Wednesday, January 28, 2015

And Our FIRST Book Club Book is...

A Song for Julia by Charles Sheehan-Miles

From the bestselling author of Just Remember to Breathe 

Everyone should have something to rebel against. 

Crank Wilson left his South Boston home at sixteen to start a punk band and burn out his rage at the world. Six years later, he's still at odds with his father, a Boston cop, and doesn't ever speak to his mother. The only relationship that really matters is with his younger brother, but watching out for Sean can be a full-time job. 

The one thing Crank wants in life is to be left the hell alone to write his music and drive his band to success. 

Julia Thompson left a secret behind in Beijing that exploded into scandal in Washington, DC, threatening her father's career and dominating her family's life. Now, in her senior year at Harvard, she's haunted by a voice from her past and refuses to ever lose control of her emotions again, especially when it comes to a guy. 

When Julia and Crank meet at an anti-war protest in Washington in the fall of 2002, the connection between them is so powerful it threatens to tear everything apart. 

Purchase now for 99 cents!!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Interview with Once Upon A Storybook owner, Susie Alexander

~An Interview with Once Upon A Storybook owner, Susie Alexander~

There is no greater joy than of a bookworm in their natural habitat. Whether you're buying a classic novel, splurging on a series you haven't even started yet, or anxiously awaiting the release of the next book in your favorite series, you're where your heart always longs to be... a bookstore.

And if you're lucky enough, you will find a local bookstore that has everything you need: a family owned name, rows and rows of endless books, book signings, that new (and old/used) book smell, generations of families gathering together to introduce the love of reading to their little ones, and everything else in the world that makes you blissful upon entering its doors.

There is nothing that makes a bookworm as happy as being in a bookstore--even if you prefer ereaders. A bookstore's magic is irresistible to anyone willing to pick up a good story and enjoy it thoroughly.

As The Literary Connoisseur, I am always more than thrilled to bring awareness to all aspects of the literary world, especially one as important as the world of independent bookstores. They truly are the heart of the literary world. Without them, we wouldn't have once-in-a-lifetime incredible book signings, authors wouldn't make nearly as many sales as they deserve, and bookworms would have no place to go to escape normalcy and read for hours on end.

Independent bookstores are the heart and soul of the literary community.

In fact, I had the honor of (virtually) sitting down with Susie Alexander, owner of Once Upon a Storybook, an independent bookstore in Tustin, California. We talked about her life as a bookshop owner, the world of independent bookstores, the trials of owning a bookstore, and more. She is the first ever bookstore owner to be interviewed by me, and I have to say, I enjoyed our wonderful chat quite a bit! 

So please enjoy this look into the wonderful world of Indie bookstores, and please welcome Ms Susie Alexander!

The Literary Connoisseur: Hello Susie, and welcome to The Literary Connoisseur! Thank you so much for stopping by and for answering some questions about your independent bookstore, Once Upon a Storybook, and your life as a bookstore owner! If you're ready, let's begin. Tell us a bit about your bookstore, Once Upon a Storybook. 

Susie Alexander: Hi Rebecca!  Once Upon a Storybook is a unique children’s bookstore that features the best in classic and contemporary literature.  We also host multiple weekly storytimes and great events for kids and families.  Besides expert advice on children’s literature, we offer darling little reading cubbies to read and play in, a train table, and complimentary gift wrap

The Literary Connoisseur: I know many bookworms would love to own their own bookstore some day. Have you always wanted to run a bookstore? Has it been a dream of yours as a literature lover?  

Susie Alexander: I have always been a booklover, especially children’s books.  I have a degree in English, and my favorite course was Children’s Literature.  When I homeschooled my kids, I always organized our lessons around literature, and I taught literature classes for other homeschooled kids (my favorite was Cinderella Stories—Cinderella stories around the world and through time).  When my most recent job in the cognitive training field was eliminated, I took some time to decide what I really wanted to do with the second half of my life.  It was my best friend who jokingly suggested “we should open a children’s bookstore together.”  At that moment, the clouds opened up and the angels sang—Yes!  Of course!  A children’s bookstore!  When I mentioned it to my husband, he said, “How do you know you want to be in retail?  We’ve never done retail.  You need to go work at Barnes & Noble to see if you like it or are any good at it.”  It was brilliant advice!  I worked at B&N for about a year and half.  During that time, I learned that the book industry really does use the vocabulary that was mentioned in the books I was reading.  I learned about retail, cash registers, managing people, customer service.  It was really a great experience in preparing me for my own store.  Over all, it was a 3-yr process, preparing to open the store.

The Literary Connoisseur: How important are independent bookstores to our society?  

Susie Alexander: Having worked at a megabookstore, I can tell you that there is something unique about the independent bookstore movement.  There are many places you can buy books, from B&N to Costco to Amazon, but I have seen that although reading is usually a solitary activity, books are a social one.  When people walk into my store, they want to talk about books; they want to express the memories they have with specific books they grew up with; they want to ask questions about subject matter, authors, new titles.  Bookstores are a gathering place—often moms will run into other moms they know at my store—or they will use my store as a place to meet up with friends.  One of the things I have said about Once Upon a Storybook is that I want it to be a place where kids grow up.  I want the events, activities, and the books themselves to be a part of their childhoods.  Before I opened the store, I had read a lot about how independent bookstores were a social hub in many communities, and now I see that it is true. 

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you have an opinion on whether ebooks are harming or helping bookstores (with actual paper books) around the world? 

Susie Alexander: Digital devices and ebooks are here to stay.  I think we are wasting our energy if we try to combat them.  What independent bookstores need to do is show their value to the community.  What do we at bookstores do with our paper books that is different than can be done with an ebook?  In the children’s book world, it is much easier to show the difference—most people don’t care to read a book aloud to a child on a device.  It’s just not the same as turning the pages and having that real experience.  We also connect books and activities as much as we can. 

The Literary Connoisseur: What variety of books do you carry? 

Susie Alexander: We carry books for birth to age 14, so we’ve got a healthy section of board books, picture books, leveled readers, early chapter books, chapter books, and activity books.  Plus, it is really important to me to carry a variety of interesting nonfiction, so we have a lot of biography, history, science, and spiritual books.  The adult books we carry center on parenting, childbirth, and education.

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you carry other products in your store besides books? 

Susie Alexander: Everything in our store is either a book or directly related to a book.  We have a number of plush characters that pair up with books, like Olivia, Llama Llama, and Pete the Cat; and we have some Wimpy Kid writing supplies.  We have a great selection of literary t-shirts that I adore!  Everything from Very Hungry Caterpillar to Pride & Prejudice.

The Literary Connoisseur: What sort of programs and events does your store provide for its community? (Story times, educational events, etc.) 

Susie Alexander: We have two weekly (identical) preschool storytimes, plus a Milk & Cookies Storytime (we all wear our jammies—even me!) weekly in the evenings.  We have a monthly chapter readers book club and monthly writer’s workshop.  Our favorite event of the month is Paws & Pals.  The third Friday of each month the Orange County SPCA brings their therapy dogs, and each kid get 15-minutes to read aloud to a dog.  It is the sweetest thing you have ever seen!  Sometimes the moms tear up.  I had one mom say she had never seen her son read with confidence until he read to the dogs.  A number of other moms say it’s the best reading their kids do all week.  It’s a free program, and I am so honored that the SPCA has volunteered to bring this to us every month.

The Literary Connoisseur: Is there an author you would most like to see make an appearance at Once Upon a Storybook? An author you'd love to meet, perhaps? 

Susie Alexander: I recently spoke to John Archambault (of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom  fame) on the phone—I couldn’t stop giggling.  I finally said, “You’re the most famous person I’ve ever talked to!”  I also went a little crazy when Lori Evert (from The Christmas Wish) liked our Facebook page.  But I think the day that Jon Klassen or Mac Barnett comes to my store, you’ll have to mop me up off the floor!  I do get excited about all of our author visits—it’s such an honor that they take the time to come here and read to our kids.  Picture books are really my favorite, so those author/illustrators are my literary heroes.

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you have any exciting events coming up that you would like to share with the world? (And future shoppers of Once Upon a Storybook?)  

Susie Alexander: Ooh, thank you!  We are hosting an author signing by a self-published author with one of the best picture books I have ever seen (and, like I said, that is my specialty, so I don’t say that lightly)—Kip Noschese.  He is a former Disney animator who has written and illustrated a fabulous story, Otto and the Grand Prix Bees.  Also, like I mentioned, John Archambault is coming in March to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!  Apparently, he does a whole little show—he plays the guitar and sings.  I can’t wait!  Also, my favorite upcoming non-author event is our Caldecott Soiree that we are having the Saturday after the Caldecott is announced.  We will have a red carpet and will award ribbons to the Caldecott Honors and a trophy to the Caldecott Award winner, and, of course, we will read them all. 

The Literary Connoisseur: What has been your favorite thing about owning a bookstore so far? 

Susie Alexander: That’s easy (although there are MANY wonderful things!).  There is nothing like putting the perfect book in the hands of a grandma, mom, or kid!  When you recommend a book, and they buy it, and you know they are going to love it, it is the greatest feeling in the world!  I don’t think I will ever get over it!

11. The Literary Connoisseur: Where would you like to see yourself, Once Upon a Storybook, and the independent bookstores around the world in ten years?

Susie Alexander: That’s a big question.  Certainly, I realistically think independent bookstores will continue to grow around the country, as the larger bookstores level off.  Thanks to American Express and the Shop Small movement, awareness is growing for the importance of shopping local.  For us, personally, I would like to be known as a fixture in our community, a resource for parents and educators, and that we would grow in our expertise about literature so that we can be a resource for other independent bookstores in the country.  But, first, I’d like to just make our budget ;-)

The Literary Connoisseur: What is one thing you would like to share with the world, that not everyone would know about being a bookstore owner? 

Susie Alexander: My husband tried to warn me, and he was absolutely right—Being a bookstore owner means that you spend much less time doing the parts you love (being with the customers, running the activities) and much more doing the hard stuff—writing budgets, communicating with vendors, researching new ways to market.  I am surprised how much time I spend each day in my office!  But when you have awesome people work with you, it helps.

The Literary Connoisseur: Again, thank you so much for stopping by and answering some questions about your store, Susie! I'm sure we're all excited to come in for a shopping spree! 

To learn more about Once Upon a Storybook, be sure to check out their website here!

Like their Facebook page here!

And call them for store hours, events, and more at (714) 669-4377

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Thopmson Sisters and Rachel's Peril Series by Charles Sheehan-Miles

"Everything I've ever believed is upside down."

  When I first launched The Literary Connoisseur, fresh out of the box, I was already a fan of Charles Sheehan-Miles' work. I had already fallen in love with Just Remember to Breathe, his Thompson Sisters novel about Alex and Dylan, and I was hooked for good.
  I quickly dove into A Song for Julia and The Last Hour (which I still haven't forgiven Charles for), and loved them just as much, or even more so than Just Remember to Breathe. In fact, The Last Hour made its way up my favorite books ever read list, even though it tore me apart emotionally, physically, and mentally. But aren't the best books like that? It takes a pretty amazing author to get such a reaction from their readers, doesn't it? It takes real writing talent. Charles has it. Charles has IT. 
  When I heard that he was expanding the world of the Thompson Sisters, and adding Girl of Lies to his life-changing books quota, I was thrilled.
  I was excited, I was nervous, I was anxious, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.
  Of course Girl of Lies was incredible. Would I expect any less from one of my all-time favorite authors ever to publish a book?
  No? That's what I thought.
  Now, I don't normally do this with books, but once Girl of Rage came out (the second Rachel's Peril book, the Thompson Sisters/Rachel's Peril book you must read 5th), I didn't read it right away. As much as I wanted to put down the book I was currently reading to devour it, I was diligent.
  I was going to wait until Girl of Vengeance came out, so I could seriously ignore everyone around me and binge-read the Charles Sheehan-Miles books I had not yet torn apart and put blood, sweat, and tears into reading.
  I waited, and boy was it well worth it.
  You are lucky, because you don't have to wait! It was torture. Honestly, torture.
  But it was well worth it, I tell you.
  I cannot even begin to tell you how I felt when I realized I was done with the Rachel's Peril series. It felt like someone had taken a chunk out of my heart, and the only way to get it back was to reread Charles' books. His books will stick with you forever and ever.
  I once said in a review for Lindy Zart's Unlit Star that her book wasn't a favorite review request or Indie book of mine, it was a favorite book of mine altogether in the world of literature.
  Charles' books are the exact same way. His Thompson Sisters series and his Rachel's Peril series raised the bar, and bumped their way up to one of my favorite series ever. They're up there with books I've fallen in love with over the years. Charles' books are ready to be read by billions of readers across the world and land themselves on the New York Times Bestselling list.
  They're that exceptional.
  I feel as if it is my duty to personally recommend this series to anyone and everyone looking for a read to captivate them until the very last page. And then some, because I'm still hooked on the series even though I've "technically" finished them.
  Seriously. I know I rave about a lot of books (because, well, it's in my nature), but you SERIOUSLY need to read these six books. (And the novella, Falling Stars. But I'll get to that later.)
  Charles' books are amazing, and he is one of the sweetest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. He's an angel, and his genuine nature is reflected in his work.
  I am in love with Charles Sheehan-Miles' work. I will read anything and everything he writes, period. His writing is pure poetry and beauty in the most stunning of ways. His story is original, and his backstory is irresistible; I've never read anything like it before in my life. His characters are so real, you feel pain when they feel pain, you cry when they cry, and they're so realistic, they are moments away from coming through the page.
  I don't know why these books aren't more popular, but believe me, I will continue to be stubborn and headstrong until the world knows Charles' name and the stories he writes.
  These books are amazing. I wish I could read them again for the first time. If you can do that now, consider yourself a lucky duck and do it. You won't regret it.
  (Warning: Time spent binge-reading this series will take away from social life, cooking, cleaning, and every day normal schedules.)

Read the Series in Order:

Or buy the boxed sets...

About Charles

Charles Sheehan-Miles has been a soldier, computer programmer, short-order cook and non-profit executive, and is the author of more than a dozen fiction and non-fiction books, including the indie bestsellers Just Remember to Breathe and Republic: A Novel of America’s Future. He is a member of The Authors Guild and the Association of Independent Authors.
Charles and his partner Andrea Randall live and write together in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

And the Book I'm Recommending to Everyone is...

Just Remember to Breathe by Charles Sheehan-Miles

When I first started blogging, Charles' books were suggested to me with extremely high praise. I had Amazon ship my paper copy of Just Remember to Breathe to me in two days, and sunk my teeth into its story.

Oh my gosh.

This book has everything. Romance, emotional highs and lows, war, intrigue, politics, and everything else that makes this book irresistible for literally everyone.

I thought this book was amazing, but as I read on, Charles' books hooked me even more. (I type this after just finishing his latest book, Girl of Vengeance, and I'm still hungover from my reading-binge. I find there is no tonic.)

When starting Charles Sheehan-Miles' Thompson Sisters series, you will fall head-over-heels in love with his writing, you will cry when his characters cry, you'll clench your fists in anger when something keeps your favorite characters apart, and you will feel an empty spot in your heart when it's all over.

I know I did.

Book                               ebook

Monday, January 12, 2015

No Grits No Glory by Elaine Calloway

  Brianna and Steven have both lost loved ones. Brianna, her brother, and Steven...his entire family.
  Brianna decides to leave her home of Boston, Massachusetts and makes a life-changing move to the south in Savannah, Georgia, her late brother's favorite place to be.
  But Brianna gets more than what she bargains for when she moves into her new house. She now has some very odd roommates bunking with her (and judging her cooking)... Ghosts. Steven's family, to be exact. Not exactly the best situation to be in when you can communicate with the dead!
  The oldest city in Georgia, and one of the most haunted cities on earth will bring Brianna and Steven together as they join forces to solve a murder, make amends with problems that once tore a family apart, and perhaps cook up a decent serving of cheese grits.
   No Grits No Glory was positively adorable! It was humorous, Brianna was extremely normal (the kind of character every reader- man and woman- can relate to), it had a dash of romance, but not enough to make you sick, and it had just enough emotion in it to make my eyes leak without my permission.
  This book reminds me a lot of a spin-off from some of my favorite books, the Stephanie Plum series. This is the kind of book you want to read on vacation, with a frou-frou drink by your side, as you watch waves ebb and flow.
  This is an ultimate feel-good book, with some added depth and heavy emotion.
  I also found Elaine Calloway's writing very enjoyable and easy to sink into, a trait I find very admirable. I absolutely will read more of her work, and when the time comes (please let it be soon), more Southern Ghost Series books.
  (Side note: I have a bone to pick with Ms Calloway...ever since I started No Grits No Glory, I have had a SERIOUS craving for grits! I blame you for my addiction. *wink*)

Book                                ebook

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Gemini by Wes McCloud

  Gemini is the second book I have read by Mr McCloud, and if I didn't know any better, I'd say it's my favorite of his and will continue to be no matter how many of his books I read. (Although, I won't put it past him to write even more amazing plots.)
  Gemini was...amazing. Gemini is the very epitome of an unpolished gemstone. Like a diamond, all it needs is some investment, some tender loving care, some polish and cutting, and you have yourself a New York Times Bestseller.
  Gemini's plot is absolutely flawless. I found myself falling into loopholes, getting blindsided by plot twists and turns, and getting slapped in the face with sudden realizations so much that I felt as if I were actually in Wes' book.
  While moving across the country this past month, I didn't have very much time for reading, but thankfully I had Wes McCloud's Gemini to keep me company and to leave me breathless. This book is wonderful.
  When Samantha Paige comes across a mysterious book and a mysterious man on the very edge of her 20th birthday, her life takes a turn for the worst, quicker than anyone can say "Happy Birthday." The book mystifies Sam and captivates her very being, but she knows deep down that there's something very wrong with it...and the mysterious man that's hunting her and the book.
  Sam brushes away her instincts and follows her recklessness in opening said book and unleashes a world of terror.
  Demons, mountain movers, and the like start to terrorize her town and demolish the only world she's ever known...but only she, and she alone, can put it back to the way it was supposed to be.
  Of course that's a fabulous plot! Amazing enough to draw readers in, but what they don't expect is a story and backstory beyond their imagination. I don't know what I was expecting when I picked up Gemini, perhaps a book I only would come to like, but when I read it, it exceeded my expectations and left me at a loss for words.
  Apologies to Mr McCloud who had to deal with my "Oh my God"s as soon as I finished his book, but what does he expect? It was amazing, and he should know what kind of remarkable stories he's writing.
  As I said, Gemini will need a bit of cutting and polishing (gemstone mining speak). But Gemini is a book I could easily see sitting beside some of my favorites at the chain bookstore on the New York Times Bestselling shelf.
  Wes McCloud knows that I will most certainly read more of his work (and soon, I'll add), but I'm saying this's going to be difficult to beat Newt and Neembo.

Book                                ebook