Category Archives: Book Reviews

Roller Coaster Ride, Breathe

Wow, what a week it’s been. Week as in 7 day period, not Sun-Sat. On Thursday, Nathan Bransford requested a partial on my manuscript. Then my son was up most of the night complaining his ear hurt. Took him to the doc Friday. Yep, bad ear infection. She gave him some antibiotics. I came home and got my manuscript ready for Firefox News (I had been advised to post it Monday) and sent my partial off to Mr. Bransford. On Saturday, my little boy started having a (scary looking) reaction to said antibiotics. Had to call the on-call doctor. On Monday morning, my aunt and uncle were in a bad car crash and had to be life-flighted to Hermann hospital (they are both doing more or less okay now). There was a technical difficulty posting my Firefox story (“The Kingsnake Killing”). On Tuesday, I reformatted my story, re-sent it and it posted fine. Took my son back to the regular doc and his ear was clear and the reaction had stopped. Came home to find a rejection from Mr. Bransford (disappointed, but not entirely surprised; looking at his list, I thought it was odd he had been recommended to me). Then a cold front came in and dropped temperatures from 75 to 50. Today I got my weekly submission out and then discovered three tiny monarch caterpillars on some milkweed I had brought it out of the cold.
I did finish reading Breathe (Cliff McNish) last week. It, too, had multiple POVs. The suspense was very well done. The basic plot is that a boy (whose father has just died from a heart attack) and his mother move into a very old house. There are five ghosts in the house – four children and one Ghost Mother. The ghosts are not one big happy family. When we first meet the Ghost Mother and then her daughter, Isabella (who exists happily on the other side, not in the house) a few things seem obvious. But as the story goes on, revealing their story bit by bit, what seemed so obvious…didn’t really happen at all. It is a story about courage and redemption. The only bone I had to pick was about the Nightmare Passage (something more or less equivalent to Hell). Souls who were not taken to the other side by their loved ones ended up there, sooner or later. It was an integral part of the story, particularly the ending; but, because it was so closely analogous to something that has centuries’ worth of mythos built up around it, I found myself thinking, “But wait! That’s not how…” many times. I’m not sure how he could have done it differently and still got to the same place at the end, however. Still, I recommend it.

The other Artemis: The Time Paradox

I finished reading Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox yesterday. Did I mention that Eoin Colfer just keeps getting better? I think this one is the best Artemis Fowl yet. And there are enough loose ends, or should I say “story threads,” to make another book look all but inevitable. If you want to see an excellent example of raising the stakes and conflict escalation, read this book. There is both internal and external conflict, with the added complication of (gasp!) puberty. The text was sprinkled with clues that when I first read them, I thought, “Well, that’s a nice detail.” Then when the event they were connected to happened, I thought, “How could I have not seen that coming?” There was a major plot twist that I never guessed, although I should have. In this story, where Artemis has to go back in time to rescue the last remaining Silky Sifka lemur (from his younger self, no less), has a little bit more punch when it comes to green issues, but it is never done in a heavy handed or preachy way. Another thing that I think is done exceptionally well is how the character of Artemis Fowl grows and changes over time. Character development arc, they call it.
I decided that I don’t do enough for charity. I used to buy the food pantry bags from Kroger all the time, but since they moved them, I almost always forget. I sit in the car for at least 20 min, 5 days/week waiting to pick up my daughter from school. I knitted two children’s sweaters (with matching hats, even) as Christmas presents using that time. I have a huge stash of yarn & fabric (and beads, now that you mention it), so I thought I would start to knit/crochet sweaters, afgans, pet accessories and/or shawls for various charities. Lion Brand yarn has a tool for finding charities that want fiber-based contributions. For patterns not to use, I consult Stitchy McYarnpants’ Museum of Kitschy Stitches.

Opal Deception and Lost Colony

I read The Opal Deception and The Lost Colony last week. I think Eoin Colfer just gets better and better. The Artemis Fowl series is like Tom Clancy meets Madeleine L’Engle. I have heard a rumor that The Time Paradox has been loaded onto Santa’s sleigh. In the mean time, I may have to run out and get The Supernaturalist or The Wish List or Half Moon Investigations (or perhaps I will content myself with The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling’s latest offering). Since I have a WIP with multiple POVs, Artemis Fowl is perfect. Nearly every character, main or minor, has the POV for at least some part of the story, especially in The Lost Colony. I may have to read it again and take notes. But probably not until I finish revisions on another project. I did take advantage of Firebrand’s Query Holiday and submit the first chapter of said project today.  And then who knows? Maybe I’ll even finish the magazine articles and the PB that have been hanging around, half done, for the last six months (at least). And the first draft of another YA novel. New Year’s Resolution #1: Get back to submitting at least one thing per week.


Cass McBride

I read What Happened to Cass McBride? last week. I ordered it partly because I had been interested in reading it for a while and partly because it this book is widely regarded as a great example of a YA novel with multiple POVs. I have a project with two POVs, and I wanted to see good ways of doing it. While I liked the way Gail Giles handled it in her book, I don’t think that format will work for my project. What I liked best about this book was how she built on what we (the readers) already knew, or thought we knew, and turned it around into something else entirely. In the end the “bad guy”  was such a sympathetic character that I didn’t want him to go to jail. The “victim,” well, maybe she discovered she wasn’t really the person she thought she was. The question in the typical Gail Giles oblique ending is: Did Kyle ruin Cass’  life or save it? One question I did have, and this applies to a lot of YA, not just this one, is if Cass and her snooty friends were so rich, why didn’t they go to private school? Ms. Giles lives in The Woodlands and she gave a talk at one of the monthly SCBWI meetings. She told us that being snowbound in a cabin in Alaska inspired her to write this book. I’m not sure that I would have connected those two dots (Alaskan cabin and brutal high school social issues). But hey, that’s why there are so many different authors and so many different books. I hope have a Halloween podcast (“Moss”) up this weekend. It is ready for the spousal unit to record.
The Ike caterpillars are emerging from their cocoons. I released one Monday, two yesterday, and three today. There are at least that many cocoons left, plus one big fat caterpillar.

Traveling Pants

I try to avoid books that I think will make me cry. Perhaps it is psychological trauma from Disney movies as a child (Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, need I say more?). I sat up until 3:45 reading Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants on Monday night/Tuesday morning. I know, I’m late to the party. But good books are good no matter when you read them. In spite of the fact that I kept getting Lena and Carmen mixed up, I really liked the interplay between the girls. What I liked best about it was the way it was structured. When the pants made their first round, each girl made a really big mistake. On the second round, each was able to come to terms with what she had done. I expected teenage-growing-up mistakes, coming-of-age conflicts, and the start of maturity. I hadn’t counted on Bailey.  When the poor, leukemia-sick girl went in the hospital, there was only one way it was going to end. But it had to happen. Tibby would still be just another surly, self-absorbed teen otherwise.  But I still haven’t forgiven Ann Brashares for making me cry about her at 3 in the morning.

The Sweet Far Thing

I finished The Sweet Far Thing last night (technically, this morning). I did really enjoy it. While there were some circumstances peculiar to the Victorian setting (corsets and suffragettes, for example), the main and sub-themes were universal – love, social acceptance, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”, and self-determination. I thought Ms. Bray did an excellent job of developing Gemma’s conflicting emotions, most of which would be typical of any 17 year-old, even one who was not locked in life or death conflict with supernatural forces. The period details were excellent: meeting H.G. Wells at a gentleman’s club (where men sat around and drank port and smoked cigars – no naked dancing girls), a playwrite getting a message from George Bernard Shaw, and a vaudevillian complaining about that upstart Houdini. One of the best parts was the metamorphosis of Ann. The villans were quite villainous, and most characters where either not quite what they seemed or they started out playing for one team and switched to the other. There was a definite social justice consciousness, and threads of love won and lost. The only realy criticism I had was when Gemma finally became aware of Pippa and Felicity’s true relationship. Given that Fee had been having a surreptitious fling with one of the Gypsies in the first book, it made me wonder if wonder if the girls’ love affair was planned the whole time, or tweaked in the third book to amplify the social injustice angle.  Overall, I thought it was excellent and I highly recommend it.


I finished reading Eclipse, by Stephanie Meyer, this morning.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first 20 chapters of the book. I really liked finding out about some of the characters’ histories and motivations, and what they brought to the table for the current crisis. It was also amusing when Edward and Bella confess their relationship fears to one another.  I thought Ms. Meyer did an excellent job of creating tension and building suspense up until Chapter 21. At that point, I felt it started to slip into melodrama. I thought the unseasonable June blizzard, and the resulting conversation between Jacob and Edward, while insightful, was implausible. Try to imagine Hitler and Churchill sitting down together and discussing their feelings. I could almost hear the piano playing “As Time Goes By” during the last four chapters. I suppose if I had liked the movie Casablanca, I might have gotten more engaged by this turn of events, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  But then, a lot of people love that old movie.  In Twilight, readers were asked to question the nature of good and evil. In New Moon, Edward and Carlisle debated nurture vs. nature and the existence of soul. Eclipse touched on free will vs. predetermination. But in the end, I wondered if Bella chose the young man that she did because she really loved him best, or because of her belief in destiny.