Friday, September 27, 2013

Blog Tour: Sea Queen's Daughter by Ellis Drake

Today I'm excited to have a great up new author on my blog, Ellis Drake.  In the last year I've had the chance to read four other novellas by Ellis and really enjoyed the range of mysteries and stories that she's written.  In her newest, The Sea Queen's Daughter, she takes on a great adaptation of the fairytale of The Little Mermaid.

Here's a short summary of the tale:  On a barge anchored in the middle of the Adriatic, Marco Lorendan meets a mysterious and beautiful woman. His fascination for her is sealed when she saves him from drowning and then disappears into the sea. Is she dead, or simply lost? Marco is determined to find out.

Living beneath the waters of the lagoon, Serena can change into whatever form she chooses, but cannot change her fate: to die in an ancient ritual that goes back to the founding of Venice. Serena wants to live in the human world with Marco, but will she save herself if it means the destruction of Venice?

Here is my Q&A with Ellis today here at One Literature Nut:

I know that Venice is famous for its glass work.  Since you had Serena craft her mask into this masterful glass piece, first, did you do that on purpose?  Also, being the artist that you are, were you picturing anything in particular with it?

In the opening scene, I wanted everything about Serena to be strange and magical, so naturally the mask she wore had to be of a unique, fanciful material. Glass was an obvious choice because of its associations with Venice and because glass masks didn't exist—they would be too heavy to wear all the time. Most masks were made of paper and were very light, because you literally could not go out in public without a mask during Carnevale, which by the 18th century went on for six months out of the year. So the more common masks like the bauta had to be comfortable, relatively cheap, and disposable. Of course, Serena's supernatural so she doesn't have a problem with wearing an impractical glass mask.

As for what the mask looked like, I vaguely modeled it off an Ancient Mesopotamian statue that some scholars believe represents the Sumerian moon goddess, Inanna.

Is the legend behind this story an actual legend? I'm just curious where it came from.

The legend about the founding of Venice and the reason behind the Doge's annual Marriage of the Sea is something I made up so I could include the Ascension Day ceremony in the story. In actuality, the Marriage of the Sea started as a celebration of a military victory—or so they say.

Are you planning to set another story in Venice?

You never know! I'd love to write about Giacomo Casanova, one of the most fascinating people in history. Venice has such a rich culture and complex history that the possibilities for stories set there are endless.

Thank you so much to Ellis for dropping in today!  Please check out The Sea Queen's Daughter and drop by her site at to learn about her other novellas and writing. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Banned & Challenged Book Week 2013

Each year the ALA (American Library Association) hosts the Banned and Challenged Book Week to highlight awareness about the freedom to read.  As an avid reader and educator, I've always been aware of good books and who was able to read them and who was not allowed to read them, for one reason or another.  Reading books seems like such a simple thing in some ways, but talk about bravery on their part to keep talking about it!

I wanted to make sure I posted a little something at the beginning of this week, so here is my nod to Banned Book Week.  This could be a huge discussion, but let me just say that I appreciate their hard work to continue the conversation about books being banned and challenged across the country--and globe, for that matter.  I think that they help us to remember how one person's offense is another person's lived experience and/or life-changer.

Here is a great presentation to flip through with information about Banned & Challenged Book Week.

Also, here is the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books of the Last Decade

Here is a list of the Top Challenged Books from 2012.


Out of 464 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom
  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

Have you read any of the books listed above, or will you read any of the books listed on any of the "banned/challenged" lists?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blog Tour Stop & Giveaway: Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson

I know I've been a bit silent around here on my blog (all work related), but I have read some mighty AMAZING books lately that I can't wait to share.  Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson came out on September 10th and was one of those books that I have been passing around to friends and neighbors, and just about anyone who I can get to listen!

Today I'm excited to be the next stop on a Blog Tour for Julianne's newest book Blackmoore, and I really can't say enough about it, so let's get to it.

About Blackmoore"Kate Worthington knows she can never have her heart’s desire and so believes she will never marry. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore on the cliffs above the seashore, where she must face the truth and the man that has kept her heart captive.

Set in northern England, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn to follow her heart. With hints of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Blackmoore is a page-turning tale of romance, intrigue and devotion."

Review:  Here is a book that is so good that it makes writing the review almost too hard to write. Do I need to pull out an old fashioned ink and quill to do this time period novel its due credit?    In some ways, there is nothing short of a good old fashion I loved it that will work.  Julianne Donaldson has written a heart-rending romance that cannot be called sweet, and yet it is sweet; it cannot be called tragic, and yet it can be tragic; it cannot be called gut-wrenching, and yet it is gut-wrenching; and it surely cannot be called tear-jerking can it, and yet I definitely spilled many a tear reading this tear-jerking romance.  It was that good.

What can I say about this glorious novel?  Written with an Austen-esque/Bronte feel to it, Donaldson has captured all that is dark, brooding, and lovely about a Regency and Romantic period novel--and some that you didn't know that you missed.  Kate Worthington, as our main heroine, has sworn off marriage and has looked to India as the next frontier for adventure.  But as any reader knows, young ladies are expected to marry, and marry young and well.  Thankfully her dear friend Henry Delafield, the next in line to own Blackmoore, has grown up with Kate and knows her heart and her deepest desires.  Surely this "adventure" to India is misguided?  Although he is returning to Blackmoore to get engaged to his own fine young lady, he has invited Kate back to visit Blackmoore with him and his sister, hoping to uncover what might be behind her plans.

The novel, from beginning to end, is nothing short of a complete joy to read.  There are moments you think you know what is going to happen, and moments you know so until things change.  Regardless, I found myself shedding tears and loving these characters so thoroughly that I kept flipping pages back to the beginning to remind myself of things they had said in previous conversations.  On the whole, this novel was a pure delight to read and one that I felt sad to conclude.  It was one of those books that I almost wish I could unread, just so I could have the experience of reading again!

Giveaway Details!  Now, if YOU would like a chance to win one copy of this great read from the publisher, here's what you need to do.  First, go to facebook and "Like" Julianne Donaldson's facebook page:  Second, just leave me a friendly hello below w/ your name and email address so I can contact you if you win!  The giveaway will run through 9/25.  I will email the lucky winner personally.  (Sorry, this giveaway is U.S. & Canada only.)

Author Details:  Julianne Donaldson grew up as the daughter of a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. She learned how to ski in the Italian Alps, visited East Berlin before the wall came down, and spent three years living next to a 500-year-old castle. After earning a degree in English, she turned her attention to writing about distant times and places. She lives in Utah with her husband and four children.

Thank you so much to Shadow Mountain and Julianne Donaldson for the opportunity to review Blackmoore.  To check out other reviews, giveaways, and stops on the tour, visit the Blackmoore Blog Tour site at Shadow Mountain's site.