Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown

Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown 2014

This is a middle grade level book but fun and very informative about space.

IMG_4295 (2)Arty, real name Arcturus Betelgeuse Chambers, is in love with space and hopes to discover life on Mars. He has an older sister, Vega, who is in love with Bacteria (real name Bacterium) and younger sister Cassie, real name Cassiopeia, who is a cheerleader and doesn’t want her past love of space made public to her cool friends.

When his dad loses his job at the observatory, the family has to move from Missouri to Los Vegas, and no one takes the news well. The book begins with his job loss and ends with the move. It covers all the anxiety and anger in between.

Arty spends time with his best friends Tripp and Priya who also support his idea of finding life on Mars. They also worry that the new neighbor is a zombie or vampire when they see him sneaking into the woods every night.

When his parents go to Los Vegas to house hunt, Arty has to spend the night at the zombie neighbor’s house who has a secret locked room. Arty discovers the neighbor, Cash, was a real astronaut and begins an unlikely friendship to learn everything he can about space from him. They build Huey to send messages to Mars, but Cash has cancer and goes to the hospital days before Arty plans to move. The ending is heartbreaking and yet uplifting – perfect for the age level.

Brown captures the complicated workings of family and friends in the story and the difficult decisions that uproot and impact their lives.

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume 1981

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I went to a library sale and picked up several Young Adult novels. This was one of them. I saw so many dark and doom teen novels on the shelf, I tried to find something more lighthearted but this one was pretty dark.

Davey is seventeen and her father has been shot and killed in the store he owned beneath their home in Atlantic City. Her mother and little brother Jason were out for the night, and she was in the backyard with her boyfriend Hugh when the shots were fired. She held her father and went with him in the ambulance. A brown bag in her closet holds a secret revealed late in the book.

Blume takes us through the ups and downs of Davey’s life as she deals with her father’s death, her mother’s withdrawal and depression and living with her Uncle Walt and Aunt Bitsy in Los Alamos. It is a rollercoaster ride of emotion as Davey and her mother go to therapy and grow stronger.

Blume captures the singular perspective of a teen as her mother dates the Nerd and she fights with her Uncle Walt who sees danger in everything, even learning to ski or drive.

Blume also introduces Wolf, a stranger, who is going through a similar emotional crisis as his father dies of cancer. Davey and Wolf help each other deal with the different ways of dying – slow or quick. In another layer, Davey also helps a new friend Jane face her alcoholism.

It is a teen novel but deals with serious and scary problems.

 

Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume

Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume 1993

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I went to a library sale and this was one of the books I picked up.

Blume has all the elements needed for a middle school story. The first person POV has the reader entering the mind of the teenager with her world falling apart to the ending where life begins to make sense.

The main character seventh-grader Rachel is both a straight A student and a nervous wreck. Her family is full of problems, especially when her obnoxious brother Charles is expelled from a private boarding school and returns home to disrupt everyone’s lives. Rachel and her older sister, Jessica, are on edge, wondering what trouble he’ll cause. He doesn’t wait long and his parents don’t know what to do with him and try a tutor and family counseling. Rachel also has two best friends who may be excluding her or worse, like Charles. Then Rachel develops a crush on the tutor for Charles and the ex-boyfriend of Charles’s new girlfriend. Teachers keep asking Rachel to join advanced groups but the stress of being perfect has her grinding her teeth.  It has all the angst of being a teenager and light-hearted enough not to be depressing with Rachel’s life vastly improving at the ending.

 

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The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote

The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss

Although more women than men vote in modern day elections, women had to wait until 1920 for the right to vote.

And the battle was not easy. IMG_2268

To commemorate the centennial of women’s suffrage in Ohio, award-winning journalist Elaine Weiss on March 18 shared the political battle to pass the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote at the Hudson library. She details this fight in her new book, “The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.”

Weiss, who appeared courtesy of the Hudson Library and Historical Society, said she was inspired to write the book because she knew very little about how women won the vote.

“How did I get this vote?” Weiss asked. “We don’t know this important part of history. The 19th Amendment was the largest expansion of democracy. It gave the vote to half the citizens of the nation.”

Other women in the 150-person crowd at the library confessed they didn’t know the painful and slow slog of the suffrage story. Karen Dyser, of Twinsburg, said she now plans to visit The Upton House in Warren, the temporary center of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1903.

“Weiss brought the story to life like she was there,” Dyser said. “I like how she drew parallels with what is going on today.”

Weiss’ work has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Times, and The Christian Science Monitor, as well as in reports and documentaries for National Public Radio and Voice of America. A MacDowell Colony Fellow and Pushcart Prize Editor’s Choice honoree, she is also the author of “Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War.”

″‘The Woman’s Hour’ shows how change is made in a democracy,” Weiss said. “It didn’t just give women full citizenship, the cultural change shifted the role of women in society.”

Weiss drew parallels between the history of the movement and modern times.

“Who has a voice and who gets to participate in a democracy?” Weiss asked. “We’re still asking that question now.”

Weiss wrote the book before the 2016 election and could not anticipate what it would mean, as women took to the streets and demanded change, and citizens fought for rights they thought were secure, but are endangered once again.

Many in the audience were from the League of Women Voters, as Weiss shared how passage of the 19th Amendment came down to a ratification by the southern state of Tennessee.

“Men decided whether women could vote … and in 1912, the answer was no,” Weiss said. “In 1914, the answer was no, in 1917 the answer was no, and in 1919 the answer was no.”

It took three generations and seven decades to achieve, she said — a total of 72 years of fighting for the vote.

“Men did not see the light and [then] decide that it was an idea whose time had come,” Weiss said. “That’s not how it worked.”

The battle began in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in July 1848 and included the right to vote with the urging of Frederick Douglas, a former slave. The right to vote movement would be tied to the abolition of slavery and the temperance movement.

Although black men were granted the right to vote with the 15th Amendment, women were not, and racism would prevent black men from exercising their right to vote until the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement adopted the methods of peaceful suffragists and more aggressive suffragettes movements, Weiss said.

“The nation couldn’t handle two big reforms at the same time,” Weiss said. “They were told it was not the ‘Woman’s Hour.’ It must wait.”

Women organized, traveling the country to change the hearts and minds of others, Weiss said. They conducted meetings and marches and wore white dresses and yellow sashes. Only recently, women in Congress wore white at the 2019 State of the Union Address to honor these suffragists.

Suffragists were ridiculed, attacked and propaganda campaigns were launched to stop them, Weiss said.

“They were going to change relationships in and out of the home,” Weiss said.

Opposition came from the Whiskey Ring, as many women supported prohibition.

“The liquor lobby had a lot of dirty tricks,” Weiss said.

If women won the right to vote, 27 million more people could vote in the election. Besides the liquor business, the textile industry was afraid women would demand an end to child labor. Clergy also said that allowing women to vote was “against God’s plan of man’s dominance over women.”

“The social and cultural conservatives were afraid it would change family life and bring about moral collapse,” Weiss said.

Weiss said it took a group of young members who were demanding and willing to break the law. Like all movements, the group became more militant, picketed the White House and protested on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. They were arrested and tortured, Weiss said, which ultimately gained them sympathy.

Becky Stine, of Cuyahoga Falls, said she had no idea women were tortured and imprisoned to gain the right to vote.

“They were in the room with us, and I was getting chills when she was talking,” Stine said. “I’m going to make sure I get out and vote now.”

In 1920, when Republican Warren G. Harding promised a “return to normalcy,” the Women’s Rights Movement sensed the country was swinging toward a more conservative stance after World War I — and the 19th Amendment’s passage appeared tenuous, Weiss said.

The amendment needed 36 of 48 states to ratify it, and it had the support of 35 states. The amendment desperately needed Tennessee to ratify it. If Tennessee declined, the amendment could be delayed indefinitely.

The Tennessee General Assembly voted to approve the 19th Amendment to the United State Constitution Aug. 18, 1920.

“Tennessee was a dangerous place for a battle,” Weiss said. “All other southern states had rejected [the amendment] on the rationale of states’ rights. They did not want black women to vote.”

Weiss concluded by saying that social change is slow, and political change is complicated and messy. Protect the vote for all citizens, Weiss said — and use the vote to improve this democracy.

The paperback copy of “The Woman’s Hour” was delivered to every woman in U.S. Congress and will be made into a television series.

 

 

Why Mothers Get Gray by Deborah Romesberg

Can’t think of what to give mom for Mother’s Day? How about a book of mom’s little sayings that all families remember hearing but didn’t always understand.Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 4.37.03 PM

Local author Deborah A. Romesberg, 64, pays tribute to her mother, Evelyn L. Sarver, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1920 and raised three daughters in Tallmadge from 1960 until her death in 1994 with a memoir filled with quirky sayings in “Why Mothers Get Gray,” self-published in February by Westbow Press and available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Romesberg began to collect the sayings 10 years ago for her grandchildren and cousins and kept them in a notebook.

“I’d scribble them on pieces of paper,” she said. “I didn’t intend to write a book.”

The sayings turned into a 222-page book with 61 vintage photos in it, Romesberg said. It took two years to complete.

Evelyn was the mother to three daughters, Stephanie Foley, of Akron and Deborah and Sheri Drabish-Heller, both of Brimfield. On the cover is friend, Janet McCourtie who had the perfect blend of gray hair for the title of the book.

Cousin Sandie Mills called the sayings, “Aunt Corky-isms” and the term stuck, Romesberg said.

“Most of it was from memory, but I ran it by my sisters,” Romesberg said.

Evelyn, who worked as a waitress and enjoyed socializing, made up of some of her own words, Romesberg said.

“We would make a tent under the table, and she would tell us, ‘You have to clean up this mess. It looks like a gypsy joint.’”

At the age of 9, Evelyn’s mom died, leaving Evelyn in the care of her dad, their housekeeper, and two older brothers in Pennsylvania. Despite the challenges, she excelled at school and devoted herself to family. Romesberg captured the sayings, meanings and lessons her mother tried to teach in vignettes in her book.

“Mother was very bubbly and optimistic,” Romesberg said. “We would use her sayings all throughout our lives.”

Evelyn wanted to instill values and that hard work paid off, Foley said. But she did it in a kind way.

“We all say these crazy little things, then we laugh and say, ‘That’s what mom would have said,’” Foley said.

Her gray hair may have been an indication of rough times in her life, but Evelyn drew strength from her faith, her family who loved and supported her, as well as the many friends she acquired along the way, Romesberg said.

Foley said she had a friend, whose mother said some of the same sayings and other people may see their families in the book.

“It’s a tribute to our mom, but I think people will see someone in it,” Foley said.

Romesberg’s next project is researching her dad, Steve Drabish, whose background is East Slavic. Her parents were married for 27 years before they divorced.

 

 

The Scent of Murder: A Mystery

The Scent of Murder: A Mystery by Kylie Logan

A dog, a dead girl, and a mystery. The perfect combination for a compelling story.

Kylie Logan, the author of 60 novels, including the “Pepper Martin Mystery” series, will be at the Learned Owl Book Shop, 204 N. Main St., May 7 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to discuss her new book “The Scent of Murder: A Mystery,” set in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood and featuring cadaver dog handler Jazz Ramsey.HH Kylie Logan The Scent of Murder (1)

The way Jazz Ramsey figures it, life is pretty good. She’s thirty-five years old and owns her own home in one of Cleveland’s most diverse, artsy, and interesting neighborhoods. She has a job she likes as an administrative assistant at an all-girls school, and a volunteer interest she’s passionate about—Jazz is a cadaver dog handler.

Jazz is working with Luther, a cadaver dog in training. Luther is still learning cadaver work, so Jazz is putting him through his paces at an abandoned building that will soon be turned into pricey condos. When Luther signals a find, Jazz is stunned to see the body of a young woman who is dressed in black and wearing the kind of make-up and jewelry that Jazz used to see on the Goth kids back in high school. 

She’s even more shocked when she realizes that beneath the tattoos and the piercings and all that pale make up is a familiar face. The lead detective on the case is an old lover, and the murdered woman is an old student. Jazz finds herself sucked into the case, obsessed with learning the truth.

Although Logan doesn’t own a cadaver dog, she belongs to the Airedale Terrier Club of Northern Ohio, and a cadaver dog handler spoke to the group. She was hooked. Logan researched the dogs and accompanied members of The Ohio Search Dog Association on training.

What a fascinating experience,” Logan said. “The group has both cadaver (also called HRD–Human Remains Detection) dogs and search and rescue dogs and it was a privilege to watch them work with their handlers.”

Because most police departments aren’t big enough and don’t have enough funding to keep HRD and search and rescue dogs on staff, organizations like OSDA are called in to help in investigations, she said.The trainers/ handlers are all volunteers and they put in countless hours to get their dogs certified. Aside from handling their dogs, the trainers need to be proficient in first aid (for people and pups), be skillful at orienteering, know how to secure a scene and contact the proper authorities, and so much more.

I am always impressed by their dedication and their professionalism,” Logan said. “The dogs are amazing, and their noses are fabulous. HRD dogs are trained to the scent of human decomposition, both when it is in the air and on the ground and they can lead their trainers to find not only bodies, but body parts. There are even some HRD dogs that can detect the scent as it rises out of water.” 

Logan began her writing career as a corporate journalist and wrote brochures and pamphlets and speeches for executives. She has been teaching various aspects of writing and publishing at workshops and conferences nationwide ever since her first book was published in 1992. Logan said she has always been a mystery reader and credits her father, who was a Cleveland Cop and fan of Sherlock Holmes.

But when I began fiction writing, I wrote historical romance, then contemporary romance,” Logan said.

Logan said even though she loved reading mysteries, she was too scared to write one.

The way I figured it, mysteries had to be smart and clever,” she said. “The plot needed to twist and turn. There had to be clues and red herrings and plenty of surprises. And I talked myself into the fact that I just wasn’t smart enough to do it.”

Fortunately for readers, she tried writing mysteries.

I’m happy to say that ‘The Scent of Murder’ is my 13th mystery,” Logan said. “Of all the writing I’ve done, I enjoy mysteries the most. I love putting together a plot that will not only entertain readers, but also keep them guessing.”

In addition, Logan said she loves creating the characters who inhabit her stories and researching the settings.

There’s an old saying about how there are only seven basic plots in all of fiction,” Logan said. “I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know that at their very core, many stories are alike. We have stories about love, about revenge, about good triumphing over evil or succumbing to it.”

The difference in the stories is the author.

Each of us brings a different spin to a story,” Logan said. “I’m certainly not the only mystery writer in the world, but my mysteries are different from other authors’ works. My background and experiences color what I write. So do theirs.”

The job of the writer is to figure out how to give readers what they want in new and different ways, she said. That’s what makes a story get noticed.

The setting for Logan’s books are often in Northeast Ohio which makes them easier to research, but she said Cleveland provides a “new twist” element instead of choosing London, Paris or New York.

I also like to set books here because it gives me a chance to introduce readers all over the world to the northeast Ohio area and all the wonderful things it has to offer,” she said.

The Scent of Murder” is set in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood and although it is filled with bars, galleries, and restaurants now, it was home to immigrants who worked in the city’s steel mills and became a melting pot of peoples and cultures, Logan said.

The history of Tremont is really the history of our country at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, and setting the book there gave me a chance to dig into that history (something I love to do) and make the neighborhood itself a character in the story,” she said.

Logan is one of the founding members of the Northeast Ohio Sisters in Crime, a chapter of national Sisters in Crime. The local group meets at Twinsburg Library. On both the national and the local level, the group offers networking, advice, and support to mystery authors and welcomes not only authors, but readers, publishers, booksellers, and librarians to join.

We’re called Sisters in Crime because the group’s mission is to promote the advancement, recognition and professional development of women mystery writers, but we have “misters” in our chapter, too,” Logan said. “We meet monthly to talk about the business, we have organized events such as tours of the county morgue and the local FBI offices, and we always love to talk about writing and books.”

Anyone who’s interested can find the chapter at https://neosinc.org/wordpress/