Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mother-Daughter Book Camp by Heather Vogel Frederick

In the last book of the series(for real this time the author says), the girls are headed to be councilors at summer camp before heading off to their colleges of choice. Camp Lovejoy has a long tradition of helping girls overcome their fears while having fun and making memories. The girls are each assigned cabins in the younger girls' section of camp. They are faced with homesick little girls, the obligatory "mean girls" and of course helping their campers have the best summer camp experience possible. Not only are each of the book club girls faced with taking care of their little charges, but they are also dealing with their own issues of finding themselves this summer before heading off to college. In an attempt to help some of the girls overcome homesickness the book club girls start a book club for their campers. Based on the same format they have used for years, the girls pick Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher to read to their little girls and discuss the book and learn about the author. Camp is filled with 6 weeks of continuous activity that keeps everyone busy and having fun!

I cannot tell you how much I love this series! I mean LOVE! I'm seriously going to miss Emma, Megan, Cassidy, Becca, and Jess. Each girl holds a place in my heart. The Mother-Daughter book club books prove that you can have a mid-grade book that is not filled with sexual content, foul language and gritty, angst-ridden characters, yet still manages to deal with real-life struggles of boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, peer pressure, and the every day complications of growing up and making good choices. I enjoyed this last installment of the series. Each girl was true to character and each one grew during the summer. Whether it was in helping a difficult camper or dealing with an issue in their own life they handled themselves with maturity and FUN! I loved the camp setting and the rivalry between the girls' camp and the boys camp across the lake! The shenanigans that went on there were hilarious and had me laughing out loud and applauding their creativity! I could go on and on, but I would give too much of the story away. Trust me when I say that this is a series that I highly recommend when asked what a parent or friend can give to a young girl. I've given this series to a couple of young girls and I hope that they have enjoyed it as much as I have. Trust me too when I say that tears and laughter abounded in this last book and I was thoroughly satisfied when I finished.

Reviews of other books in the series:

The Mother-Daughter Book Club(read before I started blogging)
Much Ado About Anne(read before I started bloggin)
Dear Pen Pal
Pies & Prejudice
Home For The Holidays
Wish You Were Eyre

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Firewall by DiAnn Mills

Taryn is at the airport ready to go on her honeymoon with her new husband. When she ducks into the restroom before her flight a bomb explodes and Taryn's world is turned upside down. When Taryn wakes up in the hospital FBI agent Grayson and his partner are there to question Taryn. She and her new husband are suspected of bombing the airport. Taryn's husband is nowhere to be found though. Video footage shows him leaving the airport before the bomb even exploded.

Taryn is now helping the FBI find out who the terrorist is that bombed the airport. Taryn's trust in men is shattered and all she can worry about is finding her murdered best friends child who has been taken by the people that want Taryn for her computer hacker skills.

Who is behind the bombing, who has Zoey and will Taryn and Grayson be able to stop them before it's too late?

Firewall was so exciting! From the moment the bomb exploded I was hooked and had to find out who was behind all of the destruction and what was their motive. I loved Taryn's determination to make things right and to find her fake husband. The tentative relationship she had with Grayson was sweet, and he was definitely her perfect match. I also loved that Taryn wasn't a wilting violet, she had self-defense skills that were awesome and used perfectly on the right person! I'm definitely a fan of this author and will be reading more of her books!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman

From the very first page FATAL MISTAKE had me in it's grip! From the moment Tara finds out that her life-long friend and neighbor is the Lone Wolf Bomber she is on the run from him. After all, she found all of his bomb-making equipment and he shot her AND threatened her while she was in the hospital. Tara had no choice but to run.

Special Agent Cal Riggins was the person who answered Tara's desperate 911 call and he has promised to protect her from Oren. But how can he protect her when Oren was able to get to her in the hospital? If Cal and his team can find Tara so easily then of course Oren will be able to. Once Tara realizes that Oren is targeting people she has come in contact with she agrees to help the FBI track him down before it is too late for another person.

Both Cal and Tara are attracted to each other but both are struggling with issues in their life and neither is in a right place with God to pursue a relationship. But the more danger that each of them is in the more they realize there is no fighting what the heart wants.

You know you are in for a great read when from the very first page you can't seem to put the book down. FATAL MISTAKE was just such a book! The author takes the reader on a roller coast ride that keeps the heart pounding and the fingers swiping or turning pages(whichever way you prefer to read your books nowadays). Not only was there suspense, but there was also romance. Two of my favorite things! While the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat the romance melted my heart. I loved Cal and Tara's characters. I also loved the spiritual aspect of the book. There isn't a lot of preaching in the story, but it shows both characters having natural struggles with their faith in God, and how those struggles formed their character and their relationship. This is the first book in the White Knights Series and I have to say that I am hooked and cannot wait for book two! Which by the way, there is a sneak peak of at the end of book one!

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Final Vow by Amanda Flower

Kelsey is busy with all the wedding preparations for her ex-husband and his fiance'. The last thing she needs at this time is another murder on Barton Farm. But that is exactly what she gets! Krissie(the bride) is determined to make Kelsey's life a nightmare by getting her way for the wedding. Her wedding planner is just as determined. But when the wedding planner ends up dead Kelsey is once again plunged into saving the reputation of her beloved farm.

Kelsey not only has the wedding to deal with, but she also has her growing feelings for Chase to deal with. Is she ready to open herself up to another man or has her ex ruined that for her?

My Thoughts:

In a way I can totally relate to Kelsey in that I am a fixer. Kelsey is the one that everyone goes to with their problems and she's expected to have answers. The only person she doesn't seem to take care of is herself. I did find that I got frustrated with her for letting some people walk all over her. She was determined to stand on her own and be strong, but yet it seemed that she allowed Krissie and her(Kelsey's) ex to take advantage of her too easily even when they threatened custody of her son.  The mystery of who the killer was kept me turning the pages. I really liked Chase's character, but definitely wasn't a fan of his ex-girlfriend! I have to admit I wasn't expecting the person who was the killer even though there were hints. All in all The Final Vow was a good cozy mystery to sit by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy!

Friday, May 5, 2017

An Interview With Holly Schindler

I've enjoyed Holly Schindler's books for several years now. She writes for multi-generational audiences so I thought I would pick a few of my favorites and ask Holly a few questions about each one.

MFPT:Your latest release is HOW BIG IS A HEART? Why did you decide to write a picture book? Where did the idea come from?

HS: I’ve had the text for a long time. Years, actually. I nearly sold it to a publisher at the very beginning of my career, but the deal ultimately fell through, even though the publisher felt that the writing was strong…so much so, they held onto the manuscript for a considerable amount of time.

Recently, indie publishing has allowed me to branch out in new ways. I’ve done quite a bit of cover art and even illustrative work for younger readers. I’ve always loved this story, and felt it could really be of help to expanding families. I used Rebelle, a great digital watercolor program, to create the textured hearts throughout (the idea with the art was to highlight the text, not overshadow it).

I’m really pleased with the final results, and I’m so glad to finally get this book into the hands of readers!

MFPT: I loved the book and think it is the perfect read for children who will be getting a new brother or sister in the family! And I loved the artwork!

MFPT: THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY is an MG that focuses on a young girls’
journey toward becoming a folk artist. Why did you pick that subject matter for young readers?

HS: I’ve always really loved reinvented objects. My parents bought and sold antiques, so I was always going to auctions with them. You can usually find some of those repurposed items at farm auctions—the Coke crate that’s now a stool, the old burlap sack that’s been embroidered with wildflowers, that sort of thing. I love seeing people’s creative minds at work—love seeing how they’ve taken something that really should be headed for the trash and given it a new life. (As a side-note, that’s a big part of why I chose to include so many metaphors and similes throughout the book. Auggie’s always making comparisons in her mind, seeing, for example, how a rusted pipe really is “like” a flower stem. That language shows what kind of artistic eye she has.)

I also love checking out folk art environments. If you Google them, you can find a ton of just incredible places: The Watts Towers in LA, the Orange Show in Texas, the Whirligig Park in North Carolina, even Bishop Castle in Colorado. What’s great about these environments is that they’re pieces of art you can actually go (or live!) inside, unlike paintings that simply hang on the wall.

MFPT: I absolutely loved this book! Auggie and her Grandfather were so talented and I loved their creativity and their relationship. Such a wonderful story with so many lessons in it, accepting others and being your own person to name a couple.

MFPT: FERAL is a fantastic YA psychological thriller. Your previous YAs had been realistic. Why the switch?

HS: At its core, FERAL is about what it takes to recover from a violent act. (Claire, the MC, survives a brutal retaliatory gang beating at the beginning of the book.) The psychological thriller is a genre that strives to keep people constantly on-edge—which is how it must feel to suffer from PTSD. In researching the condition, I learned that in extreme cases, those suffering from PTSD can occasionally suffer from hallucinations as well. Finding that out was a big part of weaving the story threads together for FERAL.

Even though FERAL incorporates many elements of the thriller, it also does introduce many aspects or issues you’d expect to find in realistic YA fiction. Specifically, it focuses on issues related to friendship. Claire’s beating occurs after she stands up for her best friend. As she recovers, her friend’s life continues on as before, while Claire is scarred (physically and emotionally). We all brag we’d do anything for our friends—even give up our lives for them. But FERAL addresses the aftermath and asks, “Would you really not have any resentments? Especially at such a young age? How could your friendship continue on?” It’s a smaller thread, but a truly important part of the book.

MFPT: FERAL was haunting! But also there were so many different layers to it. I think it is a fantastic YA book!

MFPT: FOREVER FINLEY is my absolute favorite. You wrote it as a monthly serial. Did you know where you were going at the beginning? Or did it come as a surprise to you?

I didn’t intend on writing an entire series. To begin with, I wrote a short story called “Come December.” I originally thought it’d be a stand-alone holiday short story. But I wound up moving a surprising number of copies; the story introduced me to a slew of new readers. I thought it’d be a shame not to expand on it.

Of course, the most obvious way to extend the story would be to pick up again with Natalie (the MC of “Come December”). But I was actually more intrigued by the setting. What kind of magical place would allow Natalie to meet George in “Come December”? I started brainstorming, and I discovered that I wanted the town of Finley to be the thread tying all the stories together.

Even then, the ending remained elusive. It was honestly the most “pantsing” I’ve ever done putting any large work together. I didn’t realize how integral the cemetery caretaker was until about halfway through. That character was the piece that helped me pull it all together at the end!

MFPT: Well the ending totally surprised me! I loved getting a new installment each month! I looked forward to finding out what piece of the puzzle was going to be next. This is a new cover for the whole compilation and I love it! It is perfect, and captures the whole essence of the story.

MFPT: MILES LEFT YET centers around the latter years of life. I LOVE IT! Did you do research? How did you capture the tone so well?

HS: I live in a multi-generational household. So that’s given me a bit of firsthand knowledge about issues or feelings that can pop up at that time of life. And to be honest, I’m hitting the age myself where I now also find myself drifting toward stories that feature slightly older main characters. I love going on a journey with a character who’s had significant life-altering experiences—it adds a different dimension, allows them to choose different paths than a younger character would take.

Even in juvenile lit, the age of your characters dictates the level of mobility or independence. A fourth grader can’t drive a car or have the same kind of access to money as a high school junior. The same is true with adult characters. Adults of different ages have different access to tools, contacts, funding, etc. They have different responsibilities and concerns (employment, marriage, children, health, among others). It can have a big impact on your protagonist’s journey.

MFPT: I too am getting to "that age" so MILES LEFT YET totally resonated with me! I loved that we got to meet up with Norma again in the town of Finley.

MFPT: What’s it like to write for so many age groups? Why have you chosen to be so varied in your work?

HS: When I took the headfirst plunge into full-time writing, I didn’t know where the first “yes” would come from, so I tried everything: romance, mystery, literary fiction. To pay my bills, I was teaching music lessons out of the house—my young students inspired me to start writing for younger readers. But I’ve continued writing for different ages, in different genres. I love looking at the world through the eyes of such different characters!

MFPT: These are my favorites of Holly's books. Each one spoke to me in a different way and caused me to contemplate the characters long after closing the final pages. Thanks so much Holly for writing such fantastic books! Each of the books I have featured have been reviewed here on my blog. If you want to know more about them you can check out those reviews by clicking on the Review tab. Holly has numerous other books out that you can check out on Amazon or hopefully your local library!

One last word from Holly:

GIVEAWAY: I’ve recently updated the cover of FOREVER FINLEY. To celebrate the release, I’m giving away a review copy (e-book or paperback). To enter, just shoot me an email: hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.
You can also find all of my books at my Amazon page:
Or learn more at my author site:

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How Big Is A Heart? by Holly Schindler

Gavin really doesn't want a baby brother and the only one that seems to understand is his Memaw.

Memaw shows Gavin how big a heart is by telling him all that a heart can hold making Gavin feel better about his new brother.

HOW BIG IS A HEART gave me warm fuzzies while I read it! It is so sweet! I'm definitely a fan of tell-it-like-it-is Memaw! Gavin knows he can trust Memaw to be telling him the truth. Picture books, elementary books, mid-grade books, teen books and adult books, Holly Schindler can write it all, and write it all well!

Come back tomorrow for an interview with Holly Schindler and to find out which of her books are my favorites!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Firstborn: A Novel (Descendants of the House of Bathory) by Tosca Lee

Audra's memory has come back and now those that she loves the most are in danger. Audra tries to distance herself from the people that mean the most to her, but Luka refuses to let her fight this battle on her own. As long as the Historian is alive no Progeny is safe. Can Audra make a deal with the devil in order to save more Progeny lives from being lost? Can she protect the one thing that would give the Historian the most power? And what about Audra's own powers? As a Firstborn she has yet to tap into all that she is capable of, but as her desperation and desire to keep Luka safe increases so do her abilities. Can Audra somehow stop a centuries-old vendetta by exposing the powers-that-be?

Firstborn was fast-paced and intense. I had a bit of a hard time keeping up with the Progeny and Scion's etc. It might have helped if I had read The Progeny and then moved right into Firstborn, but it has been quite a while since I read The Progeny. I loved Luka and Audra's characters. Their love for each other and their desire to protect each other is romantic even when the situations that they find themselves in aren't romantic. There were some surprises throughout the story that had me saying, "Whoa!" There were also several secondary characters that were quite entertaining. I loved all of Audra's friends that helped her along the way, Jester, Piotrek and Claudia were a tight-knit group of friends that anyone would love to have. Lot's of emotions, lot's of killings, lot's of history and lot's of action round out this entertaining read.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills

Special agent Tori Templeton is called to a close friends house to investigate the murder of the woman's husband. Tori's partner Max is less than professional when questioning the family and Tori is furious with him. Max has cancer and Tori has had enough of cancer in her life. Years before her brother lost his battle of cancer and more recently her mother has battled breast cancer. Tori is petrified that she or someone else close to her will be next. Tori promised her brother before he died that she would search out and find her faith in God. Tori has been attending church, but she can't justify a God who allows sickness to take people away. God keeps putting people in Tori's life to show her His love for her.

Cole Jeffers was best friends with the man murdered. Cole currently has a thriving landscape business but his heart lies with his career as a US Marshal. Cole is on a leave of absence but is willing to step back into his role as US Marshal when his friend is murdered.

Tori, Cole and Max are on the task force to find out who the murderer is. As they begin to investigate they find that the man they knew was not the man they thought he was. The more suspects they come across, the more danger their own lives are in. Can they find the madman set on ending their lives as well?

I was hooked on DEEP EXTRACTION from the very beginning! The mystery was great, the suspense was thrilling and the romance was sweet. The story moved quickly and was very exciting. There were so many layers and so many suspects! I loved the personal stories of the main characters. Max's struggle with cancer, his anger and crustiness, Cole's faith but also struggle to forgive and Tori's honest desire to find faith but yet having serious doubts. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson

Evie Blackwell and the new team to solve cold cases are going from county to county to take on different unsolved cases. They add a new perspective on the cases and help put to rest what has happened to those who have disappeared. Evie and David, another investigator, have chosen two cases in the same area. One a missing college student and one a missing private investigator. Soon Evie finds evidence that something may have happened to the college student the night of a Triple M concert which happens to be David's fiance's band. David's case gets solved fairly quickly and then he and Evie are able to concentrate all of their efforts on keeping Maggie, David's fiance, safe and finding out what the connection between her band and the missing girl have in common.

Threads of Suspicion takes the reader on a step by step process of solving Evie and David's cold cases. At times I found this interesting and at other times I found it rather boring. The story seemed to plod along at a slow pace, but yet I still wanted to finish it to find out what happened. I think I enjoyed the different relationships better than I enjoyed the mystery of what happened in their cold cases. I did get a bit frustrated at Evie for still holding back on the man she is in love with. By the end of the book we are still left in the dark as to what she intends to answer the man who loves her(and honestly, I like the guy, but I thought she had more of a connection with Gabriel Thane from book one). David's relationship with Maggie isn't much better in that Maggie isn't a believer and David is. Again, we are left in the dark as to what happens in that relationship as well. So I'm assuming there will be another cold case to solve and that Evie and David and the rest of the team will be handy to solve them and hopefully we will get closure on their relationships. All in all it was a good read, and I am invested enough in the characters that I want to see what happens next. But, *whispering now* this still doesn't live up to this author's O'Malley series...shhhhhh, I didn't say that out loud!

Check out my review of the first Evie Blackwell book:

Traces of Guilt

Monday, April 17, 2017

Alexander and the Amazing Wide-Awake by Holly Schindler

Alexander is known throughout his school as an amazing inventor. He's created several wonderful inventions that make his fellow students school life easier. His newest invention is a desk-sifter. It helps his classmates clean out and organize their desks. But Alexander has a secret. He has help coming up with his invention ideas! So what happens when Alexander is asked to come up with an invention to help his sockball team win the championship and Alexander's secret weapon no longer works?

I think we all remember those pre-middle school years where we are trying to fit in and find our identity among our fellow students. Alexander thinks his identity/talent is lost. I love how one of his fellow students helps him find his way again. This story is lightly illustrated to help those reluctant readers identify with what is happening in the story. I love the discussion questions at the end of the book! I think this would be a perfect book club or reading group book for an elementary classroom. I'll be passing this one on to my grandkids knowing that they will enjoy it as much as I did!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Guest Post by Author Annette Laing

I’m a Brit who lives in the Deep South, a former Californian (Yes, Northern and Southern), and an accidental author. Fourteen years ago, I was a professor starting to build a reputation as a scholar of early American history. But  right after I earned tenure, I had a midlife crisis.  I guess a normal person would have dealt with that by purchasing a convertible, or taking a hike through the Andes. My therapy was to start  a children’s time-travel program that was basically a complicated bit of theatre.
TimeShop, as I called it, was totally self-indulgent, because like many of my generation in the UK, I have always been fascinated by the WWII home front. So I ended up with a hundred kids running around a university conference center in the rural South, pretending to be in a small town in England in 1940.  Moving from room to room, the kids shopped with ration books, sheltered from an air raid, and, most entertaining of all, sparred with a shrill “foster mother”. This harridan housewife demanded they do all her chores, yelled at the kids (to their great amusement) and gossiped with the vicar while the kids swept her floors and made toilet paper from torn-up sheets of newspaper. Those kids who eavesdropped on that conversation made a startling discovery: The wicked foster mother was only 19, and was terrified for her husband, held prisoner of war by the Nazis.   My student Jackie, playing the housewife, and my other native Georgian undergrads improvised characters in period costume, gamely attempting to pass themselves off as Brits (with considerable success). I realized that I had found a way to reach not only the kids, but these student volunteers, most of whom were not history majors. Three years in, the Associated Press published a feature about us.
TimeShop was also the start of The Snipesville Chronicles. The program handed me one massive earworm of a time-travel story, and in the summer of 2006, that story started writing itself: Middle schoolers and siblings Hannah and Alex Dias arrive in little Snipesville from San Francisco, much as I had moved to small-town Georgia from Los Angeles. They meet Brandon Clark, whose family’s funeral home qualifies him for the elite of local African-American society, and also puts him in danger of being stuck in suffocating Snipesville for the rest of his life. Within an hour of meeting, the three kids find themselves without warning in World War II England, and mired in a massive clash of cultures. But why is this happening to them, and what on earth does it have to do with Snipesville? Those are the big questions of the book, and the series.
As the plot of Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When evolved, it was driven largely by my characters, both the time travelers and the people they meet in the past. One character in particular has turned out to be an
unlikely smash hit with my readers: Elizabeth Devenish, the formidable middle-aged Englishwoman who fosters two of my time travelers, and whose forceful but kindly personality seems to speak to so many people.  It was moving to realize that I had based her on the no-nonsense World War II survivors who helped shape my postwar childhood. I even flew to England to visit the woman who most influenced the character of Mrs. Devenish, and just in time: She died six months later. Somehow, childhood memories had morphed and blended with my knowledge of wartime England, as well as with my experience of life for an outsider in modern rural Georgia.
The whole thing proved so personal, I was genuinely astonished by the delighted responses of my readers,  and also to discover that adults as well as kids and teens were reading and loving the book. Now I knew that I really did have a series.
But where would my time travelers land next? It was tempting to take them straight to colonial America, the period I know best, but I quickly realized that I had an awesome opportunity now to immerse myself in periods in British and American history that I know well, but normally had little chance to research or teach.
My love of the works of Charles Dickens, and my fascination with child labor in the Industrial Revolution,  American slavery, and all things Victorian, come through in A Different Day, A Different Destiny (The Snipesville Chronicles, Book 2)
In Book 2,  I was determined not to slip into formula. While the action in the first book took place in the fictitious English town of Balesworth,  I wrote this new story around three separate road trips, in which Hannah, Alex, and Brandon each deal alone with an alien past, before meeting at the first ever World’s Fair, the Great Exhibition, held in London in 1851. Along the way, they experience not only the challenges of 19th century travel, but also the horrors of industrialization and slavery. The research was fun: Not only spending time in archives in my Scottish hometown, but also visiting an Open Day at an iconic Victorian cemetery, complete with tea and cake. Only in England.
About this time, I began to realize that I was writing about the themes that interest me as a scholar: everyday life, race, class, and gender. Readers had praised Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When for its humor. But how do you get any humor out of race, class, and gender without being incredibly tasteless? The answer, honestly, is in my time travelers’ incredulous responses to what they witness in the past. Through them, readers see the absurdity of trying to operate according to 21st century values in what might as well be alien worlds.
Look Ahead, Look Back (Book 3) brought me, finally, to my main stomping grounds, colonial America.  I
figured this would be a piece of cake.
It wasn’t.
Early on, as I plotted out the book, I imagined my character Hannah, sitting outside a hut in the woods, twisting Georgia wiregrass in her fingers.
I had no idea what I would have her do next.  None at all.
I thought about Hannah, who has a huge attitude. What would she do? I looked at her. She glanced over at a kettle boiling on a nearby tripod, and sniffed. Then she looked straight back at me, wrinkled her nose, and shrugged. She didn’t know, either. What was I going to do? There were no other buildings in view, or people. It was a remote setting. I’m not exactly an outdoors kind of person.
How were my modern characters going to stay busy, much less have an adventure, in this pre-modern setting? It was so . . . boring.
And then I remembered that it wasn’t, just like Snipesville itself was far more interesting than my characters had assumed. Apart from the real-life tensions among the diverse people of the backwoods of the mid-18th century that would inspire much of the story and dialogue, there was the fact that people had other lives, virtual ones, that focused on religion and the supernatural. How the heck did I ever forget that? I’m a historian of religion, for heavens’ sake. At that moment, I realized how the book would progress. To help it along, I not only read folklore, but even became more outdoorsy. How dedicated was I? Let’s put it this way: A visit to the Okefenokee Swamp and a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a five-foot alligator almost ended the series prematurely.
Writing a finale for the complex series that Snipesville had become was the greatest challenge of all, and
might explain why One Way or Another (The Snipesville Chronicles, Book 4) took me four years to write, by far the longest process of any of the books. This time I began with settings, themes (including the sinister segregation of a small town in 1906 Georgia), great characters, and some interesting premises from previous books, including the return of the much-loved Elizabeth Devenish from Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When.  The tricky part?  Pulling all of it together in a way that also incorporated the conclusions I had been planning for years.
The end result was an ending that, I am told, made people gasp, and even cry. In a good way.
I, too, have laughed, gasped, and cried my way through The Snipesville Chronicles. It has been the most astonishing decade of my life, and I continue to be touched and overjoyed by readers’ continuing to discover and enjoy the product of one historian’s midlife crisis. Better than a Maserati? You bet.

Thank you so much Annette for writing such wonderful stories to share history with us! I will miss The Snipesville Chronicles, but will definitely look forward to your next time travel series.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

INTERVIEW with author Dr. Annette Laing

Welcome author and historian Dr. Annette Laing to My Favorite Pastime!

Annette Laing is a British native, an early American historian and former professor, a presenter of Non-Boring History in schools, and the author of The Snipesville Chronicles. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, teenage son, and demented dog.

 Did you know the ending of the Snipesville Chronicles when you started writing it years ago?

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but no, I had no clue!  Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When (Book 1) was written about three kids who accidentally tap into a strange time-travel connection between a small town in England, and the small Southern town in which they live.  I wrote it without a clear destination in mind, and I only figured out where I was headed as I wrote Book 2 (A Different Day, A Different Destiny) From then on, I had to make sure I did not contradict what I had already written. That was weirdly fun. One thing I got wrong in the first book was the year in which British suffragettes began throwing rocks through shop windows to draw attention to their cause. While I was annoyed when I realized what I’d done, I was able to make a whole subplot out of my mistake in One Way or Another (Book 4) So that was cool.
Understanding how I would end the series was very emotional for me. It was like, “Huh, how did I not get this from the very beginning?” I’ve been thrilled by my readers’ reactions to the jaw-dropping conclusion. My hope is that many will want to re-read the series, knowing what they know now, because (honestly) I started dropping hints as soon as I knew, and I made sure that everything worked
with Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When, too. I didn’t want the ending to come out of nowhere.

One Way Or Another is about double the size of the other books in the series, and you cut a lot of words from the first manuscript. How did you go about cutting? And were you tempted to split the book up into two or were you willing to keep it this long from the beginning?

I cut 80,000 words, and it’s still very long! Insane! Originally, there were supposed to be five books in the series, but, strangely, I don’t think that’s why it’s so long, because the last book was intended to be set in 1951, and I only used a few pages of material from it.
Another reason for the length is that I dropped the spare, episodic structure of the earlier volumes completely for this last book, going instead for a day-by-day chronicle, which gave me the chance to really immerse us all in the two worlds of the book: a frighteningly segregated small Southern town in an era of racial violence, when a new black middle class was struggling to figure out a way forward, and a complacent, suffocating middle-class household in an England that was  at the height of its power, and at the most unequal time in British history, when working-class people and women were starting to awaken to their lack of rights.
I was able to cut as much as I did because I trained as a journalist, and learned a very long time ago not to become too wedded to my words: I love to be edited by professionals, and don’t take it personally at all. When it’s me editing, as it was in making these cuts from the first draft, I am ruthless. Everything has to pass the “does it advance the plot?” test. Well, almost everything. Some bits that I could have dumped are also the most entertaining and provocative. Brandon’s meetings with W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, for example, show how the issues they raised in real life about black education are startlingly relevant to education today: Is education meant to be job training  for social advancement and social control, or is it important for its own sake to us as human beings, allowing us to have fulfilled lives? Now you can tell where I stand, as if it weren’t obvious from the start. The character of the Professor is, to some extent, my avatar, and when she said in Book 1 “Isn’t the experience itself the point?” she gave me away.

The character of Eric seemed like he was a total idiot about racism. I got that he was from England, but did you research the attitudes of the people of the times? Or is Eric just a character you gave this personality to?

I was raised in 1970s Britain, in a place that was overwhelmingly white, and moved to multicultural California in the 80s. Race as a subject has fascinated me all my life, including as a scholar of early America. Starting in Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When, I tried hard to represent a typical range of whites’ views of race from twentieth-century Britain, based on both my study of history and my personal understanding. One thing I have noticed today on both sides of the Atlantic is that most people at some point label ourselves “not racist” and content ourselves with that, until and unless something jars us out of our complacency. That is certainly true of Eric. Having grown up in an overwhelmingly white Britain in the 1930s and 1940s, he had only known one black person in his life, who was himself raised by a white family. Eric had an horror of segregation, which he had read about, but he had never been exposed to it, nor did he know much about America, nor had he studied much history (he is more of a science type). So he set about trying to understand 1906 Snipesville in the only context he did understand, which was the society and values of postwar Britain, which put great emphasis on human decency and progress in the aftermath of war and the Holocaust. Eric means well, but he is clueless. Which I think is also true of me, by the way.

What drew you to studying, writing, and teaching about history? What or who inspired you?

Thanks to some excellent British teachers and the BBC, among other inspirations, I have always loved history books, documentaries, docudramas, and museums. But I haven’t always wanted to be a professional historian. From the age of seven, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter, and I worked nonstop on student publications from the age of 10 until I was 22, and editor of my college newspaper in California. Then I woke up one day realizing I didn’t want to be a journalist. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to teach and write history. I wanted an intellectual challenge, and I thought I could do a good job teaching. I also wanted to write for the public, as I made clear in my graduate school application. This was painfully naïve, since in those days, PhD programs had the single goal of producing future scholars, My grad school ignored that, and put me into its well-honed machine for churning out historians who write impossibly complex history for other historians. I do enjoy writing history—the mental stretch is bracing—but I didn’t find it half as rewarding as writing for regular folks. As a historian, I wasn’t especially productive (which is what happens when you work in a dysfunctional institution and also have a kid). But  I’m known in my field of early American history for an article called “Heathens and Infidels?” about African-American religion in the eighteenth century. I get some very kind fan mail from professors and grad students. To be honest, though, scholarly work is not where my heart lies. However, I am glad to have the chance to translate scholarly work for audiences as young as nine.

I noticed in this book Brandon being more "religious" than in the previous books. Why is this?

I always knew Brandon was an evangelical Christian, as are most people in a small Southern town. Black communities in towns like “Snipesville” are bound together through church, and while churches play social and political roles, these roles are never separable from religion. I did toy with the idea that Brandon would eventually distance himself from the faith of his childhood, but if that ever happens (and it may not) it won’t happen while he’s young. I also felt that the Dias siblings, as agnostics with a Catholic Christian background, were representative of a more secular outlook, and that I wanted to represent a person of faith interpreting the world through a different lens.  We’re so divided in America now, and it’s important to keep practicing empathy even when others don’t.
Although Brandon mentions prayer in Book 1, you’re correct that  he’s not as explicit about his faith as he is later. Time travel challenges his entire value system, and he finds himself in settings—just as a 19th century workhouse—that call for the word “godforsaken”. But Brandon draws confidence from his faith. As he sheds more and more of his naiveté in Look Ahead, Look Back (Book 3), set in the 18th century, he becomes increasingly invested in his Christian faith. In Book 4, confronted with the evil of racial segregation, he finds enormous courage in religion. It is not by accident that, landing in 1906 Snipesville, he finds sanctuary and community and light in the darkness when he enters a church.

Where do you go from Snipesville? Will you continue to write fictional stories?

Absolutely! Most women get their history from fiction, and I am convinced that fiction (or heavily dramatized non-fiction) is the best way to engage kids in history. Making social and cultural history accessible seems to be my life’s mission.  Scholars have not written for a wider audience for years now. When historians think of writing for the public, they think of highly-educated and influential people. I believe that if we still want to have a democracy, we need to find a way to reach everyone, and I don’t think that’s pie-in-the-sky. I’m proudest when people tell me that Snipesville not only entertains them, but makes them think. My next novel will again be time travel, and will be set in the American Revolution. It will be much shorter than One Way or Another!

If you haven't read the Snipesville Chronicles go grab your copies today! I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them!

Come back tomorrow for a guest post by author Dr. Annette Laing and find out how the Snipesville Chronicles evolved through the years.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

One Way Or Another by Annette Laing

Hannah Dias has learned that she can make herself time travel. She misses Mrs. Devenish so much that she transports herself into 1951 to find her. One problem though is she brings someone with her. Alex, Hannah's brother, has never liked their time travel adventures and he certainly isn't happy about it now. Hannah is so happy to see Mrs. D, but Mrs. Devenish's lack of excitement to see her makes Hannah hurt and angry. Hannah is then transported to the early 1900's Balesworth, and once again brings someone with her. She had been holding on to Alex, but Alex is nowhere to be found. Verity on the otherhand has come with her from 1951. Of course the professor is there to help them know what they are doing in that time period. Hannah is to become a maid in young Elizabeth Hughes(Devenish) home. She learns about the early suffragettes movement and she also learns many things about what made Mrs. Devenish who she is. Young Elizabeth is impetuous and headstrong. She also learns about the caste system of servants vs. elites. In the meantime Brandon has been transported to Snipesville, Georgia and has his own problems.

Brandon has been sent to 1905 Snipesville close to the time of the "We don't talk about that" incident. Slavery has been abolished for only 40 years and prejudices still run high. Snipesville is pretty much owned by a Mr. Hughes who fancies himself the leader or king of the whole town. Snipesville has always been a town filled with prejudices and rascism and Brandon is set right in the middle of all of the racial tension. The attitude of the times is that as long as a black person knows their place and keeps to it they are useful, but if anything happens anger and tension runs high and the blame all goes to the black citizens. Alex and Eric, now engaged to Verity in 1951, are transported to Snipesville as well. Brandon knows the ropes of rascism and even though he hates it he knows the history of what happens if a black person makes waves. Alex and Eric on the otherhand have no idea what it means to not be able to treat Brandon as an equal. Brandon feels that his job in traveling to this time period is to help establish a college for black people to further their education. He goes on a journey to raise money from some famous black people of the times, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois. Two huge names in black history with two different views on education and the movement to end prejudice. In Snipesville Brandon, Alex and Eric get a firsthand look at rascism and the treatment of strangers in their small town that hasn't changed much in the 21st century where they live today.

This is the 4th and last book in The Snipesville Chronicles. It is also the longest! So much information is packed into this book. I liked the switching back and forth between Balesworth where Hannah and Verity were, to Snipesville where Brandon, Alex and Eric were. Both in or around 1905-1906. It was interesting and hard to read about the racial issues of the day. It seems like we have come so far from those times of segragation, but yet we as a country still deal with racial tensions. It boggles my mind, as it should, how people can treat someone of different color or ethnicity so cruelly. I think I could make many more observations on rascism in today's society, but that is not the point of my review. Let's just say that even though we have come a long way, there seems to still be a long way to go. I much preferred Hannah's part of the story which was dealing more with her relationship issues with the young Elizabeth Hughes. Yes, there were prejudicial issues involving class, and the Suffregette's movement getting into full swing, but I was definitely more interested in the relationships. It seems that Hannah has finally matured and she ended up not frustrating me as much as she has in the past. I was definitely glad to see that. Eric and Alex in Snipesville on the otherhand really got on my nerves how naive they were about racial history even as it was slapping them in the face and Brandon was practically yelling it from the rooftops to them! I loved how the whole Snipesville Chronicles was wrapped up, I'm not going to give any spoilers, but it was a twist learning about the Professor! All in all this was a great end to the series.

Come back to my blog tomorrow to read an interview with author and historian Dr. Annette Laing! 

Check out my reviews of the other books in the series:

Don't Know Where, Don't Know When

A Different Day, A Different Destiny

Look Ahead, Look Back

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

If you are a fan of fairytale retelling's then this is definitely a book for you! I thoroughly enjoyed this story.

Danielle lives with her step-mother and step-sisters. She works in a vegetarian food truck with Sage, a girl she barely talks to while at work. "Elle" writes a blog that criticizes the new actor portaying Starfield's new Prince Carmindor.

Darien Freeman is less than thrilled when his manager father signs him up to go to Excelsicon. Before he took the role as Prince Carmindor Darien was thrilled to attend the Excelsicon, but now with fans criticizing his ability to play their beloved Prince, Darien has no desire to go.

Danielle hasn't attended the con for years. Her father started the con and their would be too many memories of her parents if she attended. But this year Danielle is not only wanting to attend the con, she is also wanting to enter the Cosplay contest to win and attend the Cosplay Ball.  Maybe if she wins this will give Elle the chance she needs to get away from her overbearing step-mother and sisters.

I love fairytale retellings and really enjoyed Geekerella! I loved the characters in Geekerella. Elle's nerdishness was entertaining and the way she was treated by her steps had me wanting to climb through the pages to defend her. I loved Sage. She managed to worm her way into Elle's affections even though Elle had cut herself off from any relationships. Then there is Elle's texting buddy. I love that they were able to be there for each other even though they kept their true identities secret until the con. In typical Cinderella fashion everything doesn't work out as planned, but there is a Prince Charming and definitely a Happily Ever After to this story. I enjoyed it very much.

**Warning: There is some mild language in this book that may offend some readers**

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Murder at the Courthouse by A.H. Gabhart

I always seem to be starting a series in the middle or at least one book in. Murder at the Courthouse is the first book in the Hidden Springs series. I read the 2nd book 1st. Murder Comes by Mail and then I was able to get an ARC copy of the 3rd book that hasn't come out yet, Murder is no Accident. And then I finally read book number 1! I don't know why or how I manage to do that, but it just seems to happen. Anyway, here are my thoughts on Murder at the Courthouse, book 1 in the Hidden Springs Mysteries:

When a body turns up on the courthouse steps Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane must find out who killed the poor man and why. During the course of his investigation we are introduced to many eccentric characters that belong to Hidden Springs. Michael has his hands full when another murder occurs. Not only is Michael trying to find a murderer, but he is also trying to keep track of juvenile delinquent Anthony who's mother left years before. Add to that his possible relationship with pastor Karen and also his affection for his childhood friend Alexandria and Michael is one busy Deputy Sheriff. As Michael plods along solving the mystery we get a picture of how this small town has woven Michael into the man he is today. Will Michael be able to find the murderer before he/she commits another?

I really enjoyed going back to the beginning of the series and finding out more about Michael's life and reading more about the accident that caused him to lose his parents and his memory. I have to admit I figured out "who done it" pretty early on, it was kind of obvious, but I still enjoyed following Michael in solving the crime. I think the Hidden Spring Mystery series is a pretty solid series and I hope there will be plenty more installments to the series.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Home by Ginny Yttrup

Not only do I have a cold, but I have just been reduced to a pile of mushy tears when I finished this book! My poor nose!

So many emotions while reading HOME. There was sadness, fear, trepidation, exasperation, empathy, sympathy, frustration and relief. I feared for Melanie and her husband Craig's marriage. I thought for sure that I knew where the author was going with their story, but in reality I had no idea. I experienced exasperation at Melanie's behavior...before I understood what she was going through. I felt sympathy for their neighbor Jill and her husband Marcos. I admired the characters for getting the help that they needed, all in different ways. I admired Craig's faithfulness even when temptation assailed him. I admired Marco's in the way he supported his wife and encouraged her to seek help. Each character had a struggle, a hurdle to overcome and a grief to work through.

HOME is about allowing ourselves to experience and work through the grieving process. Some of the characters in HOME embraced their grief and worked through it, some of the characters were unable to do that until events in their lives brought them face to face with having to deal with their grief. I love what Melanie's husband Craig said at one point,

"What Jesus suffered for mankind, for me, makes what I'm going through look trivial at best. Yet the Spirit assures me that God feels my pain--it isn't trivial to Him."

Isn't it wonderful that we have such a relational God? I know this is a work of fiction, but so many truths were packed in it, so many poignant, gut-wrenching scenes, with characters that seemed so real that I felt like they were a part of my life.

HOME is one of those stories that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.