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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Book Reviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,031
26. How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks

The trailer is pretty awesome.  And the book is not too shabby either.  Birdie tells the story of how she and her boss, Alfred the Bogler, rid London of child-snatching demons.  Small and fair, Birdie has an angel's voice.  She sings.  The bogle comes out to snatch her.  (Some are slimy; some are smoky.  All are evil.)  Alfred does what he must.

Two things happen almost simultaneously in this novel.  First, the woman who runs the largest band of child pickpockets and beggars in London asks Alfred to look into the disappearance of several of her lads.  More boys are disappearing than usual.  Then, a learned gentlewoman wants to accompany Alfred and Birdie on their jobs because she has studied every book she can find about these demonic beings. She makes it worth their while - at first.

Well, that's all I can tell you without spoiling the book for you.  Just know that there are some evil doings in here and some treachery - of the human kind.  And Birdie and Alfred get their world shaken up and thrown around.

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks  Check a library or bookstore near you.  I hope the next book in this series comes out soon.

0 Comments on How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks as of 3/28/2014 7:35:00 PM
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27. Five Ghosts – The Haunting of Fabian Gray TP by Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham

After a tragic encounter with an artifact known as “The Dreamstone,” infamous treasure hunter Fabian Gray is possessed by five literary ghosts and granted access to their unique abilities.

Get this on Amazon Five Ghosts Volume 1: The Haunting of Fabian Gray TP

From Booklist
Thanks to a popular Kickstarter campaign, comics fans can enjoy a story so unique yet so familiar it’s like slipping on a pair of old slippers worn by a stranger. Famed treasure hunter Fabian Gray has the remarkable ability to channel ghosts of five archetypal figures—the wizard, the archer, the detective, the samurai, and the vampire—a power that comes in quite handy in the midst of his swashbuckling exploits. Barbiere’s writing and Mooneyham’s art are reminiscent of classic adventure comics, crammed with rubies to snag, helicopter ladders to lunge after, and biplanes that crash into deep jungles full of magic-wielding cults, all wrapped up in a plot dripping with revenge, regret, greed, and deep hubris. But Barbiere and Mooneyham aside, it would be a mistake not to acknowledge the book’s colorist, S. M. Vidauri, whose muted tones and deep purples mix the nostalgia of iconic adventure tales with the rich, heavy visuals of contemporary comics, such as Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Scott Snyder’s American Vampire, and Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man. –Ben Spanner

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28. Vacation in Tupelo Landing - with ghosts

 The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

A good book is like a mind vacation.  And that's what reading The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing was like.  Mo Lebeau, Miss Lana, Dale and the Colonel are back with a local history assignment, a new kid in class, and an auction at the abandoned inn.

Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy conspire to purchase the inn. (The other bidder was despicable!)  And the inn comes with a ghost - in the fine print of the deed.

The members of the Desperado Detective Agency (Mo and Dale) decide to unmask that ghost with terrifying and edifying results.

I love fiction - because it's not fact.  There are kids out there as quick-witted - or quick-mouthed - as Mo.  We just don't run into them all that often.  There are friendships like Mo and Dale's, too.  Still, Mo's mindfulness about Dale's thinking ("rhetorical" "social skills") and Dale's just plain niceness work to warm the reader's heart. ( Of older readers, anyway.)

There is a little incident toward the end of the book.  Dale has visited his dad, Macon, in jail and Dale's older brother, Lavender, asks about the visit.  "Same dog, same spots,"  Dale says (mixing up the leopard/spots thing.).  Mo notices that Lavender's face goes soft, the way that Miss Lana's face looks sometimes when Miss Lana looks at Mo.  And the reader knows that Lavender truly loves - no, cherishes - his little brother.

Yeah, I wish Tupelo Landing was a real place.  I wish I could visit with the Colonel and Mo and Miss Lana.  And I hope that there's another book about this cozy, folksy little town.

And the ghost part?  It's intriguing and, in the end, it's the stuff of fairy tales and happy endings.  Pan from the strings of lights to the twinkling stars, please.  Fade.

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29. review: Secrets of the Terre-Cotta Soldier

title: Secrets of the Terre-Cotta Soldier

authors: Ying Chang Compestine and Vinson Compestine

date: Amulet (Imprint of Abrams)photo; January 2014

Main character: Ming

Ying Chang Compestine, author of Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party, grew up in the time of the Cultural Revolution in China and wants to interest young readers in Emperor Qin, ancient Chinese history and the power of friendship. Secrets of the Terre Cotta Warrior was written with her son to explore duty to family, friends and country.

Fourteen year-old Ming has been left home alone while his father goes to once again plead for more time to maintain the village’s archeological office. Ming’s ba-ba believes that they’re close to uncovering the treasures of Emperor Qin and he’s not ready to stop searching. While he’s gone, the Gee Brothers make an incredible find: a complete terre cotta soldier. Though initially comfortable leaving the statue with Ming, they eventually decide they want the statue back.

Ming magically brings the Shí, the soldier to life and the two quickly becomes friends. This friendship is just as quickly tested when the Gee brothers come to reclaim their statue. Ming wants to keep his friend through a sense of duty rather than the sense of greed that comes to destroy so many others in the book. Through interplays between Ming and Shí, text and images and the past and present, readers explore loyalty to country then and now.

Shí shares stories of his life in ancient China as parallel events play out in Ming’s life. As an example, Shí recounts his battle again the Mongols and Mao’s rebels come to Ming’s home. Through is overlap in storytelling, the Compestines create a sense of continuity in the histories they’re telling.


Shí looked impress. “Ha, you paid attention, young man! That’s correct. But they changed their tactics when the weather grew cold. The Mongols desperately wanted to capture our supplies, so they attacked indiscriminately. Believe it or not, I secretly wished they would succeed in getting onto the wall. That way I would have a chance to kop off their heads, claim my rewards, and free my father.”

“Why didn’t you just go down after the battle to collect a few heads?” Ming imagined farmers out in the fields harvesting watermelons.

“We couldn’t.”

“Why not?

Ming heard rough voices outside and then heavy pounding on the gate. He stood up.

We were prohibited from leaving our post,” answered Shí. “The cavalry men knew that too. To mock us, they would wave the heads at us. That was when I vowed to join them.”

There was a sharp crash. Startled, Ming jumped up. The front gate had been kicked open!

Images used in the story are actually historic photos that are placed to reinforce the text. Junot Diaz states that “The more accurate the image, the more ‘ghost’ the ghost becomes.” Indeed, these pictures deepen the sense of history the story provides.

The book I reviewed was an advanced copy. I encountered awkward in-text translations of some of terms that were first presented in English, then Pinyin and then Simplified Chinese.

I think the book’s strong focus on history distracted from the authors’ ability to build suspense. Historical detail is rich, but I didn’t feel sense of urgency, impending danger or mystery to solve. I did enjoy the history. I liked the authors’ ability to paint verbal scenery, bringing the setting to life. I think this book would have to be classified as historical fiction, but it will appeal to middle grade male readers much more that historical fiction typically does.






Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: China; Chinese American; review; Ying Chang Compestine

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30. Call for Book Reviewers of Catholic Literature: Catholic Fiction.Net

Who has a strong opinion on literature? Would you like to review a Catholic work and have your review published?

Catholic Fiction.net has received a tremendous amount of exposure and success over the last year. We have reached up to 18,000 views in a day and average several thousand a day. The work you do has enabled us to spread the word about Catholic Fiction.

The success has brought challenges. Simply put, we have a lot of books to be reviewed. In fact, we have over 130 books waiting to be reviewed! This is a great opportunity for those looking to break into the world of great literature. Become a part of the community.

Please visit our website for more information.

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31. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it... at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

I don't think I've adequately mentioned how much I love time travel stories: I really, really love time travel stories. I don't think I've adequately mentioned how much time travel stories that aren't properly thought through and are full of logical impossibilities irritate me: I am really, really irritated by flawed time travel stories. Looper was very, very annoying. The movie I've seen most recently that does some version of time travel really, really well was probably Triangle, which reminds me of All Our Yesterdays - going around and around in time trying to fix the unfixable.

All Our Yesterdays reads like a movie, but I mean that in the best possible way - it's fast-paced and evocative and tightly-packed - cinematic but not tacky or cliche (they're turning it into a film, which I am not the least surprised about. I look forward to seeing it and not comparing it to the book, in order to avoid disappointment). A little overwrought at times but it works. A little predictable, sure - when I finished the novel I was still so incredibly excited by it, I went to convince my sister to read it. I explained the premise and she immediately guessed the ending. But there's a sort of dark inevitability to it when you're reading, so, yes, you'll likely work out the twist early on but it doesn't take away from your enjoyment of the book.

And the time travel? The time travel's perfect. It all made sense. I couldn't find a flaw in it. Amazingly well-plotted. I don't think you properly grasp how delighted that made me. It functions so beautifully as an action sci-fi thriller that I'll look past the fact that I find the protagonist annoying - I almost always dislike the protagonists in these big blockbuster-y novels, and I think it's possibly because I'm so used to reading character-driven fiction, where it is all about the protagonist rather than a big dramatic plot. It's sort of tricky to do both well, I think - don't really have room for a well-built interior life for a character when they're being shot at and sent through time and so forth. The villains are always my favourite, anyway.

It ends perfectly. Good endings are difficult. I was impressed. You like time travel, you should read it. You like any of the big dystopic YA novels, you should read it. I'm not generally all that enamoured with books in that category (I may just have bestseller prejudice. Is that hipster of me? Apologies), but All Our Yesterdays is a stand-out.

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32. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 25

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currently send out the newsletter once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this relatively brief issue I have four book reviews (board book through young adult) and two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently. I had a particularly hectic couple of weeks at work, and wasn't able to post as much as I might have liked. But I have some Baby Bookworm tidbits at the end of this post. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read one early reader, one middle grade book, and two adult titles:

  • Noah Z. Jones: Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe #1: Moldylocks and the Three Beards. Scholastic. Early Reader. Completed March 17, 2014 (and read it many more times to my daughter, who adores this book). Review to come. 
  • Megan Frazer Blakemore: The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. Bloomsbury. Middle Grade. Completed March 18, 2014 (ARC). Review to come. 
  • Maeve Binchy: A Week in Winter. Knopf. Adult Fiction. Completed March 19, 2014, on MP3. Simply delightful. 
  • Brigid Schulte: Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Sarah Crichton Books. Adult Nonfiction. Completed March 23, 2014, on Kindle. I enjoyed parts of this book, and found a few useful take-aways. But I also found parts of it repetitive. There was a bit more about what the author thinks that the government and corporate America should be doing about the issue of overwhlemed parents than I was personally interested in. I was more looking for strategies for myself. But it was worth the time overall. 

I must admit that I stopped reading Insignia by S. J. Kincaid about halfway through. I had been enjoying it, but then I couldn't get on board with a major plot development, and found that I didn't want to finish. Fortunately it was a library book, rather than one that I had purchased. Right now I'm reading Dangerous by Shannon Hale on my Kindle and Eddie Red Undercover by Marcia Wells by in print. Not having quite gotten over my Maeve Binchy phase yet, I'm listening to her Whitethorn Woods

I've been reading on my Kindle while I ride my exercise boke, and listening to audiobooks while I go for walks, which means that most of the books I'm reading now are either digital or audiobooks. I'm so tired by the time I get to my bedtime reading that I haven't been making very good process with my print books, and they are stacking up a bit. I need a 48-hour book challenge, I guess. 

Baby Bookworm has started talking about how much she LOVES books, because we read her so many of them, and that's what she is used to. Not sure if she is trying to butter me up ahead of her upcoming fourth birthday, but it's nice to hear in any case. You can check out the complete list of books we've read to her this year. She is currently obsessed with the first book in a new series by Noah Z. Jones about Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe: Moldylocks and the Three Beards. She also loves A Gift for Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding and Alison Jay, a much more traditional tale.

At the library, she's still picking out TV tie-in books like Olivia, Arthur, and Charlie and Lola, though she doesn't actually watch the associated television shows. She can spot a Max and Ruby book by Rosemary Wells from across the room, and always brings home at least one of those, too. Any Fancy Nancy book that she hasn't already read is a surefire pick, too. We sat for over an hour in the library on Saturday, just reading whatever she picked up off of the shelves. Then we brought those books all home (and more). 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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33. The Secret Side of Empty by Marie E. Andreu


A gripping, emotional story of a young woman’s journey to belong and be free to pursue her dreams is what you’ll find in The Secret Side of Empty by Marie E. Andreu.

A straight-A student on her way to becoming valedictorian, M.T. watches while her friends get their driver’s licenses and make college plans. As an undocumented immigrant, M.T. lives in constant fear of being found out, while coping with her domineering, paranoid father who believes her education is a waste of time. Not even her best friend, Chelsea, knows the truth.

Pressure mounts as the National Honor Society wants M.T. to plan their trip abroad and M.T. begins a relationship with Nate knowing she will never fit into his perfect, wealthy, all-American life. Can M.T. learn to trust herself and others to stake claim to the life she wants?

Drawing on her own experience as a formerly undocumented immigrant, Andreu creates a superbly told, thought-provoking story that tugs at every heart string. Readers will be captivated by this young woman’s plight of seeking dreams just outside of her grasp and diminished by her militant father whose only desire is to earn enough money to return to the country of his birth, ripping M.T. away from the only land she has ever called home.

While illegal immigration is a highly politicized topic, The Secret Side of Empty isn’t a story about undocumented immigrants. It’s the story of a girl growing up in America who has to hide a secret that can end life as she knows it. It’s the story of friendship and learning to trust others. It’s a story of family and how they shape us; how they can hold us back and often how they lift us up. While I definitely believe this novel will challenge beliefs about illegal immigration, in the end, readers will remember The Secret Side of Empty because of its believable and inspiring heroine.

Highly recommended!

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Running Press Kids (March 11, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0762451920
ISBN-13: 978-0762451920

I received a copy of this book from the author’s publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

1 Comments on The Secret Side of Empty by Marie E. Andreu, last added: 3/25/2014
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34. Storytelling, Books, and stuff

This morning, Larry and I met to plan our storytelling workshop at the Bethlehem Area Public Library on Wednesday (March 26th) evening from 6 to 8 pm.  If you live anywhere near the library; if you are at least 12 years old and younger than 18; if you like to tell stories, contact the library and sign up.  OK?  It will be F-U-N! 

So, I DID read more books last week.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell.  Sophie and Charles find each other after a shipwreck.  She's a baby floating in a cello case.  He's a young man.  He decides to raise her as his own. He lets her wear trousers at a time when girls and women never wear trousers.  He uses toast as a bookmark!  She climbs trees and eats off the covers of large books.  Then a child welfare organization becomes "concerned".
Charles and Sophie flee to Paris in hopes of finding Sophie's family and they find a family of a totally different sort in the garrets and on the flat roofs of the most romantic city in the world.
 There is an airy quality to Sophie's pre-child welfare life and a fantastic feeling to her life in Paris.  And it makes a lovely, lyrical story.

Jessica Darling's IT List by Megan McCafferty.  Well, here is another engaging book about How to Be Popular in Middle School.  Jessica's big sister hands Jessica a card with just 4 rules on it.  The card is titled "Bethany Darling's IT List - the Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Perfection and Prettiness". 
Well, Bethany has been VERY popular and VERY pretty all through middle and high school so, of course, Jessica wants to follow these simple tips.  But her attempts to join the Cheer Squad and pick her first boyfriend end in a variety of humorous disasters.  Jessica has to find new friends and new interests in order to survive.  Readers my age will find the book comforting in its predictability.  Middle school readers will find Jessica's survival comforting.  Fun, light and sure to please readers in grades 5 and up.

And last but most definitely not LEAST....
 Seeing Red by Kathy Erskine.  Whoa!  The setting is the early '70s in Virginia.  Red Porter just lost his Dad and now may have to pick up and leave behind the family garage and everything he ever knew because his Mom wants to move back to Ohio.  In his attempt to make the family property unattractive to buyers, he gets involved with teenage racist thugs.  He finds out more than he ever wanted to know about his family's shady past.  One of his best friends outgrows him and the other has family crises that seem insurmountable.  He disappoints a lot of people and has to face his mistakes.  He grows up. 
This is a fast-moving book that treats some BIG issues with sensitivity and grace.  For kids in grades 6 and up.  Mature fifth graders may be able to handle it but there is a graphic description of the Emmett Till story that is very disturbing.

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35. Book Review: Life in the Mouse House

I just finished reading Life in the Mouse House, a memoir by Disney story artist Homer Brightman. It's an unflinchingly honest look at the Disney Studios during the golden years of 1935-1950.

It's a lively read, full of anecdotes about pranks and office politics, and it gives an unsparing portrait of Walt Disney himself. Brightman acknowledges that Walt was a great pitchman and story man, a driven perfectionist who pushed the art of animation forward.

But he was also a difficult guy to work with. Brightman's anecdotes portray Walt as touchy, lonely, suspicious, and unforgiving, meting out underhanded punishments even to his loyal employees.

Disney Story Artist Homer Brightman (center) courtesy Disney History 
The memoirs explain the causes and consequences of the famous animator's strike in 1941. One of the sore points, Brightman explains, was that on the heels of the huge success of Snow White, Disney announced to the press that he would be sharing profits from the film with the employees. But instead of giving out bonuses or raises, he gave a party where he used the moment to chastise them and exhort them to work harder.

Brightman's recollections were lost for a long time, but they were recently rediscovered by his descendants. Other artists on the studio staff are mentioned by pseudonyms in the memoir, but historians have figured out who they are, and there's a key in the book so Disneyphiles can figure out who's who.
Photo courtesy Disney History.com, ©Disney

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36. Masashi Kishimoto Naruto Art Book

Relish Masashi Kishimoto’s artwork in all its colorful glory in this new hardbound collection of images from the Naruto manga! Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, Kakashi and all your favorite characters appear in over a hundred pages of gorgeous full-color images. The book also includes an extensive interview with creator Masashi Kishimoto, step-by-step details on the process of creating a Naruto illustration, 20 pages of notes from the author about each image in the book and a beautiful double-sided poster!

  • Series: Naruto (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 148 pages
  • Publisher: VIZ Media LLC; 1st Edition edition (October 25, 2007)

Hey! If you order the book via this link, it will help run my site. So get The Art of Naruto: Uzumaki via Amazon.

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37. Guest Book Review: The Shadow of the Pyramid by Wendy Leighton-Porter

porterPublisher: Mauve Square Publishing (February 4, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1909411043
ISBN-13: 978-1909411043
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Ages 8+

Five Stars

Jemima, Joe, their talking Tonkinese cat Max, and their best friend Charlie are off on their adventures again, searching for Jemima and Joe’s parents (somehow trapped in the past) and this time they are headed for ancient Egypt. Using their magical book, the poem containing clues, and Jemima’s necklace with the key, the kids and Max are transported back in time, arriving in the middle of an assassination plot to murder the young king Tutankhamun. Alas, Max has a morbid fear of mummies, having glimpsed a ghastly sight of one on Joe’s XBox game and he’s not too keen on this part of their adventure. They meet Ankharet, the gorgeous cat belonging to Tut’s young wife, Ankhesenamun. Max is totally smitten, but unfortunately Ankharet (who is jealous of Max’s instant popularity) doesn’t feel quite the same way about him. As the adventure unfolds, the kids and the cats, along with Tut’s wife try to stop several attempts on the young king’s life. Max even manages to foil two attempts, displaying a kind of unintentional bravery. The king is entranced with Max and names him “Max, beloved of Amun.” What an honour! Alas, despite their best efforts, once again the kids and Max are unable to change the course of history and cannot prevent the young king’s fate, a mystery which remains to this day. The end of the book is absolutely delightful and kids will just love the twist in this tale.

Max’s fear of mummies and the like afford some absolutely hilarious moments, especially since all his apparent heroics and saving the day are by accident. Author Wendy Leighton-Porter has woven a marvellous mixture of suspense, adventure, history, geography, and culture into an intriguing tale. Using real historical figures, she captures the feel and flavour of ancient times, and puts forward some quite viable theories for exactly what might have happened to Tutankhamun. As in previous books, the kids and Max are totally immersed in history, and this tale will definitely draw eager young readers to join them in the adventure. There are some interesting facts at the end of the book which will no doubt stimulate young time travellers to go and do a bit more research. Learning history the fun way is becoming the mark of this captivating series.

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

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38. On book launches, book reviewing as a writer and The First Third by Will Kostakis

Life is made up of three parts: in The First Third, you're embarrassed by your family; in the second, you make a family of your own; and in the end, you just embarrass the family you've made. 

That's how Billy's grandmother explains it, anyway. She's given him her bucket list (cue embarrassment), and now, it's his job to glue their family back together. 

No pressure or anything. 

Fixing his family's not going to be easy and Billy's not ready for change. But as he soon discovers, the first third has to end some time. And then what? 

It's a Greek tragedy waiting to happen.

I have attended two book launches in my entire life, not counting events that I attended without the prior knowledge a book launch would be included in proceedings (you think it's just a party then bam! surprise book launch. Which is preferable to bam! surprise zombie outbreak) which would bring the total to about five. Still, not a lot, especially considering the fact that I know lots of writers and they often write books which they feel compelled to launch. Good on them! I am far too introverted for such things. (I do dream of one day having a book launch, and not being reduced to hiding in the corner for the duration of it. Probably no one would show up, which would be for the best.)

The first book launch was for Emily Gale's Girl Aloud a million years ago (okay, four years ago), and the second was the Brisbane launch of Will Kostakis' The First Third seven months ago (I never know how to place an apostrophe in names ending in S. Correct me if I'm wrong). It was held at the very lovely TLC Books in Manly, which is such a cute little bookshop and I would go there more often if I did not live quite so far away. I had not previously realised there was a Manly in Brisbane. It's a nice place, by the sea. You learn something new every day. I read almost the whole book on the train trip home (it's a long trip), and yet it's still taken me this long to get around to writing a post about it. I'm genuinely terrible.

Of course there's all these issues with reviewing books when you know the authors (and I'm not especially great at reviewing books to begin with - my style is basically: here's some stuff that happened! here's what I thought was good! here's what I thought was bad! you decide based on that whether it's a book for you! I'm not an expert on structure or construction or the literary tradition. I just really like stories.), and I'm very fortunate to know lots of Australian YA authors.

I've never said I liked a book I didn't like (okay, not counting Catcher in the Rye, but that wasn't because I didn't want to offend Salinger) and I'm largely fortunate that a lot of the people I think are stellar human beings I also think are stellar writers. It's hard to say whether the fact you like the writers as people affects how you see their work. There are writers who I like as people whose work I don't like, so I just don't talk about their work. It's personal preference rather than anything problematic in the work itself.

The whole thing with blogging/reviewing/etc is that the internet allows a certain level of anonymity and the internet allows writers to connect with readers, and this is great and this is also not great. By which I mean there is no guarantee of objectivity. Personal opinion is patently not objective - how we feel about what we read is very much shaped by who we are and our experiences and nothing inherent in the work. Also, there are tons of non-writer bloggers and aspiring-writer bloggers and bloggers who are mates with writers whose relationships with those writers will shape their perspective. The best way to get a good perspective on a book (if you're the sort of person for whom reviews inform whether you'll read) is to just read a lot of reviews.

tl;dr - I'm friends with writers. But I'll only talk about how much I enjoyed their work if I actually did. Will was the first person to really welcome me into the whole bein' an author thing (before I even was an author, too) and is one of my favourite young writers (always nice when a writer is a stellar human, too. Luckily I have not encountered particularly many mean people who write good books. I'm not sure how I'd cope with that). And now this post is getting long and I've not at all spoken about the book, terrible.

Now: The First Third.

I read and loved Loathing Lola five years ago (six?). I'm not sure I would love it as much now - you know, reading particular books, being a particular age. (I was enamoured with Twilight when I was thirteen.) So, The First Third was a novel I was waiting to read for a very long time (comparable to the agonising wait for Simmone Howell's Girl Defective after I read Everything Beautiful).

I found The First Third to be not only profoundly funny but very genuine and insightful, and if you like contemporary YA fiction, it's well worth a look. The debut novel is usually the autobiographical one, but while Loathing Lola was hilarious, The First Third is also gorgeously earnest and heartfelt. I like stories about families - Billy's family functions better than most in YA novels, and a great deal of it rings true (you know what I mean about your subjective experience shaping how you view novels? I have a close family, their happiness is as important to me as my own, and so when I read a book where teenagers barely speak to their parents, I can struggle to relate).

I think it was worth the five year wait. (I'd rather not wait until 2018 for the next one, though. Must it take so long for people to write books? Gosh.)

0 Comments on On book launches, book reviewing as a writer and The First Third by Will Kostakis as of 3/22/2014 8:47:00 PM
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39. Equilibrium returns

  When one parent has to travel for work and the other parent has to go to his/her daily job, too, babysitting opportunities multiply for all grandparents.  It was a whole week of babysitting opportunities (not every day) including a trip to the local science center and a visit to ducks at the park. 

Still, toddlers make it hard to do things like blog, write, clean - except shoveling up the building blocks -, laundry, and think.

That said, within ten minutes of the toddler leaving, we - Hub and I - looked around and said.  "We miss our grandchild."  Are humans ever satisfied?  I think not.

Now we can get back to other things:

Tomorrow - March 23rd - at 2 pm, Dave Fry has a CD release party for "Playground", his new kids' songs CD with guest stars like Robbi Kumalo and Wendi Bourne on vocals, Kevin Soffera on percussion, Ansel Barnum on harmonica and Rob Stoneback kicking back some brass.  I can NOT wait for this show.

Books I have read this week:  (both for grades 5 and up)
The Water Castle  by Megan Frazer Blakemore.  (I like that author's name!)  Electromagnetism, Peary and Henson and Cook and polar explorations, a little bit of Tesla and some back and forth-ing between time periods - plus kid style adjusting to new people and stressful situations and forming friendships.  I liked it.  I'd give it 3 1/2 stars though because I thought it went on a little long.

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban.  Ruby's story is framed by the events of the Bunning Day parade.  As she waits to read the Bunning Day Essay - she won the competition - the author takes us through the loss of her grandmother, Gigi, and how her grandmother's last day has affected Ruby's life and friendships.  Ruby deals with her loss and the guilt that comes with a loved one's death.  (I relate, Ruby. )  The mood of Bunning day is so ebullient that the reader just knows that everything is supposed to be all right.  And it might be.  There's hope anyway.  This one gets 5 stars because I relate, because it is hopeful and because everything is not tied up in a pretty package at the end - just almost.  I also really wanted a donut after reading this book.  Hmmm, maybe thatmake it 4 stars.

I think I read at least one other book this week.  So check back later for another review.

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40. CSFF Tour: A Draw of Kings (The Staff & The Sword #3) by Patrick W. Carr

drawofkingsI’m fussy when it comes to fantasy.  My first genre-love when it comes to reading, but after becoming a Christian I totally stopped reading for a time.  After a few years I was able to start reading again, but selectively.  I had to use discernment and hedges for myself to keep my heart stayed on Christ.  Thankfully, Patrick W. Carr’s is one fantasy series that I can recommend without reservation (and without making disclaimers and warning notes!)  When the third and final installment in the series – A Draw of Kings - came in the mail, I cried.  Really, I did.  The story got off to a bit of a bumpy start with A Cast of Stones, the first novel (my review here).  Our main hero was entirely unlikeable and it took a while for him to journey through an incredibly authentic process of change and maturation.  After reading The Hero’s Lot (book two, no review yet) it was bookish love, all together and entirely.  So, book three, I couldn’t wait to get started!

Now, it’s always tricky to review second and subsequent novels in a series for fear of giving away plot points in the earlier books for new readers.  What can I say?  We see a lot of the princess Adora in this book, making her a much more real character.  We also see more Liam than we normally do, which is nice – he still seems like a distant figure in many ways.  Sadly though, we don’t really feel Errol as much in this book as we have in others.  That being said, it could simply be that there is a lot going on.  What with all the diplomatic missions, church reformation, exotic voyages, political machinations, war, and demonic beings – times are busy in Illustra!

After finishing the series, I can say that the story isn’t as much of a pure parable as I thought it might be.  It does deal with the themes of sacrificial love, redemption, the struggle between the forces of darkness and of good played out on a human scale, but it isn’t a straight across parallel like you find in some Christian fantasy.  I’m good with that.  While it is definitely an adult-level fantasy, and includes some war and violence, the romances are tender, sweet, and for the most part, chaste.  There are a few kisses (three-four?), but that’s througout the entire series.  I’m thankful for that, it means my fantasy loving children will be able to read it at earlier ages once they can handle the political alliances and battle scenes.

Now, I have to admit, series finales are tough to write, and A Draw of Kings wasn’t my favorite of the series, that would be book two, The Hero’s Lot.  Still when all is said and done, the series closed well, and I recommend it highly as a favorite Christian fantasy series of mine.  I’m keeping my books on the shelf!


A Draw of Kings is on tour this week with CSFF, so don’t forget to read what other bloggers have to say!

Gillian Adams
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Mike Coville
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Nikole Hahn
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Jennette Mbewe
Amber McCallister
Shannon McDermott
Shannon McNear
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
James Somers
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Jill Williamson

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41. A fun animator mash-up with “Scrambled Ink”

Hollywood’s hardest working animators bring their blockbuster talent to comics to tell stories too big for the silver screen in this jam-packed, jaw-dropping, just-plain-fun compendium of illustrated awesomeness! Hilarious and moving, undeniably innovative, and stunningly beautiful, each tale transforms the page into a lushly realized world of imagination – a surefire prize for any fan of illustration or anyone looking for a great yarn spun in a whole new way.

Get Scrambled Ink on Amazon.com

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42. book review: The Deep

Cover_v8.inddtitle: The Deep

author: Zetta Elliott

date: 2013; Rosetta Press

main character: Nyla

The Deep continues the stories of Nyla, Keem and D that began in Ship of Souls. While Ship of Souls was D’s story, The Deep is Nyla’s. We knew something happened to Nyla in Germany and now we find what it was and how that terror stole Nyla’s sense of self. She moves to Brooklyn with her stepmother and begins covering herself in an array of body piercings, spiked hair and black clothing. In appearance, she is oddly matched with Keem, an attractive athlete, but he seemed to give her the space and respect that she needed. She is as impulsive in her decision-making as any 14-year-old would be.

As a character, I found Nyla difficult to like just as I imagine a real life Nyla would be. A smart black girl struggling with so many personal issues, would indeed take some special love if you didn’t know her. This girl managed to build a thick, protective covering around herself that didn’t manage to interfere with her sense of independence or her core values.

Before leaving for Brooklyn, Nyla rhetorically asks if she could indeed belong in Brooklyn. Identity and fitting in are themes in this book and they’re themes that shape the lives of many nerdy black girls who rarely find themselves represented in American media. Nyla finds that she has a special purpose, a unique calling that comes from her mother; the woman who walked out on her and her father when she was 4 years old.

Elliott creates a strong sense of place as the Brooklyn landscape plays a prominent role in Nyla’s fate. Prominent public locations become portals that transport Nyla into the deep and deliver important messages to the characters. As D, Keem and Nyla ride the trains, visit the pizza shops and hangout out in the parks we feel such a strong connection to this place that we want to believe this is where they all belong. But our Nyla is being pulled away.

These three friends are once again confronted by powers from below the ground that  bring many threats, not the least of which is the threat to end their friendships. Nyla struggles with her new-found powers and with so many major elements in the book, yet Elliott lets these teens remain teens. Each of them wants to know how to maintain  relationships with parents, friends and lovers. And, each of them wants to find their place in the world. Well, D and Nyla do. We still need to hear Keem’s story!

Elliott continues to self publish imaginative and provocative young adult speculative fiction. Her commitment to her readers is evident in the honest portrayals that she gives them. Zetta sent me a copy of this book back in December when I was knee deep in BFYA reading. I never committed to when I would read The Deep and honestly, I didn’t want to read it because I didn’t want to not like it. I shouldn’t have doubted her skills.

Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: african american, book review, speculative fiction, Zetta Elliott

2 Comments on book review: The Deep, last added: 3/19/2014
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43. Learn character design from concept to completion with Character Mentor

You’ve researched your character extensively, tailored her to your audience, sketched hundreds of versions, and now you lean back content as you gaze at your final character model sheet. But now what? Whether you want to use her in an animated film, television show, video game, web comic, or children’s book, you’re going to have to make her perform. How a character looks and is costumed starts to tell her story, but her body language reveals even more. Character Mentor shows you how to pose your character, create emotion through facial expressions, and stage your character to create drama. Author Tom Bancroft addresses each topic with clear, concise prose, and then shows you what he really means through commenting on and redrawing artwork from a variety of student “apprentices.” His assignments allow you to join in and bring your drawing to the next level with concrete techniques, as well as more theoretical analysis. Character Mentor is an apprenticeship in a book.

Professional artists from a variety of media offer their experience through additional commentary. These include Marcus Hamilton (Dennis the Menace), Terry Dodson (X-Men), Bobby Rubio (Pixar), Sean “Cheeks” Galloway (Spiderman animated), and more. With a foreword by comicbook artist Adam Hughes, who has produced work for DC, Marvel Comics, Lucasfilm, Warner Bros. Pictures, and other companies.

Grab this book Character Mentor: Learn by Example to Use Expressions, Poses, and Staging to Bring Your Characters to Life on Amazon.

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240820711

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44. Hilda and the Bird Parade

Getting used to life in the big city is proving difficult for Hilda. The diminutive explorer is still missing the enchanted valleys and magical friends that surrounded her home in the fjords. But tonight is somehow different; tonight is the night of the mysterious Bird Parade.

Finding herself lost on the streets of Trolberg, Hilda befriends a talking raven. Together they encounter all manner of bizarre creatures from outcast Trolls to ferocious Salt Lions and deadly Rat Kings—maybe the city isn’t so boring after all.

As the pair try to find their way home, it becomes clear that the amnesiac raven has an important mission to attend to . . . if only he could remember what it was.

This beautiful book with its embossed cloth spine and eye-popping spot varnish is sure to delight children and adults across the country.

Luke Pearson, author of Hildafolk, Hilda and the Midnight Giant, and Everything We Miss has fast become one of the leading talents of the United Kingdom comics scene, garnering rave reviews from the prestigious Times and Observer newspapers and winning the Young People’s Comic Award at the 2012 British Comic Awards for Hilda and the Midnight Giant.

If you order this book via this link, you will help support my site. Many thanks! Get it on Amazon: Hilda and the Bird Parade (Hildafolk)


  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Series: Hildafolk
  • Hardcover: 44 pages
  • Publisher: Flying Eye Books (April 2, 2013)

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45. Enter The Runaway American Dream with Non-Humans

Los Angeles, 2041 – it’s twenty-six years after a NASA probe brought back a strange disease causing many of our familiar toy-like objects to come to life. This is a new world order where cute and fearsome creatures fight for their right to exist in a world that fears them! It’s Blade Runner meets Toy Story in Non-Humans!

Get a copy of Non-Humans Volume 1: Runaway American Dream TP on Amazon.com and help support Rabbleboy.com

  • Series: Non Humans (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Image Comics (October 15, 2013)

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46. The Coziest Place by Jamie Michalak


A sweet book that shares the love of family and home can be found in The Coziest Place by Jaime Michalak.

Wintertime is fun. Then afterwards with cold toes and rosy noses, the bear family snuggles into their cozy home where they enjoy hot grilled cheese, hot cocoa, reading time, warm clothes, and special treats before slipping into their cozy beds for the night.

What an adorable story. Michalak’s lyrical prose combined with charming artwork by Jon Davis makes this a perfect book to help settle your youngsters down for the night or to enjoy when the weather is raging outside. The Coziest Place truly makes you appreciate all the loveliness of home.

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Tiger Tales (September 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589251210
ISBN-13: 978-1589251212

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinion, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

0 Comments on The Coziest Place by Jamie Michalak as of 3/11/2014 1:42:00 PM
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47. Fulfill your post-apocalyptic desires with Where’s the Zombie

The fight for survival against zombies has begun! A thriller of a search book that is not for the faint of heart.

Readers will be amused, entertained, and terrified as they hunt for the family of zombies among the crowds. The virus is spreading and nowhere is safe. It’s a scramble for survival as the number of zombies grows with every turn of the page. From a hospital under quarantine and an underground bunker, to a White House evacuation and full-scale battle in the streets, zombie fans will love this scary and supernatural search book. With 10 specific zombies to spot in every scene, readers can follow the story from outbreak to apocalypse, with tons of dark detail and gruesomely funny illustrations on every packed page.

Get this book now on Amazon.com Where’s the Zombie?

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48. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 12

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currently send out the newsletter once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book through young adult), as well as post about my daughter's latest literacy milestone, and one about why I think she loves Mo Willems' books so much. I have two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read one middle grade book, three young adult books, and one adult title:

I'm currently reading Insignia by S. J. Kincaid on my Kindle and The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer in print. I am very much enjoying my current audiobook, A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy. It is the perfect antidote to stress, and I wish it would never end. 

We're also still reading to Baby Bookworm these days, of course. You can check out the complete list of books we've read to her this year if you are interested. We also read the first two chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh last night. 

She turns four in a few weeks, and I can tell you that we're really seeing the impact of all the books that we've read. She can spell a few words now (her name, Mom, Dad, no, moo, Mo, so), and she'll notice those words if she sees them ("Why does that sign say 'No'?). She's asking how to spell things like "I love you" when she makes us cards. She enjoys the Reading Raven app. I can't remember who recommended that one, but thank you! We are careful not to push her, but she's like a little sponge these days, soaking up new words all around her. My goal is just to keep it fun!

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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49. BoB Gloat

Eleanor & Park has moved on to Round 2 of the Battle of the Books.  Did I not call it?  I did.  And this success has given me enough arrogance to think I can predict tomorrow's winner.

Far, Far Away goes up against the Newbery-winner, Flora and UlyssesOne is about the ghost of Jacob Grimm.  The other is about a squirrel who has a life-changing run-in with a vacuum cleaner.  Hmm, ghost?  Or Squirrel?  Ghost...squirrel...ghost...squirrel.

Before I cast my prediction into InterSpace, let me say I found both books to be great reads.  The language in Flora and Ulysses is delicious.  Far, Far Away is populated by people who appear to mimic stock fairy tale characters... and then, they don't.  One is a romp through family dynamics and poetry.  The other takes breath-taking twists through grief and loss into depravity.  It's pretty much like deciding between a flashlight and a coil of rope.  Both are useful but pick the wrong one and you are stranded.

There.  My weighty analysis is done.  I pick the SQUIRREL!!!!!!!!  (Full disclosure here.  I am a big fan of stories about squirrels.)  And for those who didn't read either book, that would be Flora and Ulysses as tomorrow's winner.

Thank you.

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When you have a book published, your heart slips into an anxious state, especially with a book that really matters to you.  If your book is a “big book” – a title that the publishers have high hopes for, based on your name and previous sales -  you may possibly be involved with publicity events, bookshop visits, parties, celebrations and prizes. All gloriously outgoing, in their way. Enjoy your moment.

However, some responses arrive more quietly: welcome to the written world of Children’s Book Reviews. 

There was a time when paid-for articles by known and knowledgeable reviewers appeared in newspapers and magazines. I recall a full-old-page TES piece by Anne Fine excoriating a Melvin Burgess book, which all agreed did wonders for the sales. Those generous and thoughtful page-spaces have largely disappeared. Now reviews have a far smaller word count, some as low as 50 words a title. Smaller specialist magazines and quarterly journals do exist – I’d be glad to hear of any good titles in the comments -  but reviews and reviewers seem to be moving on line. 

 Many of the current book-blogs are excellent - let me know your favourites and/or try out the blogs in the ABBA sidebar - but this open pasture does mean that anyone, of any age or experience can join in. I’ve seen such reviews on Amazon and – rather oddly - within some of the Guardian children’s book section links, and despaired.

This “everyone-a-reviewer”world has brought forth strange creatures: adults who trash a title because their toddler hasn’t enjoyed a book written for significantly older children; fundamental moralists calling foul and filth; people who don’t feel the need to read the whole book first, and even children and teens trying out the power of their own critical voice.

It's tough, Harsh words do sting the author, even when they aren't deserved. Sometimes it’s best not to look at reviews at all. I can’t be alone in having the slightly critical phrases seared across my memory, no matter who said them, whilst the kind, hopeful and encouraging praise is almost all forgotten? 

One should feel glad to be noticed, of course. It might not happen. There can just be the Big Silence.

Maybe your book doesn’t fit easily into review categories? Maybe every space is taken up by the same “big” titles reviewed everywhere? 

If you wrote a series for seven or eight year olds, you might have had no reviews. Such small books are rarely important enough for reviews,no matter that children might love them. And back before the rise of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, funny books were rarely reviewed either. Some of this is changing, slowly.

Another awkward thing was that once a book – your book!- had had its span of publicity and reviews, that title was rarely mentioned again.  The book seemed to be sent to the Quiet Corner, along with you, the author. No more time to make an exhibition of yourself.  That’s done.

So this is why, when An Awfully Big Blog Adventure had been running a while, we tried to encourage more Book Reviews by setting up an Awfully Big Review section.

Every four days, a new review appears, written by one of the ABR review team. They all have experience in books and children’s literature, or bookselling, or writing, or working with children or all, and more. Our ABR reviews are about books we’ve chosen, and titles we’d like to share with people - adults or children - as appropriate. While we may have a quibble now and again, we don’t do negative reviews. Better to celebrate the good books!

ABR isn’t exclusive, either. The titles aren’t just by members of the Scattered Authors Society. Our chosen books are usually personal copies, rather than free proof copies arriving in publisher’s jiffy-bags, pre-publication. So you might find titles that have already have been published, may even be in paperback, may even be - sssh!- a little “older.” Yes, already published books getting another friendly moment in the sun - and that’s a good thing.

ABR reviews are wide in their scope. We review titles for all ages, including adult books, although personally I’d love to have more picture books and books for young & mid KS2 readers. People chose their own review style too, so the pieces range from the quietly formal to someone enthusing about sharing a picture book with young children, and the word-length is only limited by what works on the blog-page. Variety can be a good thing.

Ooops. I forgot. ABR does, currently, have only one rule. A title, no matter how grand or good, gets only one chance of a review. Why? Because Awfully Big Reviews wants to leave room for as many books as possible, to share the good news..

So, if you haven’t already done so, please do click on Awfully Big Reviews button – top left hand of the blog page - and see what’s over there right now. Not forgetting huge thanks to all the generous ABR reviewers too! Happy reading!

Penny Dolan

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