Caucasia by Danzy Senna

A private language spoken between two sisters binds their hearts forever, creating a world only they can enter and explore. Birdie adores her older sister, wants to be like her in every way. There is one thing stopping her—her color. She is lighter in color than her sister, Chloe, who looks like her father: tall in stature and a mid-shade of black; he’s an intellectual focused on little else than writing his book on the meaning of race in America.  Birdie Lee’s color leans towards the middle but more on her mother’s side: a white woman with fair skin and blonde hair who tended to be a bit heavy, back when the family was together.

It was Boston, the turbulent 70’s, and all that was together was now in pieces. Her mother was involved in some dangerous business and had the feds after her.  They had to run.  The only thing to do was to split up the family: Chloe and her father off to Brazil; Birdie and her mother, to New Hampshire.  A divide leading Birdie into a white world—ever lost; yet, the memory of her secret language drives her to find her sister, to find herself.

A CatFish Tale by Kathy Brodsky and Cameron Bennett

A CatFish Tale

Put a Smile on Your Face!

What an adorable book.  It’s apparent why A CatFish Tale won the Book of the Year Award from Creative Child Magazine.  From page one until the very last, I smiled from the rhyming verse and the beautiful and colorful artwork. I think, the story, although clever and fun, also shows how hard it is to have self-control sometimes—especially from a cat’s point of view when minding the fish.  The poor cat . . . having to wait for something to eat while managing such patience in caring for his charge.  The really fun part was the ending, though.  I’m not going to give away the punchline.   But, I can say that I think this book would brighten any child’s day.  I know it did mine.

I’m happy to say that this book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you, so much.  I really did enjoy it.

A Horse Named Special

Kathy Brodsky

A Horse Named Special–Instant Smiles

Each page of this book has a little poem to match the bright, colorful artwork.  The little rhymes are so much fun to read that I found myself eager to keep turning the pages—each one bringing another smile to my face.  But, pretty pictures and clever rhymes are not all this book has to offer.  There is a powerful message of hope and happiness with a certain can-do attitude to build the confidence of any child.

Special is a type of horse like many of the service dogs and other service animals.  He gives rides to all types of people as a form of therapy.  Some have physical disabilities and some have problems in other areas of their life to deal with. The relationship between rider and horse is an empowering one: bringing new skills in the mastery of horsemanship, which can be life changing when normal physical limitations or emotional issues are continually a challenge to manage on a daily basis.

Page after page, the book shows the accomplishments and the self-assurance this type of therapy can provide for people.  Even Special has a huge life-hurdle to master, and he comes through the problem just fine through excellent care, hard work and patience.

Overall, I found the book delightful, encouraging, and even at the end I was left with a feeling of empowerment and well-being.  The little rhymes are still playing in my head, which makes me smile every time I think about them.  I think this book is great fun and a wonderful book for a child of any age.

I’d like to thank Kathy Brodsky for the lovely copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.

The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness

SharpBrainsGuide_3D_highreThe reason I wanted to read and review this book is that brain science is a very important subject to me.  I’ve had three serious jolts to my head, all were life altering.  Brain science is still a subject that needs a lot more study and investigation in my opinion.  The brain goes through so many changes in a lifetime: car accidents, sports accidents, kids falling down hitting their heads, hormonal changes, diet, old age . . . it’s a wonder we survive all of this trauma.  The big problem is that when these injuries occur, most people don’t realize any damage has been done.  They just know that people suddenly are reacting differently to them, they can’t do math any longer, they lose control of their spending habits, engage in risky behavior, or they can’t perform as well as they were able to before.

That is why this company is so important to all of us.  They’ve been tracking brain health and neuroscience research since 2005.  They’ve gathered a lot of information from the top scientists around the globe to make us more aware of how to take care of our minds—to make us wiser in how to change our brains and gain the specific function we have lost over the years.

The book is divided into nine chapters.  Eight of the chapters include interviews from some of the top brain scientists from around the world.  Over 100 brain researchers have contributed to this volume providing invaluable information on the subject.

In chapter one, “Start with the Brain in Mind,” the text goes into detail about how the brain functions with a focus on memory, attention, emotions, perception, motor skills, visual and spatial processing, and executive functions.  The explanations give real-life examples, so that a person can easily relate to the different areas of function. Neurons are clearly explained, areas of the brain and functions, like memory, attention, etc., are lightly touched upon. Neuroplasticity is explained and how to improve learning capabilities.

In chapter two, “Be a Coach, not a Patient,” some of the advancements in brain health are brought to light.  There is a breakdown of a survey taken about what the average person is most concerned with in their brain health.  Various new studies are examined and explained, plus a few tips that are theorized to help cognition.

In chapter three, “Mens Sana In Corpore Sano,” physical exercise is examined in detail — new studies that show the benefits to the brain through exercise and how it can slow the progression of brain atrophy as we grow older.

In chapter four, “You Are What You Eat and Drink (Up to a Point),” as the chapter title reveals, there is much talk about diet and how it effects the brain.  Further discussion is included on antioxidants, supplements, caffeine and alcohol, diabetes and smoking, and how obesity affects the brain. (We all better get on those diets now!)

In chapter five, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” different types of mental activity are mentioned and the importance of continuing to learn new information.  Crossword puzzles are discussed and why they aren’t enough, and how they lose value over time. Another important subject is brought up: how to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, and the importance of lifelong learning to buy more time. What education, board games, and playing cards have in common. And, a few video games are highlighted as helping various brain functions.

In chapter six, “Oh, the People You’ll Meet,” explains the importance of brain health and social relationships.  The more social connections one has the healthier the brain is.

In chapter seven, “Manage Stress, Build Resilience,” There is good stress and bad stress. Chronic stress causes serious changes in the body chemicals and the brain.  A section of lifestyle adjustments are suggested with highlights on the benefits of the various options listed.  At the end of this chapter is a long section with many specialists explaining the effects of stress and the changes we can make to improve our brains and bodies.

In chapter eight, “Cross-train Your Brain,”  Brain training is explained in detail and how to get the most from the training you choose, as well as  brain training games, biofeedback, cognitive behavioral training, and a SharpBrains recommendation on the top brain training programs.

In chapter nine, “How to Be Your Own Brain Fitness Coach,” is a chapter to put everything in the book into a workable plan.  There are personal stories explaining how various people can deal with improving their brains and life in general.

Overall, “The SmartBrains Guide to Brain Fitness” is full of valuable information.  Whether you want to target a specific area in your life or whether you want to just tune-up the whole brain-body connection, this book has so much to offer.  It takes complex principles and puts them in simple language that is easy to understand, and it offers a deep understanding of how our brains work, and what we can do to make it better—even as we age.  This is a must-read for anyone concerned about their brain health.

I told someone that I would let them read this book when I am finished with it.  I don’t want to let this go now.  I think I’ll buy them a copy of their own.

I’d like to thank the authors for this complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sneak Peak at Deborah Heal’s New Book

My latest book is on a sad topic–the Cherokee Trail of Tears–but that’s not to say there aren’t moments of levity. Here Merri and our old friends Abby and John are preparing for an all-night “time-surfing” session in an empty apartment they may have sneaked into without permission:

Faint noises came from the hall. Merri and Abby started then looked at each other, wide-eyed. Someone knocked softly on the door, and a smile bloomed on Abby’s face. “It’s our secret knock,” she explained as she race-walked to the door.

“Of course you and John have a secret knock,” Merri said, rolling her eyes. “Doesn’t everyone?”

John came in loaded down with plastic shopping bags. How he managed to lug it all up without being seen was a mystery they didn’t take time to discuss.

“Wow, it’s dark in here,” he said, setting the bags on the kitchen counter. “I forgot to warn you about not turning on lights until I got something to cover the window.”

“And yet the little women managed to think of it themselves,” Merri said. “Amazing.”

John grinned and tugged at her hair. “Oh, stop, Merri Christmas. You know I respect your ginormous brain.”

“What’s all this?” Abby ignored them and began snooping through the bags. “You must have bought out the store.”

“It’s amazing what you can find at a Dollar Store. Did you know they have blankets there?” Out of the largest bag on the counter he removed a green blanket in a zippered vinyl case and held it for them to see. “It’s thin and wimpy, but it should work to cover said window.”

“What else?” Merri said, unable to tamp down her curiosity.

“These,” John said, handing Abby three flashlights. “Even with the windows covered we should keep the light to a minimum.” He handed a writing tablet and pen to Merri. “Because I couldn’t remember if you still have yours in your backpack. Toothpaste and brushes, as requested, and soap and paper towels as an added bonus.”

“I’m all in favor of good hygiene,” Abby said.

“One thing I’ve always admired about you, my dear,” John said. “Here are mixed nuts and cheese crackers in case we get hungry later. Bottled water because…well, you just never know, do you? And coffee—with sugar, my love—so we can stay awake.”

Grinning, Abby took the coffee from him. “My hero.”

“Instant?” Merri said without bothering to keep the disgust from her voice.

“What was I thinking? I’ll go back and buy a coffee maker. Maybe a waffle maker would be nice.”

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Merri said. “But what about cups?”

“Oh, ye of little faith,” he said and pulled three ceramic mugs out. “And last, but certainly not least, breakfast.” He opened the last bag, a white paper one in which Merri glimpsed three jelly donuts. “Unless you think we should eat them now before they get any staler.”

Abby took the bag from him, closed it firmly, and put it on the counter.

“Now,” John said. “Tell me what I missed while I was out foraging.”

Exciting News from Author Tanyo Ravicz

Hello Everybody,

I wanted to let you know that my books Alaskans: Stories and A Man of His Village are out in their new Denali Press print and eBook editions. Details at www.denalibooks.com or www.tanyo.net.

KOBO (www.kobobooks.com) is having a 30% off summer sale on all their eBooks until Monday, July 28, 2014. This includes my eBooks, which are available at Kobo (as well as Amazon, etc.).

Readers who use Apple e-readers and are interested in posting a review of either of my books at iTunes can have a promo code for a free copy of either eBook — Please contact me at www.tanyo.net.

Also, a recent TR author interview will be posted starting next week on July 28, 2014 at www.49writers.blogspot.com and www.selfmadewriter.blogspot.com.

Thank you for your interest, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Best wishes,

Tanyo

tanyo@tanyo.net

runningfoxbooks.com

 

 

Alaskans by Tanyo Ravicz

Alaskans–Stories from the “Great Land”

My favorite line from “Cossacks” is, “Happiness is grace, it’s bounty.  It’s free of charge, it’s given to you.  You don’t win it.  You don’t earn it.  You don’t deserve it.  You say yes.  You just say yes” (page 139).

There is a flavor of art in the author’s writing.  Not art you would see in a museum or in a painting, and not in a sense of painting with words (although Ravicz does a fine job of this as well), but more as “art with a sense of feeling.”  Each story is different. Each story is told in another voice from the author from a different period in his life.  Had I not known that I was reading from the same book, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to tell who had written the various tales.  They are unique.  The prose is strong, thought-provoking, and colorful.

A Fox in May” is about a young boy who is thirteen and is stuck betalaskans_150x220ween childhood and being a young adult.  He takes on the responsibility of raising chickens, from building the coop to feeding and caring for them.  Throughout these lessons, he learns to love those chickens and does a great job of raising them.  There are so many questions unanswered at this age for a young boy–so many trials to pass to get to the other side of young adulthood without losing the respect from elders.  Through nature, he learns about death, and living, and loving, and being a part of the cycle–what it takes to endure–no matter how difficult that can be.

            “The Ballad of Robbie Fox” is a story told from someone struggling at the bottom of the pile and trying to claw his way up and out.  It is raw, edgy, strong prose that feels like it just came off the streets and into your living room, or like talking to your new best friend at the local bar after tossing a few back.  There is a feel to this Robbie Fox, like someone you know, or have known, or maybe it’s even you.  There’s a truth from someone’s heart in this . . . it’s the hard kind of truth about life.

All total, there are ten stories told in this book, “Alaskans.”  Jimmy Biggs works in a cannery at the age of nineteen in “Fishes and Wine.”  Old college buddies get together again after years of being apart in “Cossacks.”  You can hike the Alaskan wilderness in “Caribou, Paxson Lake.”  And, if you do a Google search you can see how be
autiful the Paxson Lake area is.

I really enjoyed all these stories (well, except for one–I’m squeamish about dressing a kill).  Tanyo Ravicz is a talented author, and I’m pleased for the opportunity to review this well-written anthology of Alaskan tales.  Also, my thanks goes to Review the Book.com for allowing me to review this book.

Tremora’s Young Michael Interviews Author Bill Westwood—Fiction

Regarding: Tales of Tremora: The Shimmering by William Westwood Jr.

A young boy who has lost his father is a terrible thing.  Now, a young boy who goes searching for said father and wanders off into a leaky, shimmering veil, deep in the forest of the Cascade Mountains, and finds himself in another world altogether can be a very, very terrible thing.  And, this is how Michael found himself in the middle of a terrific adventure in the land of Tremora.

Just fourteen years of age, Michael is sent off with well-wishes from his worried mother who is on the other side of the shimmering.  She watches him hike down the trodden trail with a little green man named Tracker–Michael’s guide and protector in this curious world.  What Michael doesn’t hear are her final words, said to herself as a whispered afterthought, “Oh, Michael. . . . Now you’re both gone.  I knew you’d choose to stay, of course–it’s in your blood.  And, Megan assures me Tremora needs you. . . . But, please be careful and come back to me safely.  And please, please, Michael, don’t kill your father.”

Michael follows Tracker over hill and dale.  They meet up with wood elves, fairy folk, ogres, a camelop, and a wazalop on their way to the wizard’s gathering where the greatest wizard and magician of them all, Megan, will be presiding.  It is here, Michael finds out the real reason why he is in Tremora—he is to save Prince Cedric from the dragon.  And “finally” he learns where his father is.

I met up with Michael after he spent a couple of weeks training with the wizards.  I had far too much curiosity to know how Bill Westwood could come up with such a unique world for Michael to complete his quest.  Michael had a little time to kill before he was ready to head out again on this next leg of his adventure.  After a brief introduction to Nova, his animal guide, and a few pats on her fuzzy nose from me, we sat down to chat about this amusing, imaginative man who was Michael’s inner guide and overall good-guy creator.

After a little thought about my musings, Michael said that Bill had spent five years in England—the mystical land of elves, fairies, wizards, and the like.  Not only did he spend time with the little folk, but he met his wife there as well.  It was a very important period in his life and set him on a new course to follow his dreams.  Then, he added, “Well . . . it might have something to do with his background as a Russian linguist, and his time spent in the National Security Agency.  I think he probably had some interesting adventures of his own.”

Those years in England provided plenty of time to conjure up a wonderful land for a young boy to travel and have adventures in.  I know how it has changed Michael’s life, but another curiosity I have is about how the book an author is writing changes his own life.  Does writing a book that is so involved and wildly different have any effect on him when he’s writing it or when he’s done?

Michael arched an eyebrow and squirmed a little as he thought about this.  After a bit more fidgeting, he said he wasn’t sure, but he thought it had changed Bill a great deal.  “He spends a lot of time in Tremora, you know.  It took over seven years of Bill’s life to get this far.  Did you know that he is an artist as well?  He has made sculptures of just about all of us.  That’s why I’m stuck here now, waiting. . . . There’s such a backlog for his artwork that he hasn’t had time to get back to “me,” and it is frustrating—I need to go and find my dad, alread!”

We talked some more about the different stories and various authors we knew. That brought me to wonder about another question.  So, I asked if he had any fears that Bill would “kill off” any of the main Tremora characters during these perils.  There are a lot of authors who “do in” their characters to promote more suspense into their storyline.  “Bill loves us all too much, Diane, and he would never do that.”

With that, Michael jumped up, threw his backpack on, and said as he turned and walked away. . . . “Besides, I have to go and save Prince Cedric and my dad.”

If you want to have a little fun, check out Bill’s sculptures here.

Excerpt: Lyla and Bel’s 4th of July

The Best Place – the story of two women who grew up in Marquette’s Holy Family Orphanage and their lifelong friendship.

So on the Fourth of July, Bel comes over for breakfast, and I have to admit she tries really hard. I tell her when she gets there that I’m making scrambled eggs, but she says, “No, that ain’t festive enough for the Fourth of July.” Then she sticks in a video of this silly musical called 1776 that has that bad film look like most of those movies made in the ’60s and ’70s. And it seems like it’s all about Thomas Jefferson’s sex life from what little bit of it I actually pay attention to—and she tells me just to sit there and have my coffee and enjoy myself while she makes pancakes. So I says, “Okay,” to make her happy, and I drink two cups of coffee and pretend to watch half the movie, and I’m just about ready to keel over from hunger when she finally tells me she’s done.

So I drag myself out of the chair and go over to the table and I think, “What the hell did she bake a cake for?” Only, it’s not a cake. It’s a stack of pancakes, and she’s covered the top one in strawberry and blueberry jam and whipping cream so it looks all red, white, and blue, and then she’s got a little American flag on a toothpick attached to it. “I wanted to put in a sparkler,” she says, “but I was afraid it would set off the fire alarm, and I didn’t think we’d use a whole box of them—they don’t sell them separately,” she says.

“It’s pretty, Bel,” I says, “but I don’t like whipping cream, you know.”

“That’s okay. I’ll eat the top one—oh, I forgot the candle I bought to replace the sparkler.”

And then she grabs two giant birthday candles off the cupboard of the numbers “7” and “6.” They’re the same ones she used for my birthday cake last year.

“What’s that for?” I asks.

“It’s America’s birthday today,” she says. “It’s the Spirit of ’76. Don’t you remember that from history class?”

I remember birthday cakes have candles to represent a person’s age, not the year they were born, but I s’pose she couldn’t do the math to figure it out—two hundred and…and…twenty-nine it would be—2005 minus 1776.

“Let’s eat,” I says, but first I have to use the bathroom from drinking all that coffee while I waited.

I go in the bathroom and sit down, and can’t help laughing to myself about the pancakes covered in jam with “76” sticking out of them. That’d be one to take a picture of if my Kodak disc camera hadn’t broken. I haven’t bought a new one—those new digital things are just too expensive as far as I’m concerned. And I don’t have a computer to read them on.

Well, we have a nice breakfast. I eat far more pancakes than I normally would, but Bel says we need to eat extra to keep up our strength for walking to the parade. It’s on Washington Street, just two blocks from Snowberry, but whatever.

After breakfast, I wash up the dishes while she watches the rest of 1776. For the rest of the day, I’ll hear her humming that song about Jefferson playing the violin.

“We can watch Yankee Doodle Dandy tonight, Lyla,” she says.

“Great,” I think, but I just says, “Okay.” Maybe I’ll be lucky and fall asleep by then.

“While we wait for the fireworks,” she says.

I’d forgotten about the fireworks, but I can see them great where they shoot them off over the old ore dock right from my window. It’s one of the few advantages of living high up in a skyscraper—well, at least the closest thing to a skyscraper that Marquette’s got.

When it’s time for the parade, we . . . (Read the rest of this section here.)

The Owl Wrangler by William Vaughn

The Owl Wrangler Front Cover

Seldith Chronicles–Book I

Tiny elves, a ‘uman’ mouse, and a wicked wizard overpowering all—this book will grab your interest and your heart.  It has all the magic of a good fantasy read.  So, sit back, grab a cuppa tea and a plate of cookies and follow Hisbil, the young forest elf, on his adventures to find his father–the owl wrangler, who disappeared days ago on one of his missions, and was never heard from again.

Young Hisbil is caught up in a tangle of emotions at this time in his young life.  Family and friends are pushing him to make an important decision on whether or not he is going to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He had planned to do this one day, but he never had expected that today would be “that” day.  He was too young, too innocent, too scared, too insecure—well . . . just “too everything.”  Granted, he was the only one who knew the spells that his father taught him, but he had no idea if he could remember everything.  It was a very scary and lonely time for this young Seldith.  If he declined, the village would end in ruins.

As many experiences in life happen (as we all know), one thing led to another and before Hisbil had any more time to think about his options he was off on the adventure of his life. There was no other choice but to keep moving forward—one step in front of the other.  His sweetheart Kassie, and his little sister Anasta, both, were mixed up in this mess, and he knew that he had to not only protect them but find his father, too. The further along they travelled the more unusual the characters became, and each tagged along, until there became a small posse of unlikely friends.

For me (an old forgetful curmudgeon), with all the minute detail that a good trilogy will start with, the beginning was hard to snag a catch.  It was slow going, and I had my doubts.  After a while, though, I started to be sucked into the storyline without knowing it.  Then, I realized that I was thinking of Hisbil during the day and all the trouble he was getting into.  I was thinking of Kassie, his girlfriend, and was worrying about her mother.  And, I was hoping that Hisbil’s father wasn’t dead, after all, as I turned page after page.  So, my closing thoughts are . . . don’t give up, because this story is well worth the effort of learning about the first few chapters in this new world.  It has all the intrigue and magic and fantasy and even a touch of romance that every really good story has, and you won’t be disappointed.  By the end of the book, I am sure you will be in love with all the characters as I am.

My thanks to the author for this lovely copy of The Owl Wrangler, and to Review the Book for allowing me to do just that!

 

THE OWL WRANGLER–AT AMAZON

  • File Size: 1627 KB
  • Print Length: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Beta V; 4 edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004UVQ7M0