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Mailbox Monday #521

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Eva and Baby Mo (Owl Diaries #10) by Rebecca Elliott for my daughter’s birthday.

This series is part of Scholastic’s early chapter book line Branches, aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!

In the 10th book of this USA Today bestselling series, Eva is excited to babysit her little brother, Mo. She and her friends prepare bug candy snacks, a puppet show, and a song to sing him to sleep. They are ready for ANYTHING! But soon, Eva discovers that taking care of a little baby is a BIG job. Can she put baby Mo to sleep before Mom and Dad get home?

A Whale of a Tale by Debbie Dadey, illustrated by Tatevik Avakyan for my daughter’s birthday.

The third graders at Trident Academy are traveling to the surface of the ocean for the first time ever for a “hugely” exciting activity: They’re going to visit a pod of humpback whales! But Kiki is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s scared from the top of her head to the tip of her tail. After all, the enormous creatures could swallow her (and maybe her entire class) in one giant gulp! Kiki’s pals Shelly and Echo try to help shrink her fears, and when a new friend comes along—a very big, whale-size friend—Kiki’s courage emerges, and the fun looms large.

What did you receive?

A Compass for My Bones by Diana Smith Bolton

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 39 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

A Compass for My Bones by Diana Smith Bolton, who read at the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg Reading, is a chapbook of poetry that examines identity by digging below the surface of the skin. The first part of her collection focuses deeply on faith and how it applies to our actions in childhood — begging us to turn away from curiosities that call us into temptation.

Communion

We might be sisters, she whispered.
The lines of our bodies were as empty

as the priest's gesture, wiping
the chalice's lip with white linen.
from "Three Scenes from Biloxi Beach"

I've seen black-and-white movies about sexy.
Like Lana Turner! she adds. I trot to the frothy water,
forbidden to touch it, and stare into the murky dark
as I stare at my life from four feet up.

There’s an ebb and flow in these beginning poems — a magnetic pull on the narrator leading them toward something and away from the child self s/he knew. When the section ends with “The Deer by the Lake,” the reader knows that the narrative has entered into an uncharted territory. Bolton uses the remainder of the collection to explore life through the eyes of characters and historical figures from Ophelia to Emily Dickinson, who had journeys into the dark and led to sadness.

A Compass for My Bones by Diana Smith Bolton is an exploration of the self and identity — the stumbles we take on life’s journey and how we handle them. Our internal compass is our guide after our parents have guided us through childhood. What of those who never made it through childhood or were never born alive? How do they find that compass. Bolton’s images are stunning.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Diana Smith Bolton is a writer and editor in the Washington DC metro area. Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Bolton studied literature at the University of Southern Mississippi and creative writing at the University of Florida, where she earned an MFA. She writes poetry and prose, and her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and collections. As founding editor of District Lit, a journal of writing and art, she is passionate about publishing meaningful work and collaborating with other writers.

Giveaway: The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy by Victoria Kincaid

The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy by Victoria Kincaid is the latest audiobook from the author and, today, she’s sharing with us an excerpt from the book and a giveaway. I really cannot wait to listen to this one, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the other audiobooks from Kincaid’s novels.

Please give Victoria a warm welcome and stay tuned for the Audible giveaway details:

Hello Serena and thank you for having me to visit! I’m so excited to finally share The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy audiobook with my readers, particularly since I’m so pleased with how it turned out. The narrator is Stevie Zimmerman, who did such a wonderful job with The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth as well as many other JAFF books.

You can hear a sample of her narration here.

Below is an excerpt from early in the book: Darcy has learned about Elizabeth’s death and is talking to Colonel Fitzwilliam about going to France to avenge it. I hope you enjoy it!

Mr. Darcy arrives at Longbourn, intending to correct the mistakes he made during his disastrous proposal in Hunsford. To his horror, he learns that Elizabeth Bennet was killed in a ship’s explosion off the coast of France—in an apparent act of sabotage. Deep in despair, he travels in
disguise to wartime France to seek out the spy responsible for her death.

But a surprise awaits Darcy in the French town of Saint-Malo: Elizabeth is alive!

Recovering from a blow to the head, Elizabeth has no memory of her previous life, and a series of mistakes lead her to believe that Darcy is her husband. However, they have even bigger problems. As they travel through a hostile country, the saboteur mobilizes Napoleon’s network
of spies to capture them and prevent them from returning home. Elizabeth slowly regains her memories, but they often leave her more confused.

Darcy will do anything to help Elizabeth reach England safely, but what will she think of him when she learns the truth of their relationship?

“Surely there is something to be done…” Darcy said slowly, an idea forming in his head. “You could send me to France. I will find him and bring him to London for justice.”

Richard’s shock would have been comical under other circumstances. “What are you about, Darcy?”

“I can visit the area in disguise and make contact with your agents. They can help me find the man.” The more he spoke, the more he warmed to the idea.

“No, it is too risky. The moment you open your mouth—”

“I speak fluent French, as you well know. Adele served as my governess until I was ten and Georgiana’s after that; she and I spoke nothing but French.”

Richard waved his hand in acknowledgement of this fact. “Still, it is too dangerous. You have responsibilities—”

“I had a responsibility to Elizabeth!” Darcy roared, startling his cousin. He took a deep breath, trying to regulate his tumultuous feelings; Richard did not deserve his ire. “If I had courted her properly, this would not have happened,” he said in a hoarse voice.

“You are not a gypsy fortune teller. You could not have foreseen what would happen.”

Darcy scowled. “If I had not proposed in such an offensive manner, she might have accepted my offer and would now be living safely at Pemberley.”

Richard snorted. “You can find a reason to take responsibility for anything. Tell me, how is the Peninsular War your fault?”

“Richard, I must do something.” Darcy paced the length of the room. “I need employment—a purpose. I am not fit for civilized company as I am. I must do something before I run mad.” He stopped and stared at his cousin. “I may do nothing for Elizabeth now, but if I can bring her murderer to justice, it would mean something to her family.” Darcy ran both hands through his hair. “And perhaps I might gain some measure of peace.”

His arms crossed over his chest, Richard regarded Darcy skeptically.

“Send me to France,” Darcy pleaded. “I may help the crown—at no cost.”

“No, merely at the risk of my dearest friend’s life.” Richard’s tone was scathing.

His cousin’s skepticism would not deter him. From the moment Richard had mentioned the Black Cobra, Darcy’s course had been clear.

“You hope to find her body.” Richard’s words were a statement, not a question.

The thought had occurred to Darcy. If he could bring her remains home to Hertfordshire, it would salvage a little solace from the tragedy. But Richard would never see it that way, and Darcy had no desire to argue the point.

Instead he leaned across the table, holding Richard’s eyes. “I can travel to France with the blessings of the War Office, or I can go on my own. You cannot stop me.”

Richard glared. “Damnation, Darcy!”

Finally, Richard looked away with a heavy sigh. “Very well, I will discuss your offer with my superiors, but they may not agree to send you.”

Darcy shrugged. Their disapprobation would present only a small obstacle. One way or another, he would go to France.

I hope you are as intrigued as I am about this take on Darcy and Elizabeth. If you’d like to win an Audible copy of The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy, please make a comment below and enter an email address so you can be contacted if you win.

Deadline to enter is March 4, 2019, at 11:59 PM EST.

Mailbox Monday #520

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

So Speak the Stars by Tawni Waters from the publisher and due out in March.

The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec from the poet.

“This engrossing hybrid collection of prose and poetry carves out a compellingly eclectic style of its own. In The Real Sky Fox adroitly employs dramatic monologues, testimonials and vignettes (among other forms) and uses imagistic and rhythmic language aplenty. The drawings by Jacklynn Niemiec help lend this fine chapbook an airy, almost whimsical quality. A must-read for fans of hybrid literature.
”
Nathan Leslie, author of Three MenRoot and Shoot and Sibs (Texture Press & Aqueous Books)

“Valerie Fox creates new spaces where words turn surreal and then back again, and narrative structures literally awaken the inanimate. Each page contains a surprise and a delight. Fox creates new pathways for language to shape our identities, while breathing life and a new power to transform bodies, flesh, bone, and spirit. These fresh new fictions are glorious, and beautifully accompanied by bright, evocative sketches by Jacklynn Niemiec.”
Susan Smith Nash, founder & managing editor, Texture Press

What did you receive?

 

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 112 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field is an illustrated transition book from beginning readers as move from picture books to chapter books. Bear is a kind animal who is woken up from hibernation, but Rabbit is a disgruntled creature who has some bad habits, like eating his poo.

When the characters are introduced, you expect to see who robbed bear of her food, since the robber supposedly stood on her nose, but the robber seems to vanish in thin air. The illustrations in this story are gorgeous, right down to the wisps of snow falling. Bear calmly handles Rabbit’s cranky retorts and doesn’t even blink at being called “Idiot.” Personally, this household shies away from those words because they are hurtful and can have long-lasting effects, but kids in my daughter’s school and at her age certainly do use that word and others that are far worse. While I don’t like the use of it, I can see how it mirrors a child’s reality on the playground — only here the kids are animals and the playground is the forest.

My daughter reached for this book the moment it entered the house and started reading while eating breakfast. She didn’t eat much before school that morning. She was too absorbed in the story and she easily read the first pages on her own. Because it still has pictures, it helped keep her engaged with the story.

Talk of gravity and digestion, as well as how to build the best snowman, pepper the pages. Kids will learn something while laughing at the antics of these animals, and they’ll be thankful they did as they find Rabbit is later in peril.

Despite a few initial bumps, Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field ended up being a good story about overcoming initial differences and finding a friendship based on caring and giving.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #519

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy from Audible.

On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man is shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home–one of the thousands of black Americans murdered that year. His assailant runs down the street, jumps into an SUV, and vanishes, hoping to join the scores of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes.

But as soon as the case is assigned to Detective John Skaggs, the odds shift.

Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential but mostly ignored American murder–a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another–and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities–and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward from Audible.

Unfolding over 12 days, the story follows a poor family living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. With Hurricane Katrina bearing down on them, the Batistes struggle to maintain their community and familial bonds amid the storm and the stark poverty surrounding them.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #518

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream by Khanh Ha for review in May.

“I live in a coastal town in the deep south of the Mekong Delta. During the war this was IV Corps, which saw many savage fights. Although the battles might have long been forgotten, some places cannot forget.”

Thus begins the harrowing yet poignant story of a North Vietnamese communist defector who spends ten years in a far-flung reform prison after the war, and now, in 1987, a free man again, finds work as caretaker at a roadside inn in the U Minh region. One day new guests arrive at the inn: an elderly American woman and her daughter, an eighteen-year-old Vietnamese girl adopted at the age of five from an orphanage in the Mekong Delta before the war ended. Catherine Rossi has come to this region to find the remains of her son, a lieutenant who went missing-in-action during the war.

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream tells the stories of two men in time parallel: Giang, the thirty-nine-year-old war veteran; Nicola Rossi, a deceased lieutenant in the United States Army, the voice of a spirit. From the haunting ugliness of the Vietnam War, the stories of these two men shout, cry, and whisper to us the voices of love and loneliness, barbarity and longing, lived and felt by a multitude of people from all walks of life: the tender adolescent vulnerability of a girl toward a man who, as a drifter and a war-hardened man, draws beautifully in his spare time; the test of love and faith endured by a mother whose dogged patience even baffles the local hired hand who thinks the poor old lady must have gone out of her mind, and whose determination drives her into the spooky forest, rain or shine, until one day she claims she has sensed an otherworldly presence in there with her.

In the end she wishes to see, just once, a river the local Vietnamese call “The River of White Water Lilies,” the very river her son saw, now that all her hopes to find his remains die out. Just then something happens. She finds out where he has lain buried for twenty years and how he was killed.

Treading the Uneven Road by L.M. Brown for review.

The stories in this collection are set 1980’s and 90’s Ireland. A by-pass around a small village has rid the residents of their once busy traffic. They feel forgotten by the world. The need to reach out and be heard is explored in every story, from the young woman who starts to have phone conversations with her husband’s gay lover, to the dyslexic man who confronts his cruel teacher years later and the woman whose dreams are shattered because of a married lover. Treading the Uneven Road introduces us to a society that is unraveling and we cannot help feel for Brown’s characters who need to make a choice on how to carry on.

Nanopedia: Poems by Charles Jensen, which I purchased and can’t wait to dig into.

Taking the form of “the world’s smallest encyclopedia” of American culture, the prose poems in Nanopedia explore concepts coined in or corrupted by (or both) America from vantage points that are both deeply personal and politically charged.

Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens edited by Emma Eden Ramos. 3 of my poems are in this anthology and there’s a giveaway for it here. Purchases support The Trevor Project.

Love_is_Love is a collection of poems, short stories, and visual art for LGBTQIA+ teens. All of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project, an organization that has been saving the lives of LGBTQIA+ teens since 1998.

 

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field for review.

“It’s the end of the world,” said a gloomy voice.
Bear looked all around. “No it isn’t,” said Bear cautiously. “It’s a lovely sunny day.”

In this laugh-out-loud funny story, a rabbit and bear discover that things are always better when they’re shared with a friend.

Bear wakes up early from hibernation. If she can’t sleep, then at least she can make a snowman.

Rabbit has never made a snowman, but he definitely wants to make one that’s better than Bear’s.

However, with an avalanche and a hungry wolf heading his way, Rabbit soon realises that it might be nice to have a friend on your side. Especially when it comes to building snowmen.

A tale of friendship, gravity, and just a little bit of poo.

What did you receive?

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (audio and print)

Source: Purchased
Paperback and Audible, 447 pgs. or 14+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which was a book club pick from last year and took me more than the month allotted to read, is a look at Chicago’s endeavor to build a World’s Fair to rival that of Paris. Larson attempts to contrast the beauty of the white city created by some architectural greats with the dark serial killings of  H. H. Holmes. The story is one of a city growing up and expanding, which generally brings with it the darker elements of crime. As women began to seek out jobs and not marriage, many were preyed upon by criminals, including Holmes. These comparisons are easy to see, but the main bulk of this book is focused on the political issues of the 1893 World’s Fair and its construction.

“Jane Addams, the urban reformer who founded Chicago’s Hull House, wrote, ‘Never before in civilization have such numbers of young girls been suddenly released from the protection of the home and permitted to walk unattended upon the city streets and to work under alien roofs.'” (pg. 11)

“To women as yet unaware of his private obsessions, it was an appealing delicacy. He broke prevailing rules of casual intimacy. He stood too close, stared too hard, touched too much and long. And women adored him for it.” (pg. 36)

Like the previous book I read by Larson, the narrative is big on detail — too much detail in some places — and this often bogs down the narrative and leaves the reader wondering if the book is about the fair or the serial killer. To finish this pick, I ended up reading along with the audiobook to keep my attention focused, as I found it wandered too much just listening to the audio and too much when reading the book — I started scanning pages rather than reading them.

The most interesting parts of the book for me were those short chapters about Holmes, and it makes me wonder if Larson had a hard time finding enough about him and his crimes to write about him alone — hence the need for the World’s Fair and its comparison with the darker side of Chicago. This was less boring than the previous Larson book I read, which isn’t saying much.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson was a mixed bag for me. The World’s Fair parts of the book were interesting but too long winded, while the parts about Holmes are too little throughout the book until the end. Saving the show-stopper for last is a detriment for this book. These subjects are not really related to one another, and the only thread holding them together is Larson’s slight juxtaposition of them and the fact that they both occurred around the same time. It would make readers wonder if Holmes would have been as successful as a serial killer if the World’s Fair had not distracted the police, officials, the government, and tourists alike.

RATING: Tercet

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #517

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

National Geographic Kids: Make This! by Ella Schwartz and Shah Selbe for review.

This book is designed to inspire the next generation of engineers and supports all kinds of kid creators: those who prefer guided instruction, those who prefer to dream up and design objects on their own, and everyone in between. With thoughtful text and bright illustrations, kids get the tools and the know-how to tackle all kinds of exciting projects: building a kaleidoscope, designing a fidget spinner, planting a rain forest, creating a musical instrument, and more. Unconventional scenarios inspired by real National Geographic explorers give kids a chance to think outside the box and apply their maker skills to real life. Chapters are divided up by scientific principle, such as simple machines, energy, and forces. In each chapter, kids can start by following step-by-step activities, or get creative by tackling an open-ended challenge. Helpful sidebars explain the science behind what’s happening every step of the way.

Make This! is perfect for curious and STEM-loving kids, families looking for a fun way to play together, and anyone else who’s ready to get creative and start tinkering!

Narrow Bridge by Robbi Nester from the poet for review.

Carefully crafted, beautifully written, these poems are a bridge indeed between this world and the one that shimmers just beyond us. In one poem, the narrator is a small child trying to capture the moon in her mirror; when that fails, she catches it in a net of words, and that is what Nester does throughout this book in poem after gorgeous heart-breaking poem. These are poems that “sing for the joy of being heard.” ~Barbara Crooker, author of Les Fauves and Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems

In Robbi Nester’s Narrow Bridge, we are urged to be more open and fearless— Consider how a mirror tipped toward the sky captures the moon, if fleetingly; how “The voice of the bird/ in the maple/ is bigger than his body.” There are still passageways we can widen, if only we allowed wonder to make a bridge between our sense of fixity, and that refuge and home we could make again in each other. ~Luisa A. Igloria, author of The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis and Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser

What did you receive?

Giveaway: Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens edited by Emma Eden Ramos

This anthology contains a wide range of art from essay to poetry (including 3 of mine) to story, as well as drawings and other art to spread a message of love and hope.

Each sale of Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens edited by Emma Eden Ramos are donated to The Trevor Project.

We are hosting a giveaway sponsored by editor Emma Eden Ramos. Learn more below:

Love_Is_Love is a  collection of poems, short stories, and visual art for LGBTQIA+ teens. All of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project, an organization that has been saving the lives of LGBTQIA+ teens since 1998.

Painting on wood by Natascha Woolf

It is our hope that Love_Is_Love will help lend support to LGBTQIA+ teens who are struggling to deal with today’s pervasive homophobic and transphobic rhetoric that can make the world feel like a terrifying and unsafe place.

In addition to dedicating this collection to The Trevor Project, We would also like to dedicate Love_Is_Love to the young adults whose lives were cut short because of bigotry, cruelty, and ignorance. Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena, Lashai Mclean, Paige Clay, Mollie Olgin, Tiffany Gooden, Gabriel Fernandez, and countless others, these words are for you.

The editor of Love_Is_Love will be giving away three copies of this new anthology!

To participate, please type a message of support you’d like to extend to a struggling LGBTQIA+ teen. While only three contestants will win, all of the posted messages will go out to the LGBTQIA+ community via Twitter.

Thank you so much for participating!

Deadline to enter will be Feb. 14, 2019 — a day of love.  Spread the love, everyone. Leave comments below.