2015 TBR Challenge – I WILL SAVE YOU Review

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2015tbrbuttonMy sixth review for the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge is I WILL SAVE YOU by Matt de la Peña.

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 was introduced to Matt’s work a few years ago while attending the SCBWI LA summer conference. His keynote speech and then his break out session on exercising patience made me an instant fan. (Read the post about my introduction here.) I brought home a few signed books and read the first one, MEXICAN WHITEBOY, right away – which I loved. This book slipped slowly to the middle of my TBR pile as I kept accruing more books to read. I’m so glad I finally had the chance to read it.

On to the review!

saveyou_bgI WILL SAVE YOU by Matt de la Peña

Published by: Random House Children’s Books

Release Date: October 12, 2010

Genres: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Plot Summary:

 

Kidd is running from his past and his future. No mom, no dad, and there’s nothing for him at the group home but therapy. He doesn’t belong at the beach where he works either, unless he finds a reason to stay.

Olivia is blond hair, blue eyes, rich dad. The prettiest girl in Cardiff. She’s hiding something from Kidd—but could they ever be together anyway?

Devon is mean, mysterious, and driven by a death wish. A best friend and worst enemy. He followed Kidd all the way to the beach and he’s not leaving until he teaches him a few lessons about life. And Olivia. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Many of us probably had a toxic friend like Devon growing up; that one bad influence that brought out the worst in us or dampened our spirits and made us feel worthless. Yet we couldn’t seem to stay away from them or tell them “no” when they came around. And they always, ALWAYS dragged us into something we knew deep down would end badly.

Or maybe that was just me.

I could really relate to the characters in this book and the struggles they went through. One of Kidd’s big struggles is keeping the people he cares about safe. Sometimes that means from himself.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the book:

And I saw it…

Devon sitting with Olivia at the top of the stairs, talking close like flirting people talk.

I choked on breath.

I almost squatted down on the not-yet-silver sand ’cause my knees went wobbly and I couldn’t tell which way was up, like when a wave takes you underneath and spins you around the ocean’s washing machine.

Olivia and Devon.

Together.

The beach sky was black except for a moon oval that lit up their position on the cliff like a stage spotlight in some romantic play, and I set right off for them, my heart knocking in my chest and stomach and even my neck. My philosophy of life book shaking in my hand. I walked at first like everything was normal ’cause I knew if Mr. Red thought something was happening he’d call me back and take off his old sombrero and fire off question after question (“What’s going on, big guy? You all right? Somebody stressing you out?”).

When I made it around the bend I jogged, then ran up the stairs, two at a time, thinking I had to get to her before something happened and what if something happened.

I saw them through the bushes and stopped cold…

Devon slowly tracing the mark on Olivia’s cheek, the one she showed me, and her just letting him.

“You can’t do it,” I said under my breath.

Olivia didn’t turn to look at me.

But Devon did.

Devon stared and even got a tiny grin on his face and I told him: “Get away from her!” But he didn’t get away from her. Instead he ran his fingers through her long blond hair and leaned in to whisper something in her diamond-earringed ear and then kissed her a real kind of kiss, like two people who were committed together as a couple.

She kissed back.

Intense and powerful, right? Makes you want to read more.

Just as he said in his talk, Matt holds the reader in the palm of his hand and makes them suffer.

I’ve heard Matt refer to this as his “sad” book and make no mistake, the ending will leave you wrecked. Still, it is well worth reading, well worth being wrecked by this fantastically talented author.

Learn more about Matt de la Peña here.

Follow Matt on Twitter here.

Follow Matt on Facebook here.

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.

 

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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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SCBWI OK FALL RETREAT 2015 – Fan That Spark

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During the fantastic SCBWI OK Spring Conference this past March, we all got our Spark Ignited.

The next step?

We gotta fan that spark!

Come to our unbelievable Fall Retreat. You won’t want to miss it!

SCBWIFTS

This two-day event, from Friday, October 9th through Saturday, October 10th, will have specially designed tracks for illustrators, picture book writers, and novel writers built in to the programming. There will also be a first pages panel & discussion, and an entire day devoted to editing. Manuscript critiques will also be available. (For full details, visit the OK SCBWI website.)

Meet our speakers:

stacks_image_43Tim Jessell – Tim illustrates the best seller series Secrets Of DroonDog DiariesAmare Stoudemire’s STAT, Stan Lee of Marvel Comics first children’s picture book, and covers for the reissue of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Newbery Honor Books. Jessell is also the author and illustrator of two picture books, Amorak and FALCON.

 

Learn more about Tim by visiting his website: www.timjessell.com

 

trasler - photo with puppet-crop-u483Janee Trasler – Janee writes and illustrates clever  and funny picture books like the Chickies series, MIMI AND BEAR IN THE SNOW, CAVEMAN A.B.C. STORY, and BENNY’S CHOCOLATE BUNNY. She’s also been known to sing silly songs and play with puppets.

Learn more about Janee by visiting her website: www.trasler.com

 

AnnaMyersphotoCAnna Myers – This award-winning Oklahoma author has published 20 books to much critical acclaim. She has won the Oklahoma Book Award four times for SPY!, ASSASSIN, GRAVEYARD GIRL, and RED DIRT JESSIE. She was also awarded their lifetime achievement, the Arrell Gibson Award, in 2012. She writes historical and contemporary fiction for young readers. She also had her first picture book, TUMBLEWEED BABY, published in 2014. Most importantly, she was our Oklahoma SCBWI Regional Advisor and fearless leader for 14 years.

Learn more about Anna by visiting her website: www.annamyers.info

 

LindaUrbanLinda Urban – Linda writes picture books and middle grade novels from subjects as varied as an angry mouse expressing emotion (MOUSE WAS MAD), a red-headed boy searching for independence (LITTLE RED HENRY), a girl who dreams of playing pianos only to end up with a wheezy organ (A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT), and a girl who tries to fix a horrible mistake with a birthday wish (THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING). Urban’s characters are written with so much heart, yours will burst while reading about them.

Learn more about Linda by visiting her website: lindaurbanbooks.com

For full details on the retreat and how to register, visit the OK SCBWI website here: oklahoma.scbwi.org/fall-conference-2015/

Hope to see you there!

TweetSome of our speakers and manuscript critiquers may be making guest appearances on upcoming sessions of #okscbwichat on Twitter prior to the retreat, so stay tuned!

 

 

Tammi Sauer Day Proclaimed!

Sometimes in can feel like the arts are being squeezed out of our children’s lives with educational budget cuts gutting arts programs, along with the emphasis on testing, one may worry that creative thought was being pushed out of emphasis altogether. It’s refreshing when city leaders take it upon themselves to thrust children’s literature into the spotlight.

Here’s some fantastic news about one of our very own OK SCBWI authors:

photo credit: Dana Lang Photography
photo credit: Dana Lang Photography

Press Release: July 9 Declared Tammi Sauer Day in Edmond

(Edmond, Oklahoma—June 26, 2015) Edmond Mayor Charles Lamb and the Edmond City Council have declared July 9 to be named in honor of local children’s author Tammi Sauer. Sauer, a three-time winner of the Oklahoma Book Award, is a dedicated Edmond resident who is committed to working with Best of Books, her local independent bookstore. Each year, Best of Books provides Sauer’s books for her many school visits across the state and region.

During Tammi Sauer Day in Edmond, Sauer will be at Best of Books to sign and talk about her latest book Ginny Louise and the School Showdown from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 9. She is tentatively scheduled to receive her proclamation at 5:20 and speak at 5:30. Crafts and goodies for kids and refreshments for all will follow.

I had the pleasure of getting a sneak preview of this book at our spring conference and it is just adorable. I got to hold this lovely book in my hands and admire shiny details of spot gloss while reading the tale of Ginny Louise, a hedgehog after my own heart. Her approach to dealing with outlaws of the bully variety is delightful and refreshing.

GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL SHOWDOWN (Disney-Hyperion, 2015) by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

The Truman Elementary Troublemakers are a bad bunch. Especially these three: Cap’n Catastrophe, Destructo Dude, and Make-My-Day May. But they are no match for Ginny Louise, the new hedgehog in school. Her unwavering cheerfulness in the face of their bullying will make young readers holler with glee. Full of rhymes, wordplay, and comic misunderstanding, this book will lend itself well to reading aloud as well as discussions about peer dynamics. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Ginny Louise full page

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her editors loved it so much, they asked her to write a second Ginny Louise story! You’ll love Ginny Louise, too. But don’t take my word for it, you can read the Kirkus Review here.

Order your copy today!

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Tammi has twenty-three books under contract with three of those titles debuting in 2015, including Ginny Louise. The two other titles are: Your Alien (Sterling), and Roar! (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster).

I am so happy for Tammi and really enjoy watching her succeed. I may have to buy an additional bookshelf as my Tammi Sauer section is growing by leaps and bounds – I even have a rare signed copy of her first YA book. Don’t tell her, though! She may try to steal it back from me. (I kid.)

Many of us from the OK SCBWI gang plan to be there at Best of Books on July 9th to help Tammi celebrate her special day. If you’re in the neighborhood, or even if you have to travel half a day or so, come on over and join us! It’ll be a grand time!

Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.

Follow Tammi on Twitter here.

 

As an additional bonus, Tammi shares some background information about Ginny Louise on her group blog here.

 

TweetIf you can’t be there for the big event on July 9th, you can catch her on Twitter as Tammi will be our special guest this month on #okscbwichat! Come join us for a live chat with Tammi on July 28th from 7-8pm CST.

 

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.

 

When Authors Come to Town – How to Get the Most out of the Experience

Unsplash by Erik Heddema

Photo Credit via Unsplash by Erik Heddema

Meeting a favorite author can be amazing. You get to hear about the story behind their novels, their road to publication, their writing process, how they keep themselves motivated, and all kinds of insider information about the world of publishing from someone who’s made it.  And you don’t have to wait for a conference to hear an author speak. You can catch them at book signings, during book tours, or other events.

I’m often puzzled when I hear people say that they only want to come to conferences if editors & agents will be there. Not published writers. You can learn so much from someone who’s already gone ahead of you, so it only makes sense that aspiring writers should want to hear from published writers. Then again, these may be the same writers who think they don’t have time to read books.

It’s like expecting to walk away from your first conference with a book deal; it’s not very realistic. You may come away with fantastic ideas on how to improve your manuscript, and you may make some wonderful industry connections – which are both valuable, even crucial to success. And who knows? You may even come away with a green light to submit your improved manuscript to a closed house or agency. All great reasons to go to a conference.

But so is the opportunity to hear from seasoned writers.

Some of the most motivational, inspiring talks I’ve ever heard have been from writers. I’ve learned more about craft and why I want to be a writer and how I can never stop being a writer and why I should pursue the stories of my heart from hearing other writers speak than from any how-to book I’ve ever read. I love going to author events whenever I can. I always come away rejuvenated and ready to work.

So now that you know how wonderful author events can be, how can you get the most out of these opportunities? And where can you find them?

HOW:

Familiarize yourself with the author’s work ahead of time. That doesn’t mean you have to read everything they’ve ever written, but at least read something so you have a feel for their voice. It’s like coming to class prepared. You get more out of the lecture if you’ve done the reading. You can also ask better questions during Q&A (or have something intelligent to talk about while getting your book signed).

Invite a friend or two. You’d be surprised how many of these events aren’t necessarily well-publicized. Especially library events. I went to one author event with only about twenty people in attendance. This author had just been interviewed on NPR the week before. Unbelievable. His talk was outstanding. I wish I’d thought to bring a friend. Now I know to spread the news and take a friend with me.

(You might even think about taking your child.It can be an invaluable experience – and talk about creating a love of reading! I’ve had the pleasure of taking my daughter to meet some of her favorite authors, and I know that’s made a huge impact on her. She could barely speak when she met her first author – Ally Carter, I think. But by the time she met Kate di Camillo, she was an old pro. She got to hear Kate talk about how she created the main character in THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX and when they brought out the microphone for the kids to ask questions, my daughter stepped right up and asked her how she came up with the idea of chiaroscuro. Kate smiled at her, complimented her creative attire, and answered her question in great detail. That kind of experience is unforgettable.)

Take notes! As I said, you can always learn something. If your memory is anything like mine, you will be glad you wrote it all down, instead of relying on your faulty brain.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many times, the author leaves space in their talk for a Q&A session. This is why you do your research beforehand, so you can ask an intelligent question. So be brave and throw that hand up! I’ve seen many Q&A times go unused when I knew people really wanted to ask questions. When they were able to ask questions later in a smaller setting, they couldn’t stop asking questions. So, just in case you don’t get that second opportunity, engage with the author during the Q&A and ask away. That’s part of the reason they are there.

WHERE:

Check with your local libraries and universities. Many bring in authors throughout the year to speak. Some of these events may even be free to the public or have a nominal fee.

Check out local online magazine event calendars. For the Tulsa area, there’s The Tulsa VoiceOklahoma MagazineTulsaPeople and Tulsa Lifestyle.

Follow local event planning organizations. Tulsa has a great organization called Booksmart Tulsa that “offers top notch literary events” at a wide variety of venues. They’ve held events for Audrey Niffenegger, Chuck Palahniuk, and Ransom Riggs. And soon they’ll be holding the book release for our very own Jennifer Latham.

Follow your favorite authors on social media or subscribe to their newsletters. That way you’ll know when they’ll be appearing near you.

 

As many of you in the OKC area may know we just had author Jay Asher come through. I had to miss him, unfortunately, but many of my fellow SCBWI friends were able to be there and had a great time including Regina Garvie, who wrote a fantastic post about meeting him, here.

One author visit I WON’T be missing is Neil Gaiman’s. He’ll be in Tulsa on March 10th at the Tulsa PAC. For more information about this event or to purchase tickets, click here.

So how about you?

Have you met any of your favorite authors? What was your experience like? How do you prepare for an author event? And how do you find out about author events in your area?