Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Sleepover -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
"When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a 
gun in his hand."
~ Raymond Chandler ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Sue Colletta wrote a very useful post on The Wicked Writing Blog HERE that has 10  ways to keep readers enthralled. 

I saw myself in this post by Janice Hardy on Fiction University. HERE you will find a good post on too much plot. 

Martina Boone at Adventures in YA Publishing has a great post about tricks to creating engaging characters HERE. This is just Part I, so there will be more. 

Last week I offered one of you a hardback copy of Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg. This week's winner is Nancy. Congratulations, Nancy! I will get the book out to you this week. For the rest of you, please stay tuned. I have another cute book to give away this week.

When I saw Jen Malone had a new book coming out, I couldn't resist getting a copy for review. I loved her earlier book, At Your Service, that I reviewed HERE. The Sleepover is terrific and I loved it just as much. The cover is perfect! Here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review

Middle-schooler Meghan has never made it through an overnight, but tonight will be different. It’s Anne-Marie’s birthday and with Paige, the three best friends are planning an EPIC night, but a few things go awry. First Anne-Marie’s future step-sister, Veronica, joins the party, and she is pretty wacky. She has hired a hypnotist to entertain the girls at the party. Anne-Marie’s little brother is trying to make a name for himself with on-line videos. He loves to post pictures of his sister looking foolish, and he gets in the mix. When the girls wake up in the morning, they find Meghan wearing the sweatshirt of a local bad boy, on whom Meghan has a huge crush, and Anne-Marie is missing. No one can remember anything from the night before!

“So what if he’s gorgeous, with this kind of blue-black 
hair that falls across his face and bright blue eyes that 
have actual soul to them?”

Jen Malone is in the habit of writing smart, funny middle-grade novels with compelling characters and super stories. This is no exception. The voice of
Jen Malone
Meghan, the narrator of this story, is absolutely pitch perfect. The writing is snappy, the dialogue sounds right out of a middle-grade playground, and there is just a little bit of romance to spice things up. Winner!

I have a gently-read ARC 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, June 12, 2016

Sweet Home Alaska -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Patience is also a form of action.” 
~ Auguste Rodin ~ 

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Rejections got you down? Maybe you shouldn’t let it get to you so much. Find out HERE why. 

Keeping your characters in character is pretty darned important. HERE at Through the Tollbooth, Catherine Linka gives us some pretty darned good tips for doing that. 

Bonnie Randall wrote a good article at Fiction University HERE about using cliches in a whole new way. Check it out. 

Last week I promised an ARC of A Weird and Wild Beauty: The Story of Yellowstone, the World's First National Park by Erin Peabody. This week's winner is warrchick, AKA Suzanne Warr, a North Carolina writer who blogs at Tales from the Raven. Check out her blog HERE. She also participates in Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and has lots of good reviews and other stuff. Congratulations, Suzanne. I will get your book out to you soon.

I probably should have gotten around to reviewing Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg some time ago. After all, it came out in February, but life got in the way. But it's never too late to share about a good book. It reminded me of some favorite books from my childhood -- the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, and the Anne of Green Gables books. It is a real treat. Here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review.

Terpsichore’s family has been hit hard by the Depression. Pop’s job is gone and there are no others for him or others in their small Wisconsin town. When FDR offers lands and loans in Matanuska Valley, Alaska, to families like the Johnsons, Pop wants to go. They start this great adventure with the caveat that Mother can decide whether or not they will stay after their second harvest in Alaska. The young village grows in the valley with a lot of enthusiastic people and a few bumps along the way such as buildings taking long to be built and a doctor and hospital coming late. But Terpsichore makes friends and learns to love her new home, as do her sisters. But Mother misses her own mother and the piano they couldn’t bring. The fear is Mother will vote to leave, but Terpsichore has an idea to change Mother’s mind.

“Terpsichore looked at the faces of colonists around her.
People were beginning to hope again.”

Based on real happenings, this engaging novel is filled with charming characters and a very compelling story set in a time and place readers will find fascinating. Author Carole Estby Dagg’s excellent research shows as does her talent for
Carole Estby Dagg
creating believable scenarios and dialogue. This deserves wider readership than middle-graders.

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.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Weird and Wild Beauty -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
~ E.L. Doctorow ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Greg Pattridge has come up with a good method HERE to avoid slowing your story down with too much back story. 

Overused words? Erika Wassal has a guest post on those HERE on Writing and Illustrating. Check it out. 

Kristen Lamb writes great posts for writers and the one HERE is just plain fun, telling us 13 Ways Writers are Mistaken for Serial Killers. 

Last week I promised an ARC of Cici Reno: MiddleSchoolMatchmaker by Kristina Springer to one of you. This week's winner is Janet Smart, a children's writer and blogger from West Virginia. If you haven't checked out her blog, Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch (Don't you love that title?), you can do so now by clicking HERE. I recommend it. Congratulations, Janet. I will get the book out to you this week. 

One of my grandkids is already out of school for the summer, and the other will be out next week. It's that time of year when people are planning vacations and getting away. My family's favorite excursions would include any national park we could get to. Our National Park system is amazing. In honor of the vacation season and our National Parks, this week I am offering an ARC of A Weird and Wild Beauty: the Story of Yellowstone, the World's First National Park by Erin Peabody. Here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review

The very first national park in the world was Yellowstone National Park. The bill passed by congress and signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 set aside more than 2 million acres of spectacular wilderness for people to enjoy. But how did this all come about? The area had been largely ignored by white Americans. It was hard to reach, particularly in the winter, and it was an area used for hunting and held sacred by Native Americans, who fiercely protected it. But when gold was discovered there, white settlers were willing to go, and they discovered a land of wild and strange beauty with bubbling mud, hissing hillsides, roaring rivers, and great wildlife. It took a wealthy railroad magnate, geologists, other scientists, conservationists, artists, and more to bring about this amazing bill to protect this wild and beautiful place. 

“Hayden’s small party bound for the land of bubbling fountains departed on the morning of July 31. The excitement must have been palpable as they contemplated upcoming wonders that Langford had described as ‘entirely out of the range of human experience.’”

There have been histories of this great park written, but never one for the middle-grade crowd. This book, with lively writing, great research, and
Erin Peabody
wonderful photographs, maps, and other graphics, deserves a much wider readership than its intended audience and should find a place in libraries and classrooms everywhere.

I have a gently-read ARC 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, May 29, 2016

Cici Reno -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero, but a bad novel tells us
the truth about its author.”
~ G. K. Chesterton ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Steven Pressfield has a good post HERE on the difference between subject and theme. I wish I had had this when I was still teaching. I had such a hard time convincing my students that Theme could never be expressed in one word but needed to be a statement. Check it out. 

Steven Pressfield continues his discussion of theme in a post called The Hero Embodies the Theme HERE. He gives some great examples. 

John Yeoman from Writer’s Village has a post HERE on how to bring your characters alive. Sure, he tries to sell you something, but the info is good.  

Well, I'm back at last. We lost my sweet husband Dave three weeks ago. It was as good a passing as we could have asked for as he was surrounded by family and didn't seem to be in any pain. I am so grateful for the friends and family who were here for us, helping in so many ways. And thank you for your patience as I took some much needed time. But now it's time to get back to work. 

I was offered a chance to receive a copy of Cici Reno for review quite awhile ago. I meant to get to it sooner, but I got to it as soon as I could. I know a lot of folks have already reviewed it, but I will still put in my two cents. I almost passed this one up because I had my doubts that the idea of Cyrano de Bergerac retold with a middle-school girl as the protagonist would work. I'm happy to say that it works really, really well. 

The modern-day Cyrano -- Cici Reno -- is a good and faithful friend to her BFF, Aggie, even though they both have a crush on the same boy. After all, Aggie had a crush on Drew first. It's only right for Cici, advice giver extraordinaire, to help Aggie get together with Drew. Cici carries on a live chat with Drew, first anonymously, then as Aggie, until the romance is pretty well set. But then the wheels start to come off.

What I love about this book is how real the characters are -- fully conversant in a modern, technical world, in the throes of moving into a pubescent world, and filled with hope and angst. Cici has a normal family and lots of interesting
Kristina Springer
friends. She's bright and funny and completely endearing. The writing is crisp and the voice is dead on for a girl of that age. If you haven't read this clever book yet, I suggest you make time for it. It's just plain fun, and I suspect middle-grade girls will gobble it up. I think Kristina Springer has written a real winner.

I have a gently-read ARC 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, May 1, 2016

A Short Hiatus

I will be gone a little longer from blogging. My sweet husband came home from the hospital a week ago after six weeks. Our insurance provider immediately opened hospice. We will have a far too short time with Dave. My family is here surrounding him and me with support and love. I will be back to blogging one day soon, but I don't know exactly when. Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

To Stay Alive -- Book Review

Thought for the Day:
"Don't just plan to write - write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it,
that we develop our own style."
~ P. D. James ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Janice Hardy always has something great to help us. The post HERE on Endings is no exception. 

Bobbi Miller wrote a wonderful post on the Teaching Authors blog HERE to remind us that Villains are People Too! 

If you are a pantser like me, you probably could use some help with plot. Margie Flinchum Atkins has a terrific post on plotting at the Group Blog. Check it out HERE

Sorry to have been gone so long. My husband's illness has been most difficult. He spent 20 days in the hospital, then was moved to a skilled nursing facility for rehab, but it hasn't gone really well. He has now been there 10 days, and I'm not sure when he will come home. He hasn't really been able to eat, and that has delayed his recovery. He is quite weak and has, at last count, lost over 65 pounds since November when he started having problems. Between trips to the hospital and rehab facility -- two or three a day -- I managed to get a moving company to bring our furniture to our new house (2 Men and a Truck were incredible!) and am still bringing small loads each day and sorting and unpacking. Worst surprise -- water damage behind the washer. Who ever looks back there unless you move, right? Ugh. Now I have to deal with the insurance company and start another construction project before I can sell the other house. The good news is I absolutely love our new house, and I get to see our daughter and grandchildren all the time. I think Dave will love it here when he comes home, hopefully this week. Fingers crossed!

When last I wrote, I promised a copy of Applesauce Weather by Helen Frost to one of you. (I think I actually know where it is!) The winner is Joanne Roberts. Congratulations, Joanne! If you don't know her, she is a children's illustrator and writer. You can find our more about her at her blog, Bookish Ambition, which you can find HERE. Joanne, I will get your book out to you soon. I won't be having a giveaway this week for two reasons -- I don't want to give up my copy, and I have no idea when I might get to the post office.

I was contacted by a publicist not long ago about review copies of several books. I chose a book in verse called To Stay Alive by Skila Brown. One of my favorite books of recent years was All We Left Behind by Nancy Herman which I reviewed HERE. It's a haunting historical novel about the Donner party, and the subject matter is difficult at best, but still fascinating. To Stay Alive is also a story of the Donner party. While All We Left Behind is the story of Virginia Reed, this book focuses on Mary Ann Graves, one of ten children of Franklin and Elizabeth Graves, a family who were part of the Donner party. It is Mary Ann's voice who tells the story of her family's journey with all the excitement, adventure, hardships, and, ultimately, pain and heartbreak she faces. She is brave, smart, and determined. Readers will cheer for her and suffer with her and hope with her even when all hope seems to be lost. 

I thought I would be able to whiz through this book as I often do with verse novels, but I was wrong. The poetry of this book is so rich and layered that it demands and deserves a slow, deliberate read. Sometimes when I read a novel in verse, I wonder what makes it verse and not just an interesting use of white space. I never wondered while reading this book. The writing is spectacular and
Skila Brown
lyrical, the story is powerful and heartbreaking, and the characters are well-rounded and engaging. I think this book will garner a very wide readership, from older, 
sophisticated middle-grade readers to adults and it deserves to. This book won't be out until October, but it is worth your time to pre-order lest you forget and miss out on this one. At least put it on your TBR list right now! 

I hope I will be back here next week, but who knows? Sometimes life gets in the way. Thanks for being patient with me through my crazy life.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Applesauce Weather -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
"So you're taking a few blows. That's the price for being in the arena
and not on the sidelines." 
~ The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Janice Hardy again. This time she discusses Story Questions and it’s a good one. Click HERE to read it. 

Anything to make our characters richer is a good thing. Check out this post from Adventures in YA Publishing HERE for some great ideas on building rich characters. 

Writers Helping Writers has a great post HERE on using Twitter as a research resource. Who knew?

I may disappear for a bit. My husband's illness marches on. He had two surgeries last week -- Sunday night they tried to place a stent, but the colon was perforated and Monday morning at about 5:30 they called telling me they would have to operate again and remove his colon. It was not the outcome we hoped for, but we hope it will give him a chance for good health. His recovery is rough. He is still in the hospital, has had some setbacks this week, and when he is able to leave will have to go to a skilled nursing facility for rehab. Our remodel is a day or two from finished, and I need to get us moved to our new house and get this house on the market. So if I disappear for a couple weeks, don't be too surprised. On the other hand, writing this may be good therapy for me, so I might just show up.

This week I'd like to introduce you to a new middle-grade book written in verse. Here is the description for Applesauce Weather by Helen Frost from Goodreads: In a touching poetic novel, a fall apple ritual—along with some inventive storytelling—brings a family together as they grieve the loss of a beloved family member.

When the first apple falls from the tree, Faith and Peter know that it’s applesauce weather, even though Peter is getting a little old for such things. It also means Uncle Arthur should be here to tell his stories, with a twinkle in his eye as he spins tales about how he came to have a missing finger. But this is the first year without Aunt Lucy, and when Uncle Arthur arrives, there’s no twinkle to be found and no stories waiting to be told. Faith is certain, though, that with a little love and patience, she and Peter might finally learn the truth about that missing finger. Paired with warm, expressive illustrations by Amy June Bates, this heartfelt tale by award-winning poet Helen Frost highlights the strength of family and the power of a good story.


I love this little book. It's only 112 pages and you can read it in no time at all. It has quite a lot of illustrations, perfectly charming ones at that, and looks like a book for very early middle-grade readers, but the richness of the story and the complexities of the characters and the mature issues discussed along with the beautiful, lyrical writing may well garner some older readers as well. I particularly love the inclusion of a verse from Aunt Lucy, the great-aunt who has passed away and who was so important to the characters, at the beginning of each chapter. It really gives texture to the story to have some of her memories woven throughout. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This book won't be out until August, but you can surely pre-order it, and it's
Helen Frost
worth doing. Heck, the cover alone is worth it! This book is simply lovely. 
I have a gently-read ARC 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, March 13, 2016

The Adventures of Hamish and Mirren -- Review

Thought for the Day:
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane
takes off against the wind, not with it.” 
~ Henry Ford ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
This is such an important post on point of view. Janice Hardy at Fiction University discusses the significance of prior knowledge HERE as it relates to point of view. Don’t miss this one. 

Need to cut words? I know I do. The post HERE on Adventures in YA Publishing will help you get there. 

The Editor’s Blog has a great post HERE called Piling On - Frustrate Your Characters. This is a good one. 

Things have been difficult this week. My husband, who came home from the hospital last Saturday, went back into the hospital on Friday for an even more serious problem, an obstructed colon, which will require at least one surgery.   The good news is I have great confidence that a terrific team of doctors and nurses has been put together to deal with this issue, and Dave will come out of this much healthier. Feel free to send healing thoughts. I will take all the help we can get. This week's quote is really for me, but I hope you all find something in it for you as well.

Last week I offered an ARC of The Terrible Two Get Worse to one of you. This week's winner is Jenni Enzor, an Oregon writer of YA historical fantasy, middle grade mysteries, and historical non-fiction. If you aren't familiar with her, hop on over to her blog HERE and check it out. You will find some great reviews there. Congratulations, Jenni! I will get your book out to you as soon as I can. 

I don't have a giveaway this week. Most of my books are packed away for the move (will that ever happen????), but I do have a review of a very fun book for you. I love folk tales and fairy tales and I LOVE the British Isles, so when I ran across The Adventures of Hamish and Mirren: Magical Scottish Stories for Children as a choice for the Manhattan Book Review, I jumped on it. Here is my review for them.

Hamish lives with his old mother on a farm by a silvery loch, near the small village of Camusbuie, on the west coast of Scotland. Mother tells Hamish a lot of stories, but he doesn’t believe all that nonsense. One day, a big wind comes and steals his hay stacks. Hamish goes after the wind to get them back. Not only does he bring back the hay, but he brings back a wife as well. Mirren and Hamish are often warned by Mother about the Wee Folk, as well as the fairies, witches, and all kinds of personified creatures and natural objects. But they don’t always listen to the good advice of Mother, and find themselves in strange difficulties, sparring with weird and wondrous beings. Fortunately, Mother knows a lot about how to overcome these dour happenings.
“Before Mirren could stop them, the Wee Folk had eaten and drunk everything they could lay their hands on. Even the porridge that Mirren had put to simmer for breakfast by the side of the fire had gone.”
Moira Miller has written a delightful collection of Scottish tales for youngsters,
Moira Miller
and anyone else who is a fan of folktales and myths. They are magical, funny, and absolutely charming. The writing is superb. Illustrator Mairi Hedderwick augments the fun with simple, but enchanting, drawings throughout, to add life to an already lively book. 
Don't forget to check Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews. Always worth your while.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Terrible Two Get Worse -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their
greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.” 
~ Peter S. Beagley ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Ruth Harris did a post on Anne R. Allen’s blog that is one of the richest posts HERE for writers I’ve ever seen. It is about hooking readers and getting them to turn the pages and it is full of links. I may feature some of these links once I get a chance to look at them all. 

This is just plain fun. We all know writers have great imaginations. If you click HERE you can see some inventions writers came up with. 

Janice Hardy discusses the Internal Core Conflict and the External Core Conflict HERE. This is important stuff! 

I spent a lot of time at the local hospital with my husband this week. I had to take him to the emergency room because he was so sick. He had an extreme lack of potassium due to an intestinal infection called C Diff. I had a battle royal with the doctor assigned to him to keep him there for three days. I felt she was much more interested in getting the bed emptied out than in his health and well-being. Grrrr. But he is home now and on the mend.  I hope this is what has kept him down for so many weeks and that there isn't anything else going on! Now maybe I can get back to packing for the move.

Last week I offered an ARC of Avenging the Owl by Melissa Hart to one of you and this week's winner is Susan Olson. Congratulations, Susan! If you don't know her, Susan is a North Carolina writer and blogger. You can read some great reviews of time travel books HERE on her blog, Time Travel Times Two. Susan, I will get your book out to you very soon. For the rest of you, I have another giveaway, so keep reading. 

Just over a year ago, I reviewed HERE a really funny middle-grade book called The Terrible Two. When I saw a follow-up book come up for review, I grabbed it. It's called The Terrible Two Get Worse, and it is a really good one as well. Here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review

Miles and Niles are back at their pranking best in this new chapter of their story. The prank they have come up with for Principal Barkin and his son, Josh, is simply a stinking piece of beauty. But there is trouble ahead for the boys, and they never see it coming until it is too late. The father of Principal Barkin, Principal Barkin, manages to get Principal Barkin fired and take back his old job. And this Principal Barkin is not going to put up with any pranking under his watch. In fact, he sets up a calendar at the school to count the days to the end of the school year they can go without having any pranks. He has a method that is nearly impossible to overcome by pranksters.  Can Miles and Niles get back to their prodigious pranking procedures?

“All right, it was time to make this official. He reached over the desk and removed the brass nameplate that said PRINCIPAL BARKIN, replacing it with a brass nameplate that said PRINCIPAL BARKIN.”

Jory John and Mac Barnett have another winner on their hands with the second book in this very funny series. Kevin Cornell’s illustrations just make everything funnier. Middle-schoolers will cheer for the boys and their clever antics and keep on turning the pages, becoming kids who love books because of books like this.

I have a gently-read ARC 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, February 28, 2016

Avenging the Owl -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Maybe you’ve made something mediocre–there’s plenty of that in any artist’s cabinets–but something mediocre is better than nothing, and often the 
near-misses, as I call them, are the beckoning hands that bring you to perfection just around the blind corner.” 
~ Sally Mann, Photographer ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Alex Limberg did a guest post on Kristin Lamb’s blog that is worth your time. He talks HERE about making every page interesting. Check it out. 

Writers Helping Writers always has such good stuff. The post HERE is the first post I’ve seen in a long time on pacing. Don’t miss it. 

I tend to write in close third person PoV and often my critique partners think my stories would be better in first person. I am not comfortable with that PoV, but maybe I should try harder. Anyway, it’s something I think about a lot. Janice Hardy at Fiction University has a really useful post HERE on this very subject. 

Thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes. We had a nice quiet family evening, which is exactly what I wanted. My sister and brother-in-law were here almost a week and we got so much done! Now I feel like the move is doable. Before, I was, frankly, really freaking out. My husband's health has not improved, but we continue with tests but no answers. And of course, there is a lot of brownie baking for my contractor. I do what I have to do to get that remodel finished. 

Last time I wrote, I promised an ARC of Gary D. Schmidt's fabulous Orbiting Jupiter. The winner this week is Natalie Aguirre. Congratulations, Natalie! If you don't know Natalie (have you been living in a cave with no wifi?), she is a writer and blogger extraordinaire. You can find out more about her HERE at Literary Rambles, a blog which should not be missed. Natalie, I will get the book out to you this week, assuming I haven't packed it already. For the rest you, please keep reading. I have another terrific book for you this week.

I had an email a few weeks back from author Melissa Hart asking if I would be interested reviewing in her middle-grade novel, Avenging the Owl. I am something of a bird lover, so found the premise interesting and requested a copy. I'm glad I did. Let me tell you about it. 

Solo Hahn, whose mother was a big Star Wars fan, has a perfect life in Southern California. Nice house near the beach, terrific friends, and plenty of time to surf. But the wheels are about to come off. Solo's father, a writer, falls into depression and tries to kill himself. Solo's parents decide the best thing to do is to move to Oregon where they can get a fresh start, but nobody bothers to ask Solo what he thinks. The next thing he knows, they are having a big yard sale and everything is being sold. The only good thing to come out of it is a little stray kitten Solo finds while they are having the sale. The family moves to a trailer house in the middle of nowhere (nowhere near the beach, that is) and Solo and his kitten begin their new life. What keeps him going is his plan to run away back to Southern California to stay with his best friend. 

But when you live in the backwoods, sometimes nature has a way of changing everything, and when an owl snatches Solo's beloved kitten, he loses it. He grabs a gun owned by the father of the only friend he's made and goes after the owl, but injures his friend instead. He is assigned to community service working with raptors at a rescue center. Solo is angry and afraid -- afraid of the birds, afraid his father will try to kill himself again, afraid he will never see his surfing buddies or the ocean again, afraid he will be sent to juvenile hall if he doesn't succeed at the raptor center, and more. It's a lot for a kid to deal with and it makes for a rich, complex novel. The cast of characters is filled with diverse, fully-rounded people who readers can relate to and care about. Melissa Hart's
Melissa Hart
writing is crisp and polished and her story is very compelling. The book won't be out until April, but I suggest you put it on your TBR list and keep an eye open for it or, better yet, pre-order it. It's worth it. And look at that cover. How can you resist? 

I have a gently-read ARC 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.