Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cousins and Robbers -- A Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:

“Most of us don't need a psychiatric therapist as much as a
friend to be silly with.”  
 ~ Robert Brault ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:

The Editor’s Blog has a terrific post you can find HERE that covers habits, motions, and common actions of fictional characters. This is a good one. 

Find Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling HERE. This is a very fresh take. Don’t miss this one.

Anne R. Allen has a great post on her blog about four ways to NOT start a novel. This is worth your time. Click HERE to read it. 

When we last met, I promised a signed copy of Bird by Crystal Chan to one of you. This week's winner is Reader Noir. Congratulations, Reader Noir! WooHoo for you! I will get the book in the mail to you this week. Reader Noir are a couple of mysterious people who go by the initials are R and K. They write book reviews on a blog called Reader Noir which you can find by clicking HERE. I've just subscribed recently so I can't tell you much else. But check it out. I will have another give away this week, so stay tuned.

I was contacted recently and asked if I would be interested in reviewing a middle-grade book, Cousins and Robbers -- Tales of Black Jack Jetty by Michael A. Carestio as part of a blog tour. I had never done a blog tour before and the book sounded interesting, so I agreed.They have some nice giveaways, so be sure to read all the way through and check out their graphic near the end. 

At the very end of Black Jack Jetty, a crooked hook of land along the New Jersey shore, lives an extended family of aunts and cousins there for the summer months. The country is in recession and this is not the usual summer. Parents have been laid off and jobs are hard to find and there is a lot more stress on all the family members than usual. In addition, a number of daring daylight robberies have taken place in the last several days. Riley is nine and she is the real leader of the group, and in a few days she will be joined by cousins Jack, Willy, Nick, and Angel, who isn't really a cousin, but is a student of their aunt, but all accept him as if he were a member of the family.

The series of daylight robberies seems to be nearing the family home and, since
Michael Carestio
there is a treasure that had been found by their Uncle Black Jack, and since the rumors of the treasure seems to have exaggerated its value, the family is worried the robbers have their home in their sites. The kids decide they will be the ones to solve the crimes. They spend some time on the widow's walk of the house and eventually figure out the robbers are likely pretending to be landscapers to blend in. They identify their vehicles. When they are out riding their bikes one day, Riley and Jack are investigating the inside of the trailer they believe is involved in the robberies, when the robbers come out, close up the trailer, and drive away and into a terrible neighborhood in nearby Atlantic City. Angel and Nick follow, sending Willy home after making him promise if they aren't back in two hours, Willy is to tell Aunt Jane. 

This is a fun little mystery with characters young middle-grade readers will relate to.  The bad guys are seriously bad and the family is pretty realistic. As I try to look at this from the point of view of the intended audience, I think  young middle-graders will enjoy it. From my perspective as a writer and critiquer, I had problems with it. The omniscient narrator -- a literate seagull -- was hard for me to wrap my head around. The book could also use a good round of proofreading. There is a prologue that is not really a prologue at all, but a segment of one of the chapters. That said, I think it will be successful with the younger crowd who really like mysteries with heroes their own age. 

I have a signed copy for one of you. All you need do is have a US address, be a follower or subscriber (easy and free -- check the right-hand column), and leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, tweet or post about this post with the link and let me know. I'll give you extra chances. Please check out the blog tour by clicking HERE and see their very special giveaways. And don't forget to stop by Shannon Messenger's Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday post by clicking HERE

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bird by Crystal Chan -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:

“I learned long ago that being Lewis Carroll was infinitely more
exciting than being Alice.” 
~ Joyce Carol Oates ~ 

Gifts for My Writer Friends:

Click HERE to find some good ideas for critiquing.

HERE is a great list of tips for editing and proofing.

If you click HERE you will find a good list of Ten Tips for Aspiring Children’s Book Writers. 

We have been having a wonderful few days in Cedar City, Utah with our grandchildren visiting our daughter, Maggie, who is an on-stage musician at the Utah Shakespeare Festival playing for Twelfth Night. It's a terrific production and it was fun to see her in a different kind of role than we usually see her. We also saw Comedy of Errors, a very fun production set in the old West. 

We are still in Utah, but our grandchildren are off exploring with their Auntie M, so I can get this post up. Last week I offered a copy of Elizabeth O. Dulemba's  marvelous book A Bird on Water Street. Summer seems to have cut back on my commenters, but that means those of you who stop by have a better chance of winning, so we get to see names of winners repeated now and again. This weeks winner is Myra. Congratulations, Myra! I will be getting your book out to you this week. Stay tuned, though. I have another great giveaway this week.

Being on a long road trip with my favorite chauffeur (my hubby, Dave, does almost all the driving) gives me time to chip away at my TBR list. On the way to Utah, I finished reading Bird by Crystal Chan. Way back in February, I won a copy of Bird from the Teaching Authors blog. This is a blog run by six children's authors who also teach writing and it is worth your time to check it out. Click HERE to visit. The book has been high on my TBR pile ever since, but with all the reviews I do for San Francisco Book Review, sometimes my TBR pile lies untouched for awhile. But I am making time this summer for my pleasure reading. This book is a real pleasure to read.

Jewel never had the chance to know her brother. His real name was John, but everyone called him Bird, a name given him by his grandfather. The day Jewel was born, Bird tried to fly from a high cliff near their home. Jewel's father and grandfather, Jamaicans, believed a bad spirit called a duppy had caused Bird to believe he could fly, ending in his death. Jewel had lived all her twelve years in the shadow of this lost brother. Grandpa never spoke again. Her parents were both, it seemed, eternally and deeply sad and angry. 

A new boy shows up during the summer. He is visiting his uncle and he and
Crystal Chan
Jewel immediately become fast friends. Friends have been in short supply for Jewel. The boy's name is John and when Jewel introduces him to her family, they all struggle with this strange visitor who looks like he could be Jewel's brother. Grandpa believes he is a duppy and Jewel needs to be protected from him. He goes through many strange rituals to protect his granddaughter. Her parents react in strange ways and John's presence threatens to shatter this family. When the truth of John starts to come out, it threatens Jewel's very existence.

Crystal Chan has written a story of love and friendship, of lies and truths, of dreams and hopes, of growing up and of running for cover. The characters are well-rounded and very believable. This is a rich and complex story, beautifully written, and one that will haunt your memories for a long time. 

When I won Bird, I received a signed hardback of the UK version. I am going to share that with one of you. All you need do is have a US address, be either a subscriber or follower (if you aren't yet, please check the right hand column to sign up), and leave a comment. If you would like extra chances in the drawing, please post this link on Facebook or your blog or Tweet about the giveaway or something like that. Let me know you've done that in your comment, and I will give you extra chances.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog for more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and some giveaways. You can find it by clicking HERE.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Bird on Water Street -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:

 “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” 
~ Raymond Carver ~ 
Gifts for My Writer Friends:

The Editor has a great post on how to get your manuscript squeaky clean before you send it out. Click HERE to read it. 

Good post HERE on How to Write a Book from Start to Finish. 

Anne R. Allen is becoming a fixture here with all her great posts. She has one that shouldn’t be missed by blogging writers. Click HERE for 9 great tips to entice readers to your blog. 

When we were last here, I offered my gently read ARC of The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez to one of you. This week's winner is Carol Baldwin. Congratulations, Carol. You can find out more about Carol, a writer and teacher of writing, by visiting her blog by clicking HERE. She and fellow writer Joyce Moyer Hostetter produce a not-to-be-missed enewsletter called Talking Story. You can read an issue and sign up for future issues by clicking HERE. Carol, I will get your book out to you this week. If you are not Carol (and, therefore, not the winner) stay tuned. I have another great giveaway this week.

I flew to Minnesota last week to attend my brother-in-law's memorial service. It was a real celebration and something of which George would have approved. All that flying around gave me the opportunity to chip away at my staggering TBR pile. Right on top, I had Elizabeth O. Dulemba's book, A Bird on Water Street. I won this book on Kirby Larson's blog and am grateful I did. I think it is terrific, and I'd like to tell you about it. 

Jack, 13, lives with his mother and copper-miner father in a small Southern Appalachian town that has been ruined by the mining company and its cavalier handling of the lands. They are not much better about handling the safety of their employees. The company has done so much damage to the area -- land, water, and air -- that other than people and pets, there are no living things for miles around. No trees, no birds, no bugs, no frogs, no fish that can be eaten -- nothing. Jack loves reading about (and dreaming about) living in a place that is rife with flora and fauna. He also dreams of not becoming a miner, something his father plans for Jack and assumes he will accept. But Jack
Elizabeth O. Dulemba
has a plan of his own.

After a bad mining accident and a deep-cutting layoff, the men strike. Things are tough at home and only get tougher. The strike goes on for months and months, putting all kinds of pressure on the family. But then Jack discovers something quite wonderful. 

Elizabeth deftly tells a coming-of-age story woven into a historical novel about an important topic. Middle-schoolers will love the story and characters, and all the while they will be learning important lessons about the environment without even knowing it. I think high-schoolers and adults will enjoy this as well.

When I won the book, Elizabeth inscribed and signed it. I am offering this signed, gently-read copy to one of you. All you need do is have a US address, be a follower or subscriber (it's easy and free -- look in the right-hand column), tell me whether you subscribe or follow, and leave a comment. Next time I post (which may not be for two weeks -- we are going to Utah to see our daughter in Twelfth Night at the Utah Shakespeare Festival), I will draw a name from the hat and one of you will receive this wonderful book. If you want extra chances, Tweet about the giveaway with the link, post the link on Facebook or your own blog, and tell me what you've done. I will give you extra chances. 

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog for more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and some giveaways. You can find it by clicking HERE.