Monday, February 4, 2019

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday (#MMGM) Book Review: Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Publication Date: Feb. 5th, 2019

From the Publisher: 

Twelve-year-old Iris has never let her deafness slow her down. A whiz at fixing electronics, she's always felt at home in the world of wires and vacuum tubes.
School, on the other hand, isn't quite as simple. Between her frustrating teacher Ms. Conn and her overly helpful classmate Nina, Iris can't seem to catch a break.
But during science class, Iris learns about Blue 55—the loneliest whale in the world. Saddened by the animal's inability to speak to other whales, Iris uses her tech skills to come up with a plan communicate with Blue 55.

One small problem: the whale is swimming off the coast of Alaska, nearly 3,000 miles from her Texas home. But, nothing stops Iris, and with her Deaf grandmother by her side, she sets out on a road trip to meet the whale and make sure he's finally heard.

My Thoughts: 

Such a great look into what it means to be Deaf--I learned so much. This book was truly food for thought, and stuck with me long after reading.

The science angle gave the book extra depth, and the whale story gave it heart. I really loved Iris, the main character, and her family. There were a few moments (the horrible teacher in the beginning) that were a slight hiccup for me, but overall this is one of the best middle-grade books I've read in a while.

A must read this year I would say--be ready for this story to stick with you long after you finish the book. A great classroom read, too. 

Plus, extra points for this awesome cover...

**ARC provided by publisher**

Find more links to #MMGM book reviews here.

Extra note: **Greg is the winner--contest ended**for U.S. readers (postage overseas is just too high...) comment here and I'll draw one name to mail my advanced copy of Song for a Whale..! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

All about comfort (Jan/Feb News)

It's cold here in Colorado--in fact as I'm writing this, there's a blizzard going on outside. I'm trying to be a good sport about the winter weather (it's so pretty, that snow, people say), but the truth is that I'd rather be kicking back on the beach....

The one upside to winter is that it's all about comfort, which is something I can get behind. Warm sweaters, blankets, soup, tea and a cat on the lap is the perfect excuse to read a lot. And I'm writing a lot too, so winter's not all bad.

Mystery Book News

MWA just announced the Edgar nominees--great news if you needed to add to your TBR pile. 

Congrats to the nominees, good stuff there.

Mystery TV

In the mystery TV department, we've been watching The Good Cop on Netflix. Good comfort TV, kind of Murder She Wrote-ish: humor with an easy-to-solve (cozy) mystery. I recommend it if you just want something nice. 
I just read that Netflix is not renewing this series, a bummer. Do you have any good mystery TV shows to recommend? I'm coming up short lately...


In that same comfort vein, I've been reading Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway series. It's set in Norfolk, England, which just so happens to be where I lived a few decades ago. 
The mystery revolves around (highly likable) archeologist Ruth Galloway, who helps the local police solve mostly cold case mysteries. 
A good series if you like a British cozy.

Where to find me

Mostly, you'll find me by the fireplace the next few months, or talking to kids at the many school visits I have lined up (my favorite part of the job). This must be the year of the author visit--good news!

If you're a writer, I'll also be speaking at Pikes Peak Writers' Write Your Heart Out here in Colorado Springs. It's a (free) conference warmup with speakers (like me) who will hopefully convince you to attend Pikes Peak Writers Conference in May. I'll be speaking there too, so come say howdy and complain about the snow with me, if you live in Colorado.

Also, I'll be at CCIRA in Denver, if you're at this educator conference in February. I'll be at the SCBWI booth being friendly and talking books.

How 'bout you? Anything to recommend this cold winter?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Online Class: YALit 101: Writing For Teens

Just in case you're considering writing YA in 2019 (new year, new goals and all that), I thought I'd share info on a class I'm teaching on YA over at Savvy Authors:

YALit 101: Writing for Teens 

Hope you'll join me! It's fun over at the YA side...

Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday Cozy Mystery Review: Steamed Open by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mystery)

Publishing date: Dec. 18, 2018

From the publisher: 

It’s summertime in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy—or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake’s supply. Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick’s decision. But which one of them was angry enough to kill?

Beachcombers, lighthouse buffs, and clammers are outraged after Frick puts up a gate in front of his newly inherited mansion. When Julia urges him to reconsider, she’s the last to see him alive—except the person who stabs him in the neck with a clam rake. As she pores through a long list of suspects, Julia meets disgruntled employees, rival heirs, and a pair of tourists determined to visit every lighthouse in America. They all have secrets, and Julia will have to work fast to expose the guilty party—or see this season’s clam harvest dry up for good.  

My thoughts: 

This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series--and just yesterday, I was trying to determine why. I read my share of cozies, especially in winter (I like the comfort factor, the small town settings). But many lose my interest after a few chapters, often because they feel predictable, or don't challenge my intellect enough (a pitfall to the cozy, alas).

Barbara Ross somehow manages to combine the small town setting with a smart mystery, plus a recurring cast with real problems and depth. That's the closest I can get to defining why this cozy series is one of my favorites.

Steamed Open takes us back to familiar Busman's Harbor, this time because one of the (somewhat reclusive and mysterious) local residents passed away (no murder), and has left her estate to a nephew who has just moved in. He restricts local access to the beach, much to the chagrin of the local clammers who rely on the location for their income. The nephew is killed at the estate just after amateur sleuth Julia Snowden has visited him, kicking the whodunit into gear.

The mystery becomes bigger and bigger, as Julia tries to uncover family history going back generations, with secrets many of Busman Harbor's residents don't want uncovered.

While some cozy series start to become repetitive after a while, I think the Maine Clambake Mystery series actually gets better. Author Barbara Ross clearly dug deep for this one (clam pun not intended), with thematic depth and more serious family history at the center of the mystery--without losing the small town charm of the cozy. Great recipes (with meaning and history) in the back, if you're so inclined.

Highly recommended. This is a cozy that elevates the genre.

If you're not familiar with the series, I highly recommend starting with the first book, Clammed Up.

**Goodreads Galley**

Friday, November 16, 2018

BookBoy, YALit 101 And Other Happenings (Nov./Dec. News)

It’s almost Thanksgiving! This is not good, because I’m actually still surprised that it’s 2018… It’ll take me at least until March next year, again, to get the year right on anything I fill out.

That said, I’ve had a pretty good 2018 so far. Lots of school and Skype visits and conference talks, and I got to talk to lots of kids, which is my favorite part of the job. I’ve also been writing a lot: a new MG mystery, a few short stories, and now I’m outlining a new, ambitious YA that’s close to my heart. More about that in 2019 (gasp! See how hard this is going to be?) 

Mystery TV

We like our TV here at the Bradley house, mostly from Netflix and Prime anymore, but there are still a few network shows we watch. Surprisingly good mystery this fall: The Rookie, with Nathan Fillion in it. I was expecting a show like Castle, but this one is more complex than that, with a few darker moments. I like it, and so does my better half, which doesn’t happen often.

            Along with the rest of America (and the world, it seems), we also watched The House on Haunted Hill—very cool and spooky, but with an ending that didn’t quite fit. Still, highly recommended.

Mystery Books

I’ve been reading up a storm—no surprise to you fellow writers, I’m sure. During my school visits, I often tell kids that I read about ten times more than I write, which is no exaggeration. 
Of note this fall (titles for adults this time): Fugitive Red by Jason Starr (juicy, like watching a very bad train wreck, but you can’t look away), and Elevation by Stephen King. I’ve been enamored by the novella lately, and Mr. King masters this length beautifully (despite his usual inclination to write those giant tombs).

Where You Can Find Me

The year is almost over, but I still have a few more events on the calendar:

Nov 25th: BookBoy, Bookbar’s father-son book club. I'll be talking about Double Vision, of course. If you are a father or a son, come over to Denver’s Bookbar. Or if you’re not, come anyway: this store and the little pocket neighborhood around it is a must-visit. They have wine, and books. It’s brilliant marketing to people like me, plus the staff are really great at recommending books.

Dec. 10th-24th: YALit 101. If you’re like me and would rather stay away from the shops this December, join me for a YALit 101: Writing For Teens workshop over at Savvy Authors. It’s all online, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. You bring the hot beverage and wear your best comfortable clothing, I’ll tell you need to know about writing YA. It’ll be the perfect thing to do in December.

I hope you’re having a great last few weeks of 2018, and I hope to catch up with you again in 2019. Until then… Do you have any book or TV recommendations to share?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday Teen Book Review: Fresh Ink (YA anthology)

From the publisher: 

In partnership with We Need Diverse Books, thirteen of the most recognizable, diverse authors come together in this remarkable YA anthology featuring ten short stories, a graphic short story, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print.

Careful--you are holding fresh ink. And not hot-off-the-press, still-drying-in-your-hands ink. Instead, you are holding twelve stories with endings that are still being written--whose next chapters are up to you.

Because these stories are meant to be read. And shared.

Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play. This collection will inspire you to break conventions, bend the rules, and color outside the lines. All you need is fresh ink.

My thoughts:

Such great stories here; an eclectic mix of diverse authors writing for teens of today. Some of the stories were a bit rougher than others, but overall the collection feels honest and fresh.

This is probably one of the best YA books I've read, since it truly reflects all teens today. I have a few teenagers in the house; these stories really resonate, and don't pull punches.

Recommended if you want to try some new authors--I've added a few names to my list for sure.

**NetGalley provided copy for review**

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday Teen Book Review: Copyboy by Vince Vawter

From the publisher: 

In the sequel to the Newbery Honor-winning novel Paperboy, Victor Vollmer sets off to fulfill a final request of Mr. Spiro, the aging neighbor who became his friend and mentor. Now a few years older and working as a newspaper copyboy, Victor plans to spread Mr. Spiro’s ashes at the mouth of the Mississippi River as the former merchant marine wished. 

But the journey will not be a simple one. Victor will confront a strange and threatening world, and when his abilities and confidence get put to the test, he’ll lean on a fascinating girl named Philomene for help. Together they’ll venture toward the place where river meets sea, and they’ll race to evade Hurricane Betsy as it bears down. 

My thoughts: 

This is definitely one of the best books I've read this year--truly an undiscovered gem.

The story continues where Paperboy left off, and I'll admit that I went back and read that one first. Where Paperboy is a beautiful middle-grade, Paperboy is a great YA. We follow Victor as he's about to go off to college when his mentor Mr. Spiro passes away and asks Victor to spread his ashes.

The journey takes Victor to the Gulf Coast; the author reflects the culture there so well. I loved how this was a coming-of-age story that transcends the genre.

Highly recommend for all ages; a YA that's appropriate for a strong MG reader who is not quite ready for the stronger YA content.