Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Caleb lives in a world at war. War news is on everyone’s mind, and Caleb’s older brother, Randall, is likely to be sent overseas. The presence of German POWs in Caleb’s rural Georgia community is a constant reminder of what’s happening in Europe. Locked in a power struggle with his domineering father and fighting to keep both his temper and his self-respect in dealing with whites, Caleb finds his loyalties shifting and his certainties slipping away. This coming-of-age story, set in a time before the civil rights movement emerged, traces one young man’s growing commitment to justice and to the courage needed to protect it.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Imprint: Clarion Books
Pub Date: 10/24/2011

Description:  Caleb's Wars  is a historical novel set in 1944, during World War II. David Dudley gives just the right amount of description to make the setting clear without overloading the reader.  Many of the details are hidden in the narrative so I did not feel burdened or distracted.  By the end of the first chapter, I felt like I was in rural Georgia with the heat and dust standing outside the Dixie Bell Cafe.  (Score: 8/10)

Narrative:  David Dudley chose first person to tell Caleb's story.  This POV lead to a sharing of intimate thoughts and feelings of the main character.  The narrative used was well organized, concise and interesting.  A lot of detail was given in a way that helped move the story along.  I really enjoyed seeing the world through Caleb's eyes.  It was often I found myself lost to the emotion of Caleb's Wars. (Score: 8/10)

Dialogue:  Okay, here is an area where Caleb's Wars is very unique.  David Dudley uses dialects, rural southern and African American in a most talented way.  It's part of the story and adds to the authenticity of the characters.  What I found most interesting, was the way David Dudley shows the reader how the African Americans were forced to speak in a degrading way, even when they knew proper grammar.  So, if you want an example of how to properly use dialect in a novel, Caleb's Wars is one I would recommend. (Score: 8/10)

Characterization:  It's interesting to note that there's quite a few characters in Caleb's Wars.  Many of them are minor or temporary. But to me, that adds to the realism of fiction.  In real life, we have people who only serve one purpose. Many times as I've revised my novel, I've been encouraged to cut out ones that don't accomplish multiple tasks.  But in Caleb's Wars, it works really well to establish timeline and sense of place.  (Score: 8/10)

Resolution:  I was pleasantly surprised and mildly disappointed in the ending of Caleb's Wars.  I think I expected the usual wrap it up and neatly packaged ending.  And that's a thought I can not explain.  Maybe because it was a historical novel or possibly because I was enjoying it so much, but the book just sort of ended. OR MAYBE...I felt unsatisfied because I couldn't believe those final few scenes could be the truth.  But it is.  And I have a pretty strong feeling that is exactly how David Dudley wants us to feel.  After all, it's how Caleb felt. (Score: 7/10)

As a reader, I enjoyed Caleb's Wars.  It's not earth shattering or fast paced, but it's not meant to be.  It's a snapshot glimpse into the life of someone else during a different time.  And it's clear David Dudley is not only familiar but passionate about his characters.  I think this book is a great addition to any library of history teachers, especially in middle or high schools. I'd recommend Caleb's Wars to lovers of history, haters of discrimination and supporters of standing up for your rights.  I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why I Love Whitney on NBC

I'm not much of a TV watcher...never really have been.  Well, there was this time, a few years back when Thursday was reserved for "Friends" night, but that ended with the demise of the series.  Since then, I've been channel surfing and coming up with nothing.

That's okay.  I've filled my time with family, reading and writing.


I can not watch an episode of Whitney on NBC without rolling in laughter.  I cry tears and my ribs hurt when it's over-even if I'm watching it for the fourth or fifth time.

I don't know...maybe because it feels like I'm watching someone I can finally identify with...a woman with a few hang-ups, a lot of opinions and no fear about expressing them.  Someone like that is special and pretty hard to find. (Wink, wink to anyone who knows me.)

So, here's one of my favorite clips.  I love it-especially Whitney's thoughts on roses.  Enjoy and may you'll laugh as hard as I do every time I see it!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Laugh in the Face of Failure

© Dejan Savic | Dreamstime.com
I LAUGH in the face of failure? 

Who says that? 

Actually: ME. Failure does NOT exist in my world.

So, I bet you think I'm cool, huh?

Yeah, um, not so much.

You see, the problem I really have is that I fear SUCCESS.


Yup. You heard me.

I can fail over and over again.  No problem, well, maybe I'll get a little frustrated or something, but so what?  It means I  try again.


What does that even mean?

How is it measured?

Maybe that's the problem.  There's no clear-cut way to decide if you're successful or not. 


The lack of definition is the answer!!

Oh, yeah, I got it now.

I'll never be successful.


I'll never stop trying to get better.

And I no longer need to be afraid of success.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Photo Property of Hachette Book Group

How to Save a Life

By Sara Zarr
ISBN: 9780316036061
Published on: 10/18/2011
Subformat: YOUNG ADULT

Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she's somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she's sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It's harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy--or as difficult--as it seems.

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about the many roads that can lead us home.

Description:  Sara Zarr has a poetic way of describing scenes and people.  It's almost musical. Her words flow easily through my mind, painting a clear picture without overwhelming the senses.  Right from the start, How to Save a Life  drew me in and held my attention. (Score: 9/10)

Narrative:  Jill and Mandy are teens from different backgrounds brought together because of their own individual circumstances. How to Save a Life is told from alternating perspectives of the two girls.  To accomplish this, Sara Zarr utilized quite a bit of narrative.  This lead to a lot of background information presented per character.  And it's done beautifully.  I felt I was able to really know both girls. True fact: I couldn't read this book in public due to inability to control spontaneous tearful outbursts.  Yup-the narrative in this story was every thing a great book should be. (Score: 10/10)

Dialogue: I think Sara Zarr is really a teen hiding behind an adult.  The dialogue in this book is so authentic I could hear the voices in my head. (Okay, maybe I shouldn't admit that, but it's TRUE. lol) Sometimes in books, though, it's tough to tell the grown up speech from the teen speech; but not in How to Save a Life.  Even without tags, it was easy to pick up who was speaking when. (Score: 9/10)

Characterization: The characters in How to Save a Life stay in my mind even though I finished the book weeks ago.  To me, they were real people who shared their stories only with me.  I wonder how things are working out, and then laugh at myself because it's all made up.  That's great characterization and I can only hope to be that talented one day. (Score: 9/10)

Resolution:  Sara Zarr's book endings always make me sad because the experience is over.  Other than that, the resolutions are always perfect for me in every way: conclusive yet open ended enough to think for myself.   I want more.  I need more.  It's rare that I read a book over again, but ALL of Sara Zarr's books are on my bookshelf to be pilfered through when I need a fix.  I guess I'd say her books never end for me and that's the greatest resolution of all. (Score: 9/10)

I'm not going to lie.  I'm biased.  I've loved Sara Zarr's books since I first stumbled upon Story of a Girl while doing research for my own YA novel. Oh, and yeah, I took a workshop with her in June, but besides THAT I really think she is one of the greatest writers of realistic fiction out there.  ALL of her books have touched upon issues of my heart-personal things that I really don't think I can talk about here. 

But, How to Save a Life's impact I can discuss.  My father died suddenly seven years ago.  I'm an adult and was an adult when I lost him, but Jill's expression of grief was SO VERY close to mine that it felt like I lost him yesterday.  This summer, after reading How to Save a Life I grieved his loss all over again.  Even writing this blog has tears forming in my eyes.  Sara Zarr put thoughts into words that I can't verbalize.  Better yet, she gave me tools to share with others what it feels like to lose a parent. And that's only ONE of the issues she touches upon in this book.

How to Save a Life is a great read for anyone who enjoys heart wrenching, inspiring and beautiful stories all wrapped up in one.  It's genre is Young Adult, but I believe it's much broader than that.  The topics are applicable to most age groups.  I'm thinking this one, much like her others, will be up for many different awards.  I'd rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

For a great review with a discussion of a different issue, check out Sera River's blog

AND for an inspiring interview of Sara Zarr click on over to Thalo Magazine.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Overcoming the Fantasy

White Horse Beach Plymouth MA
It's October 2011.

That means next month is November, also known in my world as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

I won't be participating, though, as I have a very exciting non-fiction project due December 1st AND I'll be spending 9 glorious days in Disney World (my heaven).

But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about fiction.  Actually, I am.  A LOT.  Because last year, I started a project titled "White Horse Beach" and I need to finish it.

 One problem though:  I absolutely HATE it!

Okay, I don't hate it.  Actually, I haven't even looked at it since last year.  But I've been thinking about what it's missing.  And three things have inspired me to give up my fantasy of keeping the main characters friends.

1)  I DON'T WRITE FANTASY and let's face it, a teen girl and teen boy staying friends during the summer at a beach town is pure fantasy, in my world anyway.

2) While reading The Hunger Games (I'm on book two of the triology, Catching Fire) I came to realize that a romantic relationship at White Horse Beach isn't necessarily a bad thing.

3)Finally, I heard Lady Antebellum's Just a Kiss and KNEW, right away...that's the story I NEED to tell.