Category Archives: Softcover

Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 3

7456038The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes.

Prologue and first chapter were read: 19 pages. (We never discussed this, Carol, but I assume a prologue is not a legit chapter but a prelude and needs to be included.)

“Paul is dead!” What an opening line! (I’m showing my age, but I immediately saw the Abbey Road album cover. For those of you too young to understand, Google “Beatles Paul is dead.) Once I brought myself back to the present, it was still a killer first sentence (pun intended).

For me, it went somewhat downhill from there. It’s smoothly written, but the author pushed too much backstory, too much flashback, too much telling not showing. (Brenda is going to disagree with me on this.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some strong storytelling here. What surprises me is how the author breaks every rule Carol presented in class. Okay, with the exception of the “Paul is dead!” opening line.

The point of scene is excellent. The story takes place on a small Caribbean island and the descriptions are as lush as the landscape.

Characters are aplenty. There was the main character, Esti, of course. Then we have: the police officer who questioned her; an old family friend (in flashback); Paul, the victim (in flashback); Lucia, a local who had seen Esti talking with Paul. That would be five in the first nine pages, the prologue.

The actual first chapter introduces us to Esti’s mother, Aurora. Then come the two uppity kids from the school who seem to be members of the elite crowd: Danielle and Greg. Their main purpose seems to be to instruct Esti (and, in the process, us, the readers) about local legends, history, idioms and island patois. Oh, and establish that Danielle is in direct competition with Esti for the role of Juliet in the school play. Apparently, she’s sizing up the opposition.

The chapter had too much going on. The locations were varied and moved rapidly: the school grounds, the theater, another area in the school grounds, a flashback to the cemetery in the States, and, finally, her house. Her house took up the first chapter. The others took place in the prologue, the first 9 pages.

Prologue moved fast, first chapter not so much. Too slow, too much backstory. The two schoolmates showing up didn’t fit with the flow, I didn’t think. It seemed out of place.

Bottom line, it’s a ghost story and a murder mystery. How can you go wrong? Besides, Brenda says I’ll love it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I got much in the way of finding improvements for The Other Siders.



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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post WIFYR 2

 Cinder: Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer419rjQNqYhL

First chapter is 16 pages.

The first line: “The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, …” Quite the attention getter. There’s enough information given between the back cover blurb, the inside flap blurb, and the cover itself for us to know that she’s a cyborg. We don’t know how much, but we can safely assume it’s at least the foot.

The first page focuses on her removing her foot. She struggles getting the rusted screw out, then fighting with the other hardware and, finally, just letting her foot dangle from her leg by its wires. We discover not only her foot but one hand as well is artificial.

Second page begins a detailed point of scene. She has a stall filled with used android and other odds and ends electronic and mechanical in nature. We also get a picture of the stall’s position with relation to other stalls in the crowded market square in New Beijing.

Third page, also finishes with her removing the foot completely.

Because of children playing Ring Around the Rosy, a recently revived game originating during ancient plague times, there’s a hint of a plague or some other widespread health issue.

We are introduced to Sacha the baker and her disdain for Cinder because of her differences from “real” humans. There’s inner dialogue from Cinder indicating a few of the vendors in her area are aware of her differences and are somewhat uncomfortable with it.

Prince Kaito arrives with a broken android. (No, not his tablet, but a walking, talking android, or it was before it broke.) Cinder recognizes the Crown Prince, and the handsomest man in all of New Beijing. We deal with her stammering and fan craziness for a page or so.

For the next five pages we are filled with all kinds of things that might be wrong with the android: it’s old, the problem isn’t readily apparent, how was it acting before it stopped completely, etc., etc., etc. Along with the troubleshooting Q&A, we get a glimpse of character development and some insight into Cinder’s abilities. Possible spoiler: There’s more to her cyborg-ness than just her foot.

Cinder’s android assistant shows up with Cinder’s replacement foot. Cinder makes excuses claiming it’s for another client. Her assistant, though android, is smitten with the prince as well.

When all the arrangements are made for Cinder to work on the android and get it ready for the prince to pick up in a few days, the prince departs.

Shortly after his departure a scream is heard across the way. Sacha the baker has the plague… End chapter.

Okay, four characters in eleven pages. There were other people milling about, a group of kids, but nobody with any real presence, they’re there for point of scene. Sacha is removed from the equation fairly fast, so, basically, we have three characters who, from all appearances, will be central to the story.

There was a lot of useful information and character development in the first chapter. Some of it was a little drawn out, but informative nevertheless. Some things I can definitely take and use.


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Carol’s Homework Assignment Post-WIFYR (Yes, I said “POST”)

The assignment is to read the first chapter of 50 books in the Middle-Grade and Young Adult venue. They can be sci-fi, fantasy, or into whatever genre they fall. I am to read them from a writer’s perspective, paying special attention to: intro to main characters, plot development, intro to other characters, anything useful that points to why these books start out well and, as a result, get published.

So here is the first book. “Edgar Allan’s Official Crime Investigation Notebook” by Mary Amato. Middle-Grade. 140 pages.61K7EpEI-qL

From the School Library Journal:

The kids at Wordsmith Elementary School get a lesson on poetry when a thief stages a series of classroom thefts, leaving behind small poems at the scene of the crime. Edgar Allan keeps notes in his crime journal and writes some verses of his own as his classmates compete to solve the mystery. He thinks his home life is strange with his parents both employed as clowns, but when he learns more about the thoughts and personal lives of his classmates through the poetry they write, he gains a deeper understanding of himself and his community. With characters named Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett and a teacher who drinks Tennyson Tea, readers will get thinly veiled lessons describing alliteration, meter, and metaphor. … A good springboard for introducing poetry units.

Opening paragraph shows the reader the crime of stealing the class goldfish.

Characters introduced:

  1. Edgar Allan (MC)
  2. Ms. Herschel (teacher)
  3. Kip (a skinny boy whose leg was jiggling against his desk)
  4. Taz (the class clown)
  5. Maia (the person who gave the fish to the class)
  6. Gabriella (the new girl)
  7. Destiny Perkins (Another classmate. I’m guessing she’s going to be an important character later. She’s the first character given both names)
  8. Patrick Chen (Edgar’s nemesis)

Eight characters introduced in the first four pages. One complaint about my storyline was the introduction of five characters in eight pages. Apparently too many characters are not always an issue. Further study on this will be necessary.

It’s a fast beginning. The theft, the discovery, several theories of who did it, and Edgar and Patrick’s competition to discover the culprit before the other are all laid out by the end of the first chapter (page 6). Fast paced and quick. That part I get.

One comment in a review section said, “It’s a little slow paced as the story progresses and sometimes Edgar seems to think older than a fifth grader.” To people who consider that fifth graders must sound a certain way and be only so intelligent, I divert your attention to “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

I had similar complaints that my characters sound older. They sound like I sounded at 14-16. My friends were, for the most part, the same way. We were avid readers and had been for a decade or more by that age. Nerdy kids who read a lot don’t sound like kids who don’t. They don’t think the same way either. I may try to tone it down some, but if I do it too much, the characters will lose their personalities.

I’ll definitely finish Edgar Allan’s Official… It has the makings of a good ride.

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Spellbinder Saturday: A Perfect Winter Tale

As easy as A, B, C . . . from HA

IcefallIn recognition of this winter wonderland we’ve all been in for the past month, let us celebrate with a spellbinding tale aptly named Icefall. It’s Matthew J. Kirby’s second book and a far cry from his first novel, The Clockwork Three.

Icefall takes place in the frozen northlands of the Norsemen. It is a tale full of intrigue, mystery, treachery, deception, honor, hope, and ice. Lots and lots of ice. Bitterly cold ice. Did I mention it takes place in the frozen northlands? Oh… and Berserkers. Big, warrior men of legend. I’m telling you, this story has everything.

It is the story of Solveig, second daughter to the king. Her older sister is beautiful, her younger brother is the crown prince, leaving Solveig as, well, the middle child. Never a good place to be.

Solveig tells the story, which is fitting as she decides she wants to be a skald, a storyteller, even though it may run contrary to her father’s wishes. As the middle child, she really has no place in the palace or political hierarchy of things.

The family, along with some servants, have been sent to a glacier area for safety while their father goes off to war. The war, in essence, is being fought over the eldest daughter, Solveig’s sister, Asa. Another king, much older than she, wanted Asa for his wife and her father refused. These are the things that brought forth wars in olden times.

As the story unfolds, it appears there is a traitor and spy in their midst. Mass poisoning of the Berserkers, the bad king finding their lair and moving in to take what he feels is his. Spellbinding is an excellent description of this book. Kirby has done an exceedingly fine job of developing characters, settings, and his sharing of Norse legends and gods makes for a totally believable story.

Oh, by the way…

  1. A 2012 Edgar Award Winner for Best Juvenile Mystery
  2. A 2011 Agatha Award Nominee
  3. New York Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
  4. 2012 ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults
  5. Judy Lopez Memorial Award Winner

A tip of the hat, Matt. Thanks for a great read!

See you next time for Tips on Tuesday.

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Spellbinder Saturday: Certainly Not a Waste!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from HAW is for Wasted

Today’s spellbinder: W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton. This is neither middle-grade nor young adult fare, nor is Grafton a Utah writer. The series, however, is spellbinding and that’s what counts.

This is the twenty- first book in the Kinsey Millhone series; the first one published in 1982. This series differs from many others in that Kinsey ages about one year every two and a half books. W is for Wasted actually takes place in the fall of 1988. Other series just sort of ignore the fact that a year or two passes from book to book. Time marches on, but the protagonist never ages.

By sticking to her timeline, only six years has passed since the first book (A is for Alibi). As a result, Kinsey has no cell phone, no Internet, no iPad; all computers are non-graphic driven; Kinsey has to do things the old fashioned way.

The action takes place in Santa Teresa, CA. The town is based, loosely, on Bakersfield, CA but is directly on the coast.

For those of you who have never read a Millhone mystery, I assure you, you’ll like it. The pacing is just fast enough to keep you moving forward, but detailed enough to where you won’t be lost. There are no surprises; you see everything Kinsey sees, unlike some mysteries where the protagonist drops some previously unknown fact in the middle of telling who-done-it.

W is for Wasted starts out with two seemingly unrelated deaths: a PI who’s robbed and murdered and, a couple of months later, a homeless man who dies on the beach from kidney and liver damage. You know immediately they’re related but have no idea how or why; otherwise, they both wouldn’t be mentioned in the beginning of what becomes an intense search for the facts.

As usual, Grafton has crafted characters who are completely three-dimensional, some new and some from Kinsey’s past; there are even new relatives… distant cousins, but relatives just the same. Oh, and a whole lot of money.

By the time the smoke clears, everything ties together in a nice bow, but there are still story arcs open… just like real life. Will Kinsey have any more run-ins with her newly found relatives? What’s going to happen to the half-million dollars? Will she really get rid of the Mustang?

Kinsey Millhone is one of the best characters in the genre’ of mystery and Grafton is one of the best in the business. If you haven’t read any of the series, I highly recommend you get yourself to the library and find, if possible, A is for Alibi. Trust me, you’ll move on to B, C, all the way to W. Of course, by the time you get to W, X may already be out.

I’m looking forward to it.

See you Tuesday for new Tips.

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Saturday Softcover: A new and more violent Good Samaritan

As easy as A, B, C . . . from HA

The Samaritan’s Pistol is the first novel by Utah writer Eric Bishop. The protagonist, Jim Cooper, is a Desert Storm vet, Wyoming The Samaritan's Pistolrancher, and guide for city dwellers getting away from it all. In the beginning, life is good.

But that’s how it always is, isn’t it? Well, most of the time. It doesn’t take long before things go from good to bad and from bad to worse.

Jim gets a group settled in to their mountain retreat and heads back to his ranch. The plan is to pick them up again and return them to civilization in a week.

On his way back down the mountain, he runs into three men beating a fourth. They appear to be beating him to death. Jim steps in to stop the beating, but the three have other ideas. They draw weapons and tell Jim to just mind his own business.

Long story short: He shoots the three, but not before one of them shoots his horse.

And that’s when the fun really starts. The three, it turns out, are associates of the leader of the Las Vegas mob; one of them is also his grandson. The man they were beating up? He and his friend had stolen several million dollars from the Vegas mob. To thank Jim, the stranger offers to cut him in on the money. If Jim will help him recover the money.

And therein lies the tale.

Bishop has written a compelling novel that moves at a good pace. The characters are believable if a bit cliché at times. The good guys are really good and the bad guys are really bad. The supporting cast of characters are as varied as possible.

Bishop does capture the heart of the true Western attitude: that self-reliance of the individual along with the neighbor-helping-neighbor sense of survival.

The only complaint I have was thinking I had a stand-alone story. It’s somewhat open-ended. Hopefully, there will be a part two… and, hopefully, it won’t take the fifteen years alluded to in the closing paragraphs.

Published by Jolly Fish Press, they appear to need to print another run. Amazon and other booksellers are out. If you can get your hands on a copy, do it. It won’t disappoint.

See you day-after-tomorrow for Monday Moans.

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Saturday Softcover: Just in Time… No, really: Just in Time

As easy as A, B, C . . . From HA

That’s the name of the series of books by Cheri Pray Earl & Carol Lynch Williams. Each of the books, two at present with a third coming out spring of 2014, involves time travel to a different state at a different time in history. I’m guessing they’re planning on doing at least 50 total.Just in Time 01-small

The first one, The Rescue Begins in Delaware, takes place in 1776 and has a special guest appearance by Caesar Rodney. A fun story and history lesson all rolled into one.

Just in Time 02-smallThe second one, Sweet Secrets of Pennsylvania, takes us to Hershey, PA, 1903. Milton Hershey, the Hershey chocolate creator is the guest star in this one. The kids help him… well, I’ll let you find out.

Everybody loves the idea of time travel. Our heroes’ problem is their parents are trapped in time because they’ve been removing artifacts from historical places and bringing them back to the present to be housed in their museum.

It seems time doesn’t like being tampered with. The kids and their grandpa determine the only way to bring their parents back to the present is to return all the things their parents… um… borrowed.

Their first trip to Vermont, to return a school desk and bench, puts them in contact with Cesar Rodney, the swing vote for Vermont and the passing of the Declaration of Independence. The rule for passage was that all states had to approve, not just a majority. The delegation was split down the middle and Rodney was needed back in Philadelphia ASAP so he could place his vote for independence.

The kids see their parents as they leave the area, but can’t get them aboard the time machine in time. They realize it wouldn’t work because there were still items needing to be returned.

Through the magic of the time machine, the parents are able to send limited messages through a disconnected telegraph to Grandpa’s basement. They send information about the year and a light will appear on a map of the United States. This is how they learn the where and when of their next trip. It seems the parents are moved by and through time whenever items are returned.

The kids check the log book and find what had been removed from Hershey, PA and get ready for their next trip.

Oh, did I mention the fact that one of the two time travelers is changed into an animal. Gracie became a horse in Vermont, their father was a bird. I’ll let you find out who gets changed into what in book two.

They’re good reads and very informative, especially for middle graders. Somehow I think many adults will learn some interesting facts about American history as well. And they’ll have fun while they’re doing it.

And last, but certainly not least, the artwork by Manelle Oliphant in these novels is superb. They really add to the enjoyment of the stories.

Available through all retail booksellers. I’ve preordered number three, The Wizard of Menlo Park, NY, from Amazon.

See you day-after-tomorrow for Monday Moans

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