Sunday, November 16, 2014

Breadcrumbs -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:


Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be a very silent
place if no birds sang except the best.”
~ Henry van Dyke, poet~


Gifts for My Writer Friends:


Writers Helping Writers are busy helping writers again with a guest post HERE by Warren Adler with 11 Novelist-Tested Ways to Defeat Writer's Block.

Kristin Lamb has a terrific post on adding tension. Click HERE to get some great tension tips.

Erika Wassall has a great guest post HERE about mastering kid-speak on Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating blog. Check it out. 

I have two winners to announce this week. First from my post on Friday, Nov. 7 when I offered an ARC of Leisl's Ocean Rescue by Barbara Krasner, the winner is Patricia Tilton. Patricia blogs at Children's Books Heal and reviews a wide variety of children's book. Click on the title to check out her blog. Last Sunday, I offered an ARC of At Your Service by Jen Malone. Joanne Fritz is the winner of that book. Joanne blogs at My Brain on Books and also reviews middle-grade books. It's worth the trip over there (click on the title) to read the About Me and find out why her blog has such in interesting title. Congratulations, ladies. I will get your books out this week. 

I have a couple of books I'd like to recommend. I've read these recently and will
be passing them along in our family reading circle, so won't give them away here. Both are terrific, both deal with young people who have a parent with mental illness, and both are stunning books. The first for middle grade readers -- Nest by Esther Ehrlich -- has a main character, Chirp, who will absolutely steal your heart and leave you wanting the book to go on and on. Don't miss this one. The second -- Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips -- is a young adult book written in lyrical verse, yet with a great sense of reality and some surprising turns, that is also not to be missed. 

This week, I would like to tell you about a book I won from Jennifer Rumberger's blog, which you can find HERE. Jennifer is a writer and features a lot of terrific books, mostly for middle-graders, on her blog. Anyway, I had been hankerin' after a book I'd heard a lot about, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, and was lucky enough to win a signed copy from Jennifer. This is a re-told fairy tale, a form I'm falling more and more in love with.  But this one may well be the best of the bunch, certainly the most engaging I have read. 

Hazel and Jack have been best friends for, well, just about forever -- from the time they were six. Now eleven, they are still best friends until suddenly and
inexplicably they are not. Jack stops speaking to Hazel, then disappears into the woods. Jack's heart has been frozen and he has been led away by a woman all in white. She has taken him to her ice palace. Hazel must leave everything she knows and venture after Jack to save him. Will either of them survive this harrowing journey? How will it change them? 

Ursu has written an amazing story that is gripping, heart-wrenching, and brilliant. It is based on Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, but as Hazel goes on her way, Ursu weaves in many other of Anderson's tales.This is a story of friendship, love, and heroism. It is a coming-of-age story as well. I can't say enough good things about this book. Find it. Read it. Soon.

It's hard for me to give this one way, but for a couple of reasons I will. First, I
Anne Ursu
want to share it; it deserves to be shared. Secondly, I know I won't have time to re-read it although I wish I had that time. It's lovely. So, I am offering this signed copy to one of you.
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, November 9, 2014

At Your Service -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.”  
~ AA Milne ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Aerogramme Writer’s Studio has posted top ten tips for writers by Geoff Dyer. This is one of the best tips columns I’ve seen. Click HERE to check it out.

Writer’s Digest has a killer article on writing killer plot twists. This one is really, really good. Click HERE to find it.

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you … write a great book based on fairy tales. Literary Rambles has a post that can help you do that. Click HERE to find it.

I am having some problems with my blog. I am replying to all comments, but I'm not at all sure the replies are being sent out. I used to receive a copy in my email, but now I don't. If you think I have ignored you, please check the blog. You will see the replies there. Also, my followers have disappeared from the right-hand column! I still have them within the blog, but the gadget seems to be gone on the page although when I go to layout, it says it's already been added, but it doesn't show on the layout. I am at my wit's end. If any of you have a suggestion, I would love to hear it. I have thought for a long time it might be time to move my blog, and I am getting closer and closer to doing it. Stay tuned.

Last week, I offered a gently-read ARC of The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine to one of you. It's always fun when one of my very regular readers is the winner, and this week it is Natalie Aguirre who always stops by and leaves a comment. I especially appreciate her blogger friendship because I know how busy Natalie is and how much is going on in her life right now. If you are not familiar with Natalie, you should really check out Literary Rambles. She and her blogging partner Casey McCormack run reviews, interviews, giveaways, and more. Yeah, the Literary Rambles mentioned above. Click HERE to visit. Natalie, I will put your book in the mail this week. Congratulations! I know you'll enjoy reading this one. I have another great giveaway this week, so keep reading.

I've had a busy weekend with a baseball tournament, critique work, and a visit
to relatives out of town, so in the interest of not driving myself to the brink, I will simply republish the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review of an absolutely delightful middle-grade book, At Your Service by Jen Malone. This was a five-star review for good reason.

12-year-old Chloe has a terrific life. Her father is the concierge at the posh Hotel St. Michele in New York City. She and her father live at the hotel, and Chloe often is able to help her father with his duties. Sometimes she gets to work with clients, especially the young ones, and hopes to become the youngest concierge ever. After some real successes with young clients, she gets her biggest chance when the King and Queen of Somerstein come to town with their three children. The handsome young prince and two princesses turn out to be a real challenge, especially when the younger princess disappears.

Jen Malone has written a real romp of a middle-grade story. The first-person point of view she chose for Chloe to tell her story is pitch-perfect, and Chloe is an absolutely believable character. She is smart, driven, clever, and still a typical middle-school girl with all the accompanying baggage. Most of the time she makes good decisions, but every now and then, she simply acts her age. There is plenty of conflict, adventure, and just a touch of romance. This is the
Jen Malone
perfect book for the middle-grade
crowd, but especially the girls.

I have a gently-read ARC for one of you. 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.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Liesl's Ocean Rescue -- Review and Giveaway

This is a special edition of The Write Stuff to run in conjunction with Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday. If you aren't familiar with Susanna, she is pretty much the queen of picture book blogging with all kinds of contests, reviews, and opportunities for writers on her blog. You can click HERE to see what's going on. Every Friday, Susanna runs Perfect Picture Book Friday and for those who love picture books, it is a can't miss day.

I don't often review picture books, but sometimes I run across something pretty
special, and I want to help spread the word. Linking it to Susanna's blog is a great way to garner some extra readers. Liesl's Ocean Rescue is a very special book. I first heard the basic outlines of this story several years ago when I attended one of several workshops and retreats hosted by the Highlight's Foundation. It was there I met Barbara Krasner. She was working on a book about the MS St. Louis, the ill-fated ship that carried Jewish passengers away from Germany during the horrors of the Nazi regime. I had read Katherine Anne Porter's story Ship of Fools, so I had some idea of it, but the passion Barbara had for this important story was riveting. I knew someday it would make an extraordinary book. Now it is out and everyone should know about it.

Liesl Joseph was a little girl when the Nazi's began their reign of terror. After her father had been arrested, the Joseph family knew when he was released a
Barbara Krasner
month later they had to leave the country. They joined a thousand Jews to board the MS St. Louis which was supposed to take them to Havana, Cuba. It was like a vacation on the ship. They were treated well, just as any passengers would be on a cruise. Liesl made friends all over the ship, with other passengers and with the crew. When the ship was turned away from Havana, many lost hope of finding safety. But through hard work by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, all the families were placed in Belgium, Holland, France, and England. 


Barbara has told this harrowing story in a beautifully-written and well-researched picture book that will allow very young children, first to third grade, an introduction to this very difficult time in our history. The illustrations by Avi Katz help to bring this story to life for youngsters.

I have a gently-read ARC for one of you. All you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower (easy and free -- check the right-hand column) 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. The drawing will be held on Sunday, November 16. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Paper Cowboy -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:


“We don’t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don’t want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination.”
~Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water ~


Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Every day I receive an email from A.Word.A.Day. I love this free service and I enjoy learning new words. Recently they had a series of words about words. What could be better? Anyway, I have two samples from A.Word.A.Day for you to enjoy. You can sign up for the free service and get new words every day as well. Click HERE to find out how. Here are your two words.

antimetabole
PRONUNCIATION:
(AN-ti-muh-TAB-uh-lee) 
MEANING:
noun: A repetition of words or an idea in a reverse order.
Example: "To fail to plan is to plan to fail."
ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek antimetabole, from anti- (opposite) + metabole (change), from meta- (after, along) + bole (a throw). Earliest documented use: 1589.

hendiadys
PRONUNCIATION:
(hen-DY-uh-dis) 
MEANING:
noun: A figure of speech in which two words joined by a conjunction are used to convey a single idea instead of using a word and its modifier.
Example: "pleasant and warm" instead of "pleasantly warm"
ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin hendiadys, from Greek hen dia duoin (one by two). Earliest documented use: 1589.

My critique partners have pointed out my protagonists are often just too good to be believed. Yup. I like my characters to be perfect. The ladies at Writers Helping Writers have a terrific post that I find particularly helpful in this area. You can find it HERE.

Kathy Temean at Writing and Illustrating has a wonderful post, 90 Things to Know About Your Character Before Writing. Click HERE to make sure you cover it all.

Last week I offered a hardcover copy of Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington. This weeks winner is Michael G-G. Michael is a middle-grade writer and shares his thoughts on two different blogs -- Middle Grade Mafioso and Project Mayhem. You can click on their titles to find them. Congratulations, Michael! I will get the book out to you this week. For the rest of you, fear not! I have another great book to give away this week.

As writers of books for young people, one piece of advice we hear with great
frequency is to make sure our main characters are likable, someone for whom readers will root. Kristin Levine took quite a risk in writing her latest book, The Paper Cowboy. Her main character, Tommy, is definitely a kid with issues -- the kind middle-graders will relate to. His mother is abusive and very likely mentally ill. His older sister is badly burned and is in the hospital for month. Tommy feels like her accident was his fault. His father is completely uncommunicative. But Tommy has trouble dealing with all this in positive ways. He is basically a bully and a pretty unlikable character a lot of the time. With Tommy's life being pretty much nothing but crap, he finds someone whose life is crappier and throws some extra crap on him. That's how he deals with his lousy life. But he isn't really comfortable with this role, and there is a chink in his bully armor that the object of his bullying and that boy's dad work away at until they find the real Tommy, who is more afraid than mean.

This is just a tiny peek into a book that is so rich with very believable, well-rounded characters set in the McCarthy era 1950s, which plays in important
Kristin Levine
role in the story. It was a time that created great vulnerability for a lot of people. The connection between the big bully Joe McCarthy and the small-town bully Tommy is a great storytelling device and works extremely well in this terrific work of historical fiction. I highly recommend this book.

I have a gently-read ARC for one of you. 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.


And don't forget to check Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog for more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways. Click HERE to visit.