Monday, May 30, 2016

Life Changing Podcast with Kate DiCamillo

A few weeks ago Kate DiCamillo held a podcast to discuss her book Raymie Nightingale with students around the world. The podcast was open for registration only from schools and libraries and I could not pass up the opportunity to ask my library to register. I sent out invites and info inviting anyone who wanted to come, if I was going to weasel my way into this podcast I was going to offer the same chance to any other readers that wanted to hear Kate DiCamillo speak.

I am so thankful to my library for setting up the event.

It's interesting to form an opinion of someone, a person you admire and strive to be someone who would win their approval of only in your own head, only to have that perfect vision, not shattered, but rearranged into a more truthful, and ultimately more inspiring vision.

Several times Ms DiCamillo was praised for her work, shown deep appreciation for a cherished memory or quip from her stories and each time she seemed truly taken aback and confused that anyone felt so strongly about her work. She was told her work was wonderful and her response was, "oh, nooo, I don't think so," and she's laughed at her own self deprecation.

My first thought was, How could she possibly not know her work is AMAZINGLY PERFECT?

And then it hit me. Because she's just like me! She gets just as nervous about sharing her work, about pouring her heart out on paper and risking rejection. Her fame in publishing hadn't brought her some magical dose of confidence that kept her writing fantastic books that continue to grow in popularity (and sales). She has to work at it, she has to overcome her own fears and doubts and push through the writers block and just go with it.

Of course, that probably seems obvious to everyone else, but I appreciate her work so much I couldn't see past the flawless simplicity to think maybe she actually wished she had changed something, had possibly done better.

Raymie Nightingale is very different from her other books. No animals, as she put it, but it's more than that. It's not the very human casting of the story, it's not the friendship. The difference is how Raymie changed. In one summer she grew from a young girl hoping to bring her father back into a young woman who realizes the world is not made of fantasies and wishful thinking.

Raymie experienced shock, heartbreak, hope, determination, and loyalty and in the end became a better person for her troubles.

It was a beautiful story, a very real story, told very simply, but packed with deep meaning and emotion. I don't know if I'm just getting more sensitive, but this book made me cry. Several times.

Strength, I have betrayed you!

I left the podcast in a daze. I felt a bit like I'd imagine Raymie felt after her father called just as she was hoped and then realized that was no longer what she wanted... Only what I no longer wanted was to pretend like I was a writer and to truly become a writer. I don't need to be perfect, I don't need to read and wish I could write more like another writer, I just need to overcome my own self deprecation and do it. After all, that's what Kate DiCamillo did. She just did it and something clicked and she kept going.

That was basically her advice, just do it.

She did recommend books to the kids, one of which I checked out before leaving the library because she said it was one that really touched her and inspired her. The Wild Robot.

(5 stars)

I read this book with an entirely different point of view. I kept thinking, what a wonderful book, but this is not how I would write. Instead of wishing I could have written a book like this, that I could write a book like this, it was simply clear that this was someone else's style, a wonderful book that I thoroughly enjoyed... And that was it. I was no longer wishing to write like someone else, I was wishing to write like me and have a published book that someone else could feel as deeply about as I was feeling for The Wild Robot.

(I cried during this book too btw)

It was so sad, and so happy, and so innocent. If you haven't read it, I'd recommend this book to anyone. Just wonderful and I was rooting for everyone, though as the am author points out, in life there is always death. But more life comes from it.

I really hope there is a sequel, there's definitely room for one and I think it would be great to know how Roz's story really ends.

So, if this podcast happened so many weeks ago, why am I just now writing about it?

Well, for starters, I couldn't fully place what her words had affected and how I'd changed from the experience. I was a little depressed, highly motivated, and confused as to where to begin again.

Although I am not as diligent about writing as I tell myself I will be, I have pulled out a few manuscripts, rewritten a few and am still revising my biggest book project I have going. Maybe some day I'll reach the four pages a day as Ms DiCamillo suggested at the beginning. I steal away as much time as I can, but the important thing is I know I CAN do it. I can work towards my dreams, I've seen so many others do it, and if they can feel as self conscious and as insanely nit picky as I do, then I can move past my doubts and do my best. Or at least I'll try... πŸ˜‰

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Upcoming Reviews

I took the advice of a friend and reached out to start receiving Advanced Reader Copies straight from the publisher. I had been considering the idea and wishing I knew how, not knowing where to begin or if my blog and my opinion were important enough to be considered for such a publicity endeavor. I did some research first, finding out who to contact, what to say, what info to present about my blog and I prepared myself for rejection. I really want to be first in line, to upgrade my blog and find a larger audience. I love reading, I love stories and I love to tell stories and I enjoy being a part of the writing/publishing process and getting books into the hands of readers.

So I sent out a few emails. Two emails, actually. Thinking I'd hear nothing of it and forget all about my fanciful dream a few weeks from now.

But I did get a reply... TWO replies in fact, both adding me to their publicity list to receive ARCs! My first ARC is on its way!

I contacted several publishers after and I may contact a few more. I'm looking to receive Fantasy, SciFi, and Horror mostly, but we'll see what comes of this! I am so excited, I never thought anyone would reply and now I have four total publishing companies with my name and my blog on their lists!

I've been running this blog for two years now, most actively in the last 8 months reviewing personal book choices as well as those offered by blogging for books and a few Indi reads.  I've always wondered about ARCs and only own a few that I had to physically be present to get and now I have a means to receive them personally 😁

My first ARC sent straight to me for review is Nevernight by Jay Kristoff! As soon as it arrives I'll be reviewing Nevernight and I am so freaking excited. I've read all his books and they seriously keep getting better and more epic as he advances in his career. Illuminae is so popular right now that he and Amie can't even finish their signing lines! Hopefully when they're here in November I'll be able to get all my books signed.

Right now I'm trying to finish The Fireman by Joe Hill before Nevernight gets here. Joe Hill is another author that I've followed all his publishings. NOS4A2 is easily my favorite, along with Wraith that was published as a graphic novel, but The Fireman has potential to replace good old Charlie Manx... We'll see. The book is fantastic so far.

On a side note, there's one more day to enter the Wonderland giveaway. If you enter now, it's yours. I can't understand why I can't even GIVE a book away. Any tips on what I'm doing wrong? It's FREE! Someone take it .

As for my own writing... Well, I do have a book in the works. I'm editing heavily and doing rewrites at the moment, in between reading, darning, cooking, cleaning, caring for an accident prone child... I have my hands full with starting a business while continuing my writing career, both of which I'm very dedicated to. To speed up the reading for my blog I'm considering switching to audible... Then I can kill two birds with one stone and become the all powerful super career driven woman who appears to be mature and savvy while actually cheating time and ultimately death like I want to be. 😊

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Wonderland: A Coloring Book

3 Stars

I have been wanting to try one of these coloring books since they started becoming popular. They're everywhere, coloring books for adults with intricate designs requiring much more agility than the simple images in children's coloring books (though I'm still all for coloring Spongebob and Lightning McQueen with my 3 year old and not giving a care in the world for staying inside the lines).

I'm not sure what I expected from this book... The storyline was a sweet surprise. Amily Shen has set the stage for the reader to take the place of Alice, traveling to Wonderland and attending the Mad Hatter's tea party.

The thing is though, there's not much of the classic Alice in Wonderland characters to be found. There are a few beautiful images, but overall the book is lacking in imagination. Over half of the images are not based in Wonderland at all, filled with coffee house views and tea party plates and cutlery. The Mad Hatter appears in only one image, the one on the cover, and don't even get me started on the queen...

One nice feature is that the cover can be removed and you can decorate the outside of the book, as well as a mural on the inside of the cover. (The mural features none of the Alice in Wonderland characters at all, but it's still a nicely done artistic piece) The book prompts free sketch drawings and even inviting a friend to your tea party to join in the fun.

It's a nice coloring book, and as I said, a few of the images are quite stunning, I just feel if it's based on Alice in Wonderland then it should have more of the things we love from that story.

Seeing as how I am more childlike in my drawing abilities (I can't stay in the lines for my life), I am going to give away this copy given to me by Blogging for Books for one reader to judge the book for themselves.

US entries only please, I'm very sorry that I can't do international giveaways at the moment, but funds are low and my last giveaway cost just under $40 to ship...

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Zero World, ZERO Disappointment

*****5 STARS *****

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth’s twin.

Peter discovers that this mirrored world is indeed different from his home, and far more dangerous. Cut off from all support, and with only days to complete his operation, Peter must track his quarry alone on an alien world. But he’s unprepared for what awaits on the planet’s surface, where his skills will be put to the ultimate test—and everything he knows about the universe will be challenged in ways he never could have imagined.

I have been waiting to read this book, and I waited far too long. My plan was to buy a signed hardcover straight from Jason's site, like I bought the Darwin series all signed (which you can do Here by the way) but so far saving money to do so has been... challenging.

It's still on my to do list-I WILL have a signed copy of Zero World in my collection!-but in the meantime, when Jason offered up a copy of Zero World to any willing guinea pig on which to attempt his experiment, well I jumped at the chance.

I think there was some begging, a bit of weeping, and a piece of my soul has gone missing... I may be exaggerating a bit, but the point is, I have finally read Zero World!

Actually, someone else read Zero World to me.

My first ever audiobook! Narrated by Gideon Emery. It was an interesting experience, I can't say I agree with every intonation and line delivery, but overall I really enjoyed listening to someone tell me a story. In my head, Melny is stronger and more confident than the timid nature Gideon gave her in the audiobook, but other than that it was fantastic.

The entire book was fantastic! The story moves at an exhilarating pace, and yet none of the plot felt rushed or lacking in details that usually leave me far behind and re-reading chapters to try and catch up. I couldn't stop listening. Over the few days I spent devouring every word, my son had to pull off my headphones and ask for supper or remind me his diaper does indeed need to be changed every so often... I just couldn't stop! I am very tempted to buy audiobooks for their convenience, and honestly for the company on long walks to pick up my son from school, though I did mess up quite a few stitches while crocheting that ended with me tearing apart the entire piece and having to restart... I can't exactly thank you for that one Jason...

Caswell is mysterious and dangerous, but also highly amusing and likeable. His descriptions of the world around him, especially after reverting are priceless. And that last line of the book... I'd call it cheesy if Gideon Emery didn't sound so amusingly badass while saying it. I loved it and it really has me excited for book two.

As I said, Melny was a much stronger character than I felt was depicted in the audiobook and I'd like to read a hard copy for myself someday. She feels disadvantaged by her background and birthright and that's carried with her even through her rise in position at every job she's ever had, but she's so sharp and much stronger than she gives herself credit for. I'm pretty sure she can only get more badass from here, and she'd better because they're in for a serious shit storm...

As a side note, and because I feel really awful about it since growing up with my maiden name was a nightmare of misspellings, mispronunciations and outright mockery, I did learn from listening to the audiobook that I have been severely mispronouncing Jason's name for years now... Apparently it is not pronounce 'how', his last name is 'huff'. So, there you go. Go buy this book and start calling the author by the correct name! 

Buy Zero World from Jason's Website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Local Bookstore... Wherever you want, just buy it and give it a read.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bernie and the Lost Girl, The Universe Builders

4 Stars

All of God Town is in an uproar. A child has been lost. The Town mobilizes, and an exhaustive search is carried out, but as the day wears on, the fear grows that little Emily may be lost forever.

Despite growing evidence, the gods continue to resist the idea little Emily has wandered into the woods, a place feared by even the gods themselves.

Yet, a young god named Bernie isn't afraid, and with the help of his friends, Suzie and Lenny, they embark on a rescue so daring no god would ever consider it. They will search the woods, and, if necessary, they will even search the deadly area beyond The Town known as the Unknown Territory.

It's a fascinating tale of a most unusual hero on a courageous quest.

Bernie and the Lost Girl is the second book of Steve LeBel to be published by Argon Press, it's a prequel to Bernie and the Putty, taking place just before he graduates and heads off to his first, real job.

Bernie  and the Lost Girl gives a deeper look into the world of the gods and proves even gods and be 'fraidy cats. Anything outside their literal circles of existence is unknown, undesirable, and absolutely terrifying. With all their imaginative capabilities, the wide array of creatures haunting the shadows of their hand crafted worlds, the gods cannot imagine, nor have any desire to discover, whatever lies beyond the edge of the forrest.

But a young girls life may depend on doing just that and Bernie can't stand by and watch as her parents fall to pieces searching for her. 

Bernie shows what he's made of in this story of overcoming fear and true friendship. This book is a great opportunity to see what lies beyond the forrest and why the gods are so afraid of the unknown! Who made the gods? Why has history been left unrecorded? What in the world lies beyond the Forrest??? 

I have a feeling all these mysteries will be unraveled as the series continues. There's so much left to be said.

If you haven't read Bernie and the Putty yet, you can start with either book. They're easily stand alone books and you can't go wrong with either option.

To Purchase a Copy of Bernie and the Lost Girl, Click Here

Interested in reading more about the world of the gods? Check out my review of the first book in the series below, Bernie and the Putty published last year. 

For Book Reviewers, you can request copies of The Universe Builders from Argon Press

4 stars

Gods are not simply born with amazing gifts and abilities. Well, I suppose they are, but that doesn't mean they can use them right away. They must be trained to use their powers appropriately and to their fullest potential (a.k.a. they go to school). They grow and learn and make mistakes until they are competent enough to find their place in a world full of gods with amazing potential where they will settle down and ride out eternity in peace and prosperity. All gods that is, except for Bernie.

Bernie is a young god just out of school looking for a universe building career. His father was one of the greats, winning award after award for his amazing building skills creating worlds beyond any gods wildest dreams. Having tasted success, Bernie's father left him and his mother behind forcing him and his mother to move to the outskirts of the cities into the poorest of neighborhoods. To top off being fatherless and poor, Bernie has a chaos cloud that does just that; Creates chaos. Bernie tries to control his cloud, he accepts his and his mothers situation and he works his little god butt off to rise to the top to save his mother from destitution.

Upon graduating with a builders degree, the most coveted degree in their world, he immediately applies for a builders position. His chaos cloud, doing what it does best, makes a mess of his appearance forcing his interviewer to second guess giving Bernie a position with their company. Luckily, Bernie does have one friend who convinces Ezrah to give Bernie the chance he desperately needs.

Bernie's first assignment at his new job is to build whatever he wants. Anything he can imagine he is given free range to do. Problem is, his new position and promise of a happy life is being compromised by an old school mate, Billy (who I can adamantly and fiercely say I hate with a passion) who still holds a grudge over a fight back in school he brought upon himself. Out of vanity for his slightly scarred face (courtesy of The Fight) and from pure evil desire to use his Uncle Shemal's high position with the company, Billy creates an influence over fellow coworkers to get what he wants. And what he wants is to ruin Bernie's life.

Get ready to grind your teeth and churn your stomach acid into ulcers as you sit back and beg for Bernie to succeed. The constant sabotage Billy bestows upon poor Bernie will make you want to carve another scar into his face. But Bernie has allies! Hold out hope for his friends. Bernie and the Putty has a very unique story to tell full of deep characters wonderfully flawed and real. I believe there is more to the story than we are shown (Mr. LeBel does offer a short story of Bernie and Billy's fight that I can't wait to read) and I would love to go deeper into the world of the gods. Where DO the gods come from? Who gave them unending life and youth? Where do the worlds go that are blinked out? Bernie has so many questions left to answer and I hope we have the opportunity to discover the secrets behind the gods.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Never-Open Desert Diner

3 Stars

Ben Jones lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-traveled road in a remote region of the Utah desert which serves as a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. For many of the desert's inhabitants, Ben's visits are their only contact with the outside world, and the only landmark worth noting is a once-famous roadside diner that hasn’t opened in years. 

Ben's routine is turned upside down when he stumbles across a beautiful woman named Claire playing a cello in an abandoned housing development. He can tell that she's fleeing something in her past — a dark secret that pushed her to the end of the earth — but despite his better judgment he is inexorably drawn to her.

As Ben and Claire fall in love, specters from her past begin to resurface, with serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both, but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Dangerous men come looking for her, and as they turn Route 117 upside down in their search, the long-buried secrets of those who've laid claim to this desert come to light, bringing Ben and the other locals into deadly conflict with Claire's pursuers. Ultimately, the answers they all seek are connected to the desert’s greatest mystery — what reallyhappened all those years ago at the never-open desert diner?

In this unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations. At turns funny, heartbreaking and thrilling, The Never-Open Desert Diner powerfully evokes an unforgettable setting and introduces readers to a cast of characters who will linger long after the last page.

I'll be honest, I don't see what's driving these characters. It's like we're completely left out of the loop. I can see Ben is doing something, but I can't understand why, and frankly it seems he doesn't know why either. I don't feel a connection with the story, it's a bit emotionless, like the characters have no real thoughts of their own.

The story was interesting and I held on to discover the mystery, but I just couldn't connect. That made for a pretty long read for me. Interesting book, worth taking a look, but not a book for me. 

This book was given to me for review by Blogging for Books.