Sunday, May 31, 2009

Something's Rising

Something's Rising : Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal by Silas House and Jason Howard

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0813125464
ISBN-13: 978-0813125466

Being a huge fan of House’s work, I bought this book at the lecture series “Evening With the Mountainkeepers.” Not only was I able to meet House and get him to autograph my book, I was privileged to hear him read an excerpt from this important books.

Mountaintop coal removal is a controversial topic, especially in Appalachia. On one hand, the practice supplies much needed jobs for the residents of mining towns; on the other, this practice destroys natural wildlife habitats, leaving deep scars upon the land.

This book contains the personal stories of 13 residents of the Appalachian region and gives you a representation of their views and opinions. I think this is an important book, not only for the understanding of mountaintop removal, but also for learning about the cultures of Appalachia.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - 'Salem's Lot

I have totally shifted gears with this week's Way Back Wednesday. With all the hubbub about the possiblity of a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie - without Joss Whedon, I may add - I've been thinking about my favorite vampire novels. 'Salem's Lot is the very first book I ever read of Stephen King's, starting a 32+ year obsession. 'Salem's Lot is also the first vampire book I read, although my love of vampires started in 1966 with Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows.

'Salem's Lot is a 1975 horror novel written by Stephen King, and was his second published novel. The title King originally chose for his book was Second Coming but he later decided on Jerusalem's Lot. The publishers eventually shortened it to the current title, thinking the author's choice sounded too religious.

Ben Mears, a successful writer who grew up in the (fictional) town of Jerusalem's Lot, Maine (or “The Lot”, as the locals call it), has returned home following the death of his wife. Ben plans to write a book about the Marsten House, an abandoned mansion that gave him nightmares after a bad experience with it as a child.

The Marsten House has been purchased by Mr. Straker and Mr. Barlow, a business pair who plans to open an Antique Mall, even though Straker is the only one who is ever seen in public. The arrival of this pair in town coincides with the disappearence of a local boy, Ralphie Glick, and the suspicious death of his brother Danny.

Over the course of the book, the town is slowly taken over by vampires, reducing it to a ghost town by day as they sleep.

King has stated that during a high school class he taught, he was inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula and wondered what would happen if Dracula lived in 20th century America. King originally wrote of Jerusalem's Lot in a short story which was eventually published in the collection Nightshift. He is said to have also drawn heavily from the works of H. P. Lovecraft.


The novel has been adapted into a television mini-series twice, first in 1979 and then in 2004. The novel was also adapted by the BBC as a seven part radio play in 1995.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Friend Like Henry

A Friend Like Henry: The Remarkable True Story of an Autistic Boy and the Dog That Unlocked His World by Nuala Gardner (262 pages)

Although I don’t know much about autism, this book touched my heart. This is a true story of Dale Gardner and his parents and the struggle to raise two autistic children. The Gardner’s work hard to give their children as normal of a life as possible.

With the help of a golden retriever puppy named Henry, they were able to get Dale back from the depths of autism. Although this book is not meant to be a “cure all” for autism, it is an accurate and blunt account of the struggles and joys of raising autistic children.

This is truly a rewarding book meant to bring encouragement to other families.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Home Creamery

The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley (214 pages)

With a shift in the way Americans think about food, more and more people are re-discovering the joys of home cooking, home canning and other forms of food preservation.

The Home Creamery gives you step-by-step instructions for making sour cream, buttermilk, mozzarella, fresh goat cheese, and several other fresh milk products. It is thrilling to watch milk or cream turn into soft cheeses.

It’s comforting to know a commercial kitchen is not a prerequisite for making fresh buttermilk, yogurt or cream cheese. The instructions are simple and the results are delicious.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around

There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around by Vivian Vande Velde

Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Harcourt
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0152021000
ISBN-13: 978-0152021009
Ted's big problem is not his annoying brother Zach, his social studies report on Luxembourg or his stuck-up cousin Jackie. He has ghosts in his house. His five-year-old sister, Vicki, is the first to see them; she starts keeping a hammer under her pillow for protection.

12 year old Ted Beatson lives in a 150 year old ancestral home with his parents, older brother Zach and little sister Vicki. The home, which has been handed down through the generations, and is located near the Erie Canal in upstate New York. It was also once used by the Underground Railroad.

When Vicki begins talking to a supposed imaginary friend, Ted quickly learns the friend is actually a ghost named Marella and there is another ghost - the bad lady - who appears to be after Marella. In trying to research the ghost origins, Ted uncovers a family secret, leading him to a connection between past and present.

Although this is a fictional book, it does have many interesting facts concerning the Civil War, the Underground Railroad and the history of the Erie Canal.

This book is spooky but not super scary, so younger children will also enjoy reading this tale. It is suspenseful, funny, clever and has a tad bit of sadness. A great book for children who are interested in reading scary stories that aren't too scary.

You can also check out my reviews on these Vivan Vande Velde books:

Stolen
All Hallow's Eve

Monday, May 18, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

All Hallow's Eve: 13 Stories for Halloween by Vivian Vande Velde

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Harcourt
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0152055762
ISBN-13: 978-0152055769
"Witches are dancing
The Dead are walking
Vampires are feeding
For tonight is All Hallow's Eve!"

I am a big fan of young adult books, but I had not read any of Velde's work until her most recent release, Stolen. Stolen was such a riveting book, I've been on a quest to read more of Velde's books.

I won't give a synopsis of all 13 stories - although they were all good - but I will highlight my favorites.

"Cemetery Field Trip" - in this creepy story, a class field trip to a 1800s cemetery leads to mortal danger and a ghostly rescue for one 9th grade girl. Just when I thought ghosts were the thing to worry about, Velde switches gears to the unexpected.

"Best Friends" - this story has an unusual twist told in the narrative of 2 young girls. Nikki is a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who befriends a classmate and claims they are "best friends forever." Aimee Ann is a spoiled little rich girl, forced by her parents to be friends with Nikki. Great ending for a scary story.

"Pretending" - when the Halloween trick of an entire family portraying vampires goes awry, an unlucky boy meets another fate. I thought I knew who this one would end, but I was wrong.

"Marian" - when a young man hits a speed bump after dropping off his girlfriend, he is surprised to learn his old car has a GPS. "Marian" or Mobile And Regional Interactive Assisted Navigation, is not your average GPS - she is a spector looking for revenge.

If you are a hardcore horror fan, then this book will be too tame for reading. But if you have children or young adults who love reading scary stories, then All Hallow's Eve should fit the bill.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, is the first science fantasy novel I ever read, starting my love of sci-fi. First published in 1962, this book won a Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and was runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. It is the first in the Time Quartet books - the other 3 books are: A Wind in the Door (1973), A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) and Many Waters (1986)

The book begins with the infamous line,
"It was a dark and stormy night."

Teenage Meg Murry has a bad-temper; her family recognizes her problem as a lack of emotional maturity but think she can do great things. The family includes her mother - a scientist - her scientist father - who is missing in action - her five year-old brother Charles Wallace — a nascent super-genius — and her 10-year-old twin brothers, Sandy and Dennys.

During the stormy night the Murrys are visited by Mrs. Whatsit - and we later meet Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which - who tells an already perplexed Dr. Murry that
"there is such a thing as a tesseract."

A tesseract is the fifth-dimensional analog of a cube refers to a scientific concept Meg's father was working on before his mysterious disappearance. It is explained as a fifth-dimensional phenomenon similar to folding the fabric of time and space.

The 3 ladies W transport Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin, through the tesseract, to find Mr. Murry. This begins a wild trip through time and space.

This was one of my favorite books when I was 10 years old, and another book I bought when my children were younger. This is the book cover my children remember, although I remember the cover noted with the 1at photo. The 2nd photo is the original cover from 1962.

This is a great read-aloud book and would be good for a class read, giving teachers math and science to incorporate with reading time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kneadlessly Simple

Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads by Nancy Baggett (210 pages)

I LOVE this book! For the past few years, I have been experimenting with baking bread and although I’ve had many successes, I’ve had just as many failures. Last year I discovered a “no-knead” bread recipe in a “Mother Earth News” magazine and it has been the main recipe I’ve been using for months.

Until I found Baggett’s new book … there are some great no-knead bread recipes that are easy to bake and delicious to eat. Not only does it contain recipes for bread, rolls and focaccia, there are also recipes for pizza dough, baguettes, and coffee cakes. And as a chronic chocoholic, one of my favorite recipes was Double Chocolate-Honey Bread – sinfully good!

This is a must read book for any home baker!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Dance with the Devil

A Dance with the Devil: A True Story of Marriage to a Psychopath by Barbara Bentley

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0425221180
ISBN-13: 978-0425221181

There is evil in the world and it is walking around on two legs, with no other objective than to destroy lives. Bentley, a first time memoirist, opens up her 14 year nightmare in hopes of helping other people escape her experience. It is truly horrific to delve into the minds and motives of the sickly deranged people in our society.

The problem with psychopaths is that initial reactions to these people are typically good. Bentley's husband appeared to be intelligent, heartwarming person, but the minute she was snagged in their snare, the manipulative behavior begins to surface. Draining her bank account, habitual lies, and eventually an attempt on her life, Bentley was able to escape and break free of the bonds cast by her husband.

This is an engrossing book and hard to put down. I highly recommend this book, especially to women (and men) in abusive relationships.

Children's Book Week

May 11 - 17 is Children's Book Week - the oldest national literacy event in the United States.

It all began with the idea that children's books can change lives. Since 1919, Children's Book Week has been celebrated nationally in schools, libraries, bookstores, family homes - any place where there are children and books.

Some of my recent favorite children's books are:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This book just won The John Newbery Medal.

Read my review here.




The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

This is the last book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Current books include:
The Lightning Thief
The Sea of Monsters
The Titan's Curse
The Battle of the Labyrinth


Read my review of the 3rd book, Titan's Curse, here.


The Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary (Fablehaven #4) by Brandon Mull

Current books in this series include:
Fablehaven
Rise of the Evening Star
Grip of the Shadow Plague


The last book in the series - Keys to the Demon Prison - will be released in 2010.

Read my review here.



The Dragon's Eye (Erec Rex #1) by Kaza Kingsley

Book #2 is The Monsters of Otherness and the 3rd book - The Search for Truth - will be released on June 30th.

Read my review here.


The Journal of Curious Letters (the 13th Reality #1) by James Dashner

The 2nd book in the series - The Hunt for Dark Infinity - was released in March.

Read my review here.


The Ruby Key (Moon and Sun #1) by Holly Lisle

The 2nd book in the series is The Silver Door.

Read my review here.


Stoneheart (Stoneheart trilogy #1) by Charlie Fletcher

Rounding out the trilogy are Ironhand and Silvertongue.

Read my review here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Book Signing

Here is our good friend, Earl Dean, at his first book signing for A TAILOR MAIDEN'S SECRET. Congratulations again, Earl!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Tailor Maiden's Secret


Congratulations Earl P. Dean on the publication of your first novel! Earl is a friend and a member of my writing group - The Community of Mercer County Writers.



Mayfest 2009 Book Signing
Saturday, May 9th from noon - 4pm
Gratz Park in Lexington, Kentucky

Earl will be signing his new book, A TAILOR MAIDEN'S SECRET and you will be able to buy a copy of the book on Saturday, or you can order from
Wasteland Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

To learn more about the Mayfest events, click here.

A TAILOR MAIDEN'S SECRET
"Arliane Donestica attends mid-school on a planet called Pooda, a forbidding world of the future so far removed from Earth in space and time that the old world exists as a mythical origin for the poodan progenitors.

The Poodan Youth for Unity, sponsored by Pooda's Elders, are chasing Arliane through her snowbound city at the request of the Elders, pressuring her about unspoken activities that might tie her to rebellion similar to her mother's. Activist and wife as well, Arliane's mother had died in a protest by explosion.

Were the Elders behind it? Read of a biological mystery, political strife and forbidden action to discover the answer in A TAILOR MAIDEN’S SECRET."

Earl Patrick Dean is a computer programmer working in Kentucky. He holds a BA degree from Transylvania University and graduate certificates from The Institute of Children’s Literature, and has attended the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning workshops on Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror and Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. He loves reading and collecting books, and writes mostly science fiction and fantasy stories.

Earl has published stories in SAY...WHAT’S THE COMBINATION?, MORNINGSTAR ANTHOLOGY and KENTUCKY BLUE.


Way Back Wednesday - Go Ask Alice

I'm interrupting Way Back Wednesday this week with a book I just re-read over the weekend. My local public library - Mercer County Public Library - just acquired a new copy of this book and it practically jumped off the shelf and into my hands. Talk about a blast from the past.

Go Ask Alice

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416914633
ISBN-13: 978-1416914631

Go Ask Alice is a book I read when I was an early teenager and it scared the beegeezees out of me! It was years later before I realized this was a work of fiction - not a true teen diary by Anonymous as it was marketed.

Work of fiction or not, it is an interesting read into the teenage drug world of the 1960s. Although dated, I think this would be a good book for adults to read before they have "the drug" talk with their children.

The book begins with a 15 year old named Alice who is living in a perfectly normal home with two parents and a younger brother and sister. She had everything, but like most teenagers, she didn't realize it until it was gone.

Supposedly tricked into taking LDS when offered a laced Coke at a party, this work of fiction depicts Alice's downward spiral into drugs and her eventual climb back out the other side.

Written in "diary" form, it is a quick read and can easily be read in one night. Although continued to be touted as a true story, be aware that the truth of this book's origins was debunked many years ago. However, this doesn't stop it from being a good read.

*****Warning*****
Just a note to parents: This book is ranked very high on many of the banned books lists in the USA. If you care concerned about your children reading "banned" books, this many not be the book for your family.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The 8th Confession

The 8th Confession (Women’s Murder Club #8) by James Patterson

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316018767
ISBN-13: 978-0316018760

The 8th book in the Women’s Murder Club starts out with an exploding meth lab disguised as a school bus and the story never slows down. This is Patterson’s usual MO, so why mess with success?

Lindsay Boxer, Cindy Thomas, Claire Washburn and Yuki Castellano are back, trying to solve the murders of several rich San Fransico socialites. In addition, there is a mystery surounding a homeless preacher and a strange turn in the love life of one of the women.

Although I still love the character of Lindsay Boxer, I have been a little disappointed in the last few installments of this series. I think Patterson is trying too hard and he is using “co-authors” to help him release several books a year instead of one. However, if you are a fan of Patterson, then this book is still a must read.

Sunday, May 3, 2009