Thursday, December 24, 2015

Title: The Hundred-Foot Journey
Author: Richard C. Morais
Genre: books to movies, food, cooking, immigrant fiction

The Hundred-Foot Journey had been on my "movies to watch" list since it debuted in theaters last year. I finally watched it last month in order to earn some extra credit for my Food and Culture class. After learning that it was based off a book, I, of course, had to read it.

This is one of the rare occasions where the movie is better than the book! The move is charming, delightful, bright and colorful and gives the viewer a craving for Indian food at the end. The book is more somber. The pacing of the book is much slower than the movie, especially the first five chapters. In the book, Hassan's character starts out as a bit crude and rough around the edges and his job as the cook in the family's restaurant was by accident. In the movie he is portrayed in a more sentimental light with the natural cooking gift that was guided by his mother since he was a small child. The main characters in the book and the movie are the same but the plots points differ considerably. It wasn't a terrible book but I was expecting it to be more uplifting.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Title: Voyager
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: historical fiction, romance, time travel, fantasy, books to TV

Aahhh, another semester is over and I have a few weeks of fun reading ahead of me. Diana Gabaldon's books are waaayyyy too addictive to read during the school year when I need to be focusing on homework and research papers so her books are always a delicious treat to me at the end of a stressful and busy semester. Her books are also difficult to categorize: they are a blend of historical fiction, romance (not too much!), time travel and fantasy. They are also hard to talk about with others without giving away major spoilers....

In this third installment in the Outlander series we get to see how Jamie deals with the aftermath of not dying at Culloden (not well at first). His life is spared by an English commander and he is sent on his way back to Lallybroch. Meanwhile, back in 1968 Claire, Brianna, and Roger follow the paper trail to find out what happened to Jamie after the failed Stuart Restoration. Soon Claire makes the momentous decision to go back to Jamie and she finds him... and discovers a lot of "surprises" not mentioned in the historical record: smuggling, sedition, an illegitimate son, a loveless marriage, etc. Of course Jamie and Claire are thrust into one adventure after another as they venture across the Atlantic Ocean to rescue Jamie's nephew: pirates, plague ships, hurricanes, slave revolts, etc. Oh, and the best part? The connection between the kidnapping and an old "nemesis."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Like Water for Chocolate

Title: Like Water for Chocolate
Author: Laura Esquivel
Genre: Hispanic literature, cookbooks, romance, magical realism

I had heard for years that this was an excellent book along with its movie adaptation although I had no idea what the storyline was about. I finally watched the movie a few weeks ago for an extra credit opportunity for my Food and Culture class. I really struggled with how to tie this movie into our class discussions and readings and after reading the book, I think my difficulty was due to the fact that it's hard to define the genre of this book. It has elements of magical realism interspersed with recipes, romance, and family drama sprinkled with tiny bits of Mexican history and culture.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

2015 Georgia Literary Festival: Part 2

Joe Davich from the Georgia Center for the Book introducing Terry Kay
Photo courtesy of Jeska Clark

Terry Kay speaks to a packed house
Photo courtesy of Jeska Clark
The day was packed with panels featuring authors of various genres from all over the Peach State: Susan Boyer, Kim Boykin, Karen White, Christine Deriso, Kami Kinard, Becky Albertalli, Ron Smith, Mary Boyle, Gould Hagler, Carolyn Newton Curry, Ann Hite, Tom Mack, Perry Smith, Don Rhodes, Susan Crawford, Jim Grimsley, Allen Gee, Cindy McMahon, Ravi Howard, Bernie Schein, Jessica Handler, Steve Uhles, Jenny Wright, Danielle Wong Moores, Brian Panowich, Eric Morris, Colleen Oakley, Linda Lee Harper, Laurel Blossom, Ed Wilson, Lynn Cullen, Tom Turner, Bill Harper, Catherine Adams, and Theresa Davis!

Georgia's Historic Places panel. From Left to Right: Moderator Susan Mucha, F. Martin Harmon, First Lady of Georgia Sandra Deal, Jennifer Dickey, Catherine Lewis
Photo courtesy of Jeska Clark

Personal Stories: Memoirs and Journals panel (Turner Simkins, Jonathan Barrett, Tom Robertson, and moderator Jane Blanchard)
Photo courtesy of Jeska Clark

Catherine Lewis, Jennifer Dickey, First Lady of Georgia Sandra Deal, and Jonathan Barrett at the authors' signing table
Photo courtesy of Jeska Clark

Patti Callahan Henry at the authors' signing table
Photo courtesy of Jeska Clark

Joshilyn Jackson (moderated by Karin Gillespie)
Photo courtesy of Jeska Clark

Melissa Johnson moderating the Nathalie Dupree panel
Photo courtesy of The Augusta Chronicle

Jonathan Bryant talks about his book Dark Places of the Earth
Photo courtesy of The Augusta Chronicle
Augusta's best (and only) independent bookstore, The Book Tavern, set up a "pop up bookstore" so that festival attendees could purchase books to be signed by their favorite authors
Charmain Brackett signing a book for a fan

Theresa Davis, Lynn Cullen, and Jonathan Bryant at the authors' signing tables

Lots of literary goodies!

Book Tavern pop up store
Photo courtesy of Jeska Clark

Photo courtesy of Jeska Clark
Wait, there's more! Other vendors that joined us in celebrating the written word in Georgia include: Slumdog Writers, Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System, Marsha Maurer and Rose Chandler Johnson, UGA Press, South Carolina Academy of Authors, The Chattahoochee Reviews, USC Press, David Hanks, Barbara Turner, Georgia Writers Museum, Pilcrow and Dagger, Bryce Gibson and Charles Campbell, Jose Lucio, Florence Brown, VSU Master of Library Science and Information Science program, Augusta Literary Festival, Barbara Turner, and Broken Ink.

Our official sponsors were: The Georgia Center for the Book, GRU Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Porter Fleming Foundation, Red Wolf Marketing & Design, The Augusta Chronicle, Beasley Media Group, WRDW Channel 12, Strother's Printing, Augusta Authors Club, the Knox Foundation and various individual sponsors!

2015 Georgia Literary Festival: Part 1

Last Saturday was the culmination of 18 months of planning for the Georgia Literary Festival! After a weeklong prediction of 100% rain with thunderstorms and a last minute scramble to move all the outdoor vendors inside, the day turned out to be abnormally warm and muggy for November (the sun even came out for a little bit).

I was in charge of the Children's Stage; the festival committee had scheduled a variety of children's authors and entertainers to keep the kiddos busy during the festival:
Miranda Paul

Miranda Paul

Robyn Hood Black

Robyn Hood Black

Deron Hicks

Charmain Brackett

David Neches

Carol Eldredge from the Savannah River Ecology Lab with a snapping turtle

Ventriloquist Tawanna Kelly

Deron Hicks graciously signed my copy of Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave

The Children's Stage was also accompanied by a vendor section composed of children's and YA authors throughout the state of Georgia!

Jeannie Ingraham
Kim Edwards
Sissie Dale
Dr. Mattie Brown
Stacy Robets

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Double Feature: Deron Hicks' Shakepeare Mysteries

Titles: Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave and Tower of the Five Orders
Author: Deron R. Hicks
Genre: middle grade fiction, mysteries, Georgia author, Georgia Literary Festival author, takes place in Georgia

Rick Riordan made Greek mythology relevant and relatable to kids and now Deron Hicks has done the same thing with William Shakespeare in his two books, The Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave and Tower of the Five Orders. Although Shakespeare is widely acknowledged as one of the best playwrights in the world, little is known about his personal life, but Deron Hicks turns the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare's life into two intriguing and fast paced middle grade mystery novels.

In Secrets we are introduced to Colophon Letterford and her family's prestigious publishing house. Alas, all is not financially well at Letterford and Sons. A mutiny is happening amongst the family members of the publishing house. Mulls Letterford must sign three new best selling authors to Letterford and Sons by midnight of December 24th or the greedy Treemont Letterford becomes the new head of Letterford and Sons. Colophon and her cousin Julian believe that a mysterious family portrait contains clues that will help save the family's business. The painting's clues take Colophon and Julian on a whirlwind scavenger hunt from Georgia to London.

In Tower, the family nemesis returns and threatens the newfound tranquility and financial stability of Letterford and Sons. This time clues from the life of Chrisopher Marlowe will lead Colophon and Julian on another fast-paced journey to save the Letterford family from ruin. Will they find the business-saving treasure in time?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Star Wars Reads Day and the Georgia Literary Festival


Designed by local artist Kenneth Benson
Literary fans in Georgia have two events to look forward to within the next month! I am on the planning committees for the 4th annual Star Wars Reads Day and the 14th Georgia Literary Festival which are both taking place in Augusta this year. Star Wars Reads Day is Saturday, October 10th and is a national and annual event created and designed to promote literacy in children through their love of Star Wars. Many libraries and bookstores around the country will be participating in this fun event (I'll post pictures this weekend of the event my local library is hosting). 

The Georgia Literary Festival will take place on the beautiful Georgia Regents University (soon to be Augusta University) campus on Saturday, November 7th from 9am-5pm and will feature over 40 Georgia authors, a vendor marketplace, food trucks and a Children's Entertainment area (Savannah River Ecology Lab, ventriloquist Tawanna Kelly, and local children's musician, David Neches). Listed below is the festival schedule for you to drool over:

9 to 9:45—Terry Kay Keynote, Ballroom

10 to 10:45 Georgia’s Historic Places (Jennifer Dickey, Catherine Lewis, Sandra Deal, F. Martin Harmon) Ballroom, Patti Callahan Henry, Butler; Exploring Today’s Publishing Options, (Susan Boyer, Kim Boykin, Charmain Brackett), Coffee House; Personal Stories: Memoirs and Journals, (Turner Simp...kins, Jonathan Barrett, Tom Robertson), Hardy; Picture Books with Miranda Paul, Children’s Stage 

11 to 11:45 Karen White, Ballroom; Novels for Younger Readers (Christine Deriso, Kami Kinard, Becky Abertalli, Deron Hicks), Butler; Prohibition in Atlanta, (Ron Smith, Mary Boyle) ; Coffee House, Reptiles with Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Children’s Stage

12 to 12:45 Joshilyn Jackson, Ballroom;  Civil War Memories,(Gould Hagler, Carolyn Newton Curry), Butler; How to Get Published, (Ann Hite), Coffee House; Augusta’s People and Places (Tom Mack, Perry Smith, Don Rhodes), Hardy; Children’s author, Robyn Hood Black, Children’s Stage

1 to 1:45 Mystery and Suspense (Susan Mucha, Susan Boyer, Susan Crawford) Ballroom; Grit Lit (Kim Boykin, Karin Gillespie, Ann Hite), Butler; Making Sense of Our Identities (Jim Grimsley, Allen Ghee, Cindy McMahon), Coffee House; Songs and Stories with David Neches, Children’s Stage

2 to 2:45 Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, Ballroom; Breaking Into Children’s Literature; (Kami Kinard), Butler; Literary Reads, (Ravi Howard, Bernie Shein, Jessica Handler), Coffee House; Local columnists, (Steve Uhles, Jenny Wright, Danielle Wong Moores), Hardy; Shakespeare Mysteries with Deron Hicks, Children’s Stage

3 to 3:45 Debut Novelists (Brian Panowich, Eric Morris, Colleen Oakley) Ballroom, Poetry (Linda Lee Harper, Laurel Blossom), Butler; Children’s Performer (Ventriloquist, Tawanna Kelly), Children’s Stage

4 to 4:45 Slave Ship Antelope, (Jonathan Bryant) Ballroom; Twain’s End, (Lynn Cullen); Butler; Augusta’s Literary History, (Tom Turner, Bill Harper and Catherine Adams), Coffee House); Performance poetry (Theresa Davis), Hardy; TBA, Children’s Stage.

Signings will follow each author’s appearance and will be in the JSAC breezeway.

The children’s stage is the outdoor amphitheater. Inclement weather location for the children’s stage will be University Hall Room 170.   11 to 11:45 Karen White, Ballroom; Novels for Younger Readers (Christine Deriso, Kami Kinard, Becky Abertalli, Deron Hicks), Butler; Prohibition in Atlanta, (Ron Smith, Mary Boyle) ; Coffee House, Reptiles with Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Children’s Stage

If you are going to be in the Augusta area October 10th or November 7th please consider supporting these local events!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Girl Meets Class- Karin Gillespie

Title: Girl Meets Class
Author: Karin Gillespie
Genre: Georgia author, Augusta Literary Festival author, southern humor, takes place in Georgia

Oh my goodness, I can't believe it's been two months since my last blog post! <<<Hangs head in shame>>> Life has been a whirlwind yet again with a new semester of school starting in mid-August and a job change for me last week (I have now entered the world of academic libraries!). Today's review is for Karin Gillespie's shiny, brand-spanking new book, Girl Meets Class. That's Karin in the picture below graciously signing my book!

In Girl Meets Class, Toni Lee Wells is the typical, life-of-luxury Southern gal until one too many trips to the pokey embarrasses her family and the matriarch, Aunt Cornelia, cut off her unlimited source of funds and force her to grow up and earn her inheritance money a little early: find a job, behave yourself and keep it for a year and inherit $5 million dollars!!!

Out of desperation, Toni Lee lands a teaching job at the local "ghetto school" teaching the Special Needs students Life Skills. Toni Lee is out of league on so many fronts and things do not go smoothly  for our beloved protagonist. Her students are wild and disrespectful and her tyrannical principal is involved in a test cheating conspiracy. Good thing Toni Lee has fellow teacher (and lover) Carl Rutherford to help navigate all of this uncharted territory.

Filled with humor and a happy ending, I highly recommend this to anyone looking a humorous read with just a dash of romance!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Spotlight on Service Dogs

Title: Seven Days to Goodbye
Author: Sheri S. Levy
Genre: middle grade fiction, takes place in South Carolina, South Carolina author, South Carolina Book Festival author

Seven Days to Goodbye takes place during a week of roller coaster emotions for our protagonist, Trina. Trina has been busy for a year with schoolwork and fostering and training Sydney, a border collie service dog. In the book, this is Trina's last week with Sydney as he must be returned to the service dog organization to find his fur-ever family and a child that will need his protection. While Trina is happy that she is going on a vacation to the beach with her family and her best friend, the thought of parting from Sydney makes her heart ache even though it's for a good cause. At first there is some friction between Trina and Sarah since Sarah seems more boy-and-clothes focused than Trina. They soon make up over sea turtle watching, playing in the surf, and walks along the beach. Sydney makes a new friend too with a little autistic boy named Logan. Logan thrives around Sydney and Logan's family marvels at his progress. Logan's older brothers, Chase and Peyton, give Trina and Sarah's heart some thrills too in a blossoming yet  innocent, summer romance. 

Despite the name of the book, Seven Days to Goodbye, is not a sad book like most animal books. Spoiler alert: Sydney does not die! Although the ending is emotional, it's a happy emotional as Trina continues on in her journey of being a service dog trainer.

You can visit Sheri S. Levy's website here:

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

Title: Go Set a Watchman
Author: Harper Lee
Genre: Southern fiction

Go Set a Watchman is the recently published sequel to the timeless, Southern classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Jean Louise Finch (Scout) is returning home to Maycomb for a visit. Jean Louise lives the single woman lifestyle in NYC which is viewed with admiration or consternation by the citizens of her hometown. No one is more frustrated with Jean Louise than her Aunt Zandra, the pinnacle of Southern manners and womanhood. Even though Jean Louise is a grown woman, the two are always exchanging verbal insults. Atticus Finch although physically frailer still has a sharp mind.
Jean Louise views Maycomb with a mixture of gratitude, pride, and relief. Gratitude and pride for her upbringing as a Finch and a carefree childhood, yet relief that she doesn't live permanently in Maycomb and succumb to the small town's stifling expectations and unwritten rules.
Her peaceful visit is ruined one muggy Sunday when she discovers that her father and almost-fiancee, Henry Clinton, are participants of the Maycomb Citizens' Council (the Klan). This council, made up of the county's most respectable and influential men, is also a racist organization that is dead set against forced segregation by the government and views the NAACP with disdain. In that moment Jean Louise's world crumbles: her father, the hero, the teacher of all things moral, has been ruined in her eyes...

My Facebook feed and email inbox was flooded with reviews for Go Set a Watchman in mid-July. I purposely did not read any reviews because I did not want my experience reading this book to be influenced by others. I enjoyed the book for the most part- the flashbacks were funny and enjoyable. But once Jean Louise discovers the council the book goes downhill from there. For the last fourth of the book Jean Louise is angry and shows it in very dramatic ways and I felt that Harper Lee let that drag on too long and then apologies were done lickety-split and the book was over. I don't think this will become a classic like To Kill a Mockingbird but it will be debated about for years to come. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Title: Bull Mountain
Author: Brian Panowich
Genre: takes place in Georgia, Georgia author, Southern fiction

Bull Mountain is one of the best books I have read this year and has earned a five-star review from me. This gritty family drama was written by a local author named Brian Panowich and this three-generation family saga is his debut novel and will appeal to fans of The Godfather and Sons of Anarchy. I met Brian Panowich earlier this month at a local book signing sponsored by this awesome bookstore and I am thrilled to add his book to my personal collection

The Burroughs family has controlled Bull Mountain during the 20th and early 21st centuries due to their "flexibility" in meeting the market needs  and demands of illegal substances: moonshine, marijuana, meth, etc. Clayton Burroughs is the exception and outcast of the family; he turned his back on the criminal life and became the town sheriff. For this he is respected by the townsfolk and ostracized by his family. When an ATF agent comes to town to make a deal, family tensions come to a head with tragic and disastrous results.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The end of America's favorite serial killer

Title: Dexter is Dead
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Genre: books to TV, thriller, suspense

Dexter is Dead is the final installment in the beloved Dexter series and picks up immediately after the final scenes in Dexter's Final Cut. Ironically, Dexter has been arrested for a series of murders he didn't commit and those closest to him are dead, have been taken away or flat out abandoned him. Dexter's brother, Brian, bonds him out of jail and hires a lawyer but Dexter soon finds out that Brian has his own dark motives for helping Dexter release out of the correctional system. While enjoying his "freedom," Dexter must underhandedly clear his name, prove he is being framed by Detective Anderson, and dispose of drug lord and his many minions that are trying to kill him and Brian.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Title: It's Not About Perfect: Competing for My Country and Fighting for My Life
Author: Shannon Miller
Genre: biography, memoir, inspirational

Shannon Miller was my favorite gymnast when I was a teenager. My family went without cable TV for about 7 years and the only channel we received through the backyard antenna was ABC. Almost every Saturday, ABC would televise a national or international gymnastics competition on ABC's Wide World of Sports. I remember Shannon in the Barcelona 1992 Olympics and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. We eventually moved and lost our one TV channel and then I got busy with life... and found out a few years ago from an online article that Shannon Miller had ovarian cancer! I rediscovered her on Facebook and have a re-faithful follower ever since. I was thrilled when she announced she was releasing a book about her gymnastic accomplishments and fight against cancer. In her biography, Shannon admits that she allowed her busy life as a wife, businesswoman and mother take priority over her personal health. Fortunately, for her she listened to "that nagging voice" that her chronic stomachaches needed to be checked out. Her stomachaches turned out to be a 7 cm tumor! Shannon takes us back to beginning: why she joined gymnastics (she was fearless, had lots of energy, and joined because her big sister did), her work ethic and constant mental fortitude, and her record-breaking gymnastics career. I also learned a few things about her: she tried out for the 2000 Olympics and married young and suffered through a divorce. Shannon took the hard knocks and turned them into something positive: her company that focuses on women's health.