Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classroom Inspirations Based On The Hunger Games

By: Dr. Shelbie Witte (author), Juan Mendizabal (contributor), FSU English Education Students (Contributor)

Ok, I wasn't quite sure how to review this one.  I don't teach English or writing classes to anyone or anything.  I did look through the book and it looks extremely well put together.  It has various activities for use in the classroom.  Plus it explains how to use them and explains why and how they should be applied to help the learning experience.  I would recommend it to teachers looking for a way to encourage kids to read and get involved in what they are reading and be able to take something away from this book that will help them further their education. (since The Hunger Games is such a big  phenomena at the moment) 

Then inspiration struck. (In part inspired by my Pay It Forward plans for this year) I know someone who is involved in a homeschooling group. So I contacted them and asked if they would be interested in using it in their curriculum.  Lucky me they ARE interested! So I will be sending the copy I won to them later this week.  They said that they will look it over and possibly start using it sometime either this school year or next.  On top of that they were willing to give me feedback on how they felt the lessons were prepared and how well they thought they worked in a real world setting. Is that awesome of them or what? 

I'm not sure when I will be hearing back from them regarding how they feel about it. But as soon as I do I will put together a review based on their experiences. 

I am grateful to have been able to win such an interesting learning tool, and that I am able to pass it on to someone who can put it to good and practical use.   I look forward to hearing what they have to say.  Thank you to  Dr. Shelbie Witte (author), Juan Mendizabal (contributor), and the FSU English Education Students (Contributor) for giving me the chance to help out a home school program and for writing a book, that in my opinion looks like it could really help encourage students to not only take an interest in reading but to learn from it as well! 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blogging from A-Z Challenge

So on top of a few other things I have decided to do this year, I have also decided to participate in the  Blogging from A To Z Challenge April 2012.  It is being hosted by a whole bunch of bloggers:

Tossing It Out (Arlee Bird)

Amlokiblogs (Damyanti Biswas)

Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh)

Life is Good (Tina Downey)

Cruising Altitude 2.0 (DL Hammons)

Retro-Zombie (Jeremy Hawkins)

The Warrior Muse (Shannon Lawrence)

The QQQE (Matthew MacNish)

Author Elizabeth Mueller(Elizabeth Mueller)

Pearson Report (Jenny Pearson)

No Thought 2 Small (Konstanz Silverbow)

Breakthrough Blogs (Stephen Tremp)

Coming Down The Mountain(Karen Jones Gowen)

But the main place to go to for information and such is:

The Blogging From A to Z Challenge April 2012 Home Page

The challenge itself seems like a lot of fun.  Basically if you take out all the Sundays in April you have 26 days.  Now there are 26 letters in the alphabet...soooo....each day is theme based on a letter in the alphabet.  Starting with A and working through the rest of the letters all the way to Z. (This is just a REALLY shortened version HERE is were you will find all the important information, including when you can sign up, what to do if April starts on a Sunday etc.) 

Anyway, I think it will be loads of fun and I'm already coming up with ideas.  Let me know if you plan to participate too, I would love to see what everyone else comes up with!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Chocolate Cake Day!!!


According to that wonderful site Holiday Insights today, January 27th is Chocolate Cake Day!!!!

I love chocolate! I love cake! So this is definitely gonna be put up there with my fav holidays!
So where ever you are be sure to get yourself some chocolate cake and celebrate!
Feel free to treat yourself. Buy a slice from your local bakery or if your feeling really adventurous make your own! No recipe? No problem! Holiday Insights has a link to chocolate cake recipe and a link to chocolate icing too!


You can always just buy a box mix and pre-made icing! (my personal fav at least in the cake making department, way less measuring! As for the icing I make my own butter cream icing and add chocolate powder!)

So have your cake and eat it too! 

Happy Chocolate Cake Day!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop Winners!

Time to announce the winners of the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop!

For the US/Canada portion of the giveaway the winner is:


For the International portion of the giveaway the winner is: 

Sarah BiBi Setar!

Both winners have been contacted and have already responded.  I hope they enjoy reading River In The Sea  by Tina Boscha as much as I did!  Thank you to everyone who participated in the hop! Be sure to check out my other giveaways and contests!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In My Mailbox-1-25-12

In My Real World Mailbox:

By: Jon Kabat-Zinn

****My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie . A post where we share books acquired via mailbox, library, store, etc.****

Want to fill up your mailbox?
 Be sure to check out my contests and giveaways!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review of Open Wound By: Jason Karlawish

Open Wound
By: Jason Karlawish

Summery from Amazon:
A shotgun misfires inside the American Fur Company store in Northern Michigan, and Alexis St. Martin's death appears imminent. It's 1822, and, as the leaders of Mackinac Island examine St. Martin's shot-riddled torso, they decide not to incur a single expense on behalf of the indentured fur trapper. They even go so far as to dismiss the attention of U.S. Army Assistant Surgeon William Beaumont, the frontier fort's only doctor.
But in the name of charity and goodness, Beaumont ignores the orders and saves the young man's life. What neither the doctor nor his patient understands---yet---is that even as Beaumont's care of St. Martin continues for decades, the motives and merits of his attention are far from clear. In fact, for what he does to his patient, Beaumont will eventually stand trial and be judged.
Rooted deeply in historic fact, Open Wound artfully fictionalizes the complex, lifelong relationship between Beaumont---a prominent figure in Michigan's medical past and present---and his illiterate French Canadian patient. The young trapper's injury never completely heals, leaving a hole into his stomach that the curious doctor uses as a window to understand the mysteries of digestion. Eager to rise up from his humble origins and self-conscious that his medical training occurred as an apprentice to a rural physician rather than at an elite university, Beaumont seizes the opportunity to experiment upon his patient's stomach in order to write a book that he hopes will establish his legitimacy and secure his prosperity. As Karlawish portrays him, Beaumont, always growing hungrier for more wealth and more prestige, personifies the best and worst aspects of American ambition and power.

My Review:
This book was very well written. I had heard of Dr. Beaumont before and had always been interested in how his patient had come to have a hole in his stomach. Mr. Karlawish did an excellent job of bringing this piece of history to life. I was virtually transported back to 1822, and the years that followed, to witness Dr. Beaumont and Alexis St. Martin's often troubled interactions. I say interactions, because they were never truly friends. A friendship requires a form of respect on each side of the fence, and while Alexis had some respect to an extent for Dr. Beaumont, Beaumont never really respect Alexis at all. However not respecting Alexis doesn't necessarily make Beaumont a bad man. Raised in the time period that he was, no one of that time period would fault him for looking at Alexis as more of a scientific breakthrough than an actual man. You have to remember this was when slavery was still common place, American Indians were all assumed to be savages and Alexi being an indentured fur trapper made him only a step higher on the social ladder of the time. Even with this outlook, Beaumont does still try to morally educate Alexis. He gives him work in exchange for his medical treatment and a place to stay. He also buys Alexi's contract from the fur company, thereby making him a free man. (however later he does basically put him back into being an indentured servant, albeit by a different name) But Alexi is young, while he idolizes the doctor for saving him, he also wants to have a life and not be constantly poked and prodded at. This leads to a constant source of problems for both of the men.
Along with the other multitude of sins they are guilty of, both men are extremely greedy. Beaumont even more so than Alexis. Alexis simply wants to be able to make an easy buck. Beaumont on the other hand wants riches as well, but he also wants his name immortalized in history. His reputation is more important to him than anything else and he sees it directly tied to whatever discoveries he can make from experimenting on Alexis' wound. Even when his experiments seem to inflict direct pain on Alexis, Beaumont simply ignores it and continues with his work.
In the end I honestly felt bad for Beaumont. He was so obsessed with his "reputation" and immortalizing his name, that he was never able to be happy. He never truly enjoyed the wealth and stature that he did accrue. He always looked at his experiments on Alexis as a failure, since they never amounted to what he felt they should. It was a constant source of embarrassment for him, even when people came to see him simply because he was the doctor who had the patient with a hole in his stomach.
As for Alexis, I thought he was selfish. Not because he wouldn't "share" his injury with the world so that the world could learn more about digestion etc.,but he was given a second chance and he didn't truly appreciate it. He squandered whatever money he had on alcohol, and was always assuming that he deserved more than what he received. I'm not saying that how he was viewed by the Dr. was correct, but he was given a second chance on life, and the Dr. offered him a fresh start and he walked away from it.
As I said before Karlawish's work was extremely well written. The only thing I didn't understand was later in the book. For the majority of the book it is written from Dr. Beaumont's perspective, then out of no where there are two small sections that switch to Alexis' point of view. While I wouldn't have minded seeing more of Alexis point of view, the two scenes just seemed out of place. They did add more information to the story. For example showing how Alexis's wife wasn't just meek and manipulated by Alexis. I actually wish there had been more of these scenes from Alexis point of view, maybe they would have helped me to understand some of his actions better.
On the whole though I think the book was very interesting. It drew me in from the beginning, and while I'm not sure if Dr. Beaumont would like entirely how he was portrayed in this book's pages, I think it would mean something to him that he has not been forgotten.

*****In compliance with FTC guidelines, I'm disclosing that I received this book for free through GoodReads First Reads. ****
(I recommend everybody should go check out all the awesome first read giveaways they have!)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review of Are You Smart Enough To Work At Google By: William Poundstone

Are You Smart Enough To Work At Google
By: William Poundstone

Summery from Amazon:

You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown in a blender. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do? If you want to work at Google, or any of America's best companies, you need to have an answer to this and other puzzling questions.

ARE YOU SMART ENOUGH TO WORK AT GOOGLE? guides readers through the surprising solutions to dozens of the most challenging interview questions. The book covers the importance of creative thinking, ways to get a leg up on the competition, what your Facebook page says about you, and much more. ARE YOU SMART ENOUGH TO WORK AT GOOGLE? is a must read for anyone who wants to succeed in today's job market.

My Review:

I loved this book!  It was funny and informative.  Poundstone  presents some of the toughest interview questions that are actually being asked by companies today. In addition to the answers, he delves into the histories of the questions themselves.   Who thought them up, how they relate to the job at hand, and how some don't have any relevance to the job at all, but why the interviewer is asking them anyway.   I found the background on some of the questions almost as interesting as some of the questions themselves.  It was also quite fun trying to figure out the answers.  I read with two bookmarks.  One keeping my place in beginning of the book, and one in the back were Poundstone had listed each questions answer in order that they had appeared in the book itself.  I'm not going to even try to pretend that I have the genius to work at google, or some of the other companies that these  questions were gleaned from, so it shouldn't be a surprise when I say that more often then not the answers I came up with were no where near correct. I still had fun though.
 The author also gave quite a few tips on what to do if you're hit with questions you don't quite know how to answer.  How to brainstorm on the fly, ways to question you interviewer to buy time and get extra hints to help solve the problem.  Also ways to phrase your answers so that even if they are wrong you don't look like a complete idiot.  Plus other interview tips, such as making sure you research the company you are applying at and making sure you clean up your public sites, such as facebook or myspace, before applying. After all if you are googling them, then they definitely are googling you. Especially if the company you are applying for is GOOGLE!.   Whether you have interviews looming in the near future, or  if you just want to give your brain a good work out this book is definitely gonna help either way. Even if you plan on being the interviewer instead of the interviewee it might help.  After all, according to the data the author presents, interviews really are no true reflection on how the applicant is actually going to perform on the job.   But maybe if you use some of these more interesting questions, or versions of them, you can  at least see who REALLY wants the job. (if they are going to put up with some of the crazier questions  and actually try to answer them, then obviously they want it right?)

In compliance with FTC guidelines, I'm disclosing that I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Manga/Graphic Novel/Video Game Novel Challenge 2012-January Round Up!

This challenge is being hosted by Mother/Gamer/Writer.
 For more details on the challenge such as levels, guidelines, PRIZES!!!, just click here. 

This post is to  link to all reviews of the books I've read for this challenge this month. To check out  books for this month read by other readers that are taking part in this challenge click here!
So I said in my previous post I decided to go for  Level 1- Arcade Gamer-Casual Player in this challenge. Which means I will have to read 4 books from each category or 12 books from 1 or 2 categories.  

Well I just finished reading Space Wolf by: William King, which is a Warhammer 40,000 novel so it falls into the Video Game Novel Category. (1 down only 3 more to go to cross off that category!)

Space Wolf is a novel by William King based on the game WarHammer 40000.  Let me just start off by saying that while I have heard of Warhammer, I am not at all familiar with it.  So my review of this book will be based solely on how I enjoyed the story itself, since I have no knowledge to compare it to the actual game.  

The story is about Ragnar a mighty Space Wolf and how he came to be one. He was once simply a  warrior for his tribe, his life is forever changed when during a battle to protect his village he is chosen by the gods to ascend to the Hall of Heroes and live in immortal splendor, or so he thought that was what was going to happen. Heh, nothing's ever that simple, plus if it was it would make for a VERY short story. Instead,  Ragnar  finds himself an aspirant to the Space Wolves, a chapter of the Space Marines, who have been "recruiting" warriors from his home world for centuries.  Will he make it through the training? Will he be able to tame the beast within?  
Ok there's your summery, there wasn't one on Amazon and I didn't feel like typing up the one from the back of the book.(although it is similar)  Click here to read the rest of my review!

Pay It Forward 2012

So the other day I was scrolling through facebook, and I came upon this really neat status from my friend Jen over at Writer's Toybox:

     Pay it forward 2012...I promise to make something handmade for the first five people who comment. They must in turn post this and make something for the first five people who comment on their status. The rules are it has to be handmade by you and they must receive it before 2012 ends...fun!

I know it's a bit off from the traditional idea of pay it forward but I just HAD to comment! (and re-post of course!)  I thought it sounded really cool and fun. I LOVE doing artsy-craftsy home made things! Remember the apple skulls from Halloween?  And I LOVE getting prezzies!!! (I LOVE giving them too!) 

Anyway it got me thinking...I would love to send prezzies to everyone,  unfortunately I don't have enough money to send something to everyone I know.  However, the idea itself is free, so I decided to share that!
I figure that I have all year to send these prezzies out, so as I do I will post about it, put up pics etc. 
Also as an extra bonus I decided to hold a contest. It will run from now until the end of the year.  The winner will receive a special box of goodies from me. (there will be something homemade of course to go with the theme of the project and there will also be some non-homemade goodies) 

How to enter:

Easy all you have to do is follow this blog and leave a comment on any of the Pay It Forward 2012 posts.   
Every comment is one entry.  

Also as a way to earn extra entries:

Share the idea and post about it!   If you have a blog and want to get an extra entry feel free to share the love! Find 5 people to pass along some homemade fun to, then post about it and just leave a link here to your post!  However you choose to find them is up to you.  You can use Facebook or maybe run a contest on your blog, the choice is up to you.  For every post you put up that's 2 extra entries!  I have set up a linky below to link your posts to. (please put the link directly to your post and not just to your blog, so it makes finding it easier!)

No blog? No problem.  Feel free to join in on the fun and then just let me know on one of the Pay It Forward 2012.  Each comment sharing what you've done will count as 2 entries. One for the comment itself and the other for paying it forward.  

If you don't have a blog, but would be interested in creating a post with pics, etc to share let me know and maybe we can set up a guest post here for you to share!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop

First let me say thank you to Martha's Bookshelf and I am A Reader, Not a Writer for hosting this hop!
Now on with the contest!
Ok. There will be two contests with this one, One for US/Canada and one for International. So be sure to leave in the comments which one you are going to enter! Also be sure to check the list of things you must do to enter the contest! (just scroll down, you can't miss the red!)  It's not a long list and the only thing different then my usual requirement for entries is that I need to know which contest you are entering.

For the US/Canada contest:

 Tina is offering a print copy of her book River In The Sea

At fifteen, Leen De Graaf likes everything she shouldn't: smoking cigarettes, wearing red lipstick, driving illegally, and working in the fields. It seems the only thing she shares with her fellow Dutchmen is a fear of the German soldiers stationed nearby and a frantic wish for the war to end. When a soldier's dog runs in front of Leen's truck, her split-second reaction sets off a storm of events that pitches her family against the German forces when they are most desperate - and fierce. Leen tries to hold her family together, but despite her efforts, bit by bit everything falls apart, and just when Leen experiences a horrific loss, she must make a decision that could forever brand her a traitor, yet finally allow her to live as her heart desires.

For the International contest:
(anyone not located in the US or Canada)

Tina will be offering an E-copy of  the same book, River In The Sea!

If you would like to find out more about Tina check out her Interview here! Want to find out more about the book? Check here to read the first chapter in River In The Sea, or here for my review!  

To Enter:

Things you MUST do:

-Follow Reviews From My First Reads Shelf- This can be either via GFC or Networked Blogs. 

-Leave a Comment on this Post with how you follow, your follower name, an email address so I can contact you, and whether you are International or US/Canada (so I know which contest to enter you in)
MUST have these items in the comment for me to enter you in the contest! Please!! Thank you!  

See easy, nothing complicated and now you can hop on to the next blog on the list! Good Luck!

If the list doesn't appear just click here to go back to the original list at I am a Reader, Not a Writer.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Excerpt from River In The Sea

Tina was kind enough to give us a peak at the whole first chapter of  River In The Sea!!!

Chapter One

At fifteen years old, Leentje – Leen, as she was called – De Graaf did not know how to diagnose the mix of frustrations and emotions that collected into the tiniest of split–second decisions, spiraling into a flex of the muscle at the top of her knee, then hurtling down into a thrust from the ball of her right foot, pushing hard on the gas.
On that third Saturday in October, 1944, she knew in the same way she knew that rain was coming, or that her brother Issac would choose a scowl before a smile, that the war still was not over. It was part of the backdrop of her daily life that the Allieds had not yet crossed the Rhine into Friesland.
She was aware that she was tired, but like the war, exhaustion was expected; it was truth. It seemed wherever she was at, she worked; ever since Herr Müller replaced Mr. Dykstra, the headmaster of Wierum’s small school, shouting numbers at her in Deutsch, she hadn’t been to school. Her baby sister, Renske, had never been at all.
She knew she was strong, with hard shoulders and a straight back, and, if it was her Pater asking her, a readiness to say yes to the task at hand, and yet this made her a misfit, and beyond that, a disappointment to her mother.
But what was foremost on her mind that day, before she found herself in the truck, stepping on the gas, was the stolen packet of salt shoved deep in her skirt pocket, wrapped carefully in a single sheet of waxed paper.
Leen reached an arm into her hand–me–down coat, and just as she started to put her other arm through the sleeve, Mr. Deinum patted her on the shoulder. She jumped at his touch even though she knew he stood nearby.
“Sorry, Leen,” he said, and by his easy, nonchalant tone she was sure he knew. She waited for him to clear his throat and deepen his tone, pause, then tell her to empty her pocket, to return the salt, and to report to her Mem and Pater that she no longer had a job. She could not bear Mem’s reaction, her frozen face pulling deeper into a silent frown.
Instead, Mr. Deinum said, “Good work today.” The back door, where she entered and left, was off the kitchen, and he sat down at the table with the cup of coffee Leen had warmed for him in the last few minutes of her shift, her hand shaking when she poured it into the thin blue cup. He took a sip. Suddenly he held it up, as if he could see through the porcelain, and made a mock gagging noise. “Not enough suker, you know?”
Leen nodded. She leaned slightly against the door, keeping her coat around her. There were a lot of things she wanted to say to him. First, that she didn’t do a very good job, that she swept flour into corners, refolded damp towels rather than wash them after one use. Second, that she liked him the most of any adult she knew, save her own father, and was sorry for stealing from him. Third, that she had no plans to stop. They needed it too badly.
Instead, she said, “I know. My moeder tries to make cakes with less. It’s not the same.”
Mr. Deinum shrugged, sighing. Sometimes she could tell his cheerfulness was an effort. Today, it made her nervous, so she kept talking. “The tea isn’t very good either. But I’m used to it now.” She told herself to say goodbye, to get going, she needed to get to the deliveries and then home where she could place her illicit package on the kitchen table and wait to see if her mother smiled. It was Mem’s idea for Leen to work at the Deinum’s, to teach her, finally, how to keep a house, and for Leen to get one of the most coveted items since the rations began years ago: salt.
And it also meant getting Leen out of the fields. Though if Leen had her way, she’d be back getting dirty in the heavy, fertile clay, driving the tractor or dropping in sprouted new potatoes, drinking coffee with Issac and Pater in whoever’s field they were working that day, and eating bacon rolled up in soft bread for lunch. Leen loved how the days in the fields were ordered by the season and the weather and the condition of the crop itself, how the work required clean–up only when a task was completed, not because it was considered good practice or that Tuesday was the agreed–upon day to iron all the linens.
Instead, six days a week Leen De Graaf traveled to Dokkum to work as a maid for the Bakker Deinum and his wife. This also meant that six days a week she had to pass the German camp, speeding past it at 7 a.m., and speeding even faster at 5, when it was just getting dark. It was always worse in the evening, the adrenaline surge in her toes pushing against the pedals of her creaky bicycle, her thighs burning and her hands cramping with her iron grip on the handlebars. At least on Saturdays, she could drive – illegally, still – her father’s truck. Then she could drive fast, keeping the camp a fixed blur in her peripheral vision until it became nothing at all. Today should have been no different. Except that she had added another regularity to her routine: theft. She was now two things she despised: a maid and a thief.
 In the dim light, provided by smoky lamps lit with diesel oil and beeswax candles, Mr. Deinum looked tired. “The things you miss,” he said softly. “The little things. Sugar in your coffee.”
Leen watched Mr. Deinum grimace as he took another sip. Pressing her hand against her pocket that housed the coveted crystals, she whispered, “I should go.” She cleared her throat, embarrassed at her own voice.
“Deliveries today?”
She shifted her weight and swore she could hear the paper crackle. Was he teasing her? Baiting her? That wasn’t like him. When she first took over the deliveries from Issac three years ago, Mr. Deinum had been one of her first customers. He never once asked how a twelve–year–old girl could be such a good driver, or asked if Issac was ill when she first started delivering on her own, willfully forgetting the constant conscription raids that made it too dangerous for Pater or Issac especially to work outside of Wierum. Nor did he try to help her with the work, letting her sweat and grunt as she ably unloaded sacks of flour and sugar. When she was finished, he gave her chocolate milk for free, and insisted she sit and drink it. “You need to rest, you’re working so hard,” he’d say, and Leen liked him for that alone, because no other Frisian she knew said anyone worked too hard.
Her mouth felt like it was filled with dry beans when she answered, “Ja, but not so many. Not many have the money to pay anymore.” Internally she repeated to herself: Leave now. You have to leave now.
“You take trades?”
Leen’s heartbeat spiked. Of course. He suspected her of stealing the salt to trade on the black market. And he was partially right. “The trades are often worth more than the money,” she said, reciting something she’d heard Pater say.
Mr. Deinum stared at his cup. He said, “Say hi to your brother for me, ja? I haven’t seen Issac in far too long.” She knew he liked to visit with her brother. His own son, Klaus, had been unexpectedly caught, despite the work of the Resistance, and sent to Germany for forced labor, gone over two years now.
She started to turn the doorknob. “I should go,” she said again. This time she felt like she was shouting. “I will tell Issac you said hello.” He was still looking at his coffee, no longer attempting to keep her there for her company. She felt ashamed at what she had taken.
But not enough to take it out of her pocket and confess.
Doeie,” she said quietly, using the casual goodbye. Leen closed the door but not before Mr. Deinum called after her to be careful. He said the same thing every time she left.
Inside the truck she exhaled. She pulled out the salt and placed it on the seat next to her. She checked the list Pater had given her that morning and noted there were only two places to go. Then home.
She breathed in deeply and started the truck. At that moment, she was sure she’d gotten away with it.
She was wrong.

She rushed through the deliveries, Pater’s other business that made the best use of the rusted, damaged vehicle. Back inside the truck, Leen tossed the German–issued tobacco onto the passenger seat. Mrs. Waaten couldn’t pay with anything else.
She gripped the wheel and put it into gear. She steered the truck onto the lane that led her towards Wierum. She should have felt relief at being finished, but she was filled with steam, just as anxious as she’d been leaving the bakery. She picked up the packet and held it between her palm and the steering wheel. I should keep it, she thought. What if she pulled over, right then and there, and licked the salt off the paper until she wore holes in her gums and the roof of her mouth? But she knew she would never do it. Mem had plans. They would save as much as they could so she could use it when Pater next traded for a pig that they would butcher to fry chops and cure bacon all in one day, stretching the meat as much as possible until they could trade for another.
That’s all anyone could talk about – food and the end of the war. No one in the De Graaf family had eaten a piece of fruit in weeks, not even an apple, and having the salt also meant Mem could take even the tiniest pakje of salt, as small as a teaspoon, and trade it for a tin of peaches or a few pears. But even more so, Leen hoped this new possibility would invigorate Mem, who had become still over the years, the only word Leen could think to describe her, when her brother Wopke died.
Leen turned left. It was the last stretch before home and her eyes passed over the deep green of the pastures where the sheep, goats and cows grazed. The dike, a specter half–covered in mist, held back the North Sea, its horizon interrupted by the radio spire of the camp. Already she was going fast, too fast. Her knee shook a little as she let up off the gas. Like her father, Leen could be brashly stubborn at times; when she wanted something, she was sure of it. Like her mother, she did not like learning to do anything she was not drawn to, and when she was forced, she was timid and fearful and too sensitive to those watching her, yet reticent to admit these traits. The trouble with the camp was that it fit into none of these parameters; it was not a task, it was a not a new taste, it was not a job. It was, simply and uneasily, there.
To some Wierumers, passing it was like passing another field of cows. It was nothing to take note of despite the faded green camouflage tents connected by yards of netting; the mottled concrete bunkers resting heavily on the wet ground, like igloos; the spikes of the ominous radio towers stabbing the low sky. But Leen had never gotten over her fear of the soldiers posted at the side of the road, their uniforms a plain, flat gray that matched the dull metal of their warplanes, a gray that matched the heavy clouds drifting over the dike. Long after she passed the camp she could still hear the soldier’s barking dogs, brown and black German Shepherds growling and straining at their leashes. As much as she tried not to, she listened for it.
Could they hear her? Did they ever catch her laugh, an odd phrase about something mundane, like needing to sweep out the barn, or that she hated tulips because they never lasted, or Tine’s giggle, or Renske’s needful whine, or worse, Issac’s or Pater’s deep voices? The danger was never over for the men.
And in many ways, the danger was never over for the girls and women either. Leen and Tine were under strict orders not to interact with any German in a uniform, ever. During the last year at least two girls she’d known since her earliest memory had suddenly disappeared, sent off to family in another village no one had heard of. Sometimes girls were arrested. Their heads were shaved in public with rusted clippers and the worst things you could say, things Leen would be slapped for if she ever said them aloud at home, were screamed at them. The words hoer and lânferrieder were shouted and Leen had watched more than once as the girls’ eyes squeezed shut at the words, as if they had been slapped, and Leen wondered what was worse, to be called a whore or a traitor.
Just a month before, bicycling her way to her first day of work at the Deinum’s, a soldier had yelled to Leen, asking for a kiss. His voice was high and lilting, almost friendly. It had shocked her to hear him use Frysk words, not the limited Dutch some soldiers could spit out: “Hey you, famke, I want a lyts tutsje! Give me a tutsje!” Leen was wiry–haired and skinny–armed, the curve of her chest slight. She hadn’t yet started her period, much less kissed a boy. She had clear, light blue eyes but nearly everyone she knew had them too. She was not someone who attracted much attention, for her looks anyway, and although she had never admitted this to anyone, not even her older sister Tine, she wouldn’t mind if a certain boy noticed, even if as far as she could tell he regarded her as a curiosity rather than desirable. Nor would she mind being kissed, under normal circumstances, as long as she didn’t have much advance notice, because that would give her too much time to develop her nerves and refuse, or worse, fumble the act itself and have that memory forever to alternately fail to repress or scrutinize her mishandling. After all, if girls married at 18 and 19 and became mothers soon after, there was a lot of, of territory – space and land she knew little about – to traverse.
But these nervous desires did not match the sudden shout rising out of the muted din of the camp, and it startled her. She swerved and rolled onto the wet grass, sending short sprays of muddy water onto the edge of her skirt. He called to her again. She could see his hair was almost white.
“Come on, come over here!” he called. Crouching over the handlebars, pumping her legs, Leen maneuvered her bike back onto the road, looking only at her front tire, her eyes tearing with the wind. The soldier yelled again, his voice lower now, but she didn’t answer, letting only a small whine sound from the back of her throat. In her head she repeated: Go, go, go
Finally he yelled, “Mean girl! You’re breaking my heart!” Then she heard a crash against the wire fence and heard the characteristic bark of a German shepherd, low, deep, loud, and constant. She let out a yell, fearing that the dog would somehow break through and clamp its jaws around her ankle as she had seen one do during a razzia years before. Then she heard the laughter of the soldiers standing with him, some more jangling of wire and chains, the barks suddenly quieting, but it wasn’t until their voices faded behind her completely that Leen stopped her bike and clutched her cramping stomach, gasping and spitting on the grass. At that moment she had thought to herself, twelve times. Twelve times a week I have to pass this camp.As Leen approached the curve, downshifting the engine so it revved high as the truck headed onto the straight part of the road that finally turned onto the far edge of Ternaarderweg, she saw a group of soldiers standing. They leaned on poles, shovels, and guns, talking and kicking at the ground. It never failed to surprise her how normal the men looked, how some of them were dirty, and some clean, and they all were young, and seemed to have little to do – except torment a passing girl.
A soldier opened the gate to let out a truck. He had his back to her, and motioned to the driver to exit. At the gatekeeper’s side sat a barking German shepherd, beautifully striped with deep currents of black and brown, its snout long and full, its ears sharp–tipped triangles. The barks were low and rounded in sound, like the dog was aware of its own voice and wanted to use it to its full potential. When Leen had first seen one, she thought she might like to have a dog like those at the camp. But then she heard them, saw them straining at their collars that ground against their necks. The dogs’ fierceness scared Leen. They seemed beyond control, immune to any welcoming sound she could make, any wiggle of her fingers to come or stop or stay. The soldiers teased the dogs to make them bark and lunge and growl, while always holding on to the leash tightly, leaning back against the power of the animal.
The German truck inched forward, then stopped, waiting for Leen to pass. The soldier at the gate stepped aside, holding the metal gate. A bird swooped down low, passing over the lane, and just as Leen began to steer the truck around the corner, the dog suddenly ran out in front of her, barking.
It was still light out, the sky barely gauzed over by the approaching dusk. The dog came out of the shadows, catching the sun, a golden thing with its teeth snapping as it barked. It raced towards her door. There was no one else in the road, and the bird swooped back into the sky. In a half second she pictured the dog lunging, biting the salt from her hand, its teeth gouging a terrible wound in her palm, and then, without thinking, the paper of the salt packet crackling loudly against the steering wheel as her hand tightened around it, she pushed in the gas. She heard the engine revving in its gear before she registered that she’d floored it. She hit the dog square on, the bark strangling from a clipped bark to a yelp, then to nothing. The truck bumped roughly as if she was driving fast over the clumps in the fields, and Leen braked, hard.
Everything halted. The truck, the air, the sun, the bird, it all stopped. Everything except the bare ticking of the engine and a single thought:
I killed it.

***Want to win a copy of River In The Sea? Come back between January13th and 18th to find out how!***

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Interview with Tina Boscha

Tell us a little about yourself, where you are from, do you feel where you live influences how or what you write?

I am from Racine, Wisconsin - south of Milwaukee, north of Chicago. I lived in the Midwest until I was 27, when I moved to Oregon. I definitely feel that place influences my writing. Midwesterners are honest, hard-working people who knuckle down and do what is required them, sometimes to their own detriment. For many, a sense of duty guides what they do. I like to explore that tension, to see when duty makes one act in wonderful ways and when it makes a person feel tethered or beholden or shut down. I think living in the West, well, just the act of moving to the West, made me realize that just as much as a person needs to be responsible and work hard, a person also needs to feel free to make choices, sometimes out-of-the box ones.

What sort of expectations did you have when being published was on the horizon?

Oh boy, that is a good question! It depends on what you mean by being published, as my novel is published by me, myself, and I. I have always harbored a dream of being an author. I am serious when I say that I cannot remember a time when I did not want to write, but the curious thing is that I always said I wanted to be an author. I wanted to be published. So I must be honest and admit that being published has always been tied to the idea of lots of people reading my work! What I hope people understand about that is that I don’t want to become a bestseller because I want to buy a yacht and five Mercedes, but because I want to reach readers and write more books. There are few other things I find as fulfilling as doing this.

With self-publishing, once my book was live on Amazon in both ebook and paperback formats, I felt I was successful. It was the culmination of a lot of work. But that feeling of satisfaction lasted about two minutes before I fretted about low sales!

What is your biggest pet peeve ?

Another tough one! Not using a turn signal, lol. Actually, I have a hard time when people don’t set goals and act on them. This is one of those hypocritical pet peeves, because while I have always been pretty goal-driven, I talked myself out of writing or pursuing self-publishing too many times to count, or convinced myself to take the easy road out of something, probably to sabotage myself. I feel like I’m really learning to get those tendencies out of the way and now I want everyone to do the same. It’s a pretty big shift to finally allow yourself to believe in your dream and then act on it, rather than imagine it and then brush it aside as just that - a dream.

For readers who don't know River in the Sea is based on your mother.  Have you always been interested in your family's history? 

Yes. I think part of it is that I am naturally drawn to other places, times, worlds, etc. Both my husband and I don’t like to watch a lot of dramatic TV that is current - we want to be in space or another time period or in the case of Firefly, both! Another reason is that I find families fascinating, mine included. You have a group of people who share intimate bonds and a particular point of view, but yet each person is totally unique. There is bound to be drama!

And of course, I grew up listening to stories from my parents’ childhoods during WWII. Along with my aunt and uncle (who are really my cousins, but that’s a story for another day), they lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and over time I filed away anecdotes about throwing bicycles and milk in the canal, rather than give either of them up to the raiding soldiers; hiding out in hollowed out potato heaps; ferrying food to fathers and brothers in hiding. It was fascinating and alien and seriously ripe fodder for my very active imagination.

How many of the things that happened in River in the Sea were real events that happened to people in your family?
Nearly every major plot point happened to someone in my family. Some events were not directly experienced by my mother, but perhaps by her sibling or a cousin. Certainly I embellished and dramatized and attributed events to different people, and created a plot out of events that may have had years in between. But the defiance and hiding and especially the novel’s end very much happened. My favorite chapter is the last one, because it is very close to what truly happened, and I find it so touching and beautiful. I was crying when I wrote it (and also when I revised it!).

Is there a genre you prefer to write? What about to read?
I am most drawn to family dramas, and clearly I love historical. However, I’m more of a “recent history” type of historical writer. But I also love to write young adult and I may or may not have a vampire novella underway that starts out with one of the main characters at Joann’s.

I’m about as eclectic with what I read. I love literary fiction, YA, historical, contemporary, paranormal/urban fantasy, sci-fi, memoir....

Care to give us a peek at what your latest writing project is?

It’s in the first draft stage, so no peeksies! I am very, very self-conscious about my first drafts because quite frankly, they are rough and riddled with notes to myself. Revision is where the magic happens. But, I am writing what I consider to be an alternative to Twilight. It’s paranormal YA that’s light on the paranormal - there’s a hot teen male ghost but no werewolves, vampires, or fairies - but big on examining the choices of a 16 year old girl. She is a mostly good kid who starts to make some pretty poor choices. It’s fun to write those choices, at least at first. It’s going to get dark in a few chapters, I can just feel it.

It's the new year, so in keeping with the spirit of the season, what are some of your New Year's resolutions?

To keep going! To keep writing, keep spreading the word about River in the Sea, to keep taking action to make the changes I want to see in my life. That’s vague, and in the interest of specificity I will admit that I haven’t been inside a gym in six months, and so it’s time to get back on track! I also need to allow myself a little more down time - sometimes I can be all go, go, go, and I can wind myself up pretty good. So maybe it’s about finding the balance between reaching my goals and letting myself lay on the couch for a few hours while watching Buffy reruns. Because sometimes, there is nothing better.

You can also find Tina here:

Her Blog

***Want to win a copy of River In The Sea? Be sure to stop back between January 13th through the 18th to find out how!***

Friday, January 6, 2012

Review of The Age of Things Unwritten By: Pablo D'Stair

The Age of Things Unwritten
By: Pablo D'Stair

Goodreads Description:

"the age of things unwritten" is a poem by Pablo D'Stair, author of "The Choice of Dogs and other poems"

My Review:

Okay, I'm not going to pretend I know a HUGE amount about poetry. I know that there are certain forms that have certain requirements. (like haiku) and I know that some poetry has no requirements at all. (think that's free verse?) Anyway, the only thing I definitely know about poetry is when I like it or when I don't. Unfortunately this is one of those times when I really didn't like it. There were a few lines that caught my attention. But nothing that really moved me, you know? In my opinion poetry should evoke some for of emotion for the reader. I'm sure there are other readers out there who might be able to draw some deep insightful meaning, but I couldn't.
I am however jealous of the girl he was writing  the poem for, and I'm basing my assumption that it is a girl on the line about the skirt in the one part/stanza/whatever. Jealous not because I like the poetry, but because even having bad poetry written for you is still kinda touching. I'm also assuming that who ever she is she probably understands more of his obscure lines and references as well.
I found some of the sections interesting, but I think some of it was more of a "you have to be there" to appreciate it kind of thing. And the problem is that there were a lot more "you have to be there" kinds of lines in the poem, then the other kind. There were also some lines in some of it that no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't get what the poet was trying to say. In the end I guess it all depends on your preferences when it comes to poetry.

In compliance with FTC guidelines, I'm disclosing that I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
(May I recomend everybody should go check out all the awesome first read giveaways they have!)

River In The Sea By: Tina Boscha

River In The Sea
By: Tina Boscha

At fifteen, Leen De Graaf likes everything she shouldn't: smoking cigarettes, wearing red lipstick, driving illegally, and working in the fields. It seems the only thing she shares with her fellow Dutchmen is a fear of the German soldiers stationed nearby and a frantic wish for the war to end. When a soldier's dog runs in front of Leen's truck, her split-second reaction sets off a storm of events that pitches her family against the German forces when they are most desperate - and fierce. Leen tries to hold her family together, but despite her efforts, bit by bit everything falls apart, and just when Leen experiences a horrific loss, she must make a decision that could forever brand her a traitor, yet finally allow her to live as her heart desires.

You can also find River in the Sea here:

***Want to win a copy of The River In The Sea? Come back between January 13th-18th to find out how!***

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Spotlight on: Tina Boscha!

My first spotlight of the new year! Ohmygosh! Soooo excited!  Ok, So the first spotlight of this year is on:
(Drum roll please)

Tina Boscha!

Tina is the author of :

River In The Sea

Here's a little bit about Tina so you can get to know her better! Be sure to drop by later this month and check her author interview so you can find out even more about her!

Tina R. Boscha grew up in Wisconsin, a second-generation daughter of Frisian immigrants. She holds a BA and an MA in Sociology and earned an MFA in 2002 from the University of Oregon’s Creative Writing Program, where she also served on the editorial board of The Northwest Review. She is a recipient of the Leslie Bradshaw Fellowship from Oregon Literary Arts, and in April 2007 received a research and living expenses grant from the University of Oregon's Center for the Study of Women in Society to support the completion of her novel. A chapter of River in the Sea, “Fernedering,” appeared in The Portland Review and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and also to the 2004 Best New Writers In America anthology. Her short fiction has appeared in the Colorado Review and other small literary journals. In August 2011, she self-published her novel, River in the Sea as both an ebook and paperback.

Presently, Tina divides her time among numerous pursuits, including teaching composition at the University of Oregon and at Lane Community College. She lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with her husband and stepdaughters along with two nutty boxers and one silly black cat.  For her next novel, she is working on a good old-fashioned ghost story. In her spare time she sews and knits.  She is represented by Curtis Russell of PS Literary.

Also Tina has been kind enough to offer her copies of her book, River In The Sea, for the prize in the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop that I will be participating in from January 13th-18th.  So be sure to check back here on the 13th to get the full details, and before the 18th to enter!