembers from his dreams.

The end, however, is not the end. Suddenly, inexplicably, Luke is back home in Ohio and everything is different. His sister is gone, the victim in an unsolved homicide years before. Angela, his mysterious dream girl, is here also, and the only person besides Luke who recalls the previous reality. And now their determination to uncover the truth about Laura’s murder and their transformed world is making them targets—forced to flee for their lives from a nameless shadow organization and a government seeking vengeance for an unthinkable act of terror—as they stand on the threshold of a dark conspiracy that threatens all humankind.

Please give Patrick a warm welcome:

Have you ever been so frustrated about something, you needed to find a creative outlet to just get it all out? Writing Platform 21 was a bit like that for me. There are so many things going on in the world, it’s often easier to put it in the back of our minds and just focus on the little things. For whatever reason, I couldn’t do that. There is so much wrong with the world, I wanted to do something – anything to inject a voice a reason into the discussion.

Platform 21 was born from that frustration. The original concept of the book was something so simple, I almost feel a little embarrassed when I think about it. But when I started writing it, things just wouldn’t line up. I knew I was writing one thing, but the story wanted me to write something different. For the first time as a writer, I decided I was going to let the story tell itself. I would simply become the dude lucky enough to be able to write it down. That once embarrassing concept is nothing but a distant memory. It was an idea I’m glad never truly raised to the surface. Instead, I found a world in the shadow of an inexplicable veil that separates humankind from the truth.

If there is one thing constant about each and every one of us, it is the desire for the truth. We’ve seen throughout history how those in power distort and twist the truth. There is a constant struggle for it and humanity has grappled with it since the beginning of time. I believe every one of us desires to do good. We want to see our neighbors succeed as well. Every time a terrible event inflicts harm upon us and our neighbors, there are always good people willing to rise from the ashes and make things right. However, when it comes to the big picture – people just don’t know where the fire is. Some of us feel the fire is simply too big to put out.

So, I set off to write a book about this struggle. Set in a world where every conspiracy theory is real, Luke Gibson and Angela Morgan set off on a journey to discover the truth about Luke’s slain sister. This search for justice is much like our search for the reason why terrible things happen in this world. Luke and Angela’s search for the truth makes them targets of some very powerful enemies. Amidst all the conspiracy, and the lies, they discover anyone could be an enemy. Learning that even people who desire good could work against them, they begin to realize how misled the world has become.

This theme follows Luke throughout his adventure. I’m writing ‘The Vorago Initiative’ (The Sequel to Platform 21) right now, and I find myself thinking about all of those who think they are fighting for truth, or for what’s right – only to discover they’ve been misled all along. How can you discern the truth if you’ve been lied to since the day you were born? What if you don’t like the truth? Is it worth pulling back the veil if it means revealing a world that is nothing like what you once thought? Some would even end up fighting to protect the veil, to continue living the lie because they’ve become comfortable with it. Those who are willing to fight for the truth have their own demons to deal with. Just how much is an individual willing to sacrifice for it? How much would you sacrifice?

It’s difficult to discuss these things without demonstrating what is truly at stake when a person gets close to the truth in a world filled with conspiracy. The general themes of Platform 21 are quite dark, and a very gritty picture is painted. I didn’t want to hide the truth, or pull my punches as an author. It’s simply not fair to the reader when an author hides just how wicked the world can be at times. I stayed hauntingly close to the historical events discussed in the book, all while showing the reader two characters who would stop at nothing to overcome the adversity they faced.

Writing about these themes is tough. I had to write more than my fair share of difficult imagery and depressing moments. There were times I spent many hours staring at a blank screen, afraid to start writing because I knew where it would take me. This is the obstacle I’ve set out to challenge, and with Platform 21, I think I managed to show the brutal truth about our past, present, and potential future.

But you know what? The world ain’t all that bad. The love story in Platform 21 was one of the most enjoyable parts of the writing. Some of my self-proclaimed ‘crowning achievements’ in the book weren’t the fast paced action scenes, or the twists. To me, the book shined because of the characters and how they interacted with each other. There were some extremely tricky topics discussed in Platform 21. I had to imagine how a person would react in the face of one of the most despicable and deplorable acts a person could commit. How would that event change the character, and the existing relationships he or she already had? These were some very tough questions and it isn’t easy, or in my opinion even possible, to just outline this kind of complicated character development. This was the hardest part of the writing, but it was also the most rewarding.

Writing Platform 21 was a challenge. It was the hardest book I ever set out to write. It was also the best book I’ve ever written, which is why I decided to publish it. Having penned two other books, I know what it’s like to write something and realize it isn’t your best. With Platform 21, it just came to me. There isn’t any other way of putting it. I’m the luckiest guy ever! Why this story chose me to share it with the world, I’m not sure. It has been a wonderful joy, and I can’t wait to see where the series takes me next.

About the Author:

Author Timothy R. Patrick, born in 1985, started writing when he was only nine, delivering his first short story to his Mom for her birthday. Since then, writing has been an incredible passion. Every chance he could write, he took it. He even scratched out a few stories in Naval Boot Camp at Great Lakes, Illinois.

Tim spent four years in the Navy achieving the rank of Petty Officer 2nd class. He served three years aboard USS Chosin and was deployed twice in support of the Global War on Terror, and Iraqi Freedom. However, he would always be remembered as the guy who sat in the corner of the mess decks writing a book he would never release. He said it wasn’t good enough.

After his time in the Navy, Tim became a Test Engineer working for companies like Scientific Research Corporation and Hewlett Packard. During this phase of his life he moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he bought a home and tried to settle into the American Dream. But Tim wasn’t content with that, he wanted to do something more than work the 9 to 5. So, he tried his hand at politics and ran for Dorchester County Council as an Independent. They said he was too young and verbose. After losing the election, he decided to try his hand at writing instead.

Today, Timothy Patrick is the author of, Platform 21 – the first installment of the “Beyond the Veil” series. Platform 21 is a novel set in the near future which follows a young man on a journey to solve his sister’s murder in the midst of global conspiracy. His current project is, The Vorago Initiative – which picks up right where Platform 21 left off.


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Interview with Marianne Harden, Author of Malicious Mischief and Giveaway

Malicious Mischief by Marianne Harden is the first in the Rylie Keyes mystery series.

Today, Harden is visiting my readers to talk about her path to publication, and there’s a giveaway.

But first, here’s a little bit about the book:

Is it strange to have the unemployment office on speed dial? Not for twenty-four-year-old college dropout Rylie Keyes. Her current job at a small retirement home is worlds more important than all her past gigs, though: if she loses this job, she won’t be able to stop the forced sale of her grandfather’s home, a house that has been in the family for ages. However, to keep her job she must figure out the truth behind the death of a senior citizen who was found murdered while in her care. Explain that one, Miss Keyes.

The victim was thought to be a penniless man with a silly grudge against Rylie. However, his enemies will do whatever it takes to keep their part in his murder secret.

Forced to dust off the PI training she needs to keep hidden from her ex-detective grandfather, Rylie must juggle the attentions of two sexy police officers who both excite and fluster her. And as she trudges through the case, she has no idea that along the way she might win, or lose, a little piece of her heart.

Please also check out the book trailer:

Without further ado, here’s the interview with Harden on her path to publication:

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing one genre or another on and off since late 1999 or early 2000. Or was it early 1999? I dunno. The same estrogen that gave me breasts and wider hips is robbing my brain of memory thanks to menopause. What was the question again? Oh yeah, the amount of time I’ve been writing. It’s been years and years and years.

Why did you start writing?

The sweet smell of success, the mind-boggling wealth, the respect of publishers, thousands upon thousands of happy readers—hahahaha—then I woke up.

Is there a favorite place you like to write?

My fourth-floor office overlooking Mt. Rainier. I know the view by heart. It’s imprinted on my brain; that is until menopause strips me of it. Damn dwindling estrogen.

What moves you to write?

I’m not much for confrontations, though the abovementioned menopause is changing that a bit. Oh, hello, testosterone. What injustice do you wish to rant about today? This shift in my disposition has been both freeing and disturbing at the same time. However, my M.O has not changed that much. I am peace loving, but many in the world are aggressive. And the aggressors, they are winning. So I write about them, exposing what I believe is wrong, unfair or nasty, and I do so with humor, always with humor because to do otherwise would be too painful.

Are you published?

Yes, with Entangled Publishing.

How did you sell your book to your publisher, directly or via an agent.

Publishing is more backbreaking and lonelier than it looks. I knew I didn’t want to go it alone, so when I finished Malicious Mischief in 2009, I sent out over two hundred queries, but the rejections were quick and numerous. I gave up for a year. A chance to live in Europe distracted me and filled my time, managing to pull me away from writing altogether. Then in 2011, and at the insistence of a friend, I queried again, sending out only two this time. Both hit. I signed with my agent in February of 2011. I’ve never looked back. We’re a team.

How long did it take you to write, sell and release your book?

Malicious Mischief took nine months to write, ten months to sell, and twenty-two months to release due to changes when Entangled Publishing integrated with Macmillan Publishing.

Describe your worst rejection letter.

That’s easy. I remember the letter well and the undue accusation. The agent sent me an email accusing me of submitting to him twice, saying I changed the title of the book to try to slip it past him. He said he didn’t like my story the first time and didn’t like it now.

Describe your best rejection letter.

Another easy one. She called me from New York. She was very kind, and I sensed she wanted to give me better news. Her voice was apologetic, hesitant, and solemn. She paused before she spoke, lingering over her words. She said she thought long and hard over her decision not to offer representation. She felt the mystery market was currently too tight for debut authors.

What is the most difficult part of the publishing industry?

Marketing. Marketing. Marketing. It’s overly time consuming.

What advice would you give to new writers starting out?

Don’t do it. There I said it. This business is brutal. However, take note of the next question.

If you could do anything differently, what would it be?

Steer clear of cynics and naysayers.

About the Author:

Marianne Harden loves a good laugh. So much so, she cannot stop humor from spilling into her books. Over the years she has backpacked through the wilds of Australia, explored the exotics of Asia, soaked up the sun in the Caribbean, and delighted in the historic riches of Europe. Her goals in life are simple: do more good than harm and someday master the do-not-mess-with-me look. She divides her time between Switzerland and Washington State where she lives with her husband and two children. Please visit her Website, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Guest Post: On Writing The Intangibles by Monte Dutton

The Intangibles by Monte Dutton is set in the late 1960s in a small South Carolina town just as the public schools are being integrated.  Black students from Mossy Springs High School are now going to attend the all-white Fairmont High, further ramping up tensions.  Reese Knighton is hired to coach the team and find common ground with Willie Spurgeon, the former successful coach from Mossy Springs.  The high school football team must put aside their differences at a time when the world seems to be unraveling.

Today, Dutton is going to provide some insight on his inspiration and journey in writing the book.  Please give him a warm welcome.  Also, there’s a giveaway!

Years ago, when writing about baseball was part of my job, I used to say that there is only one way to keep score, and that is the way that works for you. I’ve come to believe that it applies to writing fiction.

I taught myself to play guitar, and I taught myself to write fiction. Many sports fans have asked me how they could become a writer over the years. My answer – “The best way to learn how to write is to read” – often seems to disappoint them. Everyone wants a gimmick.

Here’s how I wrote The Intangibles. I started out with a vague idea of what I wanted to write. I then wrote a vague outline and conjured up general attributes to ascribe to the main characters. I’m sort of a seat-of-the-pants guy. I started writing – working my way toward the ending – and at the end of each chapter, I added layers of detail to the outline, as much as a reference tool – I didn’t want a green Buick in Chapter Five to morph into a yellow Mercury in Chapter Eleven – as a means of evaluating how it was all moving along. This haphazard method of mine involves a good bit of time between chapters to think about where I just went and am next going. This is my “mulling time,” which I consider at least as important as the writing time.

The second draft is basically one of economizing, where I discover that the manuscript has plenty of material that, while entertaining, doesn’t happen to move the story along. This was a lesson that The Audacity of Dope imparted, but, suffice it to say, it’s hard.

The third draft is where the story is set but the writing needs polishing. I try to turn a few phrases I left straight before.

The challenge of The Intangibles was to go from a simple story – all the characters revolve around the adventures of Riley Mansfield and Melissa Franklin in Audacity – to a complex one. The Intangibles has what motion-picture fans would refer to as an ensemble cast. It was a new challenge for me.

The Intangibles was also more personal. I’m not sure if there really is a central character, but if it’s Frankie Hoskins, it’s one created out of my own childhood experiences. Frankie’s not I, but he’s a lot like me. I was thinking about lots of real people when I wrote the book, but it’s a long way from being just a story where the names were changed to protect the innocent. Many characters are entirely made up in that I didn’t actually know anyone like them growing up.

One amusing aspect of The Audacity of Dope was hearing from readers who were just sure Riley, or Melissa, was based on them, when, in fact, their mention marked the first time it occurred to me. I thought about lots of real people in The Intangibles, but none of the characters was drawn fully on that basis.

About the Author:

Monte Dutton lives in Clinton, South Carolina. In high school, he played football for a state championship team, then attended Furman University, Greenville, S.C., graduating in 1980, B.A., cum laude, political science/history.

He spent 20 years (1993-2012)wriing about NASCAR for several publications. He was named Writer of the Year by the Eastern Motorsports Press Association (Frank Blunk Award) in 2003 and Writer of the Year by the National Motorsports Press Association (George Cunningham Award) in 2008. His NASCAR writing was syndicated by King Feature Syndicate in the form of a weekly page, “NASCAR This Week” for 17 years.

Monte Dutton is also the author of Pride of Clinton, a history of high school football in his hometown, 1986; At Speed, 2000 (Potomac Books); Rebel with a Cause: A Season with NASCAR’s Tony Stewart, 2001 (Potomac Books); Jeff Gordon: The Racer, 2001 (Thomas Nelson); Postcards from Pit Road, 2003 (Potomac Books); Haul A** and Turn Left, 2005 (Warner Books), True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, 2006. (Bison Books); and is an Editor/Contributor of Taking Stock: Life in NASCAR’s Fast Lane, 2004 (Potomac Books).

The Audacity of Dope, 2011 (Neverland Publishing) was his first novel, and Neverland recently published his second, The Intangibles. Another, Crazy by Natural Causes, is in the works.

Visit the author’s website, Facebook, and Twitter.







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Adé: A Love Story by Rebecca Walker

Source: TLC Book Tours and New Harvest
Hardcover, 128 pages
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Adé: A Love Story by Rebecca Walker reads like a memoir, but it is fiction.  A young, American woman who has felt unmoored since her parents’ divorce, even at an Ivy League school until she falls into the web of Miriam, a free-spirited twenty-something whose eager to lose herself in the passions of others, particularly by having sex with men.  At the end of the school year, she and Miriam decide to see the “real” Africa and Middle East, traveling first to Egypt and slowly moving into more southern territories.  While Walker’s novella is considered a love story, it is far from overtly romantic, and it is more a search for identity, an identity that is strong and unwavering.  This nineteen-year-old, who later becomes known as Farida, is searching, always searching and consciously taking note of her place in the world.

“I was nineteen years old to Miriam’s twenty-one.  I felt raw and unfinished, where she seemed complete and self-assured.  I was a child of divorce and felt like I came from a thousand places — each one holding a little piece of me, and I drifted among them with no way to gather them up.  Miriam was from just one place, Miami, and more specifically, the moneyed enclave of Coconut Grove.” (page 4)

As they are touring Egypt, both young women are searching for something more authentic in their experience, rather than the tourist traps of Cairo and Giza, where Walker’s prose refers to tourists as flies around a plate of food.  Just from these early moments and descriptions, the reader can garner a sense that Farida is still searching for a home, a place where she not only feels worthy but safe and loved.  These tourist traps are not what she has come for her, with her “copper-colored” skin and “brown eyes the shape of almonds.”  As the narrative shifts away from Farida and Miriam’s experiences and becomes more focused on Farida’s alone, the reader gets a sense that something has shifted in the narrative — something more serious has come.

Even after she meets Adé, a Swahili Muslim from the Kenyan island of Lamu, Farida has succumbed to the feeling of belonging in these nations’ she’s visited, with their small villages and welcoming people.  Their romance is slow, and yet fast.  They begin with meetings at night after he works and walks throughout the town, then things heat up even faster after she reveals her passion for him.  Although this relationship blooms quickly and breaks her away from the past she’s known in America, her sensibilities have never strayed too far outside those democratic principles, and it is those principles that sets her apart in a world she’s come to think of as her own. Adé: A Love Story by Rebecca Walker is not a traditional story of love between a man and a woman, but of finding the love that can lift you up, complete you, and make you stronger even in the most adverse circumstances — and there are plenty of those here as the Persian Gulf War begins in the background.

About the Author:

Rebecca Walker is the author of the best-selling memoirs Black, White and Jewish and Baby Love, and editor of the anthology Black Cool. She is also the editor of the anthologies To Be Real, What Makes a Man, and One Big Happy Family. Her writing has appeared in Bookforum,  Newsweek, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Washington Post, Vibe, and Interview, among many other publications, and she blogs regularly for The Root. For more information, please visit her Website and follow her on Twitter.


ENTER to win 1 copy of Rebecca Walker’s Adé: A Love Story by leaving a comment below by Nov. 18, 2013, at 11:59 p.m.

This is my 77th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.