Thursday, January 11, 2018

A List of Wintertime Books


The United States has been experiencing an unusually cold winter, and many of us just want to curl up with a book and a nice, warm blanket. Instead of fight the winter, we might as well embrace it. The following books are set in winter, and you can read them indoor while knowing the wind is howling outside.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
This is a quick read, but it will probably stay with you a long time. It's a haunting story about Ethan Frome, his icy wife Zeena, and Zeena's warm and lovely cousin Mattie (you can see where this is going). 

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Books set in Russia are perfect for winters such as these. This one is set at the end of the Romanov Dynasty and goes through the Russian Revolution of 1917. Romantic and tragic, this one will keep you turning page after eloquent page.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
If you haven't revisited the Little House books since your childhood, do yourself a favor and pick one up. Not only will you feel nostalgia, but you'll have a renewed appreciate for your cushy life in the 21st century.

The Coldest March by Susan Solomon
This is a history of Captain Scott's famous expedition to the South Pole. They attempted their
expedition in unseasonably cold weather (even by Arctic standards). The author used diaries of men who survived the trip and a few from men who didn't, making it especially poignant.

The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphrey
The premise of this book is that the Thames has frozen 40 times, and there's a vignette for each of those times. Most of the stories center on an ordinary citizen and the effects of the extreme cold on their lives. This is a good book to read when you want to read slowly, a vignette or two at a time.

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
This slow-paced book offers stunning descriptions of the Canadian forests and might be described as a "historical mystery." It's set in a frontier town in the seventeenth century and gives us a peek into a world unknown to most of us: the fur trade, captivity narratives, etc.

Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy
We can't just have one Russian author on this list. It's winter, after all. Master and Man begins at a funeral where Ivan Ilyich finally starts thinking about his own existence after his friend's death sparks new trains of thought. If you're in the mood for philosophical thinking, Tolstoy's your man.

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
One more expedition story. In this book, Antarctic researchers lose contact with the outside world, so a few of them set off for help from another research station several days away. But they don't return [ominous music]. It's an interesting and quick-paced read. Make sure your blanket is extra thick.

Friday, January 5, 2018

REVIEW of THE TEENAGE BRAIN by FRANCES E. JENSEN & AMY ELLIS NUTT

THE TEENAGE BRAIN: A NEUROSCIENTIST'S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO RAISING ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS
Frances E. Jensen, Amy Ellis Nutt
Harper Paperbacks
January 2016

SUMMARY (from the publisher)
Dr. Frances E. Jensen is chair of the department of neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. As a mother, teacher, researcher, clinician, and frequent lecturer to parents and teens, she is in a unique position to explain to readers the workings of the teen brain. In The Teenage Brain, Dr. Jensen brings to readers the astonishing findings that previously remained buried in academic journals.
The root myth scientists believed for years was that the adolescent brain was essentially an adult one, only with fewer miles on it. Over the last decade, however, the scientific community has learned that the teen years encompass vitally important stages of brain development.  Samples of some of the most recent findings include:
  • Teens are better learners than adults because their brain cells more readily "build" memories. But this heightened adaptability can be hijacked by addiction, and the adolescent brain can become addicted more strongly and for a longer duration than the adult brain.
  • Studies show that girls' brains are a full two years more mature than boys' brains in the mid-teens, possibly explaining differences seen in the classroom and in social behavior.
  • Adolescents may not be as resilient to the effects of drugs as we thought. Recent experimental and human studies show that the occasional use of marijuana, for instance, can cause lingering memory problems even days after smoking, and that long-term use of pot impacts later adulthood IQ.
  • Multi-tasking causes divided attention and has been shown to reduce learning ability in the teenage brain. Multi-tasking also has some addictive qualities, which may result in habitual short attention in teenagers.
  • Emotionally stressful situations may impact the adolescent more than it would affect the adult: stress can have permanent effects on mental health and can to lead to higher risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression.
Dr. Jensen gathers what we’ve discovered about adolescent brain function, wiring, and capacity and explains the science in the contexts of everyday learning and multitasking, stress and memory, sleep, addiction, and decision-making.  In this groundbreaking yet accessible book, these findings also yield practical suggestions that will help adults and teenagers negotiate the mysterious world of adolescent development.

REVIEW
I love a good how-to parenting book, but this one offers more than the garden variety, and that's what makes it so compelling and helpful. Jensen raised two boys, and they've successfully lived through their teenage and young adult years, so that makes her a reliable source already. But she's also a brain researchers and clinician, and she has the scientific method in her hip pocket at all times, so this makes her doubly reliable in my book.

What I found to be really helpful is learning about what's going on in teenage brain development. I've watched my kids pick up on new information and remember it ten times better than I can. Now I understand why they learn so well and so quickly. Their brain cells are more adaptable than mine are, so that information integrates and stores away more effectively. Unfortunately, this adaptability also makes them much more subject to addiction. 

The sections about marijuana and alcohol were fascinating as well, and they gave me interesting information and case studies that I can share with my kids and other teenagers in my life. Some of the stories in this section are heart-wrenching, and I'm sure that's why they were chosen. The research shows that real, lifelong damage can be done to teenage brains in a relatively short amount of time.

I also appreciated the section about helping teens to study well. There are so many distractions these days, and studying often takes a backseat to the endless entertainment available on the Internet. Being able to explain the downsides of multitasking and the upsides of sitting down in a predictable, clean place to study are very helpful to me as a parent.

If you have children, I highly recommend this book. But even if you don't, you have a brain. And this is an excellent book for helping you to understand it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY: SIX FLOORS FROM SOMEWHERE

Have you signed up for a free copy of Six Floors from Somewhere? No? Well, here's the link.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Six Floors from Somewhere by Rachel Tolman Terry

Six Floors from Somewhere

by Rachel Tolman Terry

Giveaway ends November 23, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Saturday, November 11, 2017

REVIEW of ELSEWHERE by GABRIELLE ZEVIN

ELSEWHERE
Gabrielle Zevin
Square Fish
2007

SUMMARY (from publisher)
Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It's quiet and peaceful. You can't get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere's museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe's psychiatric practice.
Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver's license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she's dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn't want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?
This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin is a 2006 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.


REVIEW
Reincarnation isn’t a topic covered in young adult novels every day, but that’s exactly what Elsewhere is about. It’s interesting to read about the author’s vision of what reincarnation would look like in the details.

Elsewhere begins with the death of 15-year-old Liz Hall. She is riding her bike to the mall to help her friend pick out a prom dress when she forgets to look both ways and is hit by a cab.

Now Liz finds herself in Elsewhere, the place people go in between their deaths and their next lives. Once there, Liz meets her grandmother Betty whom she never got to meet on Earth. Betty died before Liz was born, and it takes them some time to feel comfortable with one another. Liz also gets to know the lead singer of her favorite band back on earth. He becomes a mentor to Liz, someone she can talk to when she feels confused or angry.

Readers see this strange journey through Liz’s eyes, and she has characteristics that many people will identify with. She’s adventurous and a little anxious, and she doesn’t want to let go of the good life she had back on Earth. She’s not the most likable character in the story, but she’s well-developed and her age makes the story all the more poignant. There are so many things she didn’t get to do on earth: get her driver’s license, go to college, get married, etc. At the “Observation Decks” she can watch her family and friends back on earth, and she becomes addicted to watching their lives and hoping they’ll talk about her and miss her.

Life after death is a topic we’re all curious about, and this is an interesting take on the subject. The story is engaging, and the characters are fun. You even get to meet some talking dogs! For a quick, light read, it’s awfully thought-provoking.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

REVIEW of SILENCE OF STARS by HOLLY J. WOOD

SILENCE OF STARS
Holly J. Wood
Brigham Distributing
September 20, 2017

SUMMARY
For as long as she can remember, Lark Taylor has been looking to the stars but she never dreamed that someday she d find herself among them. She is Chosen to join an intergalactic academy attempting to save Earth s toxic society from self-destruction. Lark relies on Gideon, her alluring, off-limits guardian, to show her the ropes.

During training, Lark feels something she hasn t felt in a long time hope. She may hold the key to saving her planet. But as her training progresses, she learns that the Academy isn t as altruistic as she thought. And the more she and Gideon try to deny their growing feelings for each other, (turns out interplanetary relationships are forbidden), the more they gravitate together. 


Just when Lark thinks she has found a way to be with Gideon, she uncovers a secret that puts her, the Academy, and the people of Earth in more danger than ever before. If she doesn't act quickly, she will lose everything including the only boy she s ever loved.


REVIEW
This intergalactic young adult romance is a real page turner, but it has more than a riveting plot and interesting characters going for it. The novel also touches on themes that are very relevant to life in 2017 America: freedom, political correctness, the importance of history, and privacy.

Lark Taylor is just a teenager, but she knows that the world she lives in has been declining for some time. She knows this because her father left her an archive of books. Books have been banned, so most of her peers don’t know anything about World War II or Abraham Lincoln.

One day, aliens from another planet arrive to carry off specially chosen teenagers from around the world to re-educate them at a planet with a superior civilization. They learn practical skills like combat, gardening, and cooking, but they also learn about what has gone wrong on Earth and what needs to be done to fix it.

Lark falls in love with Gideon, the young man assigned to be her guardian. Dating and courtship customs are quite different on Lior than they are on Earth, but for some reason, Lark and Gideon immediately have a connection, even though interplanetary romances are strictly forbidden.

While Lark and her friends from Earth are gaining hope and confidence that they can make a difference when they get back home, a rogue member of the Council is working to sabotage any progress. Can Lark, Gideon, and the others figure out what’s going on before it’s too late?

I’m looking forward to the next book in this series. While this one ended neatly, there’s obviously more to the story that we need to know!

Visit Holly J. Wood at her website to learn more about her other books and upcoming projects.

Friday, October 13, 2017

INTERVIEW with author LAURENCE O'BRYAN


book signing
Laurence O'Bryan
I've been spending some time on Laurence O'Bryan's blog because he has so much information for authors about book marketing. Having published a series of thriller novels and developed his own tried-and-true marketing techniques, O'Bryan is an author worth getting to know. Many thanks to Laurence for taking the time to share some of his wisdom with us at the Book Pound.

You've been in the book business for over 7 years. What do you think are the biggest changes you've seen and experienced in the industry?
The biggest change is the ease of publishing. Even 7 years ago people talked about book formatting for print and I remember paying over $400 for one book to be set up. And after that, the never ending growth of Amazon. I expect they'll be buying a big publisher soon. 

How did you get started with fiction writing?
It's a cliche, but I always wanted to write. I started writing in 1999. I was bored with being a cog in a big wheel. I had no idea what I was doing too. I had to buy a shelf of writing books to work it all out. The second book I started I finished, but it was never published. The third, The Istanbul Puzzle, was published in 2012 by Harper Collins and translated into 10 languages. Never give up is the simple lesson from that story.  

What writing projects are you currently working on?
I finished a 5 book series and now I am resurrecting that earlier second book, Imperatrix, as it's a Games of Thrones meets Gladiator type story and we're all allowed to put sex in our books now, after JRR Martin, aren't we?

How did you develop your marketing strategies for authors?
I spent 25 years in sales and marketing, mostly in IT. I got an MBA in marketing and I was always fascinated by marketing. This is why I started BooksGoSocial, to help authors by doing their marketing for them. Not every author wants to be their own marketing expert.

What's next for you?
I hope my new book will do well, but what keeps driving me forward is expanding BooksGoSocial. We do free promotions now for authors and we have free team support and training, free blog tours and more. And we have a Chrome Extension and a Chat bot!

Is there anything else you'd like to share with Book Pound readers? Any advice for new writers?
The key is persistence. There are more opportunities than ever for authors. If you love writing, stick with it! You never know what's coming for you!

Find Laurence O'Bryan in the following places:
Website: Books Go Social


Friday, July 7, 2017

GUEST BLOG POST: LEA CARTER, author of THE SEEKER'S STORM

Welcome back to the Book Pound, Lea Carter! In the following guest post, Lea discusses research for her upcoming fantasy novel, The Seeker's Storm. Although research doesn't always show up in stories, it can be one of the most enriching parts of writing. Be sure to connect with Lea on Twitter.

Researching The Seeker’s Storm was a fascinating experience.  It might sound odd for someone who writes fantasy to need to do research, but I love the challenge of making something that can’t possibly happen come as close to reality as it can. 

One example of this would be the electricity, or “lightning” as it’s called in Fairydom.  After reading several old (and I mean from around the time of Benjamin Franklin!) engineer and electrician publications, I learned that it was once commonly accepted that electricity was a fluid.  Scientist from that time period developed static electricity machines and crude batteries so that they could study electricity.  Some recommended uses for electricity were medicinal and sounded quite frightening.  My father was another invaluable asset during this portion of my research, having years of practical experience with electricity.  Thanks to resources like those and this one https://www.facebook.com/groups/electrostaticmachines/, I was able to get a basic grasp of how a Water Fairy “lightning machine” might look and be used. 

I also did quite a bit of research on the weather.  A weaponized snowstorm was the threat hanging over them at the end of the last book, Dress Blues, and I had to figure out a way to overcome that.  This research took me to the children’s section of the library, for starters.  I’ve often found that non-fiction books for adults infer a level of knowledge on the part of their readers that I simply don’t have.  Ergo, the children’s section!  The most important thing I learned was that something called a “thunder snowstorm” was supposed to drop more snow than any other kind.  (See https://www.kidsdiscover.com/did-you-know/thundersnow/, also.)  I also found out that “cloud seeding,” as they call attempts to coax clouds to precipitate, is anything but foolproof.  (See https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cloud-seeding-china-snow/)  Still, I needed to find a way to neutralize the snowstorm.  When I realized that the fairly rare occurrence of lightning inside a snowstorm results in a measurably heavier snowfall, I knew I could use that. 

All sorts of research followed that decision!  What causes lightning?  What is the average temperature at the top of an anvil cloud?  What are the parts or fairy-sized dangers of a thundersnowstorm?  (Such as graupel, or a sort of soft hail: http://www.weatherboy.com/graupel-snow-pellets/.)  Granted, I had already created a world where the Sky Fairy Tribe contracts rainstorms and sunny days as their chief exports to the other tribes…but I still try to get a solid feeling for the science behind what I write. 

Perhaps the most fun part of this last bit of research was that I had to find a delivery system that was suitable to the world of Fairydom.  For that I reached back into military history, clear back to the times of the Roman and Greek empires.  After hunting through a dozen or more possibilities, such as trebuchets and catapults (nope, they’re two different things: (jarodsforge.blogspot.com/2008/08/whats-difference-between-catapult-and.html), I settled on the ballista (https://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/ballista/defn.html).  Ballistas are on the order of giant crossbows, except that instead of pulling the bowstring back to cock it, the throwing arms are forced forward.  When they are released, they hurl their ammunition to great lengths and with wonderful accuracy for such primitive weapons.  I say “primitive” only because we live in a digital world, where smart bullets and such are realities. 

I had a great deal of fun researching for The Seeker’s Storm and I hope you had as much fun reading this post.  Thank you so much for your time!  For the “rest of the story” of how lightning and ballista save the Sky Fairy Tribe from being buried under a monster snowstorm, you’ll just have to read the book!

Lea Carter
https://sites.google.com/site/leasbookshelf/ 
http://tinyurl.com/SilverPrincessKindle 
http://www.goodreads.com/klcislc 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

INTERVIEW with HEIDI TUCKER, author of FINDING HOPE IN THE JOURNEY

Heidi Tucker recently published Finding Hope in the Journey, an inspirational book about learning to recognize God's messages of hope in the midst of struggles. Her book received a 2017 Illumination Book Award, and she's already hard at work on her next writing project. Many thanks to Heidi for joining us at the Book Pound.

When did you first want to write a book? What was your motivation for writing?  
Writing a book was never on a bucket list of mine. During a difficult period of my life, I had a dream and saw my hands holding a book. I knew it was mine. That dream and continued strong promptings from God was a calling that my story and lessons learned needed to be told. Writing this book was the most exhausting and exhilarating period of my life. It was bigger than me from the very beginning and I’ll never forget that. I’m always honored when a reader contacts me and lets me know how my words made a difference. When I speak at various events, I always meet individuals who were touched by something I said. We all struggle and we can all find hope if we know where to look.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Do you find that reading certain kinds of books helps you with your own writing?  
My favorite author is Brad Wilcox. His writing is from the heart and real. When I first started my book I remember thinking that if I just tell my stories and speak the truth, it will touch hearts. I like to read anything that is uplifting and positive whether it be nonfiction or fiction. Real life can be painful enough. I consciously choose to fill my mind with light.

You've said that you have a passion for hiking. Do you think there's a connection between the outdoors and your writing? If so, how?  
Hiking is my escape from depression and anxiety which runs deep in my roots. It keeps me emotionally healthy. It is also a space to clear my mind and organize my thoughts, whether that be prayer or reflection on future writings. In my book, hiking is a metaphor for the trails we are required to walk in life. God won’t move the mountain, but He will help us climb it. I actually wrote a good part of this book while hiking. I would stop on trails and quickly write notes on my phone and then type it up when I returned home.

Talk about the process of writing and publishing Finding Hope in the Journey. What advice would you
give to other writers who have yet to embark on the publishing process?
I’m actually a Type A personality and want to get everything checked off my organized list before I write. That didn’t work for me. I had no creative energy or time at the end of the day. Then I heard someone say that if you really want something – to conquer your dream – you need to make it a priority every day, even if it is just a short period of time. I took that to heart and I ignored emails, phone calls, and all those other items on my to-do list and wrote first thing in the morning every single day. Sometimes it was only 30 minutes and sometimes that 30 minutes stretched into five hours. Publishing is the same method. Every day I researched and read as much as I could to learn how to take a manuscript and get it into the form of a book. I contacted everybody I knew who might give me two cents of advice. The publishing and marketing process is hard work and I faced a lot of rejection. But if you believe in your book, you focus on that and continue to push on closed doors.

What's up next for you as a writer? Do you have any upcoming projects?  
I’ve just finished my second book which is a true story about a woman from Zimbabwe whose husband dies and leaves her with six children. She cannot feed them or pay for their schooling. An opportunity comes up in the United States for her to work and send money back to family who will care for the children. It is a heart-wrenching journey to follow her story from incredibly painful tragedies to a peaceful triumph. Her life teaches so many lessons. I also have outlines of a couple more inspirational books. I love to tell stories.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Book Pound readers?  
You are here to make a difference. Think about someone who makes you want to be better. Someone who motivates you. You have the power to be that inspiration to somebody else. God will direct you into paths that you never expected. In difficult times, we often emerge feeling beat up, but stronger somehow. We each have the opportunity to reach others in so many different ways. When you recognize your worth and who you really are, it means everything. That assurance and your influence will be felt by others.

Connect with Heidi Tucker at her website or on InstagramTwitter or Facebook. You can also find her at Goodreads.