Wednesday, July 10, 2019

KidLit 101 WriteBrain for Colorado Friends

I'm tearing myself away from summer for just a second, to let my Colorado friends know about a free WriteBrain (this is where you get smart, clearly) workshop I'm hosting for Pikes Peak Writers. Here are the details:



Kidlit 101
Date: July 16th, 2019
Time: 6:15-8:15 PM
Place: Library 21C, Colorado Springs, CO
So you have this great book idea for kids… But is it a picture book, middle-grade, or YA—and what do all those terms even mean?
Whether you’re a new writer or an experienced author interested dipping your toe in the growing kidlit market, author Fleur (F.T.) Bradley will explain the ins and outs, how to write for kids (like how to format a picture book, word count and content for each segment), and what to understand about marketing to the young set, from practical experience.
This is an in-depth A-to-Z look at the kidlit market, from writing to publishing.

I hope you'll join me! Now, back to some summer fun...

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Thursday Teen Book Review: That Night by Cyn Balog


Publication Date: June 4th, 2019Hailey wants to know the truth, but there are some secrets that are best left buried…

Hailey is determined to find out all she can about her boyfriend's suicide. She knows Declan wouldn't kill himself, even if she can't remember a lot of what lead up to that fateful night.

Kane, Declan's stepbrother and Hailey's best friend, wants to move past what happened—not dig up bad memories. But the more Hailey searches for information, the more she remembers.

As the truth begins to unravel, Hailey finds herself unveiling secrets she never could have imagined—secrets that have the possibility of ruining everything...
 

From the Publisher:

Some secrets are best left buried...

It’s been a year since Hailey’s boyfriend Declan died, and Hailey is still far from okay. She’s lost almost all her friends, her grades are falling, and she pretty much lives wrapped up in bed. Everyone says Declan’s death was a suicide—after all, his father’s gun was found near his body—but Hailey knows that the happy, confident Declan she knew would never do that. She’s positive. The problem is, she can’t remember anything from the day he died.

Kane, Declan’s stepbrother and Hailey’s best friend, thinks that everyone should move on—why relive the pain? But when Hailey sees a strange picture with a threatening message amongst Declan’s belongings, she’s convinced she has proof that there’s more to the story. Hailey starts searching for answers and throws herself into memories her subconscious tried to make her forget…and the deeper she looks, the more she remembers.

But the truth she uncovers will be more dangerous and more devastating than she could have ever imagined. 

My thoughts: 

Such a good thriller and brilliant character study. I loved how the relationships were so complex in this book. There is a bit of unreliable narrator plot stuff going on—I kind of saw it coming as I’ve read Cyn Balog’s previous work, but still… A great mystery with a solid twist.

Recommended.

Caution: you might be up late reading this one…

**Publisher provided e-copy for review**


Monday, May 27, 2019

#MMGM Review: Can You Crack The Code? by Ella Schwartz, illustrated by Lily Williams

From the Publisher:
Codes can carry big secrets! Throughout history, lots of good guys and lots of bad guys have used codes to keep their messages under wraps. This fun and flippable nonfiction features stories of hidden treasures, war-time maneuverings, and contemporary hacking as well as explaining the mechanics behind the codes in accessible and kid friendly forms. Sidebars call out activities that invite the reader to try their own hand at cracking and crafting their own secret messages. This is the launch of an exciting new series that invites readers into a STEM topic through compelling historical anecdotes, scientific backup, and DIY projects.Codes can carry big secrets! Throughout history, lots of good guys and lots of bad guys have used codes to keep their messages under wraps. This fun and flippable nonfiction features stories of hidden treasures, war-time maneuverings, and contemporary hacking as well as explaining the mechanics behind the codes in accessible and kid friendly forms. Sidebars call out activities that invite the reader to try their own hand at cracking and crafting their own secret messages. This is the launch of an exciting new series that invites readers into a STEM topic through compelling historical anecdotes, scientific backup, and DIY projects.
My thoughts: 
Such a great addition to my collection of books on codes and ciphers. I'll be taking this one along on my school visits. The history text is the perfect length, with accessible text and narrative.
The illustrations are just perfect. And I loved the DIY projects—I could see these being a great project for the classroom.
Highly recommended for your middle-grade mystery and spy buff.


Monday, April 29, 2019

#MMGM book review and ARC giveaway: Choose Your Own Adventure Spies: James Armistead Lafayette

It's Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday! That means you can find a giant list of the latest MG reviews here at Greg Pattridge's blog Always in the Middle

Publication date: May 1, 2019

From the publisher:

Choose Your Own Adventure SPIES: James Armistead Lafayette by Kyandreia Jones takes YOU to the heart of the American Revolutionary War. 9-12 year old readers will enact the life of an actual historic spy, James Armistead Lafayette, whose top secret espionage efforts were instrumental in helping the revolutionary forces defeat the British. And yet his story has been almost entirely left out of history books. Choose Your Own Adventure SPIES: James Armistead Lafayette is an interactive adventure book in which YOU decide what happens next.

The year is 1781 and George Washington is commanding thousands of troops in Yorktown, Virginia, on the brink of the most important battle of the war. You are James Armistead, a brave and literate enslaved person in Virginia. Marquis de Lafayette, one of Washington's key officers, approaches you with the most critical choice of your life: do you join the Revolutionary army as a top secret spy or find freedom on your own terms? As a spy for the revolution, you might change the course of history, but whose liberty will you really be fighting for?

My thoughts: 

I loved choose your own adventure books as a kid, and I'm glad to see these more again now. This book is brilliant in that it has that active element of choosing your own adventure, while teaching you a lot of history along the way. Perfect for reluctant readers, and excellent timing for summer reading.

The back of the book gives you the story of James Armistead Lafayette and his work as a spy, despite his status as a slave. It also talks about his journey to freedom--fascinating and inspiring. I loved how the author really brings history (and James Armistead Lafayette as a person) to life in this book.

The book also gives you a short, by-year summary of the history of slavery and emancipation in the U.S.

I could see this making a great read-aloud for teachers--how fun to choose your own adventure as a class. Highly recommend.

**Publisher provided ARC for review**

GIVEAWAY UPDATE: winner has been chosen, thanks for stopping by!


Friday, April 26, 2019

Congrats to the 2019 Edgar Award winners!

Best Juvenile: Otherwood by Peter Hautman



Best YA: Sadie by Courtney Summers


You can find the full list of nominees and winners here.

Congrats to everyone, nominees and winners alike! The bar for this award is high, y'all...

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Winter, Winter (March/April News)


Happy April, all! Hope your month has been a good one so far, with lots of reading. That’s pretty much all I’ve been doing, and it’s been awesome. I’m not such a fan of winter (too cold, and I don’t ski), so I make the best of the winter months by cocooning. Aside from the occasional school visit, of course.


What I’ve been up to

I had a great school visit at a nearby school—how inspiring are those kids… I was reminded how smart upper-elementary kids can be. Of course, I forgot to take pictures (again), and I promptly caught a cold.

No matter, because Mother Nature decided to drop a pile of snow, keeping me hibernating like a brown bear anyway. I will say, I’ve also been complaining about the snow, unlike a brown bear. This bear would rather be on a sunny beach. Maybe there’s a picture book in there somewhere… Bear on the Beach?



What I’ve Been Writing


I’ve been tinkering with a chapter book series, which has been a lot of fun. I try to imagine what kind of book I would’ve liked during those early elementary school years, and that’s what I wrote. It’s a mystery of course (no surprise there), with a cat in it. Super fun, and a good break between larger novel length projects.


Otherwise I’m brainstorming a YA and a MG, deciding what’s next. It’s a tougher decision than I thought…

For my fellow writer friends: how do you decide what to write next?





What’s on The Nightstand


While I’m pretending to be a hibernating bear, I’m getting lots of reading done. My nightstand is overflowing with books; recently I read Before She Knew Him, a great thriller by Peter Swanson. Lately, I’ve started a few novels by male authors who didn’t quite get the female POV right—but Swanson did a great job in this book. Nice twists and turns; I saw some of it coming, but it was still a great read. Recommended, if you’re looking for a new book to read during the winter.


Because I was working on a chapter book, I read quite a few too… They’re so fun, and remind me why I love writing for kids.



Good News


For some good news: my short story Perfect Alibi was selected for the next Mystery Writers of
America anthology, a collection of solve-it-yourself mysteries for kids. It’s not due out until the fall of 2020, which seems like a long time from now until I realize we’re already well into 2019…
Tempus fugit, y’all.



Where to find me


Aside from a bundle of end-of-year school visits, I’ll be at Pikes Peak Writers Conference May 3-5. If you’re a writer, I hope to see you there!
Also, you may find me in my car, driving to the nearest warm location to escape winter…


How about you? Do you like winter, hate it, or do you ski your way through the snow?


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thursday Thriller Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson


From the publisher: 

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .   

My thoughts:  

Excellent stand-alone thriller. The perfect example of great use of perspective changes, and using suspense to create this slow burn that made me stay up well past my bedtime to read. 

I kind of saw the twist coming, but still, it was well done. Also, the mental health angle was well-executed--not always the case when it comes to the portrayal of bipolar disorder.  

Great book, I recommend it to anyone who wants a smart stand-alone thriller.



**ARC provided by publisher for review**