Friday, October 20, 2017

Author Guest Post: Herta Feely (Author of Saving Phoebe Murrow) Tackles Cyberbullying

Author Guest Post:Herta Feely (Saving Phoebe Murrow) on Cyberbullying

As you may or may not already know, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In honor of this, I have a special guest post today from Herta Feely, author of Saving Phoebe Murrow, which discusses the event that first inspired her to write Saving Phoebe Murrow, how she wrote her novel and characters, and more for you to explore.  More information about the book--and its current sale-- are available below the post!

Author of Saving Phoebe Murrow Tackles Cyberbullying
by Herta Feely

On January 10, 2008, I read an article in the Washington Post about a 13-year-old Missouri girl named Megan Meier who’d been cyberbullied, a cruel incident that led her to commit suicide. Though she thought she’d been communicating and flirting on MySpace with a cute boy named Josh Evans, 16, in fact Josh turned out to be 47-year-old Lori Drew, a neighbor.  Drew hid behind the phony profile to find out what Megan might be saying about her daughter, Sarah, with whom Megan had been friends. One day, Drew, tired of carrying on the charade, decided to end the hoax, using cruel language to demean and belittle Megan, and thus the cyber-bullying gained steam. Several teens, including Drew’s daughter, knew about the phony profile and piled on, something at least some of them would later regret. Finally, “Josh” posed the ultimate challenge by suggesting that Megan kill herself, to which she replied, “For someone like you I would.” And then she did. Her mother and father found her hanging in her closet a few minutes later.

The horror of this situation took me aback. At the time of the article, I was not yet participating on social media and was hardly aware of it, although I knew my two sons did on occasion use Facebook. (It had never occurred to me to monitor their use!) Though horrified, I was also intrigued by the power of this medium, and how it might obscure and complicate relationships. That we might not know who we are actually “speaking” with. Worse yet, that we, as parents, might not know who our children are communicating with, and that those people on the other end of a photo and name might become a menace or actually have predatory intentions.

Another aspect immediately took hold of me too: the idea of incorporating social media into a novel and including a character in the story who might pose as someone else on Facebook. Lori Drew repulsed and fascinated me. How could a mother do something like what she’d done to Megan, a vulnerable and insecure girl only weeks shy of her 14th birthday? And so, slowly, over a period of nearly three years, characters began to emerge in my mind, as did plot and storyline. The novel I planned to write would not be based on Megan’s story, but rather was inspired by it.

Saving Phoebe Murrow revolves around two families, in particular two women and their 13-year-old daughters who are best friends, and all the missteps that ensue, which ultimately leads to a cyber-bullying incident that brings Phoebe to the brink of suicide. Phoebe’s father also plays a key role. He has philandered before and though Isabel forgave him for the lapse she promised herself “never again” and that “actions have consequences.” In the opening pages, we learn that she has a nagging feeling he is behaving the way he had during that previous infidelity.

Once I began to write, the story flowed and I finished the first draft in nine months, the length of a pregnancy. Then I took a couple of more years to revise. I had writer friends read it, and also hired a series of editors to work with me on it. Finally, in 2015, it sold to both a US independent press, Upper Hand Press, and a UK press, Bonnier-Zaffre.

This is the one-year anniversary of the novel, which won the New Apple Award for best general fiction in 2016. Recently, the audiobook was released and is available on Amazon In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month (October in the US), Upper Hand Press and I have reduced the ebook price of the novel to $.99 for two weeks, beginning October 30th. (Thank you for spreading the word to friends who might be interested!)

The novel has stimulated much discussion about social media and cyber-bullying.  Many of my readers and audiences ask me questions about online safety and what parents need to do to protect their children when using social media. As a result, I’ve been interviewed on radio and TV and written articles and online pieces on that issue. Here is a link to one such recent piece: Earlier in the year I wrote a lengthier piece for Juno, a UK magazine on family life. My article, “Cyberbullying,” appeared in their Early Spring 2017 issue. For additional information about bullying prevention, here are two key websites: and

Finally, the novel has stimulated much conversation among women’s book groups, and I have either attended or Skyped with quite a few to participate in their discussions.

Please feel free to contact me through my website,

About the Book:

A story about the timeless struggle between mothers and their teen daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist. This heart-wrenching, harrowing debut novel for fans of Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty) and Reconstructing Amelia (Kimberly McCreight) will make you question what's needed to keep your children from harm. 

Phoebe's mother, Isabel, is precariously balancing her career and her family. Hard-working and caring, worried but supportive, all Isabel wants, in a world of bullies and temptations, is to keep her daughter Phoebe safe. With her busy schedule, though, she fails to recognize another mother's mounting fury and the danger Phoebe faces by flirting with a mysterious boy on Facebook. A cyber-bullying episode aimed at Phoebe pushes her to the edge with horrific consequences. In her search for justice, Isabel, a DC lawyer, sets out to find the culprit behind this cruel incident. 
Saving Phoebe Murrow, set amidst the complicated web of adolescent relationships, tells a story of miscommunication and malice, drugs and Facebook, prejudice and revenge.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

**American Wolf is now available! (as of 10/17/2017)**

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee. Crown Publishing, 2017. Ebook. 320 pages. 

Wolves are truly amazing animals. I have grown up in a household that has taught me to love and appreciate wolves, largely because my mom is a huge wolf fan and therefore I am now also a fan of wolves. Thus, when I saw a book on NetGalley that boasted to tell "the enthralling story of the rise and reign of O-Six, the celebrated Yellowstone wolf, and the people who loved or feared her," I knew I had to pick it up--and I'm so glad I did!

American Wolf is an in depth telling of one of the most famous wolves of Yellowstone, referred to as O-Six, and how she survived despite many odds being stacked against her. Along with this story, however, Blakeslee also includes immense background detail on the other wolves released and raised in Yellowstone, the conflicts between hunters, wolves, and livestock, and the many wolf watchers that took part in observing O-Six's life-- along with many other wolves. 

Blakeslee tells the story of O-Six in an incredibly compelling manner that at times feels more like I'm reading a fiction story about wolves than I am reading a nonfiction account of the lives of various wolves. It is apparent that Blakeslee has done much research for this book and he takes great care to provide detailed and illuminating information on this subject. 

I was particularly fascinated when reading about the different behaviours displayed by O-Six and many others. I knew a somewhat decent bit about wolves coming into this, but there is so much more to learn about them. The way the packs function and how new packs are formed or destroyed is really rather remarkable. They are such fascinating animals with such distinct and familiar traits that sometimes it seemed as if I was just reading about people and royal families. 

American Wolf also dives into much of the debate surrounding wolf hunting and the various political and environmental ramifications of those both for and against it, which I was pleased to see, as it helped me to better understand the entire situation. He also discusses many of the specific scientists, wolf watchers, etc. that spend so much time studying the wolves, which I also found interesting. There were a few instances in which I felt that Blakeslee went on slight tangents or just into a bit too much detail of something that wasn't quite relevant, but overall most topics seemed to fall into place with the topic of the book. 

One thing that I struggled about a bit with this book was the fact that the wolves didn't have set names, but were instead referred to by numbers or descriptions (i.e. 574, 'Shy Male,'). I understand that this is because they didn't want the wolves to seem like pets, but it just made it a bit confusing at times to recall who is who. I'm not really counting that against Blakeslee, however, because that's not really his fault, but it is something that I felt I should point out.

Overall, I've given American Wolf four stars!

You might also like:
Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey
Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Folk by Zoe Gilbert

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
Folk by Zoe Gilbert
Publication Date: February 8th, 2018
Bloomsbury UK
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

From Goodreads:

"Every year they gather, while the girls shoot their arrows and the boys hunt them out. The air is riddled with spiteful shadows - the wounds and fears and furies of a village year.

On a remote and unforgiving island lies a village unlike any other: Neverness. A girl is snatched by a water bull and dragged to its lair, a babe is born with a wing for an arm and children ask their fortunes of an oracle ox. While the villagers live out their own tales, enchantment always lurks, blighting and blessing in equal measure. 

Folk is a dark and sinuous debut circling the lives of one generation. In this world far from our time and place, the stories of the islanders interweave and overlap, their own folklore twisting fates and changing lives. 

A captivating, magical and haunting debut novel of breathtaking imagination, from the winner of the 2014 Costa Short Story Award."

I love how much folklore and stories seem to play into this--it sounds like it will be incredibly imaginative and captivating. I'm really not sure what to expect regarding the writing style or what the story itself is going to be, but I will definitely be waiting excitedly for Folk's release next year. I also think that that cover is simply gorgeous.

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Enticing Food Described in Books

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly book blog meme hosted by the lovely girls over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's top ten Tuesday theme is: yummy foods mentioned in books!
I've collected some books that I remember having at least one fantastic food description, or at least food that I personally love. I added a few quotes here and there as examples, but for some of these I couldn't pinpoint exactly where they showed up, so I've just described the goodness. 

Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome
Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King (Review)
This might be obvious,  but this book has so much food and some of it sounds incredible. I thought about including some sort of quote, but there are so many that I couldn't decide! If you want a sneak peak of some ancient food recipes, this is your book.

Okay, so there are a few that don't have much in the way of food, but most of his books feature plenty of scenes of men and women cooking food in intricate detail. Even if I don't like the dish they're making, I always want it and I am always completely enraptured in his descriptions.

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
There is very little in this world that I love more than classic fantasy inn/tavern food. Stew, bread, and ale? Hell yes, sign me up. Everything about the cliche'd, typical fare is so deliciouly fantasy and makes me just want to curl up by a fire and read my book in cold weather. There is plenty of classic fantasy fare in this book  just waiting for you to enjoy. From the beginning:
"The innkeeper appeared with five bowls of stew and two warm, round loaves of bread. He pulled more beer for Jake, Shep, and Old Cob, moving with an air of bustling efficiency."

Heartlesss by Marissa Meyer (Review)
The girl loves to bake, so of course that lends to some delicious pastries and other desserts to be described in these pages.
"The luscious lemon tarts glistened up at Catherine.... She picked through the curled, sugared lemon peels laid out on parchment and arranged them like rose blossoms on the tarts, settling each strip into the still-warm center. The aromas of sweet citrus and buttery, flaky crust curled beneath her nose." I have never wanted lemon tarts so much in my life.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente
I think all that needs to be said is done with this excerpt:
"A long table groaned with food: apple dumplings and apple tartlets and candied apples and apple chutney in big crystal bowls, huge roasted geese glistening brown and gold, giant potatoes and turnips split and steaming, rum cakes and blackberry pies, sheafs of toffee bundled together like wheat, squash soup in tureens shaped like stars, golden pancakes, slabs of gingerbread, piles of hazelnuts and walnuts, butter domes carved like pine cones, a stupendous broiled boar with a pear in his mouth and parsley in his hoofs. And pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere: orange pumpkin soup bubbling in hollowed-out gurds, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, frothy pumpkin milk, pumpkin trifles piled up with whipped cream, pumpkin-stuffed quail, and pumpkin pies of ever size cooling on the clean tablecloth" (133). I wouldn't even know what to do with all of that in front me... but I'm more than willing to find out.

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1)
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 
This is just filled with more classic fantasy fare as the characters travel through various lands and stop at different inns. 
Excerpt: "Of course, Mistress al'Vere would insist on putting a hot meal in front of him once they reached the inn. A steaming plate of her thick lamb stew, probably. And some of that bread she had been baking. And lots of hot tea" (95). Uhm, yes please?

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
I mean, what don't I want to try? Honey-cakes, cram, lembas--I want it all. They don't all necessarily sound delicious, but the nutrition benefits sound awesome. The Elvish lembas bread is described as able to stay fresh for months (imagine!) and is able to provide so much sustenance. I also wouldn't say no to trying some beverages, like the Elvish Miruvor drink. And, of course, potatoes.

Outlander (Outlander #1)
The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye  (Review)
There are actually a few moments in this book in which delicious foods--usually of the sweet variety--are mentioned, including this moment in the very first pages:
"The smell of sugar and yeast welcomed Vika even before she stepped into the pumpkin-shaped shop on the main street of their little town. She resisted the urge to burst into Cinderella Bakery—her father had labored for sixteen years to teach her how to be demure—and she slipped into the shop and took her place quietly at the end of the line of middle-aged women.
Ludmila laughed as she fetched a Borodinsky loaf, the dense Russian black bread that was Sergei’s daily staple. She wrapped the bread in brown paper, creased the corners, and tied it with cotton twine."
I just love the sound of this bakery!

A Face Like Glass
This book has Cheeses that can make you feel wonderful things and see stars, Wines that make you forget things, and many more enchanting foods. I would definitely want to be careful when eating or drinking anything from this book, but I definitely would want to try something....

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

*A Plague of Giants will be released Tuesday, October 17th!*
A Plague of Giants (Seven Kennings, #1) by Kevin Hearne. Del Rey, 2017. Hardcover. 640 pages.

I've been seeing some pretty mixed review for A Plague of Giants so far, but I'm happy to say that I loved this book. 

The premise is that of a frame story, in which there is an outer story with one main character narrating the present, and the other half of the story is told by a bard who tells his tale through the usage of a variety of different characters. The bard tells parts of his story each day by taking on the form of different characters and having them tell their story through him. I love this idea, largely because I've always been intrigued by bards and the various methods of storytelling, so I thought that this was a fantastic way to tell an epic fantasy tale.

I can't say that the story and plot itself is anything overly unheard of, but it's the details and the characters themselves that make this story stand out so much. A Plague of Giants is complex, intricate, and beautifully written. I really loved the world created in this book, even if I don't fully understand it. There is a rich array of cultures and diverse characters, which I found fascinating and also rather refreshing. 

As is the case in most books with multiple POVs, I found myself a bit uninterested in one or two them (Nel, Meara), which did make it a bit of a drag to get through. However, the rest of the narrators and story bits were deeply compelling and more than made up for the boring ones that were few and far between. I was particularly enraptured by the main character Dervan's story, Abhi's, and Gondel's. The sheer detail of each perspective gave each character such a distinct personality that I really appreciated. 

 I found myself slightly confused about a few things here and there, but for me personally that wasn't a major hindrance because, if we're being honest, it's not uncommon for me to get a bit lost or confused in epic fantasy. There's just too much going on for me to necessarily have a full grasp on everything unless I've read the book multiple times or had a chance to discuss it more at length. I also would have loved to see a map of this world. 

This is the first book I've by Hearne, so I don't know if his books are normally as witty as this particular book was, but I loved it. I chuckled at many points throughout this book, but that doesn't mean that it didn't have its more depressing or dark moments as well. This book doesn't hold back, but it also isn't unnecessarily violent or gory. It uses violence and intensity at appropriate moments and for appropriate lengths. There's no censoring or attempt to make things nicer--there are certainly some gory moments--but it doesn't overdo it or normalize it too much, which was a nice reprieve from all the grimdark I've been inhaling lately. 

Overall, I've given A Plague of Giants four-and-a-half stars! If you are a fan of epic fantasy or really wonderfully told stories with many layers, go pick this one up!

*I received an ARC of A Plague of Giants in exchange for an honest review. This had no effect on my rating of the book.*

You might also like: 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Reading Recommendations: Spooky Books for Halloween! 🎃

Reading Recommendations:
Halloween Edition! 🎃

It's that fantastic time of year when we all get to (acceptably) let out our crazy dark Halloween-crazed selves, so I'm here to provide some reading recommendations to help get you in the mood (even if you're not a huge Halloween fan!).  Also, I totally didn't plan to write this post on the special Friday the 13th, but it's perfect timing!
This year I decided to subdivide my recommendations into a few different categories, so be sure to check them out. For each book I also added a brief quote or sneak of a synopsis to give you a taste of what you can expect.
Happy Halloween to all!

Eerie Forests 🌲

And the Trees Crept InA Path Begins (The Thickety #1)Through the WoodsIn the Forest: A Novel

"Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?"

"A dark, forbidden forest. Vicious beasts. Deadly plants. An evil spellbook. Secrets. Mysteries. Witches, both good and bad . . . Welcome to the world of the Thickety."

"'It came from the woods. Most strange things do.'"

A story based on actual events, In the Forest proceeds in a rush of hair-raising episodes and asks what will become of O'Kane's unwitting victims -- a radiant young woman, her little son, and a devout and trusting priest.

A Touch of Murder 🔪

The Solitary HousePenanceStalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)
And Then There Were NoneMacbeth

"[London] is the greatest city in the world--quite possibly the greatest ever known--but on this dark early-winter day in 1850 you might be forgiven for thinking you've been transported, on a sudden, to a circle of hell even the devil has given up for lost."

"Until 2010, Japan had a fifteen-year statute of limitations on the crime of murder..." 

“I promise. I’ll be as silent as the dead.”
“Ah,” Uncle said, putting a hat on and tugging it low, “the dead speak to those who listen. Be quieter than even them.” 
“Fear is a hungry beast. The more you feed it, the more it grows.” 

"Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
One little solder boy left all alone'
He went and hanged himself

And then there were None."

“By the pricking of my thumbs, 
Something wicked this way comes.”

Haunted Houses 🏚️ 

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings, #1)House of LeavesThe Turn of the Screw

“He stepped fully into the house. The air inside was cool on his skin. He turned, expecting the front door to close on its own. But it stayed open, as it was supposed to. He shook his head, chiding himself for letting an old house spook him. He walked into the kitchen. Behind him, the front door slammed shut.” 
“He lowered his eyes to his dad's face. There was fear there. Fear. When your dad was frightened, there was something to be frightened about.” 

“Little solace comes
to those who grieve
when thoughts keep drifting
as walls keep shifting
and this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves

moments before the wind.” 

“No, no—there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see—what I don’t fear!” 

A Hint of the Fantastic 👻

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)The Apprentice WitchThe Diviners (The Diviners, #1)
Gilded Ashes (Cruel Beauty Universe, #1.5)The Graveyard Book

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
“She ate the stars and swallowed the earth, 
She is the girl with all the power.”

The Apprentice Witch by James Nichol
"Strange things are sighted in the woods, a dangerous infestation of hex creeps throughout the town, and a mysterious magical visitor arrives with his eye on her. "

The Diviners by Libba Bray
“Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on. Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells 'em off for a coupla stones.”

Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge
"Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia's father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother's approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they'll all be struck dead by the curse."

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
"“Because there are mysteries. Because there are things that people are forbidden to speak about. Because there are things they do not remember.” 

What are your favorite Halloween reads? Have you read any of these/What would you add to this list?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Traveling Thursday: A New-To-You Author You Discovered This Year - Siddhartha Mukherjee!

Featured Image -- 266


This week I'm once again participating in Book Traveling Thursday!
"Book Traveling Thursdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Catia from The Girl Who Read Too Much and Danielle's Book Blog. The idea of this group is check out the list of weekly themes for each month in this meme's Goodreads page and simply pick a book to match the theme! Once you've found a book, explore different covers of various editions for that book and make a post about it.  To find out more, you can check out our Goodreads group!

This week's theme is: "A new to you author you discovered this year." I've discovered quite a few fantastic new-to-me authors this year, but only a few of them had multiple editions, so that helped me narrow it down to:
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Cancer is a very close beast to my family, as both of my parents have battled with various forms of it, so I knew that this would be a book I needed to read one day. I ended really loving this book! Not only was it incredibly informative and interesting, but it also approaches the subject in a sincere, very personal, and very accessible manner. This is definitely a must-read! I went on to read Mukherjee's The Gene after this one and was also impressed by his voice and ability to convey such intricate subject matters in such an accessible manner. Can't wait for more from Mukherjee!

Original Cover Design:
 The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

Original hardcover edition, Scribner 2010
Other US Covers:
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer    El emperador de todos los males: Una biografía del cáncer

Left: US Trade Paperback edition
Right: Spanish Kindle edition

Favorite Covers:

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer     De keizer aller ziektes: Een biografie van kanker     Der König aller Krankheiten: Krebs - eine Biographie

Left: Original English edition
Middle: Dutch edition
Right: German edition

I really like the simplicity of most of these and how the only major imagery is the cancer symbol. I'm not sure why the Dutch decided to make the cover look aged, but I'm okay with it! It reminds me of how long a history cancer has and how it will only continue to plague us. 

Least Favorite Covers: 

إمبراطور الأمراض     L'imperatore del male. Una biografia del cancro

Left: Arabic edition
Right: Italian edition

I am really not digging the microscopic view of what I'm assuming is a cancer cell (??) in the Arabic one, and the Italian edition is just so lifeless. I like simplicity, but the crab is just so small and the text just doesn't stand out in any way. I'd definitely pass on these two. 
What do you think of these covers? Do you have a favorite? Who's a new-to-you author that you discovered this year?