Review: The Amazing Adventures and Unbelievable Family History of Whitney Wallace

Title: The Amazing Adventures and Unbelievable Family History of Whitney Wallace
Author: Susan G. Charles
Release Date: April 2014
Length: 56 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Children’s Literature, MG

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Whitney Wallace loves her family but she thinks they’re all soooooo boring. Then one snowy day something happens and Whitney is left to go off on adventures all her own – all by herself.

What will she discover that wonderful snowy day? And even more importantly, will she learn that her family is not quite as boring as she originally thought?

***** Review *****

Whitney Wallace is absolutely bored to tears about everything. Her family is so boring. Her house is so boring. Snow is so boring.

When she ignores her family’s prompts to come outside and play in the snow, because they have been snowed in and that is SO boring, she finds herself with an old album filled with some pretty amazing things.

Things her own family members did. And they are so not boring things, either. As she goes on this journey with her family through their stories and tales, Whitney comes to the end and is left for an adventure of her very own.

Whitney’s character got on my last nerve. She is so blasé about everything. This to me is the mark of a spoiled brat, but she just annoyed me. Every single thing that happened was boring. Obviously she must not have much to do, but I loved the adventures of her family members from the album. They were quite…unique. 🙂

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Review: Bread N’ Butter ~ Private Rye

Title: Bread N’ Butter: Private Rye
Author: A.J. Cosmo
Publisher: Thought Bubble Publishing
Release Date: July 2013
Length: 35 pages
Series?: no
Genre: MG

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Something’s rotten in the kitchen that always stinks. Luckily there’s Bread and Butter, Private Rye, to wok the streets and keep the bad eggs in check.

When a sweet stalk of broccoli comes to Bread with her troubles the duo finds themselves in a stew of intrigue. Do they have what it takes to solve the case or will they wind up toast?

***** Review *****

It was a cold night in lower fridge when she walked in. She had a big head of bushy green hair and stalks that went on for days. I knew she was trouble the moment I laid eyes on her. 

Bread isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill detective. He’s been around the block a few times, and the moment Floret walks into the Private Rye office, Bread knows something’s up.

Floret directed us to Cereal Box Alley in the lower east cupboard. A shady, forgotten place, this is where the no good foods ended up. Expired granola bars rolling dice, lonely peanuts pushing knock off goods, dented cans of beans just looking for 

I love the language Cosmo used in this book. Everything was written with the eye of a detective – a humorous detective. It’s easy to see how this appeals to middle grades students, and a great introduction to the crime genre.

As the plot unfolds, and Bread and Butter follow Floret’s story on a wild goose chase, Bread already has it figured out. Although the Private Rye team suffers a casualty, it doesn’t keep the good men down, and they are hot on the trail of the culprit.

The Dom looked at me and frowned. “You play a dangerous game, Bread.” 

“Yeah, yeah, send me to the Soda River wearing Mentos shoes. I’ve heard it all before.”

Review: Deadly Delicious

Title: Deadly Delicious
Author: K.L. Kincy
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: April 2014
Length: 270 pages
Series?: no
Genre: MG

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Twelve-year-old Josephine DeLune can’t take the heat this sweltering summer of 1955, and she was out of the kitchen long ago.

An awful cook, she ruins recipes left and right, and she certainly can’t compete with her family’s reputation for extraordinary food. Her daddy’s parents ran one of the best restaurants in all of Paris, but Josephine lives in Paris, Missouri. On her mama’s side, she’s up against a long tradition of sinfully delicious soul food. Rumor has it, her Creole ancestors cooked up some voodoo to make tasty even tastier. Josephine knows the secret ingredient: she comes from a long line of conjure witches with spellbinding culinary skills.

Disenchanted, Josephine works as a carhop at Carl and Earl’s Drive-In. Just plain old hamburgers, hot dogs, and curly fries, nothing magical about them. She’s got bigger fish to fry, though, when a grease fire erupts into a devilish creature who hisses her name with desire. Turns out he’s the Ravenous One, the granddaddy of all voodoo spirits, and he’s hungry for her soul. Josephine thinks he’s got the wrong girl-she’s no witch-but a gorgeous, dangerous night-skinned lady named Shaula sets her straight. Josephine is one of the most powerful witches alive, so overflowing with conjure that her out-of-control cooking simply catches fire.

Josephine would love to laugh this off, but Shaula warns her that she must learn to master her magic before the Ravenous One devours her soul. Spurred into action, Josephine breaks out her grandma’s old conjure cookbook and starts cooking. Nothing grand, just the usual recipes for undying friendship and revenge. But soon Josephine can’t escape the consequences of her conjure. When the people of Paris start turning into zombies with a strange fondness for cake, Josephine looks pretty responsible for their undead reawakening…

***** Review *****

Josephine DeLune is one very interesting girl, from a line of interesting women. She can’t cook worth a darn despite the heritage of culinary skills on both sides of her family. Creole and Parisian cooking, to boot!

Josephine does, however, stay out of the kitchen with her mama. She would do just about anything to get out of that chore! Instead, she volunteers at her father’s restaurant, Carl and Earl’s, being a carhop in training.

Josephine avoids it at all costs because her Creole heritage is full of conjure witches, and her mother can bake up conjure better than anyone else.

One day, she sets off this terrible grease fire. Except it’s not really her fault. There’s something in the fire. And it wants her!

Through another mysterious visit from a dangerous lady named Shaula, Josephine learns this creature is the Ravenous One. He hungers for Josephine’s soul. Except, just like her cooking skills, Josephine has no conjuring skills either! He’s got the wrong witch girl!

As the novel progresses, Shaula shows and teaches Josephine some very important things she needs to know about the Ravenous One, conjure and a few other tricks.

As if that’s not enough, Josephine is embroiled in an ongoing battle with her enemy, Authelia, who used to be her friend, and is now trying to steal away Josephine’s best friend for her own boyfriend. One thing snowballs into another, and it is one miserable summer for Josephine.

“Authelia, Authelia, Authelia.” Just saying her name makes my blood boil. Believe me, she wasn’t always that kind of girl. Sure, she was blonde and breathy-voiced since the day she was born, but she didn’t at so stupid until her thirteenth birthday party. It was like aliens beamed out of her brain and added a new one addicted to kissing boys and gossiping about every nasty secret in school. 

With a hot mess on her hands with Authelia chasing after Quentin, and being chased and corned by the Ravenous One herself, and Authelia’s family horning in on her mama’s livelihood, Josephine takes action. At the insistence of Shaula, Josephine cooks up her own conjure to keep what she treasures and later, for revenge. But, as Josephine even insisted to the Ravenous One, she’s no witch…at least not yet.

Right as the lady at the checkout rings up my total, the front doors open. Of all the people who could walk in, it has to be Authelia. I stuff the frozen cheesecake into a paper bag before Authelia can see her last name plastered all over the product and know what a horrible traitor I am. No, not a traitor – a spy, doing reconnaissance. 

Josephine’s also stumbled upon some sneakyness Authelia and her family have brewing at McArthur Mills. Some other interesting things crop up around town, including a mess of zombies that are just dying for something delicious.

The one thing I kept noticing over and over again throughout the entire book was how Kincy described everything through Josephine’s eyes. I found so many examples that were excellent uses of imagery and humor, vivid descriptions that I felt I was in Paris, Missouri with Josephine. Here is just one such example:

The Nebula Theater looks flat and washed-out in the noon sunlight, all it’s nighttime glitter and glamour gone. I park my bike and kneel on the sidewalk, fiddling with my rusty old bike lock, which is being stubborn again. By the time I’m done, I’m absolutely parched. I eyeball the Rexall’s drugstore, then ave in to temptation. 

I fell in love with Josephine’s character. She was unique and fresh. Perhaps that’s just the effects of a middle grades novel, but I enjoyed every moment I spent with Josephine, the DeLunes and their town. I hope there’s more on the way!

Review: Battle with the Bugs ~ An Imaginative Journey Through the Immune System

Title: Battle with the Bugs: An Imaginative Journey Through the Immune System
Author: Heather Manly
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: July 2011
Length: 40 pages
Series?: Human Body Detectives #2
Genre: MG

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Human Body Detectives Merrin and Pearl are at it again.

Their magical ability to jump into people’s bodies and explore their systems (digestive, skeletal, nervous ( June 2014), circulatory, and immune) combines science with their fun adventures to help kids understand their anatomy and how their bodies work.

In Battle with the Bugs, Merrin and Pearl enter their cousin, Max’s, immune system to find out why he was sick. During their journey, they travel up Max’s nose, ride on a white blood cell into battle against the bacteria that was making Max sick, and use their knowledge of nutrition to successfully end Max’s fever.

In the end, they not only learn about the different types of white blood cells and what they do to keep us healthy, they also get a firsthand lesson on the functions of the immune system.

Ideal for both the home and the classroom, these beautifully illustrated books offer activity pages as well as a glossary of terms and information about the best foods kids can eat to keep their bodies healthy. A curriculum for teachers is also available for each book. The Human Body Detectives series offers science with a twist–an accessible lesson about the human body presented in a fun, relatable way that kids will love.

Each Human Body Detective book can stand alone as well as be read as part of the series. Battle with the Bugs is one of five stories featured in the Human Body Detectives series, along with, A Heart Pumping Adventure, Osteoblasts to the Rescue, The Lucky Escape, and Brainiacs

***** Review *****

This is a higher level book for slightly older readers. It has a lot of content about the immune system once Merrin and Pearl are inside Max’s body. I think this would bore younger readers and they wouldn’t get as much out of this book.

This is the perfect thing to accompany a unit on the body or immune system. It could also be used with guidance to teach young ones what happens inside your body when you get sick…and why eating sugar is an important thing not to do when this happens!

Other than the immune system language and brief explanations, the book’s language is friendly and the cousins work well together to help Max.

There is a plethora of information at the back of the book, including a diagram of the immune system, facts, jokes, a glossary and more.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2007)

Genre: fiction, young adult (YA), fantasy, supernatural, mystery, suspense

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Book vs. Movie (i.e. Venn Diagram, Persuasive Essay), Reader’s Theatre, KWL Chart
  • Social Studies: design an issue of The Daily Prophet or The Quibbler – follow the attention of the media from the book, paying attention to the audiences of both literary sources; create a propoganda poster or pamphlet; studies of various types of government and policies
  • Math: “Design a Map” – based on information provided from the book of where Harry, Hermione and Ron travel

*Author’s Note: There have been numerous reviews of Harry Potter to date, and  Rowling has racked up many awards for her books.  I’m going to try to stay away from writing things that can be easily found in other reviews from years past. Note that I am now nearly 24 years old and this is my first time reading Harry Potter, which was published when I was in elementary school. I remember my mother reading them, and then my middle brother. I was into other genres, and for some reason I had an unfounded stigma toward Harry Potter. I have seen the first four movies; I didn’t really keep up with the latter movies. But I didn’t know what was going on because I missed out on so much that was in the books! I wish that I had read Harry Potter as I was growing up, instead of waiting – I feel that I’ve lost a lot of the magic in waiting, and also in seeing the movies before reading the books.

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Spoilers from Book 6 – Read at Your Own Risk!

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

The final book of Harry Potter has come! It is bittersweet. I started prepping this post, and then started reading the book. And then I started debating whether or not to even post a review of the book. I was afraid that I was going to give too much away, because there was SO much I wanted to share about the book…and then I finished the book and was in even more of a dilemma. It was a hard decision.

The last book gave readers quite a shock. The title referred to Severus Snape, who had been playing the double agent role for The Order of the Phoenix and Lord Voldemort. He also made an Unbreakable Vow to protect Draco Malfoy…and he killed Dumbledore with the Killing Curse. Was it because Malfoy was there? Because that was Malfoy’s task from Voldemort, and he choked? I surmise we’ll have our answer in this last book.

Where will this leave Harry and the Order? And what about Hogwarts? When I finished Book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I was overwhelmed with questions and anger and fear. And I hurt for Harry, for his loss and the loss of the Wizarding world. Rowling has spun a wonderful series, creating strong, relatable characters – and she also did a miraculous job as an author creating a bond between her readers and the characters she’s created.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part IRowling set us up in the last book to know that Harry plans to leave Hogwarts. Dumbledore gave Harry hope to defeat Voldemort – and the way to do it: Harry will need to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes that Voldemort has stored his soul within. He knows that there are seven pieces of Voldemort’s soul, and that his current body houses one piece, leaving six remaining. Harry destroyed Riddle’s diary with a basilisk fang in HP and the Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore destroyed a second Horcrux piece – the Slytherin ring, accounting for his injured and shriveled hand in the last book. But there’s so much more to that story…The third known Horcrux was the locket Dumbledore and Harry set off to destroy in the last book, and it had been stolen – replaced with a replica and a note signed by R.A.B. Who is R.A.B.? Harry needs to find the remaining four, potentially five, Horcruxes.

This book opens during the summer, with Harry grounded at the Dursleys’. A plan has been hatched to safely transport Harry and also the Dursleys, as time is running out on the charm that protects him at the Dursleys. The moment he turns 17 or no longer calls the Durlseys house his home, the charm is broken and Voldemort will come a-knocking. The plan is somehow breached, with all the members of the Order being attacked by Death Eaters throwing around Killing Curses like candy at a hometown parade. Needless to say, the Order suffers some serious loss, with one going missing. However, the Order will suffer more down the line. Get the tissues handy.

This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal. 

Readers learn that once again, the Ministry is keeping Azkaban escapes hush-hush, and other internal problems such as Death Eaters still working within the Ministry and gaining intel. The Daily Prophet is also suspiciously quiet. And a teacher (whom we’ve never heard of before, but who’s apparently been at Hogwarts for years) has strangely resigned…after leaving Hogwarts. I’ll give you three guesses as to what’s happened to her.

DH1_Albus_Dumbledore's_signature_with_Deathly_Hallows_symbolRowling has never left any of her books without action, and this one is definitely jam-packed – and mortally dangerous for Harry. The Ministry has been compromised entirely, Snape is in power at Hogwarts, Dumbledore’s name and memory are being tarnished salaciously…and Muggles are fearing for their lives like never before. The annoying Rita Skeeter has taken full advantage of the situation of the Wizarding world, and published a book The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, using The History of Magic textbook ‘s author Bathilda Bagshot as a source. It does contain some questionable content, and has Harry heavily questioning his relationship with Dumbledore. This snowballs and leads them onto some interesting discoveries about the past, all while still on the run. They also discover a symbol in the book Dumbledore left Hermione, and also found it on a grave in Godric’s Hollow. It is the same symbol Luna’s father, Xeno Lovegood, Quibbler editor, wore to Bill and Fluer’s wedding…a symbol that Krum identified as Grindelwald’s mark, a mark of very Dark Arts and other sinister sentiments.

Through their journey to find the Horcurxes, Harry, Hermione and Ron traverse the dangers of the Ministry to steal back the Slytherin locket that Voldemort used for a Horcrux. It was quite a nail biter. They take turns wearing the locket, but it holds a great power over the wearer, causing the wearer to act strangely…. and restricts the wearer in certain ways, posing a very strong danger. It’s almost as if Voldemort can see the situation and control the locket.

Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.

They learn that a group of Hogwarts students, including Ginny and Luna, tried to steal the Gryffindor sword from Snape’s new headmaster office. So it’s transported to a “safe” place….but it was a fake! The real sword, which is determined to contain basilisk venom, can destroy the Horcurxes. Like the locket, they now need to find the sword.

The trio learn of items that could make the owner the Conquerer of Death. Harry already has one, one is destroyed, and Voldemort is fiery pursuit after the final object: an old, powerful wand with a bloody past. Given that Harry and Hermione are wanted by the Ministry, and Ron would probably be taken on false charges, they go to the one person who knows the meaning of the symbol: Xeno Lovegood. He relates the long-held belief of The Deathly Hallows, and the three objects. It all stems from a fairy tale of three brothers. Through the strange connection between Harry and Voldemort, he learns that a wandmaker, Gregorovitch, had the Elder Wand, but it was stolen long ago by Grindelwald, but the most recent owner is someone dear to Harry.

Harry becomes consumed by the story of The Deathly Hallows, certain that he is the descendant of the youngest brother. He wants to throw the search for the Horcurxes to the wind, thinking of the Deathly Hallows and the prophecy. He thinks having all the Deathly Hallows will ensure that he can defeat Voldemort. Ron and Hermione quickly need to snap him out of it.

This book is gripping. It reveals so many histories and connections of the past, and true loyalties of many. In this book much weighs on Harry, least of concern to him his life. Harry exudes selflessnes, kindness and quite a bit of logic and reasoning. Dumbledore’s Army has come back full force. All is explained and comes full circle, but it may leave readers with a slight pain in your hearts.

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Who will prevail in the end?

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2005)

Genre: fiction, young adult (YA), fantasy, supernatural, mystery, suspense

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Book vs. Movie (i.e. Venn Diagram, Persuasive Essay), Reader’s Theatre, KWL Chart
  • Social Studies: Scale Diagram of Hogwarts, Map of Hogwarts, Timeline of Hogwarts vs. Real World…
  • Math: “Design Hogwarts” – based on information provided from the book, students create floor plans, diagrams or models of what they think Hogwarts looks like; “Potions” – students measure and record ingredients for the science part of this lesson (below)…
  • Science: “Potions” – students use correct measurements of ingredients to predict reactions between chemicals, create a set number of reactions, and record the reaction and observations in their science journals…

*Author’s Note: There have been numerous reviews of Harry Potter to date, and  Rowling has racked up many awards for her books.  I’m going to try and stay away from writing things that can be easily found in other reviews from years past. Note that I am now nearly 24 years old and this is my first time reading Harry Potter, which was published when I was in elementary school. I remember my mother reading them, and then my middle brother. I was into other genres, and for some reason I had an unfounded stigma toward Harry Potter. I have seen the first four movies; I didn’t really keep up with the latter movies. But I didn’t know what was going on because I missed out on so much that was in the books! I wish that I had read Harry Potter as I was growing up, instead of waiting – I feel that I’ve lost a lot of the magic in waiting, and also in seeing the movies before reading the books.

spoiler-alert
SPOILERS from BOOK 4 & 5

We already know from previous books that Harry has had a couple throw-downs with Lord Voldemort, and being at Hogwarts is his protection. From the last book we now know he has a very dedicated group of people, The Order of the Phoenix, as well as dedicated friends. The Order is working to ultimately bring down Lord Voldemort and thwart his plans for takeover. Things got very dicey in the last book, and many Death Eaters are now in Azkaban, while others are out. As if Harry didn’t have enough hanging over his head, he hears the eery prophecy when it breaks at the Ministry of Magic. Interestingly enough, Voldemort thinks Harry’s retrieved it. I was sure that’s what this book was going to center around – the great prophecy….

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … 

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Snape makes the Unbreakable Vow

Despite having committed, dedicated friends who have his back, Harry has not told Ron or Hermione about the prophecy. Only he and Dumbledore know what the prophecy says, although there is much speculation flying around in The Daily Prophet, which has know quite quickly changed its tune from Harry Potter/Dumbledore hater to Harry is the “Chosen One.” Dumbledore urges Harry to tell Ron and Hermione, but still is reluctant. He does so, but leaves out the part about the prophecy possibly being about Neville, and how Voldemort chose Harry, thinking that’s who the prophecy intended (based on his very limited information). Dumbledore has also returned to school with a blackened, shriveled hand that he continually puts off explaining…as well as an interesting ring that was a Slytherin heirloom. Dumbledore also instructs Harry to carry his Invisibility Cloak with him at all times…

I noticed straight off in this book that Harry is exuding more thought processing than has been shown in previous books, and it’s due largely in part to the fact that Hermione and Ron aren’t as concerned with what Draco Malfoy is doing, where he’s going, and they don’t believe Harry when he admits that he believes Draco to be a Death Eater. And another very odd thing happens: Snape has been given the green light to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, a post he’s been pining to teach for over 15 years, and rejected each year. He is also firm in his belief that Sirius’ death is Snape’s fault, due to Snape taunting Sirius’ inability to really contribute to the Order, being holed up at 12 Grimmauld Place.

JIM BROADBENT as Professor Horace Slughorn and DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Professor Slughorn returns to Hogwarts

Harry is taking private lessons with Dumbledore and learns some interesting history about Lord Voldemort. Through these lessons he learns nothing he really doesn’t already know about Voldemort’s character, but he does learn extremely valuable information regarding Voldemort’s past. Meanwhile, Dumbledore is not getting along well with the new Minister of Magic, who was previously the head of the Auror department at the Ministry. And for good reason to, as we find out. The new Potions Professor, Slughorn, is trying to collect student who have strong connections to powerful or famous wizards into an exclusive club….and Draco is quite trite that he’s not been invited to join and partake of all the activities.

During a Potions class, Harry is assigned a temporary book that has additional notes for potion-making and even some made-up charms, with a scribbling on the back cover that the book belongs to the Half-Blood Prince. There’s no indication who this Prince is, but I immediately thought it was Voldemort – given that he’s always lamented and cursed his Muggle father. Harry, however, thinks that the Half-Blood Prince is his own father, James. Hermione is irritated that Harry follow’s the Half-Blood Prince’s annotations and directions and is suddenly excelling in Potions class – even surpassing Hermione.

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Puzzled over the Half-Blood Prince

However, just as a rift occurred before between Ron and Hermione, another one does…over the same set of circumstances: matters of the heart. Ron and Hermione are secretly crushing on the other, but are at odds about it. Ron is quite mean to Hermione, who avoids being present like Ron’s carrying the Black Plague. And there’s another unsuspected crush going on for Harry, and he’s apt to keep it secret and quiet. And the icing on the cake for the first semester is Katie Bell being cursed by a mysterious necklace that she mysteriously came into possession of and needed to deliver to someone…at Hogwarts. The very same necklace Harry say Draco Malfoy looking at years before in Knockturn Alley. She gets sent to St. Mungo’s.

To show off his fame (by association), Slughorn invites many to a Christmas party. Draco is found trying to sneak in, and an odd moment is exchanged between him and Snape. Harry secretly follows them and overhears a conversation that is quite questionable – and once again brings the matter of Snape’s loyalties and trust to the forefront. This information is of course brushed off by Ron, Mr. Weasley and Remus at Christmas, when a very unexpected and unwelcome visitor (by everyone but Mrs. Weasley) shows up at the Burrow: Percy – with the Minister in tow! The Minister essentially wants Harry to make the Ministry look good, and he wants privileged information of Dumbledore’s comings and goings. He gets quite angry when Harry refuses:

He raised his right fist. There, shining white on the back of his cold hand, were the scars which Dolores Umbridge had forced him to carve into his own flesh: I must not tell lies.

“I don’t remember you rushing to my defense when I was trying to tell everyone Voldemort was back. The Ministry wasn’t so keen to be pals last year.”

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Harry’s homework task – collecting a memory

This is quite a risky move, given the power the Minister of Magic holds and Harry’s shaky past with the Ministry. Even riskier, Harry openly admits that his is “Dumbledore’s man, through and through.” He has definitely declared his allegiance.

Upon the return to Hogwarts, Harry begins religiously hunting for Malfoy on the Maurader’s Map, hoping to catch him up to something…but at times, Harry can’t find Malfoy on the map! How can he be leaving the grounds? Other revelations continue to pop up for the remainder of the book, setting Harry on edge and making him continually wonder and ponder – and possibly jump to conclusions. Dumbledore sets him what seems an impossible task, but it is the final piece of the puzzle explaining how Voldemort came to be what he is  – and the secret to possibly toppling his crudely-built empire of power.

This book will definitely leave you shocked, wondering and questioning just as Harry has always done. It will completely throw readers, and it leaves the fate of Hogwarts up in the air. I said of the last book that it was set apart from the rest of the series because it was setting some big things in motion – and this book has definitely shown a glimpse of that. I expect Rowling to go no-holds-barred for the final book of the series.

If you’ve never read the Harry Potter series, I highly encourage you to do so. It is truly an enjoyable (and easy) read. Check out what Harry, Ron and Hermione will run into in the next book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Author Interview: Linda Harley

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Dr. Linda Harley

Through a series of fortunate events for me (thanks to EBW), I am indirectly getting some exposure for Girl of 1000 Wonders and getting some new books. Linda Harley, author of the 99¢ novella series Nuelda, and the first book in her second series, Destiny’s Flower, contacted us through the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages. I got an email, read the synopsis and snagged her book right up to review.

And then, another fortunate thing happened: she offered to give an interview to go along with my review of her book! At first I wasn’t sure if I’d taker her up on it, but then I remembered this post I made on the G1000W Facebook page back in April, so it was time for me to buck up and put on my serious book blogger face and come up with some questions….which is where I faltered for a while. What do you ask an author? What would people want to know? So I dug around some on Linda’s website, Rosebuz, for a jumping off point.

Rosebuz is not an ordinary author/book promotional website. In fact, it’s totally not that at all. It’s Linda’s own personal commitment to the arts and book world, with her own reviews and a host of several guest reviewers. It’s also a testament to her field of work – all things technology for physical rehabilitation – linking to her many publications and articles. It’s a place where she’s bringing science and the arts together in unison – and it is working amazingly! (Go, go check out her site – and she’s always looking for additional book reviewers.)

Without further adieu, here is my interview with Linda. My questions are in maroon and Linda’s responses are in teal.

You have a very interesting background. You were born in Durban, South Africa and received a BS and MS in Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, in 2002 and 2004, and received your PhD in Applied Physiology from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011. What did your growing up years look like? Where do you call home? 

I lived 20 minutes from the beach growing up in Durban, South Africa.  Most weekends were spent at the beach hanging out with friends and family.  From my high school classroom windows we actually looked out over the harbour and the ocean, and it was always a comfort. Durban has a very tropical climate, in that we only had a dry season and a rainy season.  It was green year round, and I never really knew that there were different seasons until I moved to the US at the age of 19. Although I have family back in South Africa, I do call Atlanta, Georgia my home as some of my family is here as well.

You graduated with science degrees, and have published numerous articles and papers, as well as being a contributor to a few books. How do you find time to continue your work revolving around complex bilateral tasks and new technologies for rehabilitation AND pursuing fictional writing?

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Awakening (Nuelda Book 1)

Typically when I get home at night, I spend some time with my family, watch TV and play online games. But every night before I go to bed, the last thing I do is take about 30 minutes to an hour to work on my latest story.  My goal is to usually write at least 1 page a night, whether its good writing or not. I write with pen and paper, simply because if I wrote on the computer I would be to tempted to surf the internet, check Facebook and email and get easily distracted. When the draft is completed by my nightly endeavors, I usually take a long weekend (3-4 days) to sit and do nothing but edit the story. This beta version is sent out to beta readers, and then it’s a process of refinement and fine tuning. Making sure I tie everything together and that the pace and story line is appropriate.

How did RoseBuz, your blog/website, come about? It’s quite impressive, mixing science with book reviews. You have guest writers and get thousands of hits in just days. How do you make it work?

RoseBuz came into existence because I wanted a chance to share my stories with the world and have a place where people could come to learn about how science and the arts really can work in unison and don’t have to be in opposition. I love reading books, and typically read at least 40 books a year and listen to about 40 books on my iPad a year.

Being a new author, I learned that it is great to have folks review your book, and so thought that I would give back to the community by blogging about my thoughts on books. I do it all free of charge, but this means my to be read pile currently stretches into 2015.

When I first started this blog, I never imagined that it would be such a huge success.  I get approximately 30 requests for review per week, and there’s no way that I could read all these wonderful stories.  

So, a little plug here, if anyone is interested in reviewing books, but don’t know where to start, feel free to drop me a line at rosebuzlrh@gmail.com.  (See the question below regarding the reviewer process.) I’m currently looking for reviewers to blog on Rosebuz.  Since I’m pretty organized, I update the site about once a week, and this is typically what I do on Saturday mornings. 

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Destiny’s Flower (Saldiora Book 1)

Actually it’s not hard to write two series at the same time. Saldiora (Destiny’s Flower) is my main focus and so I spend the majority of my time working on it. However, every now and then I need to take a mental break from Saldiora, and so I focus on Nuelda. This usually occurs after the Saldiora Beta version is sent out to beta readers, and I have time to devote to Nuelda. Nuelda is intended to be a free short novella set of stories, that will be posted on my website for anyone in the world to enjoy. Although not apparent yet, (wink) they actually play of in the same universe just decades apart.

How long has Rosebuz been going?

I started to create the site in July 2011, but it took a few months to set it up and get it exactly the way I wanted.  I did not start to actively use it or post to it until January 2012.  So I’d say it’s been going actively for about 1.5 years.

How did Rosebuz evolve from your personal reviews to what it’s grown into today, with two site reviewers and multiple guest reviewers? Do you attribute the massive numbers of page hits to this evolution? 

I’m a researcher by heart, and therefore I typically don’t do anything in life without investigating time up front to understand what I’m getting myself into. The same can be said about the website. I spent a few months reading books on successfully marketing and creating your own personal brand. I learned that having a clear brand goes a long way towards marketing and getting people interested in what you do.

The resource that helped me most was Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self-Publishing. It guided me and helped me to define what I wanted my personal brand to be. I love science, and I want to encourage young people to become scientists and engineers and doctors.  Because of my passion, I decided that the best brand for me would be to combine my love of science fiction/fantasy writing with my love of real science and engineering. Once I had this defined, it was relatively easy to create the site, since the brand dictated what information would and would not be on the site. I found that I was reading a lot of novels and wanted to keep track of all these excellent books, and so I incorporated that book review aspect and listed myself on the IndieReview and the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages. Since then I’ve had many authors drop me notes, requesting to participate in the website, and it took off from there. 

The only two criteria I have when someone requests to do a blog is: 

  1. The guest blog must contain some science in it
  2. Rosebuz must be the only place where it is published. 

I hope to continue to grow Rosebuz.

Could you explain the process for potential reviewers?

Sure! Right now the process is pretty easy.  All they need to do is send me an email at rosebuzlrh@gmail.com with an example of a book that they have reviewed.  They should probably read the review policy on Rosebuz.com first, in order to understand how we operate. I have a zero tolerance for erotica or foul language, and thus will not have reviewers who review those type of books. Rosebuz is a family-friendly site and I want it to remain that way. Once I’ve reviewed their sample, and I think their a good fit they will be invited to join. After that, it’s a matter of getting their info up on the site, and get them going.

How many books do you expect to be in the Saldiora book series (Destiny’s Flower)?

I have planned three books of the Saldiora book series, with Lynn Davis as the main character.  Eventually there may be some off-shoots from that as some of the other characters are screaming at me, telling me they want their stories to be told as well, and they don’t like me playing favorites with Lynn.  (sigh) They’re so demanding. Currently I’ve appeased them by weaving their stories into Lynn’s where appropriate.

How did you become interested in fictional writing? It seems so different from the professional writing seen in your publications.

I’ve always loved stories. When I was a kid (still to this today) I would tell myself silly stories when I had to go to bed.  My mom is often fond of telling the story of when she would put me down for my afternoon naps and I would wake up and not disturb her, but just sit in my bed playing with my fingers telling myself marvelous stories and entertaining myself. I love to tell stories and read them, and I love science and fantasy. So I think it’s a great combination!

Do you have upcoming plans for any other books, outside of the two series you’ve already started?

I have so many ideas for non-fiction and fiction books. If it was up to me, I’d spend my entire days doing nothing but writing. Unfortunately though, I’m still a novice I can’t afford to quit my day job. But it’s a dream of mine to be able to tell all the stories I have floating around in my head.

When can we expect Book 2 of Saldiora? And Nuelda?

The plan right now is to have Saldiora Book 2 come out around Christmas, with Nuelda Book 2 coming out in the spring of 2014.

What suggestions do you have for authors-in-the-making? How can they get started with an indie publication, such as Smashwords? 

First and foremost, make sure that you have a solid manuscript. If you’ve never written a novel before, consider attending a workshop to at least learn the basics. Trust me – it will save you a lot of headache if you do.

The teacher of the workshop I attended was Michael A Stackpole. His training material is available for purchase online.  It is worth going through those exercises. The funniest thing though is that Michael kept saying that you ever only need to do one workshop, because after that you just have to learn by doing.  I can attest to that.

My first draft of Saldiora had violated so many basic rules, that I had to redo the entire draft. The second book in the Saldiora series is going much smoother, since I’ve learned a ton of what not to do and what to do. In my opinion, too many new indie authors rely on only publishing their work in eBook format. Yes that is the cheapest way to publish, but in the end you’re only reaching about 30% of your potential customers.

I would strongly recommend you spend some time considering whether or not to publish in print. I spent about 6 months investigating and considering my options with regards to publishing. Whether to go with a traditional publisher or self-publish. I read all the contracts and tried to make sense of it. I even hired a lawyer to help me understand all the legal terms. In the end, it came down to personal preference, in that what was I willing to sign away.

Most traditional publishers want you to sign away all of your rights, do your own publicizing, and they sit back and reap the benefits of your hard work simply because they’re printing the book.  I did not want that to be me, and so settled on self-publishing. I had a few good offers from publishing companies, but in the end decided it was not for me.  If you’re considering what route to go with self-publishing, I really recommend you read The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine.  He’s already done all the leg work for us, and you can easily find a self-publishing company that fits your needs and your budget.