Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review: Moon Over Manifest (This year's Newberry)

This year's Newberry winner is a delightful mix of nostalga, history and a longing to belong. I found the author's unique twist in storytelling both intriguing and refreshing.

Moon Over Manifest begins with a tom-boy, Depression-era stock heroine, Abilene Tucker, arriving in her father's hometown of Manifest, Kansas. She's used to hopping trains, poor living conditions,and a rough life. She discovers some forgotten treasures of another homeless child her foster-type guardian, Shady, had taken in years before. As she works to unravel the mystery of these trinkets, she opens up a story from the past and puts the pieces together to find where she fits into its folds.

The last Newberry I read was The Graveyard Book. Though I found Neil Gaiman's prose absolutely delightful to read, I didn't care much for the story. Clare Vanderpool's prose in Moon Over Manifest were nothing outstanding, put her story tugged at my heartstrings with warmth I enjoyed and very much missing in the Graveyard Book.

I would easily recomend this book to those who love a homespun type of story, and lovers of history. And I would give it 100 stars compared to Snooki's book, A Shore Thing. (Check out this past post to see what I am referring to).

Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day Contest: win a signed copy of The Clockwork Three

This, my very first contest, has nothing really to do with George Washington, or any other president for that matter. It just happens that the day I am posting it is on President's Day. So here's my contest; it's going to be very easy. I like easy! Make a comment on this post. You get one chance at winning just for your post. If you are a follower, mention that--there is another chance. If you are not a follower, become one, as that will gain you a chance. Mention my blog somewhere in your social media travels and that will gain you another chance. (You just need to mention where you told people about my blog in your comment). There it is, EASY. I will announce the winner on the first of March. In case you didn't notice my banner at the right of this entry, the prize for my President's Day contest is a signed copy of Scholastic's popular kids book, The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby. You can check out my review of this book if you'd like.

Watch for next month's contest where I will be giving away free puppets.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Today Show Blunder (But then smut sells more than Newberrys)

I can't beleive it, one of the few TV shows I ever watch just sunk in my personal ratings. I read an article on the SCBWI website today about how the first time in the eleven years the Today Show didn't have the Newberry and Caldecot winners on their show after the awards were announced at the mid-winter ALA conference. As if that insult was not enough, the time slot, that these guest appearances would have aired in past years, was filled by another author; an auther about as far away from the caliber of a Newberry as one could get--Snooki (reality TV star of Jersey Shore). Since I had just blogged about Snooki's less than stellar book last week, having seen that interview on the Today Show, (unaware that it had taken the place of this year's Newberry winner, Moon Over Manifest--a book that I have read, loved, and plan to review on this blog soon), this caught my interest. You can read an excellent article on thisToday Show faux pas posted on publishers weekly. You can also review what I had to say about Snooki's book last week on my blog. What is this world coming to? Will sumtty, poorly written works soon become the books of choice for our children, and awards like the Newberry will merely mean a gold label on a jacket cover?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Romance Blog Fest: Angry hair makes for good first impressions.

A lot of my fellow writers have been talking about this blog fest for some time. I didn't think I would have time to participate, so I just blew it off. At lunch today, I started reading some of the other posts. I then thought, I can do this. I might be a little late, but, heck it's never too late for romance. So here is an excerpt of romance from one of my works in progress. It's middle grade, so it's not too steamy. In fact, it's not even romantic, but this is how these two kids first meet. It's all I've got--and I wanted to join the fun. It's actually the first few lines of my WIP Literary Loom. I'm hoping to send out querys soon to find and agent.

Josh scanned the unfamiliar classroom. There was only one empty seat—the front row, off to one side. It was next to a strange looking girl. Her desk was scooted apart from the others—or maybe the others did the scooting away.

Her mousy brown hair grew from her head like it was angry, or at least never saw the likes of one of those iron thingys girls used to mess with their hair.

Josh’s pontoon feet suddenly didn’t feel so large. Maybe he wouldn’t be the weirdest kid at this school after all.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What do John Grisham and Snooki Have in Common?

Their name alone was sufficient to get their books published.

You most likely know who John Grisham is, and you're probably saying, "hold on a minute, he's a famous writer and his legal thrillers are a good read. Snooki, on the other hand, you might be clueless--unless you or your kids are big MTV fans. (For the record, I am not a fan, but learned about Snooki via the Today show when they spot-lighted her new novel. She is a regular on the hit reality show, Jersey Shore, which is basically a bunch of moral-less young adults of Italian heritage living their wild lifestyle on the Jersey shore in front of the camera).

I waited for three months to get a copy from my local libray of John Grisham's first attempt at middle grade fiction. I finally got it last week: Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer. From the first page, the book never ceased to amaze me at the total lack of understanding this seasoned author had in regards to writing for children. He would constantly talk down to the reader, defining simple words like carousel in a plethora of "as you know, Bob," moments, or bringing in new characters with descriptions such as, "Mr. Mount was in his midthirties, and had once worked as a lawyer at at gigantic firm in a skycraper in Chicago." I felt like I was reading a first grade reader, but with more words. The story was told from an omnicient point of view. This dis-allowed me to connect and/or warm up to the main character, Theo. The story was told 99% through narrative. A perfect example of tell, don't show. The dialog was thus left flat, accomplishing nothing but filler on the page. Good children's books are just the opposite of this: show, don't tell, using the narrative to move the story forward.
If I had written this book, I couldn't have even taken 4th place in a first chapter contest at a poorly attended local writer's conference.

Snooki's writing was somewhat more engaging compared to Theodore Boone. That's not saying much. (I admit, I only read the first 30 pages, compliments of my Nook free samples. I could see where the novel was headed--sex and promiscuity--and I didn't care to read on). The reason I was even drawn to this book was because of the interview on the Today show. There she had mentioned she had written the novel in 3 months. My first novel took me 1 year, a couple of writers' conferences and how-to books to complete, and it stunk! I was curious to see the quality of a twenty year old girl who sounded as if she had pulled C's in high school English--if she even graduated at all. She did mention, though it was not really stressed, that she had recieved the help of another writer. OBVIOUSLY! The following is an excerpt from an Amazon review I found nailed it on the head. I am truly saddened to think there are authors who have not been and never will be published, who have spent lifetimes dedicating the totality of their being to their art. Yet this book is currently # 24 on the NYT best seller list. America... you are lost.

The point I'm trying to make here is that this lack-luster, flat-plotted, first-time novel of a minimally educated young women gets highlighted and promoted on national TV. And so does a substandard children's novel. All the while, we as struggling writers, whose skill and writing surpass these two novels by leaps and bounds, labor through poorly attended book signings and time consuming blog tours to try and promote our books on our own because we don't have the name. Or, in my case, we struggle to even be seen by the agents and editors. It doesn't seem fair.

But then, life isn't fair. We can feel good, however, in the knowledge that when someone does buy and read our books, and they like them, that little trimph occured becasue WE earned it, not our name.