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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Book Reviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,211
26. Seeking Book Review Editor: Prime Number Magazine

Help Wanted: Book Review Editor for Prime Number Magazine. Must have a portfolio of published reviews. The position (which is unpaid, like all of our editorial positions) entails curating and/or writing book reviews and interviews for our quarterly online publication. Expressions of interest should be sent to:

CliffATPrimeNumberMagazineDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

along with copies of or links to published reviews AND a brief statement of your book review philosophy.

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27. Uncle Montague's Tales Of Terror, plus advice for writers and illustrators

 

Just finished reading Uncle Montague's Tales Of Terror by Chris Priestley, with wonderfully creepy illustrations by David Roberts. I've always been a fan of scary stories ever since I was little and I used to write a lot of scary, sinister short stories in grade school. My eighth grade teacher attended my I'M BORED book launch, which was a total (and wonderful) surprise, and apparently he was telling my husband about how many of the stories I wrote back then were very dark.

I don't read as much horror now but I do still love indulging in creating creepydark illustrations sometimes, just for the fun of it.

Speaking of illustrations, here's a fun interview on The Independent's children's book blog with illustrator David Roberts. Interesting that David says he doesn't think much about the age group when he's working on book illustrations. He says his work is more a response to the story. His tip for aspiring illustrators: "Don't be afraid of that vast expanse of white paper (or I guess these days you could say computer screen). Sometimes your mistakes can be good and you can always start again if you don’t like it."

Chris Priestly advises young writers to have at least a rough outline of their story. "Give yourself a decent start and plan where you are going. You don’t have to stick to it – but it will make your life easier and it will mean that you will be less likely to give up."

More info about Uncle Montague's Tales Of Terror on the Bloomsbury website

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Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

0 Comments on Uncle Montague's Tales Of Terror, plus advice for writers and illustrators as of 1/19/2015 8:27:00 AM
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28. Walter Baumhofer Book

The Illustrated Press and David Saunders teamed up last year to publish the definitive monograph on Golden Age pulp illustrator Walter Baumhofer.

The book tells his whole life story, from his origins as a young artist, his time in art school, and his early pen and ink and charcoal illustrations, and his striking poster designs.

The book includes many of his Doc Savage, Dime Western and Dime Detective pulp covers. The bold colors and eye-catching graphics are beautifully reproduced from the old tearsheets.

There are also many examples reproduced from his original artwork, including his photo reference, preliminary drawings, correspondence, and a collector's checklist in the back.

Their Kickstarter campaign for the limited edition was a great success, but you can still get a copy on Amazon.
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The book is printed on quality paper and is 224 pages, 9x12 pages
On Amazon: Walter Baumhofer

0 Comments on Walter Baumhofer Book as of 1/9/2015 10:03:00 AM
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29. Info on paid book reviews

Book life logoBookLife, a website by Publisher’s Weekly, has an article titled "The Indie Author's Guide to Paid Reviews" that might be useful to you. It includes advice on Pros and Cons, How to Prepare, and The Major Players.

Speaking of reviews, here’s a new unpaid one from Amazon for Mastering the  Craft of Compelling Storytelling:

A new review from Amazon for my new Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling:

5 stars A Writer’s Must Read

Mastering front 100Wshadow

"Thank you Ray Rhamey for putting into one book so much of what we need to know as writers. This book, unlike a number of craft books, is an easy and entertaining read. More importantly, it captures in one place so much great stuff to take your writing from 'meh' to powerful. I found so many answers in my first reading and you can bet I'll be using it as reference in the future."

Signed print copies available here, Kindle edition available here.

For what it’s worth.

Ray

© 2015 Ray Rhamey

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30. Book Review: How to Render by Scott Robertson



Scott Robertson recently released his new book How to Render: The Fundamentals of Light, Shadow, and Reflectivity, and he sent me a copy to take a look at.

It's a followup to his previous book How to Draw, which I reviewed last year. Once you know how to draw the outlines of an object in perspective, the next thing is how to to use light and shade to bring out the form, and how various surfaces will look in different conditions. That's what this book concentrates on.

Scott has plenty of experience as a teacher. He has taught at art schools, seminars, and workshops, and has produced a lot of DVDs for Gnomon. He also shares regular videos on his YouTube channel.

He brings all that experience to his organization of the book. The book is divided into two main sections: 1. The physics and the perspective of light and shadow, and 2. The physics of reflectivity.


The book opens with a presentation of drawing tools, and then dives into a discussion of the kinds of light and the elements of form. He uses as examples both ideal geometric forms and photos of real objects (such as sculpture and architecture).

In one section of the book, Scott guides the reader through various practical systems for constructing shadows in perspective using geometric forms. That section feels a bit like a math textbook, but that's the only way to learn it, especially if you're creating imaginary forms.

The second half of the book analyzes reflective surfaces and their specific properties: including the Fresnel effect, reflection flipping, reflection pools, reflections over graphics, and cast shadows on reflective surfaces. He also goes through a catalog of examples of specific materials, such as glass, plastic, chrome, gold, wood, leather, and cloth, as well as examples of photographic effects such as motion blur and depth of field.


Scott does some rendering demos using both digital and physical techniques, so they will be of universal value from a technical perspective. Although there is some limited coverage of organic, natural forms (such as portraits, plants, animals, and landscapes) and passing references to atmospheric effects, the chief focus of the book is on transportation design—such things as cars, airplanes and robots.

The book was created by Robertson's own publishing company Design Studio Press. It is large (9x11 inches), thick (272 pages), and printed on heavy opaque paper. The book also provides the reader with special access to dozens of supplementary online videos.

How to Render: The Fundamentals of Light, Shadow, and Reflectivity is a rigorous book that covers the subject comprehensively and authoritatively, and it should become a useful textbook for many years to come.

0 Comments on Book Review: How to Render by Scott Robertson as of 12/31/2014 10:59:00 AM
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31. Seeking Books, Chapbooks, Anthologies, Novellas and Collections to Review: Blot Lit

Blot Lit Reviews Accepting Review Queries 

Blot Lit reviews, a division of Blotterature Literary Magazine, is accepting review queries to help promote small press publishers and their writers. Please follow the guidelines below to submit for a review. 


What Blot Lit Reviews is Looking For:
--Novels, Chapbooks, Novellas, Anthologies, and Collections
--Must be published by a small press
--Published within the last 12 months
--Poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction 


What Blot Lit Reviews is not looking for:
--Anything that is self-published
--Academic writing


How to get your book reviewed:
--upload a brief query letter
--include synopsis of work


Must provide Blot Lit Reviews with one copy of book upon acceptance
Submitter will be notified of acceptance and further information will be provided.


Go here for more information on how to submit.

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32. When are 420 One-Star Book Reviews NOT a Bad Thing?


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz: A Highlights Foundation Workshop

Join Leslie Helakoski and Darcy Pattison in Honesdale PA for a spring workshop, April 23-26, 2015. It's a great Christmas present to yourself or a writer friend! Full info here.
COMMENTS FROM THE 2014 WORKSHOP:
  • "This conference was great! A perfect mix of learning and practicing our craft."Peggy Campbell-Rush, 2014 attendee, Washington, NJ
  • "Darcy and Leslie were extremely accessible for advice, critique and casual conversation."Perri Hogan, 2014 attendee, Syracuse,NY


As I’ve watched the growth of children’s independent publishing this year, it’s clear that there’s a major problem: an inflated number of reviews.

In the independent world, a review on Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing, etc. is gold. Many of the publicity possibilities open to self-published folks depend on gaining a certain number of reviews on your book.

The biggest and most influential promotion service, Bookbub.com, is a subscription service that sends email to millions of readers about eBook specials. After its launch in 2012, it grew rapidly, found big investors last year and now commands a huge audience. Originally supported by independent authors and publishers, it currently reserves 25-50% of its ads for traditional publishers. In the independent world, it’s considered crucial to your book’s success to “get a Bookbub.” During the days your book is listed at FREE or reduced rates of $0.99 or $1.99, the book may download thousands of copies.

One local friend said his first Bookbub, he had 12,000 downloads of his free title. He’s typical of many indie authors because he has a series of books. Of the 12,000 who downloaded Book 1 for free, a couple thousand bought Book 2, 3 and 4. The sales of the other books in the series paid for the BookBub ad, and left him capital to do another book in the series.

A year ago, you wouldn’t be considered for a Bookbub with fewer than 25 reviews on your title. These day, I’ve heard more like 75-100 reviews are needed. When you apply for a BookBub ad, you’re told that they accept less than 20% of the applications.

What’s an author to do? Reviews on Amazon are GOLD! Reviews on Amazon might get you a BookBub Ad–which might get you thousands and thousands of downloads. Which might mean you have a chance of selling other books.

Yes, reviews on Amazon are GOLD! When an author asks you to review a book on Amazon, it’s crucial.

Social Proof. Reviews on online stores is considered proof that others like a certain product, or social proof. Even negative reviews are good because they are proof that the product hasn’t received reviews from only friends and family.

Comparison of Reviews of Two Books

I am going to compare the reviews of two books in a neutral manner. That is, I’ll set aside my personal evaluations of the quality of the titles. One is a hugely popular, free, independent title, while the other is the winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Young People Literature. From that alone, you might suspect that one is better than the other, and on that, I’ll make no statement because it’s not the point here. You may also suspect that the NBA Award winner would have far and away more reviews. Wrong.

LilyLemonblossombrowngirldreaming


This may not be the fairest comparison: picture books and novels may not receive the same amount of reviews. It’s just that these two books came to my attention at about the same time and I was struck by the difference in the number and quality of the reviews for each book.

Comparison of books: picture book v. novel; self-published v. traditionally published; ebook only v. available in many formats.

Comparison of the Amazon Reviews

As of today, Lily Lemon Blossom’s Welcome, by Barbara Miller has 3569 reviews with an average rating of 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.
5 Stars: 1932
4 Stars: 627
3 Stars: 389
2 Stars: 201
1 Stars: 420

As of today, Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson has 50 reviews with an average rating of 4. 8 out of 5.0.
5 Stars: 42
4 Stars: 7
3 Stars: 0
2 Stars: 0
1 Stars: 1

How is it that an eBook-only picture-book has 3569 reviews? It’s easy, if she’s done multiple Bookbub ads. With 12,000 people downloading a typical FREE eBook advertised in Bookbub, a clever author puts prominent links asking for reviews at the back of the ebook. The ASK is important because it tells people of the need for reviews. Again, it’s one of the popular techniques of today’s independent author, a method that successfully gets multiple reviews on books.

Or is it that easy? In the face of such overwhelming numbers, it’s easy to be suspicious that the reviews are inflated somehow. No one can provide evidence to prove or disprove it–yet the suspicions remain. It’s certainly possible for all those reviews to be bonafide, given the surprising power of a Bookbub. Are book reviews artificially inflated somehow just for the possibilities of promotions like BookBub? Or does BookBub allow for for the inflated number of reviews?

Does it mean that one or the other sells better or makes more money? There’s no way to know unless the authors were to speak out on their incomes. It’s easy to say that both are selling well and making money.

Is this just the difference in a “popular” book and a “literary” book? Possibly. Do popular books may get more discussion surrounding them than literary books? Or do authors of popular books just emphasize reviews more than authors of literary books?

When is 420 One-Star Reviews NOT a Bad Thing?

When it is countered by 1932 5-star reviews?

The thing about reviews is that people tend to artificially inflate their opinion of a book. Many people will say, “I don’t like to trash a book. I only want to give good reviews.” It may actually be a good thing that 420 people felt honest enough to give Lily Lemon Blossom a very bad review.

In the end, the 420 matter less than the total of 3569 overall reviews. The fact that so many chose to leave ANY kind of review helps sell the book and the rest of the books in its series. It’s a book that many people are talking about, so there must be something to it, right? People download the free introductory book to find out what the discussion is about.

Get Thee a Goodly Number of Reviews!

In the midst of all of this, I am an a hybrid author who would love to see 3569 reviews on my traditionally and independently published books. Don’t you want overwhelming reviews on YOUR book?

But it’s daunting. To get that many reviews, I need a Bookbub; to get a BookBub, I need 75-100 reviews minimum and then a lot so luck; the Bookbub might then be a springboard to even more views and possibly a best-seller! But it’s a Catch-22. How do you get the 100 reviews in the first place, so that you can get the Bookbub to get lots of reviews and sales?

Online reviews as social proof may have been a good idea five years ago, but today, I wonder about their usefulness. But the other conclusion you must draw is that Bookbub.com has become a player in the book world in a huge way: if a BookBub ad has the power to make or break the career of an Indie author, it’s an interesting world indeed. Will it soon make or break the career of ANY writer? Already, indie authors who built up BookBub are muscled out by slots reserved for the better-paying traditional publishers; will it ever become limited to ONLY traditional published books?

The case of the inflated number of book reviews says much about the current state of the industry.

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33. Favourite Children’s Books of 2015 (Just In Time For Christmas!) – by Emma Barnes

A while ago I compiled a list of my favourite Christmas-themed books.  This year I've been inspired by the newspapers which are full of “Favourite Books of the Year” . Here are some children’s books, published in 2015, that I have really enjoyed, some of them by ABBA bloggers. If, like me, you like to buy your Christmas gifts last minute, maybe one of these will fit the bill.

They are all more-or-less for middle grade or a little older and I've listed them roughly in age of readership.

The Pearl Quest by Gill Vickery

The final book in Vickery’s delightful Dragonchild series is just as compelling as the first. These books concern, who has been raised by dragons, but is now on a quest to recover the jewels that protect the kingdom. It’s perfect for children drawn to epic fantasy, but pitched at a rather easier reading level than most fantasy, making it a great stepping stone to longer books like the Hobbit, the C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia or Le Guin’s Earthsea.

Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers by John Dougherty


Earlier this year, John and I were both speaking at the launch of the Fantastic Books Awards in Lancashire, and I had the pleasure of listening to John read an extract from this wonderfully silly, funny book (I also heard him sing a song about having to cross your legs in class while waiting for the bell to go - that's another story). This book has made a big splash and is perfect for fans of the Mr Gum books.

Deep Amber – by CJ Busby

CJ Busby, like me, is a fan of the late, great fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, and this funny, clever book is in the same tradition, blending two storylines, one concerning siblings Simon and Cat from our world, the other a fairytale world where Dora and Jem set out on a quest together. It culminates in a wonderfully funny and exciting episode in an old folks’ home.




Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault


Graphic novels are one part of the book world which is booming – it’s all rather new to me, though, so I decided it was time to explore a little.  I really enjoyed this story in which Helene is being bullied by former friends at school in the most insiduous way - by making her feel bad about herself, as well as isolating her - and takes comfort from literature in the surprising form of Jane Eyre, meets a fox, and finally finds a new friend.



Jet Black Heart by Teresa Flavin

I’ll ‘fess up and say at once that Teresa is a friend of mine, and a fellow Yorkshire author too. I especially like that this story’s inspired by the coast around Whitby – a Yorkshire seaside town I also love – and its trade in jet jewellery. It’s part of the Barrington Stoke range of books, which are carefully designed for children and teenagers whose “reading” age may be lower than their actual age, but with no compromise on content or a first class story.

 
Daughters of Time - editor Mary Hoffman


This book is a collection of stories from writers over on The History Girls blog – and it’s a wonderful variety of different styles and voices, each story about a significant woman from British history from Aethelfled to Mary Wollstonecraft, Amy Johnson to Mary Anning. Perfect for teenagers and adults too – and in the tradition of the best historical fiction by writers such as Rosemary Sutcliffe and Barbara Willard.  I loved these stories, and wished that many of them could have been full length novels.



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Emma's series for 8+ Wild Thing about the naughtiest little sister ever (and her bottom-biting ways) is published by Scholastic. 
"Hilarious and heart-warming" The Scotsman

 Wolfie is published by Strident.  It is a story of wolves, magic and snowy woods...
"A real cracker of a book" Armadillo 
"Funny, clever and satisfying...thoroughly recommended" Books for Keeps


Emma's Website
Emma’s Facebook Fanpage
Emma on Twitter - @EmmaBarnesWrite

0 Comments on Favourite Children’s Books of 2015 (Just In Time For Christmas!) – by Emma Barnes as of 12/16/2014 9:38:00 PM
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34. Review: Boxtrolls and Big Hero 6 Art-Of Books

Two recent art-of books have presented fascinating glimpses of the artistry behind a couple of recent animated films.


The Art of The Boxtrolls chronicles the making of Laika's most recent stop motion feature, about a group of quirky creatures who raise a human boy beneath the streets of a city named Cheesebridge.

The text is written by key members of the staff of the film, including Philip Brotherton, art director at Laika, Travis Knight, Laika's president and lead animator, and Anthony Stacchi, director of the film, each of whom describes how the animation studio altered the material of the source novel to work in their unusual stop-motion medium.

The artwork shown in the book includes character designs, architectural plans, and color keys. These digital paintings by Paul Lasaine helped to work out the shot compositions, color, and lighting.


There are a lot of character design sketches, both black-and-white and color, 2D and 3D. Much of the work is hand painted or hand sculpted, something of a rarity in concept art these days. 


Armaturist Nick Smalley-Ramsdale described how difficult it was to make the flexible armature for the character Fish (center), to allow the character to be able to fold up completely inside the box for one scene.

The genesis of each of the characters is followed from sketch to maquette to finished animatronic puppet, featuring many of the handcraft skills, such as hair and costume. 

However, I wish there had been more explanation of the specific processes used in creating the armature, casting the foam body, and 3D-printing (and storing) the thousands of facial expressions used in Laika's unique process. One feels that they're holding back trade secrets in the realm of their most important innovations, but they don't need to since they're always moving forward, and a book like this could have offered a more informative record of how they made the film.

The Art of Big Hero 6 showcases the artistry that the Disney studios brought to the challenge of interpreting a Marvel comic universe in terms of Disney Animation, rather than live action. The movie had to have plenty of fighting action, but also a focus on character and charm.

Almost all of the concept art in this book is painted digitally, including this one by Paul Felix showing Hiro and his inflatable robot companion Baymax. 

In addition to crediting the artists by name, (something overlooked in many previous "art-of" books), the book includes their comments about the specific challenges they faced and the methods they used. 

For example, Adolph Lusinsky, director of Cinematography and Lighting, says, "We knew Baymax was going to have projection inside his vinyl so, to test how it would look, we cut a hole in a beach ball, put in a piece of glass, blew it back up and put a projector behind it. The light bleeds through his legs and arms and feels really believable."  

Jeff Turley created this digital rendering to help imagine the portmanteau urbanscape of San Fransokyo. Everything in the city had to be designed, from signs to vehicles to interiors, and there's a good mix of examples. 

In comparison to other art-of books, this one devotes more attention to the architecture and environments, though character designs are well covered in the second half of the book. 

When planning the home of the main character, a Victorian home over a bakery/cafe, Scott Watanabe said that he "researched extensively how old Victorians were built and would have been remodeled." He had to thoroughly understand how the roof framing worked inside the tower, because the structure would be seen in the interior shots in the final film.

The book does a good job of showing the range of artistry and expertise that goes into making a major animated feature, and it presents the thinking behind the art in a way that's fun and inspiring to read.

Both books are 9.5 x 11 inches, 160 pages, full color, hardback, and they retail for $40.00 each (or between $26-$31 new on Amazon). 
More info:
The Art of The Boxtrolls
The Art of Big Hero 6
All images ©Laika, Disney, or Chronicle Books.

0 Comments on Review: Boxtrolls and Big Hero 6 Art-Of Books as of 12/5/2014 12:37:00 PM
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35. You Can’t Pay for This

Well, actually you can. People buy reviews all the time – even Kirkus is happy to take money from indie authors to furnish them with a glowing review. Which makes this honest-to-God-they-really-like-me review from Publishers Weekly on Friday even more wonderful: Though first-time author Petersen’s story flits through time and space, it’s easy to follow, […]

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36. My Top 5 Reads of 2014

What another outstanding year of great books. My book of the year was a real stand-out but there was a very close second. Sorting out the rest was nearly impossible. My biggest discovery was David Mitchell. I devoured all his books and loved them all and could have include all them in my top 10 […]

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37. Pandora Jones: Deception by Barry Jonsberg

Pan is still struggling to distinguish between her dreams and reality. When she wakes in the Infirmary her mind replays the sight of Nate running along the shoreline and the way his body froze and then flopped after he was shot. But her memories hold more questions than answers and she doesn't know who to trust.

When she forms an unlikely alliance with Jen to try to make sense of everyone's haunting similar memories and the conflicting information about The School, she finds herself with unexpected enemies.

Pan and Jen are determined to seek the truth - no matter what rules they must break or how terrible the danger they face. But can they even trust each other?

I'm not a big reader of dystopian novels, possibly because I'm not a big reader of series (and with all modern YA dystopian novels it seems there's an unspoken rule that there must be at least three books to complete the story arc). I like things to be resolved by the end of the book, and I find there's a tendency with series for the books in the middle to be duller than the first and last book. Nothing is being established, but nothing's being resolved, either, but readers keep reading because they've already committed so much time to the characters and the story (a classic example of this is The Two Towers, which is easily the most boring Lord of the Rings book. I much preferred The Hobbit, and it annoys me that they're turning one great self-contained story into I-don't-know-how-many drawn-out films). I am possibly prejudiced towards series, and I'm sure there are plenty of series that don't let down in the middle. I just lack the attention span.

In fact, I'm so rubbish at reading series that I didn't even read the first Pandora Jones book. I thought I had. A couple of chapters in, I realised I hadn't. I was quite involved at that stage and couldn't quite bring myself to stop reading, find the first book, read that, and then come back to where I was up to (I don't think it mattered all that much, in the end). I was excited to read it because it's Australian dystopian YA and I believe that all books written by Australians are by default better than all other books. I have a lot book prejudice. It's a real problem. That said, there's nothing especially Australian about it - The School, where Pan is being kept, is on a very non-specific island, far from her home (or, what was her home, before the majority of the human population got wiped out by a plague).

Jen's the best. Jen's my favourite character. I think it's great that there are now more YA novels that feature non-hetero characters, in stories that aren't centrally about being LGBTQI (YA novels that are centrally about LGBTQI are great, too!). I also loved that both central characters were girls, and both were tough and had practical skills (I entirely lack both toughness and practical skills so I like living vicariously through fictional characters who are action heroines). The quiet menace of the School and its staff is terrific, and the fact that both the characters and the reader know so little about the School's motives and what's actually going on means that suspense is maintained even when the pace slows a little.

The ending is the sort of ending that makes you sit still with the book closed for five minutes, amazed, and then attempt to explain the entire book and the excellent concept and the awesome ending to all nearby humans (complete with acting out scenes and manic hand gestures), so that they, too, can be amazed. Which of course never works particularly well because explaining a book to someone is nowhere near the same experience as actually reading the book. But still. (Do other people do this? This is possibly a weird thing to do.) If you like dystopian YA, I reckon you'll like this. It's speculative, with a fair chunk of science fiction and lots of action, but the character development and interaction keeps it believable.

Pandora Jones: Deception on the publisher's website

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38. Awesome Adventure Time “The Original Cartoon Title Cards” Art Book

The first of two beautifully lavish books created to celebrate the distinctive designs behind the Adventure Time title cards. Combining sketches, works in progress, revisions and final title card art, the book will take readers on a visual guide of the title card development, with quotes from each episode and commentary from the artists – Pendleton Ward, Pat McHale, Nick Jennings, Phil Rynda, and Paul Linsley.

 


  • Hardcover: 111 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books (September 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783292873
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783292875

 

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39. A look at Disney’s BIG HERO 6 Art Book

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Big Hero 6 is the story of Hiro Hamada, a brilliant robotics prodigy who must foil a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. This new title in our popular The Art of series, published to coincide with the movie’s U.S. release, features concept art from the film’s creation—including sketches, storyboards, maquette sculpts, colorscripts, and much more—illuminated by quotes and interviews with the film’s creators. Fans will love the behind-the-scenes insights into Disney’s newest action comedy adventure.


  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 28, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452122210
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452122212

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40. We Like What We Like

When he was little, one of my husband’s favorite Christmas movies was “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” I laughed out loud the first time he told me the title, sure he was making it up. But no, it’s a real movie starring a young Pia Zadora as a martian child. The acting is terrible, the […]

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41. Anthony Trollope on literary criticism

Anthony Trollope’s autobiography is a classic study of the working life of one of English literature’s best-known writers. His strong opinions on working practices, contracts, deadlines, and earnings have divided opinion ever since. Below is an extract from Trollope’s An Autobiography and Other Writings, edited by Nicholas Shrimpton, in which he shares his views on literary criticism and the critics themselves.

Literary criticism in the present day has become a profession,—but it has ceased to be an art. Its object is no longer that of proving that certain literary work is good and other literary work is bad, in accordance with rules which the critic is able to define. English criticism at present rarely even pretends to go so far as this. It attempts, in the first place, to tell the public whether a book be or be not worth public attention; and, in the second place, so to describe the purport of the work as to enable those who have not time or inclination for reading it to feel that by a short cut they can become acquainted with its contents. Both these objects, if fairly well carried out, are salutary. Though the critic may not be a profound judge himself; though not unfrequently he be a young man making his first literary attempts, with tastes and judgment still unfixed, yet he probably has a conscience in the matter, and would not have been selected for that work had he not shown some aptitude for it. Though he may be not the best possible guide to the undiscerning, he will be better than no guide at all. Real substantial criticism must, from its nature, be costly, and that which the public wants should at any rate be cheap. Advice is given to many thousands, which, though it may not be the best advice possible, is better than no advice at all. Then that description of the work criticised, that compressing of the much into very little,—which is the work of many modern critics or reviewers,—does enable many to know something of what is being said, who without it would know nothing.

I do not think it is incumbent on me at present to name periodicals in which this work is well done, and to make complaints of others by which it is scamped. I should give offence, and might probably be unjust. But I think I may certainly say that as some of these periodicals are certainly entitled to great praise for the manner in which the work is done generally, so are others open to very severe censure,—and that the praise and that the censure are chiefly due on behalf of one virtue and its opposite vice. It is not critical ability that we have a right to demand, or its absence that we are bound to deplore. Critical ability for the price we pay is not attainable. It is a faculty not peculiar to Englishmen, and when displayed is very frequently not appreciated. But that critics should be honest we have a right to demand, and critical dishonesty we are bound to expose. If the writer will tell us what he thinks, though his thoughts be absolutely vague and useless, we can forgive him; but when he tells us what he does not think, actuated either by friendship or by animosity, then there should be no pardon for him. This is the sin in modern English criticism of which there is most reason to complain.

Cartoon portrait of Anthony Trollope by Frederick Waddy [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Cartoon portrait of Anthony Trollope by Frederick Waddy. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

It is a lamentable fact that men and women lend themselves to this practice who are neither vindictive nor ordinarily dishonest. It has become ‘the custom of the trade,’ under the veil of which excuse so many tradesmen justify their malpractices! When a struggling author learns that so much has been done for A by the Barsetshire Gazette, so much for B by the Dillsborough Herald, and, again, so much for C by that powerful metropolitan organ the Evening Pulpit, and is told also that A and B and C have been favoured through personal interest, he also goes to work among the editors, or the editors’ wives,—or perhaps, if he cannot reach their wives, with their wives’ first or second cousins. When once the feeling has come upon an editor or a critic that he may allow himself to be influenced by other considerations than the duty he owes to the public, all sense of critical or of editorial honesty falls from him at once. Facilis descensus Averni.  In a very short time that editorial honesty becomes ridiculous to himself. It is for other purpose that he wields the power; and when he is told what is his duty, and what should be his conduct, the preacher of such doctrine seems to him to be quixotic. ‘Where have you lived, my friend, for the last twenty years,’ he says in spirit, if not in word, ‘that you come out now with such stuff as old-fashioned as this?’ And thus dishonesty begets dishonesty, till dishonesty seems to be beautiful. How nice to be good-natured! How glorious to assist struggling young authors, especially if the young author be also a pretty woman! How gracious to oblige a friend! Then the motive, though still pleasing, departs further from the border of what is good. In what way can the critic better repay the hospitality of his wealthy literary friend than by good-natured criticism,—or more certainly ensure for himself a continuation of hospitable favours?

Some years since a critic of the day, a gentleman well known then in literary circles, showed me the manuscript of a book recently published,— the work of a popular author. It was handsomely bound, and was a valuable and desirable possession. It had just been given to him by the author as an acknowledgment for a laudatory review in one of the leading journals of the day. As I was expressly asked whether I did not regard such a token as a sign of grace both in the giver and in the receiver, I said that I thought it should neither have been given nor have been taken. My theory was repudiated with scorn, and I was told that I was strait-laced, visionary, and impracticable! In all that the damage did not lie in the fact of that one present, but in the feeling on the part of the critic that his office was not debased by the acceptance of presents from those whom he criticised. This man was a professional critic, bound by his contract with certain employers to review such books as were sent to him. How could he, when he had received a valuable present for praising one book, censure another by the same author?

While I write this I well know that what I say, if it be ever noticed at all, will be taken as a straining at gnats, as a pretence of honesty, or at any rate as an exaggeration of scruples. I have said the same thing before, and have been ridiculed for saying it. But none the less am I sure that English literature generally is suffering much under this evil. All those who are struggling for success have forced upon them the idea that their strongest efforts should be made in touting for praise. Those who are not familiar with the lives of authors will hardly believe how low will be the forms which their struggles will take:—how little presents will be sent to men who write little articles; how much flattery may be expended even on the keeper of a circulating library; with what profuse and distant genuflexions approaches are made to the outside railing of the temple which contains within it the great thunderer of some metropolitan periodical publication! The evil here is not only that done to the public when interested counsel is given to them, but extends to the debasement of those who have at any rate considered themselves fit to provide literature for the public.

Headline image: Classical writing © Creativeye99, via iStock

The post Anthony Trollope on literary criticism appeared first on OUPblog.

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42. It’s This Monkey’s Business by Debra Máres

It's This Monkey's Business 2Cabana is a young spider monkey who leaves in search of a new family when the fighting between her parents gets too much to handle. When tragedy strikes, Cabana’s parents learn they must put her best interest at heart.

This rhyming story is geared toward youngsters ages 4 to 8. Author Debra Máres, a veteran county prosecutor, turns her passion for helping families into a sweet story of triumph. I applaud the author’s desire to help children impacted by violence and abuse. It’s This Monkey’s Business teaches the important lesson of how some parents are better living apart and that single parent families can thrive when the home environment is safe.

The vibrant colors of Taylor Christensen’s illustrations bring the rainforest to life alongside the unfolding of Cabana’s story. I found the rhyming stilted in spots, but overall it worked. The one thing I missed in this book design is a back cover blurb. I was also a bit bothered by how tight the binding is, but in one reading it came lose enough that the binding tape became visible, making it stand out glaringly against the vibrant green of the inside covers. Those things aside, I’m thrilled to see books for children tackling subjects that matter to them.

Rating: :) :) :) :)

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Justicia House; 1st edition (October 29, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0985089385
ISBN-13: 978-0985089382

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

 

For Independent Author Debra Máres, violence against women is not only a topic in today’s news, it’s a topic in her crime novels, cases she handled as a county prosecutor, and now it will be the topic in her first children’s book It’s This Monkey’s Business.  Debra is a veteran county prosecutor in Riverside currently specializing in community prosecution, juvenile delinquency and truancy.  Her office has one of the highest conviction rates in California and is the fifteenth largest in the country. You name it – she’s prosecuted it – homicides, gang murders, domestic violence, sex cases, political corruption, major fraud and parole hearings for convicted murderers. She is a two-time recipient of the County Prosecutor of the Year Award and 2012 recipient of the Community Hero Award.

Debra is the granddaughter of a Mexican migrant farm worker and factory seamstress, was born and raised in Los Angeles, was the first to graduate college in my family, and grew up dancing Ballet Folklorico and Salsa. Her own family story includes struggles with immigration, domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse and teen pregnancy, which she addresses in her novels. She followed a calling at 11 years old to be an attorney and voice for women, and appreciates international travel and culture. Her life’s mission is to break the cycle of victimization and domestic violence.

Debra is also the co-founding Executive Director of Women Wonder Writers, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization implementing creative intervention and mentoring programs for at-risk youth.  In 2012, Debra self-published Volume 1 of her debut legal thriller series, The Mamacita Murders featuring Gaby Ruiz, a sex crimes prosecutor haunted by her mother’s death at the hands of an abusive boyfriend. In 2013, Debra released her second crime novel, The Suburban Seduccion, featuring “The White Picket Fence” killer Lloyd Gil, who unleashes his neonatal domestic violence-related trauma on young women around his neighborhood.

To bring to life “Cabana,” Debra partnered with 16-year-old Creative Director Olivia Garcia and Los Angeles based professional illustrator Taylor Christensen.

16-year-old Creative Director Olivia Garcia attends high school in Panorama City, California, is the Los Angeles youth delegate for the Anti-Defamation League’s National Youth Leadership Mission in Washington D.C., an ASB member and AP student and enjoys reading, crafting and knitting.

Taylor Christensen is a Los Angeles-based illustrator holding a BFA from Otis College of Art & Design, focuses on fantastical creatures and surreal imagery, and produces artwork for illustration, character and concept design.

 

For More Information

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43. Book Review: The Urban Sketcher

Marc Taro Holmes has written and illustrated an instructional book called The Urban Sketcher: Techniques for Seeing and Drawing on Location.

The book builds on Holmes' experience drawing and painting in ink and watercolor. His sketching travels have taken him all around the world, most recently to an international gathering in Paraty, Brazil.

Marc is based in Montreal. He writes the Citizen Sketcher blog and contributes to the popular group blog Urban Sketchers.






Marc Taro Holmes, Havana Necropolis, 10 x 14 inches.
Urban Sketchers is a grass-roots movement with the following manifesto:

1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation. 

2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel. 

3.Our drawings are a record of time and place.

4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.

5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles. 

6. We support each other and draw together. 

7. We share our drawings online. 

8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

The new book offers practical approaches to manifesting those principles. The text addresses the reader in an informal, encouraging tone designed to inspire everyone from beginners to advanced sketchers.

Each chapter shows a series of step-by-step demos, beginning with simple motifs like statues, cafe still life scenes, or museum objects, and ending with more challenging problems, such as complicated street scenes with moving figures.

In the first part of the book, Marc demonstrates pencil and pen techniques, allowing the line to move freely in and out of the form in a relaxed handling.

In some exercises he emphasizes line alone, and in others, he encourages the reader to spot areas of blacks, or define shadow shapes.


Marc Taro Holmes, Lisbon, Jeronimos Interior, 15x20 inches
Several of his step-by-step demos present the "Three-Pass" approach. In watercolor, those passes are:

1. Overall light wash, called the "tea" wash, covering the whole surface with a varying color that's more or less the local color of the object.

2. Next pass with more pigment, called the "milk" wash, defining forms and shadow shapes.

3. Final pass with thicker or stickier pigment, called the "honey" pass, adding accents and smaller details and adjusting edges.

The book ends with a gallery of about a dozen full color paintings, some reproduced large across a double page spread, so it feels like looking through pages of a sketchbook.
----
Details: Publisher / North Light Books. Softcover, 144 pages, 8.5 x 11 inches, retail $26.99. 

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44. review: Love Is the Drug

51lxVTCB9uLtitle: Love is the Drug

author: Alaya Dawn Johnson

date:Arthur A. Levine; September, 2004

main character: Emily Bird

 

Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC’s elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.

Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus–something about her parents’ top secret scientific work–something she shouldn’t know.

The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.

I can’t give as detailed a review as I’d like to on this one because I read it on NetGalley and it’s no longer available to me to refer to.

I read Johnson’s first YA book, Summer Prince, and was looking forward to whatever she’d write next. She did not disappoint. As with Prince, Johnson writes an intelligent book that places us in the midst of her world rather than step by step building it for us.  He female leads are strong, social issues are real and situations creative yet plausible.

Emily Bird is an upper middle class high school senior with college educated parents and a favorite uncle who is a high school dropout. As the flu epidemic spreads, the haves receive what the have nots don’t. Inequity abounds and is up close in Emily’s family. Sure, we know Emily is Black, but the issues here are about class, not race. What really stood out for me with this one was that no male saved Bird, she was able to save herself in a variety of situations.

This is an intelligent book with a black female lead. She knows about contemporary politicals, will be going to college (but which one??) and despite her teen angst and conflictions, is truly her own person. While there are too, too many black girls clamoring for a book of these sensibilities, Johnson’s world is broad and will appeal to all teens who like thought provoking books.

Honestly, as I listen to reports about ebola and watch as it spreads, I see conspiracies all in this mess, thanks to my reading Love is the Drug.

Johnson actually takes readers to black hair issues, actually writes about hair relaxers! Now, I don’t get why Bird applied/s these caustic chemicals to her head with such a severe gash along her hairline and I don’t know why her hair was nappy afterwards, but to go there! to write about the relaxer was something with which I could really identify. And this is why we need writers of color developing characters and stories for all readers. We need intellectual stories, hi/lo books, humorous, adventurous, romantic, mysterious, sporty books that fully represent the growing number of brown children in America. Here, race is authentic while the story is universal.

Once again, Alaya Dawn Johnson crafts a world with numerous problems. She’s not out to solve them, just to keep us on our toes. And that she does!


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: Alaya Dawn Johnson

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45. Yell and Shout Cry and Pout by Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D.

yell

Yell and Shout Cry and Pout by Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D. is a helpful resource to identify emotions: for children, for parents, for teachers, and for a multitude of others. Anger, fear, shame, sadness, happiness, love, disgust, and surprise are featured in this short book that is tall on content.

This book has an excellent style that is repeated as the reader delves into each emotion. The emotion is bold text and is followed by a description of what purpose that emotion serves. Example: “Anger tells us when we’ve been mistreated so we can defend ourselves.” Then a short fictional story is told and the emotion the character is feeling is stated. The book then goes on to say how those feelings might make you feel, how we might react, and finally explains some things that could happen to cause you to feel that emotion. Illustrations by Rebecca Layton appear throughout the text so the reader can visualize what emotion is being discussed. The final page is a Note to Adults that includes interesting facts about emotions.

The back cover blurb states: “When children can identify their feelings they gain self-awareness, become better communicators and are able to ask for the help they need.” I truly believe this book will go a long way in helping children and those around them better understand these emotions.

Highly recommended.

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

Title: Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings
Author: Peggy Kruger Tietz
Publisher: Peggy Kruger Tietz
Pages: 40
Genre: Nonfiction/Psychoeducational
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZONPeggy Kruger Tietz

Dr. Peggy Kruger Tietz is a licensed psychologist and maintains a private practice in Austin, Texas.  She sees a wide range of children with normal developmental problems as well as children who have experienced trauma.  Her Ph.D is in developmental psychology from Bryn Mawr College.  Before entering private practice Dr. Tietz treated children in multiple settings, such as family service agencies and foster care.  Dr. Tietz, trained at the Family Institute of Philadelphia, and then taught there.   She specializes in seeing children individually, as well as, with their families.   She has advanced training in Play Therapy as well as being a certified practitioner of EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, for children and adults).   She has conducted workshops on parenting, sibling relationships, and emotional literacy.

Her latest book is the nonfiction/psychoeducational book, Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings.

For More Information

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

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46. starred review

Happy Monday all! I'm going to  start the week with a couple of black and white Illustrations from my upcoming (first!) chapter book Audrey (Cow)


We're celebrating a starred review in Publishers weekly, hurray!

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47. The Death of Bees



Any book that opens with teen girls burying their dead parents in the garden is going to be a page turner.  Marnie (whose fifteenth birthday is the day of the secret interment) suspects her 12-year-old sister, Nelly of suffocating their father, Gene.  Nelly suspects that Marnie is the culprit.  Neither of them are overly concerned since all they want to do is stay together.  Hence the hiding of the dead bodies.  (Mom's death was something else entirely.)  Gene and Izzy were NOT model parents.

Lenny, the aging neighbor watches the girls from his window, missing his dead partner, Joseph, and wondering where the parents have gone.

The girls struggle through school, and with friends and boys (Marnie) and social ineptitude (Nelly), until a crisis forces them to seek refuge with Lenny.  They find a safe place there.  But nothing lasts forever.

Sex, drugs, violence - this book may be about teens but it is written for adults or New Adults as 20-somethings are now called in the publishing world.  Marnie and Nelly are both very smart.  As they alternate telling the story, with some help from Lenny, they uncover what a truly neglected life they have led.  All the reader really wants is for them to have a home with Lenny - he's so lonely and he can really cook! - and get on with their lives.  But murder is not a victimless crime.  Someone always has to pay.

I can't get this book out of my head.  Some of the observations attributed to Marnie and Nelly are so apt, so well-put, that I want to memorize them.  Or post them on a sampler on my wall.

When Marnie catches her bible-thumping grandfather swigging whiskey from a bottle she reacts this way:
"I go back to my room afraid, because people like Robert T. Macdonald carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous and I never considered him dangerous before and now that I do I am scared."

"People...carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous."  We see them every single day.

Click for Lisa O'Donnell's NPR interview here.

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48. Little Author in the Big Woods by Yona Zeldis McDonough

little author“Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.”  This sentence opens Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the first in a series of children’s books that gave middle grade readers a glimpse into the life of America’s pioneer families. And for some–like myself–this would be the start of a lifelong desire to learn more about the real life of Laura, her sisters Mary, Carrie, and Grace, and her parents Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

In a style similar to the  Little House books, author Yona Zeldis McDonough has created a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder aimed toward middle grade readers that not only helps point out the fact and the fiction behind Wilder’s classic children’s books, but also celebrates the independent mind of the Quiner and Ingalls women along the way.

McDonough’s book opens not with Wilder, but with a brief prologue discussing the life of Caroline Lake Quiner, who would one day become Caroline Ingalls. This sets the tone for the rest of this biography, as it highlights how Caroline’s mother, Charlotte, believed in higher education for girls; something Ma Ingalls also wanted for her daughters.

Told in chronological order, Little Author in the Big Woods follows Wilder’s life and the journeys she took not only with her family, but later with her husband Almanzo and daughter Rose. It talks about the hardships the Wilders faced as a young married couple and of their leaving De Smet, South Dakota to settle in Mansfield, Missouri. Readers learn about the building of the dream house on Rocky Ridge Farm and Wilder’s early career writing for the Missouri Ruralist, before moving on to the creation of the Little House series. McDonough ends with an epilogue that discusses the longevity of Wilder’s work and Michael Landon’s classic television show, Little House on the Prairie, which is based upon the books. Readers are also treated to quotes from Laura Ingalls Wilder, details on some of the games that Laura played, crafts, and recipes. Also included is a list of other writings by Wilder and a list with some of the other books about her.

While I have to admit I learned little new about Laura Ingalls Wilder as a result, I believe middle grade readers will enjoy getting to know more about her real life and the independent nature of the women in the Quiner, Ingalls, and Wilder families. With a similar writing style and design to the Little House series, readers will feel right at home with this book. Jennifer Thermes did an excellent job in capturing the essence of McDonough’s book and Wilder’s life with her beautiful illustrations. I’m thrilled to add Little Author in the Big Woods to my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection.

 

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

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Series: Christy Ottaviano Books
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (September 16, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080509542X
ISBN-13: 978-0805095425

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


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49. Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James

Cooper Bartholomew's body is found at the foot of a cliff.

Suicide.

That's the official finding, that's what everyone believes. Cooper's girlfriend, Libby, has her doubts. They'd been happy, in love. Why would he take his own life?

As Libby searches for answers, and probes more deeply into what really happened the day Cooper died, she and her friends unravel a web of deception and betrayal. Are those friends - and enemies - what they seem? Who is hiding a dangerous secret? And will the truth set them all free?

Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead features a lot of things I love in fiction: multiple narrators! morally suspect characters! mysterious deaths! people who are not as they seem! events told in non-chronological order! I was very much looking forward to reading it after having read Beautiful Malice, Rebecca James' debut. (I've also had a lot of people recommend Sweet Damage, published last year. So that's on the to-read list.)

Rebecca James writes really terrific psychological suspense, and Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead is no exception. I think it has more nuance and depth than Beautiful Malice - while in her debut she depicts a manipulative psychopath brilliantly, no-one is truly evil in Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead which makes it feel more authentic, more like it's happening to people you might know. It's told from four perspectives - Cooper's (pre-death, clearly), his girlfriend Libby's, his best friend Sebastian and his ex-girlfriend Claire - so we get an opportunity to see events from various points of view. Sebastian and Claire are both unsympathetic (and incredibly suspicious), but why they're so awful is realistically explored. We jump between 'Then' - the events leading to Cooper's death, which focuses on his growing relationship with Libby - and 'Now' - the effects of his death on Libby, Claire and Sebastian. Having the story told from multiple perspectives adds a certain three-dimensional quality to the world of the novel, and allows for all the central players to be well-developed and the dynamics between them conveyed beautifully.

The central characters are university-aged, so I don't know if it strictly fits the definition of YA. I'd recommend it to both older YA readers and adult readers who enjoy YA and/or psychological suspense. In terms of content: Everybody is drinking, all the time! It feels like almost every scene. There's also quite a bit of drug use (speed and cocaine) which is not really deeply explored but gives you a sense of the social culture of the 'cool kids' in this town. If these kids were real people I'd be concerned about their livers. There's sex scenes, and a death (spoiler!). It's not hugely different to a lot of YA. Even in Beautiful Malice, though the characters were high school students they had a huge amount of freedom and behaved like uni students.

I loved the twist (I guessed it a lot earlier than it was revealed, but that's probably because I watch a lot of Poirot and Miss Marple and I'm an investigative genius), though of course the greatest twist of all would have been that Cooper Bartholomew was not actually dead. Despite Cooper being dead from the outset, he's a very likeable character. Potentially there could be a sequel: Cooper Bartholomew Is Not Actually Dead And He's Living Happily Ever After With Libby. I'd read it! If you like mysteries, page-turners, gritty teen dramas and/or romance, you'll like this.

Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead on the publisher's website

My interview with Rebecca James

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50. As Stars Fall by Christie Nieman

A bush fire, and its aftermath, links a Bush-Stone curlew and three teenagers experiencing loss, love and change.

The fire was fast and hot ... only days after it went through, there were absolutely no birds left. I should have seen it as an omen, the birds all leaving like that.

Robin is a self-confessed bird-nerd from the country, living in the city. On the first day at her new school, she meets Delia. Delia is freaky and definitely not good for Robin's image.

Seth, Delia's brother, has given up school to prowl the city streets. He is angry at everything, especially the fire that killed his mother.

When a rare and endangered bird turns up in the city parklands, the lives of Robin, Seth and Delia become fatefully and dangerously intertwined ...

An intricate love story about nature, grief, friendship and life.

As Stars Fall is beautifully written, and a novel that I think will appeal to both older teenagers and adults. Not just the adults who already love YA (of which there are many! I guess I am one of them now?), but adult readers who prefer literary novels or who might previously have dismissed YA. It's a very 'literary' YA and doesn't fit what one might expect of a 'typical' YA novel. It's contemporary but it has a distinct other-worldly edge, mixing the real and surreal well.

Seth is a character whose actions make him incredibly difficult to like, and both he and Delia's perspective are told in third-person, making them feel more distant. Their sometimes questionable behaviours are made credible by their previous experiences - Seth's behaviours are pretty much consistently terrible, but his loss is explored very well. Robin's first-person narration is engaging and immersive, and while each of the central characters are well-developed, she is the most likeable.

It's described as a love story in the blurb but I wouldn't regard it as such, and if you come into it expecting that to be central you'll be disappointed. Similarly it is very slow-paced - if you're expecting something which develops quickly, you won't find that here. It's evocatively written and luxuriates in detail, including detail about the Bush-Stone curlew. It has a great deal of depth and atmosphere but not a lot of action until the very end. It's a story that's predominantly about grief.

I think this is an intriguing and original contribution to contemporary YA literature in Australia, and I'm very much looking forward to what Christie Nieman writes next.

As Stars Fall on the publisher's website

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