Sunday, July 28, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard and Princess Academy - two reviews and one 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." ~Phillip Pullman~

Some Gifts for My Writer Friends:

Click HERE for an excellent blog about tools for writers.

Who would you rather have ten writing tips from than Joyce Carol Oates? Click HERE to find them.  

Katherine Longshore wrote a wonderful guest post on Plotting, Pantsing, and Knowing When to Let Go. See it HERE

Last week I offered a copy of Patricia MacLachlan's The Box Car Children Beginning. It was fun to see so many comments from people who have a real love for these books. But we could only choose one to win, and that one is Tarissa, a new blog follower! Congratulations, Tarissa. I will be sending the book out this week. 

This week I want to talk about two books -- one new, one not so new, one I won't give away, and one that I will. I like having a giveaway with each post, so sometimes that means double duty, because although I am desperately trying to winnow my books, some I just have to keep.

The book I am keeping is Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall. This one was just released this month, and I am sure it will be a big hit. I will not be surprised to see very sophisticated middle-graders read this book, but it will be more popular with teens and adults. The story takes place in Mississippi in the 1960s and the main character is nine-year-old Starla Claudelle, a feisty and smart girl. But she's not smart enough to control her anger and it gets her in trouble. Starla lives with her grandmother Mamie, a real stickler for the rules who seems to take pleasure in grounding Starla when something important to her is coming up. Starla's mother went to Nashville to become a singing star when Starla was three, and her father works on an oil rig in the Gulf and is away for months at a time. When Starla is grounded once again for the Fourth of July, she goes to town for the parade anyway (Mamie has gone and left her at home on her own). There she finds herself is such trouble, she feels she has no choice but to run away and find her mother, who, Starla is sure, will fix everything. She also believes her father will join them and everything will be the way it should be. Starla gets a ride from a black woman named Eula who
Susan Crandall
has a white baby with her. She promises Starla to help her get to Nashville, but takes her to her home. It turns out Eula's husband is not only huge, but abusive and a little crazy. Her time at Eula's is so frightening, she is sure she will never get out of there alive. I wasn't too sure either! I don't want to give away too much, but I can't tell you enough how much I admire and enjoyed this book. The writing is stunning and the story is powerful and important. This book gives a very real picture of life in the deep South during the 1960s and is filled with characters who are interesting, palpable, and, for the most part, endearing. Whistling Past the Graveyard should be on everyone's summer reading list. This is the book -- sorry -- I am not giving away. I already have family and friends lined up to read it. But this one is really worth getting, so do it!

A while back, I went on a Shannon Hale binge and read several of her books. I really liked them all. The other day I found a hardback copy of Princess Academy in my bookcase that is in pretty good shape and decided someone else should enjoy this book. It is the story of Miri, a mountain dweller whose family has, for generations, quarried stone in the mountain. But the king's priests have somehow divined that the next princess will come from Miri's village. The girls of the village are sent to an academy to learn to be proper princesses. After a year, the prince will come and choose his bride. At the academy, Miri runs into a very harsh mistress and a lot of competition from the other girls. But Miri is conflicted. Does she really want the prince to choose her or would she rather return to her village and try to win the heart of someone there? When bandits decide to try to kidnap the future princess, Miri has to get the girls to work together and use a unique talent the mountain dwellers have to save themselves. This is a very clever, fun story. Miri is a terrific character and the story has some interesting twists. I can't imagine anyone who likes middle-grade
Shannon Hale
books not liking this one. If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for? It is fun and interesting. AND, you can have my copy by simply having a U.S. address, being a follower, and leaving a comment. So please do. I would love to hear from you. 

If you are a real fan of middle grade books, make sure you check out Marvelous Middle-Grade Mondays over at the blog of Shannon Messenger, writer extraordinaire. You can find it by clicking HERE.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Boxcar Children Beginning -- Review and a Giveaway

Thought for the Day:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~Teddy Roosevelt~

A Gift for My Writer Friends:

For a stellar blog post about parental voyeurism and a nice shout out to MOI!, click HERE

If you click HERE, you will find a terrific guest post on Criticism at the wonderful blog The Bookshelf Muse.

You will find a simply lovely poem about a garbage man if you click HERE. Yes, you read that right, a lovely poem about a garbage man. I highly recommend it.  
On my last post, I offered copies of Calvin Coconut: Extra Famous and Season of Change to one lucky winner. Tonight my grandson, Gehrig, picked (cue the follow spot!) Jill Haugh as the winner. WooHoo for you, Jill. I will get the books out to you this week. If you are not familiar with Jill's blog, I had a little nut-tree, you are in for a treat. Check it out. In fact, if you check out the first of the Gifts for My Writer Friends, you will see one of her great posts. Her blog can by found HERE, and it's always worth a look.

For the last week and a half, we had the pleasure of a good, long visit from one of our kids -- a former exchange student from Hamburg, Germany we hosted 28 years ago. Our little Sonni is now a most wonderful woman, wife, and mother of three. She brought the whole family, and we had a spectacular visit. The last evening they were here, we had the quintessential American experience and went to a minor league baseball game complete with a win for the home team and fireworks after the game. It was there Sonni and our two daughters, Maggie and Sara, recreated a photo taken in 1985. I think it is perfect. Sara absolutely nailed the expression, didn't she? Ah, the memories! I couldn't help sharing. Anyway, this is all leading up to a very simple blog post for tonight. I just don't have the time or energy to come up with something brand new for tonight, so I'm linking to a review I wrote a while ago.

Tonight, I am giving away a copy of one middle-grade book for younger middle-graders -- a hardcover copy of The Boxcar Children Beginning written by Patricia MacLachlan -- a new addition to the series from the 1940s written by Gertrude Chandler Warner. The publisher contracted with Patricia MacLachlan to write a prequel to the original series. I was particularly interested in reading the Boxcar Children because one of my critique partners told me how much my novel reminded her of the series. Not a bad comparison, as far as I'm concerned. There have been about a bazillion copies of Boxcar Children books sold! Anyway, if you click HERE, you can read the review I wrote some months ago for the Sacramento Book Review of this book.

That's it for me tonight. I need sleep! If you'd like to win this book, please be a follower and leave a comment. If you aren't a follower yet, just check the right side of this post and become one. Easy Peasy! The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only please.

If you aren't reading Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog where so many Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday blogs are listed, you might just want to check it out. Click HERE to join the fun.