Losing and Finding your Muse

My how time flies! Apparently, while I was snoozing à la Rip Van Winkle, four years have passed me by. That’s an eternity in the world of writing – or almost any other field these days. I don’t really know why I stopped reviewing and writing but I definitely lost my desire for quite some time.

What made me dust off my old blog? I can’t be quite sure but the creative rumblings have been stirring from somewhere deep within as of late. I have realized a couple of things during my hiatus: I am not interested in promotion – that’s a tough thing if you want to be a commercially successful writer. I’ve come to terms with it though, and realize I must be happy even if my creations reach an audience of only one. My interests have changed somewhat, so I am expanding my vision as a writer. I love children’s literature but I have a hankering to try my hand at stuff for grownups.

So, where will tomorrow take me? I’m not sure but I’ll do my best to keep you posted.

MoonShadow: The Nightmare Ninja by Simon Higgins – Giveaway

Today is clear the shelf day. I’ve had Moonshadow: The Nightmare Ninja (Little, Brown, 2011) on the shelf for quite awhile and, while it might be a great book, I’m just not hearing it call me. So, no review today – just passing it on to someone else who might be interested. On the related note of not judging a book by its cover – that’s really what I’m doing here – even though I KNOW that is often a way to miss out on a great story.  However,  I don’t particularly care for martial arts combat and the cover just yells that out to me – what do you think? Nightmare Ninja is the second book in the Moonshadow series. The first is titled Rise of the Ninja.

At any rate, it may be a great book, especially for kids who are into the action/thriller type of drama – and all those ninja-o-philes out there. It garnered some nice review blurbs from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

So, to win this ARC, leave a comment on this post by October 31st and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it.

The Amulet of Amon-Ra by Leslie Carmichael: Review and Giveaway

Today, I’m giving away fellow CBAY author, Leslie Carmichael’s midgrade fantasy, The Amulet of Amon-Ra  (CBAY, 2009). I actually read this awhile ago and it makes a  quick and pleasant read for the third through seventh grade set.

Summary: When Jennifer receives an ancient scarab with a hidden compartment, she travels through time and space to the era of the great female pharaoh, Hatsheput. She uncovers conspiracies and tomb robbers, but can she find her way home?

Genres: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Things to like about this book:   Egyptophiles will like this story. It includes a great deal of history and it could be included in a unit on ancient Egypt.

Audience:  Upper elementary,  MidGrade

Reviewed from: Paperback  provided by publisher.

I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by October 24th and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it.

Six Foolish Fishermen by Robert D. San Souci – Review and Giveaway

This picture book, illustrated by Doug Kennedy and originally published by Hyperion in 2000, has been re-released by Pelican Publishing this September. Robert San Souci has a ton of stories in and around the children’s book world and he often brings his pen down the bayou to concentrate on south Louisiana culture in his subject matter. His stories are staples in our libraries locally.

Six Foolish Fishermen is an example of a “Noodlehead” story. These stories appear in all types of literary traditions and are probably most well known as the “Foolish Jack” stories. In a noodlehead story, the main characters seem to lack even a modicum of common sense yet they somehow manage to come out on top. The noodlehead story is not written to demean any particular person, rather, it allows us to laugh at ourselves and the weaknesses we all share.

San Souci’s version (a take on “The Seven Foolish Fishermen” folktale) is ripe with Cajun dialect, vocabulary, and altered sentence structure – which may turn some readers off – but it provides a good opening into discussion of the Cajun culture. The six fishermen run into several predicaments they try to solve in the most absurd ways, until Henriette comes along and straightens them all out. It is laugh out loud funny. (more…)

Mixing Media – Pinkalicious, the Musical

Last weekend I took my nephew to see Pinkalicious, the Musical at our local community theater. Surrounded by little girls in pink tiaras, he might have felt slightly out of place. I had a great time, however. In case you are one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t know the story, Pinkalicious is a girl whose obsession with anything pink – especially cupcakes – drives her parents batty and creates havoc as she transforms into a great mass of pinkness.

The wildly popular book has become a franchise with as many possibilities as there are colors in an artist’s palette, I suppose. I’m not a huge fan of  picture book franchises – as I find they often become stilted to fit the marketing department’s expectations, and I haven’t read all thePinkalicious sequels, but the idea of turning the picture book into a musical was fascinating to me.

As is the case when moving from one medium to another, the story morphed a bit. I’m not really going to comment on that. But watching all these little kids in the theater, excited about theater, and excited about their book characters come to life, was quite impressive. It was a nice way to introduce the next generation to community theater.

If Pinkalicious hasn’t made it to your little theater community yet, look for it. It is an interesting experience, to say the least. Next spring our troupe is performing an adaptation of David Shannon’sHow I Became a Pirate. I think I’ll take my nephew back – he should feel more at home among the swashbucklers.

The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerilizzi – Review and GiveAway

For your consideration today is The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerilizzi (Simon & Schuster, 2010).  This post apocalyptic science fiction fantasy held my interest through the entire 468 pages. It is definitely a sophisticated step up for DiTerilizzi’s SpiderWick Chronicles fans.  Random tidbit: I could not get the Wizard of Oz out of my head as I read this story.

The story centers around Eva Nine, who is raised by her robot “muthr” in her own safe underground cocoon. Eva’s idyllic, if lonely and artificial, childhood comes to an end as she matures and begins to question the authority of her robot guardian. As it must be in a story like this, her world comes crashing down and she is thrust out into the harsh realities of life to fend for herself.  She is driven to search for another human by an old picture showing another girl, adult, robot, and the magical word “Wondla”.  Her struggle for survival and search for identity make for a good story. Wild imagination gives birth to some memorable creatures in this story – which has been marketed with an interactive component online at wondla.com. The artwork goes a long way in helping to visualize the story. (more…)

Hero by Mike Lupica – Review and Giveaway

Mike Lupica is a favorite author of the middle school set, especially boys. He’s gained a big following with a number of sports related books that always seemed to stay checked out in my library. Sports books aren’t my favorite but his baseball novel Heat impressed me a great deal.  It was so much more than a “sports” book.

His action fantasy Hero was released in November 2010 by Philomel Books. I am guilty of keeping the ARC I picked up for a looong time, but I’m tossing it up today because it is a quick, fun read that will please Lupica fans, in my humble opinion. I liked it anyway!

I’m cheating today with a blurb from Lupica’s website instead of my own:

“Fourteen-year-old Zach Harriman can feel the changes. The sharpening of his senses. The incredible strength. The speed, as though he can textmessage himself across miles. The confidence and the strange need to patrol Central Park at night. His dad had been a hero, a savior to America and a confidante of the president. Then he died, and the changes began in Zach. What Zach never knew was that his father was no ordinary man, he was a superhero, battling the world’s evil. This is a battle that has been waged for generations and that knows no boundaries. (more…)

Smells Like Treasure by Suzanne Selfors – Review and Giveaway

Today I have a quick review of Suzanne Selfors’ midgrade Smells Like Treasure , Little Brown, May 2011. It took me a while to get into this quirky novel about Homer Pudding and his treasure sniffing dog but I think it will have a good following, especially among upper elementary and middle school boys. Smells Like Treasure  is the sequel to last year’s Smells Like Dog and I feel certain there are more of Homer and Dog’s adventures on the horizon.

In Treasure, Homer’s time has come – his time to take over his deceased uncle’s spot in L.O.S.T – Legends, Objects, Secrets and Treasures – a secret society that seeks out those oddities in the world – but never for personal gain. Of course, his right to his uncle’s chair is challenged by his (former) friend Lorelei. She’s an orphan just trying to get ahead in the world – even if it means stomping on Homer. A quest is set and the contest begins. Selfors’ imagination leads to some terrific inventions – such as the cloudcopter, great discoveries -like musical crystals, and amazing characters, including daft Honorable Lord Mockingbird XVIII. (more…)

The House that Witchy Built by Dianne de Las Casas – Review and Giveaway

This cute, cute Halloween addition by Dianne de Las Casas  and illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker is a take on “The House that Jack Built”.  I know, there are a thousand and one stories built on this framework, but there must be a reason. When Halloween rolled around in my library, the perennial favorite of my kindergarteners (and 1st and 2nd graders) was The House that Drac Built by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Not only because of the myriad of scary creatures but because of the repetition, repetition, repetition. I can’t speak for the rest of the world but my students always LOVED saying the story with me. Ah, the sneakiness of new vocabulary deftly dropped into a familiar chant.

But I digress … The House that Witchy Built (Pelican Publishing, 2011) delivers on its promise of Halloween fun, including sound effects for each story element. Between the creaking, rattling, flapping, cackling and smooching – yes, I said smooching – the reader will hardly be able to hear himself above the din. Holly Stone-Barker uses cut paper and collage for the artwork. Have I ever said how much I like this technique? Well, alot, especially for lower elementary stories. Just look at the cover – kids are going to pick that right up – and every page is just as inviting. (more…)

13 Curses by Michelle Harrison – Review and Giveaway

Much as I love fantasy, I am woefully ignorant of fairy lore. So when I pulled 13 Curses (Little Brown, 2011) by Michelle Harrison out of a box of ARC’s I received from Hachette Book Group, I found I was in for an education. I really enjoyed this book! The backstory kept referring to so many events I realized I must be missing something, so I did a little research and discovered 13 Curses is #2 in a trilogy by this British author. The first was 13 Treasures (Little Brown, 2010). Harrison fills in very nicely, so the reader can enjoy the story on its own.

Red is a loner, and a fugitive (owing to her involvement in the fairy foundling trade in the previous book). She is determined to find her own young brother who was snatched by fairies from the orphanage. Her story is intertwined with that of Tanya, who can see fairies (a rare talent), and has had her own dealings with their realm (again from 13 Treasures).  The girls and Tayna’s friend Fabian  come together to hunt for the titular 13 Curses, represented by the charms ripped from a bracelet given to Tanya by her grandmother. Finding these cursed charms is the only chance Red has of recovering her stolen brother – and their time is running out. The fairies don’t seem too concerned about playing nice and the hidden charms become more perilous as the seconds tick by – Red and her friends are in serious danger.

The suspense is great and the fairy lore is rather dark. I stayed up till the wee hours reading this one. Hachette has a nice PR campaign going and a neat website devoted to the trilogy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the final installment 13 Secrets. I smell a movie …

I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by midnight on August 28th and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it. It’s a great book to have on your to-be-read pile. Share the contest with anyone who might be interested.

Genres: Midgrade, YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tales

Things to like about this book: It is very good fantasy! The story is suspenseful and I enjoyed the mythology very much. Rowan grows tremendously as a character and she embraces her positive characteristics – choosing a place to belong and learning to love those around her.

Audience: Middle School and early YA. The real and described violence, seriously menacing tone, kidnappings, and loss of family would make me hesitate before putting it into 3rd grader’s hands.

Reviewed from: ARC provided by publisher.