Sunday, August 23, 2015

Out at Home -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth. They accept, almost without question, anything you present them with, as long as it is presented honestly, fearlessly, and clearly.”
~ E.B. White ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
The GROG post HERE is great for those of us who need to cut words. That would probably be all of us. 

Janice Hardy has a great post HERE on Setups — good and bad — and infodumps. It’s terrific. 


Bryan Collins has a terrific post on The Wicked Writing blog with 7 Tips for Starting Your Story with a Bang. Check it out HERE.

Last week, I promised a gently-read hardback copy of Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin to one of you. This week's winner is Greg Partridge. Congratulations, Greg! If you don't know Greg, please check out his wonderful blog, Always in the Middle, HERE. Greg is a middle-grade teacher, reader, and writer and always has something interesting on his blog. Greg, I will get the book out to you this week. Worry not. I have another giveaway for you this week.

It has been another all baseball weekend. Yesterday our grandson's team had one win and one (close) loss. Today they played THREE games to end up coming
up a little short in the championship game. It was really exciting the whole way, but tired I am. If you see a typo or two, please understand. In honor of all that baseball, This week I'd like to tell you about a book in Cal Ripken, Jr's All Stars series, Out at Home. This series is written by Ripken and Kevin Cowherd, a sportswriter. I reviewed one of the other books in the series, Squeeze Play, HERE. Here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review


Mickey Labriogla may be the coach’s kid, but he has earned his spot as catcher with his solid play behind the dish. He knows how to call the game, his arm is strong and accurate, and he is tough enough to block the plate against anyone. When the Orioles, having a great season, have their pitcher go down to injury, it seems the season may be lost. But when Coach brings in a pitcher who throws hard and fast and hits his spots, it seems their prayers are answered—until the team gets a whiff of the new pitcher’s arrogance. He calls himself Zoom, insists on calling his own pitches, shows up late, and more, and Coach turns a blind eye. When the team finds itself in a championship game against Zoom’s former team, things get really interesting.

“Zoom stalked around the mound for moment, trying to compose himself. The Orioles could tell he was furious. So could the next batter for the Rays, who dug in nervously, then quickly stepped out, took a deep breath, and dug in again.”


This is the fifth book in the middle-grade series written by Cal Ripken, Jr. and
Cal Ripken, Jr. 
former sports writer Kevin Cowherd. Each book stands completely on its own, focusing on a different member of the team. The writing is excellent, the story compelling, and everything about it is believable. Young baseball fans will love this as well as the rest of the series.

I have a very gently-read hardback copy for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each
Kevin Cowherd
that you do.


Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ruby on the Outside -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“First I got really grumpy, and then got very determined to write 
things that were so good that not even the stupidest most irritating 
gatekeeper alive could reject them.” 
~ Neil Gaiman on rejection ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
The Editor’s Blog has a great post HERE on compound words. This is not to be missed. 

Augusta Scattergood has a terrific post on setting HERE. Make sure you check out all the wonderful links on this one. It is chock full of great links. 

The Write Practice has one of the best post HERE I’ve seen on Show, Don’t Tell. It’s very clear. 

I know I've been gone for awhile longer than I expected. My trip east with my grandson was fine. Gehrig declared it a success as we sat in the 7th row by third base in Citizen's Bank Park and watched the Phillies wallop the Braves 12-2. It's always fun when the home team wins. Last Sunday I had every intention of posting, but Gehrig had a baseball tournament and ended up playing late for the championship and winning! It made for a long but exciting day. I was just too worn out to post. I might not be here one of the next two weekends for the same reason. Everything pretty much takes a backseat to my grandkids, as it should.

I promised a hardback copy of Blue Birds by Carolyn Starr Rose last time I was here. Our winner this time is Janet Smart. Congratulations, Janet! I will get your book out this week. If you don't know Janet, she is a children's writer and blogs at Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch, (Don't you love that title?) which you can find HERE. For the rest of you, I have another give away for this post, so please keep reading.


The book I'd like to tell you about is Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin. I love this book and think it is really an important one. I hope all of you will have a chance to read it. Here is the review I wrote  for the San Francisco Book Review.


When you are eleven years old and ready to start middle school, everything, absolutely everything is a big deal. But if that is your life and your mother is in prison and you don’t have a best friend, it is much worse. This is the life Ruby Danes has — her mother in prison and Ruby has a chance at a new friend, Margalit, who could become that best friend. But when Margalit tells Ruby her brother is dead, his name triggers something in Ruby. She does some research and finds something that makes it seem everything will fall apart.

“I can’t remember anything specific from before my mom went to prison. We don’t talk about my real dad, but I know my mom was really young when she had me.” 


Nora Raleigh Baskin has written a really important book that speaks for a segment of our society that is badly underrepresented, but please don’t let that scare you away. This book is well-written with a compelling plot, great characters, and a message that will resonate with young people and more. While this book is marketed to upper middle-graders, it deserves a much broader audience. This story speaks to problems many young people face and may help readers be more understanding and
Nora Raleigh Baskin
compassionate. This is a touching, moving story that readers will really enjoy.

I have a very gently-read hardback copy for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.






Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blue Birds -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“The business of the poet and the novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.” 
~ Thomas Hardy ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Adventures in YA Publishing has a terrific post HERE on making any scene more interesting. Check it out. 

K.M. Weiland has a terrific post HERE about writing a good character arc. It’s one of the best I’ve seen. 

HERE is a post by agent John M. Cusick about how to write the dreaded query. It’s a good one. 

First of all, a heads up. I may be taking a couple weeks off. Next Saturday, our grandson, Gehrig, and I will be flying to the east coast. There, Gehrig will attend The Ripken Experience, a week-long overnight baseball camp that will, hopefully, give him a leg up and a confidence boost as he starts high school. If you want to know more, click HERE to see the camp he will be attending. I will be able to attend his games every afternoon, but otherwise it's hands off -- let the boy breathe and grow. After his week in camp, we will attend a couple of major league games in Baltimore and Philadelphia, see Liberty Hall and Valley Forge before coming home. During the week I will be doing some touring, writing, and will have a short visit with our daughter who is in the national tour of Once, now in Washington DC at the Kennedy Center. I might get to posting for my blog, but I might just relax and not worry about it. So if you don't hear from me for a couple of weeks, please don't cross me off your list. I will be back. 

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Last week I promised one of you a copy of Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome by Kate Messner. Our winner this week is Jenni Enzor. Congratulations, Jenni! Jenni writes YA and MG and is a regular on Marvelous Middle-Grade Mondays. You can find her blog HERE. Jenni, I will get your book out to you this week. For the rest of you, I have another great giveaway, so stay tuned.

This week I will review Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose. Back in 2012, I reviewed Caroline's debut novel May B. If you missed that review, click HERE. It is a lovely book, as is her new book. I am always a little wary of books in verse, but the truth is I seem to fall in love with them as I read them. Here is the 5-star review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review


Alis is twelve when her family sails from teeming, dirty London to the new world. It is 1587. They land on the island of Roanoke and expect to find English soldiers, including Alis’s beloved uncle, who had come before, but there is no one. All they find is some burned buildings and bones. At the same time, Kimi, a young girl of the Roanoke tribe, sees the settlers and is reminded of the deaths of her father and sister. Both girls have lost loved ones, yet they meet in the woods and find a way to become friends, each lacking a girl her own age to befriend. As animosity heats up between the English and the Roanoke, can these two girls survive the hostility and find a way to stay friends?

“But I am like a moth
dancing near a flame.
Thought there is danger,
I’m drawn ever closer.”



Caroline Starr Rose truly has a way with words. She tells this story in the voices
Caroline Starr Rose
of the two girls written in beautiful, lyrical free verse. The voices are distinct enough to not need it, but they are set in two different fonts. The story is compelling and filled with a range of emotions from longing, to sadness, to loneliness, to hope. This book should not be missed.

I have a very gently-read hardback copy for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ranger in Time:Danger in Ancient Rome -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know ten dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.” 
~ Ernest Hemingway ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
The Editor’s Blog has a great post HERE on dialogue tags. It is full of excellent reminders. 

The Write Practice has lots of good posts. The one HERE on Why You Should Write What You DON’T Know is very good. 

Have you heard of EasyBib? If you do any research for your writing, you might want this free program. The folks at Group Blog have a great overview HERE. I’m going to check this out. 

Last week I offered a hardback copy of The Tapper Twins Go to War (with each other) by Geoff Rodkey. This week's winner is Natalie Aguirre. Congratulations, Natalie! If you don't know her, Natalie is an aspiring MG and YA fantasy writer and an attorney. She shares the blog Literary Rambles with another writer. If you aren't familiar with Literary Rambles, click HERE and check it out. They do reviews, agent and author interviews, and often have giveaways. It's a terrific blog. I do have another giveaway this week, so please keep on reading. 

This week I have a true middle-grade book that is really designed for the younger middle-graders. I tend to gravitate toward the older MG books, but when I read a good one, as this is, for the younger set, I am surprised how engaging these are and wonder why I don't pick up more of them. I love that I can read one in a couple hours and feel very satisfied. This one, Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome by Kate Messner is very engaging and I think kids will gobble it up. I mean, combining time travel and Ancient Roman history is just too good to pass up! Here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review.


Ranger has been trained as a search and rescue dog. He is a golden retriever and the family he lives with has two young children to keep him busy and happy. He found a first aid kit in the back yard that has magical powers. When it glows, Ranger pulls the strap around his neck and is transported to a place and time where someone needs his help. In this adventure, Ranger finds himself in ancient Rome at the Coliseum. There he meets a young boy, Marcus, and a new gladiator-in-training, Quintus. Ranger isn’t sure which of them needs his help, but at first he is busy dealing with the strangeness of the blood-filled sand and wild animals he finds in the underground area of the Coliseum. Can Ranger figure out his mission and safely get back to his family?

“Once, Villius stopped to watch him. Marcus thought he saw 
a flash of admiration in the manager’s eyes. But it was 
only there for a moment before he turned and walked away.”


Kate Messner has clearly done her research to make this story a good picture of a historical time and place that will be really interesting and fun for younger
Kate Messner
middle-graders. The characters are well-rounded, the story exciting, and the setting fascinating. Readers should not miss the author’s note, glossary, sources, and further readings at the end. 

I have a gently-read copy for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click  HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Tapper Twins Go to War (with each other) -- Review and Giveaway



Thought for the Day:

“There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.”
~ Philip Pullman ~

 Gifts for My Writer Friends:



I know some of you write picture books or want to. I have several PB manuscripts I’m working on in addition to my novels. I just ran across a series of ten short blog posts by Josh Funk that are quite good on this topic. These will be especially good for beginners, but there are always things to learn even if you’ve been at it awhile. The first one is HERE and you can click right through them at the bottom. 

Angela Ackerman has a guest post HERE at Writers in the Storm you won’t want to miss. It is What Type of Secret Does Your Character Keep? Great stuff. 

Want to punch up your action scenes? Click HERE for Alex Limberg’s guest post on Fiction University to help you with that.

Last week I promised one of you a hardback copy of Random Body Parts by Leslie Bulion. Our winner this week is Patty Hawthorne. Congratulations, Patty! Patty is a writer who works mostly in science articles for kids magazines. For the rest of you, I have another terrific giveaway this week, so please keep reading.

This week I have a really funny book for your summer reading pleasure. The book is The Tapper Twins Go to War (with each other) by Geoff Rodkey. This is not the first time I've written about Geoff Rodkey's books. He is a very prolific author and I've reviewed two of his earlier books -- Deadweather and Sunrise HERE and New Lands HERE. I think I like this one even better! Here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review.

Claudia and Reese are twelve-year-old twins who live with their parents in New York. They are bright and attend a private school. One day, someone announces a foul smell in the cafeteria. Reese tells everyone his sister farted and calls Claudia Princess Farts-a-Lot. Needless to say, she is embarrassed and angry. Claudia thinks long and hard how to get back at her brother, and what she comes up with is masterful. Let’s just say it involves a dead fish, and when Reese’s favorite backpack is ruined, it’s on. The stakes are raised, reinforcements are called in, and battles are waged.

“Unfortunately, The Cheese Incident (which, if this were French class, I would call //L’Affaire du Fromage//), had a major and completely accidental side effect: it brought Xander into The War as an enemy combatant.”

This incredibly funny story is told as an oral history by the siblings. Claudia acts as editor, and her editorial comments are worth the price of admission. Geoff
Geoff Rodkey
Rodkey, a former screenwriter, has his pacing down to a science. He seems completely and comfortably in touch with his middle-school self. The voices of the two characters telling the story are absolutely pitch perfect. The language is today and the emotions shown by the characters are perfectly pre-pubescent. The situations are believable, while at the same time outrageously funny. Kids are going to gobble up this new series. Adults will enjoy this too.


I have a gently-read hardback copy for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.