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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

August 29, 2015

"a complex and captivating novel" ~ Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

When her father falls into a coma, Indian American photographer Sonya reluctantly returns to the family she’d fled years before. Since she left home, Sonya has lived on the run, free of any ties, while her soft-spoken sister, Trisha, has created a perfect suburban life, and her ambitious sister, Marin, has built her own successful career. But as these women come together, their various methods of coping with a terrifying history can no longer hold their memories at bay.

Buried secrets rise to the surface as their father—the victim of humiliating racism and perpetrator of horrible violence—remains unconscious. As his condition worsens, the daughters and their mother wrestle with private hopes for his survival or death, as well as their own demons and buried secrets.

Told with forceful honesty, Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani reveals the burden of shame and secrets, the toxicity of cruelty and aggression, and the exquisite, liberating power of speaking and owning truth.

I loved this intricate story... ~ Shirley Kurnick

Well written and full of surprising experiences ~ Arlene Fleishman

Beautiful story ~ Elizabeth Curry

Buy Trail of Broken Wings at Amazon

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

August 28, 2015

Review: Seed by Lisa Heathfield

by Donna Huber

cover Seed

We watch the car from the window, Kate, Ruby, and I. From here it looks so small, like a ladybug crawling closer. Slowly, it creeps up our long driveway. We never have visitors and Ruby has gone silent, standing on the chair beside me. Kate's hands go still in the sink as we hear the rumble of the car's engine. It comes to a stop outside the main door of our house. page 56

The Review

I've had Lisa Heathfield's debut novel Seed in my to read for a few months and I couldn't wait to get to it. It's simple language and well developed characters had me reading it straight through in about 5 hours.

Pearl has only know life at Seed. There is only happiness at Seed, everything they need is provided at Seed. For the first time in Pearl's life there are newcomers to the family, people from Outside, What seeds will the grow?

The story opens as the naive protagonist Pearl becomes a woman.
Here, crouched beside the toilet, I'm terrified I'm dying. My stomach must be bleeding, or my liver, or my kidneys. Something inside me has somehow got cut. Spots of blood smear my underwear. I wipe myself with toilet paper and there's more blood. Am I being punished for something I have said or done?

We discover right along with her the only place she has ever known and it isn't all she thought it once was. Heathfield draws you slowly into the world of Seed, pulling back the layers with each new character and understated language.

As far as cults go Seed is pretty mild. I was kind of shocked that there wasn't some kind of indoctrination for the newcomers. In hindsight, I'm sure Papa S. wishes he had. If you are worried about your young adult reading dark fiction, you don't need to be with Seed.

The story is cast in shadows, but is not focused on the dark world of cults. Instead it is more of an emotional coming of age story. When I turned the last page all I could think was "intense".

It wasn't intense so much from external factors, but the internal battle that we witness within Pearl.

I thought there were some thin spots in the plot and that it followed a predictable pattern. It could have even been considered bland. But the characters more than made up for the story's shortcomings.

It was this human interest viewpoint of life in a cult that was so intriguing. My only complaint about character development was that they were not distinctly British. Outside of the use of "rubbish" and mention of Southampton, I didn't know the story was not set in the U.S. (and it wasn't until the word rubbish appeared that I started to question it as Southampton could be a town in New England for all I know). Perhaps it was done intentionally to be more accessible to American teens. But even as a teen I wanted the characters to fit the setting.

I'm glad that I read the note for the editor on the first page so that I knew that Seed is part of a two book series. The book doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but I definitely want to know what happens next to Pearl, Kate and Jack. It is actually the "after" that I usually find much more interesting in stories like this.

If you enjoy realistic drama that isn't too dark, then I recommend Seed by Lisa Heathfield.

Buy Seed at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook, audio, and print (336 pages)
published: March 2015 by Running Press Kids
ISBN13:  9780762456345
genres: realistic drama, coming of age
target audience: young adult
source: publisher
read: August 2015

A free book was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

August 27, 2015

Blogging in the classroom

by Donna Huber

Are you a teacher looking for a fun way for your kids to develop their reading comprehension and writing skills? A classroom book blog can be the answer.

When I was growing up I always wanted to write for the school newspaper. There is something exciting about having your words read and acknowledge by others. Due to budget cuts and rising costs of printing, many schools no longer have a newspaper. Now with electronic media being so popular, a school or classroom blog can be an ideal way to bring back that excitement.

For elementary students, blogging can be a way to share with parents what the kids are reading. You may also consider doing a video blog. Those "kids say the darnest things" videos always go viral. And I know when I was a kid I always wanted to be one of the kids at the end of Reading Rainbow that tells what they are reading.

If writing blog posts, you may want to combine what a few of the kids think about the book into one post.

For older readers - middle school and high school students, they can take on increasing responsibility for the blog. From deciding what to post, to editing the contributions, to working on graphics. They can also work with publishers and authors conducting interviews. Publishers and authors love to hear what their target audience thinks about book and I'm sure they would be happy to answer the kids questions.

photo credit: teaching with emotion: a halloween story
photopin (license)
For kids of all ages, getting to speak with the author is a real treat and many authors are happy to Skype with a class if they can't be there in person. Having a blog may be the incitement some publishers need to assist you in making contact with the author.

Having a classroom or school blog can also earn you free books as publishers and authors will want to have their book featured.

The blog doesn't have to be solely about books, but can just be a feature. Much like in the newspapers.

Using affiliate links in your book posts may also be a way to earn some cash as well.

Even if the only people who see the book posts are other kids and teachers in the school, it can still be fun for the kids.

If you don't already have a school/classroom blog, you need to check your school;s policies and may need to seek parental permission.

Having students write for a school or classroom blog will also give you an opportunity to talk with them about internet safety, copyright, and plagiarism. The later were foreign concepts to my nephew. He claims his teacher told him he could using any image he found through a Google image search without attribution.

While most of what you will blog about falls under Fair Use, your students will still need to attribute images to the proper person. It is no different that using a quote from a book.

A variety of educational topics can be taught under the disguise of running a blog. If you are looking for a creative and fun way to incorporate these topics into your curriculum I highly recommend starting a classroom or school blog.

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

August 26, 2015

After Game of Thrones: My televisual fantasies

by Ross M. Kitson

One of the great things about Game of Thrones and its success is the boom in popularity of the fantasy genre, which for long- time fans such as myself can only be a welcome thing. HBO took a big gamble when they started the series in 2011. Traditionally fantasy had been a niche market, and the commitment to the series (which is still as yet incomplete) would be a long haul. Yet it paid off, making it HBOs most successful series, turning its less known actors into stars (especially Emelia Clarke, Kit Harrington and Peter Dinklage) and being the show that everyone talks about.

Yet the series is a finite thing. George RR Martin is already being overtaken by the show, having two books to finish in the series, but with the new season already being filmed. Assuming HBO bring it to a finale, and don’t milk it for a few more years, there will be a very significant void when the story concludes in a steam bath of dragon fire versus icy white walkers. And, as a fantasy lover, I’ve pondered as to what will potentially fill that void. So here we have five ideas for the post-Game of Thrones world…

cover The Complete Malazan Book of the Fallen
1. Steven Erikson’s Malazan Empire

Having the advantage of being recently completed, this complex ten book series certainly ticks the mature and epic boxes. It has an avalanche of characters, many occupying the gritty middle ground between good and evil, and intricate storylines that don’t insult the readers intelligence. Although the first book was originally developed as a film script, the books would be definitely better as a series. Compared to Game of Thrones it definitely has a more epic fantasy bent, with non-human races, undead warriors, and the best magic system in fantasy (in my opinion).

Buy The Complete Malazan Book of the Fallen at Amazon

2. Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

I know this one has been on and off the cards for years for a film version. The original trilogy was a best seller and tells the story of unlikeable leper, Thomas Covenant, and his trips to the Land. His visits, felt initially to complex dreams/hallucinations, are displaced in time—namely time moves at different rates between Earth and the Land. This would create some interesting casting challenges—but the attraction of complex and often unlikeable main characters in the series may be too much to resist. And one of the more iconic bad guys of recent fantasy literature too.

Buy Lord Foul's Bane at Amazon

cover The Gentleman Bastard series
3. Scott Lynch's The Gentleman Bastard series

Only three books in, but this series has really caught the imagination of fantasy readers. Its style is almost Martin Scorsese does epic fantasy—it’s a tale of gangs, thieves and con men, with suitably colourful language and characters. The lead characters Locke and Jean are charismatic rogues, and the action brutal and gory. Lynch palns for seven books in the series so there’d be plenty to go at, although I suspect to make a series they’d need to buff out minor plotlines to make a larger cast of protagonists.

Buy The Gentleman Bastard series at Amazon

cover The Eye of the World

4. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time

The epic fifteen book series, which has been on my to-read list for… well… forever, is an obvious successor to Game of Thrones. It’s complete—although it took Sanderson to finish it after Jordan’s sad demise—and has a vast wealth of material and characters to draw upon. Its tone isn’t as ‘adult’ as Game of Thrones or Malazan, although as I understand there is a fair bit of violence and death, and some (no-explicit) sexual content.

A pilot was broadcast earlier this year in rather bizarre circumstances (apparently Jordan’s widow didn’t even know about it), and so it’s possible that may be optioned/ re-done or that Universal may go on to do something with it (they have been involved with proposals of developing it before).

Buy The Eye of the World at Amazon

cover Queen of Sorcery
5. David Eddings’ Belgariad

It was a tricky call for number five. It was between Belgariad, Moorcock’s Elric, and Abercrombie’s The First Law. Although the lightest of the three choices, I could see it working in a lot of ways. It’s a fairly linear plot, with a strong basis in traditional heroic fantasy, with an excellent set of characters and a nice coming of age style. The dialogue is one of the best in fantasy books I’ve read, with a great line in banter, and the iconic villain –Torak. For a series it may need some degree of maturation and modernisation (as did LotR) and buffing of sub-plots so as to avoid following Garion around like a puppy for five books.

Buy Queen of Sorcery at Amazon

So, do you agree with my choices? Am I biaised by the fantasy books that I have come to love rather than thinking commercially or artistically. Who would you throw into the list? Anne McCaffrey, Ursula LeGuin, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss? And if we expand it out to the borders between SF and Fantasy? I’d love to see the Amber chronicles by Zelazney done properly. One things for certain, with CGI and bigger and bigger budgets, this is a great time to be a fantasy fan.

Title screenshot from Game of Thrones is used under the Fair Use clause, copyright owner is Home Box Office Inc./BCKORS, LLC./GROK!, LLC./Generator Entertainment/Suction Productions, Inc.

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

August 25, 2015

K.D. Emerson: A new site for finding bargain ebooks

photo credit: Screen Frame via photopin (license)
Books! You gotta love them. I’ve traveled the entire world, the entire universe really, just by opening a book. I’ve meet characters that inspire me, make me angry, and make me cry or laugh aloud. I’m sure you can relate.

From my earliest memories I have wanted to be involved in the world of creating stories and providing a few hours of entertainment for people. Because of this I became passionate about helping other authors and readers connect.

I noticed a real need for a community where authors and readers could connect. I dreamed of a place where avid readers could find lots of stories at reasonable prices so they would never run out of great places to go and interesting people to meet.  I dreamed of a place where authors could promote their stories without going broke doing it. I wanted a place where authors and readers could chat and build a relationship.

The dream finally came true. This week, my team and I will open the new venue with a celebration on Facebook. You are welcome to join us here for some games and prizes and best of all an opportunity to build relationships.

If you cannot join our party this coming weekend on the FB event, feel free to join us on the website here.

About the author:
K.D. Emerson loves writing thought provoking and action filled stories that will bring her readers back for more. Although her writings deal with the evils of the world she dishes out healthy doses of laughter and fun along the way.
K.D. spends her free time wrangling wild horses, rafting down the Amazon, hang gliding on a toothpick and when she's awake you will find her working on her next adventure or assisting others in creating their dreams. 

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

August 24, 2015

Heather (@HeatherKirc) interviews Christopher Slayton

by Heather Kirchoff

What made you decide to start writing? Was this something you always thought you’d do?

I had a lot of artistically inclined friends growing up, so I tried my hand at making comics, but I never graduated from drawing stick figures. So once I was in high school, I started writing stories and I felt a lot more comfortable and confident in doing that than any other outlet.

To answer if writing was something I always wanted to do is hard to say. I like a good story. I like storytelling, no matter if it’s in the form of a film, a tv show, a play, a video game, a song, a book or a graphic novel. I guess I always wanted to be a story teller, no matter how I get my stories across.

How do you come up with your characters or story ideas?

Coming up with a story ideas isn’t too difficult, especially when it’s a classic such as good vs. evil. No matter how you see it the idea is always two or more forces opposing each other over an ideal or desire. The hard part is coming up with characters for that story. What I’ve done with Chaos Company is draw from behaviors I see in people I come across. The hardest character to create was the primary antagonist Liam King. I’ve never met anyone who inspired me to create Liam. I came up with that character during a pretty miserable time in my life.

How do you get inspired to write?

Usually with some music that fits the mood to what I’m writing a scene where someone dies I’ll play something like Evanescence. If I’m writing a scene that has a lot of action and fighting in it I’ll listen to something more upbeat like Linkin Park.

What do you do while having writers block?

I’ll read a comic book or practice martial arts, or even pick up a video game. Doing any of those things really helps me break my writer’s block.

What kind of stories do you write?

Anything action/adventure related. I grew up on classic 80’s and 90’s action films and comics. From buddy cop films like Lethal Weapon to darker stories such as Universal Soldier. I love stories that pit two powerful forces against one another. I couldn’t see myself writing anything else.

Who’s your favorite author?

Anthony Horowitz. The author of the Alex Rider Series. His work was a real inspiration to me.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was in eighth, so almost twelve years now. I had the best English teacher in the world back then. Her name was Mrs. Citino. She regularly assigned her students to write short stories. Those assignments were so much fun to me.

What are your stories about?

cover Chaos Company
Chaos Company is my only published book so far. I do have two projects I’m working on right now thought.

The other stories I have written are short stories that I may try to publish some day. One is a story of a honest cop who steals money from a crime scene. Another is a short about a college boy with incredible powers who hides who hides who he is from the world as a final request from his late mother. I also did a short on two friends competing in a martial arts tournament together, as well as a farmer seeking revenge after fiancé was murdered.

What are you currently working on?

I’m actually working on two books right now. The first is a sequel to Chaos Company which is currently titled “War-torn Warriors”. The second is an action/adventure with a more serious tone to it. I’m keeping that story pretty close to the vest, at least right now until I finish the first draft.

What do you do when not writing?

When I’m not writing I like to exercise at the gym or by practicing martial arts. I also love to read comics and watch shows and films on Netflix with my friends. Right now we’re watching Californication and catching up on Orange Is the New Black.

Do you blog or leave reviews for other authors? Why or why not?

I do leave reviews for other authors if I read their book and like it. If I didn’t I won’t finish the book and not leave a review. I’m not one to bash another writer’s work because I understand how difficult it is to find success in such a competitive market.

I do not blog. I just don’t have the time for it. With work, martial arts, writing two books and trying to promote Chaos Company I know I wouldn’t have the time to tend to a blog often. Maybe one day soon I’ll find the time to blog. But as of right now it’s just not for me.

What’s your favorite thing about being published?

I do love that my book is published and I can now focus on writing other stories. But my favorite thing about being published is that I finally have other people taking look at my work. From book reviewers to casual readers it’s great to be able to share it with the world, especially when those reads are followed by some feedback.

About the author:
Christopher Slayton was born and raised in New Castle, Delaware. During Chris’ high school years he earned two All-Conference awards in lacrosse and three national awards in JROTC. Chris attended the University of Delaware, where he earned a B.A. in Psychology. While in college Chris was a UD ambassador, and wrote sketches for his school’s comedy show. Chris was a member of his school’s Tae Kwon Do team, where he earned multiple honors in nine tournaments. Chris has incorporated his passion for both martial arts and videogames into his writing, helping him finish his first ebook Chaos Company.

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

August 23, 2015

The White Thread Read Along: Chapters 19-24 @KBHoyle_author

by Donna Huber

cover the White Thread
We are nearing the end of The White Thread by K. B. Hoyle and they have yet to fulfill any purpose this year. There were two things they could do this year: 1. investigate the possibility of a gateway near Fobos and 2. rescue Yahto Veli from the Oracle. They chose the latter (though Rubidius sent a scouting party of Fobos). However, there sea voyage to where they think the Oracle's lair is has been thwarted and they are marooned on the island of Theanisi.

Why is it that Darcy always seems to witness the most gruesome of horrors? She has just witnessed a man's throat being ripped out by a goddess like creature. And now she has to save her friends, which proves a bit difficult as they all believe they are in utopia.

It is kind of interesting that there have been times in the past years that Darcy has felt alone and abandoned and done some rash things as result. This time she really is alone, in that they are incapable of helping her, but she stops and thinks. Another good sign that she is maturing.

Darcy can become a master cat burglar as she can magically unlock doors! I wonder if Rubidius was thinking it would strengthen her magic skills if he locked the door. He knew she could "break and enter" if she wanted to and I'm assuming if he really didn't want her going in there without his permission he could have created a more secure spell.

Amelia has a bit of a fight in her. She seems to have a bit more of  a role in this book as does her talent.

I wonder why Apeti and the rest of the villagers are so upset about Darcy and Amelia breaking the enchantment. Are they just worried about upsetting Thea? Have they felt her anger before? Do they suspect something more is going on, but can't hold on to the suspicion because of the enchantment?

Ooh, Perry and Darcy are alone in a room...together. I think it is kind of funny that Darcy questions why they are alone. Darcy gets her first kiss! And there's no fireworks. Do you remember your first kiss? Was it any good?

Not only are there no fireworks, Darcy gets the big, fat NO feeling from it. Too bad she didn't figure it out sooner because a lot of people are going to be hurt and the boat isn't that big for all the teenage angst and melodrama that'll result.

Poor Tellius. Even after seeing Darcy and Perry kissing he is willing to defend Darcy. When will she get a clue?

My feelings about Perry mirror Tellius's,
"He's become arrogant and conceited, and he treats other people's feelings with indifference."   
Did this section of the book feel slower to anyone else? I wonder if it was purposeful - to give us the same feeling of a long voyage that the characters were feeling. You know like those long boring car trips where the kids asking incessantly "are we there yet?" Granted, Sam is dealing with an awful bout of seasickness, even she can't help by ask "how much longer?"

But the storm does give Tellius and Darcy some bonding time which is definitely needed to repair the rift that the Perry incident caused.  Though the bonding almost results in losing Darcy overboard.

And it is a good thing that she was mending things with Tellius because Sam just found out. Sam has always been a bit more on the mature side and even with her heartbreaking she still demonstrates that. While forgiveness isn't easy or quickly coming she knows she will forgive Darcy. How many of us, in the midst of a betrayal, can say that?

What do you think of the "white thread held in the balance" revelation? I think the first time through I was more on the captain's side.

With Amelia attending to Sam and Dean no doubt basking in having Perry back to himself, we get to see a bit more of Lewis. He's always been in the background, quietly observing. But when he does speak there is usually a well thought out usefulness to what he is saying.

We get a hint that perhaps Lewis has developed feelings for Sam that are beyond just best friend feelings. Or maybe not. Maybe he just has great admiration for Sam and his defense of her qualities is nothing more than a brotherly type affection. What do you think?

I think the most interesting part of the story is the exchange of dreams. It is an interesting plot choice. It allows Darcy and Tellius to reveal their innermost darkness without having to say a word. One of the biggest adages in the how to write discussions is that writers must show their readers and not just tell them. In away that is what Hoyle is doing with her characters. Sure she could have had Darcy and Tellius sit down and bare their souls to one another, but the emotional impact on the the person hearing the revelation may not have been as great.

I don't mind going to the zoo and seeing snakes or handling them at the nature center, but snakes just slithering around gives me the creeps me out. Soa the whole scene with the water and snakes and the boat being swarmed. was difficult to read.

But Tellius, with some help from Darcy, saves the day. What do you think about Tellius and Darcy experiencing a coroneia? I thought they were kind of rare, but Darcy has experienced twice this year.

But not all is well. Darcy has been bitten and again their journey is postponed. What do you think of Rubidius's sacrifice?

And their journey hasn't been totally impeded while Darcy recovers - Dean and the others have been scouting the island looking for the lair. And perhaps they have made the most useful of discoveries during this time.

Next week we will conclude our reading of The White Thread. Will Darcy be able to rescue Yahto Veli? Will they be able to return to Alitheia? I hope you join me next week and remember to enter the giveaway.

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Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.