Love, Does It Conquer All?

Love comes in many forms and our actions/reactions to the feelings are complex, to say the least. So let’s review three books that show different reactions to love. One of the stories is indeed adorable and makes me wish I had a baby to cuddle. To smell the sweet and sour aromas of one so young and listen to the gentle breathing sounds of a baby paying attention and feel the softness of a baby’s skin and hair. Or to feel the squirmy attention of a toddler who wants to hear the story, but has a hard time sitting still.

Another of the stories has to do with trying for redemption and righting past wrongs.

And the third story is about finding love and forgivness as a teenager. I think most of us have experienced all three types of love. Enjoy.


Some of the books I review leave me pretty much cold, but they all have some merit to them, especially the message of being careful what you wish for. This isn’t one of my favorites. Still, it is worth a mention.

Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend

Katie Finn

Gemma Tucker did horrible things to Hallie, a girl her age, when she spent the summer of her eleventh year with her father in the Hamptons. Now sixteen, she has regretted her behavior ever since, but doesn’t know what to do to make amends. She thinks she has her summer plans in place to go to South America to help her boyfriend do good deeds in Columbia. But then her boyfriend breaks up with her and her mother and stepfather have already made plans to go to salmon spawning grounds in Scotland and will stay with a laird in his castle. Now her options are to go with Mom and Walter or brave the Hamptons with her dad in hopes that Hallie and family are not there. Of course, they are and she masquerades as her best friend, Sophie, thinking she can show how sorry she is. She falls for Hallie’s brother, Josh. But things start to go wrong almost immediately and when the real Sophie shows up during a party at Hallie’s house, Gemma is in a pickle. She and Hallie have a huge fight in which Hallie triumphantly announces her involvement in all of Gemma’s problems that summer. The crowning glory is Hallie’s having snagged Gemma’s boyfriend. This book doesn’t gel well. Although, there is much interaction between Gemma and her dad, the reader never hears much about Hallie and Josh’s mother. Last Gemma had known, their mother was in total disgrace from Gemma’s actions five years earlier, but now the family is living high on the hog. No explanation is ever given. The good news is not all the kids drink and there don’t seem to be wild sex orgies.

BIBLIO: 2014, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-250-04524-9

ISBN: 978-1-250-06057-0


This picture book, googly eyes and all, will have you giggling, along with oohing and aahing, all the way through. Though more realistic drawings would me happy. I not the biggest fan of Disney heavy reliance on cutesy.  I, for instance, find the original drawings in Winnie the Poo, much more appealing.  But, hey, I’m an elderly lady who was raised by a wonderful snob.

Next to You

Lori Haskins Houran

Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

The subtitle of this book, “A Book of Adorableness,” gives the reader a clue to the googley-eyed cuteness of the illustrations. The animals are recognizable as what species they belong to, though drawing smaller eyes would work just as well. But the message of the story is sweet and sure to make any child feel special and loved. Generally speaking, baby animals are cute and look oh so cuddly. Have you ever seen a new born lamb? How cute can cute be? Have you ever watched a puppy play with her brother? Or a giraffe baby trying to get to his feet? It’s hard enough for a human baby to stand up, but try standing up when you don’t even really know how and you’re only an hour old. But the babies’ mommas are there to help and to feed them. And it is tempting to want to pet any baby. However, the best baby to pet and cuddle is your baby. The author singles out puppies, kitty cats, ducklings, squirrels, chicks, a piglet and a monkey, along with the giraffe and agrees they’re all beyond adorable, but they don’t hold a candle to the child who’s having the book read to her. Children will want to have this book read to them over and over, just so they can giggle and feel safe when their mommas or daddies give them big hugs at the end.

BIBLIO: 2016, Albert Whitman and Company, Ages 2 to 6, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5600-9


The final book of my reviews is a knock-out. There is a bit of mystery in it and the characters are very believable. The main character has a lot growing to do and she succeeds well, learning many life lessons along the way.

Tell Me Three Things

Julie Buxbaum

Jessie A. Holmes moves to Los Angeles because her widowed father marries a rich woman, also widowed, who lives there with her son, Theo. Not only has Jessie now lost her mother, she’s lost all she’s known her whole life. Of course she finds her new “parent” to be impossible and calls her the “stepmonster.” To make matters worse, she is enrolled in a very ritzy, pretentious school full of snobby kids. And the “Queen Bees” are out to get her, especially when she becomes friends with the main Bee’s boyfriend. But then an anonymous person starts emailing her using the screen name of Somebody/Nobody or SN for short. He becomes her refuge and helps her find friends at the new school. She resists adapting to her new life and is not on speaking terms with her dad, much less the step members of her supposed family. Slowly, she makes her way into her new situation and begins find things in common with Theo. But she keeps wondering who SN really is and becomes closer and closer to him through their email exchanges. Of course to make things more complex, she falls for Ethan who is mysterious and her English class partner on writing a paper about an epic poem. In the end, she realizes that the “stepmonster” really isn’t all that bad and she does make friends with at least two girls. You’ll have to read the book to figure out who SN really is. The book is nicely written and the suspense of finding out who SN is keeps the reader going. In addition to the usual themes of bullying and adjusting to new places, the book lends itself to discussions of literature and poetry.

BIBLIO: 2016, Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-553-53564-8

ISBN: 978-0-553-53565-5

ISBN: 978-0-553-53566-2

ISBN: 978-0-399-55293-9


I hope you enjoy my choices and comments.  Please tell me love stories from your life. I’d love to read them.  Thanks for reading my blog.  Sarah Maury Swan, author of Terror’s Identity

What’s Your Favorite Olympic Sport?

The Summer Olympics are now in progress in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I know, I know, in the U. S. of A, we spell it with Z, but in Portuguese it’s spelled with an S. Anyway, I thought I’d focus on sports that are featured in the games. Swimming and diving are, of course, featured, as are track and field sports, and soccer, a.k.a, futebol. In Brasilian Portuguese it’s pronounced “foot Che bol,” at least in northeastern Brasil.

My favorite sports category is Equestrian, which is actually several disciplines rolled into one group.  I love watching the power and grace of a horse take a jump–a five foot high solid looking wall–or gallop pell-mell down a slope or through water.   But my most favorite horse sport is Dressage, the French word for training.  The rider must be quiet and relaxed on her horse, but also in control asking the horse to stretch out its stride or collect its body enough to move in place.  If you can get that much into harmony with your horse, your soul will soar.  And the training you have to do is mind boggling, because you’re not only controlling your body, you’re also controlling another sentient being. For more information on dressage go to

But I digress, so back to our book collection for this week.  Enjoy.


Though I’m pretty sure Free Diving is not an Olympic sport, swimming and diving certainly are. And my Scottish ancestry always demands I include any story that has anything to do with Scotland. To clinch my decision to include this book, it’s very well written.

The Art of not Breathing

Sarah Alexander

Elsie and her family live on Black Isle in the North Sea end of Scotland. She and her family are not a happy lot since the death of Elsie’s twin brother five years earlier. Eddie was a bit on the slow side and had always to be in someone’s care. That fateful day at the beach he was wading with Elsie, but he wanted to swim to where their older brother, Dillon, was swimming. Finally Elsie got tired of Eddie’s whining and told him to swim off. That’s the last she ever saw of him. So, of course, she blames herself and is sure her family hates her for it. Now at sixteen, Elsie acts out her problems by shoplifting, lying and not participating in school and Eddie talks to her in her head. She has a very low opinion of herself, exasperated by being overweight. Though the family does still go to the beach, no one is allowed to swim, nor even wade in the surf. Elsie discovers that the long shuttered clubhouse is now being renovated and will open as a hangout and diving school. She has her own private hiding spot in the old boathouse, or at least she thinks it’s her private space until she meets Tay. He says he has hidden there longer than she has, but they agree to share. He entices her to try free diving—that is diving as deep as she can with no equipment, just the air in her lungs. She finds memories of the day Eddie drowned coming back and she begins to piece together what really happened and who was involved. This is a well told story of family dynamics, dealing with grief, and love. There are many teachable moments in it.

BIBLIO: 2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-544-63388-9


Competition is sometimes healthy and is natural to our animal natures. Plus this is a sweet story.

Hoppelpopp and the Best Bunny

Mira Lobe

Illustrated by Angelika Kaufmann

Translated by Cäcilie Kovács

Five little rabbits—Binnie, Benny, Bernie, Bonnie and Buddy—are best of friends who share everything, and cuddle into one furry ball when they sleep. That way they can shoo away Buddy’s bad dreams. They give no thoughts as to who is better than whom while they play their games. The best buddies share everything, whether it is a pile of leaves to jump in or some yummy clover to eat. That is how it always has been and how it always will be. That is until a very big rabbit named Hoppelpopp comes to visit and asks who’s the fastest. He set the friends against each other on different tasks. Soon Binny proves to be the fastest, Benny the strongest, Bernie the smartest and Bonnie the bravest, so the bunnies no longer play or sleep or eat together. Buddy feels left out because he isn’t the best at anything. As he sits feeling sorry for himself, he smells danger. A badger is coming! Buddy thumps his leg until his friends come. Together they chase the badger away and go back to being best friends, which is the most important thing to be best at, anyway. A sweet story about sharing, this book was originally written in German. This is the first American edition.

BIBLIO: 2015 (orig. ?,) Holiday House, Inc., Ages 3 to 6, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3287-5


This is a very encouraging book for kids who don’t like to be forced into niches that are not for them. I remember my English teacher in my senior year of high school pulled me aside to scold me. She had taught my brother Bill the year before, when she was being a student teacher. So she said to me that she expected more of me because of my brother. When you’re the youngest of four kids, you get tired of being compared. I said to her, “If you ever want me to turn in any assignment, you won’t ever compare me to my brother again.” She pretty much left me alone for the rest of the year.

Losers Take All

David Klass

      Jack Logan is the youngest son of a local high school football hero, who was destined for professional football fame until he wiped out his knee in college. But his town still worships him and expects his sons to keep up the family tradition. The older two boys did, but Jack’s not interested. He’d rather hang out with the computer geeks. When the school principal dies of a heart attack during the beginning-of-the-year sports rally, and the school gets a new principal, sports are all that matter. The new principal is the football coach and insists Jack play football. Unfortunately, during the first practice, the biggest jock on the team gets bent out of shape when he can’t stop Jack from running past him and scoring. So the jock does what jocks do best—grabs Jack from behind and smashes him face first into ground. Jack wakes up in the hospital with a broken nose and his jaw wired shut. That’s enough football for him, so he starts a soccer team featuring his non-athletic friends all bent on losing every game. They convince the Latin teacher to be their coach because he’s British, and therefore, should know something about soccer, a.k.a. football. They set about to quietly lose their eight games and go back to their real lives. Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately—the media gets wind of what’s going on and the Losers become world-wide celebrities. Things compound from there, but in the end Jack and the rest of his team learn things about themselves and life in general. In particular, even supposed absent-minded Latin teachers have seamy secrets. The book is amusing and, for the most part, well-written. The book will stimulate classroom discussion of what role sports should play in school.

BIBLIO: 2015, Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-374-30136-1

ISBN: 978-0-374-30137-8

The colors I use to separate the three reviews have some connection–in my mind, at least–to what the story is about.  See if you can see the connection. And please let me know.  Thanks for reading my blog.  Sarah

An interview with the Amazing Joan Y. Edwards

Joan Y. Edwards smaller web AE9Z7443


Joan Edwards is a very encouraging person. Feeling down about your work, or yourself, or life in general? Let Joan know. She’ll do her best to perk you up and urge you on to reach higher. Her latest book, Joan’s Elder Care Guide, came out recently, so she’s busy promoting it.

But I’m sure she’s also working on her next project. Let’s see what that is.

SMS: Please tell us about how you came to be a writer, but first let’s get the details about your early life.

Were you born in South Carolina?

JYE: I was born in Wilson, North Carolina. However, I never lived there. My parents lived in Georgia and came back to Wilson so my Grandmother Sue Bruffey could help Mother with me. We lived in Tucker, Georgia until I was 7 years old. Then we moved to Falls Church, Virginia. I lived there until I went to Western Carolina College in Cullowhee, North Carolina in 1958.

SMS: Are you one of many siblings or did you get your parents all to yourself? If you have any siblings, where are you in the line? How many boys in the family and how many girls? Describe a bit of your family life. Chaotic? Joyful? Strict? Laidback?

JYE: I was one of four children. I had one brother and two sisters. My older sister, Judith, died in 2012. I was the middle child until my younger sister, Janet was born fourteen years after me. My brother, Butch, is five years younger than I. We lived on a farm in Georgia for a short time. My mother had a chicken house in Falls Church. My daddy bribed her with that to get her to move to Virginia. I jumped Double Dutch jump rope, played hopscotch, hide and seek, read books, and put together jigsaw puzzles with my siblings and friends. Our family played the alphabet game, finding license tags from each state, and counting red convertibles when traveling. We made up plays and acted them out.

SMS: What kind of school system did you have? I, for instance, spent most of my grade-school years in 3-room school house. Was your school bigger? Did you have good teachers?

JYE: I went to St. James Catholic School in Falls Church, Virginia from second to eighth grade. It was a very good school. They gave us exams at the end of each school year. At the end of the third grade, I got the mumps and contracted a sleeping sickness. I missed the end of year exams. It’s funny because I didn’t remember that until it was time for the fourth grade exams. I told my teacher: “You can’t give me the fourth grade exam yet. I haven’t taken the third grade exam”

I asked her why hadn’t I taken the third grade exam. She didn’t know. So Mother explained what had happened. Probably the fever I had from the mumps instigated it. After two weeks, I was fine.

SMS: I believe you were a teacher for a number of years. What inspired you to do that? How did the teaching spur your desire to write stories? Or did it? I know you wrote one picture book about a duck who liked to play music. Did you read it to your students? Tell us the name of your book. And what inspired you to write it?

JYE: When I was a teenager, I loved babysitting with young children of school age. I planned parties and activities. I babysat a lot. I also enjoyed teaching my cousins how to do things. In school the teachers would ask me to read the geography book because I made it come alive for them. I took care of my brother and I also took care of my younger sister. We wrote plays and acted them out for our families and friends.

When I lived in Tucker, Georgia, my environment was great for hearing stories and telling stories. Mother read to us from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Andersen’s Fairy Tales. These were thick books with only an illustration at the beginning and a few sparse black and white illustrations in the middle. There were no picture books back then. People who babysat with me told me stories. I made up stories. When I was five years old, I made up the story of Flip Flap Floodle.

When I taught school, many times I would tell them Flip Flap Floodle. They loved it and begged me to tell them other stories. So I had to do spur-of-the-moment stories for them. I made up characters and put them in weird situations. I made up the ghost stories The Golden Arm and The Day I Turned My Brother into a Monkey. They laughed and laughed. Afterwards I had them write stories and draw illustrations for them.

web 96 res red Flip cover color

I tried off and on for many moons to get Flip Flap Floodle published. I got many rejections. After I retired, I promised myself I would submit it to publishers for 5 years. If at the end of 5 years, no one said, “Yes,” then I would self-publish it. Everyone said, “NO.” So in 2004 I self-published Flip Flap Floodle through BookSurge. Luckily for me, color print-on-demand came out just in the knick of time for me. I have made many presentations to elementary school students explaining the process of how I changed the illustrations and how I used the internet to help me improve my drawings of a frog and Mr. Fox. I drew a rocking chair for Flip’s grandmother to sit in. The proportions and slant of the rockers were all wrong. I took a rocking chair that I had and placed it in front of me. I said, “Rocking Chair, you’re gonna sit there until I can figure out how to draw you right.”

And it did.

I’ll share this with you. I had all my illustrations and text formatted for “landscape” view. After I paid my money and signed my contract, BookSurge said, “We don’t do landscape books.”

Horror of all horrors. Talking about pep talks. I had to do quite a bit of talking to myself to get the energy to redraw all the illustrations in “portrait” view. This was what I said to myself, “Joan, each time you redo an illustration, you’re making it better and better.”

SMS: Tell us how you came to write your current book, Joan’s Elder Care Guide. web 96 res cover Joan's Elder Care Guide by Aidana WillowRaven

Did you consult geriatric care providers? A lot of it is personal experience, I’m sure. Do you feel that experience gave you a way to make your guide more relatable?

JYE: I took care of my mother, Ethel Darnell Bruffey Meyer for fourteen years. Through trial and error I found ways that worked. For at least two years, I wasn’t able to go anywhere out of town. There were no books about elder care. The internet wasn’t like it is now where you can put in almost any medical condition and find a definition and possible cures. My teaching experience helped me realize that I wasn’t leaving the substitute caregivers enough information. Once I started to leave them what my mother could and couldn’t do and things to watch out for, things went better. I put what I did plus I added other things I discovered through research so that caregivers would have the information they need at their fingertips.

SMS: How are you marketing your book? And are you just marketing locally or are you using contacts around the country? Any chance of having it translated into other languages to help families with their elderly relatives?

JYE: I’m marketing Joan’s Elder Care Guide on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and through conferences that I attend. I also do presentations for groups that work with the elderly. Our church has my book in its gift shop. Oh my, that filled my heart with joy. Editing the book left me exhausted. I’ve spent the last three months spending time with my family and friends to regain my inner strength.

I’m willing to travel to promote my book, but that hasn’t happened yet. I feel sure it will in the future. I have not heard anything about its being translated into other languages, although that would be quite an honor. It will come out as an E-book at the six months or one year mark. I think that will help many people access the parts they need quickly with the E-book’s search capabilities.

SMS: Tell us something about your publisher. How did you find her? And what kinds of books is she looking for?

JYE: I found 4RV Publishing during Muse Online Writers Conference in October 2010. I pitched Joan’s Elder Care Guide to Vivian Zabel the owner. She asked me to send a proposal and the first three chapters. They offered me a contract in 2011 and said they would publish it in 2015. It is a small traditional publisher in Edmonton, a suburb of Oklahoma City. It was named the Best Edmond Book Publisher of the year for four consecutive years: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. Submissions are closed for Children’s books now. Submissions are open for Artists, Illustrators, Short Stories, Tweens & Teens, Young Adult, New Adult, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Biblical Based. They used Ingram’s Print on Demand service for Joan’s Elder Care Guide.

SMS: You encourage lots of people with your blog, not just to continue writing and submitting, but also to expand their writing horizons by starting blogs or doing other things related to writing. How do you find the time? What blogs do you have other than “Never Give Up”? Do you cut yourself slack when you don’t finish all your projects for a given day? What are your comfort food and/or activity?

JYE: Thank you for saying that I encourage lots of people with my blog. When I first started my blog, I didn’t know what I would write, but I did know that it would come from the heart to help those who read it keep on going and never give up. I’d like to inspire them to learn what they need to learn to get where they want to go towards their life goals. In 2010 after I came back from a writing conference and an all week workshop, I wrote about what I learned. That’s when my readership spiked upwards big time. It’s a great idea to give yourself some slack when you don’t finish all your projects in a given day. Loving, forgiving, and accepting yourself is what I believe God would want you to do. I try to do that. Sometimes I am harder on myself. I believe it’s important for you to control your blog, not for your blog to control you. While I worked editing Joan’s Elder Care Guide, I didn’t write as many posts on my blog. I plan to get back into writing at least four posts a month. It is healing for me to write posts for my blog.

SMS: How did you come to start the PubSub group? And how did you find all the people who’ve signed up? I know there are people from all over this country, but also in England, who are members. Are there members from elsewhere?


JYE: In 2009, I realized that I had about ten manuscripts written and that I hadn’t submitted many of them. Only one or two. Of course, I was concentrating on the care of my mother, so that was a good reason for not submitting. But I wanted to submit. I thought if I could get a group of writers to submit a book at the same time as I did, that it would encourage and challenge me to submit my manuscripts, too. That’s why I had a certain date in mind (third Friday of the month) for the group…PubSub3rdFri. That was good for me, but then people said they didn’t want a specific day to submit their work. So I knocked out the words – 3rd Fri – for the group and started calling it, “Pub Subbers.” When you submit your work, you are Pub Subbing.

For a while, we only had about 4 members. Now we have 30 members! Only 2 or 3 have left the group. Pub Subbers is on my blog. That’s where people found our group.

Members believe that the more manuscripts they have in the hands of editors, agents, and contests, the better chance they’ll have at being published. Each time a member submits, he improves his skills in writing, submitting, and marketing. Each submission gets him closer to publication.

In this group, members ask others for suggestions about writing and marketing. Members rejoice with you when you receive a “YES.” They also encourage you when you get a “NO.”
Automated reminders are sent for Week 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Pub Sub process. Automated reminders are sent out to ask members for their goals at the beginning of the month and a recap of their progress on the last day of the month.

For an invitation to join, please send an email telling why you’d like to join Pub Subbers to

Pub Subbers

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

SMS: What’s next on your agenda? Are you working on another book? Planning a trip to Jupiter? Touring the world in a hot air balloon?

JYE: I love your questions! I’d love to fly in a hot air balloon. I rode in one that was tethered to the ground one time. I am working on the illustrations for chapter book Larry, the Terrifying Turkey. I have several choices for the project to check for necessary revisions before submitting to a publisher or agent:

  1. One young adult novel: Immigrant Heart
  2. Two screenplays: Against the Odds and The Perfect Couple.
  3. Picture book, Aunt Sophie’s Biscuits, Porky Wins the Race
  4. Chapter books: The Golden Arm, The Day I Turned My Brother into a Monkey and Messy Marvin

SMS: Thanks, Joan, for taking the time to fill us in on your projects.

JYE: You’re very welcome. I am honored to be a guest on your wonderful blog. It’s fun to read your reviews of books. You give the essence of the stories and make us want to read them.

SMS: I know you have FaceBook and LinkedIn accounts, but what others do you use?

Readers, if you’re interested in following Joan and her endeavors, please check out her blog by following the link I’ve provided here. Please be sure to check out her books on Amazon at her author page:

web 96 res red Flip cover color

Flip Flap Floodle Will Flip’s song save him from Mr. Fox? Will he give up or keep on playing his flute?


Barnes & Noble

web 96 res cover Joan's Elder Care Guide by Aidana WillowRaven

Joan’s Elder Care Guide

Empowering You and Your Elder to Survive

4RV Publishing


Barnes and Noble


Facebook Author Page

Facebook Group for Bloggers, Authors, and Illustrators: To Market To Market



Twitter: @joanyedwards @tomarketsuccess



Next week I’ll have more reviews.  Let me know if you’d like me to do an interview of you and your work. Sarah Maury Swan