Saturday, June 30, 2012

Excerpt: The Color of Snow by Brenda Stanley


The Color of Snow 
Excerpt 
Malad, Idaho, early spring 2009

Spring had spread across the fields and pastures. Cottonwood trees fluttered their newly sprouted greenery, and purple asters covered the rolling hills. The snow had melted and Stephanie and I started taking the horses on rides up the valley. It was incredibly liberating to roam and wander without fear.

There was a trail leading from the foothills up into the forest, and once we were in the midst of the wild spruce and lofty pines, the noises of cars and life around the ranch disappeared. The sound of hooves on early spring dirt was solid and steady. The breeze was still crisp, but the sun reached down and warmed our shoulders. For almost an hour we rode in silence. We both were in awe of the day and the splendor that was ours alone to enjoy.

At the top of the hill, the trail opened up to a small plateau and a blue mountain lake. I gasped at the incredible beauty of it. I smiled at Stephanie and she nodded in acknowledgement. Her eyes were bright and her freckles seemed to glow in the sunshine. The horse she rode was a black mare my grandfather was going to sell. Stephanie loved the white diamond-shaped patch on her forehead, and scolded him for even thinking about selling Black Bean. My horse was an old buckskin gelding named Clyde. He lumbered along and rarely went faster than a slow trot, but for a beginner like me he was perfect.

Stephanie turned her horse down the hill and toward the lake. “Do you want to go swimming?” she called back.

“I don’t know how,” I answered.

She giggled as she reached the water’s edge. “You don’t need to. The horses do it all.” Her hair was pulled into two short pigtails and they bounced with each step of her horse.

I waited and watched as she urged Black Bean into the water and out into the lake. As the water got deeper, the splashes became larger around its legs as it pushed forward, and soon they were floating along smoothly.

“Come on!” she yelled, waving me in. She had her legs pulled up on the sides, trying to avoid getting completely soaked. They were pale and freckled like her face, and seemed to make up most of her body. Stephanie wasn’t much taller than I, but her legs and arms were long and made her look gangly and even thinner than she was. She waved so hard she almost fell off the horse, and started laughing as she steadied herself.

It looked like fun, but I was terrified. The water was immense and dark. The largest amount of water I had ever been in was my own bathtub. I wondered what would happen if I fell off in the middle. Stephanie and Black Bean were in the center of the lake and they looked like a serene harmonious duo.

I gave Clyde a slight nudge and he walked to the shoreline. The water lapped as I waited and watched Stephanie continue to beckon. She looked like she was having a marvelous time and wasn’t worried in the least. I patted Clyde and prodded him with the heels of my sneakers. He seemed unconcerned as he clopped loudly into the water. I took a deep breath and told myself to keep looking forward and it would be okay. Clyde had no hesitation, which helped ease my fear.

The sun beat down on us and made splashes of water light up as Clyde moved forward into the water. The splatters that hit my exposed skin were freezing and made me realize how cold it would be if I did fall in. I fixed my eyes on the opposite shoreline and put my faith in Clyde. The horse had a wide back, and as we got deeper into the lake, I curled my legs back the way Stephanie did and clung to his mane. We were riding bareback that day, because Stephanie didn’t want to spend time putting on saddles.

I held my breath as we got further away from the shore and closer to the very center of the lake. At one point I looked down, staring deep into the abyss. There was no bottom, and I felt my stomach turn, knowing I would surely die if I left Clyde’s back.

As the horse rhythmically propelled us along, I began to feel a sense of buoyancy and freedom. When we crossed the center point and were on our way to the other shore, my confidence turned to elation. I started to breathe again and smiled at what I had accomplished. I sat up straight, closed my eyes and imagined I was flying, gliding along on my winged unicorn, soaring through clouds and racing the wind. When I opened my eyes, I giggled at my foolish imagination, but couldn’t help beaming at what an amazing adventure it was.

When the horse’s hooves made contact with the lake bottom and we started to emerge from the water, I wanted to burst from relief and joy. “That was the most wonderful thing ever!”

Stephanie was sitting on a large tree limb that had fallen while her horse munched on fresh new grass beside her. “I didn’t think you’d do it. I’m proud of you.”

“It was so scary, but then it was so amazing.”

“I’m glad you liked it, because that’s how we’re getting back.”

We led the horses to a shaded area and tied them loosely to a tree so they could rest and graze. Stephanie leaned back against a tree and looked out at the incredible view of mountain-lined lake and clear blue sky.

“This is where I go when I can’t stand life anymore. The first time I came here, I tried to kill myself. I stole my dad’s gun and had it all planned out. Then I sat here and looked around at all this and thought...who would care? I’m nothing and no one would miss me, so why do it? That’s when I decided to live for me. I do what makes me happy now and screw the rest of them.”

“You were going to kill yourself. Why?”

Stephanie took a deep, labored sigh. “I didn’t see the point in living. My mom was dead and my dad married that crazy bitch.” She shrugged. “I don’t really fit in anywhere. Even at school, the kids hate me.”

I shook my head. “I don’t believe that. There is no reason to hate you.”

Stephanie scoffed. “You say that because you don’t know any better. You don’t know what normal is. That’s why we get along. I’m a freak, but you’ve never had any friends, so you don’t know how weird I am.” She smiled.

“I’ve had friends,” I protested.

“Really? I thought you were kept alone at that house all the time.”

I nodded.

Stephanie raised an eyebrow. “So, did your dad kidnap kids and bring them home for you play with?”

My eyes went large, but then Stephanie laughed and I realized she was joking. I paused for a moment, trying to pick my words carefully.

“Don’t worry about me telling anyone. Remember, we’re best friends, so you should be able to tell me anything. I’ve never told anyone that I was going to kill myself.”

I looked at her with a mixture of love and concern. “I had two friends. I met them when I was eleven. Their mother worked with my father and they came to our house one day. That’s how they knew I lived there. They lived over the hill from us and they came over while Papa was at work and we played in my yard.” I stopped and smiled at the memory.

“You had to hide them from your father. Why?”

“He was afraid that if people knew I was home alone all day, they would come and take me away.”

“Didn’t it drive you crazy to be alone all the time?”

I shrugged. “Not really. When I met Donny and Damien I was much happier. I didn’t know what it was like to have friends before I met them, so I didn’t realize what I was missing.”

She studied me. “Isn’t Damien the kid your dad shot? Why’d he shoot him? Did he catch him with you?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you just tell him that you two were friends and that it was no big deal?"

“I tried to convince him, but...there is a lot you don’t understand.”

Stephanie gave me a disappointed curl of her lip. “And I won’t be able to understand if you keep everything a secret.”

I stayed silent.

“Sophie, I’ve already told you something that I never told anyone. I trust you because we’re friends. That is what friends do. They trust each other and they tell each other things. Do you think I won’t believe you?”

“No, it’s not that. And I do trust you, but there are things that will sound strange, and I don’t want you to think I’m a monster.”

She laughed. “You are the opposite of a monster. You’re friendly and kind. People would love to be near you.”

I ran the word through my head several times. I wondered if the statement had validity, because if it did, it explained some of the things Papa told me that seemed unimaginable.

“So, what is this big dark secret? You say your father didn’t kidnap you or treat you badly, so why did he keep you locked up in that house hidden away from the world?”

I thought it was inconceivable that the two of us were best friends. Stephanie had just confessed that she had almost ended her life and now I was about to tell her how I had ended my mother’s and one of my friends. My fears of being ostracized and treated like a disease were still at the surface, but the thought of releasing some of the weight with a person I trusted was like having a balloon inflating inside me ready to burst. I felt my secret was slowly killing me, and the only way I could get relief was to talk about it. I was still scared that once it was out, it would sprout wings and fly out of control.

“I’ll tell you, but you have to swear you’ll never tell anyone else.”

“I swear. I swear on my stepmother’s grave,” she giggled.

I looked at her, worried that she wasn’t in the right mind frame to hear what I had to say. My face must have showed it, because Stephanie quickly lost her smile and leaned forward. She put her hand on my shoulder. “God, Soph, I was just kidding. You look like I just cursed her dead.”

I gasped and put my hand to my mouth. I felt an icy chill go down my back and my heart jumped.

“What?” she asked.

“It’s what you said. That is why I had to hide all those years.”

“What I said? How could that be? I wasn’t even around.”

I was speechless and stunned. Just hearing the word made me dizzy. I put my face in my hands and rocked back and forth, trying to steady my nerves and my thoughts.

“Sophie, what’s wrong with you? You’re not making any sense. I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.”

I stopped rocking, and looked up at her. “I’m so afraid to say anything.”

“You have no reason to be afraid. I’m not going to tell anyone. You’re my only friend!” She smiled. “You’ll go crazy if you keep it all inside.”

“But what if you don’t want to be friends after I tell you?”

“That’s crazy.” She sat up on her knees and squared her body to mine. She held my shoulders and made me look at her. “Here, think about this. Imagine I’m the one telling you this big secret. If that were the case, would we still be friends? Sophie?”

I realized I had drifted off. I blinked as I came back and smiled. I had no reservations about how I would react if she were the one telling it. Stephanie would be my friend regardless of her secrets and I knew that she felt the same. So with the same strength I had mustered to lead my horse into a deep dark lake, I pushed forward and decided to reveal what had shaped my entire life. It would either knock me into a cold, deep abyss, or I would cross it and end up gaining the confidence I needed to take even more risks in my life. I was willing to take that chance. I suddenly realized that I had no idea where to start. It struck me as funny, and I stopped and smiled to myself.

“You’re a tease!” she yelled. “Come on, out with it.”

“I don’t know where to start. There is so much to tell.”

She leaned back against the tree and put her arms behind her head. “We have all day. They don’t expect us until dinner and I brought food in my backpack. Spill it!”

I took a deep breath. “There is something terrible that happened a long time ago and it’s the reason Papa and I had to hide all those years.”

“Did he kill someone?” she asked, both horrified and intrigued.

“No,” I said firmly. “It’s not something we did, but something that was done to us.”

Stephanie lowered an eyebrow. “What?”

“A curse.”

Her eyes shot wide open, but she gave me a sideways grin. “A curse?”

“Yes. We had to hide away because Papa says we are a threat to the people who love us.”

She cocked her head to the side. “How?”

I looked at the ground and felt my face flush. “I’m not sure, but some of them have died.”

Stephanie reeled back. “They died? How?”

I shrugged. “Papa says it’s the reason my mother died and Donny. He says we’re the reason.”

Stephanie shook her head. “You said he didn’t kill anyone.”

“It’s not us. It’s the curse that kills them.”

“How did they die?”

“Donny died when a dirt cave collapsed on him.” I felt a heavy lump in my stomach. “I don’t know how my mother died. Papa never talks about it.”

“Sounds to me like your father gave you a line to keep you in line. There is no such thing as a curse.”

I felt rejected and embarrassed. It had taken every ounce of trust I could muster to tell her and now she brushed it off. “Yes there is.”

She furrowed her brows. “Did you push that kid into the cave?”

I shook my head. “No!”

Stephanie sat up straight. “Do you think that other kid was shot because of this curse, too?”

I lowered my eyes. “Yes.”

She sat in silence, looking as if she was deep in thought. Several times she began to talk and then stopped. She stood up and walked in a circle. “That doesn’t make sense. If you say the curse kills people who love you, then why am I still alive? And what about your grandparents? Why aren’t we all dead?”

“I’m not sure. Sometimes it scares me. I don’t want to hurt people, but I don’t want to be alone. Papa was trying to explain it, but then we got caught. I’ve tried to figure it out, but without Papa, I can’t. There’s more to it, and he’s the only one who knows.”

“Who put the curse on you?” I shrugged.

“Papa said it was done a long time ago, before I was born.”

Stephanie lowered her brow. “If you weren’t even born, why would anyone want to curse you?”

“It was placed on our family for something Papa did. He said it was done out of anger. He said he didn’t believe it at first, but when my mother was killed, he knew we had to hide or more bad things would happen. He said if anyone found out about the curse, I would be taken away. He hid us away for our own good. He didn’t want the curse to hurt anyone else. I didn’t know about it until after Donny died. Papa felt it was his fault for not warning me sooner.”

Stephanie looked at me in awe. She hadn’t moved a muscle or changed her facial expression in the slightest, as though my story had struck her dumb. I started feeling awkward and worried that I had said too much, but before regret set in, she took a seat beside me and put an arm around my shoulder. “So, what are you going to do? If you think you’re cursed and you’re putting other people at risk, how are you going to live?”

I thought for a moment. “I don’t know.”

“That’s crazy, Sophie. There is no such thing. I think he told you that just to keep you from running off. He knew that if people saw you they’d find out who you were. That would threaten him.” She scratched her head; pulling at the hair in one of her pigtails, making it crooked. “He makes it sound very convincing.” She sat back with a start. “He must have seen the newspaper article that ran the sketch. That’s why he took all the mirrors out of your house. He didn’t want you to discover who you really are. On the other hand, this is so strange, because if he really thought you were cursed, a lot of this stuff he did makes sense. That’s totally wild.”

I thought about the mirrors. I remembered the expression on Damien’s face when he realized all the mirrors in my house had been taken down or destroyed. I still had aversions to them, and rarely gave in to the temptation. They were everywhere at my grandparents’ home, but I did my best to avoid them, knowing that God watched and judged what I did.

“When I tell you that I love you, does it scare you?” she asked.

I contemplated her question, knowing I had thought about it many times before. “It used to, but for some reason I’m not worried anymore.”

“I think I know why.”

“Tell me.”

“Sophie, I don’t believe in curses or superstitions. I think the more you’re out in the normal world, you’ll realize all the stuff you’ve been told is not real. There is no such thing. All this stuff you father told you isn’t the truth. You’re not cursed.”

What she said completely deflated me. I had trusted her with my deepest, darkest realities and now she said that what I harbored and lived with my entire life was just a lie.

“You’ll never be happy if you live in fear like this. You’ll have an awful life if you never let anyone love you. I think it’s terrible what he did. He’s the one that’s cursed you with stupid superstitions. It’s not real. There is no such thing as a curse.”

I was shocked at what she said and felt the need to scoot away, fearing God would strike her down with a bolt of lightning. “You don’t believe in God?”

“No. And I don’t believe that how I live my life will determine how I spend my death. I believe that you do the right things for this life, not for some afterlife. Everyone around here is so worried about what’s going to happen to them when they die. It’s stupid. When my mom died, people actually told me that God needed her in heaven and that’s why he took her home.” She gave a disgusted smirk. “Why would God take someone’s mother away? My mom died because cancer cells overtook her body. It had nothing to do with God, and it had nothing to do with curses or prayers or any other hocus-pocus that everyone tries to fill your head with.”

I was still uneasy.

“You were worried about telling me your secret because you thought I would be afraid of you. And it turns out, you should be afraid of me.”

“Why?”

“Because I am a bad influence. That’s why I’m not allowed at the school. I asked questions and talked about things that made everyone nervous. The other kids told their parents that I didn’t believe in God and that I attacked their precious religion. That’s the reason I no longer go to school.” She smiled and pulled me close. “I’m worse than you. You may lure them in with your beauty and then kill them off, but I threaten their beliefs and their chances at eternal life. We make quite a pair.”

Being close to her was a comfort, even though I was still concerned about what she said. I cared about her and felt her statements against God would come back to haunt her.

“I know you aren’t just going to believe everything I say. It’s all been drilled into your head for so long, it will be hard to change what you believe, but I want to show you something that will hopefully help you get over all this. We’re going to do an experiment so I can prove that there is no such thing as a curse.”

I didn’t like the idea and was apprehensive.

“You don’t have a choice,” she said, with a defiant lift of her eyebrow. “You are my best friend, my only friend in this world. I love you as if you were my sister. Nothing fatal has happened to me yet and nothing will. I’ll prove to you that you are not cursed.”

I felt funny having her tempt fate for me.

“I was planning on killing myself anyway, so this isn’t a big sacrifice. Quit looking like that,” she chided. Stephanie put her finger to her mouth and feigned deep deliberation. “Hmm. If you have the power to kill people, then let’s work on how we can use it to bump off my stepmother!” She fell back against the soft forest floor in wicked laughter.

“Stephanie!”

She giggled with delight.

I couldn’t help but smile, even though she had made me out as toxic. She had heard what had kept me hidden and silent for years and was still my best friend. She had accepted what I said. She made light of it in a way that made me feel like nothing I told her would scare her away. Stephanie was intriguing and confusing, but I had no reservations that she was loyal and trustworthy. I had given her the secret of what I feared and what had formed my life. She had the power to destroy my world by exposing my enigma, yet I felt assured she would guard it, regardless of her own doubts about its truth.

She stopped laughing and leaned over to her backpack. She pulled out a bag of chips and a bottle of soda, and offered them to me. I took a handful of chips and we sat in silence for a while as we passed the bottle back and forth. “I think you saved me.”

I looked at her strangely, smiled, and shook my head.

She smiled back. “You did. Now the hard part is going to be saving you...”

About the Author:

Brenda Stanley is the former news anchor at her NBC affiliate KPVI in Eastern Iadho. Her writing has been recognized by the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Hearst Journalism Awards, the Idaho Press Club and the Society for Professional Journalists. She is a graduate of Dixie College in St. George, Utah, and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Brenda lived for two years in Ballard, Utah, within the Fort Duchesne reservation where the novel is set. She and her husband live on a small ranch near the Snake River with their horses and dogs.


For More Info, Visit:

The Color of Snow web site:
http://the-color-of-snow.blogspot.com/

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Facebook:
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Twitter:
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Brenda Stanley's Website:
http://www.brendastanleybooks.net/

Brenda Stanley's GoodReads:
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Tribute Books website:
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Guestpost: The Color of Snow by Brenda Stanley

Description: (from the book)

Can a troubled young girl reenter society after living in isolation?

When a beautiful 16-year-old girl named Sophie is found sequestered in a cage-like room in a rundown house in the desolate hills of Arbon Valley, Idaho, the entire community is shocked to learn she is the legendary Callidora--a baby girl who was kidnapped from her crib almost seventeen years ago and canonized in missing posters with portraits of what the fabled girl might resemble. Authorities soon learn that the cage was there to protect people from Sophie, because her biological father believes she is cursed.

Sophie is discovered after the man she knows as Papa, shoots and injures Damien, a young man who is trying to rescue her. Now, unsocialized and thrust into the world, and into a family she has never met, Sophie must decide whether she should accept her Papa’s claims that she is cursed and he was only trying to protect others, or trust the new people in her life who have their own agendas. Guided by a wise cousin, Sophie realizes that her most heartbreaking challenge is to decide if her love for Damien will destroy him like her Papa claims, or free her from past demons that haunt her mind.



Guestpost - The Color of Snow by Brenda Stanley

The Color of Snow has been described as dark or mysterious. I feel most of my writing fits this description because I enjoy looking at the strange and unusual things in life. My novel will definitely make some people uncomfortable. I like to look at situations and issues and try to figure out how people will react. For years I was a crime reporter, so I enjoy investigating stories and learning about the parts of life most people try to hide. When I wrote The Color of Snow, I was working on a story about a young girl who went missing years ago and has never been found. I started thinking about what would happen if she were to suddenly show up now. I loved putting myself in Sophie’s shoes and seeing things for the first time.

Sophie’s relationship with Damien is both intense and tempered. Her father has raised her to believe that she will destroy anyone who truly loves her, so she is torn between her love for Damien and her fear of causing him harm.

The story changes between what is going on with Sophie and what happened in her parent’s past that brought her to where she is. I wanted readers to experience the often isolated feeling of living in a vast rural area, but also the mental confinement of a small town.

Mental illness, teen pregnancy, religious intolerance, and racism are all big parts of The Color of Snow. I like my characters to face challenges and see them grow from them. It is not only the conflicts with the other characters that keeps the story going, but also those within the person’s own mind.

I wanted Sophie to be unusually beautiful so that people treated her strangely and therefore made her feel even more alien when she is first discovered. She has transformed from a tragic kidnapping victim to a mythical ghost from the past and this makes her transition into her new life even more difficult.

My ties to the Mormon Church go back to my great-great grandparents. I was raised in the teachings of the Mormon religion and even though I am no longer a member, I have many friends and family who are still very active in the church. My descriptions of the Mormon culture are how I view it and how I feel someone who has never been exposed to it might see it. I think there are a lot of people who are curious about the Mormon religion and have misconceptions. I feel I’ve been both candid and fair in my portrayal.



About the Author:

Brenda Stanley is the former news anchor at her NBC affiliate KPVI in Eastern Iadho. Her writing has been recognized by the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Hearst Journalism Awards, the Idaho Press Club and the Society for Professional Journalists. She is a graduate of Dixie College in St. George, Utah, and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Brenda lived for two years in Ballard, Utah, within the Fort Duchesne reservation where the novel is set. She and her husband live on a small ranch near the Snake River with their horses and dogs.


For More Info, Visit:

The Color of Snow web site:
http://the-color-of-snow.blogspot.com/

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#TheColorOfSnow

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Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/brenda.baumgartnerstanley

Twitter:
http://twitter.com/#!/myauthorlife

Brenda Stanley's Website:
http://www.brendastanleybooks.net/

Brenda Stanley's GoodReads:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4086376.Brenda_Stanley

Tribute Books website:
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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Guestpost: The Siren Of Paris - Beginnings - David LeRoy

The Siren of Paris - Opening Excerpt

Saint-Nazaire, France

“May the Lord be with you,” the priest’s voice rang out to all gathered at Marc’s graveside in September 1967. The cloaked man stood taller than all others gathered, with the hood of his smock pulled over his head. He held in his right hand a staff with a round clock mounted on top. Marc stood beyond the gathering, gazing back upon his grave. He saw his only sister, Elda, surrounded by all his other friends from France. The body of his soul beamed a reddish-golden light, as he anticipated the final moment he would leave in peace. He strained to see the face of the priest obscured from view under the hood.
“And also with you,” Marc whispered, looking toward the release from his life. “Let us pray,” the priest asked softly. With a rush, the first eleven souls then appeared around him. They had come from the graveyards of Angoulins-sur-Mer, Les Fortes, Saint-Charles-de-Percy, Saint-ClĂ©ment-des-Baleines, Saint-Palais-sur-Mer, Chatelaillon- Plage, Saint-Sever, Traize, Brest, Saint-Hilaire-de-Talmont and Saint Pancras. They wore drab olive-green uniforms, with kit bags ready for war, but they were soaked to the bone and only a few had boots. The dial on the clock stopped as a moment of Marc’s life flashed before him ...

LeRoy, David. The Siren Of Paris (Kindle).


The Siren of Paris - Beginnings

The most dreaded ghosts are those who dwell within the mind’s eye. Ghosts that haunt a house you can move away from, but the ghostsof one’s own consciousness can never be escaped. Such ghosts haunt Marc Tolbert. This is the basis of the opening chapter of The Sirenof Paris. Marc Tolbert has finally passed from life to death and is joined at his graveside by these spirits because he is just like them.

Several editors suggested that I strike out the difficult to pronounce French names of these graveyards, out of fear that I would “put off the reader.” In fact, throughout the process of writing this book, the opening chapter has been a challenge. However, eliminating this chapter would mean that I would repeat the same cycle that has continued for 72 years, ignoring those who died in the sinking of the RMS Lancastria. As a survivor of this tragedy, Marc would not be able to escape these ghosts, and that is the essence of survivor’s guilt. In opening the book from his point of view, I chose to name every single one of the graveyards where survivors are buried.

When the unknown number rise up out of the sea and the land to join the known number of dead that rest in graves, Marc cries out “WHY” to the priest. Is he asking why he must see this again? Is he asking why is this his judgment? What if, dear reader, he is not asking a question at all, but merely calling out the name of the single most horrible ghost of all: the “Why” that has no answer?

Why did Marc survive and the others die? Why did this horrible war happen at all? Why could he not save his friends, and was only able to save himself? Why did he go back to Paris when he could have left for America? These are the ghosts of survivors, the nagging “whys” that refuse to be laid to rest.

The opening line is then repeated by the priest, “may the lord be with you.” Marc witnesses himself, on June 18, 1939, crossing a threshold from a chapel to the main dinning room of the S.S. Normandie. He takes a seat at a table beneath the statue “La Pax”, or Peace, alone, within a magnificent room of Lalique crystal lights. Dora calls him away from this table, underneath the protection of peace, to dine in the grill room with his new friends. By the end of this second chapter, all of the lights are turned out in the dining room, one by one, leaving La Pax alone in the dark. Marc does not know it in 1939, but he has crossed more than just the Atlantic Ocean to take up art studies in France. He’s crossed into the hurricane of death and destruction known today as World War Two. His journey will take him into a total vacuum lacking any love, faith or hope. This is where he came to know the oldest and most powerful ghost known to man, named Why.


About the Author

David Leroy did extensive research on the German occupation of France for his debut novel The Siren of Paris. This historical novel follows the journey of one American from medical student, to artist, to political prisoner at Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War Two.

You can purchase The Siren of Paris in Kindle e-book format from Amazon -- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0088CA098 and learn more about this author and novel at http://www.thesirenofparis.com/

For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit -- http://bookpromotionservices.com/2012/05/22/siren-of-paris-tour/

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Excerpt: The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy

The Siren of Paris
Excerpt
June 2, 1940

Paris

     Marc left the Metro and started to walk toward the embassy. He noticed people on the street reading flyers strewn everywhere on the ground. He picked one up and started to read the warning of the approaching bombardment.

     “Is this real?” he asked the secretary when he walked in. “Yes, maybe. To them, it is real,” the secretary nodded toward the lobby filled with people in all sorts of dress waiting to apply for American visas. After dinner, Marc sat with Marie’s family around the radio. No one spoke a word, each one lost in his or her own world, poring over the meaning of every French word. The tension on the dial was too much, and the station would slip. Marie’s father got up and then tuned it back into the official station.

“Go to sleep, I told you two,” Marie’s mother told her little sister and brother.

“But we can’t. It is too loud,” the little girl said. “Marie, please,” her father said next.

     “Come with me,” Marie said, and took them back into their room. “Now, looked back at Larry and his wife Margarette. “It will be fun.” He then looked down at Larry’s young daughter. “Like a camping trip. You like camping, right?” Then he turned back to the officer and said in a soft, dignified tone, “We’ll take five together for the lounge, please,” while he focused his mind upon the rose-colored marble altar of the church back in the port.

“Here are your cot numbers,” the officer said, and passed back their papers.

     Marc left the Metro and started to walk toward the embassy. He noticed people on the street reading flyers strewn everywhere on the ground. He picked one up and started to read the warning of the approaching bombardment. “Is this real?” he asked the secretary when he walked in.

     “Yes, maybe. To them, it is real,” the secretary nodded toward the lobby filled with people in all sorts of dress waiting to apply for American visas.

     After dinner, Marc sat with Marie’s family around the radio. No one spoke a word, each one lost in his or her own world, poring over the meaning of every French word. The tension on the dial was too much, and the station would slip. Marie’s father got up and then tuned it back into the official station. “Go to sleep, I told you two,” Marie’s mother told her little sister and brother.

“But we can’t. It is too loud,” the little girl said.

     “Marie, please,” her father said next. “Come with me,” Marie said, and took them back into their room. “Now, you need to sleep, and be good.” She tucked them both in, and then sat for a moment on the edge of her brother’s bed. Then she heard it. Then another one followed the first. She got up and went to the window and stood in front of it in silence, holding her breath so not to smother the noise of the next one. She opened the window to the warm night. She stood listening, while her brother and sister stayed in their beds. Marie’s mother left the room next. Marc listened to the radio with Marie’s father, his attention utterly absorbed by the reports. “Un moment, un moment,” Marie’s father said to Marc as he left the room, but Marc barely noticed as he stared into the frogeye tube of the radio panel.

     After a few minutes, Marc awoke from his trance of radio reports, realizing he was alone in the room. Marc listened for their speaking. He heard nothing but the warm voice of the radio. He stood up and walked down the hallway toward the open door to the children’s room. Marie stood at the window with her father. Her mother sat with her little sister on the bed. No one spoke. Marc walked into the room toward the window to try and get a glimpse of what they were looking at down on the street. Then he heard them. They were soft and distant, like the muffled backfires of a car. A louder and closer one snapped his ears to attention. The shelling just northeast of the city softly drowned out all other sounds, including the frantic radio reports.

     When Marc left that night for his flat, the streets were alive with people packing cars. A couple argued about getting money before the Germans took over the banks. In the Metro, no one spoke. It seemed to Marc that the air had been removed from all of Paris. People lined the floor of Marc’s station to sleep that night in fear of the approaching bombs.

-LeRoy, David. The Siren Of Paris (Kindle)

About the Author:

     David Leroy did extensive research on the German occupation of France for his debut novel The Siren of Paris. This historical novel follows the journey of one American from medical student, to artist, to political prisoner at Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War Two.

     You can purchase The Siren of Paris in Kindle e-book format from Amazon -- http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0088CA098 and learn more about this author and novel at http://www.thesirenofparis.com/

For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit -- http://bookpromotionservices.com/2012/05/22/siren-of-paris-tour/

Monday, June 25, 2012

Guestpost: Tricia Stewart Shiu - The Story Behind Moa

Please enjoy this guest post by Tricia Stewart Shiu, author of the paranormal YA novel with a literary bent Moa. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $6000 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, 5 autographed copies of Moa, and 5 autographed copies of its sequel, Statue of Ku.

        The Story Behind Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu

I've always loved Hawaii and was thrilled when my husband booked a visit for us to see his relatives in Honolulu, Hawaii in October of 2006. We packed light and brought our daughter, who was three-years-old at the time. Our condo was close to parks and monuments that oozed history. We enjoyed wandering around and indulging in the local cuisine. I even tried poi and liked it! The morning after we arrived, I rose early to push my daughter’s stroller through the quiet, cool morning air. It felt like such a gift to experience Honolulu before the rest of the island was up. After a hearty island breakfast, we headed out for a morning at our favorite sandy reprieve, Kuhio Beach. The water was calm and protected by a breakwater. Our daughter enjoyed digging and splashing and my husband and I sat sit nearby without worrying about the strong current. Afterward, we headed back to our condominium, ate a light lunch, and took a luxurious siesta. Although I'm not usually a mid-day napper, the fresh sea air and sun lulled me into a light sleep—the kind where I felt like I was awake, but I was actually deeply asleep. I heard a voice say my name and a part of me awoke. I use the word “part” because I could definitely feel my body touching the soft material on the couch. And yet, another part was keenly aware of a young woman with dark hair standing over me. It felt real, but dream-like, so I decided to go with it and ask her her name. She pronounced a long Hawaiian string of letters, which seemed to go on for minutes. After repeating the name three or four times, she told me to call her “Moa.” Through my exhausted, sleepy haze, I remember being skeptical. If this was, indeed, a dream, I would ask as many questions as possible. So I did. Why was she here? Where did she come from? How could I be sure she was who she claimed to be? Instead of any answers, she flashed a mental picture of a woman and said that she was a long lost friend of my husband’s. She told me her name and explained that my husband’s family and she had lost touch 15 years before and had been orbiting around one another trying to reconnect. I awoke from that nap, slightly groggy. That was an indication that I was definitely asleep. Perhaps it was just my creativity kicking into overdrive, I reasoned, and decided to go on with my day. We walked to a park with my daughter and began playing. Suddenly, there was a squeal and my husband and I turned to see the woman from my dream charging toward us with her arms stretched out wide. As she spoke, I tried to gather my wits. Here was the same woman from my dream, someone I’d only seen a mental picture of, and she was standing on the grass right in front of me. She and my husband exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. For the next few hours, I tried to make sense of what happened. I had never had an experience like this before, but there was no denying that I saw a picture in a dream before I met someone and then they showed up in real life. When I went to sleep that evening, Moa visited again. She answered the other questions I’d asked earlier that afternoon and wanted me to know that I was protected and should share my experience with the world. Since this was definitely my first metaphysical encounter, I had no idea how to form the correct words to share what had happened. How on earth, I asked Moa, am I supposed to convey such undocumented, unsubstantiated, unusual information? She said that our world exists on many levels which all play simultaneously. Her analogy was of a DVR. Several shows can be playing at the same time but are on different tuners. That, she said, is where she existed. When I awoke, I began writing and continued to do so. The story evolved into “Moa,” then the sequel, “Statue of Ku.” My daughter, now seven, took the cover photo and illustrated, as well. The photo was taken a few years ago on the North Shore as we played on the beach. The artwork has been compiled over the last two years. Since my visit with Moa, I began an extensive and sometimes circuitous search to explain my metaphysical experience. I took classes on mediumship, Huna, energy work and through my education, I learned to create healing essential oils and elixir sprays and incorporated that information in the book. Not only did my experience with Moa inspire me and guide me through four-and-a-half of the most challenging years of my life, I also believe that writing about those events and including information I received about that inspiration and guidance, brought my own deep physical, mental, emotional and spiritual transformation and healing. Writing, editing and publishing Moa has opened doors to a new way of understanding myself, those around me and the energy we share. Whatever your belief or understanding of the metaphysical world, I believe that if one person is transformed through learning, then we are all transformed. I truly believe the Moa I met came through in this work and, just as I connected with her as I wrote, those who read the book will experience her as well.

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes: 

1. Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents
2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
3. Visit today’s featured social media event 

About Moa

Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon. About Statue of Ku: The second book in the Moa Book Series, "The Statue of Ku" follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince’s private plane to reclaim Moa’s family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku. Get it on Amazon. About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Interview: Tricia Stewart Shiu

Please enjoy this interview with Tricia Stewart Shiu, author of the paranormal YA novel with a literary bent Moa. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $6000 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, 5 autographed copies of Moa, and 5 autographed copies of its sequel, Statue of Ku

1. The Moa Book series has a metaphysical theme. Do you have any expertise in this area?
I am an energetic intuitive and have a talent for creating powerful healing essential oil blends and gem elixirs. The unearthing of these talents occurred as I embarked on a metaphysical journey, which included studies in mediumship, pagan and Huna rituals as well as an energy healing technique called “Crystalline Consciousness Technique.” I also studied a variety of shamanic clearing methods and healing rituals.
2. You get pretty heavy into the metaphysical. Are you, in fact, a witch?
Like, Hillary, I question who I am on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. For centuries, women have been persecuted and even killed for being labeled a witch. I have studied many forms of healing rituals and magic and discovered that I have talents for using essential oils and crystals for the highest good. Others, who have witnessed the results of my practices, have called me many things: healer, shaman, and yes, witch. I choose not to accept any of these names but to embrace all of them as one growing changing name—wishealer or heshitch—to coin a phrase...or maybe not. As I discover more talents, gifts and unique parts to myself, this unusual word is sure to undergo a metamorphosis and may grow to the size of Moa's real, and quite lengthy, Hawaiian name. 
3. What are your favorite books and how have they touched you as a reader?
Albert Einstein said, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The books/stories that touch me most echo the theme of humanity and self discovery and include a sense of adventure and wonder. Ray Bradbury's short story, Frost and Fire is a shocking, but tender story about a boy's journey into a world where people only live eight days. James Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man inspired me to unleash my inner censor and allow my truth to shine though my writing. If I could wish anything for those who read my books, it would be the gift of self acceptance and self acknowledgement.
4. How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
Good question. I went back into my notes and discovered that it took me exactly three months and ten days to write Moa from beginning to end. That seems to be my average writing speed, three months. My aunt Rebecca Gummere is my editor extraordinaire. We have developed a comfortable and productive working rhythm that balances creativity and structure and brings such joy and enrichment to the work. 
5. Who designs the covers for your books?
The brilliant and talented Sydney Shiu took the cover photos when she was six during a trip to Hawaii. Scott Torrance brought his years of experience in photographic art and design to the layouts. 
6. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The time between stories is the most challenging for me. When I am inside a story and writing I am filled with peace and joy. When I finish and have to leave that world, I mourn the loss of this comforting place--the same is true when I finish reading a great book. Nevertheless, I believe that this sadness brings with it a great opportunity and depth of creativity and I wouldn’t change a thing about the process. 
7. Any take-away message you want readers to grasp?
Each of us has at least one divine gift to remember. The moment we wake up and retrieve the memory of who we are and what we are here to do, that's when the adventure begins. 
8. When did you first consider yourself an author?
I was in middle school and read James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist for the first time. About an hour later, I was overcome by an urge to write, an impulse I readily indulged. Time stood still, I still can't quite remember what happened during that frenzied period of first creation. All I remember is coming to with pages upon pages filled with words in front of me. It felt incredible to express myself so freely. I've never looked back. 
9. Did you start out writing novels? 
No. I started out writing short stories when I was young. Then when I began acting, I wrote one-woman shows and plays, eventually combining my efforts of performance and writing in a piece called Doing Lunch which made it’s way into a short film trilogy directed by Hal Trussel. That film won “Best Dramatic Short” at the Houston Film Festival. 
10. What was your main source of inspiration for the Moa book series?
When I was five, I was visited by a vision. I'll never forget it, I was running down the stairs and the entity, a girl with dark hair, stopped me in my tracks. The spirit said that I would go through a deeply challenging time in my life, but would resurface, later in life, with unimaginable joy and fulfillment. That vision stayed with me. In middle school, I would sit quietly at my desk adding up the years to figure out exactly when my life would turn around. And then I forgot. I got busy, my work and the stress of family life took over and I was completely overwhelmed and in desperate need of a vacation. My husband, daughter and I decided to go to Hawaii. When the plane landed in Honolulu, I remember feeling the difference in the atmosphere as I disembarked. The air made me somehow, remember that there was a part of me that knew…something…what was it? Never mind, I was in Hawaii it was time to see the sights! So, I sped off to see Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach and then headed home for an afternoon nap before an evening luau. As I drifted toward sleep, I heard my name being called. In my mind's eye, I saw a beautiful young woman with dark hair, who said her name was Moaahuulikkiaaakea’o Haanaapeekuluueehuehakipuunahe’e—Moa for short. And then I remembered.
As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes: 

1. Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents 
3. Visit today’s featured social media event 

About Moa: 

Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon. About Statue of Ku: The second book in the Moa Book Series, "The Statue of Ku" follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince’s private plane to reclaim Moa’s family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku. Get it on Amazon. About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Excerpt: Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu

Please enjoy this excerpt from Moa, a paranormal YA novel with a literary bent by Tricia Stewart Shiu. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $6000 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, 5 autographed copies of Moa, and 5 autographed copies of its sequel, Statue of Ku.
***
Eighteen-year-old, Hillary Hause’s left thumb searches frantically to turn on the “I’m Okay to Fly” hypnotherapy recording. Her nerves on edge, fuchsia fingernails press into the blue pleather armrests of her airplane seat. “No spells can help you now,” she whispers to herself under her breath—then checks to see if anyone notices. Nope, they don’t. The plane lifts through the early morning, gray fog of California, “June Gloom” giving way to the azure sky, and Hillary covers her curly brown head and retreats beneath the questionably clean plane blanket cranking the volume to drown out the drone of the engines. “Outer shell close to breaking.” This time she doesn’t care if anyone hears. I hover just beyond her “outer shell”—a movement in the periphery, a faintly familiar scent, a fond memory just beyond recognition, a non-human observer. Before the week is up, Hillary will save my life, as I will hers. But, for now, more about Hillary. The drink cart rolls past the blanket, which has, by now become a moist steamy cave.   “Hey, freak. I hope your plane crashes.” The memory reverberates through her brain despite her attempts to distract herself with the hypnotherapy recording. She increases the volume, but the ugly conversation, which occurred just before school ended, still haunts her mind. “I guess the only people they check on those flights are the suspicious ones,” Krystal Sykes, a bully from her home room, leans in as Hillary hastens to grab books for her next class. Krystal, also a senior, has hounded Hillary since the first day of freshman year and this is the final day during the final hour at this tiny high school of 376 students —where everyone knows everyone else’s business. “Look, Krystal.” Hillary turns her eyes toward the sneering blonde. “It’s the last day of school, we’ll never see each other again. Can you give it a rest?” These are the most words the two young women have exchanged in the entire four years of high school. A look of shock replaces Krystal’s smug snick, “Oh, so now you talk.” She leans in, so close that her spray tan becomes a patchy Impressionist painting. Her pores are blotched with cakey, two shades too dark powder, her unblended cream eyeshadow creases across the center of her lid and her tropical breeze flavored breath threatens to strangle the words right out of Hillary. “I know all about your witchcraft practices and have made a few spells of my own. Trust me. You’ll never make it to your sister’s house in Hawaii.” Krystal’s backpack jingles and Hillary watches her spin around and skip down the hall.   Hillary is not a witch. She has, however, carefully crafted a “shell” to protect herself from bullies like Krystal—who, as far as Hillary can tell—is not a witch either. She has watched Krystal throughout elementary, middle and high school and has not been able to discern whether or not she practices witchcraft. No matter what Krystal’s background, her intent is to harm. And there is nothing worse than a spell with an aim to hurt. Hillary has had no choice but to remain in a constant state of defensiveness. The twenty-minute recording ends and Hillary falls into a troubled sleep—feeling every bump and hearing every creak of the plane. With about an hour left in the flight, Hillary awakens with a “turtle headache.” Hillary’s older sister Molly taught her this term which means a headache caused by sleeping too long underneath the covers of one’s bed. Sadly, Molly lost her husband, Steve, last year in an unfortunate surfing accident. The throbbing pain in Hillary’s left temple could be the result of remaining submerged beneath an airplane blanket and wedged between the window and armrest, or it could be from worry about how Molly and her niece, Heidi are dealing with their devastating loss. Disoriented, Hillary pokes her head out just in time to glimpse puffy clouds and sparkling sea below. A flood of excitement and sheer wonder flows through Hillary in the form of a tingle from her head to her toes. And then, a lovely thought: “...And for an Everlasting Roof, The Gambrels of the Sky...” She will enjoy this plane ride, thanks in part to Emily Dickinson.   
***
The Tour:

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book. All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment--easy to enter; easy to win! To win the prizes:


1. Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents 
3. Visit today’s featured social media event
About Moa:

Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon. About Statue of Ku: The second book in the Moa Book Series, "The Statue of Ku" follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince’s private plane to reclaim Moa’s family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku. Get it on Amazon. About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review # 193: Rebirth by David Longeuay

Description:
How did a remnant of scattered Jews rise to build a mighty superpower in the Middle East?
      Fleeing his father’s anti-Semitic organization, Charles Devonshire journeys into the most volatile landgrab in history—Post WWII Palestine. Charles pursues a beautiful but mysterious librarian, Gladia, who introduces him to the elaborate Jewish underground. While joining their plight to reestablish a homeland, he falls in love with her and faces painful challenges in developing a relationship within their culture gap. And in the midst of battling the hostile inhabitants who also laid claim to Palestine, he searches for clues of his own troubled past.
     Can Charles pursue love, uncover his family secrets and avoid being trapped in the middle of the world’s longest feud?
Review:

     I enjoy reading historical fiction/nonfiction, so I knew that I would enjoy Rebirth, especially since I have always wondered what happened to the Jewish population after World War II. The book is around 359 pages, a little lengthy, but the detail and the overall story-line make it well worth it. Charles is my favorite character, his personality combined with the palette of emotions he experiences along his journey really affected and inspired me. After the first couple pages, I was compelled to keep reading - well into the early hours of the morning - and I did not want to stop. The background information was critical to the plot-line and to the love story between Charles and Gladia, I was impressed by the balance of history versus "romance"; a lot of impact is lost in historically based love stories. What an interesting era to read about and experience through David Longeuay's well-researched novel. A very true-to-life read, "based on actual events" does not necessarily mean realistic, but this book hits its mark. Recommended for readers interested in the birth of Israel and its people, as well as history-lovers.

Rating: On the Run (4/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Bostick Communications) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.


About the Author:


     Dave Longeuay has been writing since 1978. He started writing poems, lyrics and music, in his teenage years. In 1980 he founded Public Recording, and built a thriving multimedia studio, which became his sole source of work for over twenty years. He also wrote, co-wrote, and produced hundreds of popular songs for local musicians in Southern California, as well as numerous radio scripts for a wide variety of radio commercials and broadcast videos for his clients. In 1989, he also wrote his first book, "The End Times."

     In 2000 he expanded his recording facility to accommodate video services. His writing skills broadened to write dozens of video scripts for a wide range of videos, including storyboard scripts for music videos, infomercials, commercials, and dozens of corporate products. His most notable independent work was writing, producing, shooting, and editing a documentary about missionaries. He personally filmed and directed the documentary in Uganda Africa, New Castle England, and Rosarito Mexico.

"I have a passion for writing and telling stories that will inspire people worldwide."


Review # 192: Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings

Description: (from book jacket)
     Jason Stevens is growing up in picturesque, historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in the 1970s. Back when the roads are smaller, the cars slower, the people more colorful, and Washington, D.C. is way across the mountains—a winding sixty-five miles away.
     Jason dreams of going to art school in the city, but he must first survive his teenage years. He witnesses a street artist from Italy charm his mother from the backseat of the family car. He stands up to an abusive husband—and then feels sorry for the jerk. He puts up with his father’s hard-skulled backwoods ways, his grandfather’s showy younger wife, and the fist-throwing schoolmates and eccentric mountain characters that make up Harpers Ferry—all topped off by a basement art project with a girl from the poor side of town.
Review:

     Ugly to Start With is a series of short stories documenting several events during Jason Stevens' 1970's journey through adolescence. Each story is narrated by Jason, but the time-order and subject matter varies throughout each section, ranging from family drama and first loves to the growing pains we eventually face. There were times that I really enjoyed this novel's set-up, but the seemingly random collection of stories sometimes left me confused, some of the stories bordering on boredom. I much prefer novels where there are clear plot-lines and an ordered sequence of events. As for the setting and characters, I have visited Harper's Ferry and I love how John Michael Cummings depicted the area, the characters were nicely developed as well, although I wish I would have been able to get to know them a little bit better; maybe even figure out why everyone acted so callous to one another. My favorite sections were "The Scratchboard Project" and "We Never Liked Them Anyway". I was not a fan of the "Ugly to Start With" section, what happened with Skinny Minnie was just evil, (no spoilers). Recommended for readers who would enjoy a more unique take on the short story, and those in the mood for a coming-of-age tale about growing up.

Rating: Bounty's Out (3.5/5)


*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 191: Ninety Days - A Memoir of Recovery by Bill Clegg

Description:
     Ninety Days is the true story of Bill Clegg's recovery - crack addicted to clean and sober. This memoir is the follow-up to his first book , Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, and begins where it left off - after seventy-three days of rehab.
Review:

     A raw and highly emotional look into the life of a once prominent businessman and his strenuous journey to sobriety, Ninety days is an intense, yet simply-written, look into recovery from addiction. It feels like I am reading Clegg's journal, and the entries have a lot of impact. His writing style is honest and full of poignant prose, his ordeal a glimpse into a torment of the human condition. The interactions and dialogue are well-written, but the sections about his relapse(s) are some of the most engrossing. I am very moved by his story, however, I feel like Ninety Days should be read after Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, because it feels sort of incomplete alone. Recommended for those who have struggled with their own addictive behaviors and/or readers interested in the drug rehabilitation process; also appropriate for older teens.

Rating: Bounty's Out (3/5)


*** I received this book from the author (Little, Brown and Company) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
About the Author:

Bill Clegg is a literary agent in New York. He is also the author of Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review # 190: Eutopia - The Discovery by Kathy Motlagh / Illustrated by Rich Greiwe

Description:
     Kyle and Kameron are playing in the snow when all of a sudden they fall into a strange portal and discover another world - Eutopia. The new land is barren and colorless, most of its residents asleep and unknowing of the changes, but a few guardians remain conscious. These guardians must teach Kyle and Kameron how to practice their virtues and awaken the ones that can restore Eutopia. Unfortunately, the creatures of planet Vice destroyed the perfect world once, and will not think twice about doing it again. Can the brothers help mend Eutopia and restore its virtues? Or will the Viceans return to finish what they started?
Review:

     Eutopia: The Discovery is a discovery indeed. Every primary school should be teaching these virtues and values to children, because they are emotional/physical skills that stay with us for life - Hope, Peace, Enthusiasm, Cleanliness, Honesty, Forgiveness, Love, Grace, Courtesy, Helpfulness, Empathy, and Humility. When I was in school we were taught this stuff, but nowadays even my nieces and nephews do not understand some of these concepts. It is a shame that educational systems are focusing so much on "higher-level" learning that they are forgetting the basics - life skills. Kathy Motlagh has written an immensely entertaining, yet educational, children's fantasy that I would call a mix between a picture book and an early chapter book. At 124 pages, it is a good length for children in third to seventh grade depending on the child's reading level; every couple of pages there is a beautiful illustration by Rich Greiwe, ranging from monochromatic to a rainbow of colors following the books progression. I was surprised how effortlessly the text and illustrations meshed with one another, bringing the story to such a peak, however, I did not like the abruptness of the ending. Kids are notoriously impatient, (maybe educators should be teaching that in schools too), so I cannot see a ~nine year old waiting for the continuation/completion of the series without complaint. The characters and dialogue are more developed than in books for younger kids, but even a five or six year old would enjoy having this book read to them. Overall, a wonderful resource for children and educators. I will be passing this book along to a few teachers I know, and I highly recommend it for kids seven to twelve. I'm 24 and I cannot wait for book two!

Visit the Think Virtues Website for more info!

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)


*** I received this book from the author (Bostick Communications) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.


About the Author: (from ThinkVirtues.com)

     Kathy Motlagh is the writer and creative force behind the Eutopia book series and products, and managing director of Think Virtues. Motlagh, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, has taught art at the Montessori School of North Hoffman for the past twelve years and been an active board member of the school since its inception twenty years ago.

     Motlagh’s business experience includes eighteen years in the mortgage banking industry, where she has been featured in business publications as one of the top female financiers in the country. A recipient of many business awards and accolades, she has helped over two thousand families realize their home buying dreams.

     Motlagh resides in Chicago and involves her family, including her six and seven-year-old sons, in community service and fund raising activities for many non-profit organizations and causes.

Review # 189: A Rose in the Desert by Chi Emerole / Art by Ryan Durney

Description:
     Rose and her family live in a refugee camp in Chad because of the war in Sudan, but even though times are tough, family and friends come together to celebrate Rose's seventh birthday and to sustain hope for the future.
Review:

     A Rose in the Desert is simply amazing! Chi Emerole's unique and heartfelt story is full of childhood hopes and dreams in a time and place of turmoil. The writing style is well-organized and exciting, containing excellent vocabulary as well as an interesting array of cultural references and expressions. I loved the textual depictions of the characters and the settings, but Ryan Durney's illustrations were breathtaking! The level of color and detail exceeded every expectation and brought Rose and her family (not to mention the scenery) to life! I could almost feel the warmth of the sunlight, the coolness of the Geyser of Hope, and the echoing lyrical beauty of the Cave of Dreams as I took in each well-crafted page. There are so many lessons that children can learn from Rose and her family, the most important being the survival of hope, even in the most dire of circumstances! Rose's poetic prayer, "A Rose in the Desert", will definitely stay with me, "...Rose demands her dreams...!", and readers will be inspired by her message. Highly recommended for children of all ages!

Rating:Clean Getaway (5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Bostick Communications) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Review # 188: Sofia's Rainbow by Lina Simoni / Illustrated by Laura Furlan

Description:
   Sofia is a beautiful, but lonely, little girl who dreams about climbing rainbows in her home city of Istanbul (Turkey), but the stray kitten she befriends, Incir, only wishes to eat figs and hates heights. Although she likes Incir, she wishes he was more like her, and berates him about his fears, until the day she climbs a dissipating rainbow and Incir jumps in to rescue her.
Review:

    As always, I love when a children's book has a strong message, and Sofia's Rainbow has lessons to teach - Just because someone/something is different, does not mean that they cannot be your friend; sometimes the differences make better friendships. I liked how Sofia and Incir interacted throughout the book, their relationship changing because neither of them wanted the same things. Many children (readers) can relate to this story-line because it is not always easy to embrace people/things/behaviors that are unfamiliar or strange.   This is why there are so many children, and adults, who are bullied and mistreated today. No one has taught these individuals that it is the differences that make us who we are, which is why this book is so important for children to read. Lina Simoni's creative and well-written story is full of wonderful cultural references and challenging vocabulary. There are forty-eight pages, each containing one or more of Laura Furlan's beautiful poly-chromatic illustrations. I especially enjoyed the depictions and expressions of Sofia and Incir, and I know that kids will too! A very unique children's book recommended for all ages!

Rating: Clean Getaway (5/5)

*** I received this book from the author (Bostick Communications) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.