Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review - Blood Moon by Teri Harman

Goodreads Summary:

Willa dreams of true events and her best friend is a ghost. Simon can heal any wound with a touch and senses others’ emotions, intentions. All their lives they’ve felt alone in their bizarre abilities, hiding behind a facade of normalcy, wondering why and how. The night Simon walks into the Twelve Acres Diner and meets Willa face to face, in a swirl of electric heat, they are bound to one another and glimpse the magic of who they are.

Across town a witch is held prisoner in the derelict basement of an old Victorian house. One night as it rains, she dares to reach her filthy, scarred hand out the window. Willa, walking home from work, recognizes the pathetic hand from a recent, terrible dream. 

After a daring rescue of the witch, Willa and Simon are catapulted into the alluring but dangerous world of witchcraft and the magic of The Six Gifts. Answers to all their questions are within reach, but they’ve stepped into the middle of a deadly fight for the Powers of the Earth. Do they stay, risk their lives on the promise of power, or walk away?

Teri Harman's groundbreaking debut novel, the first installment in The Moonlight Trilogy, completely reinvents the modern concept of witches and magic. With its authentic translation of the history of witches into a fresh and entertaining package with unprecedented characterization, Blood Moon is sure to capture readers from the first page.

My Take:

Teri Harman is a friend and fellow KSL columnist.  Actually, she does a whole lot more than write columns – check out her awesomeness through the link to her website at the end of this post.

I’ve been following Teri through the exciting process of landing a publishing deal for this book (and the next two in her trilogy), seeing the gorgeous book cover when it was revealed, and watching her pre-publication promos -- including

So when I had a chance to read and review an advanced copy of “Blood Moon,” I jumped at it.

I found "Blood Moon" to be a well-written, refreshingly inventive, bewitching page-turner.

First off, it’s hard not to be a fan of an endearing love story.  Willa and Simon’s love-at-first-sight tale feels surprisingly real -- especially given that they are both witches -- and includes just the right combination of heart-throbbing giddiness, angst and passion.

The book also puts a fascinating and magical twist on the age-old conflict of good versus evil.  Toss some witchcraft into the mix (quite literally), and “Blood Moon” delivers epic battle scenes filled with high stakes and intense drama while Good risks everything to challenge Evil.

I’m a huge advocate of choosing the right words to tell a story, so I appreciate that this book makes such good use of descriptive imagery, painting beautifully haunting and poignant scenes for its readers.

Finally, the ending satisfies -- while leaving just enough unanswered questions to pave the way for the second installment in the trilogy (which I’m anxious to read).

All in all, a great read -- perfect to bring along on your summer vacation.

Tip: You may want to keep the lights on while reading.

to learn more about 
Teri Harman,
the Blood Moon
Launch Party
on June 22nd, 
or to
Order Your Copy
of the Book . . . 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

No guts, no grapefruit: The day Almanzo Wilder knocked on my door

Published on KSL.com - HERE's the link
Published for the Cross Timbers Gazette - HERE's the link
Printed in Deseret News - July 11, 2013
When the doorbell rang, my 7-year-old daughter dashed to the door and flung it wide open, leaving me no choice but to go and see who was there. When I saw the teenage boy wearing overalls, a plaid shirt and muddy boots, I wondered how Almanzo Wilder had made his way to my house in the suburbs.
Of all the "Little House on the Prairie" books I read repeatedly as a kid, "Farmer Boy" was my favorite because of the huge crush I had on Almanzo, the handsome and hard-working farm boy who would one day become Laura’s husband.
And there he finally stood, on my very own doorstep. I had to remind myself not to actually call him Almanzo, as the chances of that being his real name were fairly remote. So I stood there with my daughter, smiling wistfully, waiting to hear what he had to say.
Looking every bit like a deer in the headlights, Almanzo stood silent for an agonizingly long time, finally mustering up the guts to talk. When he finally did, I couldn’t understand anything he said. Not a single word. What I can only assume was a severe speech impediment, combined with a strong rural accent, made Almanzo’s speech virtually unintelligible.
The kid had guts, no question. At his age, I would rather have died — literally — than knock on a stranger’s door, and I didn't even have a speech impediment to worry about.
The kid had guts, no question. At his age, I would rather have died — literally — than knock on a stranger's door, and I didn't even have a speech impediment to worry about.
I hoped that if I listened to him long enough, I’d be able to figure out what he was saying. In the meantime, I sent urgent telepathic messages to my daughter begging her not to say anything. Please.
Telepathy must not be my strong suit, because she looked up at me with wide eyes and said something.
“Is that guy speaking a different language?”
Panicking at this crushing blow to Almanzo’s dignity, I gestured dismissively at my daughter and blurted out a crazy, bold-faced lie, “She can't hear very well.”
Lying obviously didn’t help matters much — it never does in the end — because I still hadn’t the faintest idea what he was saying.
So we stood there on the doorstep, Almanzo and I, quite possibly breaking the record for the world’s most awkward communication failure. About a decade later, a pickup truck loaded with produce came around the corner and stopped in front of my house. Out climbed Almanzo’s mom to save the day.
Holding a grapefruit in one hand and a knife in the other, she ran to the door and offered me a slice of the best grapefruit I had ever tasted. Almanzo and his mom had planned on arriving at my house at the same time — which would have made his sales pitch a whole lot less painful — but she had been delayed at a neighbor’s house. Poor Almanzo, already without words to describe his product, had been left without a product. Talk about a hard sell.
I felt so badly about the way things had gone down on my front porch that I didn’t hesitate to write a check for the biggest box of grapefruits in the truck. Almanzo earned every penny of it.
Currently, my two teenage sons have this terribly annoying habit of whining when faced with doing something they’re not completely comfortable with. Take the American flags they need to sell to raise money for camps this summer, for example. The way my sons go on about it, you’d think they were being forced to sell their own left pinkies.
The new motivational catchphrase around my house is "No guts, no grapefruit!" The kids roll their eyes when they hear it, but ... I'd like to think that the grapefruit lesson might just be sinking in.
When the whining gets ridiculous, I pull out my Almanzo card and give them some perspective. For starters, I don’t make them wear overalls or plaid shirts or even boots when selling door to door. But more importantly — and this is huge when making a sales pitch — people can actually understand them when they speak.
So stop whining.
At the same time, I get it. I know that it can be uncomfortable, and that it takes guts. But if Almanzo had the nerve to step about a mile out of his comfort zone and knock on doors, anyone can. I remind them that anything in life worth having or achieving requires a good deal of guts.
So, the new motivational catchphrase around my house is “No guts, no grapefruit!” The kids roll their eyes when they hear it, but when I catch them stepping out of their comfort zones, I’d like to think that the grapefruit lesson might just be sinking in.

And all of the credit goes to my new hero, Almanzo.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review - When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Goodreads Summary:

Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper: 

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. 
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

My Take:

I picked up this book because of its Newberry Medal (2010) status, without having read any reviews or spoilers. This book is both a mystery (where it's helpful to have read Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time) and Miranda's story of becoming a little wiser throughout the duration of her sixth grade year. 

I found it to be well-written, surprising and suspenseful in places, poignant in other places, and a really good read. A good fit for ages 10-13-ish (although I'm 40-something-ish and enjoyed it as well).

This would make a fabulous summer read, especially paired with A Wrinkle in Time.