Friday, December 26, 2014

Review: The Christmas Dolls by Carol Beach York

Carol Beach York. Scholastic: New York. 1967. 96 pp.
Rating: Striking + 5 Scoops

Book Blurb: Florabelle is an old rag doll without shoes. Lily doesn't have any shoes either, and her head is on backward. A little girl, who can talk to dolls, sets out on a dark, snowy night to find a way to make them beautiful again. 

Like any child, I looked forward to the Fall/Winter holiday season. For me it signified big family dinners, approaching birthdays for my siblings and I, colorful lights, homemade decorations, presents, and Claymation cartoons. More than anything else, it signaled time to snuggle up with my two favorite Christmas stories, The Christmas Dolls and The Nutcracker

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason

Bobbie Ann Mason. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005 (originally published 1985). 246 pp.
Rating: Decent + 5 Scoops

"My mother never told me much about him, what he was like or what his favorite food were or anything. I don't even know how tall he was or what kind of personality he had. He's just a face in a picture, but now I'm getting real curious." (64) 

To eighteen year-old Samantha Hughes, the Vietnam War is everywhere, but nowhere. Surrounded by her Uncle Emmett and his war buddies and with the blood of a Vietnam soldier running through her veins, Sam is on a mission to piece together the Vietnam War. Devouring every book, newspaper article, video report, and personal story she encounters, Sam attempts to reconstruct the life of a Vietnam soldier traipsing through the dense jungles of Vietnam. Although she's searching for answers to understand her Uncle Emmett's behavior, she hopes to learn about the father she never knew, and in the process find herself.  However, the road to truth means making peace with the past.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Are You Rich?

Though it's been almost a whole entire 365 days, literally, since the incident, the memory still haunts me. Oh, the shame, the shame. Last Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2013, I missed an opportune teachable moment.

Back in 2011, I purchased my youngest sister's children their first journals. At that time, my nephew was 7 and my nieces were 5, 5, and 3. As I explained to them the many uses of a journal (creating lists, drawing, writing about their day or their feelings, etc.) my nephew, in all of his seven-year old wisdom, proudly proclaimed, "You write secrets in your diary." Then Amia, one of the twins, turned to me and said "Stephanie, let me see your secrets," rendering me momentarily speechless."

Friday, November 14, 2014

Top 10 Books For Reluctant MG And YA Readers by F.T. Bradley

Originally posted on Nerdy Book Club. Another great top 10 list!

Top 10 Books For Reluctant MG And YA Readers by F.T. Bradley

When I set out to write the Double Vision trilogy, I wasn't all that knowledgeable on reluctant readers, what books appealed to them, and why. All I wanted to do was write a fun, fast-paced thriller. The kind of book I would like to read if I was still twelve (okay, if we're honest: the kind of book I still like to read...)

But when I found myself the parent of a very reluctant tween reader, I got serious about understanding what makes kids turn away from books. More importantly: I wanted to figure out how to get those kids to pick up a book again. For fun.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Review: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2013. Ebook. 
Rating: Decent

Goodreads Summary: Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Forbidden Book Trailer

Being the historical fiction lover that I am, I knew that I had to get my hands on Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little, when I first heard about it four months ago. Not only is the book trailer beautiful, but it also contains "betrothed" one of my favorite words. (-:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Black and White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Conner by Larry Dane Brimner

Larry Dane Brimner. Honesdale: Calkins Creek, 2011. 114 pp.
Rating: Striking + 5 Scoops

The March on Birmingham evokes images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading thousands of people through the streets of a 1960's Birmingham, Alabama. Huge dogs barely contained by the law enforcement officials to whom they are entrusted. Fire hoses drawn, aimed, and shotfiring torrents of throbbing, rushing water into the crowd hurtling protesters several feet through the air, and chaos run amuck. Seldom, if ever, does Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth spring to mind. Though I grew up in the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, Montgomery, Alabama, before reading Black & White, I had never heard of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. Like many of you, I depended on the public school system to teach me all I needed to know of the the Civil Rights Movement and its leaders. However, had it not been for Fred Shuttlesworth, desegregation in Birmingham may have been months or even years away.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: Firstborn by Lorrie Ann Glover

Lorie Ann Glover. Grand Rapids: Blink, 2014. 292 pp.
Rating: Worthy

During the time of invaded lands where the fierce desert cat prowled and the rapion dwelled, a society of people as their ancestors before them. Forced under Madronian rule, the R'tans quash their faith in the Creator Spirit to survive. According to Madronian belief, the firstborn child, no matter the number of offspring birthed, possesses the greatest strength; which can only come by way of a man child. Those firstborn not of the male gender are left to die outside the village walls, but there is an alternative to lifeassume a male identity and forever forsake a womanly existence.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My Goodbye—A Call to Action

Today, we laid to rest Nizzear Rodriguez, a young life gone too soon. A life taken by individuals not much older than his own. Upon watching the funeral procession drive away from the church to the burial site, I shift from consciously knowing that Nizzear is no longer here to acceptance and then belief. Today, 6 September 2014, Nizzear's death is real to me. Though his death didn't garner national headlines as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Jonathan Ferrell, or Trayvon Martin, it did wake up our sleeping little town and for that I am forever grateful. An act of senseless violence took him from his family, friends, teachers, coaches, those whose lives he touched, those lives he had yet to touch, and all those that loved him. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson

J.C. Carleson. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014. Ebook.
Rating: OMG

Complimentary e-galley provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


"My brother is the King of Nowhere. 
    This fact doesn't matter to anyone except my family--a rapidly shrinking circle of people who Used to Be."

Whoa! One word...hooked. From the first sentence, I knew this story was going to take me for a ride. On the heels of completing Finding the Dragon Lady, I began The Tyrant's Daughter.* Though both stories are different, they are yet the same—inextricably linked by an unbreakable bond created by the United States government's interference in their country's dynamic; thus, changing their lives forever. Instead of the bygone era of Indochina, I am transported to a small, present-day Middle Eastern country torn apart by civil war.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review: Merlin's Shadow (The Merlin Spiral #2) by Robert Treskillard

Robert Treskillard. Grand Rapids: Blink, 2013. 430 pp.
Rating: Striking

Forged in the fires of Britain, with the sword crafted by his dying father, Merlin impales the Druid Stone thwarting Morganthau's devious scheme to usurp King Uther and redistribute power to the Druidow. Destruction of the Stone forces the evil within to beckon another mortal vessel to its bidding. Feeding on hate, weaknesses, and selfish desires, the alluring power calls to the darkness of the soul. Sorrow-laden by her parent's death, plus the loss of the only home she has ever known, rage-driven Ganieda fights the pull of the darkness, but inevitably succumbs to the enchanting "Voice."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday: What Books Are Talking to You?

Pick of the Week

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom-- "My father's wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us," begins this historical fiction tale of 1940s America.

What books are talking to you this week?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

Erin Lindsay McCabe. New York: Crown Publishers, 2014. 304 pp.
Rating: Striking + 5 Scoops

In an era devoid of modern day technology, you are newly married and a war is raging. The trickle flow of information sets all on edge. Hoping for news from loved ones, each mail delivery breeds both fear and anticipation.

Spirited, hand-on-hip Rosetta Edwards refuses to become a spinster. Persuading her sweetheart, Jeremiah Wakefield, to marry her before he joins the Army, Rosetta enjoys two weeks of marital bliss. Unable to bear a year without Jeremiah, Rosetta secretly follows him; temporarily shedding her identity for that of Private Joss Stone, soldier of Company H of the Ninety-Seventh Volunteers. Recovering from the shock of Rosetta’s audacious presence, Jeremiah, failing to convince Rosetta to return home allows her to stay. What follows is a poignant story of love, friendship, and war. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday: What Books Are Talking to You?

Pick of the Week

NIL by Lynne Matson-Charley has exactly 365 days to escape the mysterious island of Nil. Will she survive?

What books are talking to you this week?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu by Monique Brinson

Monique Brinson Demery. New York: PublicAffairs, 2013. 280 pp.
Rating: Striking

"Vietnam wasn’t a country; it was a cacophony of thumping helicopter blades, flaming thatched huts, and napalmed jungles." (3)

In the vein of Truman Capote, Demery humanizes the often demonized First Lady of Vietnam, Madame Nhu. As the second daughter in a society where sons are esteemed, Tran Thi Le Xuan held the lowest status in her family. Her fortuitous fate as foretold by the family astrologer failed to garner the slightest attention. She was expected to live as the thousands of women before her—a life of domestic simplicity. Yet, her life changed dramatically upon marrying Ngo Digh Nhu. Gradually drawn into the very political intrigues she sought to escape upon marriage, Madame Nhu soon catapulted into the limelight of the Diem regime. Thrust into exile after the assassination of her husband and brother-in-law, Madame Nhu never again set foot in her beloved Vietnam.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Battling Disappointment

A couple of years back, I stopped at a small nonprofit to drop off an in-kind donation. While writing out my receipt, the Office Manager gave me a brief overview of the organization and its services. Further disclosing that their grant had been cut and the organization was in dire need of funds. As a result, the majority of the staff had been laid off leaving behind the CEO, a college intern, and himself, to work without monetary compensation.  Notwithstanding the lack of funds, by using in-kind donations the organization created a small store selling gently-used clothing, household items, and other knick-knacks to the surrounding low-income community. Charging no more than $2.00 for any item, the store provided a means to pay operational costs.  During my seventy-five minute drive home, it struck me to reproduce the nonprofit's donation model to generate funds for Cultivating You, Inc., my start-up nonprofit.

Two years and thirty donation boxes later, the appointed time drew near. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review: Rush (The Game #1) by Eve Silver

Eve Silver. New York: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2013. Ebook.
Rating: Worthy + 5 Scoops
Gaming: Is it innocent fun or possible death?

Miki is one of many teenagers snatched unwillingly and drafted unknowingly into a war against the Drau. In a burst of light, these monstrous metallic-eyed beasts attack. With one look into their eyes, the extraterritorial beings kill...draining all life out of the body. Lacking a reset, revive, or multi-lives button, the outcome is detrimental to survival. For the actions in the game aren't sequestered in that realm alone,but transcends to the parallel dimension as well. Receiving a skimpy instruction crash course, Miki must play, ready or not.   

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds. New York: Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014. 240 pp.
Rating: OMG
Rarely, do I come across a young adult novel to which I greatly identify. A novel that speaks of some of my childhood experiences while uttering the words of my friends, schoolmates, and family.  A story that opens with one of those out-of-left field questions that I was famous for asking.

Ali lives by one word—loyalty. This sixteen-year old latchkey kid is fiercely loyal to his family and friends. Shying away from the trouble in his neighborhood, Ali spends his time boxing, watching his little sister, hanging out with Noodles and Needles, but mainly bailing Noodles out of his messes. Although Ali is usually the level-headed one of the group, he pushes for them to attend a party catering to an older crowd. However, the good time brought with it tragic consequences.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday: What Books Are Talking to You?

Pick of the Week

Firstborn by Lorie Ann Grover--I cannot wait to begin this compelling story tackling gendercide.
Copy compliments of the Firstborn Book Launch Party

What books are talking to you this week?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: So, You Want to Work in Sports? The Ultimate Guide to Exploring the Sports Industry (Be What You Want) by Joanne Mattern

Joanne Mattern. New York: Aladdin/Oregon: Beyond Words, 2014. 224 pp.
Rating: Worthy

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" is probably the most common question children are asked. How many times growing up were you asked that question? However, during the course of childhood, the answer changes with each passing day. While there are kids who choose a profession at an early age, the majority of youth are indecisive and switch industries frequently. Although I bounced between two career choices, my younger sister considered a variety of careers. She aspired to be a professional tennis player, model, doctor, and dental hygienist before settling on nursing. The Be What You Want Series provides a gateway for kids to begin exploring viable career options. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Say Whaaat!? 50 Followers Giveaway

I'm so excited to announce my first blog giveaway!!! Aaaaaaahhh!!!!
Three years ago, I jumped feet first into book blogging. I started Say Whaaat!? to share my love of books with others. It would be a place where fellow book lovers and I could gush, discuss, debate, and recommend books. Although initially overwhelmed by the vast blogosphere, I have found my footing and become more comfortable with each post.  To celebrate, I'm having a giveaway! A $15 Amazon Gift Card is up for grabs upon reaching 50 followers. The contest opens Thursday, February 20 and ends on Thursday, March 20.  If you already follow the blog, you are still eligible to enter the giveaway. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: Stolen Nights (Vampire Queen #2) by Rebecca Maizel

Rebecca Maizel. New York: St, Martin's Griffin, 2013. 304 pp.
Rating: Decent 

**Spoiler Alert: This review contains mild spoilers.**

After surviving the ritual she performed to restore Vicken's humanity, Lenah returns to Wickham's campus. Upon her return, Lenah witnesses a horrendous, yet familiar act. However, before processing the latest scene, Lenah encounters the legendary Aeris. Their visit is most unexpected, but it doesn't compare to the live, very mortal figure of Rhode Lewin. Lost in the moment, Lenah forgets Justin's presence at her side, though she quickly discovers Rhode's reappearance comes at a price. Amid the turmoil, a formidable opponent reveals itself. A foe more powerful than her coven, the aspiring vampire queen Odette.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday: What Books Are Talking to You?

Pick of the Week

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson- The cover promises a compelling tale of a royal Middle Eastern family seeking refuge in the U.S. 

What books are talking to you this week?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Firstborn by Lorie Ann Grover-Official Book Trailer

Firstborn, a YA fantasy novel, by Lorie Ann Grover releases next week on Tuesday, February 11. To celebrate, Grover is hosting a book launch party. As part of the festivities, I posted my birth order story on Grover's Facebook page* and thought I would share it on my blog as well.

Without further adieu: The birth order of Stephanie L. Tullis...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Infinite Days (Vampire Queen #1) by Rebecca Maizel

Rebecca Maizel. New York: St Martin's Griffin, 2010. 325 pp.
Rating: Striking 
"You have said that humanity is what all vampires crave. The freedom to feel more than constant pain and suffering." (13)

Lenah Beaudonte, a 592 year-old vampire, yearns for the life she lost. Constantly inundated with images of vivacious humanity, plus taunted by memories of her previous life, Lenah's mind begins to gradually unravel. Desperate to flee the endless pain, Lenah seeks a ritual so old, so sacred, so dangerous, its contents must remain a mystery. For this ancient ritual can return a vampire to human form. Surviving the uncertain effects of the mystical ceremony, Lenah, born in the 1400s, awakens as a sixteen year-old girl in the 21st century. Confident that she would never know a love as she shared with Rhode, her centuries-long companion, Lenah's attraction to Justin Enos comes as a surprise. Acclimating to her new life, Lenah soon feels like a normal teenager. However, ties binding her to the past arise coming back to haunt her. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday: What Books Are Talking to You?

Pick of the Week:

Gringolandia by Lynn Miller-Lachmann - This novel focuses on a Chilean family torn apart by politics and the strength it takes to repair the family relationship once a member has suffered irreparable harm.

Book Trailer

What books are talking to you this week?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday: What Books Are Talking to you?

Ah, the first Book Talk Tuesday of the new year. I'm so excited! 

Pick of the Week

Stolen Nights (Vampire Queen #2) by Rebecca Maizel - Now that Lenah has made the ultimate sacrifice, was her intention enough?

So, what books are talking to you on this frigid Tuesday?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Finally, its Here!

A few months back, I posted a poem, one of the many point-earning activities, that I submitted for the Merlin Spiral Contest. After procuring 13,600 points, I was tied with another contestant for first place. To break the tie, the consulted rafflecopter decided I should rank second. Since there are two remaining contests for books 2 and 3, I still have a chance to win first place and/or the grand prize. Take that rafflecopter! 

My contest spoils include an Apple Ipod Shuffle and a Merlin's Blade T-Shirt.

T-Shirt Front 
T-Shirt Back

My New Year's Promise

A new year brings with it fresh starts, new beginnings, and renewed energies. By now thousands of New Year's resolutions have been written, declared, and affirmed. Some of them will be attained, many will be broken, yet hundreds will never be attempted at all. 

This year I've opted not to make any resolutions, but I'm going to make a New Year's promise instead. In 2014, I promise to become a better book reviewer and blogger. Sometimes the reader in me overpowers the blogger forcing me to devour the next book on my TBR pile. Other times I'm terrified to write. Translating my thoughts into coherent, engaging, and enjoyable text is an intimidating feat that ofttimes leads to frustration. Rather than pushing through my frustration or taking a short break, I just stop. Stop writing. Stop practicing. Stop improving. Stop working on my craft. 

As you can imagine, such destructive behavior has left numerous unfinished reviews, plus a few story attempts in its wake. However, this year brings with it a promise to unlearn unproductive patterns and form productive ones. My journey to become a better writer must start somewhere. So, it begins here, on my blog, today, 2 January 2014. To keep with my promise, along with current reviews, I will be completing and posting all of my half-written reviews that are in my draft folder over the next few weeks. Also, Book Talk Tuesday will resume next week on the seventh. 

I'm excited about all 2014 has to offer. Big things are in store...giveaways, author interviews, and more! It's going to be an awesome year!! 

P.S. Don't worry...I've also promised to consistently exercise. Ha! :-)