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1. One Breathtaking Quest Before Breakfast:A Visit with Author-Illustrator Aaron Becker


(Click to enlarge)

Pictured here is Aaron Becker’s sketch of the rhino that is embossed on the cover of Quest (Candlewick, August 2014), the second picture book in what Aaron calls the Journey trilogy. The trilogy began with last year’s Journey, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

I’ve told this story before, but my own journey with Journey began back in 2012 when Aaron left a comment here at 7-Imp, I clicked on his hyperlinked name, and I visited his website. I believe I muttered “whoa” a lot here at my desk at 7-Imp Central. (It was, most likely, more like “whoa, DUDE,” but that makes me sound way less professional, doesn’t it?) I asked him if he’d like to visit the blog, which resulted in this post a year before Journey came out (oh, and then this fun breakfast interview in 2013). Then, when it finally was released, I ended up blurbing it, which is something I don’t do on a regular basis, but I loved the book. When the book got a Caldecott Honor, I cheered loudly down here in Tennessee. And now … well, to see Quest finally on shelves is a bit thrilling if you’re a Journey fan.

Quest brings back to readers the boy and the girl of the previous tale, who embark one rainy day on a journey to save a king who has been captured. He surprises the children in the park, handing them a map and swearing them to secrecy, while setting them to the task of finding six magic crayons that will eventually free his kingdom from darker forces now in control. The Kirkus review notes that Becker’s storytelling here in the world he created with last year’s book is even more ambitious. I’ve read the book multiple times and see some new detail in each read, and I also love the bits of humor. (For one, during a glorious underwater scene, the purple bird from Journey can be seen with his own scuba tank. Becker is never one to miss details.)

It’s another wonderful (in the truest sense of the word) wordless tale. It’s breathtaking, thrilling, and epic all at once. At this Candlewick Q&A, Aaron goes into detail about how he creates his art; it involves computer 3D models of each element of the world he’s created. Today here at 7-Imp, he chats with me a bit and shares some preliminary images (dummy images, early cover art, etc.) And I thank him for visiting.

p.s. Don’t miss Matthew Winner’s August podcast conversation with Becker.

* * * * * * *


Original pitch image for Quest
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: You’ve probably already discussed elsewhere what it was like to get the Caldecott call, so I apologize if this is redundant, but hey, what was it like to get the Caldecott call?

Aaron: I’ve had people tell me not to read anything on the internet about one’s book, but because I’m so new to this, I just can’t help myself. It’s exciting! So, I had read all of these blogs leading up to the Caldecott announcements saying how Journey was a major contender. So when the call came, I saw that it was from Philadelphia, and I had a pretty good idea who might be on the other end. That said, it was still a total thrill, and I think the more time that passes, the better I understand just how amazingly fortunate I’ve been.


Early cover sketch for Quest
(Click to enlarge)


Original cover concept
(Click to enlarge)


Color cover sketch
(Click to enlarge)


Final cover

Jules: How’d you deal with the pressure of creating both a sequel and a sophomore picture book when the success of your debut was so huge? This is assuming you felt stress. Perhaps you did not.

Aaron: Because the artwork for Journey was completed a full year and a half before it published, I had plenty of time to work on a follow-up before I had any idea that Journey was going to be so well-received. Well, I had your blurb, but you know … I didn’t want to just rest on my laurels, so I went ahead and developed the idea for an entire trilogy. The artwork for Quest was finished in early June of 2013, a few months before Journey published!

That said, I did feel some pressure when working on the series’ finale (Return, due Fall 2016) — not so much because of the success of its predecessor, but because I knew it had to do justice to the character arcs I had been developing. Like Quest, it had to have its own beginning, middle, and end, but unlike the second book, it also had to finish the entire tale. I spent probably nine or ten months on the story alone and am just now starting to finish the artwork for it.


Mosaic sketch

Jules: Ah, I see. I had planned on asking if work on the third book in the trilogy has already begun.

Aaron: After much wrangling, the story is DONE. But the artwork awaits. My family and I are headed to Spain for the school year, and Candlewick has agreed to ship me all of my supplies to finish the artwork right on the Mediterranean. How cool is that?!

Jules: I’d have to say severely cool.

Do you want to talk a bit about working with the designers and such at Candlewick? (I know from experience how wonderful they are.) How much input do you have on the book’s overall design?





Dummy sketches
(Click each to enlarge)

Aaron: Maryellen Hanley is the designer that I work with at Candlewick. At this point, I defer to her on major design decisions around the book design, because I’ve learned she’s far more talented than I am. And smarter. Because there’s no text to flow into the images, most of the other design decisions come down to compositional issues that I deal with during the editing process. Sometimes she has ideas for where to go on a particular spread, but I find that I’m much more picky about those types of things. Usually, if I give it a few weeks, I realize that she’s right, but on some occasions, if I still feel strongly about whatever it is I’m trying to communicate, I stick to my original idea.


Watercolor prep — 3D and final sketch
(Click to enlarge)


Final — 3D and watercolor
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Are there specific experiences that formed the essential bases, the fundamental building blocks, of your artistic vision? Books, movies, artists, events, images, anything else, etc….? (I love to pull out this question for my favorite artists, but if you think it’s too broad of a query, feel free to say so or skip.)

Aaron: I think from a story perspective the Journey series is quite autobiographical, especially if you think in terms of metaphors. I always used drawing as a means of escape and a tool with which to figure out life. I also think there’s going to be a bit of Star Wars in anything I do, just because I was summarily brainwashed by that film when I was three. “Trilogy,” anyone?

Jules: What do you, as an artist, find most challenging and satisfying in the creative processes you employ?

[Ed. Note: Pictured left is a painting from Anders Zorn, which served as a reference piece for Aaron on this book.]

Aaron Easily, by far, the most challenging thing is to find emotional resonance in a story. Crafting the logic of a story takes work, but there’s something completely subjective and amorphous about locating the heart of a tale. The problem is, if you rely on formulas to generate sympathy for your characters, the story becomes, well … formulaic. So the only way I’ve found is to work and work and work, and then when you’re done, keep working. So when you do finally “get it,” yes, it’s very, very satisfying. I still remember when, after about nine months of wrangling, I called my editor, Mary Lee Donovan, with the final draft for Journey’s closing chapter (Return), and we read through the sketches over phone/email — and the sense of it having landed was almost tangible. At the very least, it certainly was audible!

Jules: Okay, I’ve gotten lately to where I simply love to ask people: What are you reading now?

Aaron Spanish language books. I have a lot to learn, and it’s funny, because my brain has become so wired to focus only on book-making, that it’s almost like a jolt of caffeine to use it for something else like learning a new language. Well, new to me anyway! I’m working with a tutor this week, and at some point during the lesson she asked me to say my phone number in Spanish, and while I could remember how to say the numbers, I couldn’t remember my ACTUAL PHONE NUMBER. That was how much my brain was exploding.




Reference materials for Quest:
A Central Park underpass, a temple, and Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue
(Click each to enlarge)

Jules: On that note, what picture books have you loved lately? Or whose work have you seen that you think deserves some love and attention?

Aaron I am still talking about Quentin Blake’s work on the late Russell Hoban’s Rosie’s Magic Horse. There’s something just utterly delightful and freeing about his penmanship and the story itself. I’m also very impressed by Benjamin Chaud’s The Bear’s Song and Aleksandra Mizielińska’s Mamoko series. And on a trip to L.A. recently, I met Drew Daywalt for the first time and realized that there’s a good reason why The Day the Crayons Quit is so popular — the author is an incredibly wonderful and sharp-witted guy. I think we’re going to see a lot more from him.

Jules: Oh yes, my daughters are deeply in love with those Mamoko books by Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński. They even turned the word “Mamoko” into its own song, and those books go everywhere in the car with them. And the Maps book from last year? It’s exquisite. I hated that in 2013 I didn’t write about that book, but at least we’re giving it some attention now. (Better late than never.)


Last question, since you have a big journey ahead of you (no pun intended): Do you know enough about the future to know what will be post-trilogy, as in any plans/ideas already in the works that you can talk about?

Aaron: I have several ideas in the works, but I have the feeling I’ll find something in Spain that will plant a seed or two. In particular, Southern Spain, where we’ll be living, is known for its Moorish influences, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be in my version of architectural heaven.

* * * * * * *

QUEST. Copyright © 2014 by Aaron Becker. Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

All artwork and images are used with permission of Aaron Becker.

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2. Review: Not For Everyday Use. On-line Floricanto 7 X 5

Elizabeth Nunez. Not For Everyday Use. NY: Akashic Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781617752339 e-IBSN: 9781617752780

Michael Sedano

You won’t necessarily take a phone call one day, maybe you’ll be there. You won’t necessarily be 64 like that song, but you’ll be old when you get the news your mother is dead. Not For Everyday Use is Elizabeth Nunez’ memoir of the hours and days following her mother’s passing.


In the course of a few days, the family reunion, funeral and church rituals, sibling expectations, and the author’s own disconnectedness spark reflections upon memories that guide the daughter’s comprehension of the immensity of this change in her family.

While the theme of the matriarch’s death is universal, readers will appreciate the writer’s post-colonial, immigrant, and person-of-color themes that play strongly throughout the memoir. Nunez devotes elaborated discussion to class v. color arguments, fidelity, decolonized mindsets, the isolation and hardship of an immigrant single mother on her own, why her mother pushed her away.

Written with a novelist’s pen, the story flows from incidents and anecdotes juxtaposed in time. In one section, the reader learns that Nunez and Betty Shabazz work in the same academic department. Any sense of solidarity between the Trinidadian and the US Muslim quickly dissipates in another account, Nunez being told off by a U.S.-born black woman that the Trinidadian black woman should know her place. They were competing for a student leadership position. Another tale, in dialect, reflects an attitude that infects and strengthens the Nunez clan, what don bile, don spile. It's the attitude the old man displays looking upon the corpse of his wife of 65 years. He nods and says before walking away, "Well, that's that."

Mourning often gives way to old resentments and unfinished business. Nunez has some of this, perhaps, in her descriptions of her sisters and brothers. Her sister Karen really gets under her skin. Her father’s cheating and her mother’s pain at it are recurring jabs at the 90 year old demented man. The father’s Carnival dance at the funeral parlor comes as total surprise and author's restrained humor. You’re not supposed to laugh, are you?

Not For Everyday Use is the autobiography of Nunez’ novels Anna In-between and Boundaries. For practitioners of the craft of memoir writing, the author shares a writer’s insight on using one’s life and family to populate her fiction, and how a moment's recognition winds and unravels skeins of time recorded in the words.

Readers of those two excellent novels will appreciate the connections between the writer’s world and that of the novels. Prior reading won’t be required with Nunez calling attention to key parallels and differences between the novels and the author's life. The writer treads a storyteller's line that leads her familia to accuse the author of getting too honest about private matters. The writer’s defense, “I’m a writer.”

Reading Elizabeth Nunez’ two-novel life of Anna Sinclair, Anna In-Between and Boundaries, introduces readers to a flinty mother, a daughter wanting more affection, a divorced single mother immigrant black woman employed in New York publishing industry. That’s almost Nunez’ profile. She’s an English professor.

In the novels, Anna and Beatrice suffer one another’s needs but maintain an icy distance. Nunez' friends say she's too hard on the fictional mother. That’s also the mother-daughter relationship the author weaves together in Not For Everyday Use. It’s not a spoiler to say--look for it--Elizabeth and Una have a warm reconciliation when both manage to say, without choking on the emotion, “I love you.”

Readers and writers of US ethnic literatures will find Nunez’ voicing of immigrant sentiments familiar, eloquent, and distinctive. Coming from a newly de-colonized gente--she's first generation--the author’s voice and insight into exigencies in-common will prove vitalizing to readers and writers.

You can order Not For Everday Use through your local independent bookseller, or directly from the publisher, Akashic Books’ website here.



Seven by Five: On-line Floricanto for September 2
Gabriel Rosenstock, Francisco X. Alarcón, Jackie Lopez, Frank de Jesus Acosta, Mario Angel Escobar

The Moderators of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB1070 Poetry of Resistance recommend five poets from two continents writing in three languages for today's La Bloga On-line Floricanto.


"An End to Borders" by Gabriel Rosenstock with his original poem in Gaelic, "Deireadh Le Teorainneacha"
"Frontera / Border" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"Slithering Our Way to Heaven" by Jackie Lopez
"Why I Write?" by Frank de Jesus Acosta
"Brown Chronicles" by Mario Angel Escobar



AN END TO BORDERS
by Gabriel Rosenstock

An end to borders
An end to flags
An end to barbed wire
An end to towering walls
An end to nations
End the base tinkle of currencies
End wars
Let the planet breathe freely
Without borders
Without flags
Without barbed wire
Without towering walls
Without nations
Without the base tinkle of currencies
Without wars
An end forever to borders

DEIREADH LE TEORAINNEACHA
by Gabriel Rosenstock

Deireadh le teorainneacha
Deireadh le bratacha
Deireadh le sreang dheilgneach
Deireadh le fallaí arda
Deireadh le náisiúin
Cuir deireadh le cling shuarach na n-airgeadraí
Deireadh le cogaí
Lig don phláinéad análú gan bhac
Gan teorainneacha
Gan bhratacha
Gan sreang dheilgneach
Gan fallaí arda
Gan náisiúin
Gan cling shuarach na n-airgeadraí
Gan chogaí
Deireadh go deo le teorainneacha



Gabriel Rosenstock. Poet, novelist, playwright, haikuist, essayist, author/translator of over 170 books, mostly in Irish (Gaelic). Taught haiku at the Schule für Dichtung (Poetry Academy), Vienna, and Hyderabad Literary Festival, India. Prolific translator of poems, plays, songs, he also writes for children, in prose and verse. Represented in Best European Fiction 2012 (Dalkey Archive Press) and Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton & Co. 2013). Books Ireland, Summer 2012, says of his detective novel My Head is Missing: ‘This is a departure for Rosenstock but he is surefooted as he takes on the comic genre and writes a story full of engaging characters and a plot that keeps the reader turning the page.’
New and selected poems I OPEN MY POEM …(translated from the Irish) published in 2014 by PoetryWala, Mumbai, India and The Partisan and other stories published by Evertype, 2014.
Rosenstock’s Blog address:
roghaghabriel.blogspot.ie




Frontera/ Border
by Francisco X. Alarcón





Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, born in Los Angeles, in 1954, is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992), Sonetos a la locura y otras penas / Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company 2001), De amor oscuro / Of Dark Love (Moving Parts Press 1991, and 2001).
His latest books are Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun / Poemas para el Nuevo Sol (Swan Scythe Press 2010), and for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú/Animalario del Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008) which was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association, and as an Américas Awards Commended Title by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para sonar juntos (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award.
He teaches at the University of California, Davis, where he directs the Spanish for Native Speakers Program. The issue of eco-poetics and xenophobia are a the core of three upcoming collections of poems, “Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Anthology in Response to SB 1070,” “Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems / Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas.” He is the creator of the Facebook page POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 where more than 3,000 poems by poets all over the world have been posted. This is the link to the Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/PoetryOfResistance




Slithering Our Way to Heaven
by Jackie Lopez

I see love, peace, and joy slithering like a snake in the grass up to our spines.
It enables us to see Heaven on Earth when there is plenty of Orisha-orientations.
We sink into Mother Earth for her comfort and strength in our enterprise for survival.
And, we will survive.
Every border,
every genocide,
every racist, sexist, classist sentiment is thrown out the window for our survival.
Every history book will speak the truth of our organization.
Every Thursday we shall have dinner with wonderful disorganization.
Now and then, we cross the border of discontent and organize an evolution.
We march in the streets.
We picket on the line.
And, we shall nail our edict on the cross.
There is hope in a word.
There is hope in a dance.
There is hope in a march and we go marching on.
We claim the universe complete.
We are anointed and know that the only way to survive is if we take a trip to the truth.
I am not agnostic and esoteric at the same time.
I am survival of the kindest.
I am survival of true love.
We sink or swim in misbehavior.
For our solution is found in the consultation of our souls.
And, where does it all start?
And, where did I come from?
It all started with a misbehavior one evening when I was anointing the masses.
We are organizing an evolution for the promotion of restitution.
We are aghast with philosophy, and we shall anoint whomever washes a dish.
And, the saints are marching in.
We wear mini-skirts and shorts.
We wear an Alaskan mask and we shoot the breeze with the namesayers.
We are closet scientists and we mistake enamorations for flirtations.
So, now I say, Let us rejoice for the world has opened up with dire pollution in order for us to be united as emancipators.
We shall cross the border.
We shall reach the sea.
We have been accosted at every turn with oppression.
And, it is getting thick like molasses.
So, I cling to hope and enamorations.
I cling so that I might see the universe for what it really is and what it does to us.
We are disjointed at the ends, and we are getting the Heaven out of Hell.
So, speak your truth.
I am listening.
Sing, for boyfriends offer patrimony to the lovely creationism that you bring.
And, I dive into the lies and remember that the only thing that can get through my pores is the truth.
We are shamans.
We promote the non-toxicity of the world.
We are crazy with love and emotional control.
We sing in the spirit of a saint.
And we embark on traffic control.
There is not such a thing as hope without despair.
It is now our golden opportunity to live on Earth and say, “We are hope.”
So, little is said about the misogynistic era of enlightenment.
However, I am one to say it.
This is the millennium of Heaven.
There is an ocean of forgiveness somewhere out there.
There is emancipatory proclamations out there as well.
And, we are ones to ride that wave.



Jackie Lopez is a poet and writer from San Diego. She was founding member of the Taco Shop Poets and has always pursued a study of history of which has influenced her writing. She has taught in San Diego City Schools and has been published in several literary journals. She has just finished her Magnum Opus titled “Telepathic Goodbye” described as a uniform poem of 25, 333 words. She is now looking for a publisher for this. You can catch her work on facebook under “Jackie Lopez Lopez” where she shares her work with a daily poem. She has a radio interview that will come out later this year. Her email: peacemarisolbeautiful@yahoo.com







Why I write?
by Frank de Jesus Acosta

I write to:

Give scope to my growing understanding of truth;
Impart my dreams and visions;
Honor the sacrifice of the ancestors;
Remember the stories, traditions, and history of my people;
Reflect the duality of pain;
Express gratitude for the miracle of creation;
Acknowledge the integrity of all cultures;
Celebrate the expression of my own;
Lament the anathema of hate, greed, egoism, and tyranny;
Witness to justice, compassion, respect, and non-violence;
Incite aspiration to human possibility;
Voice the inspiration of love;
Commune with the presence of God in others;
Leave footprints of my dance to the song of life...

Reflection by: Frank de Jesus Acosta


Frank de Jesus Acosta is principal of Acosta & Associates, a California-based consulting group that specializes in professional support services to public and private social change ventures in the areas of children, youth and family services, violence prevention, community development, and cultural fluency. In 2007, he authored, The History of Barrios Unidos, Cultura Es Cura, Healing Community Violence, published by Arte Publico Press, University of Houston. Acosta is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His professional experience includes serving in executive leadership positions with The California Wellness Foundation, the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Downtown Immigrant Advocates (DIA), the Center for Community Change, and the UCLA Community Programs Office. He is presently focused on completing the writing and publishing a two book series for Arte Publico Press focused on best practices to improve the well-being of Latino young men and boys. Acosta most recently co-authored a published “Brown Paper” with Jerry Tello of the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute (NLFFI) entitled, “Lifting Latinos Up by Their Rootstraps: Moving Beyond Trauma Through a Healing-Informed Framework for Latino Boys and Men.” Acosta provides writing and strategic professional support in research, planning, and development to foundations and community-focused institutions on select initiatives focused on advancing social justice, equity, and pluralism. He is also finalizing writing and editing a book of inter-cultural poetry and spiritual reflections.





BROWN CHRONICLES
by Mario Angel Escobar

If you ever want to walk
the corners of your streets,
Be ready to put your hands up
because the pigmentation of your skin,
Has already made you guilty.
Be ready to hold your last breath
because eyes with a sense of supremacy
will stalked you
following your foots steps.
Don’t hold anything in your hands
Open them like roses in the spring
accelerating their process
because if you don’t
the law will drop a white blanket
on a puddle of blood
covering a history
that has been deny
over and over again
but why cry
if the tears will continue to blossom
everyday
flooding with sadness
our sunsets.
Wherever you go
Sirens
Will stalked you
suffocated your path
with the scent of your
dead ones
If you ever want to walk
the corners of your streets,
Be ready to put your hands up
because a single phrase
I am not guilty!
I am not guilty!
I am not guilty!
Will not do
and in the vortex
of the hourglass sand
you will find
that the dream
still a dream
in the corners
of your street.

© Mario A. Escobar 2014


Mario A. Escobar (January 19, 1978-) is a US-Salvadoran writer and poet born in 1978. Although he considers himself first and foremost a poet, he is known as the founder and editor of Izote Press. Escobar has stated that his exposure to “poetic sounds” began during his childhood and that his foundation in poetry stemmed from what he witness during the Salvadoran Civil War. Escobar began his writing career by the age of 13 as a poet. He cites Roque Dalton, Tato Laviera and Jaime Sabines as some of his early poetic influences. Escobar’s work has been feature in UCLA’s publication Underground Undergrads which recognizes the poet as an activist for the undocumented Student Movement. In 2004, Escobar was placed under arrest and was scheduled to be deported. In 2006, Escobar won his case for political asylum making him one of the last Salvadorans to win a political case fourteen years after the Salvadoran Peace Accords were signed in 1992. Escobar is a faculty member in the Department of Foreign Languages at LA Mission College. Some of Escobar’s works include Al correr de la horas (Editorial Patria Perdida, 1999) Gritos Interiores (Cuzcatlan Press, 2005), La Nueva Tendencia (Cuzcatlan Press, 2005), Paciente 1980 (Orbis Press, 2012). His bilingual poetry appears in Theatre Under My Skin: Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry by Kalina Press.

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3. Review: Irresistible Force by D D Ayres

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I don’t usually read romantic suspense because the heroine is usually put into a dire, life-threatening situation, and sometimes that just stresses me out.  I ventured outside of my comfort zone because Irresistible Force features a K-9 dog.  I wasn’t sure how big a part the dog would play in the story, but anything with the word “dog” pretty  much gets my attention.  I’m so glad I picked this up!  While there are several uncomfortable scenes for our heroine, Shay, she thinks well under pressure and refuses to allow herself to be a victim.  It helped that James, her police officer love interest, is brave, kind, and understanding, and oh, yeah, Bogart the dog puts all of his training to the test to save Shay from danger.  Thank goodness!

Shay is need of a serious break.  Her whole life has been one traumatic misunderstanding after another.  After an abusive experience when she was a young girl, she has lived with whispers, taunts, and outright bullying at one school after another.  Now an IT professional, she’s changed her name and buried her past behind her.  Or so she thinks.  When her ex, a powerful, wealthy banker, just can’t take “no” for an answer, all of her fears from her childhood catch up with her.  Fearful of Eric, who is stalking her, she rescues a shepherd from the animal shelter where she works as a volunteer.  A woman brought the dog in to be destroyed, claiming that he was aggressive and had attacked a child.  When he turned out to be anything but, Shay renamed the animal Prince and took her home, thankful to have such a trustworthy guardian at her side.

Police officer James Cannon is desperately searching for his canine partner, Bogart.  He gets a tip that the dog is at a cabin in the woods, and he confronts Shay, accusing her of dognapping his partner.  By the time they work out the misunderstanding, Shay can’t help but act on her attraction to the gorgeous cop.  She wants to be in charge for a change, and after another frightening encounter with Eric earlier in the day, she throws her inhibitions out the window.  Her no-strings encounter backfires because James is a great guy and wants more than what she’s originally willing to offer, but Shay’s demons won’t let her trust him.

Shay is a tragic character, and I couldn’t help liking her.  I wanted her to finally have a happy ending, because up until the start of this book, life has done nothing but crap on her.  Eric is a first-class bastard, and once Shay finds the courage to call it quits with him, he refuses to let her go.  His ego won’t let her call the shots, and his need to be in control puts her in an unenviable situation.  With the power that comes with his position at the bank, he arranges for Shay’s placement company to have her temped to bank.  Then he does everything he can to make her regret ever having met him.

Normally I would think the heroine was an idiot for not just going to the authorities when someone is harassing them, but Shay’s previous run-ins with the law makes it perfectly logical that she would avoid trying to get help from anyone.  She has always had one person to rely on, and that has always been herself.  The whole world seemed like it was out to get her when she was younger, so her reluctance to trust was believable.  James is still kind of an unknown, too.  She’s just met him, they got off on the wrong foot, and she can’t bring herself to confide in him, especially when he isn’t exactly upfront with her.  I loved the push and pull between them, and wondered how they would ever come to an understanding that allowed them to be open and trusting with each other.

If you like romantic suspense, you will love Irresistible Force. The hero is everything that Shay needs, Bogart has a starring role, and Shay learns to open her heart and finally learn to trust.  If you are like me and on the fence about romantic suspense, you have to give this book a try.  I couldn’t put it down, and even though I was squirming near the end during Shay’s life and death ordeal, I knew that James and Bogart would eventually race to her rescue – but only after Shay found the strength to save herself from the danger confronting her.  I can hardly wait to meet the protagonists from Force of Attraction, the next book in the series.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

“Incredible! You’ll be on the edge of your seat to see if the heroine can make it out alive.”—Catherine Coulter, New York Times bestselling author

When adrenaline runs high, so does the force of desire…

For Shay Appleton, it’s love at first sight when a gorgeous stray dog is brought into the animal shelter where she works. She just knows he’ll make a terrific watch dog—and with an abusive ex who won’t let go, she needs all the protection she can get. But Shay never suspected that her new pet is actually a trained police K-9 named Bogart—until Bogart’s even more gorgeous, human partner shows up on her doorstep.

IRRESISTIBLE FORCE by D.D. Ayres

Officer James Cannon is one tall, strong alpha male who’s convinced that Shay stole his dog. But once he gets closer to the suspect, he realizes that this stubborn, independent woman not only needs a guard dog, she needs James as well. It seems that someone from her past is stalking her, and threatening her life. When danger meets desire, will James risk his career and his best friend…to protect the woman who’s stolen his heart?

The post Review: Irresistible Force by D D Ayres appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. Would You Like a Slice of Life T-Shirt?

Do good while professing your love of Slice of Life Story writing. All proceeds from the sale of this t-shirt will benefit the Pajama Program.

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5. From the Family Bookshelf – September

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Hard to believe summer is nearly gone. It was a busy time for me, but an enjoyable one. The family traveled to North Carolina at the beginning of July, and then I went on an all girls trip to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder sites in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. For the Lil’ Diva’s 13th birthday, we took the girls on a surprise trip to Disney. What a blast we had, but it was so HOT! The thermometer didn’t get below 95 degrees during the day while we there. I’m sure you’re all feeling sorry for me right now, huh?

I managed to get some reading done in between jaunts. I’m glad to be home with the girls back in school. Though with my new job I don’t have much free time, at least we’re on a schedule. In July I read, Renewal “Anytime” 10 Day Detox by Lisa Consiglio Ryan, When SHMACK Happens, an inspirational sports biography by international cycling champion Amber Neben, and A Grand Design by Amber Stockton and Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas–both Christian romances. On vacation I finished The Truth: Diary of a Gutsy Teen by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein. Right now, I’m reading The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick and The Hybrid Author by Dianne Sagan.

Poor Dad is still working on The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman. He works too much, so he’s tired a lot of the time. He rarely gets an entire chapter done before falling asleep.

The Lil’ Diva received two $25 gift cards to Barnes and Noble for her birthday, so she splurged on books. In addition, I bought her America: Imagine the World without Her by Dinesh D’Souza, The Sound by Sara Alderson, and Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson. Then she won Fangirl and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell from the summer reading program. Also as part of the program, she got to order a free paperback. She chose If I Stay by Gayle Forman. She’s working her way through her new books right now.

The Lil’ Princess managed to read enough to complete her goal for the summer reading program, but then called it quits for the summer. She’ll have a busy fall, so I guess it’s okay that she slacked off. She also won a raffle during the library’s summer reading program. We definitely had a great summer. I hope you did too.

That’s it for this edition of From the Family Bookshelf. Hope you’ll share some of what you’ve been reading. Have a great day and keep reading!


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6. The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman



THE GARDEN OF LETTERS sounds wonderful.  I have this book but have not been able to read it yet.
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Alyson Richman’s previous novel The Lost Wife dazzled on national bestseller lists and was praised by author John Lescroart as being “the Sophie’s Choice of this generation.”
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Praise for The Garden of Letters

“The Garden of Letters demonstrates artistry of the highest order. Lyrical and compelling, Alyson Richman’s novel of a cellist coming of age in wartime Italy is as layered as a symphony. Exquisite.”

Erika Robuck, author of Fallen Beauty

“Lyrical and rich…filled with beauty and tragedy, romance and heartbreak.”


Jillian Cantor, author of Margot

“Bottom line: you should read The Garden of Letters.”


Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us
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Best-selling author Alyson Richman has received both national and international praise for her work, including 15 language translations and honorable nominations such as the Book Sense Notable Pick in 2006. Following the success of her first three novels, Richman’s latest book, The Lost Wife, was critically acclaimed, chosen as a Jewish Book Council selection and winning the Long Island Reads Pick in 2012, praised by booksellers, bloggers, and media all around the country.

Now, Alyson Richman explores the life of a young musician swept into the Italian Resistance during World War II in THE GARDEN OF LETTERS (Berkley Trade Paperback; September 2, 2014; $16.00).

Accompanying readers back to the tumultuous times of the 1940’s, THE GARDEN OF LETTERS follows Elodie Bertolotti, a young cello prodigy. When Mussolini’s Fascist regime strikes her family, Elodie is drawn into the burgeoning resistance movement by Luca, a young and impassioned bookseller, and as the occupation looms she discovers that her unique musical talents, and her courage, have the power to save lives.

But forced to escape to the small coastal village of Portofino, Elodie is scared and alone as she steps of the boat.  Fortunately, she is rescued by Angelo Rosselli, a young doctor shackled to guilt and haunted by his past. Attempting to escape her own tragedies, Elodie uses her musical talent to mount her courage and help others who suffer in the same way. In doing so, Elodie reawakens a spirit in Angelo he thought he’d lost, which ignites a spark between the two that changes the course of their lives forever.

THE GARDEN OF LETTERS is an incredible story of love, courage, and the power of the human spirit to find hope against the backdrop of war.

Alyson Richman is the bestselling author of The Mask Carver’s Son, The Rhythm of Memory, The Last Van Gogh, and The Lost Wife.

THE GARDEN OF LETTERS
by Alyson Richman
Berkley Trade Paperback
On-sale: September 2, 2014
$16; ISBN: 978-0425266250


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7. Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

On the basis of Beth Kephart's recommendation in her book Handling the Truth, I ordered a copy of Hiroshima in the Morning through Powells. The author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto received a fellowship to go to Japan in mid-2001 for six months and research her planned novel about the bombing of Hiroshima. What she did not expect was the wrenching difficulty (in a myriad of ways) of parting from her husband and 2 young sons in NYC and how complicated it would be to navigate Japanese culture and gain the insight she wanted on her subject.

This is a really tough book to classify because if I tell you it will resonate strongly with women who feel torn between family life and their work, you will probably immediately think of "Lean In" and not give it a second thought. But that aspect of the book is important and needs to be noted. Rizzuto's personal/professional conflict is so intense and so tied to the unique aspects of researching a book, that any writer who has ever felt similarly torn is going to identify very powerfully with her words. She wonders if she is committed enough to her marriage and motherhood and also worries about her own mother who is suffering from the early stages of dementia. Are there other places where Rizzuto should be? It doesn't help when her husband starts to rethink all of his earlier support for the project after spending one too many nights dealing with sick kids. And all Rizzuto can tell him is that she is talking to people, visiting museums and temples, "soaking up" the culture of Japan.

She might be more convincing if she felt more certain that she was getting done the work she needed.

That's the other impressive aspect of Hiroshima in the Morning--Rizzuto's discovery of how complicated the Hiroshima story is. The book has excerpts from the interviews she conducted with survivors and they are the very definition of gut wrenching. Rizzuto finds herself overwhelmed by the horror of those stories, (you will be too), and transformed by them. Then 9/11 happens and her family arrives for a visit and again her vision of herself and the world goes through another change.

There is a lot about this book that made me think about writing, history, stories, the power of family and so much more. So many times as a writer I have questioned the value of what I choose to do with my life and anyone who has ever been in that position will understand what Rizzuto goes through. But the stories from Hiroshima are what has stayed with me more than anything else and they make me think yet again how much our history is dominated by the way we tell stories, and our collective acceptance of who does the telling.

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8. One of my favorite things in Sylvia Plath’s diaries are the entries that swing from “I...

One of my favorite things in Sylvia Plath’s diaries are the entries that swing from “I need to start having people over for dinner more often! What a pleasure to cook for people!” to “I need to stop having people over for dinner all the time, they’re assholes and I need more time to write.” (Loose paraphrase!)

I think of this whenever I get in a burst of sociability.

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9. Best Selling Picture Books | September 2014

Our best selling picture book for the past month is Herve Tullet's completely awesome Press Here (Chronicle Books, 2011). As per usual, we've shared our hand selected list of the most popular picture books from the nationwide best selling picture books, as listed by The New York Times

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10. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

I was lucky enough to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak about and read from Brown Girl Dreaming during the School Library Journal Day of Dialog last spring.  If any of you have seen Woodson before, you know she is charming, and dynamic and funny.  She read a few poems from the book and spoke of her family and writing life.  Like the rest of the librarians, I waited in line to speak with Ms. Woodson and have an arc signed, but 10 minutes or so into the wait I knew this arc wasn't going to be for me to keep.  Instead, I had it signed for a student and gave it to her when I saw her next.   So like so many others, I waited for the book birthday to get my hands on the hard cover copy on the day of its' release.

I'm not sure I can add much to the conversation around this book, as I agree with the buzz.  Brown Girl Dreaming is more than a book or a memoir....it is a gift.  We follow Jacqueline and her changing family from Ohio to South Carolina and up to NYC and each poem is a revelation of sorts that brings the reader through the timeline of Woodson's life.  From the "how to listen" haikus to poems like "sometimes, no words are needed", "stevie", and "as a child, i smelled the air" I found myself closing the book to pause again and again.

I had posted a photo of "stevie" on Instagram and commented that I was swooning over this book, and a friend commented that her copy is so dog-eared that she isn't going to share it with her students.  It made me comment back that this is the kind of book you carry around with you.  I will take the dust jacket off, and place it in my school bag.  And when the world gets to be a little too much, I will open the pages and gift myself with a little bit of magic.

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11. Guest Post: Tudor Robins, Author of Appaloosa Summer

I’m always excited for new horsey books, so I was happy for the opportunity to chat with Tudor Robins for her blog tour for her latest release Appaloosa Summer.

What are the 5 most important things you learned from working with horses?

As anyone who’s worked with horses knows, there’s always something new to learn about them, so on any given day, I could probably give you five completely different answers to this question. So, let’s start with what I just mentioned:

1) There’s always more to learn. Whether it’s learning about the actual horses, learning any of the sports associated with them, or keeping up with the latest changes and trends in the horse world, there’s something new to know every day. To me, this is a great parallel for life in general – especially my life as an author – where; again, there are always things to learn about the craft and business of writing.

2) Patience. This is a huge one! Lately I’ve worked with quite a few off-the-track thoroughbreds. These horses are sensitive by nature. They’re also young, and they’ve come to a completely new environment where we ask them to leg yield in a dressage ring, and jump over fences. Considering all this, I can’t believe how patient they are. If I ask them something they’re not sure of, they try, then wait for me to ask again, and try again. It’s an amazing experience, and one that reminds me to ask for what I want clearly, and calmly, and to be patient in return.

3) The value of reward / positive reinforcement. As humans we love positive reinforcement. As writers we crave it – we really want you to love our books! Horses have shown me just how important this is. My latest tactic, when riding a horse that has a reputation as a runaway, is to reach down and pat her neck every now and then. Every single time I pat her neck, she slows down, and her whole body relaxes. This has really brought home to me how powerful a kind word, or gesture can be.

4) The importance of having an outlet. It can be hard to find the time to ride. It can be hard to justify the expense. But it’s important. Being a rider is part of who I am. It adds dimension to my personality. It keeps me fit – mentally and physically. It’s the part of the week that’s mine alone. Your outlet may be riding, or it may be something different, but whatever it is, try to hold onto it.

5) The generosity of the horse world. The horse community is an amazing one. If you love horses, you’re in. My books have been supported by competitive hunter-jumpers, eventers, and dressage riders. They’ve been embraced by barrel racers and reiners. People who’ve never been on a horse, but just love looking at them, have read my books. No matter where you are in the world “horse” is a universal passkey.

Appaloosa Summer by Tudor Robins

ISBN: 978-0993683701

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary / Coming-Of Age / Romance / Horse-Themed

Format: Paperback and eBook

Sixteen-year-old Meg Traherne has never known loss. Until the beautiful, talented horse she trained herself, drops dead underneath her in the show ring. Jared Strickland has been living with loss ever since his father died in a tragic farming accident. Meg escapes from her grief by changing everything about her life; moving away from home to spend her summer living on an island in the St. Lawrence River, scrubbing toilets and waiting on guests at a B&B. Once there, she meets Jared; doing his best to keep anything else in his life from changing. When Jared offers Meg a scruffy appaloosa mare out of a friend’s back field, it’s the beginning of a journey that will change both of them by summer’s end. 

Appaloosa Summer can be compared to Heartland TV show – http://www.cbc.ca/heartland/

Book Excerpt: 

Chapter One

I’m staring down a line of jumps that should scare my brand-new show breeches right off me.

But it doesn’t. Major and I know our jobs here. His is to read the combination, determine the perfect take-off spot, and adjust his stride accordingly. Mine is to stay out of his way, and let him jump.

We hit the first jump just right. He clears it with an effortless arc, and all I have to do is go through my mental checklist. Heels down. Back straight. Follow his mouth.

“Good boy, Major.” One ear flicks halfway back to acknowledge my comment, but not enough to make him lose focus. A strong, easy stride to jump two, and he’s up, working for both of us, holding me perfectly balanced as we fly through the air.

He lands with extra momentum; normal at the end of a long, straight line. He self-corrects, shifting his weight back over his hocks. Next will come the surge from his muscled hind end; powering us both up, and over, the final tall vertical.

It doesn’t come, though. How can it not? “Come on!” I cluck, scuff my heels along his side. No response from my rock solid jumper.

The rails are right in front of us, but I have no horsepower – nothing – under me. By the time I think of going for my stick, it’s too late. We slam into several closely spaced rails topping a solid gate. Oh God. Oh no. Be ready, be ready, be ready. But how? There’s no good way. There are poles everywhere, and leather tangling, and dirt. In my eyes, in my nose, in my mouth.

There’s no sound from my horse. Is he as winded as me? I can’t speak, or yell, or scream. Major? Is that him on my leg? Is that why it’s numb? People come, kneel around me. I can’t see past them. I can’t sit up. My ears rush and my head spins. I’m going to throw up. “I’m going to …”

**********

I flush the toilet. Swish out my mouth. Avoid looking in the mirror. Light hurts, my reflection hurts, everything hurts at this point in the afternoon, when the headache builds to its peak.

Why me?

I’ve never lost anybody close to me. My grandpa died before I was born, and my widowed grandma’s still going strong at ninety-four. She has an eighty-nine-year-old boyfriend. They go to the racetrack; play the slots.

If I had to predict who would die first in my life, I would never, in a million years, have guessed it would be my fit, strong, seven-year-old thoroughbred.

Never.

But he did.

Thinking about it just sharpens the headache, so I press a towel against my face, blink into the soft fluffiness.

“Are you OK?” Slate’s voice comes through the door. With my mom and dad at work, Slate’s been the one to spend the last three days distracting me when I’m awake, and waking me up whenever I get into a sound sleep. Or that’s what it feels like.

“Fine.” I push the bathroom door open.

“Puke?”

I nod. Stupid move. It hurts. Whisper instead. “Yes.”

“Well, that’s a big improvement. Just the once today.”

She follows me back to my room. She’s not a pillow-plumper or quilt-smoother – I have to struggle into my rumpled bed – but it’s nice to have her around. “I’m glad you’re here, Slatey.” I sniffle, and taste salt in the back of my throat.

I’m close to tears all the time these days. “Normal,” the doctor said. Apparently tears aren’t unreasonable after suffering a knock to the head hard enough to split my helmet in two, with my horse dropping stone cold dead underneath me in the show ring. I’m still sick of crying, though. And puking, too.

“Don’t be stupid, Meg; being here is heaven. My mom and Agate are going completely over the top organizing Aggie’s sweet sixteen. There are party planning boards everywhere, and her dance friends are always over giggling about it too.”

“Just as long as it’s not about me. I don’t want to owe you.”

“’Course not; you’re not that great of a best friend.”

Purchase The Book:

Amazon – US: http://www.amazon.com/Appaloosa-Summer-Island-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00L047CXI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1408843285&sr=1-1&keywords=appaloosa+summer

Amazon – Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/Appaloosa-Summer-Island-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00L047CXI/

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/appaloosa-summer-tudor-robins/1119821268?ean=9780993683701&itm=1&usri=appaloosa+summer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22619628-appaloosa-summer?ac=1

About the Author

Tudor Robins is an Ottawa-based young adult author whose first novel, Objects in Mirror, was named a Best Book for Kids and Teens by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

She gathered publishing-related experience in her roles as a magazine editor and publishing sales representative, as well as working in offset and digital printing. Tudor currently teaches writing workshops for adults and children, as well as developing writing contests and programming to motivate young writers.

Tudor loves reading, writing, and horseback riding, and spending time with her husband and two sons.

Receiving messages from readers is one of Tudor’s favourite things, so please feel free to visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Connect with Tudor Robins:

Website: www.tudorrobins.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tudor-Robins-Author/420760904639930

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6459232.Tudor_Robins

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Appaloosa Summer Event Page

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2014/06/17/pump-up-your-book-tours-presents-appaloosa-summer-virtual-book-tour/

The post Guest Post: Tudor Robins, Author of Appaloosa Summer appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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12. I KNOW You Are Out There.....

Over 1,582, 116 views on CBO and 705, 633 on Google+ and the feedback?

None.

It is difficult for bloggers to know what they are doing that people like.  That said, I'm never too excited about large numbers of hits but grateful to those who do pop by my Google+ and CBO.

Gets boring though when no one tells you they like "This" or "That".  Come on -give it some thought and let me know.

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13. FRAGILE REIGN (Mortal Enchantment #2) by Stacey O'Neale {Cover Reveal & Giveaway)

We're thrilled to help reveal the cover for FRAGILE REIGN (Mortal Enchantment #2) by Stacey O'Neale! Check out the cover below, and let us know what you think in the comments. Then be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $100 Amazon or B&N gift card!   Details about the cover, from author Stacey O'Neale: In case you're curious about the cover, the model represents Marcus.

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14. A Letter to 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

By Becca @ Pivot Book Reviews First off, I want to send Andye a HUGE thank you for having me here on Reading Teen! Second, I'm going to be reviewing 100 Sideways Miles a little different than normal. I'll be writing a letter to the book, saying what I did/didn't like, similar to how I normally review on my own blog!  Be sure to check out more of my review letters at Pivot Book Reviews!

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15. Reading Roundup: August 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 11
Tween: 5
Children: 3

Sources
Review Copies: 11
Purchased: 2
Library: 3

Standouts
Teen: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
It starts with a murderous ghost who's not even the villain, and ends . . . well, no, I can't tell you that. In between, it crawls through Japanese ghost stories and gives you the creepies to no end.
Tween: The League of Seven by Alan Gratz
While I thoroughly enjoyed the old-fashioned adventure story feel of this (with a soupcon of steampunk!), my favorite part lay in the construction of a world where Europeans, mysteriously cut off from Europe, get absorbed into the pre-existing Native American society of the New World.
Children: Rose by Holly Webb
Rose has a bedrock of good common sense, which is why it's so interesting to see her go head-to-head with magical goings-on and discover her own magical power.

Because I Want To Awards
For the Whovians in the Crowd: Jackaby by William Ritter
This fast-paced murder mystery, careering through Victorian New England, with a supernatural detective who has a Really Bad Habit of not imparting all the facts to his long-suffering assistant (and our narrator), was definitely built on the Dr. Who/Sherlock Holmes model model.
For an Author Who's Done So Many Teen Girls, This was a Spot-On Tween Boy: Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown
As legions of older sisters and younger brothers will tell you, there's a world of difference between the two. But Brown nailed it, first try.
Tissue-Paper Premise, Slam-Dunk Execution: Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers
Twins who didn't know it find each other over the internet in a story told solely through text communication of one kind or another. Oh, yeah, it's a tough sell, but Rivers' spot-on tween girl voices do the trick.

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16. How Do I Look?

Writing Life Banner

by

JJ

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JJThe other day, as I was catching up on my TBR pile, I found myself being repeatedly thrown out of book. It wasn’t for lack of pace, uninteresting premise, or dull characterization; it was for the constant physical description of the main character.

Description is a tricky thing to handle in books, especially if the narration is told from the first person (as was the book I was reading). Sometimes I notice the description, other times I do not. Why? What makes for a smooth, almost invisible description of a character’s looks, and what makes for a jarring one?

Some of this is a matter of personal taste, of course; I am someone who prefers physical description of character’s in books rather vague.* But there are some writers who are very particular about their characters’ looks, and whether or not their descriptions throw me out of a narrative come down to a few things:

1. The description feels shoehorned in.

Your mileage may vary on this one, but nothing is more distracting than reading a passage where plot is moving forward, only to have it interrupted with descriptions of the character’s hair or eye color. For example, a sentence like this would jar me: She packed her bags, determined to flee the country. Before shutting the suitcase, she made sure she had enough blue and green blouses, to set off her sea-green eyes. Just because she was a fugitive of the law didn’t mean she had to look like one. 

I feel there is a time and a place for descriptions. When characters meet for the first time. When characters are being compared (or comparing themselves) to others. When a character’s looks affects how others perceive him or her. Think of all times you think of the way someone “looks” in real life; a character should be thinking along similar lines. For instance, when I look in the mirror, I am not lingering on my dark eyes, strong jaw, and sharp chin. I am wondering whether or not I look tired, or if the spaghetti I had for dinner left any marinara on my face.

2. The description feels, for the lack of a better word, too “favourable”.

This…is tough. While I prefer showing over telling in prose, there are some times when telling actually trumps showing. I especially feel this way when it comes to describing someone attractive. What people find attractive varies from individual to individual, and a detailed description of a character’s physically appealing qualities makes me roll my eyes. Phrases like her long, slender legs or his well-muscled forearms are perfectly fine, but instead of being shown physically that a character is attractive, I’d rather been shown emotionally.

So how to write description in such a way that isn’t distracting? I think people, when they come across others they haven’t met before, will focus on one or two things that stand out. Race/ethnicity, an unusual birthmark, or perhaps a haircut. J.K. Rowling does this quite well; Harry’s lightning-shaped scar, his untidy hair, and spectacles; Hermione’s bushy hair and too-big front teeth; Ron’s red hair, freckles, and lanky height. These are distinguishing physical characteristics that help the reader recognize the character, both on the page, and in other mediums, like the screen or fanart.

Very few people will notice the dimple in someone’s cheek, or the relentless symmetry of his or features upon first sight. It is only after some time that we begin to build mental images of each other. It is the same with characters; when presented with a laundry list of characteristics, I will probably forget what the character is supposed to look like. But if we get the details bit by bit, they reinforce and solidify a mental image, similar to how we would create mental images of those we know best.

What do you think? Do you have pet peeves or quirks that distract you when it comes to physical descriptions of characters in books? Leave us a comment below!

* There is one, rather important exception to this rule: I would rather be told, upfront and as soon as possible, if a character is NOT WHITE. It is all-too-easy to erase a character’s ethnicity—think of people’s reactions to Rue being black in The Hunger Games—and I prefer direct, irrefutable textual evidence of a character’s not-whiteness.

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S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is a writer, artist, and adrenaline junkie. Before moving down to grits country, she was an editor at St. Martin’s Press in New York City, where she read and acquired YA. When not obsessing over books, she can be found rock climbing, skydiving, or taking her dog on ridiculously long hikes. A southern California native, she now lives in North Carolina with her doctor Bear, a stuffed baby harp seal named White-Harp, and a husky-dog called Bentley. Other places to find JJ include TwitterTumblr, and her blog.

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17. Teamwork Quotes

Teamwork Saying from an Unknown Source:

"It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets the credit. "
~ Unknown
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Amber Harding Team Work Quote:
"Contrary to popular belief, there most certainly is an "I" in "team." It is the same "I" that appears three times in "responsibility." "
~ Amber Harding
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18. Institute from near or far

2014 Institute LogoIt’s true: registration for the ALSC Institute has reached maximum capacity and is now closed. We’re very sorry that we weren’t able to accommodate the demand.   But not to fear: you can come right here for live blogging during the Institute!  And watch for a wrap up post next month, along with an announcement of the location for ALSC Institute 2016.

For those that will be joining us in Oakland, stayed tuned for local information on our website, as well as instructions for how to access online materials.  And… would you care to share with your colleagues? We are still recruiting live bloggers; just contact alscblog@gmail.com.

Here’s what’s happening in Oakland this week. See you all soon!

Nina Lindsay, ALSC Institute Task Force Chair, Oakland Public Library

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19. Guest Post and Giveaway: Claire McEwen, Author of More Than a Rancher

Please welcome special guest Claire McEwen back to the virtual offices.  She has a guest post to share, and then you can enter for a chance to win an Amazon GF and a signed copy of More Than a Rancher!

Thank you so much for having me here today on Manga Maniac Café! I am so happy to be here celebrating the release of my new book, More Than a Rancher.

I love the topic for this post, because Sandro, the hero in More Than a Rancher, is a brilliant chef and a bit of a food snob. Not a snob in the sense that he only eats at the best restaurants – he still appreciates the rustic cooking he grew up with. But he’s a snob in the sense that he only wants to use the purest flavors, and the freshest ingredients. And he would prefer that those ingredients are organic and locally grown!

So here are some things that our hero would never allow through the door of his kitchen.

1) Store bought Pasta Sauce:

No Ragu, or even the organic, charity-supporting Newman’s Own would be allowed in Sandro’s cupboards. He wouldn’t be able to face the added sugars and all those herbs cooked down into nothingness. Instead he’d pick up a big bag of tomatoes at the farmers market and throw them in a pot with garlic, olive oil and a handful of fresh herbs. If he wanted to sweeten things up, some caramelized onions and carrots would do the trick, sugar free.

2) Margarine:

Oh no… never ever. Sandro is all about the real butter. And if he wants some oil for cooking or baking? He’d probably choose extra virgin olive oil, or maybe coconut oil if he wanted a more exotic flavor. He’s a purist – to him margarine is just a bunch of processed oils, blended together into an unholy substance that does not belong in the food that he makes!

3) Cheeze Whiz:

Cheese from a can? An abomination, according to Sandro. In his kitchen, cheese is always farm-fresh and pungent, its taste crackling sharply across the tongue. If it’s a mild cheese then it’s creamy, silken, and spread on a piece of baguette. Goat cheese, sheep cheese, Manchego, Pecorino, Port Salut. For Sandro, cheese is poetry, meant to be sampled and savored, and best in small doses.

4) Grocery store pastries:

Sorry, Pillsbury Dough Boy – you are not welcome in Sandro’s kitchen! No Pop Tarts, Hostess Ho Hos, or prepackaged cinnamon rolls allowed. Sandro believes that if you’re going to eat pastries, eat the good ones. In San Francisco there are dozens of amazing bakeries to choose from. For his Italian treats, Sandro might stop by the Stella Pastry & Cafe in the North Beach neighborhood and join the line that often spills out the door for their cannoli. For amazing scones, brioche and Danish he would probably head to Arizmendi Bakery, Panaderia and Pizzeria on Valencia Street. Their food is addicting! And when he’s out in Benson? He’ll make his own pastries, of course. Unless he can talk Betty, a local rancher and amazing baker, into making him some of her famous blueberry muffins.

5) Artificial Flavors:

You won’t find those little brown bottles of extract in Sandro’s baking supplies. But you would find real extract, the kind with the vanilla beans floating in it! Peppermint grows like a weed, so Sandro would plant it in his garden, or in a pot on the windowsill. Looking for maple? They sell pure maple syrup at the store – and Sandro would seek out a bottle labled Grade B – it’s even more divine. Sandro would tell you this: Artificial flavors are just a missed opportunity to take your cooking from good to absolutely unforgettable!

Hungry now? Me too! What do you kick out of your kitchen? What are the ingredients you must have around?

More Than A Rancher by: Claire McEwen

Releasing September 2nd, 2014

Harlequin: Superromance

Does he dare follow her lead?

Ballroom dancer Jenna Stevens is done with all things romance. It’s so much more satisfying to focus on her career. That is, until she meets Sandro Salazar – a handsome, brooding small-town chef and sometimes rancher. Jenna is drawn to him immediately, but there’s no way Sandro could fit into her fast-paced, urban life.

Still, as she gets to know this reformed bad boy, she begins to wonder if maybe their two worlds can merge. One thing’s for certain – Jenna will have to take the lead if she has any hope of Sandro seeing what’s possible for the two of them… together.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/more-than-rancher-by-claire-mcewen_25.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21489545-more-than-a-rancher?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Rancher-Harlequin-Superromance/dp/0373608713

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/more-than-a-rancher-claire-mcewen/1118936783?ean=9781460339190

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/more-than-a-rancher

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/more-than-a-rancher/id863396380?mt=11

Publisher: http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=53465

Author Info

Claire McEwen lives by the ocean in Northern California with her husband, son and a scruffy, mischievous terrier. When not dreaming up new stories, she can be found digging in her garden with a lot of enthusiasm but, unfortunately, no green thumb. She loves discovering flea-market treasures, walking on the beach, dancing, traveling and reading, of course!

Author Links

Website: http://www.clairemcewen.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMcEwen.writer
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClaireMcEwen1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7226137.Claire_McEwen

Rafflecopter Giveaway ( Tour Wide Giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card and 3 Signed copies of MORE THAN A RANCHER)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Claire McEwen, Author of More Than a Rancher appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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20. As More Boots Go In...

I am worn out and tired as fuck.

Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself

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21. #648 – Stanley the Builder by William Bee

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Stanley the Builder

by William Bee
Peachtree Publishing           9/01/2014
978-1-5614-801-1
Age 3 to 8           32 pages
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“When Myrtle buys a plot of land, she asks Stanley to build her a new house. He works step-by-step—from clearing the site with a bulldozer, to pouring the foundation, to painting the finished house in Myrtle’s favorite colors. Luckily, Charlie helps out too. Building houses is hard work, but all three friends are happy with a job well done.”

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Opening 

“What are Stanley and Myrtle doing?”

Review

Myrtle the mouse just purchased a plot of land and hires Stanley to build her a house. Stanley is an industrious hamster. After clearing the land with his bulldozer, Stanley and his helper Charlie, build the foundation. The tricky work of laying down the bricks is next. There is not a wolf around who will be able to blow this house down. When the house is finished, Stanley paints it using Myrtle’s favorite colors. All done, Stanley heads home, newspaper in hand, for dinner, a long bath, and bed. He will wake up ready for a new day.

Stanley the Builder US interior-page-004

Young boys will love the Stanley the Builder. Stanley uses all kinds of machines to help him build Myrtle’s house. Will kids know what and how these machines are used? Stanley wears a yellow safety hat, possibly just as dad wears. Young boys, and some girls, who enjoy building things just like Stanley, will love a story about building, especially with the cute hamster Stanley. The illustrations are basic with large, easy to recognize shapes, separated by solid black lines, which help deepen the colors and drawing one’s attention. The colors are basic primary and secondary colors. Kids should be able to recognize each color if asked.

I love this clean presentation. The white background helps keep the eyes focused on the main illustration. I also like that Stanley’s friend Charlie helps and Myrtle finds a way to help out, too. These three friends work well together. Young children will enjoy pointing out the equipment Stanley uses—a crane, digger, cement mixer, and bulldozer. A game can be made of finding the machine, the item used to build the house, or a specific color, after reading the story, of course. In this way, Stanley the Builder can be a great way to prepare for kindergarten. Stanley has more adventures on the way. Young children will eagerly await each new addition. Next, Stanley runs a garage.

Stanley the Builder US interior-page-007

STANLEY THE BUILDER. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by William Bee. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishing.

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Purchase Stanley the Builder at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPeachtreeyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Stanley and his series HERE

Meet the author/illustrator, William Bee, at his website:   http://www.williambee.com/

Check out William Bee’s fantastic blog:  http://williambee.blogspot.com/

Find all of the Stanley series at the Peachtree Publishing blog:   http://peachtreepub.blogspot.com/

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Also by William Bee

Worst in Show - 2014

Worst in Show – 2014

Digger Dog - 2014

Digger Dog – 2014

Stanley the Farmer - 2015

Stanley the Farmer – 2015

Stanley's Garage - 2014

Stanley’s Garage – 2014

 

Review HERE

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Migloo’s Day – 2015

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stanley the builder

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

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Peachtree Publishing Book Blog Tour

Stanley the Builder

Monday 9/1

Green Bean Teen Queen

Tuesday 9/2

Jean Little Library

Geo Librarian

Kid Lit Reviews

Wednesday 9/3

Chat with Vera

Thursday 9/4

Kiss the Book

Blue Owl

Friday 9/5

The Fourth Musketeer


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series Tagged: builds a house, bulldozer-cement mixer-crane-digger, children's book reviews, Peachtree PUblishing, picture book, Stanley series by William Bee, William Bee, young children

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22. Spotlight and Giveaway: Texas Twist by Cynthia D’Alba

 
Enter to Win
TONS of TEXAS TWIST Goodies
Gift Card, Mugs, T-Shirts, Etc


 
Real bad boys can grow up to be real good men.

Hit hard by the death of her parents, Paige Ryan needs to figure out what to do with her life. She moves to Whispering Springs, Texas, to be near her step-brother. But just as she starts to get her life on track, the last man she ever wanted to see again sends it right back off the rails.

Cash Montgomery was on the cusp of having it all. Three bull riding titles, fame, fortune and respect from his family. Until a bad bull leaves him injured, angry and searching for comfort at the bottom of a bottle. With nowhere to go, he moves into his sister-in-law’s old ranch house in Whispering Springs—which he’s surprised to find already occupied.

As Cash rebuilds the dilapidated home and Paige starts out on her medical career, their old friendship begins to reemerge and sparks are ignited. Paige knows that Cash is nothing but a heartache waiting to happen. But maybe this bad boy has grown up to be a real good man?

Warning: Watch out for falling lumber, falling in holes, and falling for the wrong guy…again. You can leave your hard hat on.


 

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway


 

 
 
Award winning author Cynthia D’Alba was born and raised in Arkansas. After being gone for seventeen years, she’s thrilled to be back home living on the banks of an eight-thousand acre lake. When she’s not reading, writing or plotting, she’s doorman for her two dogs, cook, housekeeper and chief bottle washer for her husband and slave to a noisy, messy parrot. She loves to chat online with friends and fans





The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Texas Twist by Cynthia D’Alba appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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23. Audiobook Review: Simon and Schuster's Shakespeare Full Cast Dramatizations



First of all, I cannot thank Lauren at Simon and Schuster enough for sending me copies of these five plays to review.  I am a HUGE fan of all things Shakespeare, but I haven't spent much time with him since Dr. Johnny Wink's Shakespeare course in college.  I don't think these really need plot summaries, as they're pretty much cannon, right?  So we'll just jump right in!

Writing
I mean, it's Shakespeare.  Do I really need to talk about how amazing the writing is?  I'll just say that every single time I watch, listen, or read one of his works I catch something new that reminds me of just how witty, smart, and delightful these are to read.  They're just so smart and so funny.  Even the tragedies have amazing comic moments.

Entertainment Value
Again, there's a reason these works have inspired countless spin offs and alternate takes.  They're classic stories that have informed every aspect of culture and it's because they're just so amazing.  Listening to each of these has made me want to find and consume all of my favorite iterations of Shakespeare - Romeo + Juliet, David Tennant's Hamlet, even Shakespeare in Love.

Narration
Y'all.  If you've only read these or seen the modern movies, you are seriously missing out on something amazing.  Shakespeare is meant to be performed and if you listen to these recordings you'll see (hear) why.  These are incredibly done.  I started them a little bit worried about my ability to follow them in audiobook format.  I was afraid that without seeing the characters or reading the play, I'd get lost as far as who was speaking.  When I've read Shakespeare, I've always done is very slowly to try to get everything I can out of it.  Visually it's easier to understand.  But I just wasn't convinced I'd be able to follow on audio.  Thankfully, my fears were completely unfounded.  Even the play I'm least familiar with (A Midsummer Night's Dream) was perfectly easy to follow.  These all have a full cast, music, and sound effects and are just beautifully done.

Overall
I can't say enough great things about these.  They're a treasure to own and something that I know I'll go back to again and again.  At two to four hours, they're perfect for a road trip.  I couldn't be happier with them!

Thank you again to Lauren and Simon and Schuster for providing me with a copy of each to review!

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24. Learning About Blogging!

We are getting ready to start our blogs at Kidblogs this week. These blogs will be closed to our classroom as students learn the power of blogging and connecting with others through writing.  This week, we'll spend much of our writing workshop time learning about blogging.
 

Learning to Study
One of my goals for the first six weeks of school is learning the power of study and mentor texts as writers. During these first six weeks, I want my students to learn to live their lives as writers, noticing all they can. And I also want them to begin to learn the power of mentors.  Studying quality texts and thinking "I'd like to do that in my writing." will be important throughout the year.  Our conversations this week will build on the bits we've already talked about in the area of study and mentor texts.

At the beginning of the week, we'll take a look at some blogs. We'll talk about the following questions:

What is a blog?
What is a blog post?
What is possible in a blog posts?
What makes an effective blog post?
How is this blogger unique?
What is the focus of this person's blog?
What can we learn from this blogger?

We'll take a look at a variety of blogs and blog posts written by kid bloggers. Some blogs we'll look at will be:
Behind the Scenes of the Cooperstown Bat Factory
DIY Locker Door
5 Interesting Facts about Electric Eels
Sunny Days
Baseball with Matt Blog
Tissue Flower Kit
This Kid Reviews Books

(I've found some of these on Blogs By Kids, which is a great resource for teachers looking for blog posts by kids.)


Paper Blogging
After some study, we'll do some practice.  I didn't buy into practice until I read Lee Kolbert's post on Paper Blogging and Learning to Comment a few years ago. I've followed her thinking for the past few years and it's led to some great blogging. We'll take a few days creating paper blog posts and we'll comment on each with sticky notes. This will take a few days but I've found that after this, kids are ready to blog and anxious to share their writing in a digital space!

Learning to Comment
Before we comment on the paper blogs, we'll watch this video by Mrs. Yolis's 3rd grade class. I have used it for a few years and it is a great conversation starter about good commenting.



Of course, we'll continue to build on this initial conversation but I know that commenting is as important as posting so I want kids to see what's possible in a comment. This video is part of a blog post on Mrs. Yolis's Classroom Blog: How to Compose a Quality Comment.

Moving Forward
We'll continue to study mentor blogs throughout the year as an integrated part of our writing. We'll look at classroom blogs as we work together to tell our classroom story.  We'll look at blog series such as Celebrate This Week, Poetry Friday,  and It's Monday! What Are You Reading?. These will serve as invitations for students who want to focus on their blog writing more seriously.  (I'll show them two series that past students have created--Ben's Book Reviews and Time to Interview.  We'll talk about Blog challenges and blog plans. I might eventually share this blog schedule to start the conversation about the importance of planning as a writer.

I'm anxious to see where this group of students goes with blogging. I am always amazed and surprised by all that kids find to do in the digital world as writers and this first step is always an exciting one.

This post was cross posted to Click Here Next.

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25. Review: Relentless by Robin Parrish

Title: Relentless
Author: Robin Parrish
Series: dominion (#1)
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication date: July 1, 2006
Pages: 448
Stars: 4

Summary:
In the space of a breath, what he thought was his life…shattered. Grant Borrows has been Shifted- in the silence between heartbeats, his whole life fundamentally altered. There's another man in the world wearing his face and living his life. What's more, the man staring back from his mirror is a stranger. But the changes don't stop at skin-level. Inexplicably, he's able to affect objects around him by simply thinking about them. And as he soon learns, he's become the central figure in a vast web of intrigue that stretches from an underground global conspiracy to a prophecy dating back over seven thousand years. Enemies and allies find him at every turn, but one thing they learn all too soon is that you don't want to push Grant Borrows too far... Can destiny be undone? The players are ready. The game is in motion. And the pace is: Relentless. (The Dominion Trilogy Book 1)

Review:
I really enjoyed this book. It's not quiet like anything I've ever read before. As always the characters were amazing. I felt all of Grants pain and anger. I understood so much of how he was feeling. I feel like this is one of those books that should be made into a book. It had so much detail I felt like I was watching it rather then reading it. After I finished reading the book and writing my review I looked up other reviews. People either loved it or hated it. 4 Stars.

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