Book Review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

All American Boys
by
Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Here’s a great Young Adult book about the overt and subtle racism in our country, its far-reaching effects on a community and what it means to be an all-American boy. Two high school boys, one black and one white, and an entire community face complicated moral decisions after the black teenager is brutally beaten outside a convenience store.

Rashad and Quinn don’t know each other, but the events outside the store soon connect them. When the manager at Jerry’s accuses Rashad, a black ROTC student, of stealing a bag of chips, Rashad denies it. He wasn’t. In a split second, a white police officer makes a judgement and takes Rashad outside. He handcuffs the boy and pins him down on the sidewalk. Then he beats him and sends him to the hospital. Quinn, considered the town’s finest all-American boy and one of the stars on the basketball team, sees it happen. And worse, he recognizes the police officer. It’s his best friend, Guzzo’s older brother, Paul. Paul has been a mentor to him ever since Quinn’s father died in Afghanistan. How can this be the same person?

Video of the beating goes viral and the mixed community of Springfield divides. Most are outraged by what they see. Others defend the police officer who say he was just doing his job. As Rashad recovers in the hospital, he wonders if he should just move on. “I wasn’t sure what to do about any of it, or if I even wanted anyone else to do anything on my behalf,” he says.

His father agrees, but his older brother, Spoony, won’t let it drop. Too many others have been brutalized for looking a certain way.

Meanwhile, Quinn must confront his own conflicted beliefs. Should he step forward and tell police what he saw? Paul, worried about his job, reassures him, “This just comes with the job,” he says. In the beginning, Quinn tentatively agrees. But some of Quinn’s teammates are friends with Rashad, and Quinn begins to see their side. Should Quinn turn his back on Guzzo and Paul? “I knew there was a problem, and I was beginning to think I was a part of it,” he says.

Soon a mysterious graffiti tag appears on school grounds: “RASHAD IS ABSENT AGAIN TODAY,” the first sign of protest. When classmates organize a march, Quinn knows what he must do, even if his friends are not behind him.

All American Boys is a 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book, and recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature. It’s a great way to invite readers to consider the complex issue of deeply-rooted racism and police brutality. Reynolds and Kiely show how even good people who mean well get trapped into making assumptions about other races and how more should stand up for what is right.

I recommend this excellent Young Adult book to all readers because of its relevance today and because of how well the authors show the many hidden sides of racism.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Bill Moseley

Author Name: Bill Moseley

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Adventure

Book: La Cuesta Encantada

Are you a full-time author? If not, what’s your side gig? I’m not a full-time author. My side gig is working in higher education. I’m the Dean of Academic Technology at Bakersfield College, a community college in California. I’m just getting more serious about writing, and it’s an important creative outlet for me.

Favorite author/books: I really love books, and my taste in reading is really varied. As a child, I loved The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Lately, I lean a little more toward Neil Gaiman and I really love the sort of whimsical adventure that he creates in The Graveyard Book. Toni Morrison’s work, especially the Song of Solomon, is really powerful. I admire how she gives readers a glimpse into another culture in such a visceral way.

What experiences or people have influenced your writing the most? I think my writing is a combination of a wild imagination, the places I’ve been, and a childhood obsession with Indiana Jones movies and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, with a side interest in romantic comedies. This book, in particular, takes place in some of my favorite locations – places where I played and visited as a child. I think of it as a story that’s been woven together in my imagination for much of my life.

Do you keep a writing journal and if so, how do you use it? I don’t. First, I’m not formally trained as a writer, so I’m guessing my approach is somewhat unconventional. Second, my work has been sort of project-oriented so far, and I spend a lot of time thinking about ideas and developing scenes in my head.

Do you belong to a writers’ group? If so, describe your experience: I don’t, but I’d love to. I think community is one of the best ways to develop any skill.

Are you up with the sun or do you burn the midnight oil? I used to burn the midnight oil.  With age, I’ve shifted the other direction. I’m up early these days, to walk with my wife before we start the day. If I’m honest, I feel like my best time for writing is in the afternoon – I think some days I get tired of the grind, and my brain is looking for a way to get creative by that time.

How do you get over a writing slump? I don’t think I’ve had a real slump. I often write when I have enough pent up creative energy that I am anxious to sit down and get some words on the page. I think in the few times when I just haven’t been feeling it (writing my dissertation comes to mind), the trick is to just write something. Even if it isn’t your best, there are times when the forward movement of just doing it is what matters. Anne Lamott’s notion of a shitty first draft applies here, I think.

Do you prefer writing dialogue or descriptive passages? Descriptive, I think. I’m a visual person, and I often “see” the things that I write long before they hit the page. They play out in my mind like a movie. I hope one day to be able to describe them the way I see them in my mind, but I’m not there yet.

What are you working on now? I’ve started outlining the sequel to La Cuesta Encantada, because there is some more story there that I want to tell. I have another story in my mind that I’ve been thinking about for a while, as well, but I’ve decided to hold on to that for now. As an academic, I usually have another non-fiction project or two in the works as well. I’m also working on a non-fiction book on the topic of failure, and how failure can be used as a tool for growth and development. Reclaiming Failure is something I hope to have published in early to mid-2021.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing and publishing a book? The world always needs more books. Stories are important to us as a society. Writing a book is hard, and the competition for the attention of agents and publishers is insane. However, if you want to write, and you enjoy writing, then you should do it. Honestly, I think that’s the best reason to do anything. Publishing – even self-publishing – is a nice way to celebrate the completion of your work, and to share your work with others. I think it’s probably natural to fantasize about dropping the next bestseller, but make sure you have the intrinsic motivation above all else.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which podcasts do you find the most interesting? I do listen to podcasts. The one writing-related podcast I listen to is called “Story Grid.” It’s an application of the book by the same title. This book and podcast were very helpful in guiding my thinking around how to put together an effective novel. I’m also a pretty regular listener of “Armchair Expert,” “The Tim Ferriss Show,” and “Up First.”

Favorite escape: Almost anything creative, from drawing and painting, to cooking, and even writing computer code (this is very creative, despite the reputation it has for being sort of stiff and mechanical). I also love to travel (pre-COVID) and get active with my family (we have seven kids, so there is always someone to do something with).

Have you ever tried Kombucha tea? Nope. Can’t get past the smell for some reason.

Do you prefer a couch with pillows or no pillows? I’ll say no pillows, mostly because my ideal couch is long and wide enough for me, a fairly large human, to easily take a nap on without limbs hanging off onto the floor. Pillows just take up space that I would rather use for myself.

Would you rather rake leaves, shovel snow or weed? Hard stop on weeding. I will avoid that at all costs. Being a California native, I’ve never shoveled snow, and I’m not sad about that.  There is a certain satisfaction in raking leaves on a nice fall afternoon. When I was young, my grandparents had a house with three very large mulberry trees in the front yard. I remember raking those leaves, and how satisfying it was to make them into neat piles that I could jump into. The earthy smell of leaves in the fall still takes me right back to that place.

Favorite mask – disposable paper, plain fabric, colorful print or something else? Plain black, but with straps that go around the back of my head. I must have an abnormally large head, because when I wear the kind with ear loops, my ears get pulled straight out to the sides.

Biggest writing challenge since COVID-19: In my day job, I’m in charge of distance education for a college of almost 40,000 students. As you can imagine, this has been a busy time. Fortunately for me, writing is something that I really want to be doing, so I find the time in between other things.

Website and social media links:
www.bmoseley.com – This is my personal site, and everything else links from there.  Thanks so much for this opportunity.  I’ve really enjoyed reading the other “Who’s that Indie Author?” entries.


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Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Book Review: The Raft by S. A. Bodeen

The Raft
by
S. A. Bodeen

Here’s a fast-moving Young Adult survival story about fifteen-year-old Robie Mitchell, who lives with her parents on the Midway Atoll in the Pacific Islands. The story begins on Honolulu where Robie often stays with her young aunt, A. J. When A. J. is called out of town, Robie convinces her she can remain in Honolulu alone, rather than return to Midway.

But a series of bad decisions puts Robie on a cargo plane back to Midway. The plane crashes into the Pacific and she finds herself on a raft. Robie faces the usual dangers of being lost at sea: dehydration, starvation, and shark attacks are just a few.

Until this point, Robie has faced very few difficulties, but as an independent only child, she’s developed many untapped inner strengths. She’s learned much about sea life from her research biologist parents, knowledge that will come in handy on the raft. But, as with all dangerous situations that demand sudden physical and mental strength, Robie must also cope with several quick decisions she’s had to make, including a few moral ones. Now she has plenty of time to consider them.

These worries rotate through Robie’s mind, but the most important task is survival. I enjoyed seeing how she celebrates new hope when she discovers unseen resources on the raft. I also gained confidence in her as she learns to improvise with what little she has. New and dangerous problems are a given as time passes and it’s all up to Robie to figure out how to get rescued.

The author includes interesting details about bird and marine life, including hard facts about how these creatures survive. Bodeen also points to an alarming amount of trash that floats in this part of the Pacific, debris that interferes with sea life. These details make Robie’s story modern and realistic.

The Raft is another YA book I grabbed off the shelf at the library. It’s an easy read and think it would be especially great for reluctant readers and for those who like survival stories.

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Book Review: The Year They Fell by David Kreizman

The Year They Fell
by
David Kreizman

I was in the mood for a Young Adult book so I picked up The Year They Fell by David Kreizman at the library. It’s a teenage drama about five former friends whose lives suddenly change the day their parents head off to an island vacation. The plane crashes and there are no survivors.

Josie, Jack, Archie, Harrison and Dayana were great friends in preschool, but that was a long time ago. Now about to start senior year of high school, their lives are vastly different. Twins Josie and Jack hang with the fast crowd, but Archie, Harrison and Dayana are awkward outsiders to that world.

Josie and Jack may seem perfect, but they have their demons. Josie, queen of the social scene, has a terrible secret. Jack is a hulking football star with a violent temper. The others also struggle. Archie clings to his sketch pad and wonders how he fits into his adoptive white family. Harrison’s dad abandoned him and his mom and he suffers from major anxiety. Dayana’s parents aren’t getting along and she pops pills to cope. In addition, past dynamics from years ago interfere with their current relationships.

As the former friends awkwardly circle each other, Harrison launches an investigation. Soon the group must confront painful details about their parents’ lives. Harrison determines the crash might not be an accident and tries to convince the others with his extensive research.

I enjoyed this fast read, set in River Bank, New Jersey, a town I hadn’t heard of, but was surprised to find in a familiar part of the Jersey shore. In addition to the tragedy, the author packs a lot of major developments and problems into these high schoolers! Probably not realistic and that is my one gripe with the story. The high school setting and dialogue seemed true to life, but I hope no sample set of high schoolers has this many things to deal with.

In addition to suffering tragic loss, Kreizman introduces important themes into his story, including love, friendship, sexual identity, family relationships, fitting in, anxiety, sexual abuse, and drug addiction. While these are all important, I think the story would have been better if the author focused on fewer issues. As a result, the story reads more like a soap opera. Pretty interesting because Kreizman used to write for television soap operas and even spent time as a writer for the WWE. I laughed when I read that because those plots are really over the top!

Despite these comments, I’d still recommend The Year They Fell as an engaging story with modern themes and plenty of teen angst. I also love the cover and think the title is great because it makes potential readers wonder what the story will be.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Dorothy A. Winsor

Author name: Dorothy A. Winsor

Genre: Young Adult and Middle Grade fantasy

Books: The Wysman (Inspired Quill, June 2020), The Wind Reader (Inspired Quill, 2018), Deep as a Tomb (Loose Leaves, 2016), Finders Keepers (Zharmae, 2015)

What’s your story and how did you become a writer? I’m a former English professor who decided that writing YA and MG fantasy was more fun. My first ventures into writing fiction came in the form of Tolkien fanfiction. I didn’t want the story to end, so I wrote more of it myself. I’d read that writers produce a million words of bad stuff before they write well. One of the sites I posted on kept track of your word count and when I hit a million, I figured I was there! So I switched to writing my own stuff.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  I schedule my writing time and usually leave my house to do it so I’m not tempted to do something else.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  The birth of my son

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  I’m a planner. Having a plan is reassuring, though I feel free to change it once I get to know my characters better and see if my plan will work.

Could you write in a café with people around?  That’s where I usually write. As long as the music isn’t too loud, I’m good.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it?  No. Sounds tricky.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  I’m currently reading Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, which came highly recommended. My favorite book varies. Right now it’s probably Turner’s Queen’s Thief series.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  It really makes no difference to me. Whatever’s at hand.

Do you think print books will always be around?  Absolutely.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  No. The screen is too small.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  Android

How long could you go without checking your phone?  An hour or two, probably.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening?  I listen while I drive.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  I use both Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is mostly old friends and family. Twitter is where I make connections and meet new people.

Website and social media links:
Facebook: Dorothy Winsor
Twitter: @dorothywinsor
Blog: dawinsor.com


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Short reviews from 2013: The Cay, The Giver and Orphan Train

As I approach my 7-year blogging anniversary, I’ve been looking at some of the old reviews I posted. A lot of them are pretty short, with limited plot descriptions, and mostly my opnions. I’d love to go back and beef them up a bit, but I think I’d have to re-read the books before I did that. So today I’m just going to share three short reviews of books I liked, but didn’t say too much about!


The Cay
by
Theodore Taylor

Rating:

This is a touching coming-of-age story about eleven-year-old Phillip Enright, an American boy living on the island of Curaçao during World War II. When Phillip and his mother leave the island to escape the dangers of the war, their boat is hit and sunk by a German U-boat. Phillip is struck in the head and thrown into the water and he wakes to find himself on a raft with Timothy, a large, old, black man from the West Indies. The blow to Phillip’s head causes him to lose his sight as the two of them float aimlessly in the Caribbean.

This unlikely pair struggles to survive first on the water, and later on a tiny uninhabited island. But the biggest struggle is within Phillip, whose preconceived ideas about a black man run counter to what we see in Timothy. Timothy pushes Phillip to learn how to fish, climb trees and find his way around the island on his own, without his sight. Timothy is both kind and patient and through his wisdom, Phillip learns the true meaning of friendship and sacrifice.

I think this story does a great job showing how an eleven-year-old boy thinks and feels, from selfish, angry and scared to generous and caring.


The Giver
by
Lois Lowry

Rating:

The Giver is a terrific read for anyone, but it’s perfect for middle school students because it is so thought provoking. It is the story of a controlled society in which there are no choices or conflict. When Jonas turns twelve, he must train with The Giver and prepare to receive all the memories of love, happiness, war and pain. During his training, Jonas learns the hard truth about his community and its rules and knows he must act decisively to bring about change.

The best part about this book is that every word counts. Lois Lowry is great at describing her characters and their community. She includes meaningful foreshadowing that leads the reader through a gradual understanding of what might initially seem like an acceptable way to live. She accomplishes this by revealing just enough details and we realize the facts just as Jonas does.

The Giver ends just as you want to learn more. And thankfully, there is more to the story in Messenger, Gathering Blue and Lowry’s newest, Son.


Orphan Train
by
Christina Baker Kline

Rating:

I liked this book that parallels the story of a young girl sent west on an orphan train from New York City in 1929 and a present-day Native American teenage girl who has struggled in the modern foster care system. I think Kline does an excellent job showing us how Niamh Power and these destitute orphaned children, both numb and frightened, must have felt as they traveled and met up with their matches, which were often far from perfect. Molly Ayer’s present-day story of a rebellious, Goth girl whose father has died and whose mother is addicted to drugs is somehow less powerful, but provides a necessary structure to the story. Molly meets ninety-one year-old Niamh, now named Vivian, when she is assigned to a community service punishment for stealing a book. The two form a friendship as Molly helps Vivian sort through her attic and together they relive Vivian’s story.

I liked Vivian’s story very much. I think Kline is great when she describes Vivian’s feelings and her desperate situation. It is very easy to imagine these children and their simple desire to live in a home where they are wanted, or at least fed and clothed and treated kindly. It’s somehow both shocking and understood that these orphans don’t always get that.

I enjoyed the book. It’s a look into a time that, because of the changes and struggles in those years, is full of stories.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Michael J Moore

Author name: Michael J Moore

Genre: Horror/YA/Literary/Thriller

Books: After the Change (YA) (published by MKM Bridge Press 2019); Highway Twenty (Horror) (published by Hellbound Books 2019); Secret Harbor (Literary/Thriller) (to be published by Black Writing in June 2020)

What’s your story and how did you become a writer? I grew up an hour north of Seattle, in a small town called Mount Vernon, Washington. As far back as I can remember, though, I’ve always had an infatuation with bigger cities and horror. When I was in the fourth grade. I remember writing a short thriller, and the school librarian was so impressed that she encouraged me to enter into some young authors contests. I never did, but I wrote periodically after that. All my English teachers pushed me to pursue writing and in the back of my mind, I always planned to. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was twenty-nine, that I realized that writing wasn’t just something I was good at, but what I needed to be doing. So I wrote my first book After the Change and I’ve never looked back. I’ve since landed three book deals through different publishers, two of which will be released this year, one of my books was adapted into a play, and was performed in Seattle last year and I’ve had more than a dozen short stories accepted for publication.

How do you balance your work with other demands? With great difficulty. Being a writer and a Father and a husband has all sorts of demands. I just try to make sure I write two thousand words a day and when that’s done, I concentrate on my other responsibilities.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life: The happiest moments in my life were the birth of my two daughters, Gaby and Jazi, closely followed by my current horror novel Highway Twenty being placed on the Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in a Novel for the Bram Stoker Award.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner? I am definitely a “pantser.” Writing is such a personal and intimate thing, that it’s hard to say where my process differs from others’. I do most of my first draft work in longhand, which I imagine is becoming less frequent these days. I don’t work from an outline. I know some authors do, but it has a negative effect on my creativity. I find the story’s able to play out more organically and less predictable if I don’t plot it too heavily.

Could you write in a café with people around? I could definitely do my marketing and answering of interview questions in a café but I could not write my two thousand words in a café as I need silence. I used to write with the radio playing but I guess old age has affected me and I can’t anymore. Where do I actually write? It’s the most bland, little room you could imagine, with white walls and a tiny wooden desk–two feet, by two feet. It keeps me from becoming distracted during the long hours I spend in it, and allows me to retreat into my real writing space, which is the part of my mind where the stories get stuck after having found their way in.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it? No I haven’t but I’d like one day to write a book in Spanish given my Latino roots. I would be delighted however if my books were translated into other languages by a translator. What an honour!

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now? I’m a huge fan of Stephen King. My favourite book is one of his called Joyland. As for what I’m reading now – once again it’s another Stephen King book called The Outsiders.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader? I only read books in paperback. My children love ebooks and my wife likes all formats except hardcover. I’d have to say that hardcover is the least favourite in our family.

Do you think print books will always be around? Absolutely, I’d like to think so. When the internet was invented, the postal services feared that they would go out of business yet they are making just as much profit as ever. The same with movie theatres when Netflix became popular. I feel the same way about print books. There will always be a market for them.

Would you ever read a book on your phone? I wouldn’t read a book on my phone but my wife and children would. I know my wife does a lot of waiting around for the children and so she often reads short stories on her phone if she’s forgotten her devices.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else? My go to device is my tablet. I use any form of tablet I can get my hands on. I write on the tablet too if I’m not at home. I’m not a fan of a certain brand.

How long could you go without checking your phone? I’d say as long as it takes to write two thousand words. So much of my marketing is done on Twitter and Facebook that the phone becomes a part of me as it’s portable and more relaxing to work with.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening? No, I don’t listen to audiobooks. My wife used to when she was pregnant and I know she does now. Both of my published books After the Change and Highway Twenty are available on Audible and my wife has listened to both of them.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform? Social media is a necessity, whether we like it or not. I use mostly Twitter and Facebook but am present on the others too.

Website and social media links:
Email: michaeljmoorewriting@gmail.com
Website: Michael J Moore Writing
Facebook: Michael J Moore
Twitter: @MichaelJMoore20
Instagram: michaeljmoorewriting

Awards/special recognition: Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest; Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in a Novel for the Bram Stoker Award 2019


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Book Club Mom’s great reads of 2019

I read some great books this year. Here’s a list of my favorites!


Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Is it good luck to survive a plane crash over the Atlantic? Most would think yes, but Scott Burroughs, after a heroic swim to safety, with four-year-old JJ Bateman clinging to his neck, may wonder. Because he will soon find himself caught between competing government agencies searching for a cause and the media’s ruthless pursuit of a story, any story, even if it’s unfounded. Winner of the 2017 Edgar Award for Best Novel and the 2017 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel.


In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Fantastic nonfiction novel, the first of its kind and considered Truman Capote’s masterpiece. The chilling depiction of a senseless 1959 murder of a Kansas family. Capote and his childhood friend, Harper Lee, went to Kansas to research the story and compiled over 8000 pages of notes. They were granted numerous interviews with the murderers, who by then, had confessed and were in jail awaiting trial. They moved to death row after their convictions, where Capote continued to interview them until their hangings. He became particularly attached to Perry Smith and related to his unhappy childhood.


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Fantastic memoir about Hope Jahren’s experiences as a scientist. Jahren’s field is plants, especially trees, and her interest in them is contagious. She explains the fascinating way in which they grow, reproduce and adapt. Jahren writes beautifully about her profession, its challenges and about her lonely childhood in Minnesota, college life and early years trying to make it as a scientist.


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur Less is turning 50 and he’s at the edge of a crisis: his writing career has stalled and his former lover is getting married. To guarantee he’ll be out of the country on the day of the wedding, Less accepts a string of unusual writerly engagements that take him around the world. His goal? Forget lost love and rework the novel his publisher has taken a pass on. In a comedic series of travel mishaps, Less bumbles through this symbolic journey in search of happiness. Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.


Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Set in New York during the Depression and World War II, the story begins with Anna Kerrigan as a young girl whose father has ties to organized crime. She accompanies her father on an errand and meets a mysterious man with powerful connections and won’t fully understand the impact until years later. I highly recommend Manhattan Beach to readers who like historical fiction and big stories with strong female characters.


Notes from a Public Typewriter – edited by Michael Gustafson and Oliver Uberti

Guaranteed to put you in a good mood, about the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, owned by Gustafson and his wife, Hilary. When they set up the store in 2013, they put out a typewriter, with paper, for anyone to use. It wasn’t long before customers began to type random, sometimes whimsical and often heartfelt messages for all to see. This book is the combined story of these messages.


Refugee by Alan Gratz

Terrific Young Adult historical novel about three refugee children, caught in different periods of conflict, who flee their countries in search of safety and a better life. In alternating stories, the children face unpredictable danger as they desperately try to keep their families together. Each discovers that, by being invisible, they escape many dangers, but miss chances for others to help them. Published in 2017 Refugee is now included in many middle and high school curriculums. A New York Times Notable Book, an Amazon Best Book of the Year, and both Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year.


Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Great memoir about a woman who is hired to play violin in a prestigious touring orchestra, only to discover that the microphones are turned off. What’s turned on is a $14.95 CD player from Walmart, playing a recorded version of a composer’s music, performed by other musicians. The music sounds suspiciously like, but a strategic note or two different from, the score of the popular 1997 film, Titanic.


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Kya Clark is six years old when her mother walks out of their shack, a place hidden in the marshes of North Carolina, where racial tension and small-town prejudices are firmly in place in the nearby coastal town of Barkley Cove. Soon her father’s abusive rages drive Kya’s older siblings away, leaving only Kya and her father. Then one day it’s just Kya, known in town and shunned as the wild Marsh Girl. The story begins in 1952 and jumps to 1969, when a young man has died. In alternating chapters, readers learn Kya’s story of survival and how she becomes part of the investigation into his death.


What books were your favorites in 2019? Leave a comment and share your best!

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BC Mom’s Author Update: Author Roberta Eaton Cheadle announces publication of Through the Nethergate

Welcome to Book Club Mom’s Author Update. Open to all authors who want to share news with readers.


Roberta Eaton Cheadle announces the publication of Through the Nethergate, a Young Adult supernatural novel.

Here’s an author who has her feet in two very different worlds. You may know Robbie Cheadle from her popular blog, Robbie’s Inspiration, home of the Sir Chocolate book series for children. Robbie is an expert baker and her impressive fondant art appears throughout her books and on her blog. Each Sir Chocolate book includes a children’s story written in poetry form about the world of Sir Chocolate, and includes four or five recipes that children can make with adult supervision.

Cheadle runs a second blog called Roberta Writes, which is dedicated to the craft of adult horror and supernatural writing.

I recently caught up with this versatile writer, who told me how she branched into the horror and supernatural genre.

“I have been drawn to the horror and supernatural genres of books all my life,” she explains. “At the age of ten years old I embarked on reading Stephen King’s books including The Shining and Salem’s Lot. These books scared me so much I had to put them aside by 6 pm in order to get a good night’s sleep, but they also fascinated me. I subsequently worked my way through all of Stephen King’s earlier books as well as those of Dean R. Koontz.”

In order to clearly differentiate her children’s books from her young adult and adult writing, this new body of work will be published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. Her first young adult supernatural novel, Through the Nethergate, has recently been published.

What’s Through the Nethergate about? Here’s a quick peek:

Margaret, a girl born with second sight, has the unique ability to bring ghosts trapped between Heaven and Hell back to life. When her parents die suddenly, she goes to live with her beloved grandfather, but the cellar of her grandfather’s ancient inn is haunted by an evil spirit of its own.

In the town of Bungay, a black dog wanders the streets, enslaving the ghosts of those who have died unnatural deaths. When Margaret arrives, these phantoms congregate at the inn, hoping she can free them from the clutches of Hugh Bigod, the 12th century ghost who has drawn them away from Heaven’s White Light in his canine guise.

With the help of her grandfather and the spirits she has befriended, Margaret sets out to defeat Hugh Bigod, only to discover he wants to use her for his own ends – to take over Hell itself.

Cheadle also has two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre as well as three short stories published in Death Among Us, a collection of murder mystery short stories by 10 different authors and edited by Stephen Bentley. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

In addition to Cheadle’s blogs, you can find her at these sites:

Website: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/
Twitter:  @RobertaEaton17
Facebook: @robertawrites

Cheadle’s books are available for purchase at TSL Publications and Lulu.com.


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Who’s That Indie Author? Wendy L. Koenig

Author name:  Wendy L. Koenig

Genre:  Science Fiction, Young Adult Children’s, Fantasy Romance, Mystery

Books:  Sentient, Insurrection, One to Lose, The Last Griffin, Birthright, Boo and Oscar in the Fantastic Fudge Fiasco, Boo and Oscar in the Terrible Trouble on the Tobique, Frozen Fire, Under Twin Suns

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  I was born in Colorado, but raised on a small homestead in Illinois. I served in the USAF right out of high school. After my stint in the military was finished, I returned home and had a horse stable. My first piece to be printed was a short children’s fiction, “Jet’s Stormy Adventure,” serialized in The Illinois Horse Network. It was a natural fit, given my business. Later, I attended University of Iowa’s famed workshops and writing programs. Since that time, I have authored and co-authored numerous books. Several of my novels and short stories have won international awards and have appeared in multiple venues. I write because I want to read the story.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  I’m stubborn.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  Seeing a fan show his friends my signature on his book

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  Pantser until the main skeleton is written, then a planner for the subplots.

Could you write in a café with people around?  Often do.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it?  I don’t. My husband is French Canadian. He translated my two French children’s books.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  Favorite book of all time is Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre. Reading a Jack Reacher now.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  Hardcover

Do you think print books will always be around?  Absolutely. It’s a comfort thing. You just don’t get that from an eBook.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  I have.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  Android

How long could you go without checking your phone?  I actually don’t text much, so probably a while.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening?  I listen while I drive.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  Facebook and Instagram.

Website and social media links:
Website:  wendylkoenig.com
Facebook:  @WendyLKoenig
Twitter:  @wlkoenig
Pinterest: pinterest.ca/wlkoenig

Awards/special recognition: Under Twin Suns – 2nd place Novel Abilene Writer’s guild International Competition 2005, 2nd Honorable Mention Novel Chapter CNW/FFWA International Writing Competition 2005

Searching for Sardan – 1st place Short fiction Abilene writers’ guild International Competition 2005

Sentient (Spinning the Tides) – 2nd Honorable Mention Sci-Fi/Horror Frontiers in Writing International Competition 2007

“I Will Remember You” (poem) – America’s Best Emerging Poets 2018


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