Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Player King -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Love is the answer to everything. It’s the only reason to do anything. If you
don’t write stories you love, you’ll never make it. If you don’t write stories
that other people love, you’ll never make it.”
~ Ray Bradbury ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Some years ago, I was in a critique group with several beginning writers. I was really a beginner at the time. One day we had quite an argument about point of view. One of the writers insisted books could only be written in either first person or third person limited, that nothing else was allowed. I tried to convince her there was such a thing as omniscient PoV, but she was having none of it. The Writer Magazine has an interesting article HERE on omniscient PoV. 

M. L. Keller has a good post HERE on secondary characters. We can’t get along without them. 

Writers Helping Writers always has good stuff. I especially like the post HERE on how to indicate a passage of time in your story. 

Last week, I offered a gently-read hardback of Why Fish Don't Drown? by Anna Claybourne to one of you. It's such a fun book. I guess it pays to get your comment in early. This week's winner is Linda, the very first to leave a comment last week. Congratulations, Linda! I will get your book out to you soon. For the rest of you -- yes, I do have another great giveaway this week. 

I find it hard to believe that I have never before read a book by Avi. This guy has written sooooo many books, and somehow I have never gotten around to reading him until this year. I read a review of The Player King on Dorine White's wonderful blog, The Write Path, and knew it was for me. I love historical fiction, and she made it sound so enticing. She has wonderful reviews, so check out her blog. Anyway, I was able to snag a copy for review and grabbed it. Here is the review I wrote for the Tulsa Book Review.

Lambert Simnel has no memory of his parents and doesn’t even know how old he is. All he knows of life is working in a dingy tavern, basting meat and fetching bread and cleaning up. It is 1486 in England, and King Henry VII sits on the throne. Young Prince Edward, who really has a stronger claim to the throne, has not been seen for some months, and it is thought Henry may have done away with him. A monk comes to the tavern and buys Lambert from the tavern keeper. The monk trains Lambert to be Edward, telling Lambert he has forgotten who he truly is. It becomes clear to Lambert that powerful men intend to make him the true king of England and that his life might be quite good if he goes along with their plans.

Author Avi has written a compelling story based on real people and true
Avi
happenings. The writing is crisp and the language perfectly suited to the time and place. The characters are fully realized and very believable. Avi’s setting descriptions are extraordinary and take the readers directly to 15th-century London. This book will turn young readers into history lovers. 

I have a gently-read hardback for of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Why Don't Fish Drown -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love
what you are doing, you will be successful."  
~ Albert Schweitzer ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
One of my pet peeves is the overuse of the word “that” I see in writing — by critique partners and even in published writing. Grammar Girl has a good post HERE on that very topic. 

I don’t know how I missed this site before now, but Rachelle Burk’s Resources for Children’s Writers has soooooo many great links HERE. It’s going to take me a while to explore it all. 

I can’t get enough good articles about revision. HERE is another one. 

And speaking of revision, I have a bunch to do. Last weekend (when I was absent here) I attended the SCBWI Nevada conference in Las Vegas. It was a really excellent conference with wonderful speakers including agents Beth Phelan, Jen RofĂ©, and Jill Corcoran. (Yes, I can submit to all of them!!) I met my mentor, Suzanne Morgan Williams. She is terrific and gave me great revision notes on my manuscript. I will be sending one quarter of my revised manuscript to her at the end of each month through May, and she will give me another set of revision notes. So amazing. I met a lot of wonderful people, learned a bunch, and had a great time (except for the smoke in the casino -- ugh!). My exchange student, Amandine, flew in Saturday and did a lot of sightseeing while I finished the conference, then we went to the Grand Canyon. It really is grand. I've been there several times, but I never tire of it or cease to be amazed. We had a wonderful trip, but it sure was good to get home. 

Last time I was here, I offered a gently-read hardback of Confessions from the Principal's Kid by Robin Mellom to one of you. This time the winner is Tudy. Congratulations, Tudy! I will be getting your book to you soon. For the rest of you, I have another really fun book to give away, so please keep reading.

This week I want to tell you about one of the most fun non-fiction books I've seen lately. The entire title is Why Don't Fish Drown?: And other vital questions about the animal kingdom, and it's by Anna Claybourne. I just love this one and, while reluctant to give it away, I think I need to share it with the world. Here is the review I wrote for the Manhattan Book Review. 


If there is one thing in the world universally loved by children, it’s animals. Children have tremendous curiosity about animals of all kinds. The title of this book is pretty misleading unless one reads the second part of the title: “And Other Vital Questions About the Animal Kingdom,” which doesn’t show on the spine at all and is in a small box on the front cover. When people figure out how much more there is to the book than what the short title indicates, they will be happy to have found it. The book is chock-full of little chunks of fun information about all kinds of creatures, from dinosaurs to vultures, from dung beetles to blue-footed boobies and so, so much more. The writing is crisp and informative but very fun at the same time. Every page has one or two chunks of information along with photographs or illustrations to go along with the information. Author Anna Claybourne has certainly stayed in touch with her inner child, and she knows what questions they might ask and how to answer with lots of fun information. Illustrations by Claire Goble fill in some answer spaces with drawings that complement the
Anna Claybourne
photographs.

I have a gently-read hardback for of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Confessions from the Principal's Kid -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“When describing nature, a writer should seize upon small details, arranging them so that the reader will see an image in his mind after he closes his eyes. For instance: you will capture the truth of a moonlit night if you’ll write that a gleam like starlight shone from the pieces of a broken bottle, and then the dark, plump shadow of a dog or wolf appeared.” 
~ Anton Chekhov ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Looking for some words to make the time period in your book more believable? Check out Grammar Girl’s post HERE about a site and book that can help you out. 

I think all writers think about their protagonist first and build from there, but Steven Pressfield makes a good argument HERE to Start With the Villain. 

Tina Ann Forkner has a guest post HERE on Writers in the Storm that will help you have a grand opening in your book. Check it out. 

I will be absent next week. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was accepted to the SCBWI mentor program for this year, and next weekend is the conference. Unfortunately, it is in Las Vegas, not my favorite place, but it should be an exciting time otherwise. My exchange student will fly in Saturday and keep herself entertained during conference time, but when it's over, we will drive to the Grand Canyon for a day, then home. I have never been to the Grand Canyon in the winter, and going there is high on her bucket list so that should be fun too. 

Last week I offered a copy of Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army illustrated by Scott Wegener to one of you. This week, Susan May Olson is our winner. Congratulations, Susan! If you aren't familiar with Susan, you can check out her blog Time Travel Times Two HERE. Guess what her favorite genre is. Anyway, she has great book reviews there. Her debut middle-grade novel, Time Jump Coins came out last year and is available on Amazon. It's a fun read. Susan, I will get your book out to you soon. For the  rest of you, please keep reading. I have another giveaway.

A couple months ago I ran across Confessions from the Principal's Kid by Robin Mellom on the list for review books for the San Francisco Book Review. The title alone was irresistible for me. Some of the best books I've read have focused on kids whose parents have positions that really impact the kids' lives. I ordered it right up and am glad I did. This is a fun read. Here is the review I wrote for SFBR.

Allie, a fifth-grader, has had her world changed mightily. You’d think talking with one’s mother wouldn’t be a big deal in terms of school life, but if your mother is the principal, one conversation can change everything. Allie lost her best friend and feels adrift in school, but after school, she is quite connected. The Afters are kids whose parents work at the school, and the kids all stay late while their parents finish work. Allie has discovered every shortcut possible and, in addition to the Afters, has found a good friend in the custodian. When Allie gets her wish and is assigned to a partners project with her former best friend, she thinks it’s her big chance to make things right, but she may lose much more than she gains.

Author Robin Mellom, in her author’s note, tells of her life as a principal’s kid,
Robin Mellom
and that experience gives her work clear authenticity. The voice of Allie is pitch-perfect for a girl of that age and circumstance. Her experiences will strike a chord with her intended audience and beyond. The writing is crisp, and the story is smart, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking. Don’t miss this one.

I have a gently-read hardback for of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in
any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you
are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
~ Dr. Seuss ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Strengthening your verbs is always a good idea. Susan Uhlig has a good post HERE to help you do just that. 

Anne R. Allen can help you evoke emotional responses in your characters by using historical details. Check it out HERE.

We all fear readers won’t want to keep reading our stories. Janice Hardy at Fiction University has four reasons HERE readers stop reading. 

I have a little writing news. I entered a haiku in a writing contest and won first place in the poetry category! WooHoo! I received a phone call from the woman running the contest this week with the good news. They will be sending me a check, but I don't know how much. All I know is I WON FIRST PLACE and the check is for more than nothing. Pretty happy here! AND I just watched my beloved Minnesota Vikings pull out an incredible win. It's a good day.

Last week I offered a gently-read hardback of When the Sky Breaks. This week's winner is Danielle Hammelef. Danielle always shares my link for extra points and I appreciate that, and sometimes it pays off. Congratulations, Danielle. I will get your book out this week. For the rest of you, I've got another good one to give away.

Now and then I receive emails from publishers offering me books in exchange for a review. I usually don't accept them because I just don't know when I will be able to get to them, but when Workman Publishing offered me a copy of Spy on History: Victor Down and the World War II Ghost Army, I could not resist. I'm glad I didn't. This is a fascinating story and one kids and adults will find interesting. And notice the book was written by Enigma Alberti, which is a nom de plume for a group of authors who work on this series. This is the second book in the series. I haven't seen the first, but I will be looking it up.

Sergeant Victor Dowd was part of a top-secret unit during World War II. They had been trained, not to fight in combat like most soldiers, but to fool the enemy into believing there were a whole lot more soldiers facing them than there really were and to keep the enemy off kilter in other ways. They had some pretty interesting tricks. They sent out fake radio messages and false reports using Morse Code. It turned out the Germans had analyzed the cadences of the radio broadcasts and the signature tapping when someone sent Morse Code messages. This special group had to study the groups they were pretending to be, to be able to match the way they did things, and fool the enemy into thinking the troops were there. They also had props such as inflatable tanks and guns to fool the enemy even further. They would set up checkpoints, collect firewood and gather around fires, hang up laundry, anything they could to convince the enemy they were a much bigger and more well-armed group they they actually were. This group was critical to the success of many operations and was responsible for saving many lives. 

This book has excellent writing and shows the great research that was done to
Scott Wegener
bring this story out. There are drawings by Scott Wegener interspersed through the book to help keep those reluctant readers on task. In addition there are some bonus pieces to help kids learn about decoding and even a sheet with insignia patches  of the Ghost Army. This is a chapter in history about which I knew nothing, and I am absolutely fascinated by this book.

I have a gently-read hardback for of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

When the Sky Breaks -- Review & Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
~ Neil Gaiman ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Lee Martin has 10 truths authors need to learn to accept HERE

Mary Kole has a great post HERE on KidLit about how to bring dead characters to life in your stories.

If you are writing for kids of any age, you should be aware of KitLit411. If not, here is a link to one of the best posts I’ve seen there, and I have seen plenty of excellent posts. This one is chock full of links that will help you improve your writing and on the road to success. Click HERE for all kinds of good help.

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season. I know I did. I had lots of relaxing time, caught up on some of my reading, and feel like my batteries are recharged. I was even inspired to write an article I will be sending out to some children's magazines this week. (Fingers crossed!) I had wonderful time with family including a very short but really nice visit from Maggie all the way from New York. But now everyone is back where they belong, the grandkids will go back to school, and I am back to blogging.

One of the things I like about Common Core is that it has given us a great many wonderful non-fiction books. When I get a chance to grab some of those for review, I do it. I want to tell you about one I really enjoyed early last year. It is called When the Sky Breaks: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and the Worst Weather in the World by Simon Winchester. This one comes from Smithsonian, and their non-fiction books for kids are always great. Here is the review I wrote for the Seattle Book Review.

Most middle-grade readers are old enough to remember hearing about the terrible damage Hurricane Sandy caused just a few years ago. Many have probably heard of Hurricane Katrina as well. Every year these youngsters see reports of tornadoes, typhoons, and other great storms. Has it always been this way? What causes these awful events? These are the kinds of questions kids are curious about, and this is a book that will help to quell that curiosity. Author Simon Winchester was a scientist before he became a journalist and writer, and that shows nicely in his approach to the subject. It’s clear he has a good understanding of the subject of violent weather
Simon Winchester
and brings both scientific knowledge and historical perspective to the subject of storms. He then ties all of this together into a story the weather tells about the larger issue of climate change. Winchester’s writing style is that of a storyteller. He uses creative writing techniques, making it fun for readers while they are learning, and learn they will. The text is supported with spectacular photographs of storms and storm damage and of illustrations for stories of times past, as well as charts and maps to support the science.

I have a gently-read hardback for of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Last Minute Shopping

Thought for the Day:
“Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be a very silent place
if no birds sang except the best.” 
~ Henry van Dyke, poet ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Fiction writers can learn a lot from screenwriters. HERE is a good post from Go Teen Writers by Caitlin Eha with 5 good tips. 

A good villain makes every book a little bit better. Laurence MacNaughton has a   post HERE on Fiction University that can help you build a great villain. 

Wonderful post on query letters HERE on Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating written by Erika Wassal.   

First of all, I want to wish all of you happiest of holidays. I will be taking the next two or possibly three weeks off from posting to spend extra time with my family. 

Last week I offered a copy of Welcome to Wonderland #2: Beach Party Surf Monkey to one of you. This week's winner is Zoie. You can find out more about her at her blog, Whisked Away by Words HERE. Congratulations, Zoie! I will get your book out to you this week. No giveaway this week. Just good suggestions.

For those of you who may still have some last-minute shopping for the holidays, books always make a great gift. Here are my suggestions for some of the great books I ran across in my reviewing this year. A few of my reviews haven't been published yet, so I have linked to them on Goodreads. If you click on the title, it will take you to my review or the Goodreads page.

Picture Books

Bear's House of Books by Poppy Bishop Illustrated by Alison Edgson

Cricket in the Thicket by Carol Murray Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

William's Winter Nap by Linda Ashman Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Second Grade Holdout by Audrey Veronica Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Middle Grade

Not on Fifth Street by Kathy Weichman Cannon

Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin

Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart


Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

Young Adult

Bull by David Elliott

Yearbook by Jess Edward Johnson

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Victoria: Portrait of a Queen by Catherine Reef

Adult

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate


Last Shift -- Poems by Philip Levine 

The Seasonal Kitchen by Kerry Dunnington










I hope all of you have a most wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year. I'll see you here in 2018. In the mean time, don't forget to find more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle HERE.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Welcome to Wonderland #2: Beach Party Surf Monkey -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter.”
~ Jessamyn West ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Writer’s Rumpus has a good post HERE about the hard work of revision. 

Steven Pressfield always has good advice, but the post HERE may have the best advice for writers. 


For those of us who write picture books, the post HERE by Melissa Manlove of Chronicle Books will be invaluable. 

Last week I offered a copy of Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick. Our winner this time is Joyce Moyer Hostetter! If you don't know Joyce, what cave have you been living in? She is a prolific writer from North Carolina, author of award winning books such as Blue and Healing Water and others. I'm so thrilled she reads my blog! Congratulations, Joyce. I will get your book out to you this week. Yes, for the rest of you, I do have another giveaway this week, so keep reading.

I mentioned a few weeks ago when I reviewed another Chris Grabenstein book that I would be reviewing Welcome to Wonderland #2: Beach Party Surf Monkey soon. This is the week and here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review. 

P. T. and Gloria are back in this sequel to Welcome to Wonderland #1: Home Sweet Motel and are still trying to save the Wonderland. This time they face a formidable opponent, Mr. Conch, and his nefarious daughter. Conch has built a huge resort next door and covets the very land Wonderland sits on. A movie is being filmed in town, and all the hotels and motels compete to be the setting for the film. P. T. and Gloria put on a presentation that wins the contract, and the games begin. 

Author Chris Grabenstein has a wicked sense of humor, and it populates every
Chris Grabenstein
page in this silly middle-grade novel. How can anyone not love a book that has a surfing monkey at its core? All the characters are fully-rounded and fully funny. Even the bad guys aren’t all that bad and will leave readers laughing. And of course there is poop. It’s a Chris Grabenstein book. And middle-graders love a little poop humor. Illustrator Brooke Allen adds to the fun with lots of cute cartoonish illustrations scattered throughout to support the story and keep wondering young minds pulled in. This one is a winner. 

I have a gently-read paperback for of this for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways. He has graciously agreed to take over temporarily for Shannon Messenger while she is running around promoting her latest book. Thanks, Greg, and go forth and sell books, Shannon!