Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

An Interview & GiveAway with C.V. Smith Author of Nettie Parker's Backyard


 1.)   Why did you write this book?  What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
I have been a teacher and para-educator for over 30 years, most of which were spent in classrooms where students were just beginning to think for themselves and about themselves.  The book is written for ages 9-13, the time when youth questions everything.  Adolescence is starting and many children feel insecure about themselves, their relationships with peers, or even their own families and homelife.  These insecurities manifest themselves in various behaviors; some children withdraw into themselves, while some overcompensate for their fears by bullying others.  I have witnessed that when bullying begins, even if innocently meant with only an off-handed word or two, prejudice often follows not far behind.  I wrote this novel hoping to illustrate to children that bullying and intolerance toward race, religion, or the physically challenged have no place in our world.  Certainly, with tools such as the internet, facebook, twitter, etc., the world is becoming smaller in many ways, and so the ill-effects of prejudice are felt even more strongly today than in the past.  I believe that my book
inspires readers to see that what matters is the "core" of each person, and that acceptance of others and their differences truly means enriching themselves.  I further believe that more must be done to inhibit bullying; not doing so only enables the passing of prejudice from one generation to the next.

The idea for Nettie Parker's Backyard came to me in a very vivid dream, and whereas most of my dreams go unremembered, this one was definitely unique.  Its powerful detail and message ended with a revelation that has affected my own personal beliefs, further compelling me to write the book.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my dream was actually the ending of the book, not the beginning, so I had to construct the entire beginning and middle to fit the conclusion of my mysterious climax.


3.) What was the most difficult part about writing a book? 
I didn’t seem to have any trouble actually writing the story; words just seemed to keep pouring out of me from within.  But since I chose to make this historical fiction, and to have a little mystery and magic going on at the same time to keep my readers’ attention span (ages 9-13), I had to do a great deal of research and planning so that clues were placed at just the right time so as not to give away the surprise ending, but also so that they would all fit in properly to be tied up in a neat little package at the end.  I wanted to show a connection between African-American slavery and prejudice to that of what happened during WWII and the Holocaust.  Those two subjects required a massive amount of data gathering.  Also, my main character and heroine of the story, Nettie, is from the small sea island of St. Helena off the coast of South Carolina.  The Gullah heritage she claims has always intrigued me, and thus I decided to have Nettie come from this culture.  Of course, this meant my investigation into the Gullah language, foods, island life, etc.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why? 
Nettie, of course, is my favorite character because all of her attributes are so noble:  she’s kind, loving, caring, a real ‘team player’, always trying to help others and thinking of others before she thinks about herself.  She’s the kind of person we all strive to be, and one who has so many friends, she can’t count them!  She, herself, has experienced the bitter taste of prejudice and hatred, and has become all the better a person because of it.  She has a great heart, and even though her little ‘supernatural’ signs point her in the right direction, she always does the right thing in every situation.

5.) What do you like the most about writing? 
Writing is a great cathartic exercise.  I find that if I’m upset or concerned about something, writing about it serves the same purpose as if I were to verbally consult a friend with my problem.  Most of us need to be creative in some way; since I can’t sing, dance, paint or sculpt, this is what I do.

6.)  Where do your new story ideas come from? 
Unfortunately, I never seem to be able to come up with great new story lines.  I’ll see a wonderful movie and wonder why I hadn’t thought of writing it first!  That’s why my dream was such an unusual and unexpected happening, and why I knew I had to record it on paper!  I often say that the book came to me, not the other way around.

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing? 
The best advice came from my son who, himself, is very adept at writing.  He told me never to accept anything I had written until at least 24 hours had passed; that way, you can review what you have written previously with an honest and true assessment of your work.

8.) This seems to be your first book, do you have something new in the works? 
Actually, as I have been an educator for over 30 years in middle school, I have witnessed and taken part in many intervention sessions for ‘kids in crisis’.  I have written an anthology of rap, poetry and prose for these children.  It’s not quite ready for publication yet, but I cover a multitude of topics that deeply concern adolescents such as drugs, gangs, prejudice, hatred and death.

9.) Who is your favorite author and why? 
I have 2 favorite authors: the first is Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible.  She must feel as I do about adjectives: they are the only way an author can paint a picture of what he/she wants their reader to see.  Her careful and deliberate use of specific adjectives is so magnificent to me, that I feel as though I am right there in Africa along with her characters.  My other favorite author is Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things.  The book begins with what seems to be scores of unrelated points of light, but they are far from being unrelated, as the reader finds out in the end when they are all tied up very conveniently into a magnificent package.  This is what I similarly tried to do in Nettie Parker’s Backyard.  I’m not sure I did it as eloquently as she did, but my ending does solve the little mystery running throughout the plot, and ties up all the loose ends that the ‘supernatural’ clues leave behind.

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer? 
Make yourself well-read by reading many different authors and many different types of writing.  Through osmosis, you will learn what is good and what is not, and your own style will emerge.  Let your writing rest for 24 hours and then assess, correct and improve upon it if you can.  Lastly, keep at it!  You must have tons of discipline!  Sometimes a break is necessary and may actually be the best thing that could occur, as you may get a new idea in the interim and be much happier than having continued on with your former line of thought.

All Treat and No Tricks! 
Five Books Will Be Given Away, One Hard Copy and Four E-Books
Entries will be accepted October 31 to November 6, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Guest Post by C.V. Smith Author of Nettie Parker’s Backyard

C.V. Smith, an educator for over 30 years, has woven timely and important themes of anti-bullying and tolerance toward all into this historical fiction novel. Laced with a touch of mystery and magic, the reader’s interest is held while simultaneously learning about African-American slavery and WWII. Choices, caring, and commitment all build to the twist ending, proving love to be the greatest force of all. The wide appeal of the novel contains something for every child, ages 9-13, and adult, alike.


The idea for Nettie Parker'sBackyard came to me in a very vivid dream, and whereas most of my dreams go unremembered, this one was definitely unique.  Its powerful detail and message ended with a revelation that has affected my own personal beliefs, further compelling me to write the book.  My research took me down some fascinating avenues as I discovered such things as the Gullah language in the Sea Islands, the Kindertransport, sand fly fever, and the role African-American soldiers played in WWII.  Nettie's character was based on that of my granddaughters; thus, some of her best virtues are those of trust, love, and friendship.

I have been a teacher and para-educator for over 30 years, most of which were spent in classrooms where students were just beginning to think for themselves and about themselves.  The book is written for ages 9-13, the time when youth questions everything.  Adolescence is starting and many children feel insecure about themselves, their relationships with peers, or even their own families and home life.  These insecurities manifest themselves in various behaviors; some children withdraw into themselves, while some overcompensate for their fears by bullying others.  I have witnessed that when bullying begins, even if innocently meant with only an off-handed word or two, prejudice often follows not far behind.  I wrote this novel hoping to illustrate to children that bullying and intolerance toward race, religion, or the physically challenged have no place in our world.  Certainly, with tools such as the internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc., the world is becoming smaller in many ways, and so the ill-effects of prejudice are felt even more strongly today than in the past.  I believe that my book inspires readers to see that what matters is the "core" of each person, and that acceptance of others and their differences truly means enriching themselves.  I further believe that more must be done to inhibit bullying; not doing so only enables the passing of prejudice from one generation to the next.

Secret head start for the GiveAway for those who have read this guest post.  Come back on the 31st and enter again, this gives you twice the opportunity to win. 

All Treat and No Tricks! 
Five Books Will Be Given Away, One Hard Copy and Four E-Books
Entries will be accepted October 31 to November 6, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Used To Know That: Geography Stuff You Forgot From School by Will Williams


Geography Quiz
By Will Williams
Author of I Used To Know That: Geography
Stuff You Forgot From School 
“Without geography, you’re nowhere.” 
- Jimmy Buffett
1. The Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn are two imaginary lines running east and west around the globe. Which one lies north and which south of the equator? 
A) Tropic of Cancer - North / Tropic of Capricorn - South
B) Tropic of Cancer - South / Tropic of Capricorn - North

2. What is the Ring of Fire? 
A) A twenty mile circle of radioactive land in Antarctica.
B) A brightly colored stretch of coral barrier reef off the coast of Belize.
C) A large horseshoe shape area marking volcanic areas in the Pacific.

3. True or False. Hawaii is a North American U.S. state? 

4. What is the largest U.S. state? 
A) Texas
B) California
C) Alaska
D) Montana
E) Rhode Island

5. Talking about elevation, what is the highest city in the world? 
A) Denver
B) La Rinconada
C) Mount Everest
D) Salt Lake City
E) Lake Louise

6. The country of Japan consists of how many islands? 
A) 10 - 100
B) 100 - 1,000
C) 1,000 - 10,000

7. What is Asia Minor? 
A) A group of the smallest countries in Asia.
B) A western peninsula of Asia.
C) A term for Asian regions with high levels of poverty.
D) A low-lying strip of land that stretches across the Asian continent.

8. True or False. The last Ice Age was over 650,000 years ago. 

9. What is a Fjord? 
A) A narrow arm of the sea bordered by steep cliffs.
B) A geographical anomaly resembling a popular automobile.
C) Shallow coastal waters containing a high level of biodiversity.
D) An extraordinary annual event when a river reverses its direction of flow.

10. What is the world’s longest mountain range? 
A) Andes
B) Rockies
C) Mid-Ocean Ridge
D) Appalachian
E) Himalayas

ANSWERS:
1A: The Tropic of Cancer is located at 23.5 degrees north of the equator and is the spot on the planet where the sun is directly overhead at noon on June 21. The Tropic of Capricorn lies at 23.5 degrees south of the equator and is the spot where the sun is directly overhead at noon on December 21.

2C: The Ring of Fire is an arc of intense seismic and volcanic activity stretching from New Zealand, along the eastern edge of Asia, north across the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and down the coast of North and South America. More than 75 percent of the world’s volcanoes lie within this ring.

3False: Yes, Hawaii is a U.S. state, but technically is not part of North America. It is grouped with Australia and the other Pacific Islands.

4C: While everything might be bigger in Texas, Alaska (570,00 square miles) is more than twice the size of the Lone Star State.
5B: While Mount Everest holds the title for highest point in the world, La Rinconada in Peru is the highest city in the world with an elevation of 16,728 feet. That’s over three times higher than Denver, the mile-high city!

6C: Japan, which is an archipelago, consists of more than 3,000 adjacent islands including Okinawa.

7B: A bygone term, Asia Minor is most likely referred to as Anatolia: the westernmost protrusion of Asia, which is occupied by Turkey.

8False: Sort of. Mount Tambora erupted in Indonesia in 1815, causing what became known as the Little Ice Age. Volcanic ash in the atmosphere blocked out incoming solar radiation, and global temperatures plummeted. The following year was known as the Year without a Summer with reports of June and July frost and snow in New England and Northern Europe.

9A: A fjord is a steep-sided inlet cut into mountains by glaciers, creating spectacular scenery. Norway is famous for its fjords, but fjords also occur in Chile and New Zealand.

10C: At 40,000 miles long, the undersea Mid-Ocean Ridge is the Earth’s longest mountain range which is four times longer than the Andes, Rockies, and Himalayas combined.
Copyright © 2011 Will Williams, author of  I Used To Know That: Geography: Stuff You Forgot From School

Author Bio
Will Williams, 
author of I Used to Know That: Geography: Stuff You Forgot From School, was born twenty-five yards from the Marston Brewery in Burton upon Trent. He always knew that places would be important in his life. After a good state school education at King Edward's, Lichfield, he went on to Hertford College, Oxford, where he read Geography. Though secretly harboring a desire to be a stuntman, he is currently entrenched as the Head of Geography at St Paul's School, London. The place he calls home, though, is near the banks of the Garonne in South West France, with his wife Christelle and daughter Fleuve.
For more information please visit http://rdtradepublishing.com and http://www.rd.com/ebooks/ 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan


This book is a collections or heart tugging tales of those who survived and succumbed to The Great American Dust Bowl.

This is a horror story and a disaster tale.  The most horrifying aspect is that it is a true story.  I haven’t read anything besides Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath that described this ecological disaster any more poignantly.

The poor and down trodden, not just from our own nation, but throughout many parts of the world, were lured to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles in the early 1900s.   They were lured by free land, unlimited opportunity and the blatant lies of the railroads, the government and land developers.  This is not an economics book and doesn’t really focus on the big picture.   This book focuses on the stories of those who lived and survived this trying time period. 

The astounding courage and resiliency of these settlers and their willingness to challenge the environment is a testimony to the backbone of our nation. 

I recommend it. 

Body of work of Timothy Egan



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Drop by Michael Connelly


 Harry Bosch is back and stiff neck as usual.  Once again this lone ranger rides against both crime and politics.

Harry Bosch has a slogan everybody counts or nobody counts.  His personal code of ethics once again gets him into trouble.  You have to admire the integrity that this man exhibits.   Harry finds himself playing a political game in spite of his adverse reaction to anything political. 

Harry shows some surprising soft sides such as his feelings for his daughter and his willingness to be more flexible in relationships with others.  Once again Connelly writes a fast moving, entertaining and sometimes horrific story.
I recommend it.

Body of  work of Michael Connelly</a>

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Daphne’s Diary of Daily Disasters:Guest Post by Mariana Ashley



Remember when you were in fourth grade, and the world seemed a big, sometimes terrifying place, filled every day with events so dramatic and life-altering? Children’s book author Marissa Moss captures this time in a child’s life perfectly with artistic creativity and style. In the 90s, Moss brought older child readers the adventures of Amelia in Amelia’s Notebook. Now, Moss is back with this delightful series Daphne’s Diary of Daily Disasters, designed for the reader who is just getting used to reading on her own. 

What makes Daphne’s Diary so delightful is two-fold—both the story and the presentation of the story are engaging. The book itself is shaped like a child’s composition book, and it unfolds as would any child’s diary, filled with sketches, speech bubbles, scribbles and more. 

The series centers on the daily mishaps of Daphne, a well-meaning girl who finds that her constant faux pas as an entering fourth grader metastasize into “total disasters.” The first book of the series, “The Name Game”, recounts Daphne’s first day of school. Like many young children, Daphne finds that she dislikes her name, but has more or less come to terms with it. When the teacher calls out Daphne’s name for roll call and then cannot seem to remember it afterwards, always mangling it into something else like Daffy, other children begin to tease Daphne. The rest of the story describes Daphne’s experiences trying to remedy the situation with some advice from Dad, which causes yet another disaster.

In the second book of the series, “The Vampire Dare,” Daphne ponders the popularity of the vampire. At school, Daphne’s teacher announces a costume contest, which inspires Daphne to create the perfect Vampire costume. The rest of the book recounts the various challenges she must face as she navigates, yet again, a series of disasters.

What young readers (Amazon.com lists the book as being appropriate for children aged 4 to 8) will find most appealing about Daphne’s Diary of Daily Disasters is that it very accurately chronicles the trials and tribulations of being a small child in a big world. Daphne isn’t the perfect protagonist, and this character complexity plays well with children who often feel as though they are constantly “messing up.” In the final analysis the Daphne series is something that most children can relate to closely, and this ability to relate will make young readers especially enthusiastic about reading. Don’t miss this entertaining series that will surely become more engaging with each new book.

For more information, check out this recent New York Times review.
By-line:
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.

Thank you Mariana for another excellent guest post.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


This is another one of those books that brings to mind why there is chocolate and vanilla.  This book was recommended by a friend and she really enjoyed it.  It is a New York Times best seller.  A young woman deals with death and desperation in Nazi Germany by stealing books.  

I really found this book hard to read.  I thought it was choppy and difficult to follow.   With that said, I look more for entertainment than edification.  Perhaps this book is edifying but it wasn’t for me.  

The protagonist climbs in a window at the Mayor’s house to steal a book.  Perhaps there is symbolism there and I just didn’t get it.  

This book has a lot of great reviews so once again I find myself out of step with the NY Times a bunch of other people because I just didn’t enjoy it.

Body of work of Markus Zusak



Monday, October 10, 2011

The Start-Up by Sadie Hayes



Sadie Hayes provides a screen shot of technology’s sordid underbelly in this riveting e-book novella.

The reek of truth permeates this glimpse into the world of high finance and technology.   The dot com bust is in the past, the present is dominated by the next cloud technology or aps for our ubiquitous cell phone companions.   Ms. Hayes sets the plot in and about Stanford and their famous geeks.  I spent 25 years in the computer industry.   I was lucky enough to meet some of the starry eyed pioneers in the early years, the ones who retired to their own private islands.  I actually met some of the type of person that populates the pages of this story.   I employed geeks who, as long as you provided unlimited caffeine and junk food, really didn’t care about money.   When you read this book, and you should, I found nothing that ran contrary to the truth as I know it.   

Ms. Hayes constructed believable characters in a realistic situation and manages to sauté it with enough tension and curiosity to make it impossible to put down.  This is a savory appetizer that precedes two successor books.  The cliff hanger ending just makes you hungry for more…Sadie I want on the list for your next literary treat!

I highly recommend the book.   

Body of work of Sadie Hayes



Friday, October 7, 2011

Crude Deception by Gordon Zuckerman

This book read more like a history book than a novel.  What little bit of research I did on the premise seems to hold true with the author’s vision, frightening to say the least.   Post WWII intrigue by the oil industry to seize the world is the theme of the book.

I liked the book but would have preferred to have a little more background about the Sentinels.   The Sentinels appeared to be a well connected, off the books, oversight group with international implications.   Perhaps a forward giving their role and background would have made the book more comprehensible.   There is a fair amount of mild action with international travel. 

There are tie ins to the modern day if you are at all familiar with history.   Big business is not painted with a broad brush.  It is clear that some big business was corrupted or corruptible but others strove for honesty.  

Overall it is a tale of greed that certainly resonates with Enron, Madoff and Haliburton.  There is even a Black Water connection provided by the Samson group.   Once again if you don’t know your history you are doomed to repeat it.  It appears as a nation we aren’t very concerned about history.
I recommend it.

Body of  work of Gordon Zuckerman


Web site: http://gordonzuckerman.com/about-gordon-zuckerman.cfm

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Target of Opportunity by Jeffrey S. Stephens

A terrorist plot by plausible partners threatens the U.S.   Jordon Sandor of the CIA is the only thing standing between global financial chaos.

The economics of oil and resultant potential for economic blackmail give plausibility to this novel.   As an aside, this should help all of us to recognize the need for energy independence.   That may have not been the more subtle plot line but that is what I felt reading the book.

Sandor is a ruthless defender of liberty.   He is an excellent protagonist as he displays emotion and action.   The book is fast paced and the plot is complex enough to maintain interest throughout.  

The intricate nature of the plot is very well done and keeps you guessing until the end.   Mr. Stehphens does an excellent job portraying an able weapon but loose canon in the character of Sandor.  His irreverence is endearing but I suspect in the real world of bureaucratic nonsense, he would end up on the street. 

Sandor is a worthy James Bond clone with skills and warmth abounding.  He comes across as real which is often a difficult characterization.   Sadly the only downside to the book is the likelihood that some demented soul out there is striving to perpetrate a similar scenario in real life.

I recommend it.

Body of work of Jeffrey S. Stephens

Web Site: http://jeffreystephens.com/



Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shouty Food and Fitness by NeonSeon


Shouty Food and Fitness by NeonSeon

Shouty is a motivational book for 2nd and 3rd graders, this time on food and fitness.  

This book is an attempt to get younger kids to consider choices particularly on food and lifestyle.   It isn’t spelled out as such but it is a motivational book for good health.  Shouty is shown as being very fond of junk food.  He is also depicted as avoiding any kind of exercise.  

This is the second Shouty book I have shared with my five and seven year old grandchildren.   They found this Shouty much less confusing than the Shouty of Shouty’s Good Habits.  They were now familiar with Shouty as a character.  They saw him as a lazy adult   The scenarios were still adult focused but more understandable to this age.  They live in a very physically fit environment and were appalled at Shouty’s lack of fitness and fondness for junk food.    I think part of the success of the message was the fact that their parents are so fitness conscious but this Shouty book had more appeal to them than the  last one.

Body of work of Neon Seon

Web site:  www.shouty.com