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 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 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 Review and Giveaway: The Last Will of Moira Leahy, Interview with Author Therese Walsh

November 4, 2009

Today I’m excited to feature Therese Walsh and her new book The Last Will of Moira Leahy. This was such an interesting book to read, and I’m eager to share more about it with you. First up is my review, followed by an interview with Therese. Then look for details so you can win a copy of her book.

Review: The Last Will of Moira Leahy

Moira Leahy

Twenty-five-year-old Maeve Leahy likes her life orderly with limited surprises. But she’s feeling restless one November night as she thinks about her twin, Moira, whom she lost to a night in November nine years before. As a distraction, she attends an antiques auction where she places the winning bid on a special dagger, a Javanese keris, very much like one she accidentally dropped into a bay years ago while playing a pirate queen with Moira.

Soon mysterious things begin to happen. A book on weaponry is nailed to the door of her office at the small college in New York State where she teaches. She feels she’s being watched. Then she receives a note asking her to travel to Rome where she can learn more about her knife from a man who uses an age-old tradition to make blades just like it.

In Rome she’s joined by Noel, the only man Maeve has let into her inner world while still keeping him at a distance. Noel has been in Europe searching for answers from his own past and escaping from the uncertainties of his relationship with Maeve. Together they start to unravel their feelings for each other, the mystery of the keris, the man behind the blade, and the voices in Maeve’s mind that refuse to go away. Maeve also finally confronts her own feelings for her twin and the shocking event that separated them as teenagers.

The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh is a richly conceived tale that weaves mystery, romance, adventure and self-discovery into one beautiful package. Moira’s story from years before appears tucked in between Maeve’s narrative in the present. The twins’ inseparable bond is both a comfort and a burden to them as they learn to find their own talents. Topics to discuss include the special bond that exists between twins, learning to be true to your own personality without taking away from family members, honesty in relationships, deciding to have sex with a boyfriend, learning to deal with family tragedy and more. The Last Will of Moira Leahy is billed as women’s fiction, but it is appropriate for book clubs with girls aged 15 and over. Highly recommended.

Interview: Author Therese Walsh

Therese Walsh

Most people recognize the special bond that exists between twins. What prompted you to write about twins?

TW: Believe it or not, I didn’t intend to write about twins. When I first began writing, I meant to create a simple love story between Maeve Leahy and her friend, Noel. Moira kind of appeared on the page one day and changed the dynamic of the book. I rewrote the story to center it around the relationship between the twins when I realized the emotional power of their story.

The book is mostly told in Maeve’s voice, with small glimpses of Moira’s point of view. What do you want the reader to learn about Moira when we hear her voice?

TW: I wanted readers to get to know Moira and realize she wasn’t a bad person, and I felt that hearing only from Maeve’s point of view might have meant people didn’t give Moira the benefit of the doubt. I think that both girls were good people, and I wanted them each to be understood.

Maeve and Moira’s mother plays a crucial role in their lives through her decisions on how to direct their talents. But she also seems insignificant in some ways. Do you think the twins didn’t need her as much because they had each other?

TW: That was definitely Abby’s perception—that they didn’t need her. The truth was that the twins needed her in ways that felt unsatisfying to Abby, because they were drawing so much emotional support from one another and they understood one another exceedingly well. But Abby was their mother, and so they did need her in a million little ways. There’s a hole in Maeve’s life after she loses her twin but there’s another beside that one because she’s lost her mother in a sense, too. That hole wouldn’t be there if Abby was truly insignificant to her.

How did you become aware of and interested in the keris?

TW: I found the keris almost by fluke. As I said, I’d first planned to write a simple love story. Well, Noel was an antiques dealer, and I spent many happy hours going through eBay listings, looking for antiques that I planned later to describe in his shop. One of the items I found was an antique Javanese keris—a dagger with a wavy blade. It looked interesting, so I made a record of it. I wanted my first scene to take place in an auction house and wasn’t sure which item should draw my characters’ attention. I chose the keris from my list without much thought.

I gave my scene to a friend, who read it with interest and then asked if the keris would be important to the rest of the book. It sounded like a good idea. I dug in, did some research, and realized the keris was so much more than a pretty blade. Maeve Leahy, the main character, realizes the same throughout the course of the novel.

What kind of research did your conduct for your book and how long did you spend on research?

TW: I traveled to Castine, Maine; I read books (on twins, on Rome, on strange phenomena), I spoke with people (about Castine and Rome and the Javanese keris); and I did more online research than I can name (on twins and post traumatic stress disorder and antiques and airlines and sailing and pirates and more!).

I love research, and I spend far more time on it than I’ll admit in a public forum that may be visited by my editor. But seriously, I do love it and I let it divert me and inform the direction of the story if it’s juicy enough.

Your book takes place in Maine, New York and Rome. Are any of these places special to you in some way?

TW: When I first began writing this story, I chose to center the book in upstate because it was what I knew; I live in upstate New York. I ventured out of “safe” territory shortly thereafter by sending my characters to Rome, Italy. When I rewrote the book to focus on the twin sisters, I decided to add scenes from Castine, Maine, as well. I don’t have a special connection to Rome or Castine, but I did visit Castine and learned much about the town on that trip.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be a novelist.

TW: I was hired as a features researcher for Prevention Magazine out of graduate school. I’d long loved to write, though I hadn’t considered it as a career until my stint with Prevention. Opportunities were born, and I took them. And when my daughter was born, I left my in-house job to become a freelance health researcher and writer.

Fiction became a part of the everyday at that point—reading to my daughter, then my son. And because I liked to write, one thing led to another; I started writing children’s stories. None were published, but that didn’t matter; Pandora’s Box had been opened. One thing I learned while writing children’s stories was that I loved a good juicy sentence, so I thought I should try my hand at adult fiction. And I did.

Can you tell us about your next book and when we can expect to see it in print?

TW: Yes, I’m writing about a blind woman who travels across West Virginia in search of her dead mother’s unfinished story and along the way teaches others how to see the world. It’s another novel with cross-genre elements—some mystery and psychological suspense, a little romance, and some mythical realism. But this book also has a whole lot of Quirk, and I love that. My deadline for the book is 12/10, so it should be on the shelves sometime in 2011. That may seem like a long time, but I’ll use every minute wisely.

Anything else you’d like to say to members of mother-daughter book clubs?

TW: Just that I’m flattered to be featured here, and I hope that The Last Will of Moira Leahy inspires some interesting conversations between mothers and daughters. Please send me a note when you’ve finished the book to let me know your thoughts. I welcome the feedback. Happy reading!

About the Author

Therese is the co-founder of Writer Unboxed, a blog for writers about the craft and business of genre fiction. Before turning to fiction, she was a researcher and writer for Prevention magazine, and then a freelance writer. She’s had hundreds of articles on nutrition and fitness published in consumer magazines and online.

She has a master’s degree in psychology.

Aside from writing, Therese’s favorite things include music, art, crab legs, Whose Line is it Anyway?, dark chocolate, photography, unique movies and novels, people watching, strong Irish tea, and spending time with her husband, two kids and their bouncy Jack Russell.

Win:  One Copy of The Last Will of Moira Leahy to be Given Away

If you’re intrigued by this review, interview and Therese’s background, you’ll definitely want to read her book. You can win a copy right here by commenting on this post. Tell us which element of Therese’s story intrigues you the most, or make a comment on one of her interview answers. One winner will be chosen from all who comment before midnight, Pacific Daylight Time on Thursday, November 5.


Guest Posting at Writers Inspired

October 29, 2009

Mary Jo Campbell is hosting me at Writers Inspired, which is a great place for writers to find encouragement. I’m talking about how good readers make great writers, and how discussing books helps writing too. Comment on the post for a chance to win a copy of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs.


Picking a Good Book Club Book

October 26, 2009

If you’ve ever felt pressured to pick the perfect read for your book club, particularly for the intergenerational challenges of a mother-daughter book clubs, you may want to check out my guest post at Booking Mama.

Here’s an excerpt:

“You would think that choosing books for my book clubs would be easy for me. After all, I’m in two long-running mother-daughter book clubs—one that’s been meeting for eight years and the other for five—and I blog about books at motherdaughterbookclub.wordpress.com. Yet deciding what everyone else is going to read for the next book club selection can sometimes be paralyzing. I want to find the perfect book, the one that will appeal to both the moms and girls in my group. The one my daughter will want to read as much as I do. The one we’ll call our favorite for years to come.

That’s a pretty tall order. Especially when you’re choosing books that will appeal to two generations. The good news is that there are a lot of books out there that are good reads for both the older and the younger set. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you search for them.” Continue reading….

Booking Mama is featuring mother-daughter book clubs all week, and she’ll be giving away two copies of my guidebook—Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs—along with five complete sets of Heather Vogel Frederick‘s mother-daughter book club novels called The Mother-Daughter Book Club, Much Ado About Anne and Dear Pen Pal. It’s a great opportunity for someone interested in starting a new club.

I’ve been following Booking Mama for a little over a year now, and I really like the candid book reviews she gives. I feel very fortunate that she’s featuring my book, Heather’s books, and mother-daughter book clubs all week. Stop by each day to take a look.

 

 


Horrid Henry Book Giveaway

October 16, 2009

Horrid Henry

I don’t usually review books for the not-quite-ready-for-bookclub age group, but I was presented with the opportunity to read three of the new Horrid Henry books and give them away to a reader. I’ve been hearing about how popular Henry is with young readers, and now that I’ve read a couple of titles myself I can see why. Henry is always getting into trouble, and he always learns something from his antics. It’s not always something positive, but he always learns something.

I read Horrid Henry’s Underpants, Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter, and Horrid Henry and the Mummy’s Curse. I know my daughter, Catherine, would have loved these when she was younger. I read the whole Captain Underpants series to her over and over again, and she liked the Ramona books too. Of course, Ramona was often a pest by accident, when Horrid Henry seems to know exactly what he’s doing, but it’s still lots of fun.

If you would like to win a copy of the three books I read (winner chosen on 10/19/2009), please leave a comment about your favorite early readers. You have the whole weekend to comment. I’ll choose a winner (entrants from the U.S. and Canada only please) at 5 p.m. Pacific time and mail out your books soon there after. Here’s my official review.

Horrid Henry is always trying to get out of things: going to school, eating vegetables, writing thank you notes for gifts, a baby’s baptism… He also spends a lot of energy coming up with schemes that he thinks will help him get his way. And often he’s pitted against his younger brother, Perfect Peter, who is everything a parent could love in a child that Henry is not.

The series of books that has Horrid Henry trying out one scheme after another is really funny for beginning readers. Three new additions have been added to the series this fall: Horrid Henry and the Mummy’s Curse, Horrid Henry’s Underpants, and Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter.

Each book has four stories all featuring Henry living down to expectations in some way. Many times his plotting is found out and foiled by parents and teachers, but sometimes his elaborate plans to get his way at the expense of others actually succeed. Kids will love to see how he gets in and out of his scrapes with authority.

The Horrid Henry books by Francesca Simon has delighted nearly 15 million young readers in 27 languages since the series started. Younger siblings of mother-daughter book club members are sure to be happy with these new additions.