Category Archives: reading rave

Buzz Review: The Quickest Kid in Clarksville



The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller (illustrated by Frank Morrison)

Chronicle Books/2016

It’s the day before the big parade to honor three-time gold medalist Olympic runner Wilma Rudolph. Alta can’t wait and imagines herself being as fast, as quick as Wilma. But then along come Charmaine with her brand new shoes and challenges Alta, whose shoes are worn out, to a race. Alta wins, but then Charmaine does in a second race, upsetting Alta. The day of the parade, Alta tries to hurry with her banner but it’s awkward and hard to run with it. Charmaine offers to help, and the two girls along with Alta’s sisters take turns relay style until they all make it to the parade in time. The girls sit together as friends rather than competitors to cheer for Wilma Rudolph. In 1960, in segregated Clarksville Tennessee, Wilma agreed to a parade only if it was integrated – and the organizers agreed.

Fabulous story and fabulous illustrations!

The author’s web site

The illustrator’s web site

Book Buzz! Cooper & Packrat Are Back!



Cooper & Packrat: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest by Tamra Wight, illustrated by Carl DiRocco

Islandport Press, 2014

Cooper and Packrat are back in another Wilder Campground adventure. This time after they discover one of their campgroup geocache boxes filled with illegal eagle parts, two goons chase them down. Cooper and Packrat are determined to discover the mystery of these illegal activities, while trying to evade the thugs. When they find out that the campground eaglets may be in danger, they enlist the help of their friend Roy and try to protect the eagles. Will they save the baby eagles? Will they find out the mystery behind the stolen eagle parts? And will Cooper get grounded by his parents for sleuthing? An adventurous story with fascinating eagle facts.

This book is perfect for young readers who love adventure, mystery, and nature. I already look forward to the next installment. I hope there’s a next book!

For more about Tamra and her books, see my spotlight interview with her here.

Happy reading!


A Favorite Author: Cinda Williams Chima


I have many favorite authors, as I’ve said before. And from time to time I will highlight them here. As you know from my last post, I accidentally ruined a book by putting it in the washing machine. Fortunately, because of my wonderful indie book store (Bank Square Books) and the store owner who saw my post, I was able to get a new copy in a day. The book I washed?

9781423144342_p0_v2_s260x420The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima (Hyperion/2013)

In a continuation of the Heir Chronicles, this story focuses on Jonah and Emma. Both are survivors of the Thorn Hill massacre/accident (depending on who tells the story) – killing all the adults and turning the surviving children into “savants” or mutants. Not quite wizards or enchanters or warriors or sorcerers – but somehow each having a special ability but also cursed with short lives. Jonah is able to enchant, but also his bare touch will kill. Emma who knew nothing of this world comes to it after her grandfather is murdered and she’s united with her long-absent father.  When Jonah and Emma’s paths intersect, secrets and lies play a part in their growing attraction. The political battle between the wizards and other guilds cause Jonah and Emma to form a partnership to try to find out the true story behind Thorn Hill.

If you are at all growing a bit fatigued by all the similar stories out there, I know that feeling. Sometimes I read books and they just seem to be a play off of other popular books. This is where Cinda Williams Chima stands out, head and shoulders above the crowd. Her books are original. All her books are fantastic – in-depth stories with amazing world-building and magical elements tinged with intrigue and violence and love and lust. Her characters are strong and passionate, and the stories are woven intricately. You don’t need to have read the first three books in the Heir Chronicles to understand The Enchanter Heir, but you will probably want to go back to read them.

My favorite series of hers is the Seven Realms series. The first in the series is The Demon King:


From the publisher:

One day Han Alister catches three young wizard setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet away from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won’t use it against him. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battle to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of riding and hunting with her father’s family. Raia aspires to be like Hanalea, the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems that her mother has other plans for her-plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima.

This series contains an epic love story, an amazing battle between good and evil, friendship and family love. This is a series I would read more than once and intend to in the near future. I highly recommend any books by Cinda Williams Chima!

For more about the author and her books: her website.

A Fabulous Fairy Tale


9781599903347_p0_v1_s260x420The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry


I love to support authors, particularly ones I meet and like. I heard Julie Berry speak at a novel revision retreat I attended at Vermont College earlier this year. I picked up her book and recently dove in.

One thing I admit is after years of reading MG and YA, I’ve grown impatient. I know there are tons of fabulous books out there. So when a book doesn’t capture my attention and draw me in within the first chapter, I often put it down. This was a book I could NOT put down! I adored the characters and didn’t want the story to end.

Once wealthy and greatly loved by her parents who died in a carriage accident, 15-year-old Lucinda now works as a servant to her hen-pecked uncle and his second wife at their jewelry shop. A mysterious woman shows up with a unique gem to be re-set, and Lucinda and her family are told she is the Amaranth witch. Aunt insists Lucinda return it lest the gem be a cursed, but Lucinda keeps it and what follows is fantastic fairy tale full of adventure, mystery, and romance. All my favorite things, plus a smart, loyal, and loveable goat named Dog. I shed tears and laughed out loud as I cheered for Lucinda to find true love and a happy ending.

I’m waiting with great anticipation for Julie’s next book, a YA titled The Truth About Me, due out from Viking in September. Looks intense!

A Reading Rave – Eleanor & Park


9781250012579_p0_v1_s260x420Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

St.Martin’s Griffin/2013

When I read John Green’s review of this YA novel in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, I knew I’d have to buy this book. I knew it was the kind of book I would love. I was not disappointed.

Sixteen yo Park is probably the only Korean-American, probably the only Asian, in Omaha. Eleanor, just recently moved, wants only to keep her head, her big red haired-head, down. But on her first day as she climbs onto the school bus, she knows that won’t happen – and already feels ostracized, even though the strange Asian kid lets her sit next to him. Day after day they ride in silence, until he notices she’s reading his comics over his shoulder, and then she realizes he’s letting her. And then he’s loaning her his comics, and introducing her to music on his Walkman. And then they fall in love against all odds – a Korean-American boy and a red-headed girl who lives in a rather bleak family situation. Park’s parents accept her (his mother more slowly) while Eleanor must hide her relationship from her family, especially her stepdad. Set in 1986, this is a love story – realistic, heart-wrenching, and honest.

Get thee to the store/library and read this book!

In Love


Bob and I just bought a house – one we love! It has great character and warmth, originally built in the early 1800s and lovingly renovated less than a decade ago by the current owners. It has everything we could want – a great kitchen and garden for Bob (he’s the resident chef and “farmer”), plenty of room, and it sits right on a pond! And the best thing (for me)? I will be getting my very own writing studio – and I’ll be meeting with an architect this weekend to discuss. The space is currently a wood shop attached to the detached 2 car barn-garage. I am thrilled to be able to create the perfect space – a large writing area, a reading nook, and a small meditation space, all overlooking the pond. I promise before, during and after pictures!

All this to say that I apologize for the less than regular postings. But, I am still reading.

I must share a new author that I love – a writer of adult fiction, a writer talented in penning amazing stories with incredible characters – love stories that are honest, and true, and full of emotion.

Jojo Moyes is fast becoming a new favorite author and I’m already impatient for a new book by her. Her new release is

9780670026609_p0_v1_s260x420Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Viking/2012)

I wish I could do a proper write up of this novel, because I loved it so much. But as I’ve been pressed for time lately, I’m going to “cheat” and share the summary from

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Because I loved this novel so much, I bought her previous novel and just now, just 5 minutes ago, finished it, amid tears of joy. Loved. It.

9780143121107_p0_v1_s260x420The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes (Penguin Books/2010)

I haven’t had time to write it up yet, but I so loved it that I was compelled to write this post immediately. So here again is the summary:

A Brief Encounter for our time, The Last Letter from Your Lover is a sophisticated, spellbinding double love story that spans decades and thrillingly evokes a bygone era. In 1960, Jennifer Stirling wakes in the hospital and remembers nothing—not the car accident that put her there, not her wealthy husband, not even her own name. Searching for clues, she finds an impassioned letter, signed simply “B,” from a man for whom she seemed willing to risk everything. In 2003, journalist Ellie Haworth stumbles upon the letter and becomes obsessed with learning the unknown lovers’ fate—hoping it will inspire her own happy ending. Remarkably moving, this is a novel for romantics of every age.

I normally save this space to blog about books for children and teens, but these two books are definitely worth sharing here. I’m going to go sit in the dark now and think more about this lovely book and the characters in it – the ones I wish were real and that I could meet.

PS – Oh dear. I just now looked up her web site so I could share a link and have discovered she’s written MANY books. I may  have to buy them all……!

Welcome to the Spotlight: Deborah Heiligman and Intentions!


Welcome back to my Spotlight series where I shine the spotlight on fabulous authors and their wonderful books! For the first spotlight of 2013, I’m happy to feature Deborah Heiligman and her YA novel, Intentions, which just won the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers. Congratulations, Deborah! Stayed tuned below on how you can win a signed copy of this incredible book!

9780375868610_p0_v1_s260x420Intentions by Deborah Heiligman (Alfred A. Knopf/2012)

When Rachel discovers that the esteemed Rabbi Cohn is not the person she thought he was, her world starts crashing around her. Her parents fight all the time, her best friend is distant and sometimes mean, and she thinks she might have a boyfriend in Jake who is sweet and kind, but then there’s Adam, the rabbi’s son, who is neither, but hot just the same. Rachel struggles with doing the right thing at a time when she has no one to lean on and all the people she once trusted are changed.

You are a prolific author of many children’s books, as well as a Printz honor winner for your nonfiction book Charles and Emma about Charles Darwin. What was your path to publication like?

My second job out of college was working at Scholastic News, the classroom magazines for elementary school children. (My first job was working at a Jewish magazine, where my main responsibility was to get coffee and lunch and snacks for the editor.) I hadn’t meant to write for kids, but I took the job so I could move to NY and be with my boyfriend. Good move! I learned to write for kids and I married the boyfriend. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and then when I got pregnant I decided to stay home and be a freelance writer. My first son loved to be read to above all else, so after he was born and I left Scholastic I read children’s books all day. I was freelancing at the time, and so I decided to try to write a picturebook. It was beginner’s luck. The second publisher who saw it bought it! My career has taken A LOT of twists and turns, ups and downs, since then.

INTENTIONS is your first YA novel. What was the initial spark behind this story?

I’ve always wanted to write about that moment in a kid’s life when she realizes that someone who adores is flawed. That happened to me a few memorable times when I was growing up and I think it really shaped who I became. But the particular sparks, I think, were some things in real life: from my childhood, the Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, and this rabbi in New Jersey who had his wife murdered. Yes, I have been working on this book since the second Clinton administration.

I felt for Rachel, for her pain and struggle with dealing with betrayed trust and for her confusion following. I rooted for her when it came to her feelings for Jake. I could not put the book down, I wanted to be with her every step of the way. How did you get to know Rachel and were there any challenges you encountered as you were writing this book?

The biggest challenges I had in writing this book were not in figuring out Rachel. She came to me, more or less, fully formed. I thought of her (and I admit, still do) as a real person. I would yell at her while I was writing–whenever she did something stupid I would try to talk her out of it. But she won every time. When I first wrote it, though, it was set in the 1970’s, had a big Holocaust subplot, and many more characters. The challenge was to winnow it down, make it really move, and be not about me or my childhood, but about Rachel’s. I had a lot of help with this book, most especially from my editor.

Rachel volunteers at an elementary school – and the boy she works with loves cars. Were you obsessed with anything in particular when you were a child?

I was not, but I envied kids who had obsessions. I tried to have an obsession, or at least a hobby, but nothing ever stuck.

Heiligman, D.

Deborah Heiligman is the author of almost 30 books for children and teens, including Intentions (Knopf, August 2013), winner of the Sydney Taylor Award for Teen readers. Her book Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith was a National Book Award finalist, Printz Honor, LA Times Book Prize finalist, and the winner of the first YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. Other titles include From Caterpillar to Butterfly (HarperCollins), the holidays around the world series (National Geographic) and Cool Dog, School Dog (Marshall Cavendish). Forthcoming: The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos (Roaring Brook, June 2012), and Go Dog, Snow Dog (fall 2013). She is currently working on book about Van Gogh for Henry Holt, and on a new novel.

For more about Deborah and her books, see her web site or follow her on Twitter!

Win a signed copy of Intentions, the winner of the 2013 Sydney Taylor Award for Teen Fiction! I truly loved this book and I’m so happy to be able to share it with a lucky winner!

Please follow the directions below (most of you know the drill)!

1. Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me something you were obsessed with as a child.  For me it was miniature dollhouse furniture. My dad built me a dollhouse (he built one for my sister, too) and I loved filling the rooms with furniture and re-decorating. I’d save my allowance so I could walk to the toy store to buy a new desk or bed or table. Maybe this prepared me for my adult life of moving every two years?

2. Leave your comment (and email address) by midnight EST Sunday, January 27th. The lucky winner will be announced on this blog and will be contacted by email on Tuesday, January 29th.

3. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!

First Book of 2013


I am a rather superstitious person – given to omens. Whatever book I started the year off reading would portent the quality of the rest of my reading year. Fortunately the first book I read was excellent!

9781476730943_p0_v2_s260x420The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Atria Paperback (Simon & Schuster)/2012  new adult fiction

This is where the importance of reading blogs come in. If not for Lucy of The Reading Date and Brittany of The Book Addict’s Guide, I may not have heard of this incredible book. Both listed this book as one of their top reads of 2012. What a great way to start off my 2013!

I normally share my own synopsis of a book after I read it, but I don’t feel like I can do this one justice so I’m pasting the summary from GoodReads here:

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

I was hooked from the very first page and didn’t want to put the book down, but forced myself to because I wanted to make this story last. A story with amazing characters I fell in love with, The Sea of Tranquility is filled with tension interspersed with humor, incredible chemistry, and deep emotion. I’d definitely read another novel by this author!

Wild Reads!


As a former raptor rehabber and zoo educator with a degree in Zoology, I love reading books about wildlife. Finding good nonfiction isn’t a problem. Earlier this year I read and loved


Life, Love, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, a memoir about Dame Sheldrick’s life growing up in Kenya and about her elephant orphanage.

But, finding good fiction that balances the amazing facts of wildlife and/or environment with great story is a bigger challenge. In some cases, I find the facts are at the forefront, making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. In other cases, the story is too weak to be entertaining or the characters cardboard, not making me care about their plights. I recently read two outstanding books that wove both story and wildlife/environmental issues seamlessly.


Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (YA fiction)

When 14-year-old Sophie flies to her former home, the Democratic Republic of Congo, to spend the summer with her mother at her mother’s bonobo sanctuary, she is unprepared for what follows when she “rescues” an orphaned and suffering bonobo from the streets. She falls in love with the dependent Otto, caring for him while her mother keeps busy with the sanctuary. As summer comes to a close and her mother leaves to do a release of bonobos, rebel war breaks out and Sophie must survive on her own and care for Otto. A truly gripping and fascinating tale focusing on Sophie’s survival and highlighting the plight of endangered bonobos.


Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (adult fiction)

When Dellarobia was 17, she got pregnant and all her plans and dreams flew out the window. She married Cub Turnbow, moving into the house his parents built for them on their family farm, and two children and ten years later, she feels like the perpetual outsider. One day, after making a decision she starts to reconsider that takes her up the mountainside behind her house, she is greeted by a dazzling display of only what she can call a lake of fire. This leads to a series of many changes in her life. The vision was actually wintering (and displaced) monarch butterflies This brings a flood of news-journalists, scientists, and activists. And as the months turn, so do Dellarobia’s thoughts which lead her to some hard decisions regarding her life choices, her dreams and hopes, and her marriage.  This story is half science journal and half story and perfectly blended, dealing with broken dreams and climate change, God and politics, disparate views and the differences in life, learning, and thought when it comes to the haves and  have-nots.

I highly recommend all of the above books! Happy reading!

Holiday Book Gifts


I love giving books as gifts and to all the young people on my list, I always give books. I’ve been giving my daughter books as gifts for her entire life. In fact, when she was much younger, she became slightly jaded about signed copies, because she received them from me almost all the time.

Ever since she became old enough to read the same (YA) books as I read, I’ve loved even more picking out books for her. It’s not only a book I loved, but one that I think she will love, too (as our tastes sometimes diverge). I love it when she insists that I read a book she loved, too. One of the highest compliments my teen gave me recently was after she bought a book I hadn’t read (so I couldn’t recommend it). She started it and didn’t like it and didn’t finish it. She said, “I should have known better than to buy a book you didn’t recommend.”

I won’t share what book I’m getting her this year because I don’t want to give away the surprise (for her). Here are a few books I gave my (now 17 year old) daughter that were hits:


The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

When Rory’s parents take a sabbatical to teach in England, Rory leaves behind her small bayou town in Louisiana and attends a boarding school in London. Just as she starts her first day, Jack the Ripper murders start taking place. She makes quick friends with her roommate Jaz and her group of friends, including the cute but shy Jerome, who is rather obsessed with the murders.

I don’t want to go into more of the book because I hate spoilers and I would hate to give anything away. I didn’t get this book for my daughter for Christmas but for summer right before she was going to London. 😉 She’s greatly looking forward to the next book coming out in early 2013!


Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate is going to be a master carver, like her father, until a strange plague sweeps through her town and leaves her an orphan.  With only her cat as her companion, Kate tries to survive on the streets.  When a strange man shows up, she suspects him a witch and her fears are confirmed when he tricks her out of her shadow. He gives her a gift in exchange, but because of this (and the lack of a shadow) Kate knows she must flee before being burned as a witch.

I loved this book so much! I still recommend it to others. And I love it also because right after my daughter finished reading it? She came over to me and gave me a huge hug, thanking me for getting her the book. It was THAT good.

Finally, I got this book for her last year:


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

On the island of Thisby, the Scorpio Races are held every November. And every November men die. These are not ordinary horse races on the beach. The horses are the capilll uisce, mysterious man-eating horses from the sea. Thisby men capture and train them for the race, both man and horse in danger as the capill uisce long to be back in the sea. Nobody knows this better than Sean Kendrick, who trains and works for the successful stable on the island. He and the beloved capill uisce Corr have won the race four times over – and he longs to be able to own Corr – the two belong together. Puck (Kate) Connolly has never wanted anything to do with the races (having lost her parents to the capill uisce), but when circumstances force her, she decides to break all unspoken rules and enter the race.

My daughter who has been super busy with AP classes, SAT/ACT tests, extra curricular activities, and college applications has not had much time this year for pleasure reading. I’m anxious for her to read this book, and I know she will when she has the chance (maybe this break). I want her to love it as much as I did!

Stayed tuned for my 2012 Reading List – all the books I read and loved this year.

And don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of The Girl in the Wall by Daphne Bendis-Grab.