Book Review and Giveaway: Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

March 9, 2010

I’m so excited to be giving away a copy of Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb. I reviewed it here a year ago when it came out in hardbound format, and I really believe it’s a delightful book for mother-daughter book clubs to read. Today, to celebrate one year in print and the release of Autumn Winifred Oliver in paperback, the author is celebrating by giving away one signed copy of her book in paperback to a reader here at Mother Daughter Book Club. Just leave a comment after the review, and you’ll be entered into the drawing. The giveaway ends at midnight, Pacific Standard Time this Friday, March 12, 2010 and it is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. (Please note: the giveaway is closed.) Here’s the review:

Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

Autumn Winifred Oliver has a lot going on for an 11-year-old living in the tiny, mountain settlement of Cades Cove, Tennessee. She’s waiting to move with her mom and big sister Katie to Knoxville, where her dad already lives and works. She’ll miss the beautiful mountains she lives in, but in the 1930s the “big city” offers the allure of indoor plumbing, movie theaters and automobiles, all nearly non-existent in her neck of the woods. Everybody says she does things different, and she keeps reminding herself of that as she gets herself in and out of several pickles.

First, she hears the church bells toll her reputed death—they always toll the number of years for the recently departed, and she’s the only one around who is 11 when she hears them ring. Then she finds out her grandpa almost died, and her mom has decided Knoxville can wait while she moves into his cabin in the woods to help care for him.

There’s also more activity than usual in Cades Cove, a settlement that’s totally cut off from the outside world each winter when the only road in gets covered in snow. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is being created right on the edge of town, and everyone is abuzz about raking in money from tourists. But Autumn Winifred Oliver suspects that everything is not as it seems with the park, and she won’t rest until she finds out the real story.

Autumn is a delightful character with a down to earth voice, and through her eyes we see the beauty of the mountains, streams, and countryside around her home. She is placed within the real story of Cades Cove, Tennessee, and the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll be charmed by the  folk tales, old-time remedies and superstitions woven seamlessly by author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb throughout the story. This is Tubb’s debut novel, and I hope to see more books from her in the years to come. Moms and daughters alike will fall in love with Autumn and her way of looking at the world. I highly recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged nine and up.

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Book Review and Huge Giveaway: Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop

February 15, 2010

Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop is being released tomorrow. As part of a special promotion by the publisher, Ballantine Books, I’m offering to give away 20 advance reading copies of this new book for young adults. Read my review below, and if you’d like to win your own copy, just be one of the first 20 readers to leave a comment. Please not that the giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, and do not leave your address with your comment. I will contact you by email for a shipping address. (Please note: all copies of Letter to My Daughter have been given away. Thanks to everyone for commenting.) Here’s my review:

When her daughter Liz runs away from home on the eve of her 15th birthday, Laura decides to pass the excruciating hours waiting and hoping for her to come back by writing Liz a letter about her own troubled teen years.

Through her words, Laura reveals herself to her daughter completely: the difficult relationship she had with her own parents, how she resented her mother most of all, her relationship with a boy named Tim, and the consequences to her life because of that relationship. She talks honestly about her own sexual choices and why she rebelled against authority. And Laura is candid about her mistakes with Liz, and she makes a plea for understanding, saying parents don’t always know what they are doing when raising their children. They often get by doing the best they know how to do.

Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop is a great book for mother-daughter book clubs with girls in high school to read. Daughters often tend to think their mothers can’t possibly understand what they’re going through, but this book encourages girls to see their moms in a new light. Pre-book club discussion may be even more valuable, as moms and daughters may talk candidly about the mom’s formative years and how it affects her parenting now. It could also prompt conversation about the daughter’s world, and pressure she may feel from her friends or boyfriend.

When I started to read Letter to My Daughter, I was skeptical that a man could write well about a mother-daughter relationship. But that concern quickly went away as Laura’s strong voice brought me into her story. It’s a story that doesn’t include details about the years between her teen life and this letter, but that focus on a specific time period helps define the era she lived in as well as the circumstances she faced. I found it totally engrossing, and I highly recommend it as a mother-daughter book club pick.


Interview with Author Loretta Ellsworth and Book Giveaway

February 12, 2010

Years ago, author Loretta Ellsworth gave up her job as a middle school Spanish teacher to write books for young adults. Her newest to be released is called In a Heartbeat, a story about a young organ donor, the girl who receives her heart, and how one small everyday action can have ripple effects. I reviewed In a Heartbeat yesterday, and announced that I’m giving away a copy of this book to one reader who comments on my post. Now here’s an interview with Loretta that will help you learn more about the author and her books.

How did you become a writer?

LE: I always loved to write but never considered it seriously until I worked part-time at a local library—being surrounded by books can do that to you. I started out slowly, writing articles for magazines and taking classes in fiction writing. My first article was published when I was 30. It took more than 10 years after that to sell my first book.

Tell us a little about how you spend your time writing.

LE: I try to write every day, but I’m very flexible about when I write. With my first two books I had four teenage children and a teaching job, so I had to write whenever and wherever I could; at soccer practice, doctor offices, etc. I usually start with an idea or character and go from there—I never know where the story is going; that’s part of the fun of writing, to discover the story as I go. It also means quite a bit of revision, though.

Has your life been affected by an organ transplant, either through a donor or recipient?

LE: I started this book shortly after my mother died of congestive heart failure and my nephew was killed in a motorcycle accident. We were surprised to find out that he had signed up to be an organ donor on his license— he’d never told his parents about his decision to do that. Although they couldn’t save his heart for transplantation, many of his other organs were donated. These two events happened within a few weeks of each other, and for a while I couldn’t write. When I did start writing, I felt compelled to write about an organ transplant and I wanted to include the donor’s voice. I think it started out as therapy for me; a way to write through my grief.

What kind of research did you conduct to write In a Heartbeat?

LE: I read books and hospital websites, and did a lot of research on organ transplants, talking with doctors, nurses, transplant coordinators, and recipients. I also conducted research on skating, since none of my children were skaters. I spoke with coaches, moms, and competitive skaters, and spent time at the rink.

Did you consult with organ recipients? Did you talk to families of donors? What about doctors or other experts?

LE: I spoke with two different recipients, who were both kind enough to share their experiences and feelings. I also spoke with doctors, nurses, and transplant coordinators.

What do you feel is the most important message of In a Heartbeat?

LE: I don’t write with a message in mind—message-driven books are often heavy-handed, and teens don’t want more lecturing. In this book I just wanted to explore character and relationships while creating a compelling story.

This book is as much about the relationships between mothers and daughters as it is about organ donation. What were you trying to convey through Eagan’s mom and Amelia’s mom, who both seem to have very different approaches to mothering?

LE: Someone I know lost her mother when she was young, during her turbulent teenage years, and they didn’t always get along. After going through those years with my own mother, and now with my daughter, I realize that if her mother had died when she was older, after they’d gotten through those difficult years, it would have been so different for her— this was how I approached Eagan’s mom. Having a child with disabilities and medical problems, I’ve often felt that I had to be strong enough for both of us, to keep my child going when he’s down. I think this was how I approached Amelia’s mom. Both mothers have their strengths and frailties– it just comes out differently.

What other books have you written?

LE: My first book was The Shrouding Woman, a story set in the 1870’s in Caledonia, Minnesota. It’s about a girl whose aunt is a shrouding woman—someone who prepared bodies for burial. It’s a time-honored tradition that dates back thousands of years. My second book was In Search of Mockingbird, a story of a girl who travels by bus to Monroeville, Alabama, with the hope of meeting of her favorite author.

Are you working on anything now?

LE: I’m working on two stories right now— one is about a boy with a perfect memory, and the other story, set in the 1960’s, is about a girl looking to make her mark on the world.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to members of mother-daughter book clubs?

LE: What a great way to connect and communicate! I wish I had belonged to one when my daughter was young—now that she’s in her twenties we share books back and forth and she has become one of my first readers. And I also have two daughters-in-law who are both avid readers, so we all read the same books and discuss them—we’re currently reading The Hunger Games series (by Suzanne Collins).

(Note: Book giveaway is closed. See the previous post for winner info.) Don’t forget to comment about Loretta or her book on yesterday’s blog post for a chance to win a copy of In a Heartbeat. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, and I’ll choose a winner from entries posted before midnight (Pacific Standard Time) on Friday, February 12.

You may also be interested in checking out other blogs where Loretta has appeared this month as part of the blog tour for the release of her book. Here’s where you can find her:

Bildungsroman: http://slayground.livejournal.com

Elizabeth Dulemba: http://dulemba.blogspot.com

April Hamrick: http://aprilnichole.com

Library Lounge Lizard: http://www.libraryloungelizard.com

Butterfly Book Reviews: http://butterflybookreviews.blogspot.com

Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf: http://laurenscrammedbookshelf.blogspot.com

Books by Their Cover: http://booksbytheircover.blogspot.com

Shelf Elf: http://shelfelf.wordpress.com

Read This Book (coming February 13): http://readthisbook.wordpress.com/


Book Review and Giveaway: In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth

February 11, 2010

Today and tomorrow I am offering to give away a copy of a new book just being released from author Loretta Ellsworth. Loretta’s previous books for young adults are The Shrouding Woman and In Search of Mockingbird. Read my review of her new book, In a Heartbeat, then comment here for a chance to win your own copy. The contest is open until midnight (PST), Friday, February 12, and it is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Tomorrow, I’ll feature an interview with Loretta, so check back again then for more about this author and her books. (Congratulation to Lissa, the reader who commented and won a copy of In a Heartbeat given away by the author.)

Eagan is a figure skater. She’s athletic and talented and headstrong. Amelia’s world is limited by her failing heart. No longer even able to walk up and down the stairs of her home, she is homeschooled and spends a lot of time in her room drawing horses. In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth opens with Eagan’s story. We know immediately she dies after hitting her head on a board while making a jump in competition. Amelia is the girl who receives her heart.

The storyline goes back and forth between Eagan, who is caught between life and death, and Amelia who is learning to live and experience new sensations every day because of the strong heart beating in her chest. We learn about Eagan’s life through her memories of the times before her death. Amelia starts to suspect that some of her post-operation dreams and her new interests may be those of the donor.

In addition to the stories of the two girls, In a Hearbeat is also about Eagan’s and Amelia’s relationships with their mothers. Eagan feels her mother is too controlling and too invested in how she performs on the ice. She wants time to skate, but she also wants to pursue interests off the rink. Amelia is totally dependent on her mother, who has gone to great lengths to care for her while she waited for a new heart. Now she wonders how she can start to assert her own independence.

Even if you have not known someone who has donated or received an organ, you will be moved by this story of life for one that is not possible without loss for the other. The book never falls into a preachy tone advocating for organ donation, but instead takes a look at what it means from the human and emotional point of view. And it does a good job of showing the different perspectives that teens and parents may have about life and death.

While the focus is mostly on the girls, since it’s told from their perspective, Ellsworth does a great job of showing the ripples of impact on both families and friends. There are many things for mother-daughter book clubs with girls 13 and up to talk about after reading In a Heartbeat. It should certainly open a dialogue between moms and daughters about organ donation and all it entails for both sides—feelings of hope, grief, guilt, and the possibility of a connection between donor and recipient.  I highly recommend it.


Book Review: A Different Day, A Different Destiny by Annette Laing

February 2, 2010

Yesterday, I featured an interview with author Annette Laing along with a giveaway of her two books on time travel for middle grade readers, Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When and A Different Day, A Different Destiny. There’s still time to enter the drawing (until midnight PST tonight) for the books. You can also read my review of Laing’s first book, Don’t Know Where. Here’s my review of A Different Day, A Different Destiny:

Hannah, Alex and George are back in a second time-traveling novel for kids, A Different Day, A Different Destiny by Annette Laing. Readers first met the three in Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When while they traveled from modern-day Snipesville, Georgia, to World War I and World War II England. This time they are headed even further back, to 1851, and all three land in different places.

Alex stays in Georgia, with its slaves, cotton plantations and Savannah businesses. Brandon ends up in a coal mine in northern England, and Hannah finds herself working in a cotton factory in a small Scottish town. This story is grittier and more frightening for the characters than the first. Since they travelled to different places, they can’t share their experience and their fears of returning to their normal time with each other.

They are also finding out about the privations suffered by the lower working class people of the time and the hardships of slaves. Food and extra clothing is scarce, as is time off from backbreaking work. As they each find ways to earn their keep, readers get a glimpse of the social conditions of the time when Western society was shifting from mostly agricultural to mainly industrial work. For the workers, it was a time of exploitation in many ways until they were able to earn more rights through labor laws many years later.

While Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When felt more lighthearted, A Different Day, A Different Destiny has more depth. I felt as though I learned quite a bit about the mid-1800s and what it was like to live then. And I felt the characters, in their second time around with time travel, were more aware of the culture they were temporarily part of. As Hannah, Alex and Brandon travel around and search to find each other as well as figure out what they need to do before they can return home, they learn a lot from being around people with all levels of social standing and they observe expectations people have of members of a certain social class.

Readers will delight in the surprising plot twists that connect this story to the one that came before. And they’ll look forward to seeing how the story unfolds in the next book in the series. I recommend this book and the series to mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12.


Book Giveaway and Interview with Author Annette Laing

February 1, 2010

Last week I reviewed Annette’s book of time-traveling kids, Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When. Tomorrow I’ll review the sequel, A Different Day, A Different Destiny. Today, I’m happy to have Annette visiting to share a few words with Mother Daughter Book Club about her background, why she’s writing a series on kids who travel through time and more.

I’m also giving away a copy of each of Annette’s books to one winner. Just comment here by midnight (PST) Tuesday, February 2 about a place and time you would like to travel through time to visit. I’ll choose a winner to receive the two books randomly from those comments. The give away is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. (Note: We have a winner! The books are on their ways to Bridget from Henderson, Tennessee.) Now here’s the interview with Annette.

Author Annette Laing in Scotland

Tell us a little bit about your background.

AL: I’m from Scotland originally, but my family moved to Stevenage, a small city north of London, when I was quite small. So I grew up as a Scot in England, which was a pretty odd experience. In the early eighties, I had what was at the time an incredibly amazing opportunity, when I was accepted as an exchange student to Northern California. I had a blast in high school: I felt like I was living in the movie Grease. I quickly returned to California to attend college, which, again, was very unusual for a Brit in those days. Then, having wanted to become a newspaper reporter since I was seven years old, I abruptly changed my mind, and decided to become a history professor instead, because dead people, unlike live interviewees, don’t challenge a reporter’s version of events. After finishing my PhD in early American and British history, I moved to Georgia to take up a university post. I quit my job two years ago, but, as I like to point out, I’m still a professional historian, and I still love to chat with historian friends about background material for my novels.

What do you like most about writing?

AL: It’s pure escapism. It’s a luxurious time spent daydreaming instead of worrying about everyday matters. The best part is when I stop consciously putting words into characters’ mouths, and start transcribing what they say, as they take on a life of their own. It’s a very weird feeling, and at first I worried that I was going a bit demented, so it was a huge relief to discover that this is a normal experience among authors!

How did you decide to write about time travel?

AL: It was kind of a no-brainer for a historian to turn to writing about the past, but of course, I could always have turned my hand to historical fiction. I wasn’t drawn to the sci-fi aspects of time travel at all—I don’t understand the physics, and don’t pretend to. What strikes me as a cultural historian was that so few kids’ novels which are set in the past, whether time travel or historical novels, captured the sense of how differently people thought in the past. So I set out to take three very modern kids, living in a town that’s a bit of an eccentric time warp but is nonetheless part of the twenty-first century, and drop them off in places that I know very well, both personally and as a historian, so that their confusion about how to act becomes fun to read about, while showing that the past is indeed a foreign country. It’s great fun to write, too.

Why did you choose World War II England as a place for your characters to travel to?

AL: Like many Brits of my generation, I have an obsessive interest in The War (we always called it that, with implied capital letters.) We feel like we missed out somehow, although why we would want to suffer through bombing and food rationing is beyond me…. A few years ago, I started creating time travel workshops for kids, where we spent days making believe we were in the past. I decided to treat myself and “send” us first to wartime England. I had no idea if the kids would be remotely interested, so it was kind of selfish, but they were absolutely fascinated. It was pretty surreal for me to watch all these kids from rural Georgia pretending to be British kids in 1940, so I can only imagine what it felt like for the guest speakers who visited us who had actually lived through the Blitz. The kids’ programs are what kickstarted my idea for The Snipesville Chronicles, so it was probably inevitable that I would set the first book in World War II England. The whole series will be set in British and American history, for reasons that I hope will become clear…

Why did you insert a double time travel and send one of your characters back even further to World War I?

AL: I wanted to show how quickly people and places can change. Britain in 1914, the year the First World War began, and Britain in 1945, the year World War II ended, were very different places, and yet only thirty years had passed, less than most people’s lifetimes. People too often assume that the present is the only thing that counts, that the past is quaint and irrelevant, but this isn’t so. The past never entirely disappears. I hope Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When spurs readers to think about how quickly and profoundly the way we think changes over time, and yet how much we have in common with people throughout history.

Why did you decide to make one of your characters a black boy? How did that limit and/or enhance your story line?

AL: Brandon arrived in my head as who he is. Having lived and taught in a small town in the South for many years now, I couldn’t imagine why I would make all my main characters white: Sure, I’m not black, but neither am I an American by birth, or a teenager, or a boy, so all my main characters took a leap of imagination on my part.

Early in the story development, Brandon began to run into all kinds of attitudes toward race in early twentieth-century Britain, and I did briefly wonder whether it would be a problem that his blackness would always be an issue in the stories. Then it struck me that this is how it has always been for black people in Britain and the United States, and that I should be no less honest about “race” in my fiction than in my history. What’s most important is how Brandon reacts. He is taken aback at first by his reception in a pre-multicultural England, but he’s no wuss, and he refuses to be defined by the color of his skin. Like many young people I’ve known in Georgia, he is comfortable with who he is, as an individual and as a member of a middle-class black family.  He’s not perfect, and he’s a little eccentric, which makes him an ordinary but interesting and likeable kid. All in all, I am very pleased with Brandon. Recently, there has been much blog discussion about the lack of black characters in kids’ novels, other than slaves and members of the civil rights movement, and I hope that Brandon is a modest contribution toward addressing that absence.

Tell us a little bit about your second book in the Snipesville Chronicles.

AL: A Different Day, A Different Destiny, true to its title, is quite a different book from Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When. I want to surprise my readers with every new entry in the series. This book is much more of an odyssey than the first one, with all three kids taking long separate journeys in the year 1851. This is a time when kids are providing an exploited labor force in both Britain’s industrial revolution and America’s cotton boom, and the kids get caught up in both. At the same time as they are trying to make their way in Victorian times, they have been told to find a modern pocket calculator to get home to the present day, which is even harder than it sounds…

How many books do you plan for this series?

AL: Five, but I am leaving open the possibility of a sixth.

Anything else you’d like to say to readers at Mother Daughter Book Club?

AL: If you read Don’t Know Where together, I would love to hear about your group’s reactions to the character of Hannah, who would always rather go shopping than read a book, and who has found out that you can act out your issues in the past as well as in the present. Readers respond very strongly to her, but girls are afraid to admit out loud that they identify with her, so they claim that they have more in common with Alex or Brandon instead. Like I believe them. Yeah, right.


Book Club Giveaway—Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

January 12, 2010

While I haven’t read and reviewed Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, a lot of sites I respect for their book recommendations are raving about this book. It’s already a New York Times bestseller though it’s just been released. It also comes recommended by the Indie Next List Teen Pick and it’s on gift guides and “best of lists” at Amazon, Borders and Barnes and Noble.

I also think the summary is intriguing. Here’s the description from the fansite:

“Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.”

I have to admit my interest is piqued. That’s why I’m passing along information about a book club contest being run at Castergirls.com, the official fan site for Beautiful Creatures. Caster Girls is giving away 12 copies and a chance to meet with the authors by Skype. Check out the site for details on how to enter. The deadline is February 5.