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My picture book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS is now available as in iBook. To access it, you must go to the iBook app on your iPhone or iPad. Then, search for the iBook. Or, click here to be taken to the page on iTunes.
Do you want your book to sell as an ebook? Here are some of the things you must consider.
Ebooks on Multiple Platforms
First, there is an industry-wide ePub standard. But almost no one goes by it. This means that you can put your book up as an ePub, but you’ll have to tweak the files for each and every platform you want to put it on.
The easiest method is to work with Smashwords, which allows ePubs now, or has a MeatGrinder to convert files. You will most definitely want to read Smashwords owner Mark Coker’s Smashwords File Guide. It is a simple explanation of the variables involved in formatting your book. Smashwords has multiple distributions and many people just upload it here and let Smashwords take care of distribution to these platforms: Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, Apple, Diesel, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor Blio, Library Direct, Baker & Taylor, and Axis 360 . But others prefer to move on to other platforms themselves.
Nook: You can upload your ePub documents to Nook at pubit.barnesandnoble.com.
Their process has a built in viewer so you can see what your book will look like on these devices.
Kindle: Go to the kdp.amazon.com program and set up an account to get started. Kindle formatting is not ePub and you must convert your files. KDP allows for distribution on Amazon stores in multiple countries: Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and India. Of course, if you want it in different languages, you must translate it yourself, then upload the translated files.
Kobo: Not a new player, but one to take notice of now, Kobo recently signed a deal with the Independent Booksellers to make Kobo the preferred platform in your local indie. They are working together to promote books in new and fresh ways. The Kobo App is available on almost any platform. You can get on Kobo through Smashwords, or by directly uploading to them. They accept an ePub format and will convert it as needed to their format.
Apple iBooks: The strange thing about Apple’s iBook platform is its limitations. iBooks is an app for iPhone or iPad, but there’s no app for Android, desktop Macs, or other platforms. Sales go through the iBookstore, which is part of iTunes. Some argue that iBooks won’t take off until they pull the books out of iTunes. The real advantage of Apple is their international reach, which allows you to put your book into 52 different countries. Again, you must translate yourself; if you only put up English, you may get some sales, but it won’t take off. Apple provides free software, IBookAuthor, which allows you to embed audio and video and is generally touted as a boon to textbook writers. Of course, that just increases your copyright headaches, as you must make sure you have permissions for all images, sounds, music, video, multimedia, etc. But it’s totally cool to include video. I put an introductory video on the new Wisdom iBook. If you have ePub files, they may work on Apple’s platform, but you can’t get around the requirement that you use a Mac Computer to upload at iTunesConnect .
There are other platforms, of course. Vook touts their video-embedded ebooks, while other platforms have other specialties.
PDF Ebooks. Technically not an ePub, but still often referred to as an ebook, are pdf versions of your book. You can sell these from your website through a sales management site such as ejunkie.com. It allows you to upload your files, then handles the transaction and sends a notice to the buyer when the financial transaction is finished, so they can download their file. Goodreads.com also allows you to sell pdf
Software to Create EPubs
What a tangled web there is when you consider converting your book to ePub!
First, most of the major platforms will convert for you. But you’ll want to create the ePub first. Here are some options.
Adobe Indesign. The premiere book/publishing layout and design software from Adobe has made it easier than ever to convert to an ePub. Indesign CS6 allows for flexible layouts, so you can create both portrait and landscape versions of your book for the tablet requirements. Many magazines use Indesign and create the flexible layouts to publish. You can export in a digital format, too, which should meet ePub requirements. The cost of Adobe products continues to escalate and they update so often that it is outdated quickly; therefore, they now offer a monthly subscription that I am reluctantly moving to.
Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite is not the same thing; it is used more by magazine publishers than book publishers, and by iPad app developers. This is because through this software, you can upload to the Apple App store, but NOT to the Apple book store. Think carefully where you want to sell your product when you choose your Adobe software. Do you want an app (DPS) or an ebook(InDesign)?
Apple’s iBookAuthor. On the other hand, Apple’s price is right: free. iBooksAuthor is one of the easiest, most-intuitive programs to use, but it comes with a major disadvantage. When you create an ebook with this software, you may sell it on Apple’s iBookstore and no where else. This means you will probably do a separate version just for them. The biggest advantage of Apple is that you can sell to 52 countries. And Apple seems to me to be a sleeping giant: if they ever decide to push ebooks, like they do music and video, look out.
Sigil. Open software, Sigil lets you look at the inside of your ePub and–if you are brave and knowledgable–make changes.
Calibre. A desktop ebook reader and editor, Calibre allows you to edit the metadata, add a book cover and convert to some formats. A free, open-source program, it’s useful to have around.
Well, to be honest, it changes every time I get ready to do this, because the development of software, platforms and everything about ebooks changes so rapidly. But in general, what I’ve done is to layout a book in InDesign, then export as an ebook and as a pdf. In Sigil, I can change anything I need to on the “guts” of the ebook. I use that for Smashwords, Kindle, and Nook. I’ll use it for Kobo next time, too, since their connection to Independent Bookstores has raised their profile. I use the pdf with ejunkie.com to sell on my own site.Then, I do a completely new version in iBookAuthor for Apple. Such a pain. Hard to keep track.
At times, I have also hired someone to convert to the standard ePub, then done any tweaking needed for a different format. I’ll be so glad when everyone abides by a given standard! Right now, the biggest drawback to ePubs is the fragmented platforms and their individual requirements.
Elizabeth Castro rocks. Essentially, an ePub is a set of images and text that are put into an html file, controlled by a CSS (cascading style sheets) file, and then zipped into one file. This means that if you mess with the guts of the ePub, you need advice from someone who understand html and css and can explain it in relatively simple terms. Elizabeth Castro has a suite of books that does just this.
This is by no means the only things you can use to format and convert your manuscript to an e-book, it is just to give you an idea of the some of the things out in the market you can use. The Kindle, the Nook and the iTunes Bookstore (which services both the iPhone and iPad) now stand out as the most common targets for e-books. This has helped the e-book boom has helped consolidate formats a bit, but there still isn’t a single gold-standard editing product that guides users through the whole workflow and helps them check their results.
You probably will want to format your e-book for a varity of readers – it helps to support as many of devices as possible. The Kindle, for instance, is notorious for not supporting ePub format files.
So here is a little information about the most common e-book formats and their drawbacks, so you can decide what to use to format your manuscript and create an ebook.
If you are looking for only one fromat, HTML is more or less it. For one, it’s ubiquitous; almost every text-processing program can generate or read HTML. It also supports many features e-books will use: hyperlinks, font control, section headings, images, etc. Downside not everyone knows HTML.
But if you’re starting with a Microsoft Word or Open Document Format document, your best bet is to export it directly from the source application into HTML. Word users should do a “Save as…” using the “Web Page, Filtered” option, which strips out most of Word’s generated left over junk (cruft).
Exporting to HTML from your source program helps preserve the most crucial formatting and usually preserves sections and chapters: outline headers are turned into h1/h2/h3 tags, which most conversion programs correctly recognize. Some are even able to auto-generate tables of contents from those tags. Word typically does a good job generating TOCs without problems.
Microsoft Word (DOC or DOCX)
If you’re dealing with an original manuscript, odds are it’s probably going to be in Microsoft Word format. Almost every device on the face of the Earth can read or write Word documents. And the format has native support for most everything you could think of: formulas, chaptering, footnotes, indexes — anything that might show up in an e-book.
Word documents are best as a starting point for an intermediate conversion format, most likely HTML, rather than a format that can be converted directly into an e-book. In fact, most e-book conversion programs don’t accept Word natively as a source document type. They may accept Word’s sibling format, RTF, but that is already at least one stage of conversion away from the original and increases the chance that certain features might not make it through the conversion process. For example, RTF does support features like sections and footnotes, but the Calibre e-book creation suite, for one, doesn’t process them correctly.
OpenDocument is the format used by OpenOffice.org. Microsoft Word also supports ODF as one of it’s formats. it reads and writes.) Third-party OpenOffice offers extensions that let you export directly to e-pub formats. There are also a number of standalone applications, such as ODFToEPub. If you’re already used to creating your documents in ODF, your path to creating a finished e-book may be shortened, slightly.
An open, non-proprietary format. Uses XHTML as the basis for its document format. ePub is widely supported as an output format by various e-book production applications. iTunes only accepts ePub as a source format, so it couldn’t hurt to render a copy of your product as ePub no matter what other formats you use. Books that require PDF-style page fidelity won’t work well in ePub.
Mobi and Kindle:
After Amazon bought Mobit, it made it into the basis for the Kindle reader’s own e-book format. Mobi supports digital rights management, but unencrypted Mobi documents can be read on the Kindle without issues.
PDFs can be read as-is in the majority of e-book readers, including the Kindle. It is best used when you want to maintain absolute fidelity to page layout — images, typefaces, etc. But this is the very feature that makes PDFs a problem in some scenarios. Other e-book formats are designed to work independently of any particular device resolution, so pages reflow automatically for each device. This is one of the reasons the Kindle didn’t make use of page numbers at first, since the page numbering for a particular book depends on what device or screen size you are using.
PDFs reproduce the formatting of the original page, no matter what the size of the destination device, so a PDF formatted at a certain size may be readable on a large display, but look cramped on a Kindle or Nook. If you plan to use PDFs, you may want to consider exporting your document with different page sizes for people using e-readers with small screens.
http://calibre-ebook.com/ Calibre is a free and open-source application marketed as a personal e-book management solution. It can be used as an e-book conversion utility. It is powerful and may be the best place to start, especially if you want to distill output for multiple e-book formats. The program can accept ODF, RTF, ePub, Mobi, PDF and HTML. Calibre can also reformat documents unwrapping plain text that has too many line breaks or insert chapter breaks by looking for certain text structures (such as a line break, the word “Chapter” and then a number).
It doesn’t support DOC or DOCX documents, so anything coming from Word, so you will have to save it in another format first. Serdar Yegulalp, a computer techology author says, ”Saving in either ODF or HTML from Word seemed to do the best job of preserving formatting and features, including things like monospaced formatting for code examples. Doesn’t process footnotes correctly.”
http://code.google.com/p/sigil/ Sigil is a multi-platform EPUB ebook editor – free open source. It’s an editor that exports to e-books (has a built-in document editor) it includes various tools for collating and assembling a finished e-book (such as a table-of-contents editor). Sigil’s main drawback is how it handles importing – only accepts HTML, plain text or existing ePub files as input documents.
Adobes In Design is a full blown publishing solution, but it requires a lot more work and knowledge to generate a finished product than a simple conversion utility. Second is the price tag: It starts at $699.
TIP: Include a Table of Contents
An e-book that isn’t properly chaptered is difficult to navigate. Going to an arbitrary point in a book is not as easy as it should be. The Kindle, for instance, has no touch screen, so jumping around in a book without a table of contents is a chore.
If you have gone through the process of formatting and converting your own ebook, we loved to hear what you chose.
With Thanksgiving (and the various themed shopping days that follow) now past us, the highpoint (or lowpoint depending on your viewpoint) of the annual shopping season has arrived in full force, and according to various trend observers, tablets are once again one of, if not the, thing to give or receive this year. Unlike in previous years however, when “tablet” actually just meant “iPad,” in 2012 we are finally seeing a bit of diversity in the “portable device that is bigger than a smartphone but doesn’t have a keyboard” category, beyond just the offerings from Cupertino. And considering what a great fit for comics tablets are proving to be, no matter the specific shape or size, not to mention the everexpanding offerings of digital comics, it is worth a glance to see how the landscape is shaping up for tablets and comics this year.
Amazon released the original Kindle Fire roughly a year ago, and while it has certainly not overtaken the tablet crown from the iPad, it did demonstrate that other companies could compete in the arena, particularly if their device had tight integration into broad content eco-systems (something that all the pre-Fire Android tablets sorely lacked). Smaller, less powerful, but decidedly cheaper, the Kindle Fire expanded the Kindle brand beyond mere black and white eReaders and helped to legitimize the 7 inch form factor, despite Steve Jobs’ previous dismissals of that format. Attempting to build on the first Kindle Fire’s success, Amazon has diversified its lineup of tablets this year, offering not just the original Kindle Fire ($159), but expanding with the Kindle Fire HD (same size and shape as original but better a 1280×800 screen, more powerful, etc for $199) and the Kindle Fire HD “8.9 (larger, better 1920×1200 screen, more powerful, etc. for $299).
Barnes & Noble technically beat Amazon to the punch with their Nook Color, a 7 inch Android skinned tablet very similar to the original Kindle Fire, but without the marketing power of Amazon, the Nook Color languished a bit compared to its Kindle competitor. Nonetheless, B&N (with some financial assistance from Microsoft) is pushing ahead with tablets, and now has an improved Nook HD (better screen, more powerful, etc. for $199) and a larger 9 inch Nook HD+ ($269). A third entry in the eReader-based Android-skinned tablet competition is the Canada-based Kobo, with a very Kindle Fire-like Kobo Vox ($179) and a newer Kobo Arc (better screen, more powerful, etc. $249).
The offerings from Amazon, B&N and Kobo share some fundamentals, notably they are essentially modified Android tablets, with strong integration with their respective online retailers. All of them do, however, allow the installation of Android apps so with some basic technical know-how they can each provide access to each other’s stores, or other independent markets. An owner of a Nook HD could conceivably purchase content from B&N, Amazon or any of the comics publishers affiliated with Comixology, iVerse or their own stores (like Dark Horse). Hence, preferences between these pretty similar devices will likely depend more on comfort with a particular retailer than any noticeable specification or app differences at a particular price point.
Of course, the hitherto dominant figure in the tablet world remains the iPad, and Apple continues to iterate the device now in its fourth generation. The big news is, however, the introduction of the iPad mini, the first major deviation from the original iPad format, shrinking the screen down from 9.7 inches to 7.85, creating a tablet that is smaller, lighter and more ergonomic, if sacrificing some power and display resolution. By all indications the iPad mini is proving to be very popular, and has even convinced some Apple observers that the mini is the logical development of the iPad, and the smaller format will become the “default” size ultimately. On the other hand, the mini goes backwards from a resolution standpoint (1024 x 768) and is not a “retina” display, or even “high definition” by normal understanding. While the mini obviously benefits from the maturity and depth of the overall iOS experience and App Store, from a specific comic perspective, the advantage the standard iPads have had in displaying graphic storytelling is somewhat blunted in this case. For $199 the Amazon Kindle HD has a 7 inch display with a resolution of 1280×800, and while resolution is not the only factor when it comes to screen quality, it does create an interesting comparison to the $349 iPad mini. The fourth generation non-mini iPad retains the larger screen size and high resolution display (2,048 × 1,536) of its predecessor, but did receive a computing power boost and starts at $499.
From a sheer visual quality standpoint, it is hard to beat reading comics on the larger, sharper iPad, but as we have already seen, Android competitors are not sitting still when it comes to resolution, and comics should look fantastic on any of the HD capable models from Amazon or B&N. The most buzzed about Android tablet this year, however, remains the Nexus 7, the first tablet in Google’s Nexus line of quasi-flagship devices that receive special software attention from Google. A relatively powerful device for its 7 inch screen size, with HD resolution, no retailer app restrictions and a guarantee of always receiving the latest version of the Android operating system, the Nexus 7 will appeal most to price sensitive power users at $199. There is also a larger Nexus 10 available, but with a size, screen and price ($399) that borders on iPad territory it is not as compelling an option, although digital comics will certainly look great on it.
Surprisingly, at least to me, what may be the best current “over-all” tablet choice with a comics emphasis is the Barnes&Noble Nook HD+. It has a large-ish size screen that displays digital comics excellently, has a pretty good price to performance ratio ($269 for the 16GB model), can be rooted for maximum flexibility and compatibility, and even has the ability to expand storage with microSD cards (up to 32GB added). Still small and light enough to be read in bed comfortably, the Nook HD+ offers many of the benefits of the larger iPad, but at almost half the price.
Are you planning on giving or receiving a tablet this year? Which one do you want, and why?
Barnes & Noble announced today that the Nook will be available in the UK this fall. The book retailer will begin sell its Nook eReaders through the storefront www.nook.co.uk in mid-October.
AppNewser has more: “The store will launch with the Nook E Ink Readers — the Nook Simple Touch and Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. The store will also sell eBooks, apps and digital magazines and newspapers with a catalog of more than 2.5 million titles. The company will also sell its devices at leading retailers in the UK.”
While the store opening does put Barnes and Noble in business just in time for the holiday shopping season, the book retailer is late to the game in the UK market as compared to its competition. Amazon, Kobo and Google already sell devices and eBooks in the UK.
Hello my fine feline friends, Guess what releases today? If you said Daemons in the Mist, you’re correct! That day is finally here! The second edition of my debut novel is now out there in the world complete with new editing, new design, new cover, but featuring the same fantastic story! So without further ado [...]
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Can we finally put the argument to rest? E-readers are not killing reading, nor are they killing books. As research shows, people who own e-readers not only read more than people who don’t, but they read both e-books and print books. Not to mention, there are plenty of populations, from prison inmates to seniors, who will need print books for a long time coming. Neither one is going away.
That’s not to say that they’re the same, though. Far from it. In my experience, e-readers attract different types of readers than print books, and they’re also engaging more people who were previously non-readers. Anybody who thinks that’s not great, well… There are also scads of e-reading apps available for phones, tablets, and computers, so e-content is available to more than just people with Nooks and Kindles. People use e-readers for a variety of reasons, from pleasure reading to research, so it’s good to consider how many bases you can cover. The Pew Research Center released a report on reading, readers, and e-readers recently, and ALA of course responded. While Pew’s data is encouraging (among other statistics released, the study found that people who use e-readers read more books per year than people who only read in print), ALA pointed out that the stats of who reads at all, and who reads in what format, are also related to education and income level. So what can you do about it?
First, take a look at your e-book collection and see what types of materials are most widely represented. In my anecdotal experience, I’ve found that bestselling memoirs and adult fiction are easy to find in e-book format, as well as genre fiction like westerns and romance. Pew’s study also indicated that people are drawn to print and e-books for different reasons, based on the types of materials they can find. This is your chance to offer innovative e-materials, as well as to fill some gaps that your print collection just can’t do. If your library offers Kindles or other devices for checkout, and not just the e-materials, see if you can designate one of them as the YA e-reader, and fill it up with some teen-friendly stuff that will attract readers and non-readers alike. If you don’t have library-owned devices, you can always offer these suggestions on a flyer for your patrons who own personal devices.
Download literary and other magazines that are published for online audiences, in PDF format. For me, this is why I bought my Kindle in the first place–my grad school reading heavily leans toward the downloaded journal articles, and I didn’t want to clutter my hard drive or break my eyeballs reading it all on my computer. You might try things like Sucker Literary Magazine, a new magazine of YA fiction available on PDF and Kindle form, the Fairy Tale Review, which publishes fiction and poetry based on or inspired by fairy tales (their first issue is free and in PDF form, and the rest can be bought on an issue-by-issue basis), or Anthology, a collection of writing from a longstanding literary magazine by and for teens, Cicada
Load your e-reader with some free or inexpensive word and logic games. Both Nook and Kindle have a variety available. For a cost, both major retailers, as well as educational software companies, offer specialized dictionaries and other apps for academic subjects, too.
Have a strong immigrant, refugee, or bilingual population in your library? E-readers offer you the chance to bulk up your collection in other languages for a lower price than many print books. Amazon’s Kindle store has a huge selection of Spanish-language e-books (though it will transfer you to its Spanish version of the website, so make sure you can read it
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I probably should save these comments so that I could actually have something to write about come Sunday, but heck! I’m on spring break and I’ve got nothing but ideas!
First, I have to share with you that I’ve gotten a new position! I’ll be working as an Assistant Reference Librarian at Indiana State University beginning this spring and if it weren’t for all the books (and other stuff) that need to be packed between now and then, I’d be flipping cartwheels!
I did take time out for a walk this morning and enjoyed the cool crisp air as much and the pink and white blossoms on the trees. Such beauty really got me to thinking… about books… Does your local Barnes and Noble have a Starbucks? Mine does and I’m wondering why the Starbucks near me doesn’t have a Barnes and Noble. I mean, many people actually sit for a spell at Starbucks, taking the time to read, computer or just chat. So, why don’t these companies increase each of their sales potential by putting books for sale in the Starbucks and heck, while they’re at it why not allow Nook access in the Starbucks just like at B&N? Seems like a no brainer to me!
Have you ever noticed how national news programs send the Latino guy to cover Latino issues and the Black guy to cover Black issues? I hate when they do that because while the network looks like they’re relating ethnically diverse issues, they’re really marginalizing the issue and stamping it as a Latino/Asia/Native American issue and not as a people issue.
To me, that’s what the New York Times has done with their piece on Young Adult fiction. Why not have a White author address diversity? An Asian address complexities and Latina talk about social networking? Why let readers continue to believe that the lack of diversity that surrounds us only continues to concern people of color? And, by the same token make it seem as if people of color have no other issues? Go on, join the discussion!
The number of Americans who have a tablet or e-reader (jumped significantly between December 2011 and January 2012, thanks to robust holiday sales, according to Pew Research. In fact, among Millennial adults, tablet ownership — at 24%... Read the rest of this post
Aside from videos of cats playing the piano and laughing babies, YouTube has a lot of educational material to offer (which is now easier for teachers and students to access with YouTube for Schools. The educational hub curates content from YouTube... Read the rest of this post
Barnes & Noble is to expand its e-book service internationally next year, the company's chief executive has revealed. The development was revealed at the company's New York press conference at which it unveiled its $249 Nook Tablet, a direct competitor to Amazon's Kindle Fire and the Apple iPad.
Avery really wants her new stepsister Blake to like her. Not only is she an only child, she also just recently lost her best friend, Sophie, who decided earlier in the school year that she was too cool to hang out with Avery anymore. Avery thinks a stepsister would make a perfect best friend, and she does her best to impress Blake at every opportunity. Unfortunately, things don't go exactly as Avery planned, and before long, Blake is hanging out with Sophie instead of her!
But Avery is determined not to lose anything else to Sophie, so when she is put in charge of the class charity project - a matchingmaking service - she vows to win Blake over again by matching her up with her crush Sam. Again, though, Avery's best laid plans go somewhat awry. Not only do the matches get mixed up, but the teacher in charge of the project can tell they've been tampered with. On top of that, Avery starts to have feelings for Sam, too - feelings which he just might reciprocate.
I have sort of an interesting relationship with Lauren Barnholdt's books. I have tried a couple of times to get into her YA books, and I've never been able to click with them, but I love the way she writes middle grade. Previously, I read The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney, about a girl who lies in an attempt to reinvent herself, and then must find her way back to the truth. I noted some similar themes in this book, and recognized the same contemporary, lively, and original writing style. I felt connected to Avery from the very first page of the book, and her emotions became the driving force behind the plot. I felt myself getting butterflies during her first kiss, and worrying for her when she was on the verge of getting in trouble.
From what I've read, Barnholdt's YA books tend to include more mature themes that appeal mainly to high school kids. This book, by contrast, is very tame. Avery is new to the dating scene, and her interactions with Sam are very sweet and innocent. I think girls in late elementary and middle school would recognize themselves in Avery's character and in the things that happen in her day to day life, and would sympathize wholeheartedly with her desire for friendship and the frustration of sharing a crush with a close friend.
Fake Me a Match will be published tomorrow, October 4, 2011.
I received a digital ARC of Fake Me a Match from Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab.
The Darlings in Love by Melissa Kantor 2012 | 320 Pages | Young Adult *I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley.
This second book about the Darlings - Jane, Natalya, and Victoria - follows immediately on the heels of The Darlings Are Forever, picking up on the romantic dramas each girl left unfinished at the end of that first book. Natalya still has a crush on Colin, the brother of one her classmates at school, Victoria is now dating Jack, even though she's not convinced they have anything in common, and Jane has found love on the stage, acting opposite Simon, who is everything she wants in a guy, except for the fact that he might be gay. Each of the girls struggles throughout this book to figure out how to juggle romance with the rest of her life. Victoria, in particular, agonizes over every detail of her relationship with Jack, torturing herself as she tries to get things just right. Natalya, too, struggles to decide whether it's okay to be interested in a boy who has a girlfriend, especially if that girlfriend is also her friend. Everything culminates, for better or for worse, at an art show, honoring the work of Jane's late grandmother, Nana, who was a special influence in the lives of all three girls.
Compared with the first Darlings book, this one moved a lot faster, and kept a stronger momentum. Jumping from point of view to point of view had me in a constant state of suspense. I'd be reading the latest twist or turn in one girl's part of the story and also anxiously waiting to find out what would happen to the other girls. The pacing was just right, and I was really impressed by how seamlessly Kantor changed between viewpoints. I never got confused about whose mindset I was in, and I never got lost in the many, many threads that tie this story together.
The book also has a lot of emotion in it, something that teenage girls can definitely relate to. Jane, Natalya, and Victoria experience many highs and lows throughout this book, and the reader really empathizes with them, even when we might not agree with the girls' actions. The girls' friendship also remains as strong as ever, which is a wonderful testament to the importance and power of friends in the face of great difficulties.
Melissa Kantor has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary YA authors. I really hope there will be another Darlings sequel, and I can't wait to read anything else Kantor might write in the future as well. Look for The Darlings in Love this January 10th. In the meantime, check out some of her other titles that I have also reviewed:
Reel Life Starring Us is a middle grade novel which alternates between the points of view of two eighth grade girls. Dina has recently moved to town, and must deal with the fact that the qualities that made her popular in her old school are the same qualities that make her unpopular in her new school. Chelsea, in the meantime, has started school a month late, thanks to a bout with mono, and she's hiding a secret about her family that she is convinced will ruin her own popularity. The girls are thrown together by a well-meaning teacher who assigns them to work together on a video celebrating the school's upcoming fiftieth anniversary. Dina sees this as an opportunity to make a new friend, while Chelsea worries what it will do to her reputation.
What I liked most about this book is its focus on an unusual relationship. Typically, books in this genre involve a girl, her best friend, and her male love interest. At the heart of this book, though, is an unwanted alliance and a real enmity between two girls who might not necessarily be compatible, or want to become friends. Because the book comes at middle school from this unique angle, the story is able to explore emotions and experiences other than the typical best friend and boyfriend interactions. From chipping, the school's hazing method, whereby potato chips are crumbled into an unpopular student's backpack, to Chelsea's realization that her friends might not care as much about her as they do about her money and status, Greenwald demonstrates a real understanding of the intricacies of middle school politics, and how difficult they can be to navigate.
Unfortunately, though I love the premise, it was hard for me to click with this book. I liked the characters, but it didn't feel like enough happened to them to keep me interested for the duration of the entire novel. I was especially bogged down by the continuous references to the girls' procrastination. It seemed like more than half of their interactions involved the same conversation - Dina wanted to work on the project, but Chelsea had better things to do. There was also the additional element of trying to track down a TV star who went to their middle school, which was interesting, but took a long time to build up to. I would have liked to see more minor conflicts to keep things moving in between the main events of the story.
Girls in grades 5 to 8 will enjoy seeing their own middle school dramas brought to life in this story. Budding filmmakers and actors will also enjoy the film-related scenes, and the behind-the-scenes tour of a TV set.
Reel Life Starring Us was published on September 1, 2011. I received a digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
Zombie Cows! by Michael Broad 2011 | 144 pages | Chapter Book *I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley.
Zombie Cows is the second book in the Agent Amelia series, a collection of chapter books originally published in the UK that are now making their way to the US thanks to Lerner Publishing Group. Each book in the series contains three episodes in which Amelia Kidd, a child secret agent, must fight evil and ego-maniacal villains who want to take over the world. In this book, the episodes are entitled "The Case of the Zombie Cows", "The Case of the Perilous Pipe" and "The Case of the Creepy Cakes."
In "The Case of the Zombie Cows", Amelia is at a petting zoo with her mother when she encounters some strange mechanical farm animals. In "The Case of the Perilous Pipe" a substitute teacher's strange musical instrument seems to have a strong, creepy hold over many of the students. And in "The Case of the Creepy Cakes", Amelia visits a bakery where the owners are trying to make everyone fat. Each of the villains is comical and easily beaten once Amelia is able to convince him or her to brag about his/her plan for world domination. The bad guys in each of these stories reminded me of some of Roald Dahl's villains, or of someone like Count Olaf from the Series of Unfortunate Events books. They are evil through and through, but it's still believable that a child can defeat them.
The language in this book is very straightforward with no extraneous frills, making it a great choice for new chapter book readers. Each story is fast-paced and well-plotted, and Amelia's sense of humor and intelligence kept me turning the pages so quickly I finished the book in one sitting. Hers is a unique voice that stands out from other chapter book heroines, and while the setting of the stories is familiar, the focus on spying and bringing down forces of evil will attract kids who like adventure and mystery stories. This is one of those series that will appeal to boys and girls, and to reluctant readers as well.
Zombie Cows will be released in the US on October 1, 2011.
*I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley.
Mallory's tenth birthday has come and gone without fanfare, because she just can't decide how to celebrate entering the double digits. When Mary Anne suggests a sleepover, Mallory realizes that would be the perfect party idea and presents it to her parents. Her mom and dad surprise her by saying yes, but they insist on certain limitations to keep the party from getting out of hand. Unfortunately, Mary Anne has other plans, and try as she might, Mallory can't stop her and the other girls at the party from running wild and ruining her birthday.
This book will make yet another wonderful edition to the Mallory series. Like the previous book, Mallory's Guide to Boys, Brothers, Dads and Dogs, this one focuses on Mallory's inner emotions and turmoil as she is torn between what she knows is right and what her friends want to do. The lesson that she learns - that following the rules and listening to your parents is more important than impressing your friends - isn't usually an easy one for kids to swallow, but Mallory makes it somehow palatable by living through the situation herself and learning the lesson the hard way. There were some moments where I thought Mallory went a little overboard with her apologies, and I worried that kids would think they, too, needed to grovel to gain their parents' forgiveness. But it is in Mallory's nature to take everything just a step too far, and even her parents assured her that she could bounce back from the mistakes she makes in this story, so I think in the end, her multiple apologies didn't detract too much from the story at all.
I think my favorite thing about this book is the way Friedman describes the emotions Mallory feels as her friends begin breaking the rules and tearing her house apart during the slumber party. I can remember that feeling so well, of watching chaos unfold around oneself and feeling powerless to prevent disaster. Friedman really made me feel and experience Mallory's conflicted emotions as things spiral out of control, and I could empathize with her anger at Mary Anne and her own feelings of guilt. I can't wait to see what other troubles are in store for ten-year-old Mallory - I can only imagine what's in store for her as she continues to get older!
Mallory's Super Sleepover will be published on October 1, 2011. Click here to read my review of the previous Mallory book, published earlier this year.
2011 | 112 pages | Middle Grade (Hi-Lo) *I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley.
The Summer I Lost It is a short novel for tweens and young teens written in the format of a weight loss diary. The author of the diary is a teenage girl named Kat, who wants two things - to lose weight and to have a boyfriend. After her parents deny her request to go to Fat Camp for the summer, Kat figures out how to tackle her weight problem on her own and joins a gym. Her parents are pleased to see her take the initiative, so they sweeten the deal with the promise of a vacation once Kat loses fifteen pounds. Kat is also motivated by her crush on a boy named Josh, who is nice to her, even if he doesn't seem that interested in her romantically. Kat is sure Josh doesn't like her because of her weight, but as she becomes more comfortable in her own skin, she starts to see that she has plenty of desirable qualities, and thanks to the gym, she might just have a new crush who is better suited to her personality and interests.
The writing style is perfect for a hi-lo book. The plot of the story is something very real, taken from everyday contemporary life, and the diary format, as well as the calendar pages and handwritten notes about calories scrawled in the margins make it very visually appealing, and easy to read. The health information is accurate and useful, and made all the more palatable by the fact that it's being delivered by a peer, rather than a well-intentioned adult.
I did wonder who the intended audience of this book is. I don't know many teenage girls who would choose to read a book on weight loss, and I don't think the romantic elements of the story are necessarily strong enough to draw readers in. That said, I think girls looking for books on this topic will enjoy the gossipy, contemporary language of Kat's diary entries, and her honesty about how her weight, and losing weight, make her feel. All in all, this was an upbeat, feel-good story about self esteem and positive life changes.
The Summer I Lost It was published on August 1, 2011.
by Tracy Marchini
2011 | 170 pages | Middle Grade
*I received a free copy of this book from Smashwords, courtesy of the author.
Almost everyone in the sixth grade at John Jay Jr. High School has received a ticket. Most kids have received a "hot ticket" - an orange rectangle made of cardboard - as a reward for doing something cool. Some kids have also received "shame tickets," as reminders of their most embarrassing moments. Even dorky Crammit Gibson has a few tickets to his name. But Juliet Robinson is the only one who hasn't received any tickets at all, and she's sick of it! Obsessed with the idea of the tickets, she becomes determined to find out who the ticket dispenser is - no matter what it takes. But Juliet's pursuit of this mystery has a definite cost. It puts a strain on her relationship with her best friend Lucy, complicates her blooming crush on Crammit, and interferes with her day-to-day life at school.
There were a lot of positive qualities to this book. Juliet's voice was probably the strongest aspect of the story, because of its realism, humor, and honesty. She came across as an authentic middle schooler, and her obsession with the tickets mirrored the social concerns tween girls deal with every day. I also think the concept of the tickets is a stroke of genius. There have been a lot of stories about popularity written for this age group, but the idea of an actual ticketing system is a clever - and cruel - way to highlight who is hot and who is not. The ticketing system gave the author a lot of interesting scenarios to play with, and brought new life to an often overused topic. I also thought the mystery was plotted quite well - I had trouble figuring out who the dispenser was, and I was impressed with the author's use of suspense, which kept me guessing right up until the big reveal.
The story could have used some stronger editing in some places. I don't recall seeing any spelling or grammar errors or anything like that, but there was an overall feeling that the book was not fully polished. Some parts seemed to drag and lost their cleverness and creativity. Other parts just lacked explanation. I was at least halfway through the book before I felt like I had a handle on what the tickets actually were, which was a problem since they figured so significantly into the plot. I would have benefited from a straightforward description of the ticketing system early on in the story that established for the reader what is common knowledge for all the students in the story.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Hot Ticket when the author first offered it as a free download on Smashwords, but I'm glad I took the time to download and read it. My enjoyment of the book far outweighed its flaws. In fact, it reminded me of several other novels and series about middle school that I have read, including the How I Survived Middle School series, the Snob Squad trilogy, The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters and Nerd Girls by Alan Lawrence Sitomer. Juliet's interest in Crammit also reminded me of Sonya Sones's novel in verse, What My Mother Doesn't Know. Part of me is disappointed that this book wasn't edited and published by a traditional publishing house, but there is also a significant part of me that likes the idea of people writing, editing, publishing and marketing their own books. Certainly this book did not fit the
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When Clementine sees the family meeting sign hanging in the kitchen, she's sure she's done something wrong, and immediately starts to have a nervous breakdown. It turns out, though, after pestering her parents and worrying all day long, that the meeting has nothing to do with Clementine's behavior at all. Rather, it is her parents who have big news - they want to have another baby. Clementine is immediately displeased. Four is the perfect number, she says, and there's no reason to mess with perfection. Margaret, Clementine's older friend, piles on as well, saying that if this was happening in her family, she'd never allow it. Throughout the book, Clementine struggles to accept the idea of a second sibling, while also dealing with Margaret's new grown-up interest in wearing make-up and trying to convince her father to allow her to wear his tool belt.
I was somewhat wary of this plot line at first, since so many children's books already deal with the same subject matter, but I quickly got past that sticking point when I realized I really wanted to see how Clementine would react in this situation. And she did not disappoint. Clementine's thoughts about the new baby are completely unique, and very funny. I also enjoyed seeing her interact with her brother, whose name, alas, we still do not know, and there are some especially sweet moments between Clementine and her dad as well. I also really enjoyed Clementine's latest school predicament - Waylon, her science partner, wants to demonstrate walking through a wall, and Clementine is quite convinced he doesn't actually have superpowers.
Clementine is such a relatable and real character, and I love her stable, loving, and warm family. Her parents know just how to deal with her sometimes tricky personality, and they love her unconditionally in spite of her flaws. I like that Clementine has definite difficulties, but that none of them are truly traumatic or insurmountable.
Another hit, as far as I'm concerned. Can't wait for the next book already!
Hosted by Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme where bloggers share books they can’t wait to read. I reviewed Clementine and the Family Meeting from a digital Advanced Reading Copy I received from Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley.
As we previously noted, Liberty Media Corporation, a company chaired by entrepreneur John C. Malone, has submitted a proposal to bid for Barnes & Noble. The offer of $17 per share appraises the company valuation at $1.02 billion. Last week a New York Times article speculated on why Liberty bid for Barnes & Noble.
Here’s more from the article: “So far, most of the reasons given for the interest in Barnes & Noble center on its e-reader, the Nook. Mr. Malone implied that the Nook was a primary reason for Liberty Media’s bid at the company’s shareholder meeting on Monday. Though exact figures are unavailable, Barnes & Noble captured as much as 27 percent of the e-book market with its Nook, according to a Goldman Sachs report.”
The article also offered the theory that Borders’ bankruptcy has also influenced Malone’s offer. Borders’ struggles helped eliminate competition on the brick and mortar side of the business. What do you foresee for the bookseller’s future? (via Publishers Weekly)
In this 7th book in the Camp Club Girls series, Elizabeth's next door neighbor, Megan, learns that her grandmother was given some very expensive marbles as a young woman, which have since gone missing. Lately, a mysterious gentleman has been inquiring after the marbles, and even though Megan's mother thinks this is all a hoax, Megan knows the family needs the money and wants to pursue these valuable family heirlooms. Megan asks Elizabeth to help her solve the mystery, and with the help of another Camp Club Girl, McKenzie, who is visiting Texas, she begins piecing the clues together.
This book is filled with suspense, and these girls, though conscientious and level-headed most of the time, still manage to disobey their parents, sneak out of the house, and land in some seriously dangerous situations. Elizabeth is the Camp Club Girl known for her knowledge of Biblical scripture, and her father is a Bible instructor, so this book has some more religious references in it than the book I reviewed last week, but the morality of these books is never preachy or pushy. The girls' lives are informed by their beliefs, but they are well-rounded, flawed individuals, and sometimes they make snap judgments or poor decisions. The supporting cast of characters is also really great in this book - Jean Louise, the head waitress at the restaurant whee Megan works, is particularly colorful and spunky, and the parents in this book are much more present and well-developed than a lot of other fictional moms and dads.
This book reminded me a lot of Nancy Drew, but seemed better written than the Nancy Drew books being published these days. I was also reminded of The Boxcar Children, and I think this series is a nice step up for readers who have aged out of those but still want a good, clean story without violence or foul language. Non-Christian readers may not relate to the religious themes presented here, but certainly the mystery is appealing to everyone.
This is my second post in my series of reviews about the Camp Club Girls series. Next week, I will review Sydney's Outer Banks Blast.
2010 | 160 pages | Middle Grade
*I received an e-ARC of this book from Barbour Publishing via NetGalley.
In this 8th volume in the Camp Club Girls series, Bailey visits Sydney at her grandmother's house in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Almost immediately, the girls begin to see strange lights over the beach at night, and they discover footprints in the sand. Bailey, the youngest and most naive Camp Club Girl, suspects that these weird happenings are the work of space aliens, and her concerns about the supernatural are only intensified when they encounter the mysterious Captain Swain, who seems to appear and disappear at will.
Sydney is more level-headed, however, and she encourages Bailey to keep looking for the logical explanation underneath every seemingly odd occurrence. With the help of the rest of the Camp Club Girls scattered around the country, Sydney and Bailey eventually do just that, uncovering a significant secret from a shy member of their local community.
In terms of plot, this book didn't feel as strong as the first two that I reviewed. While the speculation about aliens and ghosts was interesting, the reality revealed at the end of the mystery was a let-down in comparison. I'm also just not crazy about Bailey as a character. I think a lot of her behavior is meant to convey her immaturity as the youngest member of the group, but she really annoyed me in this book, especially when she continually referred to Elizabeth as Betty Boo, despite the fact that everyone else knows she hates it.
One thing I did really like was the fact that this time, the religious elements of the story came from an outside force, not just from the girls and their families. Captain Swain continually quoted Bible passages as words of encouragement for the people around him, and he did so without being preachy or obnoxious. I haven't read many books written expressly for Christian kids, but I like that these books simply present the Christian themes as part of the world the characters live in, without making those themes central to the story. The book sets a good Christian example, but that good example is embedded in a realistic and engaging story.
I will conclude this review series next weekend with Alexis and the Arizona Escapade. Read my previous Camp Club Girls reviews below:
So I did a guest post for Gelati's Scoop to tell you a little more about it. I have a series called The Empyrical Tales. Books I The Fourth Queen and II The Lost Queen are available in real-hold-in-your-hand paperback from Comfort Publishing. The short story takes its inspiration from my epic.
I had a lot of fun writing this with Giovanni and can't wait to do the next one.
I have a Nook, I love my Nook, I read lots of books on my Nook. (Very handy for reading books from NetGalley!) I made the mistake of buying ANGRY BIRDS for my Nook this summer. That game is addictive! Those green little pigs... how they smile at me if I don't destroy them! Can't we all just get along? Pigs and birds aren't really all that different. I haven't used my Nook to read since I bought this game. I think there are 13,000 levels... Is there a 12 step program for Angry Birds?