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The Sighing of the Winter Trees by Laura Grossman

Laura Grossman’s The Sighing of the Winter Trees is a collection of poems I received from Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Following my review, you will have a chance to see what the poet had to say in an interview and a chance to win one copy of her book.

Grossman uses familiar images to tackle loss, love, and many of the emotions we feel. Her sparse language and short poems attempt to evoke emotion from the reader without relying upon complex lines, concepts, or too many literary devices.

Many of her poems have a conversational tone, as if she is speaking directly to the reader. This tone can generate a warmth in the reader, like it does in her poem, “Waiting Warmly Beside Orange Flowers,” or it can evoke sadness, like that found in “Wait, Wait I’ll Be Back.”

Some of these poems tell stories, but those stories leave the reader hanging, waiting for a resolution. Others simply confuse the reader, like “Wooden Ship.” Although I was not overly impressed by this volume, it does have a lot to offer the “everyman” and parents may find some poems in this volume to help introduce their children to poetry. Readers looking for poems that are less daunting than those read during high school or college will discover verses in this volume that will tap their hidden love of poetry.

My Interview With Laura Grossman:


When did you realize you wanted to be a poet? Was there a particular event that started you writing poetry?

I realized I wanted to be a poet when I was a child and I loved describing the winter days in a form of a haiku. The particular event that started me in writing poetry was after my father died and the professor at college had me read a stanza that captured the way I felt about the death of my dad. Suddenly there was beauty and meaning in the way I felt about my late dad.

Is The Sighing of the Winter Trees your first published book of poetry? Could you describe your path to publication?

The Sighing of the Winter Trees is my first published book of poetry. I took books out on how to achieve my goal of getting published and that helped my path to publication.

Do you have a set routine or do you write when the mood or inspiration hits?

I usually write when the mood or inspiration hits.

What are your favorite poetic forms? And are those forms that you find yourself using the most?

My favorite forms of poetry are haiku and rhythmic and I use those forms quite often.

As a poet can you describe your role in the current literary world and what you see your poetry accomplishing for yourself, readers, and other poets?

I describe my role as a poet to bear meaning and shed light to others about the world in which we live. I also use my writing skills as a way of making lemonade out of lemons until the sun come out again into my life and my readers’ lives as well.

How do you view the current state of poetry in terms of public recognition?

There should be more public recognition of poetry for poetry can heal and sooth us and leave a positive impact on our lives.

Could you describe your favorite writing space?

My favorite writing space is by my fall mums by the window in early morning hours.

Do you have any favorite poets, and if so, why?

Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet. Her words touch my heart with wonder.

What are you currently reading and do you have any particular book recommendations?

I am currently reading The Flowering by Agnes Sligh Turnbull and would greatly recommend this book to others.

****

I want to thank Dorothy Thompson for sending me Laura Grossman’s book and for allowing me to interview her for this post. I also want to thank Laura for taking time out of her schedule to answer my questions.

For the inside scoop on how Laura Grossman got her volume published, check out this article at Book Publishing Secrets of Authors.

About the Author:

Laura Grossman graduated from Lehman College with a degree in English literature and won several awards from poetry contests. She has attended poetry readings and has enjoyed positive feedback on her work.

And now, for the contest; This is open to international entrants as always.

1. Leave a comment on this post with an email or a blogger profile that works for one entry.

2. Put this contest in your sidebar or in a blog post for a second entry and leave me a link to it on this post.

Deadline is Nov. 17. I will draw the winner through Randomizer.org.

Also Reviewed By:
Cafe of Dreams

Contest Reminders:

Want to win a copy of Off the Menu by Christine Son, go here; Deadline is Nov. 18

Win a copy of Karen White’s The House on Tradd Street here; Deadline is Nov.14

Off The Menu TLC Book Tour & Yes, It Can Happen by Christine Son

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to host Off the Menu by Christine Son on Savvy Verse & Wit. You’re in for a treat today because not only will I share my review of the book with you, but Christine Son will also be offering her advice about writing and publishing. In addition, one of my lucky readers will have a chance to win a copy of Off the Menu, stay tuned for details. . .

In Houston, Texas, three friends with very different lives, backgrounds, and careers graduate high school as co-valedictorians; their friendship lasts beyond high school and through college, but how well do they really know one another after all of these years? Does Hercules Huang know Whitney Lee’s secret desire? Does Audrey Henley know the familial struggles Whitney and Hercules deal with daily from their immigrant parents who are steeped in tradition and their homeland culture? Likewise, do Hercules and Whitney understand what it is like to be adopted by a family of a different race like Audrey does?

These three characters, despite their differences, are more similar than they realize, and as the story unfolds, these characters evolve in the ways they could never have anticipated, but only once they have realized their best assets are held in their long-lasting friendship. Hercules is a master chef who owns her own restaurants, but her relationship with her father is strained at best, while Whitney is a third year attorney at a major law firm that only has one minority on staff–her. Audrey is an adopted Asian child from a wealthy family who teaches first-grade students at a local academy for intelligent students, but she doesn’t consider herself as a minority.

All three of these characters are under pressure from themselves, their families, and society to exceed everyone’s expectations. But in the midst of trying to achieve these goals and objectives, Hercules, Whitney, and Audrey discover they want something more, something different, something that is their own. Hercules’ restaurant chain is on the cusp of expansion, she’s writing articles for the National Spectator, and she’s finalizing a deal with a cookware manufacturer, but there is something missing in her life. Whitney is a top attorney in her third year with a firm that can only be described as an old boys’ network, but she longs for something off the beaten path. Audrey is a school teacher, but her dream lies in the Ivory Tower of academia.

Despite the longevity of their friendship, these characters never really open up to one another until they take their first girls only trip to Austin, Texas. The ability of these characters to keep their frustrations and dreams trapped inside is something readers can relate to, particularly if the readers perceive themselves as overachievers like Whitney, Audrey, and Hercules.

This novel touches upon the struggles many immigrants must feel when adjusting to a new home, but it also examines the transitions felt by all humanity when we move from our small high school community to college and to the workforce. Hercules is a strong and brash entrepreneur, but at the same time she is vulnerable. Whitney is strong, but flexible when the need arises, and Audrey is a bit naive, but strong in her convictions. When Jimmy Fujimoto blazes onto the scene in this novel, he nearly steals the show. His presence stands this friendship on its head and has all of these women calling into question some of their deepest convictions and beliefs.

Without further babbling about how great this book is (now my favorite friendship book), here’s Christine Son and her guest post for today.

*****

“Yes, It Can Happen by Christine Son

My debut novel, OFF THE MENU, hits bookshelves on August 5th, and recently, a lot of people have been asking me how I went about getting published. The short answer? By keeping my chin — and optimism — up even though I was receiving stacks of rejections every day. The long answer takes me back to a Facebook question I answered for my profile, which called for my most embarrassing moment. Unfortunately, my life is riddled with heinously embarrassing moments, and one of them occurred at a writers conference I attended in the mountains of California, where I met my agent. I’d been invited to an industry cocktail party out of the graciousness of one of the conference’s board members, and being an unpublished writer who was desperate to make a good impression, I researched the guest list, which included dozens of publishers and agents. This was my chance to wow them, I thought. And maybe snag an agent. So, I perfected my pitch. Practiced my smile. Wore a cute outfit. As ready as I’d ever be, I showed up at the party, determined and excited. And it would have been a great party had I managed to stay upright for more than thirty minutes. I can’t say what exactly caused what happened next — the high altitude, perhaps, or maybe low blood sugar, or the single sip of wine in my system — but in front of God and everyone who mattered in publishing, I fainted. As in, hit the floor face first. With my wine glass still in hand. I don’t recall the fall, but a number of revelers told me afterwards that I then did a pushup before a couple of concerned hosts helped me to a chair, brought me water, and then guided me back to my room, where I spent the rest of the night horrified and cringing. I’d never fainted before, and of all the times in the world to pass out, I couldn’t believe that my body had chosen that moment to try it out. I wrung my hands (literally), sure that I’d forever blown my chances to find an agent. I worried that publishers would think that I was a jackass at best, and a liability at worst. I fretted all night, wishing that I could turn back time and praying that there might be at least a few attendees who hadn’t witnessed my complete lack of grace. Alas, everyone heard about the fainting girl in the darling ruffled shirt.

The next morning, I spent some time apologizing to people I recognized from the night before, and my pitiful conversation with a striking woman turned into a long one about the troubles with thin mountain air, me and my book. She asked me to send her the first chapter of it, which I did as soon as I returned to Dallas, and three days later, she called to request the rest of it. The next week, she signed me on, made me change a few things in the manuscript, and then sent it out to a bunch of publishers. It went nowhere. But I began writing what would become OFF THE MENU, and after a number of rewrites, it sold to Penguin.

So, there you have it in a nutshell as to how I went about getting published. I worked really, really hard, wrote during every free second I had, learned the industry, went to several writers conferences, attended a cocktail party and then passed out. I guess the road to publishing is a bit like that — a mix of preparation and luck. It’s incredibly labor intensive, and sometimes, what seems like the worst thing in the world ends up becoming the best. Because the kicker of it all is that my agent would never have noticed me had I not caused a ruckus at the cocktail party.

You can read more about me at www.christineson.com.

Please also check out her blog. Here’s an interview with her as well, in case you want to get to know her better.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of Christine’s tour and to thank Christine for not only being a wonderful author, but also a dream to work with. I had a great time, and I hope you did as well.

Without further ado, here’s the contest:

(Remember I must have a way to contact you, so leave an email address or a blog location; if your Blogger profile is not working, I will not be able to contact you without an email)

1. What is your biggest fear (whether it is finding your place in the world or a fear of water or dying)? Leave the answer in the comments for one entry.

2. For a second entry, visit Christine’s blog and leave a comment here with something that interested you on her blog or a link to an interesting post you found.

3. For a third entry, visit the interview or FAQ on Christine’s Web site and come back here and leave me a comment about what you learned.

4. Spread the word on your blog about the contest in a sidebar or a post, and receive a fourth entry.

Deadline is November 18 at Midnight EST.

Other stops on the TLC Tour:

Saturday, November 1st: Estella’s Revenge e-zine (author interview)

Monday, November 3rd: Literarily (author guest post and giveaway!)

Wednesday, November 5th: Beastmomma (author interview)

Thursday, November 6th: Book Nut

Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf

Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf (author interview)

Monday, November 10th: Pop Culture Junkie

Tuesday, November 11th: 8Asians

Wednesday, November 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, November 13th: In The Pages

Friday, November 14th: She is Too Fond of Books

Monday, November 17th: Planet Books

Tuesday, November 18th: B & B ex Libris

Wednesday, November 19th: DISGRASIAN

Thursday, November 20th: Booking Mama

Monday, November 24th: The Literate Housewife Review

Tuesday, November 25th: Feminist Review

Wednesday, November 26th: Diary of an Eccentric

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

Karen White‘s The House on Tradd Street is part romance, part ghost story, part mystery. The narration of this novel grips the reader with its beautiful descriptions of South Carolina and the historic neighborhoods of Charleston. Melanie Middleton specializes in historic home sales, though she hates historic homes and believes those who buy historic homes are saps willing to waste thousands of dollars on renovations. Fate brings her into the home of Mr. Vanderhorst, who asks Melanie if she saw a woman in the garden. Days later, he suddenly dies and leaves her his home.

Melanie is given a historic home and the money to renovate and repair it as part of the Vanderhorst estate. There are a great cast of characters in this book from Mr. Vanderhorst to his mother’s ghost and Melanie, her father, and Jack Trenholm. Melanie is a barracuda in the real estate world, but her inability to relate to her family or male companions hampers her ability to widen her horizons. She’s a strong character in spite of these weaknesses. Meanwhile, Jack uses his good looks and fame to woo women to his side and charm them out of information so he can uncover historical mysteries and publish books. His charm and good looks are just a cover.

The restoration at Tradd Street begins, and Melanie is overwhelmed by her responsibilities and the two attractive men that have fallen into her life–Marc Longo and Jack Trenholm. In spite of the restoration, Melanie gets wrapped up in the mystery surrounding Mr. Vanderhorst’s mother’s disappearance and the ghosts that haunt her new home.

White easily draws the reader into the beauty of Charleston and her ghost mystery. The intricate relationships between these characters are complex, and in spite of the convenient connections between Melanie’s family, the Vanderhorsts, and the Trenholms in a big city like Charleston, I was enveloped in the storyline.

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the novel (page 130):

“I was so relieved to see him that I didn’t waste any time asking him what in the hell he was talking about. I threw back the dead bolt and disarmed the alarm before pulling open the door and launching myself at him.

‘Wow, Mellie–it’s good to see you too. But could you wait until I got my clothes off first?'”

The mystery doesn’t get heavy with humor like this sprinkled in. The interactions between Melanie and Jack are contagious and will make readers smile.

I recommend this book to those who love a good mystery and a good ghost story. Stay tuned tomorrow for Karen White’s guest post on the writing and publishing process.

Want to win a copy of The House on Tradd Street by Karen White?

1. Please leave a comment on this post for one entry.
2. Leave a comment on tomorrow’s guest post for a second entry.

Deadline: November 14 at Midnight EST. The contest is open to international entrants.

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me The House on Tradd Street.

Also Reviewed By:

Musings of a Bookish Kitty
S. Krishna’s Books
The Book Czar
Library Queue
Diary of an Eccentric
In Bed With Books
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog
The Book Connection
Cafe of Dreams

Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby & Giveaway

Welcome to Hachette Group’s Early Birds Blog Tour for Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby, a book that examines one young genius’ struggle to find himself and his place in his own family and society; Thanks to Miriam Parker at Hachette for sending the book along for the tour.

Theodore Mead Fegley’s father runs a furniture store and funeral home with his brother Martin, while his mother’s main goal in life is to push her son to achieve as much as possible and not squander his intelligence. The pressure mounts for Mead as he speeds through his elementary and high school years, reaching the University of Chicago at age 15.

Mead is an awkward “geek” who tries to keep his head down and make it through what he believes is the roughest period of his life, high school. Despite attempts by his cousin, Percy, to pry Mead out of his shell, Mead stuffs his nose in his studies to graduate high school and head off to college away from his overbearing mother and the small town that despises and ridicules him.

The narrative easily shifts from the present to the past, and the chapter breaks make it easier to keep the timeline in perspective with details about what period in Mead’s life is witnessed and what location he is in.

Mead is a young teen thrust into academic life with peers who are much older and experienced. Even though he looks forward to college life and mingling with his peers, he finds the experience to be as difficult and confusing as his high school years. Mead’s life takes a stark turn when he meets Herman Weinstein, a fellow mathematics student at the university.

Mead meets Dr. Krustrup, who agrees to mentor him and Weinstein at least until Weinstein’s family fortune and connections convince him otherwise. Mead is easily pushed aside when Dr. Krustrup becomes chair of the mathematics department. While he is initially angry, he learns that his new mentor, Dr. Alexander, is much more inspiring. Under the tutelage of Dr. Alexander, Mead throws himself into the Riemann Hypothesis, and he hopes to either prove or disprove the hypothesis, which has been debated for more than 100 years.

Jacoby carefully intermingles events from Mead’s past into his present as a way to show how Mead’s character has developed and explain the reasons behind some of Mead’s reactions and behaviors at the university. As Mead grows closer to a solution, Herman insinuates himself further into Mead’s life. Tensions between the two friends–and I use this term loosely–continue to intensify, until a family tragedy and university pressure mount, forcing Mead to run home to rural Illinois several days before graduation, his major mathematical presentation, and his valedictorian speech.

While math problems make me cringe, this story brought me back to high school with the discussions of matrices–math I actually understood at one point–but Jacoby does a great job of including this information without burdening or boring the reader. As Mead’s life unfolds and the mystery grows more intense, the pages flow quickly, making the reader more anxious to learn the reason why Mead flees his sanctuary at the university when he is on the verge of success. Although this novel is dubbed an academic thriller that portion of the story fell flat. The descriptions, perceptions, and events in Mead’s life point the narrative more in the direction of a coming of age story. Jacoby’s academic thriller plotline did not have the foundation or twists and turns necessary to a successful thriller narrative. However, at the conclusion of the narrative, the reader will be pleased to see Mead find himself, what’s important to him, and how to cope with his reality.

About the Author:

M. Ann Jacoby has been an art director at Penguin USA for more than two decades. Life After Genius is her debut novel.

Without further ado, here is M. Ann Jacoby about her writing process.

Do you have a set writing routine? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I do have a routine. After getting my errands out of the way Saturday morning, I sit down around noon and write for about six hours. The first hour or two involves a lot of staring out the window and getting back into the world of my novel. By Sunday I’m into it. I get started around 8 or 9am and can go all day. I have to remind myself to stop and eat. Then, reluctantly, I have to put it all away and go back to my Mon-Fri job. I commute to work on the train and usually wait till midweek to read and edit what I wrote over the weekend. I don’t write during the week. I need large blocks of time without interruption to get lost in the world of my characters. I usually get 12-15 pages written over a weekend. It’s a long, slow process but I find the breaks in between give me a chance to step back from my work and rethink before plunging in again.

Was the research and writing process for Life After Genius different from your normal writing process?

Research takes time away from writing. And I find that I write too much of my research into the story at first. I want to put all that new information to good use! But eventually I edit most of it back out so that the research feels more like a natural backdrop.

Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?

It’s very hard to sort out criticism in the beginning. What to listen to, what not to. For me, there was a lot of trial and error. A lot of crying. Try not to let the negative remarks destroy you. Look at them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

What are your favorite rewards for reaching your writing goals and why?

To create something that speaks to another person is a reward in itself. Immeasureable. Plus, it means I can go back and create more characters and more imaginary worlds. To get to do what I most love and get paid for it is like winning the lottery.

Are you working on any other projects, and if so would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

The novel I’m working on now is loosely based on my mother’s parents who were bookies in West Palm Beach, Florida. The main character is Libby Freybaker who shared the pants in the family with her husband, my grandfather. She’s funny and smart and unconventional. It opens with them being handcuffed and arrested, then flashes back to tell the story of what led up to that point.

***Want to win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby from Savvy Verse & Wit and Hachette Group?

I will pass along my copy to one International winner, please let me know in the comments if you are international! Hatchette Group will pass along a copy to a winner with a U.S. or Canada address.

***Make sure you leave me a way to contact you either an email address or through your blog. Those not leaving emails or blog links, will not be entered. Deadline is November 5, 2008.

1. Leave a comment on this post for one entry telling me what you find most interesting about the book or Jacoby’s writing process.

2. Post this contest on your blog or sidebar and return here to leave me a link to where you posted it for a second entry.

3. For those of you that do not have blogs, email five friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com for your second entry.

Check out the other stops on the Life After Genius tour!

Marjolein Reviews
The Book Nest
Seaside Book Worm Blogger
Books by TJBaff

Linus’s Blanket

The Optimistic Bookfool
The Printed Page
My Friend Amy
Shooting Stars Mag
Books, Pungs, and More
A Novel Menagerie
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog
medieval bookworm
Book Critiques
B&b ex libris
Sharon Loves Books and Cats
At Home With Books
A Circle of Books
Book Line and Sinker

***More contests from Savvy Verse & Wit:

A copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

A copy of The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel! Deadline is Tonight at Midnight EST. Go here, follow the rules, and enter.

Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel & Contest

I received The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel from Book Club Girl, who will be hosting a book discussion with the author on Oct. 22 at 7 PM. For those of you have read the book, I encourage you to join the discussion in the chat room or on the phone lines. Here’s the call in number: (347) 945-6149. ***Delaune Michel just indicated that the girls on the cover are girls that she knows, daughters of her editor and another employee at Harper Collins. The photo was taken on the spur of the moment at a local park. How adorable!***

This novel takes the reader on a fluctuating journey between Louisiana and Los Angeles with two friends, Patricia, a semi-famous actress, and Fiona, her less-famous friend. The work examines the secrets that are told to friends, about friends, and to spouses about friends and how those secrets impact long-term relationships. Fiona has grown up with Patricia and they move to Los Angeles to become actresses and escape their abusive home lives. Their lives have diverged a bit, with Fiona still starring in independent films and guest star roles, while Patricia has hit the big time as a host of a popular reality show and is primped and ready for every occasion. The distance in their relationship has grown and so have the number of secrets between them.

The narration told from Fiona’s point of view moves in and out of the past so quickly, the reader can easily get lost. I often reread passages of this book looking for signs of where I was in Fiona’s life, whether it was her past miscarriage or her a haircut she got against her mother’s wishes when she was a pre-teen. In spite of the narration, the story unfolded in a suspenseful way. Patricia’s continued lack of support for her friend Fiona and her self-centered behavior darkens the friendship and leaves Fiona feeling left out and abandoned by her long-time friend. Overall, both of these characters represent the perception of typical Los Angeles actresses who are worried about wearing the right clothes, meeting the current mold for the latest television roles, and what others are thinking about them.

The book doesn’t reach its pinnacle until late in the work when one of the deepest, darkest secrets between Fiona and Patricia is revealed on national television and it places their friendship under significant pressure.

Also Reviewed By:
Everyday I Write the Book Blog
Literate Chick
Bertram’s Blog (guest post from Delaune Michel)
Books on the Brain

Redlady’s Reading Room
Peeking Between the Pages

***Another giveaway from Savvy Verse & Wit.

Deadline is Oct. 29 at Midnight EST.

1. Leave a comment on the post for one entry
2. Blog about or spread the word about the contest and leave a link on my review post for another entry.
3. Also provide me with a way to contact you either through email or your blog address.

***Just another reminder that the contest for Marilyn Meredith’s WingBeat ends on Oct. 22. So hurry and enter the contest.

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Testimony by Anita Shreve, which will be released on Oct. 21, was such a surprise in my mailbox from Hachette Group’s Miriam Parker. Thanks, Miriam! I met Anita Shreve at the 2002 National Book Festival signing in Washington, D.C. I’ve been in love with her writing since I first read The Pilot’s Wife many years before that, and I will admit here that I’ve tried to emulate her style in my own writing, though my writing has not met muster.

Testimony is one of those novels that slowly draws you into a prep school known as Avery Academy in Vermont where four boys and one girl make a decision that will change their lives and the lives of other students, teachers, administrators, families, and neighbors for years to come. Testimony is given throughout the novel from a number of characters–minor and major characters–illustrating the depth to which decisions of one or several people can impact others who are seemingly unconnected to the decision-makers. Jacqueline Barnard, a researcher from the University of Vermont, receives the interviews either in written form or through personal encounters with several of the characters.

The videotape that surfaces in Avery Academy Headmaster Mike Bordwin’s office is central to the story that unfolds in the novel, but another decision among a pair of adults also impacts the students and others in the town. Shreve is a master of character development and setting. I was drawn into the bitter cold winter snow of Vermont and the coziness of the town and the school, as well as the dark undercurrents in each of these characters’ lives. Shreve is adept at highlighting the nuances of how underage sex and drinking affects the students, the faculty, and others, while not preaching to the reader.

Silas and Noelle, two of the main adolescents in the novel, share a deep connection to one another at a tender age. It was tough to watch how this connection was tested and ultimately severed. Silas and his mother, Anna, also have a tight bond and naturally this connection is tested. Another adolescent boy, J. Dot and his bravado, serves as a foil to Silas’ hard-working, compassionate, and dutiful persona. Noelle is the naive and romantic girl-next-door, while Sienna is the wild girl looking for trouble even if it is on a subconscious level.

As always, Shreve has outdone herself in this novel, weaving a series of disjointed testimonies into a coherent and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, responsibility, and adolescence. I’ve often wondered if Shreve has ever tried her hand at poetry because the language she creates on the page paints a vivid image, and those images often conjure deeper meanings and emotions for the reader.

Also Reviewed By:
A Writer’s Pen
The Sleepy Reader
J. Kaye’s Book Blog
Reader for Life
At Home With Books
For the Good Times
CaribousMom
Bookshipper
S Krishna’s Books
Peeking Between the Pages
Breaking the Spine
Booking Mama
Literarily
Redlady’s Reading Room
B&B Ex Libris
Pop Culture Junkie
She Is Too Fond of Books

Hip Hop Speaks to Children Edited by Nikki Giovanni


I received Hip Hop Speaks to Children edited by Nikki Giovanni from Danielle at Sourcebooks, and Giovanni continues to make television and radio experiences about the book.

Poetry often has an internal rhythm like everyday speech does, and Hip Hop has taken that rhythm and modified it to create a modern day form of poetry, which engages younger generations and children by making poetry fun.

This book came with an audio CD, which you can use to read along with the book or skip around in the book to a variety of poems, and the CD also includes separate introductions to various pieces.

The book touts the talents of Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Eloise Greenfield, Maya Angelou, Queen Latifah, Young MC, and many others. The audio CD has poems read aloud, poems set to music, and some poems are sung. When I first started reading this book and listened to the CD at the same time, I was a bit confused because the poems on the CD were not in sequential order with the book. Then I realized that the poems on the CD have headphone designations and track numbers–check out the sample page to the right.

The beats would make any kid want to get up and dance, and I think the idea of incorporating music with the poetry will keep kids interested. It also makes it easier for children to follow along on their own, which makes this book something parents can sit with their children and work alongside them or set those kids off on their own with the book and CD in hand.

The illustrations are modern, abstract, crisp, and impressionistic and closely relate to the subject matter of each poem. Check out the page for Rapper’s Delight, which is a poem/song from the Sugarhill Gang.

The introduction to the poem is read by Nikki Giovanni and helps explain where the inspiration for the poem/song came from. I found that to be the most captivating introduction.

Queen Latifah makes an appearance in the book and on the audio CD as well. One of my favorites from the CD is Dat Dere by Oscar Brown, Jr., which was inspired by is “inquisitive child” asking questions about everything.

We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks is read by the poet, which is followed by a live performance with Nikki Giovanni, Oni Lasana, and Val Gray Ward “hamboning” the poem. I remember the inherent sadness in this poem from middle school, and it still stirs up emotions, particularly hearing it when read aloud.

About Nikki Giovanni: (Picture at Above)

Nikki Giovanni is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. Over the past thirty years, her outspokenness, in her writing and in lectures, has brought the eyes of the world upon her. One of the most widely-read American poets, she prides herself on being “a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English.” Giovanni remains as determined and committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality. Always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the Black community. Her focus is on the individual, specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus, in the lives of others.

Also Reviewed By:
Becky’s Book Reviews
The Friendly Book Nook
Cafe of Dreams

Run by Ann Patchett

I received Run by Ann Patchett from Everyday I Write the Book Blog as part of a book club discussion. After participating in Book Club Girl‘s radio discussion of the book with Ann Patchett, I was happy to learn that some of my thoughts about Bernard Doyle, the father in the book, were on target. He reminded me of Joe Kennedy, Sr., because of his drive to get his sons interested in politics and becoming president some day. He pushes his sons into watching other politicians speak at seminars and lectures even when it is obvious that these boys are not interested in politics at all. I enjoyed the Web radio discussion with Patchett about her writing process and how difficult it has become for her to write books as her life has grown more complex. She says that she examines her novel ideas in depth to uncover her characters motivations.

***Spoiler Alert***

This story centers on the Doyle family, led by Bernard a former mayor of Boston. Bernadette and Bernard have one son of their own, but when she miscarries a second child, they adopt two African American sons. These sons become Doyle’s focus after he loses his wife and a fateful accident causes Sullivan to break free from the family and go his own way. While Bernard wishes his sons would enjoy politics as much as he does, his adopted sons have their own life designs. Tip is interested in icthyiology and Teddy spends a great deal of time with their faith healing uncle Father Sullivan.

One night, the Doyles–minus Sullivan–are leaving a political speech by Jesse Jackson at Harvard University when a mysterious woman saves Tip from being hit by a car. The rest of the story unfolds quickly within a 24-hour period to reveal years of fear, anguish, and regret.

***End Spoiler Alert***

Although I enjoyed uncovering the many layers to the lives of these characters, I was often distracted by some of the lengthier passages from Father Sullivan or about Father Sullivan’s healing power. These passages made it seem like there was more to this story, which never really came to fruition. Father Sullivan does play a role in the boys’ lives, but the passages dedicated to him could have been shorter. Patchett’s use of language is very languid and it flowed well in many sections of the book. The exchange between Tennessee and her old friend after the car accident foreshadowed quite a bit of the remaining plot points.

One of my biggest concerns about the beginning of the novel was the rough time I had telling the difference between Tip and Teddy; they almost seemed like the same person other than their different interests. If Patchett had chosen another name for Tip, it may have worked better. Teddy’s name was appropriate given his kind nature. Kenya’s name seemed cliche to me, especially given that her favorite thing to do was run.

I have not read other Patchett novels, though I do have Bel Canto in my TBR pile. I would recommend this book for readers of Patchett, but from what I understand from others it is not the best example of her work.

I also wanted to alert everyone to the book club discussion of Run by Ann Patchett on Everyday I Write the Book Blog. I’m going to head over there now and chat along. Won’t you?

Also Reviewed By:
Everyday I Write the Book Blog
A Girl Walks Into A Bookstore
Diary of an Eccentric

B&B Ex Libris
Fizzy Thoughts
Peeking Between the Pages

Explore Hidden Hawaii



Ray Riegert’s Hidden Hawaii published by Ulysses Press incorporates full-bleed photos ranging from the Pacific Ocean to lava flows on the outside and inside of the book. I claimed this travel guide from the Mini Book Expo for Bloggers because my husband and I have been talking about a vacation to Hawaii since before we got married six years ago. Ideally, that would have been our honeymoon of choice, but money was unavailable at the time for that kind of vacation, so we went somewhere closer for our honeymoon–Jamaica. Now that we are older and wiser and are willing to plan ahead, we are looking toward our goal, Hawaii, and hopefully, Kauai.

This travel guide is larger than I would like to take along with me on the streets as a handbook for exploration, but then again I carry a large SLR and other photographic equipment. However, this book does have a lot to offer tourists interested in a trip to the island chain.

The white and green pages provide readers with a crisp, clean page to read, and the contents are broken down by island–Oahu, Big Island, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kauai. One of the best parts of this travel guide is that it not only tells the reader the touristy locations that are “must see,” but also the hidden aspects of the islands. For instance, in Waikiki, one of the most well-known attractions is Diamond Head. One of the hidden treasures of Waikiki highlighted in the book, which peaked my interest, is Queen Kapiolani Hibiscus Garden where tour buses do not have a place to stop, but tourists can spend the day picnicking in splendor.

Hidden Hawaii not only describes the major hotel chains in Hawaii, but also some of the smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts. It contains green and white maps broken down by particular regions and various coastlines, which will help tourists orient themselves. Some of the maps outline streets, and many of them are dotted with attractions.

I would love to see the Star of the Sea Painted Church on the Big Island for myself, which is another of the hidden treasures that can be found in this book. According to the book, a Belgian priest painted murals of religious scenes inside the church, which reminded me of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling in Italy painted by Michelangelo. This church must be a sight to see.

From outdoor activities like kayaking in the ocean to hiking to tennis, this book has something for everyone, even those just interested in lying on the beaches and getting a suntan. There are favorite tourist night spots and those that are hidden.

My husband and I enjoyed looking through the book and picking out the hidden spots and the more well-known spots we would like to see on our trip someday, but we were a bit disappointed that there weren’t too many photos of the islands, the parks, destinations, museums, activities, and the like. All of the photos in the book are at the beginning. If I had to pick a drawback, that would be it.

This book is for tourists interested in the hidden side of the islands and the tourist attractions. I would recommend it as a starting guide for a trip to Hawaii.

***Please do not forget to enter the Mrs. Lieutenant Contest, Deadline is Sept. 14.***

***Diary of an Eccentric has a contest for The Almost Moon and The Choice; Deadline is Sept. 30.***

Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel

Phyllis Zimbler Miller‘s novel, Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel, takes a unique look at how young men seeking alternatives to the draft opted for Armor Officer’s Basic (AOB) training, while their wives tagged along to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, where the training was held.

Unlike many of the other novels and non-fiction books I have read about the Vietnam War, including those examining the politics of the war, this novel sheds light on how wives, especially new wives, deal with the commitments of their husbands to the military. The novel provides a varied examination of how these women–one Jew (Sharon Gold), one Puerto Rican (Donna Lautenberg), one African-American (Wendy Johnson), and one Southern White Woman (Kim Benton)–struggle with their own convictions regarding the war, their husbands’ decisions about their role as soldiers, and how their ethnicity impacts their actions and decisions.

From Sharon’s feelings against the war to Donna’s experiences as an “army brat” turned officer’s wife, this novel takes the reader inside these women’s lives and the emotional roller coaster they experience beginning with Day 1 at Ft. Knox. Whether it is dealing with racial discrimination or anti-semitism or just the basic human need to belong, these women struggle against their own biases to find friendship with one another.

The bond these women create at a turbulent time in history is admirable not only because the bond crosses racial lines, but also because it transcends their own fears about their roles as Mrs. Lieutenants and wives.

The novel also sheds light on the thought processes of army officers’ decisions to either extend their obligations with the army as part of involuntary definite or the regular army.

Miller’s writing technique draws the reader into each character’s plight easily, and it is hard not to be pulled into their triumphs, sorrows, and fears. As a former Mrs. Lieutenant herself, it is not surprising that this novel is emotional. The way in which Miller incorporates elements of actual events into her fictional novel is admirable, and it is wonderful to see excerpts from the manual provided to AOB wives, also called Mrs. Lieutenant by Mary Preston Gross.

Phyllis Zimbler and Mitchell Miller at the Coronation Ball at Michigan State University on Saturday, November 18, 1967, sponsored by the Cadet Officers Club and the Arnold Air Society.

About the Author:

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL. She is a former Mrs. Lieutenant and lives with her husband in Los Angeles.

For those interested in supporting today’s American troops, please check out the latest post on the Mrs. Lieutenant blog.

***I’ve got a treat for your tomorrow, Sept. 9, Phyllis Zimbler Miller will provide Savvy Verse & Wit with an inside look at the publishing industry and her decision to select a print-on-demand publisher for her novel. Come back tomorrow to read her insider’s look and enter to win a copy of her novel, Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel.


If you have reviewed this novel, please leave me a link in the comments.

Also Reviewed By:
Diary of an Eccentric
The Literate Housewife Review
B&B ex libris
Out of the Blue
Fizzy Thoughts
She Is Too Fond of Books

Double XX, Marks the Spot

Double Cross by James Patterson, the latest in the Alex Cross series, is a gripping continuation. There are two psychopathic killers on the loose and they are in competition with one another. Alex has yet another love interest, Bree Stone, who just happens to be a detective with the Washington D.C. police department, but Cross is no longer with the FBI or the police department. In fact, he’s become the family man, with his own psychiatric practice and patients.

This is the book I’ve been waiting to read from Patterson. The last two Patterson books I’ve read have left me wanting better writing and more intricate plots. This has most of both. The writing is better, the characters are sympathetic and varied, and the plot is definitely much less contrived than the previous two.

***Spoiler Alert***
Alex Cross has his patients and comes home for dinner with the family on a daily basis, which is something that his kids are certainly not used to. It’s good to see him with the family and the newest love of his life, but you know something will happen to draw him back into the game. First there are a series of killings by a serial murderer interested in having an audience for his crimes, and those audiences get bigger and bigger. Then, Kyle Craig, Alex Cross’ archenemy The Mastermind, escapes from the inescapable prison in Colorado. What is Craig after and how did he escape. I almost wished there was more with this storyline, rather than the DCAK murders, but I’m sure that Craig will resurface in the next installment.

DCAK is a ego-maniac in search of his own infamy…he wants to be larger than life, bigger than Kyle Craig, himself. It’s this desire to be better and then thinking he is better that becomes DCAK’s downfall. I love the meeting of DCAK and Craig. That is the best interlude in the book. The showdown in the alley near the end is suspenseful and nerve-wracking. I couldn’t wait to see the outcome.

***End Spoiler Alert***

Patterson does a better job in this book of maintaining my interest in this book. Overall, this series is the most well-crafted of the ones he has created and is probably why it remains so popular. The suspense in the latter half of the book is phenomenal, and I over-thought the book a bit when I was waiting for Bree Stone to turn on Cross and shoot him and reveal herself as part of the coup. It’s a great addition to the Cross series, and this time around the end gives you an even bigger lead in to the next book that is sure to come in the series.

Warning…for Readers

I finished James Patterson’s You’ve Been Warned in record time while on a mini-vacation with the parents in town. So what did I think of the latest creation from Patterson? It was an odd read. I was confused much of the time while reading it. It’s suspenseful, but annoying at the same time because you are confused much of the time you are reading it, particularly when you are wondering what the main point of the story is and who is chasing the main character, Kristin Burns. This is not an Alex Cross or Women’s Murder Club or Michael Bennett novel of cops and robbers, though the mentality of those cops is carried slightly over into the Burns character who hopes to unravel the mystery. The best part for me with the character of Burns is her love of photography, which I can totally relate to. She just clicks away on her camera, much like I do sometimes…the urge is there to just keep shooting, probably why film got to be too expensive for me and I switched over to digital–though there are some things I prefer about film photography.

She seeks the identity of the man who continues to warn her throughout the novel and continues to avoid the cop following her, but does she do it successfully? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I will tell you this about the new book. It was a great twist at the end; one I had an inkling about; but it was still a great end. You’ll also have to read to figure out if this novel is one of the better experiments run by Patterson over the years.

He’s tried romantic novels with Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas and Sam’s Letters to Jennifer–one faring much better than the other. I really loved Suzanne’s Diary, but really hated Sam’s Letters. Then he attempted a historical novel, The Jester, which I really enjoyed as well. I think some of his bread and butter series, like Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club, have fallen a little flat as of late, but the recent You’ve been Warned novel indicates there is a muse at work behind Patterson’s writing still, he just needs to pay closer attention when writing the series his readers’ love.