Susan Boyle’s Dream

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For those of you who have ever judged a book by it’s cover.. for those who’ve ever been surprised by a person who far exceeded your expectations based on nothing but what you saw on the outside.. I invite you to spend a couple of minutes watching this.  I wish I could embed it here, but embedding has been disabled.  Please go watch it.  It brought tears to my eyes and made me vow to be far less judgmental in the future.

Bravo, Susan.  

Now tell the truth.. were you expecting THAT?

Review: Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

415sr3ffx-l_sl500_aa240_Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead is a quiet book with a strong undercurrent. It takes place in the summer of 1985 in a section of the Hamptons that was the summer home of wealthy African American families, a place where everybody knew everybody else (and probably knew your mother and grandmother before you).

Benji and his brother, Reggie, have been spending their summers at Sag Harbor all their lives, but the summer of 1985 is a little different. The boys are alone all week long while their parents are in the city, coming out only on weekends. For three months they have huge amounts of freedom and virtually no supervision.

During the school year, Benji attends a mostly-white prep school in the city. He’s smart and funny and accepted, pretty much. During the summer, he sees lifelong friends, all from black professional families, who have learned new handshakes and are into different music than he is. Fitting in and teenage awkwardness are relatable themes in this coming of age story.

Benji and Reggie, formerly attached at the hip and never spotted one without the other, each get their first jobs- Benji at Johnny Waffle, and Reggie at Burger King. Their time together is limited due to different work schedules. Benji is trying to reinvent himself this summer and have his friends call him Ben, without much success. He’s a veteran of a single hand-holding incident with a rollerskating member of the opposite sex, but is by no means a ladies man. He’s got some status in his group of friends because he has the empty, parentless house, but still.. he’s not the one with the car, or the cool one. He’s a nerdy kid who is regularly embarrassed, wears braces, likes easy listening music, and has a bad afro.

I was really charmed by this book. It has some really funny moments and lots of references to 1980’s culture. It was interesting and exceptionally well written, even though not a lot happens. It’s more like a series of snapshots, with each chapter being quite self contained. There is some insight into mid-80’s race relations that made me think, and a small amount of darkness and family drama. But mostly it’s a story of what Benji did on his summer vacation.

This book resonated with me because our family visits the same lake community every summer. Like Benji, we see the same families year in and year out. The first couple of days are exciting- who’s here, who will be here for the 4th of July, the grass is cut so maybe they’ll be out this weekend, etc. Then it’s on to- who’s gotten taller, who’s too old to play at the beach, what is still cool to do and what is not, who has a cell phone (or an iPod, or a Wii), who’s riding bikes, who’s driving. The kids go their own way, doing kid things, and time folds in on itself. The grown ups fire up BBQ’s and have a few beers and catch up on each other’s lives- who’s gotten married/getting divorced/cheating on their spouse/losing their job, etc., and not paying a whole lot of attention to what the kids are up to. The book is like that. It’s funny, sweet, sometimes sad. It has a meandering feel to it, like a long summer day. I enjoyed it.

Here’s a funny video of Colson Whitehead talking about Sag Harbor:

Review: Swim to Me by Betsy Carter

15292590I made a bookish resolution this year that I am now regretting, and that was to review every book I read here on the blog.  But I forgot how hard it is to  (A.)  keep up and  (2.) write a review for a ‘blah’ book.  The books I hate are easy to review, and the books I love- even easier.  The trickiest reviews for me to write are for books that are just ok- and then it’s difficult trying to say what was wrong with them (especially when the answer is: nothing, really) or why they weren’t better, and that is the task at hand today.

Swim to Me by Betsy Carter is about a young girl named Dolores who, after a family vacation to Florida, decides that she wants to be a mermaid in a show that she visited at Weeki Wachee Springs, a low budge tourist attraction not far from the “new” park some crazy guy named Walt Disney is building.  So two years after that initial visit, 17 year old Dolores, who’s Bronx home life has become unbearably sad after her father leaves the family, boards a Greyhound bus bound for Florida with only a bag full of silver dollars and the promise of an interview at the mermaid place.

The rest of the book is about Dolores’s mermaid adventures- because she becomes a BIG sensation!  And then there is her stint as a weather girl in a tail, and how she becomes a hero!  And then she has a reunion with her dad, who’s now working at the circus!  It’s also about her relationship with her bitter mother, her weirdo boss, her sweet little brother Westie, oh! and swimming with circus elephants- in the ocean!  She also has full conversations with a creepy doll, out loud, while her roommate in the mermaid dorm keeps watch so no one else overhears.  Really!

This book was just not that well written.  Characters were poorly drawn and underdeveloped.  Situations were silly and unrealistic and, as bizarre as some of them were, not that interesting. The dialogue, especially between mother and daughter, was ‘off’ and seemed all wrong.  It took real effort on my part to finish the book.  It wasn’t horrible, exactly.  I just can’t bring myself to recommend it, unless you really like mermaids, or are into synchronized swimming.  Then it might appeal to you.

I found out after I read the book that Weeki Wachee Springs, FL is actually a real place, and was able to find some footage on youtube.  SO if you’ve been there, then this book might be for you.  And now, for your viewing pleasure, here are the real mermaids of Weeki Wachee!

Review and Giveaway: Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway

51p771be0cl_sl500_aa240_ Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway is the story of the author’s 2 year stint as a young Peace Corp volunteer in the remote African country of Mali. Kris spends that time as an assistant to 24 year old Monique, a remarkable midwife in the town of Nampossela, where women give birth on a concrete slab then go back to their work in the fields a few hours later, where the maternal and infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world (1 in 12 mothers die in childbirth, 1 in 5 babies don’t live to see their 5th birthday). There is no running water, no trained doctors, medical equipment or emergency procedures. Food and water are scarce, flies are a constant problem, and malaria, intestinal parasites and AIDS are all too common ailments.

kris_and_moniqueMonique, armed with a few months training, the ability to read, and a happy, willing spirit, fights to keep women alive. She passionately and desperately tries to care for women and children and better their lives under deplorable conditions. There is much information here about the birthing center and midwifery, however it is Kris’s decade-long friendship with Monique that is the heart and soul of this book. They grow close and discuss their lives and emotions on an intimate level reserved for only the very best of friends. Kris writes openly and plainly about her time in Mali, creating an intimate and unsentimental portrait of the people and this beautiful friendship.

Kris meets John, her future husband and another Peace Corps volunteer, in Mali. Their relationship blossoms under the watchful eye of Monique as together they work to renovate the birthing center, cover wells, dig holes for medical waste, and negotiate with community leaders to improve the local healthcare situation.

Monique and the Mango Rains offers so much for a book club to discuss. Themes in the book include family relationships, poverty, religious differences, the place of women in African society, hunger, malnutrition, power struggles, parenting, birth control, marriage, childbirth, volunteerism, and community. Holloway is respectful of the people and their culture and never has that too-frequent American way of being condescending.

I loved this book! It was so inspiring and such a powerful testament to the human spirit and to women’s friendship. Proceeds from sales of this book will help expand the capabilities of a clinic that has since been built in Monique’s name (Clinique Monique), as well as provide school tuition assistance and healthcare for Monique’s children. So I’m going to dig into my wallet and buy one copy of Monique and the Mango Rains to give away to one lucky reader, and I will also donate $1 for every comment left on this post (up to $50) to the cause. $50 won’t change the world, but it is enough to pay for a set of medical instruments!

Please watch this moving short film about Monique, narrated by Kris Holloway.

You can learn more about Monique and the Mango Rains at the book’s beautiful website. Leave a comment here by Tuesday, February 17th, if you’d like to win a copy!

Hot Town, Summer in the City

I hope you enjoy this really cool group, Pilobolus!  I especially like the elephant!

Don’t forget, today is the last day to enter the contest to win Live a Little by Kim Green from Hachette Book Group and Books on the Brain!  I’ll have a new review and giveaway beginning tomorrow.  Have a great weekend!

Brendan Fraser is HOT

Before the movie:

Mom, can we go to the movies?

What movie do you want to see?

Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3-D.

Sounds interesting.. who’s in it?

I don’t know, let me check (click click click).  Ok it says Brandon Fraser.

Do you mean Brendan Fraser?  

B-R-E-N..  ok, yeah.  I guess.

Sure, let’s go!  I love Brendan Fraser.  He’s hot.

EWWW Gross!  Mom!  He’s old!

Old?!?  He’s younger than I am!

Oh.  (giggle, giggle).  Well.  It’s still gross to say he’s hot.  Geez, Mom.

Whatever.

(more giggles)

After the movie:

Hey, Mom, you were right about that guy.

What guy?

The old guy in the movie.

Brendan Fraser?

Yeah.  He’s pretty cool and he’s got muscles and stuff.

Um hmm.

And he was nice and really smart.  I mean, he was a scientist and they’re smart.  And his eyes were..

Gorgeous?

NO!!  Geez, Mom.

Brown?

No.  

What then?

I don’t know the word.  But you knew what he was thinking just by looking at his eyes.

Expressive?

Maybe that’s it.  Anyway, you were right.

That Brendan Fraser is hot?

(giggles) Mom, he’s not hot like HOT, but he’s hot for an old guy.

Yeah, I think you’re right.

Herding Cats and Girl Scouts

I’m taking my Girl Scout troop on an overnight adventure to the beach today.  Keeping track of them all will only be slightly easier than herding cats!

“Anyone can herd cattle.  Holding together ten thousand half-wild shorthairs, that’s another thing altogether..”

Guest Post: Do Book Trailers Sell Books? by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Do Book Trailers Sell Books? by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

There’s been a lot of discussion about book trailers on this blog and elsewhere on the ‘Net, and the question is: Do book trailers sell books? As an author who has no access to knowing where book buyers come from or whether they bought because of a trailer, I am very interested in the answer to this question. 

Personally, some trailers have led to me buying a book. I bought Mothering Mother by Carol D. O’Dell based on her book trailer and info. The info drew me in, the trailer sold me. I’ve seen awesome trailers and some that are just not that well done. 

Derek Armstrong and Kam Wai Yu, of Persona Corp fame and now Kunati Books, were the original creators of the book trailer. That was years ago. Technology has changed and trailers have become more complex, more attractive to readers and far more acceptable. 

Book trailers vary in style. Some are text only with dramatic music. Those can definitely be appealing, since nothing else distracts the viewer. Other trailers are live video—and showcase actors. Unfortunately, many look like amateur videos and the acting can be…well, let’s say, uninspired. 

Recently I watched Dean Koontz’s Odd Passenger “webisodes” (or Internet movie chapters) on YouTube. It is basically four short book trailers that, combined, tell a creepy story. The acting won’t win any Academy Awards; however, it’s solid enough and the camera shots are professional enough that I was hooked. Reel me in, Odd! I’ve ordered the latest Odd book because of these webisodes. 

So now, I’ll be brave and share with you the book trailer that Kunati Books made for my latest novel…Whale Song. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment and tell me what you think. Does this video intrigue you, tease you, leave you wanting more? Does it make you want to order Whale Song? Have you ever bought a book because of the book trailer? Enquiring minds (mine!) wanna know. 

 

Buy Whale Song on Amazon.com.

 ~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River, and Divine Intervention

http://www.whalesongbook.com

http://www.cherylktardif.com 

Kandide and The Secret of the Mists

Our book club has taken an odd turn–

This fall we will read Kandide and the Secret of the Mists, a book meant for 9-12 year old readers (let’s just say we are all a wee bit older than that).  It’s all faeries and magical worlds and enchanting adventure, not my usual interests!  But one of our members is a friend of Diane Zimmerman, the author, and she will be attending our meeting in person.  That’s a rare opportunity and one we did not want to pass up.  Ms. Zimmerman is also a professional magician at the Magic Castle in LA- pretty cool! Several of us (myself included) have children that fall into the 9-12 age range, so we’re going to ask them to read the book along with us and include them in our meeting.

The trailer is quite good!  Check it out:

 

 

Click HERE for a Promo Code to save 25% on Kandide!

Has your book club ever read something completely different like this?  If so, how did it go?  

It’s Almost Here..

If you do not have a daughter between the ages of 7 and 13, this may come as news to you, but if you DO have a ‘tween than you surely know that CAMP ROCK PREMIERES TOMORROW, JUNE 20th!

My kids have been waiting for this for weeks!  Joe Jonas and his Bros. star in this new Disney Channel musical, which also features the soon to be wildly famous Demi Lovato.  There are plenty of squeaky clean teens and positive messages (follow your dreams, believe in yourself) in this surefire hit.  Here’s the preview: