Book Review – BERNICE GETS CARRIED AWAY by Hannah E. Harrison

Hannah Harrison Author PhotoI’ve know Hannah Harrison for a few years through our OK SCBWI group and I always look forward to seeing her at our conferences. It’s been such a delight to watch her career and her family grow.

I was so excited when I greeted Hannah at our last spring conference and she said, “I have something for you!” I couldn’t wait to see what it was. When she pulled out an early folded and gathered copy of her new book, I was so thrilled! (I did ask her to sign it for me and she did, of course. She’s such a doll!)

Hannah signing one of her other books for me at our last conference.
Hannah signing another book for me at our last conference.

I’d already pre-ordered a hardback copy months earlier. I’ll have her sign THAT one later to my son. (He’ll probably carry it around all the time like he does her first book, EXTRAORDINARY JANE. He loves elephants, and he loves that book.)

I may have missed something important during the conference as I couldn’t wait to read through Hannah’s book. I fell in love with the artwork and with Bernice’s grumpy little face right away. I think you will, too.

 

Bernice

BERNICE GETS CARRIED AWAY by Hannah E. Harrison

Published by: Dial Books for Young Readers

Release Date: July, 14, 2015

Genres: Children’s, Picture Books

Plot Summary:

Bernice is having a truly rotten time at her friend’s birthday party. First, everyone else gets a piece of cake with a frosting rose. But not Bernice. Then, everyone else gets strawberry-melon soda. Bernice gets the prune-grapefruit juice. And it’s warm. The last straw is the one lousy (squished) candy she gets from the piñata. So when the balloons arrive, Bernice knows just what she has to do: grab them all. And then, poor cross Bernice gets carried up, up, and away. Luckily, she figures out just how to make her way back down to the party…and she brightens lots of other animals’ days on her way.

Hannah Harrison’s gorgeous animal paintings come alive in her second picture book. Her “exceptionally polished” debut, Extraordinary Jane, received starred reviews from KirkusPublisher’s Weekly, and  School Library Journal. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

The artwork is delightfully expressive! How Hannah plays with color, light,  and perspective enhances the emotion of the story so well.

 

Bernice 1

Bernice 2

Just looking at those eyes when Bernice receives that “plain white square from the middle” of the birthday cake, it makes you feel sad all over.

 

Bernice 3

 

One can understand how she gets carried away…

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the story. Needless to say, things get a bit messy before Bernice figures out her problem. Just a lovely book. I know you will enjoy it, and so will young readers.

Hannah has some other exciting projects in the works. She’s just wrapping up the illustrations on her next picture book, MY FRIEND MAGGIE! It’s slated for Dial’s Summer 2016 List. “Maggie is an elephant, and she’s pretty darn cute,” Hannah says. “Her best friend is a beaver named Paula.”
And that’s not all! She’s also signing another two-book contract with Dial for two yet-to-be-determined books! Hooray! More wonderful books from Hannah to look forward to in the future.

 

Learn more about Hannah E. Harrison here.

Follow Hannah on Facebook here.

This exceptional story debuts early next week, so hurry and preorder your copy today!

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2015 TBR Challenge – THE SCORPIO RACES Review

2015tbrbuttonMy fifth review for the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge is THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater.

The goal of this challenge is “to finally read 12 books from your ‘to be read’ pile within twelve months”. To qualify for the challenge, books must be read and reviewed before the year is over, and all selections must have publishing dates from the year 2013 or older. (Here are the books I’ll be reading this year.)

Already a fan of Ms. Stiefvater’s work, I received this book as a Christmas gift a few years ago. Unlike many of her other works, this is a stand alone story. I’m not sure how it got buried in my TBR pile, but I’m so glad I unearthed it from the depths and dusted it off. Such a captivating read.

On to the review!

Scorpio-paperback-websiteTHE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

Published by: Scholastic Press

Release Date: October 18, 2011

Genres: YA, Fantasy

Plot Summary:

It happens at the start of every November: The Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Some riders live. Others die.

Based on the legends of the eich uisce — the Celtic water horse — The Scorpio Races take place on the tiny, fictional island of Thisby. Each November, water horses emerge from the black ocean and gallop the beach beneath the cliffs of Thisby. And each November, men capture these horses for a thrilling and deadly race.

Both Sean Kendrick, four time champion, and Kate “Puck” Connolly, newcomer to the races, will ride this year, and both of them have more to gain — or lose — than in any previous year. But only one can win. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

I loved Stiefvater’s adaptation of this legend.

(Click here to read about how she came to write this story.)

To win the race you have to capture something magical and wild that doesn’t want to be caught and that also likes the taste of human flesh.You have to become one with it; work in harmony with it. If you fail, you could die.

Pretty big stakes.

But Stiefvater doesn’t stop there: her two main characters are in the race of their lives. Both Sean and Puck have bet their futures on winning this impossibly dangerous race.

I so wanted both main characters to win, which I think says a lot about Stiefvater’s ability to make us care deeply about these imaginary people in a very real way. The relationship between Sean and Puck develops in such a gradual and believable way, with none of that pesky and annoying “instalove” that I just abhor. Their admiration for each other comes from a sincere place, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when you realize that only one of them can win the race, and each has an equally strong reason for needing to win.

Of course, I’m not going to tell you how the race ends, that would be cheating. I will say that it’s a very intense story that doesn’t disappoint. One of my favorite books from Ms. Stiefvater to date.

Learn more about Maggie Stiefvater here.

Follow Maggie on Twitter here.

Follow Maggie on Tumblr here.

Book Review – GLORY O’BRIEN’S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE by A.S. King – a TGNA Post

It’s Things I’ve Read Thursday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and I’m discussing GLORY O’BRIEN’S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE by A.S. King.

Here’s a preview:

gloryI have been an avid fan of Ms. King’s since her debut novel, PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ, which won her the Printz Honor award. I haven’t missed a book since. For those who do not know the awe and inspiring power of this mind-blowing writer, I beseech you to rectify the situation immediately. Each novel she writes is a unique experience, always with King’s own special touch of magical realism that enhances the emotional depth of the story.

As John Green says on the cover of this book, “A.S. King is one of the best Y.A. writers working today.” I can’t argue with that.

To read the full post, click here.

TweetAs summer officially starts at our house next week, AM #wordsprints will start an hour later each morning. If you’d like some company as you write in the morning, please join us! I host AM #wordsprints on Twitter @Novel_Adventure weekdays from 7-9am CST.

 

2015 TBR Challenge – THE DARK DIVINE Review

2015tbrbuttonMy fourth review for the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge is THE DARK DIVINE by Bree Despain.

The goal of this challenge is “to finally read 12 books from your ‘to be read’ pile within twelve months”. To qualify for the challenge, books must be read and reviewed before the year is over, and all selections must have publishing dates from the year 2013 or older. (Here are the books I’ll be reading this year.)

After participating in an online book club chat with Ms Despain, where we discussed an entirely different book, I actually won a copy of this book, the first in a series. I’d actually been dying to read it ever since I’d heard Greg Ferguson – her editor – talk about it at a conference a few years ago. He’d discussed in detail how they’d agonized over getting that cover just right – quite stunning isn’t it? 

On to the review!

Dark Divine CoverTHE DARK DIVINE by Bree Despain

Published by: Egmont USA

Release Date: November 22, 2009

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal

Plot summary:

I stood back and watched his movements. Daniel had that way about him that could shut me down in an instant. . . . I kicked the gravel a couple of times and worked up my courage again. “Tell me . . . I mean . . . why did you come back? Why now, after all this time?”

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel’s dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

I must admit, after viewing the cover, and reading the synopsis, I was surprised when this series turned out to be about werewolves. I was thinking it would fall more in the undead spectrum. Once I read the first book, though, I was hooked on the characters, and I had to keeping reading their story. I found the dynamic between Daniel, Grace, and Jude to be very compelling. I quickly read on to the next book and I enjoyed the entire series.

What I especially appreciated was how well the author balanced Grace’s struggle with her faith and her desire to help Daniel in a very realistic way. Grace came away as a real person who had to re-evaulate her entire belief system and not a flat caricature spitting out rote dogma. This added so much depth to her story and her character. I think it’s one of the reasons I enjoyed the series as much as I did. I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Learn more about Bree Despain here.

Follow Bree on Twitter here.

Follow Bree on Facebook here.

Follow Bree on Tumblr here.

2015 TBR Challenge – BRAVE ON THE PAGE Review

2015tbrbuttonMy third review for the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge is BRAVE ON THE PAGE; Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life edited by Laura Stanfill.

The goal of this challenge is “to finally read 12 books from your ‘to be read’ pile within twelve months”. To qualify for the challenge, books must be read and reviewed before the year is over, and all selections must have publishing dates from the year 2013 or older. (Here are the books I’ll be reading this year.)

I met the editor, Laura, through mutual blog admiration a few years ago. When she decided to take the plunge into creating her own small press, I applauded her efforts and followed her progress with great interest. This book is the first book her imprint, Forest Avenue Press, ever produced, but it is far from the last. They’ve actually opened their submissions nationally for the first time this past January. Based in Portland, Oregon, this imprint definitely has a Northwest flair and all the more reason for me to love it.

On to the review!

Brave on the PageBRAVE ON THE PAGE; Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life edited by Laura Stanfill

Published by: Forest Avenue Press

Release Date: October 2012

Genres: Writing Reference

Plot Summary:

Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life is a homegrown writers’ resource featuring interviews and essays by forty-two authors, including Scott Sparling, Yuvi Zalkow, Bart King, Gina Ochsner, Kristy Athens, Joanna Rose and Jon Bell.

“If one was not aware of the vibrant literary community that exists within the state of Oregon, then Brave on the Page would be the perfect introduction to the varied literary voices from the state’s working writers,” said the Los Angeles Review’s Renee K. Nicholson. “Separated into three sections, the first and third consisting of interviews and the second made up of flash essays, this book offers interesting advice and inspiration from journalists, novelists, middle-grade authors, poets, nonfiction writers, writer-activists, short story writers, and all kind of writers in-between.”

“For any aspiring writer who feels lonely at the keyboard, Brave on the Page is a treasure trove of inspiration and advice on the writing life that will without a doubt encourage,” said Portland Book Review reviewer Kristen Leigh. “In an artfully curated collection of interviews and flash essays written by Oregon writers and edited by Laura Stanfill, authors speak candidly with equal parts depth and grace about their craft.” (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

This book not only made me long to move back to Portland, it let me know that when I arrived, I would find a welcoming and supportive writing community. (ALMOST as fantastic as the one I have here in Oklahoma.)

Through many of the writer interviews, you learn that these artists believe in paying things forward, in giving back to their creative community and helping the newer writers along their own journey. I just love that sense of support and encouragement. Writing is HARD! You need mentors to guide you and encourage you.

Through the essays you find inspiration and kindred spirits. Here’s an excerpt from the eponymous essay, “Brave on the Page” by Kristen Forbes:

My writing comes from a place of terror and inadequacy. A few of the fears and insecurities that rattle in my brain on a regular basis: I’m afraid of death (and sometimes life). I’m afraid of failure (and also success). I’m afraid of pushing myself forward (but stagnation, too). I’m afraid of the idea that I may never fully know someone. I’m afraid that no one may ever fully know me. I’m afraid of silly things: technology and gossip. I’m afraid of bigger things: aging and loneliness. I’m frequently afraid of the world. I’m often afraid of myself.

On the page I don’t just write my own endings – I write my own beginnings and middles, too. I’m not at the mercy of things beyond my control; I’m allowed to tell whatever story I want to tell, unconfined by the paralyzing thoughts that plague me in real life.My fictional characters are braver than I’ll ever be.

Then there is the practical writing advice that is unique and interesting. When asked how he captured such intense physical scenes so well in his writing, author of WIRE TO WIRE Scott Sparling said, “I remember Robert Stone saying that the description of a fight is always more of a poem than prose, and that was useful to me.” How fascinating.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Great job, Laura!

Learn more about Laura Stanfill here.

Follow Laura on Twitter here.

 

I am a little behind in posting my reviews, as you can see with this March TBR book post. April’s TBR Challenge book is already finished and waiting to be posted. I shall do this very soon! Dying to crack open May’s book – SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater.

How are your yearly reading challenges going? Read any good books, lately?

Book Review – SOLD by Patricia McCormick – a TGNA Post

tgnahead

It’s Things I’ve Read Thursday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and I’m discussing SOLD by Patricia McCormick.

Here’s a preview:

SoldMy daughter started reading this to me on a road trip. She was so excited about this book that she had to share many of the passages. That kind of enthusiasm for a story is contagious. When I got around to reading it from start to finish myself, I felt the same way. The layout of the book and the style of writing read more like free verse poetry to me – put me in the mind of an Ellen Hopkins novel set in Nepal. The short chapters paint such vivid imagery of the day-to-day life of the young girls, both the innocent and horrifying, that you felt you were living in the story. I felt for these girls, for the main character Lakshmi, especially. I wanted to her escape and feared that she never would.

To read the full post, click here.

TweetI’ve taken a brief hiatus from AM #wordsprints this week for spring break. I’ll return bright and early next week, if you care to get your early writing work out started with some company. I host AM #wordsprints on Twitter @Novel_Adventure from 6-8am CST.

2015 TBR Challenge – THE FUTURE OF US Review

The Future of Us

2015tbrbuttonMy second review for the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge is THE FUTURE OF US by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler.

The goal of this challenge is “to finally read 12 books from your ‘to be read’ pile within twelve months”. To qualify for the challenge, books must be read and reviewed before the year is over, and all selections must have publishing dates from the year 2013 or older. (Here are the books I’ll be reading this year.)

I picked this book up at an SCBWI LA conference a few years ago after I sat in on a breakout session with both authors. They spoke about the process of writing with a co-author and it was really great. I later got this book signed by both of them – they were so nice.

On with the review!

The Future of UsTHE FUTURE OF US written by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Published by: Razorbill -An imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Release Date: November 21, 2011

Genres: Young Adult Contemporary, Romance, Science Fiction

Plot Summary:

It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long—up until last November when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since, but when Josh’s family gets an America Online CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto Facebook…

But Facebook hasn’t been invented yet.

Josh and Emma are looking at their profiles fifteen years in the future. Their spouses, careers, homes, and status updates—it’s all there. But it’s not what they expected. And every time they refresh their pages, their futures change. As they grapple with the ups and downs of what their lives hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right—and wrong—in the present. (Plot summary from author website.)

The voice was seamless. I couldn’t tell where one author began and another one ended. The authors talked about how they made that one of their goals when working together – they both wanted to be able to write from each character’s voice, even though Jay mostly wrote the male character chapters and Carolyn wrote most of the female character chapters. Sometimes they would switch when a scene fell into the strength area of the other writer. Such a fantastic idea and a wonderful way to collaborate.

The pacing and tension were great – I couldn’t stop reading it. I actually finished this book in just over a day. I will say the futuristic concept fell a little flat near the end as the authors seemed to just abandon it, which left me feeling somewhat disappointed. Overall, the emotional part of the story was very interesting and kept me reading. I’d love to read another collaboration between these two that dealt with a straight-forward story – no gimmicks, please. I must admit, it was fun to read about that era not-so-long ago when the internet was brand new and didn’t consume our lives. And dial up modems? Ugh! Weren’t those awful? Just thinking about that sound makes me cringe. How fast things have changed!

 

Learn more about Jay Asher here.

Learn more about Carolyn Mackler here.

Follow Jay on Twitter here.

Follow Carolyn on Twitter here.

 

I’ve already completed my TBR Challenge book for March, so stayed tuned to read all about it!

How are you doing with your reading challenges this year?