Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This book had been on my ‘To Be Read’ list for quite some time now.  World Book Night America is just around the corner and this is the book I was chosen to hand out that night, so I thought I better read it before I hand them out so I can give readers and idea of what to expect.  This book was nothing like I expected to say the least!

“Wild” isn’t a concept-generated book, that is, one of those projects that began as a good, salable idea. Rather, it started out as an experience that was lived, digested and deeply understood. Only then was it fashioned into a book — one that is both a literary and human triumph.

Through her trip into the wilderness, Strayed has the distance to reflect on who her mother was as an individual as opposed to who her mother was only in relation to herself.  This allows her to appreciate her mother but also to accept her as a flawed human being, which consequently allows her to move on in a healthy way.  Alone and facing grueling hikes on a daily basis, Strayed succumbs to her most basic, human needs.  Physically drained at the end of each day, she forgets her personal problems, instead focusing on ones necessary for survival.  Reflecting on this, she says, “I’d thought I’d weep tears of cathartic sorrow and restorative joy each day of my journey.  Instead, I only moaned, and not because my heart ached.  It was because my feet did and my back did and so did the still-open wounds all around my hips”.  While we might not all go on thousand-mile hiking trips to sort out our emotional pain, this insight applies on more levels than one.  When trying to solve those big life questions, our seemingly small needs tend to fall to the wayside.  Are we giving our bodies all of the nutrients it needs?  Are we remembering to drink water?  Are we getting enough exercise?  Enough rest?  From this highly personalized memoir, I think we can all learn something about what it means to grieve and how to take care of ourselves in the process.  An absolute great read, I will be happy to give this book to readers on World Book Night America!

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Help for the Haunted by John Searles

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

I would like to thank the author for sending me this book!  I found about this book on goodreads.com when it was first released and the cover really intrigued me, then I read about it and had to read it! Needless to say, I love a good ghost story!

Help for the Haunted centers around fourteen-year-old Sylvie Mason. When the book begins, readers learn that Sylvie’s family isn’t exactly what one might call typical. Her parent’s are paranormal investigators. At the beginning of the novel, Sylvie’s parents are killed at a local church where they’ve been confronted by a past client. Sylvie is with her parents on the night of the murder and is a key witness in the investigation of her parents’ death. Sylvie, newly orphaned and assigned to her irresponsible, older sister’s custody, spends the rest of the book attempting to make sense of what happened the night her parents were killed. While searching for clues in her parents’ past in order to figure out who had motive to kill them, Sylvie learns surprising details about the personal lives of her parents.

While I was reading I noticed Sylvie’s parents had a bit in common with Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real life paranormal investigators who were the subject of the film The Conjuring. Of course, this book is very different from The Conjuring, because it’s based on fictitious events. The main similarities I noticed were the room full of haunted or possessed items the Masons kept in their house and the creepy haunted doll that was also featured inThe Conjuring. I was fascinated when I finished Help For The Haunted and wondered if the Warrens may have been an inspiration for the novel. After a quick Google search I found a guest post John Searles wrote about his many inspirations for Help For The Haunted and the Warrens were included on his list!

I would highly recommend this book, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, especially if you have watched all those ghost shows on TV!

 

Guest Review from a FAN of A SIMPLE TASTE FOR READING, Sarah Kurz…A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda

A Turn of Light Cover

 

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

There wasn’t another way to see Marrowdell.  There was another Marrowdell to be seen.

As far as fairy tales go, A Turn of Light is simply delightful.  Czerneda creates the world of Marrowdell, a tiny village that is tucked away from the rest of society.  It’s home to a variety of residents, all of which were forced there many years after being exiled from their homes.  Over the years they have grown to love and trust their quaint village and not question it’s mysteries.

 

Living in Marrowdell her entire life, 18-year-old Jenn Nalynn longs to travel past its boarders and explore the world.  Her father forbidding it, Jenn finds comfort in her meadow and with her lifelong friend Wisp, who comes to her simply as a warm breeze whispering in her ear and playfully dancing around her. It’s not long before Jenn realizes that she, Wisp, and Marrowdell all have something in common.  None of them are as they seem at first glance.  Marrowdell is home to two worlds, the one she knows and the Verge, which is home to Wisp, whose true form is a dragon, as well as many other creatures.  Being born as a part of both worlds, Jenn is turn-born and as full of magic as Marrowdell itself. With the realization that she is turn-born and possesses magic, Jenn also discovers that she will fade away at the end of the summer when the Great Turn arrives, bringing with it a solar eclipse.  With the help of Wisp, her sister Peggs, and Bannan Larmensu, a new-to-Marrowdell truthseerer who is rapidly becoming more than just a friend to the girl, she fights to save herself and the Verge.

 

If you are looking for a quick, easy read this book is not it.  However, if you are looking for something long and comforting to curl up on the couch with for hours, A Turn of Light is wonderful.  This book was much slower paced than a lot that I normally find myself reading, and I found that very refreshing.  Czerneda possesses the ability to create a land so detailed you’ll forget it isn’t real.  She paints a vivid picture of Marrowdell as well as it’s many inhabitants.  And if you find yourself forgetting who a few of those inhabitants are she saves you the trouble of flipping back through the book by adding a wonderful list of characters in the back.

 

My favorite characters from the book were the main ones; Jenn, Bannan, and Wisp.  Throughout the story the narrator moves the focus from one character to another, allowing us to get a personal feel for each and understand each individuals take on the situation.  I loved that.  They are beautifully written characters that possess both strengths and weaknesses.  With Bannan and Wisp, we not only see their joys, but we begin to understand their past struggles. Bannan was a particular favorite for me because he was an outsider to Marrowdell, so we get to see the village through the eyes of someone that hasn’t always called it home.  He has left his service in the guard to find somewhere peaceful to live and accidentally stumbles upon the small village and almost immediately finds himself at home there. The friendship and romance that forms between he and Jenn is beautifully written, as is his encounters with the other characters.  As far as heroines go, Jenn proves to be a worthy one.  In the beginning we see her as a girl and somewhat childish and selfish.  But as the story builds we watch her grow and change into a confident woman who cares a great deal for her home and those she loves.

 

This review barely skims the well written story that is A Turn of Light.  There are so many intriguing characters and such a marvelous world created that I could go on and on.  But I think it’s better if you discover all that Marrowdell has to offer on your own.

 

 

Featured Author of the Month…Susan Crandall

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I would like to introduce to you my featured author of the month, Susan Crandall,  author of “Whistling Past the Graveyard“.  Here is my review for “Whistling Past the Graveyard” if you missed it!  Check out my amazing interview with Susan!

Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

[Susan Crandall]   I started co-writing with my sister (she actually started first) almost 20 years ago now, around 1993.  It took us about a year to complete our first novel.  I have to admit, it was a learning process as both of our formal educations were in the realm of science and medicine.  We co-wrote four more unpublished novels—not for the lack of trying.  My sister decided to move on to other things, but I was hooked.  I wrote BACK ROADS published in 2003) as my first solo and first published work.

Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

[Susan Crandall]  My first book, BACK ROADS, was a women’s fiction novel about a female sheriff in a rural Indiana community.  As the saying goes “a mysterious stranger comes to town” bringing with him both trouble and the key to the woman finding her true place in the world.  There is love and danger and mystery, a combination I personally adore when reading a novel.  Although I hadn’t planned it from the beginning, this book turned out to be the first in a four book series (including THE ROAD HOME, MAGNOLIA SKY and PROMISES TO KEEP).

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

[Susan Crandall]  When I began writing with my sister, we wrote in many genres, probably because I like reading all kinds of books.  One of the major problems with our early works was the fact that they often straddled genres—a harder sell for a newbie.  So when I began my first solo work, I decided to focus on one genre with an eye to marketability.  As I said, I enjoy a book with a love story, danger and mystery intertwined, so off I went.

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

[Susan Crandall]  After ten published novels, there are so many favorites that I’d be hard pressed to choose one.  I will admit, even after all of these years, I’m still a in love with Will Scott, the hero in BACK ROADS.  An easier thing to choose is the scene that was the most difficult I’ve ever written: it’s in WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD when my plucky nine-year-old heroine finally finds the mother she’s been searching for.  It still makes me feel squirmy and prickly when I think about it.

Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

[Susan Crandall]  I think everything that’s ever touched a writer in their lives comes through in their work.  Good writers are above all keen observers, taking inspiration from the world around them.  I think that’s what makes characters and stories relatable to readers.  I’ve sometimes picked traits and backgrounds for my characters from people I know.  All of my stories are an amalgamation of life and imagination, pieced together into a purely fictional tale.

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as

an adult?

[Susan Crandall]  As I said before, I love reading all sorts of book.  Everything I read influences my writing in some way and I learn more about my craft with every book I pick up. Some of my favorites are Lonesome Dove, The Stand, Outlander, and Sharon Kay Penman’s trilogy, Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

[Susan Crandall]  Not really.  I do experience panic when I’m not actually at my computer and am mulling over my current work and can’t see the next step.  That usually clears itself up when I sit down, reread what I’ve written and start playing with the next paragraph—if that fails, it’s a phone call to my wonderful critique partners for brainstorming.  My best weapon against panic is not getting up from working until I have written at least one paragraph (whether it’s good or ends up trash) in my next scene.  That helps jump start me when I sit down again.

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

[Susan Crandall]  Oh my, that could be a very long list!  I think Stephen King is an amazingly gifted storyteller, so I’d love to have a little sit down with him.

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

[Susan Crandall]  The paperback edition of WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD will be out in February 2014.  This is a coming of age novel set in 1963 segregated Mississippi told by a nine-year-old girl on a quest to find the mother who abandoned her as a toddler.  I loved writing this one, it has humor, danger, tenderness and harsh realities all filtered through a youthful narrator.

[Susan Crandall] My next new release will be a story set in 1923 about a group of lost souls who band together to form an aerial barnstorming act.  No release date set as of now.

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

[Susan Crandall]  Not a thing.  I truly believe that every step (both the good and the bad) I’ve taken along this fantastic journey has made me the writer, and the person, I am today.

Sierra: Do you have any advise to give to aspiring writers?

[Susan Crandall]  My advice to aspiring writers is always the same: Work hard, learn your craft well and never give up.  Persistence is often the deciding factor.  I have a drawer full of rejection letters.  Each one made me more determined to hone my skills and continue to pursue publication.

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

[Susan Crandall]  Yes there is.  Thank you one and all!  I’m so happy to share my beloved characters and their stories with you.

Thank you so much Susan!!!