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1. Clickety-clack or Scribble-dee-doo: Keyboard or Pen...what's best for you? And happy Poetry Friday!

.
Howdy, Campers and Happy Poetry Friday!

Thank you, Irene, for jumping in to host PF this week
(and, Irene!  Congratulations on the upcoming publication
of your first poetry collection for children
which has gotten starred reviews from SLJ and Kirkus!)

We TeachingAuthors are discussing handwriting versus keyboard typing--read which Carmela, Laura, and Esther prefer.

Me? I'm bi.

When I'm in a boring meeting (or even an interesting meeting), under the hair dryer at the beauty parlor, or the passenger on a long trip, I'm happy to write poems in my little notebooks with my favorite pen.
.


But I became a writer as on one of these:

and my brain and fingers still adore keys.

So I wrote two poems today in honor of both:

TYPING
by April Halprin Wayland


It’s a sound idea—
a muscular,
a strong one.

It’s strapping, able-bodied one
it’s beefy—
it’s a long one.

It’s a strapping noun,
it’s her fingers plunked down
with a most decisive click.

It’s a piece of punctuation
that’s sealed—
it sticks.



LONGHAND.
by April Halprin Wayland

liquid longhand sometimes flows
or oozes slow
it drains from a dream 
to its place on the page

where it will not linger 
no, the pen seeps deeper
beneath each line
where longhand makes its own design

poems (c) 2014 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

And if you haven't already done so, don't forget to enter our current giveaway for a chance to win the historical middle-grade novel Odin's Promise (Crispin Press) by Sandy Brehl. See JoAnn's post for all the details.(We're supposed to sign our names at the bottom of each post...so hi, it's me--April Halprin Wayland!  G'bye!)

0 Comments on Clickety-clack or Scribble-dee-doo: Keyboard or Pen...what's best for you? And happy Poetry Friday! as of 8/22/2014 6:11:00 AM
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2. Russia-born writers in America

       At Russia Beyond the Headlines Diana Bruk considers A long-distance romance: Russia-born writers in the U.S.

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3. Press Release Fun: Thalia’s Book Club at Symphony Space

Celebrate Reading This Fall with Thalia Kids’ Book Club at Symphony Space

The always popular Thalia Kids’ Book Club includes lively discussions between top children’s book authors and their fans, with special guests and a behind-the-scenes look at how books are written and produced. The interactive series is co-presented with the Bank Street Bookstore.
For more information and tickets, visit http://www.symphonyspace.org/tkbc .

Wednesday, September 10, 7 pm
Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller: Nightmares!
 Tickets: $22 members, non-members $25
Jason Segel (How I Met Your MotherThe Muppets), an actor, writer, and musician, teams up with New York Times bestselling author Kirsten Miller (Kiki Strike) to discuss their hilariously frightening middle-grade novel Nightmares!, the first book in a trilogy about a boy named Charlie and a group of kids who must face their fears to save their town. Ages 8 and up.
Note: The special ticket price includes a copy of Nightmares! (retail priced at $16.99).Ticket holders will get a copy of the book at the door on September 10. Books will not be available for early pickup.

 

Sunday, September 21 at 1 pm
Pseudonymous Bosch: Bad Magic
Tickets: members $12, non-members $15
The mysterious author of the New York Times-bestselling The Name of This Book is Secret goes behind-the-scenes of his new adventure series Bad Magic. The author will be in conversation with Adam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark and Grimm). Ages 9 to 12.

 

Tuesday, September 23 at 6 pm
An Evening with Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco, the beloved author and illustrator of Thank You, Mr. Falker, and dozens of other favorite picture books, discusses her life and award-winning works. The author and illustrator of more than 70 books for children, Polacco has won every award imaginable in children’s literature.  Her latest book is Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece, an inspired-by-true-life story about overcoming the fear of speaking in public. Ages 6 & up.

 

Sunday, October 19 at 1 pm
An Afternoon with Lois Lowry
Tickets: members $12, non-members $15
Reading and conversation with the treasured author of Number the Stars, The Giver, and many other favorite works for kids and teens. Number the Stars, the Newbery Medal-winning novel about the Occupation of Denmark in the Second World War, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Ages 9 and up.

 

Sunday, November 16 at 5 pm
A Celebration of E. B. White
All Tickets: $25 (ticket sales benefit First Book).
Stars of Broadway and Hollywood celebrate the work of the beloved writer whose humorous and poignant stories and poetry include Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Special guests include White’s granddaughter Martha White. Jarrett J. Krosoczka (The Lunch Lady series) will host the event, and actor David Hyde Pierce will also read from the stories. First Book, a non-profit organization, connects book publishers to community organizations to provide access to new books for children in need. Ages 7 and up.

Symphony Space is located at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street in Manhattan, New York City.  The box office number is (212) 864-5400.
A note to editors: Symphony Space Literary Department presenters are available for interviews. More detailed information about each group and photos are available upon request. Visit http://www.symphonyspace.org/tkbc for updated information.

 

Media Contacts:
Mary Shimkin, Symphony Space
(212) 864-1414, ext. 224,  mary.shimkin@symphonyspace.org
Beth Blenz-Clucas, Sugar Mountain PR
(503) 293-9498, beth@sugarmountainpr.com

share save 171 16 Press Release Fun: Thalias Book Club at Symphony Space

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4. Guest Post and Giveaway: Finding Miss McFarland by Vivienne Lorret

Please give a warm welcome to Vivienne Lorret!  She’s here to answer a question and to share some information about her latest release, Finding Miss McFarland.  Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

 

How does Griffin relax after a hard day saving Delaney from herself?

Unfortunately, Griffin Croft doesn’t know how to relax. In the beginning, when Delaney frustrates him to insanity, he spends much of his time boxing at Gentleman Jackson’s. Some days, he’d love nothing more than to settle down into a wing-backed chair and indulge in a slice (or two) of gingerbread. Yet, even that plan goes awry when he discovers that Miss McFarland shares a fondness for the cake.

Of course, by the end of the story, I imagine he is perfectly capable of keeping both of them thoroughly occupied and sated. 

Finding Miss McFarland

Wallflower Weddings Book Three

By: Vivienne Lorret

Releasing August 5th, 2014

Avon Romance

Blurb

Fans of historical romance authors Lorraine Heath and Sophie Jordan will adore Vivienne Lorret’s latest Wallflower Wedding novel. 

Delaney McFarland is on the hunt for a husband—preferably one who needs her embarrassingly large dowry more than a dutiful wife. After the unspeakable incident at her debut, Delaney knows marrying for love is off the table, but a marriage of convenience—one that leaves her free to live the life she chooses—is the next best thing, never mind what that arrogant, devilishly handsome Mr. Croft thinks. Delaney plans to marry for money … or not at all.

Ever since the fiery redhead burst into his life—in a most memorable way—Griffin Croft hasn’t been able to get Miss McFarland out of his mind. Now, with the maddening woman determined to hand over her fortune to a rake, Griffin knows he must step in. He must help her. He must not kiss her. But when Griffin’s noble intentions flee in a moment of unexpected passion, his true course becomes clear: tame Delaney’s wild heart and save her from a fate worse than death … a life without love.

Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/06/now-booking-tasty-virtual-tour-for_6353.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18780732-finding-miss-mcfarland?from_search=true

Series Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/115423-wallflower-weddings

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Miss-McFarland-Wallflower-Wedding-ebook/dp/B00GLS2I46

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/finding-miss-mcfarland-vivienne-lorret/1117657323?ean=9780062315786

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/finding-miss-mcfarland/id747479279?mt=11

Author Info

I fell in love with fairy tales and the romance behind happily ever after at a very young age. Like a lot of you, I tweaked the fables bit by bit in my imagination until they suited me perfectly. By the time I was eleven, a teacher encouraged me to start writing.

Throughout the years that followed, my teachers remained my most fervent supporters, giving me the tools I needed to continue my journey as a writer.

My husband and I have two teenage boys, who are heroes in their own right. For now, we live in a small Midwestern town near Lake Michigan…until a time in the future when a new adventure calls us to other shores.

I am currently working on my next novel, but I always enjoy hearing from my readers. Feel free to email me at vivienne@vivlorret.net

Author Links

http://www.vivlorret.net/home

https://www.facebook.com/vivienne.lorret

https://twitter.com/VivLorret

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806374.Vivienne_Lorret

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Digital Set of DARING MISS DANVERS and WINNING MISS WAKEFIELD)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Guest Post and Giveaway: Finding Miss McFarland by Vivienne Lorret appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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5. Ode to Rodney King. Review of Richard Blanco's Memoir.

This time I'm proud to present two pieces from two generous and esteemed guest contributors.  One is a poem written by acclaimed author and educator Gloria L. Velásquez. Sadly, her commemoration of yet another racially-motivated killing of a young man in the United States by officers sworn to "serve and protect" is repeated for the third time. 

The second piece is a review written by La Bloga's friend Thelma T. Reyna of a memoir by the poet Richard Blanco. The Inaugural Poet explains how he came to celebrate a diverse United States with all of its contradictions, promises, and aspirations.

Two sides of the same coin, presented by poets, as is appropriate. 

 ________________________________________________________________________________


Ode to Rodney King

“Has anybody here seen my old friend, John?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He’s freed a lot of people but it seems
the good they die young
I just looked around and he’s gone.”

“Has anybody here seen my old friend, Martin?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He’s freed a lot of people but it seems
the good they die young
I just looked around and he’s gone.”

Michael Brown
He shot and killed you.
He murdered you
for being African-American.
No justice for young Black men
in Sundown Towns like Ferguson
where military police tactics rule.

“Has anybody here seen my old friend, Bobby?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He’s freed a lot of people but it seems
the good they die young
I just looked around and he’s gone.”

“Has anybody here seen my old friend, Michael?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He’s freed a lot of people but it seems
the good they die young
I just looked around and he’s gone.”

Coraje
Anger today
Shame
Pura vergüenza
Tristeza
And in Solidarity con mi gente
Around the world
I join the Uprising with HANDS UP
Maldiciendo the Michael Brown shooting.

Written on August 16, 2014, San Luis Obispo
By Gloria L. Velásquez

Gloria wrote a different version of this poem at the time of the Trayvon Martin killing. At that time she explained, "The first two stanzas are from the famous song, Abraham, Martin and John, recorded by Dion in reference to the assassinations of President Abraham Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I first wrote "Ode to Rodney King" when Oscar Grant was murdered at an Oakland Bart station by officers. I was so horrified by what happened to Trayvon that I wanted to use the same point, thus emphasizing how this has gone on time and time again and just as I simply replaced Oscar Grant's name with Trayvon's, this emphasizes how our justice system has time and time again treated Black men in the same way with injustice, racial profiling and white privilege attitudes."



 _____________________________________________________________________________________________

Review of For All Of Us, One Today






For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey
Richard Blanco

Review by Thelma T. Reyna
 

When Richard Blanco stepped to the podium on January 21, 2013 at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, I rose from my sofa in the living room and stood enthralled as I watched the TV screen. Along with hundreds of thousands of people in the Washington DC mall that day and millions watching this special event around the world, I witnessed history in the making--and this history was made by a poet!
 

Richard Blanco became the fifth Inaugural Poet in our nation's long history, joining the ranks of such literary greats as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, two prior Inaugural Poets. But Blanco was more historic than even these venerable giants. He was:
•    America's first-ever Latino Inaugural Poet.
•    The first immigrant.
•    The first openly gay poet.
•    The youngest ever, at the age of 45.
 

His memoir, For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey (Beacon Press, 2013), gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the impact that being brought out of relative literary obscurity (nothing new for poets anywhere in America!) has on an author and how bestowal of a high honor can change a life in the proverbial blink of an eye. But Blanco’s memoir does more than this: it shows us the character and passion of an American rising star against the backdrop of inauspicious beginnings.
 

Reflection and Introspection
 

Blanco's memoir captures in a mere 112 pages the roller-coaster ride of being selected by the President to address the nation and the world as a poet, and of his preparation for this momentous honor. We learn of Blanco’s disbelief and joy when he receives a phone call on December 12, 2013, from the Presidential Inaugural Committee notifying him of his selection. To this day, Blanco does not know how or why. The important thing he recalls from that life-changing call is that he has three weeks in which to write and submit three new poems to the Committee, one of which will be chosen by the President to be read at the inauguration.

In the memoir, Blanco details the doubts and false starts he has as he creates his poems. Part of this stems from his lifelong struggle concerning his place in America and what it truly means to "be an American." He refers to it in his memoir as "sorting out my cultural contradictions and yearnings" (p. 25). Conceived in Cuba, his parents' homeland, Blanco was born in Spain as an immigrant. He emigrated to the U.S. as an infant and grew up in Florida. He now lives in Bethel, Maine. Blanco's love of country was never in doubt, but what exactly America represents to the huge diversity of people calling it home is a conundrum he's often dissected, and now he is forced to dig even more deeply within himself to find answers.

"Do I truly love America?" he asks (p. 31). "It was a question I had to answer honestly if I was going to write an honest poem. I began thinking of my relationship with America and how it had evolved through different phases, just as my consciousness of love had evolved....I saw parallels between a loving human relationship and the love we hold for our country."

Blanco's Story of His Cultural Roots

In the memoir, Blanco cycles back and forth between his feelings and reflections in writing the three inaugural poems; and memories of his family life: his childhood, his parents' sacrifices for him and his brother, his experiences growing up in two cultures. Blanco describes how his personal life story sometimes parallels that of President Obama: navigating two worlds on a daily basis as a person of color, and overcoming tremendous odds to be successful. He believes these similarities may have resonated with the President and affected his selection of Blanco.

Blanco’s immigrant parents left their loved ones in Cuba to start a new life with no resources other than their determination and hard work. They purchased a modest home in Florida in a Cuban-American neighborhood after years of labor and thrift. Though Blanco never lived in Cuba, he was surrounded most of his life by neighbors and friends who had, and who blended their new life in America with memories, rituals, foods, and festivities rooted in their native land.

Blanco's image of what it means to be American came from re-runs of popular television shows from his childhood--sitcoms like "Leave It to Beaver," "My Three Sons," "The Brady Bunch"--and the standard history lessons in school about Pilgrims, Washington's cherry tree, and patriotic songs: all packaged, glossy representations. It is not until Blanco is selected as Inaugural Poet that his soul-searching enables him to authentically articulate what America--the only country he has ever known and loved--means to him and to the world.

As the days pass, Blanco decides to weave his personal story only briefly in his new poems because he feels that an autobiographical poem, or a political one, is not appropriate for the occasion. He states: "I came to understand my role--the historical role of the inaugural poet--as visionary, and the poem as a vision of what could be..., reaching for our highest aspirations as a country and a people" (p. 27). The thrust of his message to the world needed to be: "What do I love about America?" (p. 60). "My initial answer was simply the spirit of its people."

Speaking To America About Love Of Country

For three weeks, Blanco reads favorite poets, meditates, writes and rewrites, working  long into the night. He carefully reads the Inaugural Poems of his predecessors. He seeks feedback on his three poems from poets he knows personally, including his professor and mentor at Florida International University, Campbell McGrath; Sandra Cisneros; Julia Alvarez; Nikki Moustaki. As he states in his book: "Most writers I know rely on someone they can trust with their work, which essentially implies someone we can also trust with our lives" (p. 57). This, says Blanco, is also how his career as a poet has been: not as an "all artists work alone" (p. 57) phenomenon, but as "teamwork, ...a reflection of unity and togetherness" (p. 58).

It is this spirit of collaboration and unity that expresses itself robustly in the poem ultimately selected by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and by the President, as Blanco’s Inaugural Poem: One Today (pp. 87-91). This poem, says Blanco, was born of his personal life experiences watching people helping one another, in good times and bad, always focused on community. Blanco’s love of country, it turns out, is one that "demands effort, asks us to give and take and forgive and constantly examine promises spoken and unspoken" (p. 32). One Today acknowledges this.

Standing at the podium on that chilly day in January 2013, facing an endless sea of humanity silent and waiting, and with the most powerful leaders of America seated onstage behind him, Richard Blanco feels that what he is about to read is his “ gift to America." The purpose of his Inaugural Poem, he states, is to "transcend politics and envision a new relationship between all Americans....I wanted America to embrace itself and...feel how we are all an essential part of one whole."

He succeeds, as thousands of letters show him in the days and months to come, and people's reactions at his subsequent readings, signings, interviews, and travels demonstrate. His message in One Today resonated across the land.

A New Mission: Poetry As A Force In Society

Blanco realizes after the inauguration that his life will never be the same again. "The days ahead proved to be abruptly life changing," he writes (p. 75), "filled with unexpected experiences and realizations that were...unique parts of my journey as inaugural poet."  Always concerned that poetry in America is not "part of our cultural lives and conversations; part of our popular folklore as with film, music, and novels" (p. 101), Blanco fondly recalls children's elation at his poetic readings throughout years of sharing his poetry with them. He must build on this.

Touched deeply by people’s reaction to One Today, Blanco relishes the publicity and nationwide exposure that envelops him, sensing a mandate from the people. He states: "The messages from my country speak clearly to me of the great potential and hope for poetry in America... to keep connecting America with poetry and reshape how we think about it....to explore how I can empower educators to teach contemporary poetry and foster a new generation of poetry readers" (p. 102).

On Blanco’s return trip home, he felt "a responsibility to dare and dream up a new chapter that will rekindle poetry into a continuing American folklore--a folklore that would include the stories of gay America, Latino America, and immigrant America--everyone's America" (p. 108). He envisions a resurgence of poetry as a magnificent vehicle "to continue writing together until we are not just one today, but one every day" (p. 108).

If anyone can do this, Richard Blanco can. With his keen intelligence, egalitarian heart, boundless love for his fellow human beings, and a disciplined, devoted poetic soul—all of which gently suffuse his memoir -- Blanco shows us that he has the gifts to do this. It's not immodesty on his part that has convinced us, but rather his modesty and commitment to digging for truth and authenticity. Let us hope his journey promoting poetry for the sake of enriching our lives is long and successful.

[Blanco’s two other poems submitted for consideration were What We Know of Country and Mother Country. These are both included in his memoir.]    


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6. What’s all This Buzz-ness About Bees?

Jersey Farm Scribe here, and I’m so excited to do a post here on Darlene’s website.

It’s exciting for me to get a chance to talk about something farm-related, since I’m usually posting on writing on Kathy’s website Writing and Illustrating or Children.  http://www.kathytemean.wordpress.com

I thought about what I should write about. I could write about the animals that I have here on The Farm. I could write about the lifestyle, being more in touch with the world around us, agriculture and fresh food. I could write about one of the many projects that are always going on… and never quite finished.

In the end, I decided to write about something close to my heart that I HAVEN’T gotten fully involved in. What a great motivator for me to finally jump in!!! Plus, then perhaps I can do another post in a few months and update everyone on any progress that has been made.

So here we go… they’re cute… they’re amazing,

honey bee

honey bee

and they’re SUPER sweet. I had the amazing opportunity to visit an active BEE hive with my brother’s family, including their bee-guru boys. We went to Dan Price’s Farm, the founder of Sweet Virginia Foundation  http://sweetvirginia.com, a Honey Bee Conservation and Education Organization. Here we all are at their farm. The three little ones are three of my four amazing nephews. I’m the odd-ball in the green suit.

group shot (2)

There were some high school kids doing a project. The high schoolers were very leery of the bees, (understandably), and a bit skittish about going up to the hive.

My nephews, 12, 11 and 7, had absolutely no problems. They were informing the older kids of where to stand that was safe. (bees create a main highway where they travel in and out of the hive, and as long as you keep that area clear, you’re perfectly fine!) They operated the smoke puffer (definitely NOT it’s technical name) and answered all the questions the hive experts had like it was NOTHING.

Hive Manager: Does anyone know how many different types of honeybees there are?
7 yr-old-nephew (looks at her as if to say, um, who doesn’t??: Three. The queen. The worker bees, which are girls, and the drones, which are boys.

Hive Manager: That’s right. And the bees that we see flying around sometimes, which are they?

11-yr-old: Worker bees.

Hive Manager: And why’s that?

12-yr-old AND 7-yr old: Because they are the only ones that leave the hive. All the drones do is mate with the queen and all the queen does is lay eggs.

Eventually, the hive manager realized she was going to have to think of harder questions.
Then Marcus and Ethan, the 11 and 7-yr olds picked up a BEE COVERED slat from the hive, (without any gloves on!) and with absolutely no fear:

holding bees (3 part 1)     holding bees (3 part 2)

 

 

 

And here is Jared, (12) even letting a bee crawl on his hand!

bee in hand (4) I was unbelievably impressed, to say the least. (as were the high school kids who they completely showed up!)

I learned a lot. I won’t get into the dorky-science details here. (I’m a total science nerd at heart). But here’s a fun one:   Bees communicate with DANCE!

Seriously… how cool is that?

PBS has a great video on The Waggle Dance:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2300846183/

They use it to communicate where the good hive or flower is located. It’s pretty unbelievable.

I think most people know at this point that there are concerns for the honeybee’s health around the world, which would be devastating to our food sources. It’s more than just not having beautiful flowers. Fruits and vegetables pollinate and grow because of bees. And the animals that we raise for food eat these fruits and vegetables as well!

But luckily there is something really simple you can do that can make a BIG difference! You know those signs you see?       local honey sign (5)

Those are people who either run their own hive, or have someone come in and run a hive for them. This is GREAT for the honeybee population. You can help out your local farmer, and help the honeybees at the same time.

Honey is such a great natural sugar substitution. Try substituting it for sugar in recipes, to give an extra yummy flavor, and a much healthier sweetness. Sugar is sweeter than sugar, so you would about ½ to ¾ cup of honey for every cup of sugar.

I do a combination:

For every cup of sugar a recipe calls for I use:
¼ cup sugar
½ cup honey

This is amazing in almost ALL baking, cakes, muffins, cookies, breads, the works.

Honey has some pretty amazing healing powers as well. It’s been used as a natural antibacterial agent for years!

Feeling like you have a cold coming on, or just can’t kick one? Try this:

Hot water
Raw Honey – (natural antibacterial agent and throat coater)
REAL ginger – (natural anti-inflammatory)
REAL garlic – (natural antibiotic)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (with the mother) (balances the acidity level – excellent for chest cold)

Okay…. so I’m not gonna lie, this is not a delicious drink. But I can from personal experience it can really help to kick those sniffles!

Allergies? Try local honey. A full T every single day. The closer the hive is to your home, the better.

The idea is that you’re introducing a small amount of the pollen into your system via the honey, making your body more use to it (similar to how allergy shots work). This method of course depends on what you are actually allergic to, and there is actually not a lot of actual pollen in honey, but there is some.

I am lucky and don’t suffer from allergies myself, but I have a few friends I’ve suggested this to that swear it helped them. Plus, this one IS delicious!

(I am obviously NOT a doctor, these are just personal home-remedies I’ve always used)

Kids definitely like finding out where their food comes from. And there are also some GREAT Kid-Friendly Honey Recipes:   Bite-size Honey Popcorn Balls  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/bite-size-hiney-popcorn-balls-10000001661174  honey popcorn (6)

 Honey Glazed Carrots http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/honey-glazed-carrots 

glazed carrots (7) And of course, a great dipper for apples, carrots, fruit, bread, chicken, you name it!!!!

So next time you see a local sign for…

honey sign (9) … take a quick stop and find out where their hives are located. You may end up in a more interesting conversation that you’d expect!!

As for me? I plan on trying to get a hive on my property by 2015.

And a big thank you to Darlene and all of you, because you all are part of what has motivated me to pursue it!!

bio picErika Wassall, The Jersey Farm Scribe is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. Check out her posts on Writing and Illustrating for Children every other week, and follow her on Twitter @NJFarmScribe.


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7. If I Had a Raptor by George O'Connor

There are a lot of great things about If I Had a Raptor by George O'Connor, creator of the Olympians series of graphic novels, but what I like most is the way that O'Connor subtly replaces the expected with the uncommon. A raptor stands in for a cat and, in this time when the conversation about the abundance of white boys in children's literature is starting to take precedence, a little girl

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8. Sometimes a Massive Breakdown Can be a Good Thing by Kate Brian


Kate Brian is the author of many YA novels, under this name as well as Kieran Scott. The second book in Kieran's True Love trilogy, COMPLETE NOTHING is hitting store at the end of September. The third and final book in Kate Brian's Shadowlands trilogy, ENDLESS, came out in July!

Sometimes a Massive Breakdown Can be a Good Thing by Kate Brian

For the longest time, I have been on a crazy writing schedule. The Private series was published twice a year, and once it spawned the spin-off Privilege, I was publishing three or four times a year. And yes, I was writing all the books myself (with plotting assistance from my editors). At the same time, I was developing other projects and working on some non-fiction, basically doing everything I could to keep my brain fresh and keep paying the bills. Occasionally someone would ask me, “How do you do it?” (My answer? “I don’t know. I just do.”) Or, the less kind, “When do you think you’re going to hit the wall?” In other words, when do you think you’re going to lose your mind and end up blubbering in the corner, unable to remember the names of your children, let alone the names of the hundreds of characters you’ve created over the years? My answer was always, (insert self-deprecating chuckle) “I suppose it’ll have to happen eventually.” But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t really imagine it. I’d always thrived on being busy, loved rising to the occasion, couldn’t wrap my brain around stopping.

Then, my mom died. My mom, who was basically my best friend, my greatest confidant, and the first person I called whenever anything monumentally good or soul-crushingly bad happened. The couple of months leading up to her death and the year afterward were the worst times of my life, and they just happened to coincide with the writing of the Shadowlands trilogy. If you haven’t read the books, I’m not giving too much away by telling you that the protagonist, Rory Miller, lost her mother to cancer four years prior to the beginning of the trilogy. In fact, her parting with her mother—at her house, in her bedroom, slow and agonizing—were not unlike my parting with my mother. It was all imagined up before it happened in real life, but I was writing and revising these scenes, working with this character who was defined by this tragedy, in the midst of dealing with it all myself. It was scarily parallel, and let’s just say, it was not good for my psyche.

And so, it finally happened. Somewhere around the fourth revision of Hereafter, the second book in the Shadowlands series, I finally hit my wall. I was pouring all the emotional aftermath of my mom’s death into that book, and thinking that if anything good was going to come out of my mom dying it would be that Rory would be realistic. My editors disagreed. Therefore, the four revisions. Of course, I took offense at their notes to soften Rory, to make her less angry, that she was unlikable the way she was, because hey—I was going through this and she was basically me. How dare they tell me what I was going through? That I was too angry? That I was unlikable? So there were many tense conversations with my editor and with my agent, followed by one, massive, breakdown when I couldn’t get my point across, when I couldn’t make them understand. I remember a lot of screaming and crying and snot and tears. I remember screaming at my agent on the phone to do something. I also remember my agent being extraordinarily patient with me, calming me down, and then going about making everything better. (Sidebar: If you’re looking for an agent, find someone who is human and kind. It comes in handy.)

There was a moment, actually, there were weeks, in which I really thought I was never going to write another word. I thought I’d lost the elusive “it” that gave me my voice, that made me me. I seriously considered becoming a realtor or a baker. I had to just step away for a while.

Unfortunately, I was also on deadline, so I couldn’t step away for too long. It turned out, however, when I sat down to work again, it was easier to look at the manuscript and see the problems my editors saw. I realized I wasn’t writing a book about my experience, I was writing a book about Rory’s experience. And while, yes, she still missed her mother, she was four years further into living with it than I was. She had adjusted, to whatever degree one can adjust to such a loss, while I most certainly hadn’t. Once I’d gotten all my emotions out, and screamed and cried and vented, I was able to approach things with a clear head. I revised the book, and it was finally put to bed.

Luckily, the final book in the series was much easier to write. It started in a dark place, but ended up in a lighter one. Just knowing that I was working toward a happy ending made the work so much easier.

But my breakdown didn’t just get me through the rest of the trilogy. It made me realize a few things about myself and the person and the writer I wanted to be going forward. I realized I didn’t need to kill myself writing four things at the same time. I realized I didn’t want to work on anything too dark—at least not for a while. And I realized that, while the actual business of sitting down and writing is a solitary pursuit, having a solid support team is so very important. Being honest and realistic with my editors and my agent about their expectations and my abilities has gotten me a long way in this career, and won me a few champions along the way. They rallied around me during the toughest moment in my personal and professional life, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

About The Author

Kieran is from Montvale, New Jersey and was raised in Bergen County.[1] She enjoyed cheerleading, singing, and acting when she was growing up.

She graduated from Pascack Hills High School[2] and attended college at Rutgers University with a double major in English and Journalism. She worked as an editor for four years before becoming a writer.[3]

She resides in New Jersey with her husband and sons.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads







About The Book

True’s matchmaking skills are the stuff of legend! The second novel in Kieran Scott’s delightful teen romance series that TeenVogue.com called “the next Twilight.”

True is not exactly loving New Jersey. Banished from Mount Olympus and tasked with helping couples find love without using her powers, the goddess-formerly-known-as-Cupid is having a tough time. Especially now that True’s immortal love, Orion, has also appeared at her New Jersey high school—but with no memory of their relationship.

To distract herself from seeing Orion flirt with another girl, True focuses her efforts on making a match: Peter and Claudia. Peter is the star quarterback and the most popular guy in school. But he’s insecure about his future, so he preemptively dumps Claudia, his girlfriend. (If she won’t want to be with him later, why stay together now?) Claudia doesn’t take the breakup too well, and she’s ready to show the quarterback of their rival school just how ready she is to get over it.

But True sees something in these two seniors. She believes they should be together—but can she help them find their way back to each other (and get herself closer to home)? Or have things already spun too far out of control?

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

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9. TURNING PAGES: THE EDGE OF THE WOODS, by Ceinwin Langley

This morning it is downright chilly... Which is kind of ridiculous for August, but it's also rained already this month, so what can you do. School is starting within this week or the next for most of the county, and my armchair-by-a-sunny-window... Read the rest of this post

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10. Poetry Friday with a review of On the Wing by Douglas Florian

Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
   Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
   Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
   The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
   With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird species.

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11. The biggest threat to the world is still ourselves

At a time when the press and broadcast media are overwhelmed by accounts and images of humankind’s violence and stupidity, the fact that our race survives purely as a consequence of Nature’s consent, may seem irrelevant. Indeed, if we think about this at all, it might be to conclude that our world would likely be a nicer place all round, should a geophysical cull in some form or other, consign humanity to evolution’s dustbin, along with the dinosaurs and countless other life forms that are no longer with us. While toying with such a drastic action, however, we should be careful what we wish for, even during these difficult times when it is easy to question whether our race deserves to persist. This is partly because alongside its sometimes unimaginable cruelty, humankind also has an enormous capacity for good, but mainly because Nature could – at this very moment – be cooking up something nasty that, if it doesn’t wipe us all out, will certainly give us a very unpleasant shock.

After all, nature’s shock troops are still out there. Economy-busting megaquakes are biding their time beneath Tokyo and Los Angeles; volcanoes are swelling to bursting point across the globe; and killer asteroids are searching for a likely planet upon which to end their lives in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile, climate change grinds on remorselessly, spawning biblical floods, increasingly powerful storms, and baking heatwave and drought conditions. Nonetheless, it often seems – in our security obsessed. tech-driven society – as if the only horrors we are likely to face in the future are manufactured by us; nuclear terrorism; the march of the robots; out of control nanotechnology; high-energy physics experiments gone wrong. It is almost as if the future is nature-free; wholly and completely within humankind’s thrall. The truth is, however, that these are all threats that don’t and shouldn’t materialise, in the sense that whether or not we allow their realisation is entirely within our hands.

The same does not apply, however, to the worst that nature can throw at us. We can’t predict earthquakes and may never be able to, and there is nothing at all we can do if we spot a 10-km diameter comet heading our way. As for encouraging an impending super-eruption to ‘let of steam’ by drilling a borehole, this would – as I have said before – have the same effect as sticking a drawing pin in an elephant’s bum; none at all.

775px-Sanfranciscoearthquake1906
San Francisco after 1906 earthquake. National Archives, College Park. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The bottom line is that while the human race may find itself, at some point in the future, in dire straits as a consequence of its own arrogance, aggression, or plain stupidity, this is by no means guaranteed. On the contrary, we can be 100 percent certain that at some point we will need to face the awful consequences of an exploding super-volcano or a chunk of rock barreling into our world that our telescopes have missed. Just because such events are very rare does not mean that we should not start thinking now about how we might prepare and cope with the aftermath. It does seem, however, that while it is OK to speculate at length upon the theoretical threat presented by robots and artificial intelligence, the global economic impact of the imminent quake beneath Tokyo, to cite one example of forthcoming catastrophe, is regarded as small beer.

Our apparent obsession with technological threats is also doing no favours in relation to how we view the coming climate cataclysm. While underpinned by humankind’s polluting activities, nature’s disruptive and detrimental response is driven largely by the atmosphere and the oceans, through increasingly wild weather, remorselessly-rising temperatures and climbing sea levels. With no sign of greenhouse gas emissions reducing and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere crossing the emblematic 400 parts per million mark in 2013, there seems little chance now of avoiding a 2°C global average temperature rise that will bring dangerous, all-pervasive climate change to us all.

Sakurajima, by kimon Berlin. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The hope is that we come to our collective senses and stop things getting much worse. But what if we don’t? A paper published last year in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, and written by lauded NASA climate scientist, James Hansen and colleagues, provides a terrifying picture of what out world will be be like if we burn all available fossil fuels. The global average temperature, which is currently a little under 15°C will more than double to around 30°C, transforming most of our planet into a wasteland too hot for humans to inhabit. If not an extinction level event as such, there would likely be few of us left to scrabble some sort of existence in this hothouse hell.

So, by all means carry on worrying about what happens if terrorists get hold of ‘the bomb’ or if robots turn on their masters, but always be aware that the only future global threats we can be certain of are those in nature’s armoury. Most of all, consider the fact that in relation to climate change, the greatest danger our world has ever faced, it is not terrorists or robots – or even experimental physicists – that are to blame, but ultimately, every one of us.

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12. Radiology and Egyptology: insights from ancient lives at the British Museum

Egyptian mummies continue to fascinate us due to the remarkable insights they provide into ancient civilizations. Flinders Petrie, the first UK chair in Egyptology did not have the luxury of X-ray techniques in his era of archaeological analysis in the late nineteenth century. However, twentieth century Egyptologists have benefited from Roentgen’s legacy. Sir Graham Elliott Smith along with Howard Carter did early work on plain x-ray analysis of mummies when they X-rayed the mummy Tuthmosis in 1904. Numerous X-ray analyses were performed using portable X-ray equipment on mummies in the Cairo Museum.

Since then, many studies have been done worldwide, especially with the development of more sophisticated imaging techniques such as CT scanning, invented by Hounsfield in the UK in the 1970s. With this, it became easier to visualize the interiors of mummies, thus revealing their hidden mysteries under their linen wrapped bodies and the elaborate face masks which had perplexed researchers for centuries. Harwood Nash performed one of the earliest head scans of a mummy in Canada in 1977 and Isherwood’s team along with Professor David also performed some of the earliest scannings of mummies in Manchester.

mummy
Tori Randall, PhD prepares a 550-year old Peruvian child mummy for a CT scan, by Samantha A. Lewis for the US Navy. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

A fascinating new summer exhibition at the British Museum has recently opened, and consists of eight mummies, all from different periods and Egyptian dynasties, that have been studied with the latest dual energy CT scanners. These scanners have 3D volumetric image acquisitions that reveal the internal secrets of these mummies. Mummies of babies and young children are included, as well as adults. There have been some interesting discoveries already, for example, that dental abscesses were prevalent as well as calcified plaques in peripheral arteries, suggesting vascular disease was present in the population who lived over 3,000 years ago. More detailed analysis of bones, including the pelvis, has been made possible by the scanned images, enabling more accurate estimation of the age of death.

Although embalmers took their craft seriously, mistakes did occur, as evidenced by one of the mummy exhibits, which shows Padiamenet’s head detached from the body during the process, the head was subsequently stabilized by metal rods. Padiamenet was a temple doorkeeper who died around 700BC. Mummies had their brains removed with the heart preserved as this was considered the seat of the soul. Internal organs such as the stomach and liver were often removed; bodies were also buried with a range of amulets.

The exhibit provides a fascinating introduction to mummies and early Egyptian life more than 3,000 years ago and includes new insights gleaned from cutting edge twenty first century imaging technology.

Ancient Lives: New Discoveries is on at the British Museum until the 30 November 2014.

Heading image: Mummy. Public domain via Pixabay.

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13. The Zone of Interest interest

       There's a new Martin Amis out -- in the UK; US reader will have to wait another five weeks or so -- and it was apparently 'embargoed' in the UK until publication-time (meaning: no reviews could/should be posted). Pathetically, UK reviewers obediently held back until now -- even as reviews went up weeks ago at, for example, Kirkus Reviews ("(A)n indelible and unsentimental exploration of the depths of the human soul") and Publishers Weekly (starred; "An absolute soul-crusher of a book, the brilliant latest from Amis") -- folks, if you're going to 'embargo' in this internet age, then get your act together and make sure you've got things covered abroad, too. .... (Though you shouldn't 'embargo' anyway -- it's a silly policy, and the sooner it dies, the better.)
       So now the first UK (+) reviews are up as well, including at:

  • the Irish Times: Eileen Battersby calls it; "Highly cerebral and innovative, and also human, humane -- even humbling -- this is a brave, inquiring work from a literary maverick whose biggest problem as an artist has been his rampaging talent. He has certainly harnessed it here."

  • The Independent: James Runcie calls it: "a frustratingly memorable read"

  • The Independent: Katy Guest finds: "I read this once thinking it horrifically brilliant, and Amis's best novel for years. (It is, though that's not saying a lot.) I read it a second time asking, but what is the point ?"

  • Asylum, where blogger John Self weighs in
       I haven't seen a copy yet, but I hope to soon; I was disappointed by Koba the Dread -- but greatly admired Time's Arrow (possibly my favorite Amis) -- so I'm not sure what to expect.
       Meanwhile, get your copy at Amazon.co.uk, or pre-order at Amazon.com.

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14. Shady hostel


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15. Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Unabridged audiobook

Read by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne

Publication date: 05 June 2012 by Random House Audio

Category: Adult Mystery Thriller Suspense

Keywords: Kidnapping, Murder, Crime

Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook

Source: Purchased from Audible.com

Having read Gillian Flynn's debut, Sharp Objects, I was really looking forward to her nightmarish account of a marriage gone completely to hell. An unemployed writer, Nick Dunne, drags his silver-spoon-fed, New York City born-and-bred wife Amy to his hometown in Missouri to help out his aging parents. Their relationship shreds apart over a combination of money troubles, petty arguments, and deep-seated resentments. On their fifth wedding anniversary, when Nick comes home to an empty house, he becomes the chief suspect in Amy's disappearance and possible murder. 

While the first part felt a bit slow, dragging along with two really unlikeable main characters, the second part blew up, took off, and didn't slow down until the last 30 minutes or so. The self-referential, inside-jokey-ness of the plot and dialogue kept me hooked, even though at times I wasn't quite sure who I was rooting for--Amy, the victimized wife, or Nick, the put-upon husband? The twist comes early, but then keeps on twisting until you can't see the end. The ending chilled me, though it left me wanting a different outcome.

I'm really looking forward to the film version from David Fincher. While I didn't like the ending of the novel, I hear the third act has been rewritten for the movie, and I look forward to the possibility of getting a more satisfying ending. I think Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck (a man with "a face you want to punch", as the character of Nick is described) are perfectly cast. 

The audiobook readers, Julia Whelan (Amy) and Kirby Heyborne (Nick) sound like they're really having fun on this production. Not only do they get to say the darndest things, they get to imbue the material with such vitriol and attitude that the last 2/3rds of the audiobook sounds virtually unstoppable. I seriously had to force myself to stop listening and go to sleep so that I wouldn't be a total wreck at work the next day. I'd definitely listen to other audiobooks they read.

Flynn writes her characters' voices with flair, shifting into their different moods and personas quickly and easily. She throws out so many red herrings, you hardly suspect that more than one of them--heck, almost all of them--turn out to be real. All in all, Gone Girl was exactly the escapist thriller I wanted for a zingy summer read.

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16. Book Promotion - Great List of Websites That Will Promote Your eBook

Whether you're an author, a marketer,  or a business owner with your own ebook, this is something you should checkout. James Calbraith (author / publisher) has an amazing list of 90 websites where you can promote your ebook. He notes though that the "majority of these sites advertise books when they’re free, as part of KDP Select or Smashword promo. If you want to promote a paid book, you

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17. Love (A Tanka)

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-IN X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]--> 
A time in your life,
When you surrender your soul,
Without expecting,  
To someone really special,
Forgetting consequences.

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18. World War One Exploitation In Comics -hmm?

Alright, someone on Google+ mentioned The Savage Wolverine and how it was set during World War One.  Well, okay, exploitation of a subject currently in the media in comics...as in WW I and WW II the Americans are years late. :-P

Anyhow, accurate? No. The pickelhaube (spiked German/Prussian helmet) had the spike removed early on in the conflict.  Also, the helmet, from 1892, was covered by a light brown cloth helmet cover, the M1892 Überzug.  Regimental numbers were sewn onto these.  The spike was a problem and by 1915 and by 1916 you had the stahlhelm.  So the German is not quite right and the first German gas masks were very basic and cloth and NOT face covering.

The British Mark I steel helmet was not introduced until 1916 so the pickelhaube and 1915 helmet together on ....well, someone didn't quite do their research.

How's that for being a pain-in-the arse?

Both covers would put me off.  Hey -any cosp-layers going to conventions in WW I outfits???

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19. What I’m Doing at Kirkus and BookPage This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Gary Kelley


“Dismissed by much of white America as ‘darkies playing soldiers,’ porters, butlers, hotel doormen, elevator operators—2,000 strong—volunteered for the cause.”


 

Today over at Kirkus, I’m shining the spotlight on Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (where tales are told and ogres are welcome!), illustrated by Michael Emberley. That link will be here soon.

Also, yesterday at BookPage my interview with author-illustrator Cece Bell went up, as well as my review of El Deafo, her graphic novel. That is all linked here. And remember: I featured art from El Deafo back in June. That’s here.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about J. Patrick Lewis’ Harlem Hellfighters (Creative Editions, August 2014), illustrated by Gary Kelley. And guess what? I saw yesterday that it up and won an Original Art Award from the Society of Illustrators. See here for more information and the other winners.

I have some art from this book today. Enjoy.





 


“Somewhere in the mid-Atlantic fog of history, two dark ships passed in the night …”


 


“The Harlem Hellfighters defined courage, / none more than red cap Albany porter / Henry Johnson …”


 


“Relieved from trench duty, Jim Europe found a modest farmhouse
in a remote hamlet alive with birdsong. …”


 


“Three days later, / the first black man ever to be given / a public funeral in the city of New York / rolled through the streets of Harlem / past a delirium of mourners. /
In black armbands, the Hellfighters / marched last, their hushed instruments /
at their sides.”


 



 

* * * * * * *

HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS. Copyright © 2014 by J. Patrick Lewis. Illustrations © 2014 by Gary Kelley. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher, Creative Editions, Mankato, Minnesota.

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20. Poetry Friday - A review of On the Wing

Douglas Florian is a poet and artist who has created poetry picture books that explore a wide variety of subjects. Over the years I have greatly enjoyed reading these books, and it is interesting to see how he applies his considerable talent to take on a new topic that interests him.

Douglas Florian
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Harcourt, 1996, 978-0152023669
Birds truly are remarkable animals. They come in a dazzling array of colors, live on every continent, and make their homes in all kinds of places. In this wonderful picture book Douglas Florian pairs short poems with his artwork to give readers a true celebration of birds.
   Over the millennia birds have evolved to suit many kinds of environments. Some birds, like the egret, sail on water and then rest on the beach making it seem as if there is a “feathered hat” lying on the sand. Dippers love to dip and dive in waterfalls. They are so aquatic that one wonders if they would be happy to “trade / Their oily wings for flippers.” They are such good swimmers that it is possible that the little birds might “think that they are fish.”
   Birds come in all shapes and sizes. The spoonbill is tall and thin with a beak that does indeed look like a long-handled spoon. In his poem about this rather odd looking species, Douglas Florian wonders if the spoonbill uses its bill “for stirring tea” or does it “use it as a scoop / For eating peas and drinking soup.”
   The stork has a bill that is perfectly suited for the environment it lives in. Wading through shallow water, the bird uses it rapier like bill to stab frogs and other creatures. Woodpeckers also have beaks that are perfectly adapted so that they can get to their chosen food - insects that live in wood and sap that runs through wood. Not only are these beaks perfect for creating holes, but woodpeckers also use them to communicate.
   With clever touches of humor and insightful descriptions, this collection of poems will give young readers a colorful picture of twenty-one bird speci

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21. Gigantosaurus by Jonny Duddle

While he definitely has a way with pirates, Jonny Duddle is such an amazing illustrator that I am always excited to see where he turns his focus when working on a new project (be sure to scroll to the bottom of the review to see Duddle's latest project - creating new 15th anniversary cover for UK editions of the Harry Potter books!) As his newest book Gigantosaurus proves, Jonny Duddle has a

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22. Review: Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up? by Sara Hantz

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I decided to read Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up? because Abi’s a kickboxer, and the movie set setting sounded interesting.  I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, but Abi’s lack of common sense derailed some of my enjoyment later on.  The ending was satisfying, but the middle stretch did test my resolve.  The story would have worked better for me if Abi had been 16 instead of 18, because she acted so immature.  Part of that is because of her speech impediment, which made her family and her friends want to take the lead and help her over life’s little hurdles.  It quickly got annoying when she continually craved their help and feedback, or when she blamed everyone but herself for the messes she found herself in.

With speech therapy, time, and practice, Abi has overcome her embarrassing stutter.  Bullied because of it when she was younger, her parents enrolled her in kickboxing lessons to help build her self esteem.  Discovering that she was good at it, Abi has become a champion kickboxer.  When her instructor suggests she audition as a stunt double for an indie movie that his friend is working on, she’s reluctant to step outside of her comfort zone.  Her friends Matt and Liv convince her to give it a shot, but Abi still has her reservations.  She’s never wanted to be in the limelight, and even though the job is to be star Tilly Watson’s stunt double, she’s scared she’ll have trouble interacting with a new group of people.

The audition is almost a complete disaster; her stutter returns with a vengeance, and she’s so nervous she can barely think.  When it’s time to show off her martial arts skills, however, she’s immediately calmed and is able to nail the job.  Once on the set, she starts to think that she’s made a horrible mistake.  Tilly is mean and taunts her about her speech impediment, and the director is a stern task master.  Just when she’s beginning to regret taking the position, Tilly’s boyfriend shows up on the set.  Mistaking Abi for Tilly, he greets her with a kiss – and Abi is smitten with the young actor.

As I stated earlier, I enjoyed the book at first.  Then after Abi starts her new job, I started to get annoyed with her.  She’s basically a doormat for Tilly, and starry eyed over Jon, she starts letting down her best friends.  She makes some very bad decisions, and then doesn’t take ownership of them.  She feels sorry for Jon because Tilly is cheating on him, and starting wondering what it would be like to be his girlfriend. He’s so kind to her, and he’s gorgeous, too.  I was disappointed in her, thinking that it was kind of low for her to even contemplate stealing someone else’s boyfriend, so when Jon’s attentions aren’t quite everything they seem, I thought Abi got a little bit of what she deserved.

At the start of the story, she is head over heels in love with Matt, but because she’s afraid of ruining their friendship, she keeps her feelings a secret.  Her flip-flop between the two guys made her seem shallow, and it looked like she was just using Matt.  As a distance grows between them, she’s confused and blames him for not accepting her new happiness with her job.  She finally feels like she belongs somewhere, but she can’t seem to meld her old life with her new one.  Soon, Liv isn’t speaking to her at all, and there’s a new awkwardness with Matt.

While Abi does finally understand that she is the cause for most of her grief, it takes a long time for her to get even the smallest hint that most of her problems are self-inflicted.  I liked the ending because she finally does grow up and stop taking her friends and family for granted, but it took a long time for that to happen.

Grade:  C+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Abi Saunders might be a kickboxing champion, but when it comes to being the center of attention, she’d rather take a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus any day. So when her trainer convinces her to audition to be the stunt double for hot teen starlet Tilly Watson, Abi is shocked—and a little freaked out—when she gets the job.

Being a stunt double is overwhelming, but once the wig and makeup are on, Abi feels like a different person. Tilly Watson, to be exact. And when Tilly’s gorgeous boyfriend, Jon, mistakes Abi for the real star, Abi’s completely smitten. In fact, she’s so in love with her new life, it isn’t long before she doesn’t have time for her old one.

But when the cameras are turned off, will she discover running with the Hollywood A-list isn’t quite the glamorous existence she thought it was?

The post Review: Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up? by Sara Hantz appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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23. Why We Read

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Books are the plane, the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey.
-  Anna Quindlen

The post Why We Read appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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24. La Mamounia Literary Award finalists

       Marrakesh hotel La Mamounia have an annual literary prize (well, what fine international hotel wouldn't ?) and, as Morocco World News now report, La Mamounia Literary Award Nominates 8 Candidates for its 5th Edition.
       Slightly -- okay, crushingly -- disappointingly it's a Francophone award -- yes, great that they've:

created an essential platform for francophone writers in which they promote their literary works and showcase the Moroccan talents by awarding them basically on the value of their productions.
       But, still ... Morocco, where there are some folks speaking -- and writing ! -- in languages like ... Arabic, Berber, even Spanish .....
       Still, solid literary support, with a prize of MAD 200,000 (yes, that translates into real money) -- though I do have to wonder about the symbolism of the photograph accompanying that article -- empty seats, no one behind the lectern ... easy to read a lot into that ..... Read the rest of this post

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25. The Post of General Advice

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Kat Zhang

Kat ZhangIt’s a little crazy to think that the last book in the Hybrid Chronicles will be releasing in less than a month. Has it really been that long since I was sending out queries for What’s Left of Me (then Hybrid) and refreshing my email every three seconds?

Sometimes, it honestly doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. I can’t even remember how I got started learning about the industry—probably the internet! I do recall reading a ton of writing books, and getting the print version of the guide to literary agents or whatever it was called, and writing down names that represented YA.

Back when I was querying my very first novel (the one I wrote before What’s Left of Me), I only sent queries by snail mail. I think there was something concrete and business-like about typing, printing, and addressing a letter that appealed to me. After all, I’d been chasing this publication dream since I was twelve, but it had always been an nebulous thing. Putting stamps on envelopes…sending them off to NYC…it felt legitimate. I think I probably queried about ten or twelve agents, which felt like a lot at the time!

Unfortunately, none of those SASEs included came back with a positive answer ;) Fortunately, I had read enough advice online (I think my main resources back then were QueryShark and Miss Snark) to know I should bunker down and write another book while waiting for query replies. That book was What’s Left of Me, and it all went on from there!

Publishing is a big world, and a lot of it really can only be learned through experience. There’s a wealth of information, to be sure, but some is outdated, and much is a matter of opinion. It was easy for me to get lost in the minutia (1-inch margins!) rather than try to figure out the whole beast of a thing. However, there’s something to be said for good advice, too.

I get a lot of emails asking for advice for just-starting-out-hey-wouldn’t-it-be-cool-to-publish-a-book writers. Here’s a list of my tips. It will probably be too basic for a lot of you out there further along on the publishing road, but hey, we all started out in the same place! Hope it’s helpful for someone :)

Advice for Aspiring Writers

1. Finish the book. If you’ve already accomplished this, hooray! But if you haven’t, don’t underestimate the difference this makes. It’s one thing to write a lot of nice scenes. Another thing entirely to craft a coherent story with a beginning, middle, and end.

2. Read in your genre.  I have to confess that while I was writing What’s Left of Me, I was too mired in high school reading to read for fun (sacrilege, I know), so I was really out of the YA-loop as well. But I’d lived YA books for all of middle school, so I suppose there was that :P

But seriously, in hindsight, I would tell myself to read more in the genre. Not only does it let you know if the “shiny, original” idea you have isn’t actually that shiny, it lets you know how other people have written stories similar to your own. I don’t believe that reading in a genre, knowing the “usual structure” (or, to be more blunt, “cliches/rules”) of a genre means you’re going to fall into the same. Know the rules so you can break them, right?

3. Set goals—but you-driven goals. That means, you don’t tell yourself “My goal is to get published in the next year.” Because honestly, that’s not something you can control. You might work really hard, and write a great book, but it doesn’t get in front of the right people, or does so at the wrong time. Rather, set goals that are under your own control: “I will finish my book this year” or “I will start querying in April.”

4. Know the industry…but try not to kill yourself stressing about it. I worked as an intern for a literary agent for about a year, and read a lot of both queries and manuscripts during that time. People give a lot of “rules” about queries, but honestly, as long as you’re sending a few paragraphs that make the reader want to read your story, you’ve accomplished the point of a query. There are guidelines, of course, to be more professional about it, and I recommend reading a lot of samples and then showing your query to people (both who have and haven’t read your story). But try not to freak out too much. (I know, easier said than done!)

I could go on, but I promised just the highlights!

How about you? Do you have any advice for just-starting-out writers? Things you wish you’d known?

Kat Zhang loves traveling to places both real and fictional–the former allows for better souvenirs, but the latter allows for dragons, so it’s a tough pick. Her novel WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is about a girl struggling to survive in an alternate universe where people are born with two souls, and one is doomed to disappear. It is the first book in a trilogy and was published by HarperCollins in September of 2012.  Book 2, ONCE WE WERE, released September 2013, and Book 3, ECHOES OF US, will come out September 16, 2014. You can learn all about Kat at her site, or listen to her ramblings on twitter.

 

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