Sunday, June 18, 2017

Innocent Heroes -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Good books don't give up all their secrets at once.” 
~ Stephen King ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
I have a writing acquaintance who announced one day, “If you don’t write every single day, you are not really a writer.” I don’t write every day, and that really put me off. It’s good to know I’m not the only one. HERE is a post from Jami Gold that will give you permission to take some time off, if you need that. 

The Guide to Literary Agents blog has a guest post HERE by Jolina Petersheim that will give you 10 Tips for (Re)Writing a Novel. It’s refreshing. 

Writing your author bio can be pretty daunting. HERE are tips to make your bio more interesting. 

It's after seven in the evening and the temperature is down to 105. We are having quite a heat wave here. Welcome to Sacramento summer. We are supposed to have three days of 109, but then it will cool down to 106 and, finally by Friday 100. Praying for the marine layer and the Delta breeze to return. Please send cooling thoughts our way.

Last week I promised an ARC of Kate DiCamillo's cute new book, Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package. This week's winner is Greg Pattridge. Congratulations, Greg! If you don't know Greg, he is a middle-grade writer and teacher from Colorado. He has a terrific blog, Always in the Middle, with wonderful book reviews and great writing tips. Check it out HERE. Greg, I will get your book out this week. For the rest of you I have another terrific book giveaway, so keep reading.

Checking out the list of available books for the Manhattan Book Review, I ran across a book called Innocent Heroes: Stories of Animals in the First World War by Sigmund Brouwer. I couldn't figure out if it was fiction or non-fiction, but it sounded intriguing, so I grabbed it. It's kind of a hybrid and absolutely fascinating. What a great way for kids to learn about this chapter in our history. Here is the review I wrote for the Manhattan Book Review. 

War was quite different in the days of WWI. Allied soldiers spent miserable days and nights in cold, muddy trenches waiting for the many horrors the German army would throw at them. Besides the usual shelling and attacks with bayoneted rifles, the Germans used deadly gas that caused any caught in it to die horrible deaths. Radio communication was unreliable. Consequently, the men sometimes had to rely on animals — carrier pigeons, cats, specially-trained dogs of various breeds, and horses and mules. Several of these animals saved many lives and acted in truly heroic ways, even when badly injured. Some were even awarded medals for their brave acts. This book is historical fiction, following three fictional Canadian soldiers through the build-up to a great battle. Each chapter tells a bit of their story and how a heroic animal impacted what they experienced. Each fictional chapter is followed by a good write-up of a real heroic animal and its story. These include some grainy photographs. Excellent
Sigmund Brouwer
back-matter gives even more information. The writing is fine and the stories captivating. This will be a great introduction to WWI for the middle-grade set and others. Don’t miss this one.

I have a gently-read hardback of this book to share with 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 11, 2017

Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
"What separates the talented individual from the successful one
is a lot of hard work." 
~ Stephen King ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Are you ready to start an agent search? Nathan Branford has a TERRIFIC post HERE to help you land the right agent for you. 

Greg Pattridge at Always in the Middle recently completed an SCBWI mentorship program. His first post HERE about some of the things he learned is absolutely dashing! His blog is always worth your time. 

Writers Helping Writers is always good, but the post HERE by Angela Ackerman is chock full of helpful links for writers. Check it out. 

Last week I offered an ARC of Reformed by Justin Weinberger. The reaction to mention of peanut allergies was eye-opening for me. I don't know a soul who has that allergy, but it's clear many of you do and that it's really a frightening problem. The winner this week is Patty Hawthorn. Congratulations, Patty! I will get the book out to you this week. For the rest of you, I have another fun giveaway, so please keep reading.

A couple years ago, my daughter Maggie, the actor, worked at the Utah Shakespeare Festival as an on-stage musician. During her time there she learned to play the accordion. One of my all-time favorite bumper stickers says, "Play an Accordion. Go to Jail. It's the law." I always thought it was hysterically funny, and then my daughter learned to play one. AND that particular talent helped get her a job in the national tour of Once, a fabulous musical. I still think accordions are a little funny. What does all this have to do with my blog? Read on, my friends, and you will know.  

I was contacted by a Candlewick Press publicist with an offer for some ARCs for review. I chose a few off the list and received review copies a few weeks ago. I am trying to find time in my busy schedule to get these in. The first one I picked up is Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package by Kate DiCamillo. First, I really like her books. Secondly, her books for very young middle-grade readers are usually quick and fun. This book is no exception.

Eugenia Lincoln is a cranky old woman who lives with her sweet sister, Baby Lincoln. One day a mysterious package arrives addressed to Eugenia. Inside is an accordion! (This made me think that I am not the only one tickled by the very idea of accordions. I think Kate DiCamillo and I have something in common.) Eugenia is clearly annoyed that someone has sent this to her, and she immediately goes about trying to get rid of the thing. She runs an ad to sell it, and an interesting character, Gaston La Treaux, shows up at her door. Eugenia thinks he is there to buy the accordion, but La Treaux announces he is there to teach her to make beautiful music with her new instrument. The entire neighborhood seems interested in these happenings, showing up and seeming to have an entirely different agenda than that of Eugenia. How all this untangles itself and what the outcome is is predictably funny and charming, as are all the DiCamillo early middle-grade books I have read. The exaggerated and cartoonish drawings by Chris Van Dusen that accompany this funny story are perfect to complete it. If you are a fan of books for this age, this one is not to be missed. It's terribly cute.
Kate DiCamillo

I have a gently-read ARC of this book to share with 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 4, 2017

Reformed -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, 
no surprise in the reader.” 
~ Robert Frost ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Randy Ingermanson can help you understand how to start and end a scene HERE

Donna Galanti wrote a gust post HERE on Writers in the Storm about how to find your childlike wonder and bring it into your writing for children. 

Having any trouble with writer’s block? Sue Heavenrich has a great post HERE to help you out. 

As summer begins in earnest, I should warn you I might disappear now and again from blogging, but I will be back whenever that happens. I have a couple of writer's conferences I will attend, and I might take my grandchildren on a road trip to Colorado. 

Last week, I had the pleasure of reviewing Susan May Olson's new book, Time Jump Coins. The winner of the ARC is Danielle Hammelef, who always shares my link for extra chances. Thanks for doing that, Danielle. It works! Congratulations to you! I will get the book out to you this week. If you didn't win, I do have another giveaway, so please keep reading. 

I am a sucker for books with bullies. It always makes for such interesting conflict. When I saw Reformed by Justin Weinberger on the list of books available for review from San Francisco Book Review, I snapped it up. I wanted to show you how cute the cover for this book is, but I was not able to get the image from anywhere. Not that it wasn't where I could see it, but try as I might, I couldn't get it to copy in a usable format. If you click on the title, you can see it at Barnes and Noble or if you click on the author's name, you can see it at his site. Here is the review I wrote for SFBR. 

Ian Hart ends up in trouble the last day of middle school. The teacher had given a writing assignment, but Ian didn’t get it done. At lunch, one of his “friends,” Devon, plays a cruel trick on a boy named Max. Devon gets Ian to trade lunch with him. It’s not difficult since Ian’s mother packed him a peanut butter sandwich even after Ian begged her not to. Devon gives the sandwich to Max, who is highly allergic to peanuts and immediately goes into anaphylactic shock, nearly dying. The boys are found out, and, because it is so serious, Devon, Ian, and two other boys are sent to a reform summer camp. It is there Ian learns a lot about what true friendship is and how cruel bullies can be.


Justin Weinberger
Author Justin Weinberger seems to have some experience with middle-school bullies and how they work. This is an excellent portrait of bullies and their methods and meanness. It’s not a perfect book, as some of it stretches readers’ credulity, but it is pretty effective at getting its core messages across. The writing is good and the characters fully developed and believable. Middle-grade readers will like this.


I have a gently-read ARC of this book to share with 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.