Thursday, May 26, 2016

Straight Chatting from the Library: Sarah Mandell

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sarah Mandell will be awarding 5 of her handmade laser etched wooden pendants that she is launching as a new collection in conjunction with the release of the book to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


What is your favorite book today?

My favorite book today, and every day for the last 6 or 7 years, is The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall. The story follows one character, Cy Parks, from his childhood on the coast of England through his career as a sign painter and eventually as a tattoo artist on Coney Island at the turn of the 20th century. The author gives such descriptive detail, you feel like you’ve been there with Cy Parks, watching him his whole life.

Tell us about your current book in 10 words.

Well, the title alone is 8 words, so this is a tough one!

A quirky coming-of-age story about new-found independence.

What are you reading right now?

I just started the Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson.

E-Reader or print? and why?

First choice is actually audio books, because I can read while I’m working in my studio, or out for a jog. I’d say 75% of the books I read each year are audio books. About 20% are good ol’ fashioned printed books, and only 5% are ebooks. This strong preference all comes down to convenience of format. Audio books are on my phone, and therefore always on hand, so they’re by far my top choice. Printed books (especially used ones) are next on my list because they’re easy to toss in a bag and take with you, plus they’re really affordable. Ebooks are still fairly new to me, but I’m getting used to them.

One book at a time or multiples?

I usually have 3 books going at a time. One audio book, one printed book, and one ebook.

Dog-ear or bookmark? (don't worry—Librarian Judith won't hold it against you—much)

I’m a bookmark person, although any old piece of paper counts as a bookmark to me. I use business cards, receipts, old shopping lists, sketches…you name it!

Favorite book you've read this year?

The Blue Moon Circus by Michael Raleigh. I have a thing for old timey circus life, and this was one of the best I’ve read so far on the subject. It was such a good read I had to limit myself to only reading 2 or 3 chapters a day because I didn’t want to finish it too quickly. I still laugh when I picture the scene when they’re training the cats for the spec (house cats, that is, not your typical circus cats like lions or tigers). This particular circus is somewhat slapped together, which is both hilarious and endearing, so they had to work with whatever they could get their hands on, including uncooperative tabby cats!

Favorite genre?

Contemporary YA, hands down.

Favorite book to recommend?

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez. I had never really thought much about what life might be like for immigrants (both legal and illegal), or how hard it is to find normalcy here in the US, prior to reading this book. There are so many negative associations, and serious economic & social problems I have no idea how to address, but this book gave me a glimpse into their lives, as regular people struggling for a better life far from home, and it really made me stop and think. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a fictional book before that softened my opinion like this, and I think those are the kind of surprise books that are worth recommending.

Re-reader or not?

Yes, but it’s somewhat rare. I’ve re-read Sarah Hall’s The Electric Michelangelo several times, as well as John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, but each time on a different format (print, audio, and ebook).

What would make you not finish a book?

Pure boredom. I have never stopped reading a book because it offended me, or because I didn’t like a character or scene, but I have given up on books that are just downright too slow. Something interesting has to happen in each chapter! Too much backstory, or too many mundane details, can bog things down.

Keep books or give them away?

Both! If it was a really good book, and I know I’ll re-read it, I hold onto them. If the book was just okay, I’ll take it to my favorite used book store here in Greenville, Mr. K’s, and get some store credit to use on a new book. It’s a pretty great system and it keeps me well stocked with new books to read.


The McElroy brothers find trouble easily. Dylan plunges headfirst into it, while Daniel cleans up behind him. That’s the way it’s always been, ever since their mother left them to be bounced around the foster system, causing trouble wherever they went. The soon-to-be euthanized giraffe they just stole from the Northside Animal Park may be their biggest predicament yet, in more ways than one, but there's no undoing what's been done.

Lost in Nebraska without a plan, clueless how to care for the ornery old beast in the back of the trailer, the well-meaning brothers stop to rest at an abandoned-looking barn. A pretty redhead with a snappy temperament and a shotgun discovers the boys and their sixteen-foot stowaway. Her name is Josephine, she lives on this farm with her father who is spoken of, but never seen, and her root cellar has more locks than a bank vault. She’s got a way with animals and plenty of secrets, not to mention the interest of two brothers who swore they’d never let some girl come between them.


Daniel and Dylan McElroy snapped their eyes open only to be blinded by a billion-watt flashlight aimed in their faces. It might as well have been the sun. They scrambled to their feet, unable to see who or what was behind that blazing white light. They shielded their faces, begging for mercy.

A female voice came from behind the painful brightness. She managed to get out, “What in the hell…” before the beam of light shifted upward, illuminating Millie’s unimpressed face. The giraffe’s long eyelashes blinked downward, inspecting the people below. Her nubby horns cast strange shadows on the ceiling of the barn.

While the beam of light from the girl’s torch shown upward still, locking Millie in the spotlight, Daniel got a good look at the person holding it. She was a teenager with fiery red hair all mussed up from sleep that fell well below her shoulder blades. Her eyes were pale in color, but he couldn’t be sure if they were blue or hazel in this severe lighting. She had delicate features, a snobby little nose, and a pair of pink lips parted in astonishment as she gazed upward at the out-of-place creature. This girl, a member of the Larsen family perhaps, was a pretty thing, but she was not in good spirits being woken in the middle of the night only to find two strange young men and a reticulated giraffe in her family’s barn. She had a shotgun at her side, which she now raised up and aimed at Dylan.

Daniel cleared his throat, ready to say just the right words to save young Dylan from certain death. Again. “We didn’t mean to cause no trouble,” Daniel explained, palms open with vulnerability. Daniel had always been the spokesperson when trouble found them, or more likely, when Dylan found trouble. He was the explainer of the mischievous pair.

“Am I hallucinating, or is that a giraffe?” the girl demanded to know.

“That?” Daniel asked, glancing upward in hopes she was referring to something else. “Uh. Yeah. That would be Millie. Millie the giraffe.”


Sarah Mandell is a professionally trained artist with a background in commercial interior design. She's also the brains and busy hands behind a thriving indie craft business called Once Again Sam in Greenville, SC. Even with an ever-expanding collection of creative outlets, she's truly the happiest when she's writing. Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe is Sarah’s second novel. Her debut novel was Celia on the Run (Untreed Reads, 2012).


Buy the book at Amazon.


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