Thursday, 25 September 2014

Review: 'Charlie Bumpers Vs the Squeaking Skull' by Bill Harley

Charlie Bumpers Vs the Squeaking Skull by Bill Harley, Illustrated by Adam Gustavson, 2014, Peachtree, $13.95, hardbound, 176 pages. Category/Genre: mainstream. Cover: appropriately spooky. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Halloween is fast approaching, and Charlie Bumpers and his best friend, Tommy Kasten, don't want to take their little sisters Trick-or-Treating. Fortunately for them, school mate Alex McLeoud asks them to come to his house for a Halloween sleep-over to go Trick-or-Treating and watch scary movies.  

Unfortunately for Charlie, he doesn't do well with scary movies. But rather than admit this to his friends, he allows his older brother, Matt, to experiment on him with a 'de-scaring' technique. 

On the school front, there's going to be a Halloween costume contest Charlie desperately wants to win. But he has no idea what to go as this Halloween. 

Filled with humour and realistic situations and problems, this book is sure to please any kid between the ages of seven and 10 -- and probably some who fall outside that range, as well. 

If you like this one, try: Charlie Bumpers Vs the Teacher of the Year, by Bill Harley; and Charlie Bumpers Vs the Really Nice Gnome, by Bill Harley. 

Don't forget the other stops on the tour!

Friday: The Late Bloomer's Book Blog .

Monday, 22 September 2014

Peachtree Blog Tour September 2014 Continues

Don't forget to check out all the stops on the tour! 

Monday: Picture Books to YA & The Write Path

Tuesday: Geo Librarian & Kid Lit Reviews

Wednesday: Kiss the Book

Thursday: Blue Owl  

and Friday: The Late Bloomer's Book Blog .


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Review: 'Pies and Prejudice' by Ellery Adams

Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams, 2012, Berkley Prime Crime, $7.99, softbound, 291 pages. Category/Genre: mystery/fantasy. Cover: attractive. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Ella Mae LeFaye Kitteridge bakes pies for a living -- but they're not ordinary pies; they have magical effects on the people who eat them. Owning a pie shop where she can sell her wares has long been a dream of Ella Mae's, but she has problems, too. 

For one thing, her childhood bully, Loralyn Gaynor, is trying to sabotage the open house where Ella Mae is supplying desserts. For another, Ella Mae's longtime crush, firefighter Hugh Dylan, used to date Loralyn -- and he may still have feelings for her. 

But none of that compares to the fact that Ella Mae's rolling pin is used as a murder weapon against Loralyn's fiance. Now Ella Mae must get to the bottom of the mystery before she's locked up. 

Filled with descriptive prose and colourful characters (most notably Chewy, Ella Mae's Jack Russell terrier, and Ella Mae's aunts and mum), this is the start of a promising new series. 

Includes pie recipes.

Note: strong language. 

If you like this one, try: Peach Pies and Alibis, by Ellery Adams; Pecan Pies and Homicides, by Ellery Adams; and Sugar and Iced, by Jenn McKinlay.  




Thursday, 11 September 2014

Review: 'Stanley's Garage' by William Bee

Stanley's Garage by William Bee, 2014, Peachtree, $14.95, hardbound, 26 pages. Category/Genre: mainstream. Cover: great. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Another installment in the Stanley series, this one takes a look at Stanley the hamster's garage. Stanley busies himself helping his friends with their various car issues, from filling up the tank to changing a flat tyre to radiator problems. 

The artwork is clear and colourful, not to mention pleasing to the eye, and the text is simple and straightforward. Kids will love seeing all the different characters in their interesting cars, and will even learn a little bit about vehicle maintenance. The story also teaches about colours.

If you like this one, try: Stanley's Diner, by William Bee; and Stanley the Farmer, by William Bee. 



Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Review: 'The Lord of the Rings, Part One: The Fellowship of the Ring,' by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings, Part One: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1994 (originally published in 1954), Del Rey Books, $7.99, softbound, 458 pages. Category/Genre: fantasy. Cover: didn't care too much for this one overall; although the artist clearly has skill, most of the cover is taken over by unsightly shades of green and gold. Other covers are available, however. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


Along with elves, dwarves, and humans, this book features a people Tolkien created: hobbits -- short, round, hairy-footed folk who love a good meal and fireworks. Young Frodo Baggins has been given a magical ring by his cousin Bilbo. Along with the ring, which is treacherous to its owner, comes a great responsibility neither Bilbo nor Frodo foresaw. This ring is the One Ring of Sauron the Great, the Dark Lord. Sauron must not get the ring again, or Middle-earth is doomed. 
     
So Frodo, under the advisement of Gandalf the wizard, leaves with his servant Sam and his two friends Pippin and Merry to protect their home from the ring's evil. Along the way they are tracked by Black Riders -- fearsome wraiths under Sauron's power. They also meet Strider, a.k.a. Aragorn, who Sam in particular at first distrusts; but it turns out Strider is a friend of Gandalf's and intends to help them any way he can.
     
So begins the dark journey to destroy the ring. The characters experience both heartache and joy, and it is these unforgettable characters, coupled with Tolkien's descriptive writing, that will keep you turning the pages. If you've never read this one, now is the time; if you have read it, you might consider reading it again. When we first read this book in high school, we were impressed. Our return to it was not a disappointment. 


If you like this one, try: The Lord of the Rings, Part Two: The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien (duh), The Lord of the Rings, Part Three: The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien (duh again), and The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  


Review: 'Proof of Intent' by William J. Coughlin and Walter Sorrells

Proof of Intent by William J. Coughlin and Walter Sorrells, 2002, St. Martin's Press, $6.99, softbound, 370 pages. Category/Genre: courtroom thriller. Cover: a little lackluster. Where we got it: gift. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble.


When defense lawyer Charley Sloan is called to the home of his client Miles Dane at four in the morning, he finds Miles' wife has been beaten to death. Getting Miles off the suspect list isn't going to be easy; not only did he call his lawyer before he called 911, but he has a reputation as a troublemaker.To make  matters worse, Miles' home office has three walls devoted to weapons, one of which is missing. 
     
On the home front, Charley is dealing with his alcoholic daughter, Lisa, who called him, drunk, to tell him she's quitting law school. 
     
Charley goes through a lot to get his client off the hook, even though Miles can scarcely afford to pay him. The judge, who loves the limelight but despises Charley, makes things even tougher on the defense attorney, who also gets no slack from the police. 
     
Courtroom thrillers aren't our favorite thing to read, but this one did have interesting characters and an unexpected ending. 
     
Note: strong language and some sexual innuendo.


If you like this one, try: Suggestions? 


Review: 'Cake on a Hot Tin Roof' by Jacklyn Brady

Cake on a Hot Tin Roof by Jacklyn Brady, 2012, The Berkeley Publishing Group, $7.99, softbound, 297 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: appropriate to the story, but it didn't really catch our attention. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


It's New Orleans, and soon it will be Mardi Gras. Rita Lucerno, owner of Zydeco Cakes, is up to her ears in cake orders when her ex-mother-in-law, Miss Frankie, invites her to an important business party. Rita's life is further complicated when her Uncle Nestor and Aunt Yolanda come for a visit without calling first.
     
At the party, Uncle Nestor trades fists with a minor New Orleans celebrity, Big Daddy Boudreaux. Before the night is over, Big Daddy has been murdered, and Uncle Nestor soon becomes the prime suspect.
     
Rita lies to the police at first; then she assumes Big Daddy's widow is the one who told reporters about the fight between him and Uncle Nestor, and proceeds to tell people Big Daddy's widow is at fault as if it were a fact. That was annoying. However, it was, overall, a pretty good read. 
     
This one has lots of New Orleans flavour. 
     
Note: mild language. 


If you like this one, try: The Walled Flower, by Lorraine Bartlett. 

Review: 'The Writer's Idea Book' by Jack Heffron

The Writer's Idea Book: How to Develop Great Ideas for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Screenplays by Jack Heffron, 2011, Writer's Digest Books, $19.99, softbound, 337 pages. Category/Genre: writing how-to. Cover: a little bright, but somewhat inspired. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.



Heffron suggests prompts to get you writing when it's hard to start. In fact, there are prompts throughout the book, some of which are topics, some of which are not (like creating a writing schedule for the next two weeks). Broad topics include family, travel, work, and plenty more. 
     
Heffron also has prompts for editing your own work, such as reviewing your piece and asking yourself what's at stake for the people involved. He says that sometimes your original idea will lead you to other, better ideas, and that you must learn to forego the original idea in these cases. He also goes over other times in which it's important to let go of an idea -- something that can help a writer as much as keeping a good idea. 
     
Likewise discussed is getting started through improving your draft. 
     
The prompts seem to take up the bulk of the book, so this one's really good if that's what you're looking for. 
     
Note: mild language. 


If you like this one, try: How to Grow a Novel, by Sol Stein. 

Review: 'Just the Facts, Ma'am' by Greg Fallis

Just the Facts, Ma'am: A Writer's Guide to Investigators and Investigation Techniques by Greg Fallis, 1998, Writer's Digest Books, $16.99, softbound, 246 pages. Category/Genre: writing reference. Cover: not a stand-out, but it works. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble.


From the qualities of a good investigator to undercover work, this book covers a lot of ground. The clientele, autonomy, and functions of both public and private investigators are explored, and in this section, the reader gets the low-down on federal, state, county, and municipal agencies. Crime scenes are examined, both from a police detective's and a private detective's perspective. There are chapters on interrogation and interviewing, surveillance, and tailing, as well as information on sources from where your characters can get data. 

Undercover work, including sting operations, decoy operations, and the physical and emotional danger of undercover work, is likewise dissected. The author also goes into vision and hearing enhancement devices, along with the interpretation of facts. 

Well done. A go-to book for writers interested in investigative techniques.

If you like this one, try: Private Eyes: A Writer's Guide to Private Investigators by Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet, and John Landreth; How to Solve a Murder: The Forensic Handbook by Michael Kurland; and Police Procedural: A Writer's Guide to the Police and How They Work by Russell Bintliff.

Review: 'How to Solve a Murder' by Michael Kurland

How to Solve a Murder: The Forensic Handbook by Michael Kurland, 1995, MacMillan, $14.95, softbound, 194 pages. Category/Genre: writing how-to. Cover: the art style is a little strange,  but somewhat appealing. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Books-A-Million.


This book has an intriguing format: Kurland first postulates a crime, then uses that example throughout the book to illustrate various forensic techniques. He begins by listing the experts involved in solving a crime -- forensic serologists, crime scene photographers, and so forth -- and briefly describing their jobs. 

He then moves on to how the investigation begins, and gives an example of a preliminary report. There's also a sample of what is called an "exploded drawing," which would be done by a criminalist. An entire chapter is devoted to the medical examiner, and here a standard autopsy form is shown. A cross- section of the muzzle of a rifled barrel is supplied in the section on guns, and there are a few illustrated examples of shell casings and bullets. Fingerprinting, suspect identification, serology (the study of blood), and DNA are all examined, as are footprints. A bibliography and index are included. 

A handy tool for anyone looking to write about crime. We enjoyed this one.

If you like this one, try: Private Eyes: A Writer's Guide to Private Investigators by Hal Blythe, Charlie Sweet, and John Landreth; Just the FActs, Ma'am: A Writer's Guide to Investigators and Investigation Techniques by Greg Fallis; and Police Procedural: A Writer's Guide to the Police and How They Work by Russell Bintliff. 

Review: 'Police Procedural' by Russell Bintliff

Police Procedural: A Writer's Guide to the Police and How They Work by Russell Bintliff, 1993, Writer's Digest Books, $16.99, softbound, 261 pages. Category/Genre: writing reference. Cover: attracts the eye. Where we got it: bought it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 


Part of Writer's Digest's 'The Howdunit Series,' this book explores police from the day they join the force to the day they serve in court as a detective witness. First off, Bintliff gives an overview of the police force, which reveals information about patrol operations, training, certification, and police perspectives, plus information on the station house. There's even a layout of an average police department -- although it has, inexplicably, a dead-end hallway and a room with no label.

Bintliff provides the structure of a police detective division and outlines how these divisions work; he also explains how detectives find solutions to common problems. He looks at burglary, robbery, larceny, assault, homicide, arson, and vice. There's a chapter on arrest and procedure, and one on interviews and interrogations, which includes the use of lie detectors. Courtroom procedures round out the book.

A great book whether you want to write from the point of view of the police or merely have them feature in your novel. 

If you like this one, try: How to Solve a Murder by Michael Kurland, Private Eyes: A Writer's Guide to Private Investigators by Hal Blythe, and Just the Facts, Ma'am by Greg Fallis.    

Review: 'Writing the Paranormal Novel' by Steven Harper

Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper, 2011, Writer's Digest Books, $17.99, softbound, 265 pages. Category/Genre: writing how-to. Cover: very atmospheric. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


In this book, the author goes over the supernatural elements you can add to a story, such as supernatural objects, supernatural people, supernatural creatures, etc. He also talks about creating characters. He explores supernatural powers and the problems they create in writing. 

In addition, arc, plot, and sub-plot are explored, as well as language and dialogue, pacing, and more. Harper also goes over format rules, including exercises. There's a brief section on agents, publishers, and editors.

Harper covers everything from the bare bones of your book to getting your book published. It's excellent. Harper's style is clean and straightforward. 


If you like this one, try: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Orson Scott Card, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creative Writing, Second Edition, by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D. 

Review: 'Intrigues' by Mercedes Lackey

Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey, 2010, DAW Books, $7.99, softbound, 391 pages. Category/Genre: fantasy. Cover: The swords and masks background is pretty cool, but Dallen's and Mags' faces could be a little better done. The overall composition is pleasing, however. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million.


Spoiler Alert!

Though it would be best to read the first of the Collegium Chronicles before Intrigues, it isn't vital. Intrigues, the second book in the series, follows Herald Trainee Mags and his Companion, Dallen, as Mags struggles to fit in with the other Trainees at the Collegium. 

Companions are white, horse-like creatures with blue eyes and a talent for telepathy. The telepathy is called 'Mindspeech,' and some humans have it, as well (Mags does). Companions bond to their Chosen people and are very close to them. 

There are lots of personal issues in Mags' life; all his friends have problems that need sorting, and Mags himself has problems, as well. Most troubling is the vision at the heart of this story: Farseers have seen the king covered in blood, with a shadowy, foreign-born figure next to him. Because Mags is foreign, suspicion immediately falls on him, and he starts being harassed by the other Trainees. 

It will be up to Mags to prove himself innocent -- but how can one prove oneself innocent of a crime not yet committed? Fortunately for Mags, he has Dallen and his human friends, who stick up for him. Still, things are rough, and Mags takes it to heart. 

On the plus side, the Collegium is developing a new sport: Kirball. Kirball will help Trainees get used to what it's like to be in battle, which they will all face one day. The Kirball scenes are lively and exciting, as team members work together using their wits, skills, and Gifts (magical powers). 

Mags is also learning espionage techniques from Nikolas, the King's Own Herald. Nikolas is teaching Mags to be stealthy and not draw attention to himself (a problem when Mags becomes something of a hero and his friend Lena, a Bard Trainee, writes a song about him).  

This is a very entertaining book. One thing we didn't like about it was the fact that, when everything comes to a head and Mags' friends turn on him, the friends never apologise for their part in the fighting, though Mags does.  


Review: Star Trek Comic Books

Star Trek: Captain's Log: Sulu, written by Scott and David Tipton, art by Federica Manfredi, colours by Andrea Priorini, colour assist by Chiara Cinabro. 2010, IDW Publishing, $3.99. Not intended for children under 13. Category/Genre: science fiction. Cover: very well done, and we like the Japanese warrior in the background. Cover art by David Messina, colours by Giovanna Niro.

Star Trek: The Official Motion Picture Adaptation, Issue 1, based on the screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, adaptation by Mike Johnson and Tim Jones, pencils by David Messina, inks by Gaetano Carlucci, colours by Giovanna Niro. 2010, IDW Publishing, $3.99. Not intended for children under 13. Category/Genre: science fiction. Cover: also very good. Cover art by David Messina, colour by Giovanna Niro.  

Star Trek: Burden of Knowledge, Issue 1: 'Uncertain Prescriptions,' written by Scott and David Tipton, art by Federica Manfredi, colours by 
Andrea Piorini. 2010, IDW Publishing, $3.99. Category/Genre: science fiction. Cover: excellent. Looks just like the characters; you'll wish the inside looked like this. (The inside is good, too, but the cover really stands out.) Cover art by Joe Corroney. 

Where we got them: the National Fan Fantasy Federation (N3F). Where you can get them: your local comic book store or ebay would be your best bet. Captain's Log and Burden of Knowledge are also available at shop.idwpublishing.com , as is the trade paperback of Burden of Knowledge, which sells for $17.99.


In Captain's Log, Captain Sulu is faced with a diplomatic mission for which, he is told, his talents may be particularly well suited. He is to meet with the Tholians, who are 'quick to anger, easily insulted, and [very] cryptic.' He must not be late, or he will insult and anger the Tholians, who will then react badly. 

Of course, Sulu is waylaid by a ship in distress, making him an insufferable 37 minutes past schedule. Sulu then goes about mending the situation in typical Star Trek fashion. There's no surprise ending, and Sulu doesn't do anything particularly imaginative; still, this reads like a (very short) Star Trek episode.

The art on the inside is good, although Manfredi may be more adept at drawing backgrounds than people (though there are times when she gets Sulu's face just about right). The scene in Sulu's quarters is quite nice, with plants, books, and what looks like a cup of tea. 

Note: mild language. 

The Star Trek movie adaptation hardly tells any of the movie plot; there's no space for it, so if you want to see the entire film in comic book form, you're going to be paying for more than one comic book (unless the publisher releases a graphic novel encompassing all the comic books in one big volume). 
This is to be expected, however. 

Note: As in the movie, there is some violence and mild language. 

Burden of Knowledge, also the first part in a series, has the Enterprise crew hoping to admit the Mygdalians into the Federation. Bones is ecstatic about the prospect, as the Mygdalians are highly advanced medically. Bones, Kirk, Spock, and Lt. Thompson go down to the planet Mygdalus III to talk to the chief facilitator of administrative council, Weis. 

The planet is attacked, and Lt. Thompson gravely injured. The Mygdalians offer to heal him; but there is more going on than they want to admit. 

An interesting premise, and it reads much like a Star Trek episode. 

Note: in spite of the fact that this comic book doesn't have a 'not for children under 13' label, there is a violent and graphic story included after the Star Trek tale. Adults would be well advised to peruse before allowing their children to read this. 

If you like these, try: The Good That Men Do by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin. 








Review: 'The Walled Flower' by Lorraine Bartlett

The Walled Flower by Lorraine Bartlett, 2012, Berkley Prime Crime, $7.99, softbound, 294 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: pretty nice. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million.


Spoiler Alert!

Katie Bonner, owner and manager of Artisans Alley in Victoria Square, has a problem: she and her late husband, Chad, saved up for years to buy the Webster mansion with the idea of turning it into a B and B. But Janice and Toby Ryan have just bought the place and are renovating it for the same purpose. 

Then Katie lends a hand with the renovating and uncovers a body. The body happens to be Heather, the niece of Katie's friend, Rose Nash, and when Rose finds out, she enlists Katie's help in solving the murder. 

It won't be easy. Not only is Katie not a detective, she has other things on her mind. Polly Bremerton, one of the craftswomen working at Artisans Alley, has accused another crafter of stealing; and Katie also agrees to become the matron of honour for yet another crafter -- a job which ends up taking much more effort than she imagined. Plus Katie is moving soon and has nowhere to go. 

The mystery deepens when the victim's best friend, Barbie, asks Katie for a secret meeting. Later, another body is found at the mansion: Barbie's. And things heat up at Artisans Alley when Polly is found to have been passing off new dolls as antiques and selling them.   

This was a fine read. Recipes are included in the back. 

Note: strong language. 


If you like this one, try: Thread Reckoning by Amanda Lee; The Long Stitch Goodnight by Amanda Lee; The Cat, the Quilt, and the Corpse by Leann Sweeney, and The Cat, the Lady, and the Liar by Leann Sweeney.   

   

Review: 'Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography' by Brenda Tharp

Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography, by Brenda Tharp, 2010, Amphoto Books, $25.99, softbound, 160 pages. Category/Genre: photography. Cover: Outstanding. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million. 


Tharp is a brilliant photographer, if this book is any indication; the pages are filled with incredible pictures of landscapes, sand, leaves, stones, trees, and flowers. 

One of the first things Tharp suggests is to make a checklist when you want to take a photograph. Questions to ask yourself include: What do I want to be dominant in the scene? Where do I need to be for the best angle of view? and, Is there a creative technique that would better express my vision?

Tharp says that the key ingredients of any photograph are great light, a dynamic composition, good visual design, and an interesting moment. All of these elements might not be in every photograph, but you should aim for them to be. Like other photographers, Tharp advises against shooting in very bright light; diffuse light makes the pictures come out better. 

Photographs, Tharp says, require certain essential elements to create a good image: pattern, shape, line, perspective, texture, and form. For example, straight horizontal lines convey a calm, structured feeling and can also express the breadth of a place. To make a straight horizontal line more dynamic, frame your scene vertically. 

To make a compelling picture, you must have an effective composition. For this, Tharp suggests using the rule of thirds, in which you divide the picture space into a two-to-one ratio. For example, shoot two-thirds sky and one-third land. 

Tharp discusses colour, capturing energy, and experimentation with abstraction and impression, and more. 

If you like this one, try: National Audubon Society Guide to Nature Photography, by Tim Fitzharris. 


Review: 'National Audubon Society Guide to Nature Photography' by Tim Fitzharris

National Audubon Society Guide to Nature Photography, Digital Edition, by Tim Fitzharris, 2008, Firefly Books, $24.95, softbound, 207 pages. Category/Genre: photography. Cover: beautiful. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


Filled with rich colour photographs, this book takes you through the steps required to become a nature photographer. 

Part One goes over the equipment needed, starting with a basic kit. This includes up to a six-megapixel camera for amateur photographers, and a 10-40 megapixel count for more serious photographers (both will probably rely on a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera); a tripod; and a super-telephoto lens if you want to capture wildlife images. Fitzharris also covers working in the field and winter photography.

Essential skills are covered in Part Two, in which Fitzharris goes over exposure, lighting, motion effects, and more. 

Fitzharris offers techniques for getting close to wild subjects and tips for shooting birds in flight. He also tells how to use special accessories and lenses for close range photos, as well as how to process digital images and prepare them for presentation.

Some of the techniques Fitzharris uses don't please everyone's eye; he relies too heavily, for instance (in our opinion) on the blurring of water in motion, making it look unrealistic. But many of the photographs in this book are truly outstanding, and Fitzharris has plenty of experience. 

If you like this one, try: Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography, by Brenda Tharp.

Review: 'How to Grow a Novel' by Sol Stein

How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them, by Sol Stein, 1999, St. Martin's Press, $24.95, hardbound, 240 pages. Category/Genre: writing how-to. Cover: plain. Where we got it: borrowed it. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


According to Stein, a fiction writer uses techniques that enable the reader to believe that the fiction is true. The writer, therefore, must capture the reader, and Stein sets about helping you to do that. 

He talks about narrative hook, which is what grabs the reader's attention and makes him not want to stop reading. The writer has a choice, Stein says: to begin your story with a melodrama or to start with a conflict that slowly develops into a big event. 

The writer must also decide whose story is to be told; the choice of protagonist is an important one which will help the writer tell the story properly. 

Stein also tackles the problem of revision. He suggests recording your first page on audio cassette, letting some time elapse, and listening to it. 'Changing from eye to ear,' he says, 'will give you some distance.' This will help you catch clumsiness, inaccurate images, too many words, and so on.

Stein also addresses publishing. He says that whether or not major book shop chains will take a book (or take it in quantity) is a deciding factor in the size of a first printing. Also, those books that sell best are nearly always those that the publisher promotes the most -- which is a decision made before publication. 

We didn't find this book particularly helpful, although there are some useful spots. Still, what is useful to you and useful to us may differ. 

If you like this one, try: The Writer's Idea Book, by Jack Heffron. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Peachtree Blog Tour September 2014

This week, the tour is celebrating William Bee's Stanley's Garage.

Here's the schedule: 

Today:
Green Bean Teen Queen

Tuesday:
Jean Little LibraryKid Lit Reviews, and Geo Librarian

Wednsday:
Chat with Vera

Thursday:
Our post




Thursday, 4 September 2014

Review: 'Stanley the Builder' by William Bee

Stanley the Builder by William Bee, 2014, Peachtree, $14.95, hardbound, 26 pages. Category/Genre: mainstream. Cover: neat. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.


This neat little book will engage younger readers who need simple language and a mild introduction to colour.

In this tale, Myrtle the mouse asks Stanley the hamster to build her a new house on the plot of land she's just bought. With the help of Charlie (another mouse), Stanley clears the land, builds the house, and makes the home beautiful for his friend Myrtle. 

At the beginning of the book are a couple of pages filled with pictures of colourful tools. Kids who love tools and building will love this book and Stanley. 

If you like this one, try: Stanley's Garage, by William Bee. 

Don't forget the other stops on the tour:
Kiss the Book

And tomorrow:
The Fourth Musketeer