May 31, 2011

Tween Tuesday Book Review: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything

Title: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Book Summary

Eleven-year old Dini loves movies—watching them, reading about them, trying to write her own—especially Bollywood movies. But when her mother tells her some big news, it does not at all jive with the script of her life she has in mind. Her family is moving to India…and, not even to Bombay, which is the center of the Bollywood universe and home to Dini’s all-time most favorite star, Dolly. No, Dini is moving to a teeny, tiny village she can’t even find on a map. Swapnagiri. It means Dream Mountain and it only looks like a word that’s hard to pronounce. But to that open-minded person who sounds the name out, one letter at a time, it falls quite handily into place: S-w-a-p-n-a-g-i-r-i. An honest sort of name, with no surprise letters waiting to leap out and ambush the unwary. That doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises in Swapnagiri like mischievous monkeys and a girl who chirps like a bird—and the biggest surprise of all: Dolly.
My Review

I'll be honest - I don't know much about India and Bollywood, so I went into this book a bit clueless as to what to expect.  I was very pleasently suprised at what I found.

The Characters:  The main character is 11 year old Dini (Nandini).   In the very first chapter we learn two things - Dini loves a very famous Bollywood actress, Dolly Singh and she is moving to India for two years.  As this would anyone, it throws her and her best friend Maddie into a spiral.  They only way they have out of it is to focus on the fact that something seems wrong with Dolly since her last movie had no happy songs in it, and that Dini is moving to the same country as Dolly.  So instead of focusing on the fact she is moving, her and Maddie focus on how to "fix" Dolly.

Dini seemed liked any other 11 year old I know who is completely obsessed with a certain actor/actress or singer.  She knows everything about Dolly, about her movies and about her life.  I know girls that could tell me everything about whoever famous they "love".  It's through this obsession that Dini's personality comes through.  She's determined and refuses to acknowledge that, even with her plan to fix whatever is wrong with Dolly, it may not happen.  All she sees is what she can do - yes getting frustrated at times, but always finding a way around it.  I don't think, if I was 11 like her, if I would've felt as confident in my ability to carry out my plan!

The Plot:  The interesting thing about how this story is written is that it's not just from Dini's view point.  It jumps around to several key players in the story including a very likable mail carrier.  At first I found this a bit confusing, but as the story progressed I had learned all the characters, so the jumping around was fine.  And by that time I was super curious how all these pieces were going to come together.  It was pretty cool to see how Uma Krishnaswami was able to take all those think story threads and bring them together to a very satisfying ending.  Sometime when you have that many pieces floating around, something gets left hanging.  I didn't feel that happened in this story at all.  How the mail carrier's story played out was really sweet to me.

I found this to be a sweet story filled with kismet.  Here's how Lal (the mail carrier) talks about what kismet is.
There is is again, that thing that most people would call coincidence.  Lal prefers to think of it as kismet.  Some people would say kismet means fate but really it's a far more beautiful idea - it is the idea that in spite of all the obstacles, some things are meant to be. (pg 118-9)
To me that was really what this story was about - that basic hope that things that are meant to be will work out in the end.

Final thought:  Filled with sweetness, color, sound and yes kismet
Best stick-with-you image:  The monkeys
Best for readers who: like a story where lots of pieces come together
Best for ages: 10-13

Be sure to come back tomorrow when I interview the author!

Tween Tuesday was started by The Green Bean Teen Queen.

May 30, 2011

Winner of Cinderella Ninja Warrior!


Ok so I'm a bit slow on this!
The winner of Cinderella Ninja Warrior is:

Beverly @ The Wormhole
who said she'd twist
Jack and the Beanstalk.

Beverly - the email you gave me isn't working! Please email me!
themgowl at gmail.com

May 27, 2011

Book Review: The Midnight Gate by Helen Stringer

Title: The Midnight Gate
Author: Helen Stringer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Book Summary
It’s been two months since Belladonna Johnson discovered she was the Spellbinder, and she’s full of questions about her powers. When a ghost finds Belladonna and her classmate, Steve, and gives them a mysterious map, the friends don’t know if they should be looking for or hiding from the one person who holds the answers to Belladonna’s powers: the Queen of the Abyss. Throw into the mix that Belladonna’s parents, who are ghosts, have disappeared and that her brand-new and maybe even sinister foster family seems to know more than they’ll let on, and you have a sequel made of high adventure and intrigue, seasoned with affecting characters and topped with a dollop of wit.
My Review
I love when I enjoy a sequel more than the first book.  That happened with The Midnight Gate!  Where has Spellbinder seem to have more action and a faster pace, The Midnight Gate was slower but more complex and brain twisting (yes brain twisting!)

The Characters:  I really enjoy Belladonna.  Here's a girl that's picked on, left out and basically a loner.  She has just "saved the world", and now must slip back into her normal life - well as normal as seeing the ghosts of your dead parents can be! What a tough place to be. Here she's suppose to be this amazing person capable of things others aren't, but she can't even stop the class bully from picking on her.  It just makes me like her that much more.  Then we things start to really unravel and everything she did get support from is gone you get to see her start to stand on her own two feet better.  When I think back to how she was at the start of Spellbinder until the end of this book it's amazing to see how much stronger she has become. There are still times when her youth blinds her to things that me, as an adult, could see happening.  Realistic but at time a bit frustrating because I just wanted to see what I saw!

Steve - her Paladin (protector) is a bit frustrating in this book.  He definitely fulfilled his role as the Paladin, but he was struggling with changes in his own life, and the way he was dealing with it made him a little less likable.  As the story went along I grew to like him better again because he did redeem himself over and over, but it was frustrating how much he seemed to blame Belladonna.  It wasn't her fault I wanted to yell at him! He is very brave and very smart and at times very very foolish! Although I do know a lot of twelve year boys and that is pretty typical.  I am very curious to see how his character will continue to play out and mature.

The Plot:  Like I said, this story moved slower than Spellbinder, but that allowed it to be more complex.  There were tons of twists and turns with a healthy dose action mixed in especially at the end.  Once I got hooked into the mystery of the map that Belladonna and Steve had been given plus the whole mistrust of the family Belladonna has to live with, I couldn't put the book down.  The plot pulled me along - not like a raging storm, but like a steady strong current.  And just when I thought it was slowly something new would jump in and disturb everything!

I will say that sometimes the plot lost me with the description of who was doing what - especially when it came to the Shadow People that Belladonna was seeing.  I had to reread a bit to make sure I got it. 

Final thought:  Nice solid sequel
Best stick-with-you image: The shadow people while on the swing
Best for readers who: Like to watch a mystery slowly begin to unravel
Best for ages: 11+


CymLowell

Author Interview: Helen Stringer The Midnight Gate Plus a GIVEAWAY

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Helen Stringer to The O.W.L.  She has a fantastic new book out The Midnight Gate sequel to Spellbinder (you can read my review of Spellbinder HERE).  Watch later today for my review of The Midnight Gate.

Welcome to The O.W.L. I'm very excited to have you here today talking about The Midnight Gate as well as writing in general. Let's get started.

In The Midnight Gate - what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?

I really enjoyed writing the Queen of the Abyss. She was originally going to appear in Spellbinder, but I had to put her off until book two. I love characters that are not quite what they seem.  It’s so common to make snap judgments about people based on their appearance and that’s something you can really have fun with in the fantasy genre.  The opportunity to find out more about Steve was great, too.  Too often people assume that kids who don’t do well in school are stupid, when their curiosity might just show itself in other ways. Steve is having to deal with the disappearance of his mother as well as his new-found skills, but when push-comes-to-shove (that’s an English expression, do you use it here?) he usually makes the right decision.

Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!

Boy, can I tell you about revision -- Spellbinder was originally around 650 pages long!  I had been looking for an agent for a while when one of the people who read it said that it was too long and that it should be half as many pages.  I did what I always do – went off in a huff.  Lots of mutterings along the lines of, “She doesn’t get it! Lots of books are longer than that! I can’t cut anything! It’s all absolutely crucial!”  Eventually, I just looked at the stack of paper, split it in the middle and had a look where that was.  I then wrote a completely new ending and wound up with a much better book. And my critic became my agent!  I had hoped that the half that I cut would be book two, but the changes that I made to Spellbinder meant that very little survived – except, of course, the Queen of the Abyss.

In general, though, I start writing when I have the germ of an idea, without any plan or outline. I need to explore the characters a little, see who they are and how they speak. After I’ve written a couple of chapters I read them aloud to friends and family. It’s a really good way to tell if something is working – their responses (and silences!) really let you know whether something is working or not. I may prepare an outline once I’m about four or five chapters in, but it’s always fairly fluid. I’ll get other ideas while walking around, watching TV, or having a shower and the whole story will have to change. Sometimes I’ll go back and adjust the stuff I’ve already written, but more often I’ll make a note along the lines of “Don’t forget about the lighter!” and carry on, only going back to make the changes when I have a complete draft.  Once the draft is complete, I send it to my agent who will respond with pages of notes (more grumbling), then I’ll revise and send it back. This might happen several times.  Then it goes to the publisher who will send yet more pages of notes (even more grumbling). Eventually it ends up in the hands of a copy editor who sends notes about grammar and punctuation, most of which I will agree with (after the requisite grumbling, of course!).

I think one of the things to remember about revision is that everyone’s goal is to make it a better book.  I also suspect that working in the film and television industries really helped me to appreciate that.  A movie is very collaborative – nothing gets made without everyone working together.  A screenplay is only a blueprint which the producers, director, actors, cinematographer, designers, composer, gaffers and grips (to name but a few!) bring to the screen. Everyone is working towards the same goal – making a good movie.  It might not be as obvious when you are writing a book, but all of those notes and comments, from the first glimpse that you give your family to the last suggestion that perhaps a comma would be good just there, help to make your story the best it can be.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

Some parts of the story were based on real life.  Some of the things that happen in school, for example.  Quite a lot of the places were based on real ones, though. The school is based on the school I attended back in Liverpool – it really was made up of three Victorian houses joined together. It’s still there, of course, but they have added a lot of newer buildings now. Arkbath Hall is based on Speke Hall just outside Liverpool, the House of Mists on Croxteth Hall where I worked for a while, and the ruined Fenchurch Abbey on the spectacular Furness Abbey just outside Barrow in Cumbria. Not all the places are based on ones in England, though – Evans’s Electronics was inspired by something I saw on a tour of the old theater district in downtown Los Angeles. It was a tiny electronics shop, all blaring TVs and flashing lights, but once you go through a small door in the back of the store you find yourself in a beautiful old vaudeville theatre, built in 1912 and still complete with velvet curtains and gold-painted angels!

As to characters…Belladonna is largely based on my sister, Becky. She was always very clever, but terribly shy. Miss Parker was definitely inspired by the headmistress at my school – a very daunting lady who swept along the corridors wearing her black academic robe, which billowed behind her like the wings of a giant bat.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

I didn’t have much say at all.  The publisher designs the cover and sends me a draft.  If there’s something I strongly object to they would probably change it, but they usually design the cover to appeal to particular readers. Publishing companies do tons of research on things like that, so I think it’s wise to defer to their expertise.

What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?

I was the kind of student who gets remarks along the lines of, “Helen has a great deal of potential but must work harder.”  My sister always got great grades but I could generally find reasons not to do my homework and was miserable at anything science related – which is odd because I’m really fascinated by it now.  Basically, I did well at the things I was interested in: English, history, art.  I was also always planning things: plays, films (once I got my first camera at 13), and really, really complicated games that went on for days.  I was constantly making up stories.  Having a younger sister helps in this.  Becky is only 15 months younger than me and we shared a room, so every night I would tell stories until she fell asleep.  This was my first experience of rewriting, too – if she didn’t like the way a particular story was developing she’d tell me and then I’d have to start a new one! 

History was (and still is) one of my favorite subjects. The stories always gripped me and sent my imagination flying.  I would picture myself living in past times or speaking to the people we were reading about, and I would wonder whether I’d have done anything differently if I’d been there. I reference quite a lot of English history in my books, as well as the myths and legends of various countries, and I make a real effort to get the facts right just in case someone is interested enough to want to find out the whole story about (say) Charles I or the Viking invasions.

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

I think the two writers I admire most are Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.  Austen because she chooses her words so carefully – she always says exactly what she means. I can remember when I hated her stuff.  At 13 I thought her books were glorified romance novels and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  But the very fact that she is still being read today when most of her contemporaries are long forgotten shows that her way of looking at people was so accurate and true that even though it is nearly 200 years since she last set pen to paper, which still recognize her characters in those around us.  As to Dickens…well, it’s easy to forget if you haven’t cracked open one of his books in a while, but he wrote cracking good stories. If people have never read him, I usually recommend Nicholas Nickleby to start – mysterious, adventurous, funny and touching.

When I was growing up my favorite author was Alan Garner. He isn’t very well known here, but it’s definitely worth hunting down books like The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Elidor and The Owl Service.  He was the first fantasy author I read whose work was grounded in a world I recognized.  One of my favorite American authors is Raymond Chandler – he has real fun playing with language, which I think is so important.

I have to ask the last question about Spellbinder.  Where did the idea for the giant cockroach like creatures on the ceiling come from??? I still shudder at them!

I have no idea! Though there’s nothing worse than noticing a spider on the ceiling above your bed just as you turn out the light. Insects on ceilings – ugh!

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on The O.W.L.  I particularly loved your view on why we revise - with the goal to make it better!

It’s a pleasure! 

Now for the giveaway!

Spellbinder series giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive one copy each of THE MIDNIGHT GATE and SPELLBINDER along with some bookmarks! To enter, send an e-mail to SpellbinderSeries@gmail.com. In the body of the e-mail, include your name, mailing address, and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 6/17/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 6/18/11 and notified via email.

For excerpts, games, links, and more, visit Helen's website at: http://www.helenstringer.net/
Read Helen's blog: http://helenstringer.net/blog/

May 25, 2011

The Dark Days of Supernatural Summer Tour

I'm sure you've been seeing a lot about The Dark Days of Supernatural Tour from HarperTeen.  There was another Dark Days put on by Harper Teens earlier this year, but this is the summer one.  And boy does it have some great books! 

I'm most excited for Hereafter, Divergant and Something Deadly Comes This Way.

Take a look at the trailer and then check below for a bit about each book. 





ILLUSIONS
Author:  Aprilynne Pike


Synopsis:  "I don't do patrols, I don't go hunting, I just stick close to you. You live your life. I'll keep you safe," Tamani said, sweeping a lock of hair from her face. "Or die trying."

Laurel hasn't seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.

But just as life returns to normal, Laurel realizes that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail.

Book Excerpt: http://www.harperteen.com/feature/darkdays/summer/Illusions-excerpt.pdf

----------------------------
DIVERGENT
Author: Veronica Roth

Synopsis:  In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Book Excerpt: http://www.harperteen.com/feature/darkdays/summer/Divergent-Excerpt.pdf

----------------------------
DIE FOR ME
Author: Amy Plum


Synopsis:  My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything.

Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent.

Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.

While I'm fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart—as well as my life and my family's—in jeopardy for a chance at love?

Book Excerpt: http://www.harperteen.com/feature/darkdays/summer/DieforMe-excerpt.pdf

----------------------------
CAMPIRE KISSES 8: CRYPTIC CRAVINGS
 Author: Ellen Schreiber


Synopsis: The morbidly monotonous Dullsville has finally become the most exciting place on earth now that Raven is madly in love with her hot vampire boyfriend, Alexander, and a crew of vampires has taken residence in Dullsville's old mill. Raven discovers Jagger's plan to open a new club, the Crypt, right here in Dullsville. But is it her dream come true or her worst nightmare? Raven and Alexander have to figure out what the nefarious vampire has in store for Dullsville's teen and vampire population. Can Raven convince Jagger to listen to her plans to make the Crypt the morbidly magnificent dance club it could be? Will it be safe for mortals and vampires alike?

And as Sebastian and Luna's relationship heats up, Raven wonders about her own amorous fate: Will Alexander ever turn her? Does he crave her and does he want to spend eternity together? And what does she really want?

With cryptic secrets and cravings, this eighth installment in the Vampire Kisses series is a romantic and mysterious thrill ride.

Book Excerpt: http://www.harperteen.com/feature/darkdays/summer/VK8excerpt.pdf

----------------------------
SOMETHING DEADLY COMES THIS WAY
Author: Kim Harrison


Synopsis:  I'm Madison Avery, in charge of heaven's hit squad . . . and fighting it all the way.
When Madison died the night of her prom, she knew her life would never be the same. Now she has a powerful amulet, a team of rogue angels by her side, and the ability to flash forward into the future to see the shape of destiny. And of course, now she's finally with Josh—a perfect boyfriend who doesn't even mind that she's dead.

But being dead has its disadvantages, too. Madison feels caught between the light and the dark, and between her real life and her timekeeper status. When Madison has the opportunity to get her body back—to be alive again—she faces her most difficult decision yet. If she claims it, she could return to being a normal girl—and have a chance at a real relationship with Josh. But would having the one thing she wants most in the world also mean giving up everything she's worked so hard for?

Book Excerpt: http://www.harperteen.com/feature/darkdays/summer/SomethingDeadly-excerpt.pdf

----------------------------
STARCROSSED
Author: Josephine Angelini


Synopsis:  How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

Book Excerpt: http://www.harperteen.com/feature/darkdays/summer/Starcrossed-excerpt.pdf

----------------------------
HEREAFTER
Author: Tara Hudson


Synopsis:  Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won't want to miss.

Book Excerpt: http://www.harperteen.com/feature/darkdays/summer/Hereafter-excerpt.pdf

May 23, 2011

Armchair BEA Intro



Ok ok so I'm a day late in this, but I really wanted to share my cover crush on Monday! The great people at Armchair BEA are organizing all the fun for us that can't be there.  Check them out HERE!
I wish I could be in New York, but I can't with school ending soon.  So instead I'm joinging in this way!

Let me intro myself a little with some facts about me:
  1. I'm a 7th grade English teacher.  I love teaching 7th graders because they have so much energy! Plus they accept that I'm a book geek and move on from it :)
  2. I got started with the owls as a joke with my sister who decided, after seeing I have TWO of them, that I needed to collect owls.  When I started the blog I called it The O.W.L. as kind of a joke!
  3. I've got owls all over my classroom, but only about 3 at home.  My students never believe that.
  4. I'm 40 and proud of it!
  5. I'm a breast cancer survivor (8 years this summer)
  6. My students really believe I'm a geek when it comes to reading.  One student told me they say I'm a cool nerd.  I'll live with that!

About my blog:
1.  I focus on books that 7th graders read.  As much as publisher like to think they fall into the middle grade (MG) category they don't.  I thought about being a purely MG blog, but after really looking at what my students read I realized they were all over the board, so now I focus on what they read - the way I see it I focus on REAL middle grade readers!

2.  I review both new and older books because there are so many "older" books that seem to be missed.
I like to focus on books for boys in Fridays  in my Friday's For the Guys posts.  There is so much boy focus lacking in YA lit!

3.  I've been blogging for about 18 months, and I still find it unbelievable that people read what I write!  A couple of my students just went to a book signing.  They were talking to some ladies there and told about me blogging - they were followers! Yikes!!!!

Lastly

I'm an aspiring YA author.  I'm currently doing the second round of revisions on my first novel.  I don't know what will become of my writing, but I love it!

That's about all.  I hope you check out my blog and like what you see and come back!

Cover Crush: Miss Peregrine's

I love book covers.  I really really do.  Even my students know how much I love them.  I'll share a new book and go on and on about the cover.  Or I'll search out a few students in the morning to show it to them.  They laugh at me but they get it.  They also get that a "bad" cover is - well just bad! I truly do get a crush on certain covers.

Currently I'm crushing on:
 

 
I'm in love with this cover! It just gives me the creeps but in a fantastic way! I think part of the reason I'm drawn to it is that I've been watching Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel, and it has hints of that in it.  Notice her feet don't really touch the ground! And what's even cooler is that there are photographs in the book, so the cover will almost get carried through the entire story!
I WILL be getting this book!

May 21, 2011

Book Review: Crepe Makers' Bond by Julie Crabtree

Title: Crepe Makers' Bond
Author: Julie Crabtree

Book Summary
Ariel is the head chef in her family kitchen. Cucumber salads, fettuccine carbonara, fish tacos, and peanut butter pie are just a few of the dishes she crafts when she’s feeling frustrated by the world. And it’s turning into a frustrating year. Ariel, Nicki, and Mattie have been inseparable friends since they were little kids, but now Mattie’s mom has decided to move away. It’s the girls’ last year in middle school, and they can’t fathom being separated. The friends concoct a plan that will keep Mattie in the Bay area — she’ll move in with Ariel and her family. But before you can say "bff," the party is over. Everything Mattie does gets on Ariel’s nerves, and it’s not long before the girls are avoiding each other. This was supposed to be their best year ever, but some painful lessons are threatening to tear their friendship apart. Can the girls scramble to make things right before the bond crumbles?
My Review
How many times when you were in middle school did you wish you lived with your best friend? Or how many of us had best friends move away? I think many many of us could raise our hand to both those questions.  Because of that, this is a book that tons of girls will be able to relate to.

The Characters:  Ariel is a pretty typical 8th grader.  She's easily embarrassed, loves her family yet at points wants nothing to do with them and her friends are the most important thing to her.  I liked Ariel, and I think most girls will be able to relate to her a lot.  When she finds out her best friend is moving she reacts the way I've watched countless girls I teach react - including the plan to have M (her best friend) move in with her.  I liked, too, her love of cooking and how she used it to de-stress.  I think most girls have something they do when they are feeling stressed out, so it was neat to see how she used that.  The only bad part about her cooking - it made me hungry!!!

As an adult I did find Ariel a bit self-centered at times.  She talked a lot about how she wanted everything in her life to be and what her friends and family were to do to fit into her plan.  That is pretty typical of this age group, but as an adult reader I did want to remind her a few times it wasn't all about her!  I did like the growth she had at the end of the book though.  She definitely stepped out of herself and focused solely on the needs of M and her family.  It endured her more to me.

As for her two friends M (there is an explanation as to why just M!) and Nicki - they too were pretty typical 8th graders.  Full of drama, confusion, emotions and their lives.  In the end I think I liked M more than Ariel.  She grew up a whole lot faster.  I may have to read Discovering Pig Magic to hear more about her story.

The Plot:  The plot centers around what happens when two best friends end up living together.  As an adult, I could've told them it wouldn't go as expected, but 8th graders need to learn everything for themselves! I liked how the tension builds between the friends.  It was very realistic, and at points made me feel their discomfort.  The side story with Nicki was interesting, and it added to tension nicely too.  Because of Nicki's mysterious behavior, Ariel found she didn't have someone to turn to when things weren't going well.  It made her even more confused and uncertain.  She had to struggle more, so it made the outcome that more satisfying.  In the end, M and Ariel's stories wrapped up well.  I was definitely satisfied with how it all turned out.  I am, however, curious about what will happen with Nicki, and I wonder if there will be a book about her.......

Final Thought: Definitely a story that middle grade girls will able to relate to - and hopefully learn from!
Best stick-with-you image: All the food!
Best for readers who: Are girls - especially girls that have had a friend move away
Best for ages: 11+

Do miss the interview I did with Julie Crabtree.  You can go HERE to read it!

May 20, 2011

Author Interview Julie Crabtree - The Crepe Makers' Bond

I'm very excited today to welcome Julie Crabtree the author of The Crepe Makers' Bond.  

A Bit About the Book
Ariel is the head chef in her family kitchen. Cucumber salads, fettuccine carbonara, fish tacos, and peanut butter pie are just a few of the dishes she crafts when she’s feeling frustrated by the world. And it’s turning into a frustrating year. Ariel, Nicki, and Mattie have been inseparable friends since they were little kids, but now Mattie’s mom has decided to move away. It’s the girls’ last year in middle school, and they can’t fathom being separated. The friends concoct a plan that will keep Mattie in the Bay area — she’ll move in with Ariel and her family. But before you can say "bff," the party is over. Everything Mattie does gets on Ariel’s nerves, and it’s not long before the girls are avoiding each other. This was supposed to be their best year ever, but some painful lessons are threatening to tear their friendship apart. Can the girls scramble to make things right before the bond crumbles?
Watch for my review of it tomorrow.

Now for the interview!
Welcome Julie Crabtree!
  
Thanks for visiting The O.W.L.!!!!!

For your most current book - what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?

The Crepe Makers' Bond features a young teen, Ariel, who wants to be a chef. Her character makes me proud. She is passionate, dedicated, and unwavering in her quest. Ariel is who I wanted to be when I was that age, but certainly not who I was. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was in eighth grade. I already loved to cook and write, but I never pursued either of those “hobbies” because I didn’t see them as possible life paths. I felt fearful that such pursuits could not sustain me in the real world. I know now that I was wrong. I dismissed my own abilities and passions. I didn’t have the bravery to stand up and follow what I love to do until years after college. Unlike me at that age, Ariel is fiercely committed to becoming a chef because it is what she truly loves to do. She is aggressive and unapologetic about her goals. Ariel makes me proud because, through her, I hope kids that dream of becoming an artist, writer, musician, game designer, athlete, or anything else that seems scarily unattainable might lean into it their passions rather than run away from them.  

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!


It took me about a year to write The Crepe Makers’ Bond. It is a sequel (to 2008’s Discovering Pig Magic), so the characters already existed, and I just continued their story. I write in the mornings, when my kids are at school and it is quiet and peaceful. I don’t outline or plan ahead; I just sit down and plunge into the story. I feel as if the characters are real and I am merely an observer who writes down what they say and do. It is a peculiar sensation, hard to describe, and I often wonder at this process myself.

The revision process has been similar for both the books I have published, and I will describe it to the best of my ability. Once the book is finished, I put it aside for about a month and don’t think about it. After that, I go back to it with fresh eyes and do my best to revise and polish it before sending it to Milkweed Editions, my publisher. My editor then reads the story. He combs through the manuscript (that’s what a book is called when it is still a story on unbound pages that hasn’t been made into a real book yet) and suggests ways to improve it. These suggestions range from large chunks that need to be rewritten or deleted to small tweaks that might help make a character more believable or improve the flow of the plot. The editor and I work on this first revision together, and it can take a couple of months and a lot of revising to make the original manuscript satisfactory to both of us. But that’s not the end of the revision process!

After this “macro” edit comes a “micro” edit called the copy edit. A copy edit is like the math of the English world. It doesn’t focus on big issues with the story that involve characters or plot, that has already been revised, but rather it focuses on the grammar, punctuation and structure of the story. Facts are checked. It is a more technical, less creative, rule-driven type of revision. So…yep, lots of revising goes on, and it adds many months to the process of publishing a book.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

The story and characters aren’t intentionally based on any real life people. But! I have two girls who are in sixth and eighth grades, and a lot of their experiences slip into my stories. Sometimes I don’t even realize I am “borrowing” characteristics or events from my children or their friends until I read it later or one of them points it out. I also believe it is impossible, at least for me, not to put some of my real life and my past into the stories I create. I think of my writing like a patchwork quilt made from scraps of everything I have ever worn. That pink square might have been the dress I wore to my birthday party when I was five, and that purple fuzzy patch may have been my favorite coat when I was in high school, but now they are parts of the quilt. They are old and familiar, but put together they form a completely new thing. Likewise, the year I got bullied (sixth grade), my love of cucumbers, or the friend I had that loved sailing might contribute to the story as pieces of it, but the story as a whole and each character are unique creations. 



How much say did you have in the cover of this book? What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

Whoever said a book isn’t judged by a cover knew nothing of the book industry! Covers are so important—a potential reader makes all sorts of instant judgments about a book based on the cover. For this reason, the publisher goes to great lengths to find a cover that will fit the story and appeal to its readership. As the author, I have very little say-so about the cover. Perhaps more established authors might assert creative control over what cover is chosen for their books, I don’t know, but in my experience, it is best left in the hands of the publisher. What I do well is write stories. I know my place! I do not design or intelligently analyze cover art. For this reason, I am happy to have my publisher control the cover design. They have deeper knowledge of the book industry than I do, access to feedback from readers and other industry professionals, and lots of experience choosing covers designs for books. We all desire the same thing, to see the book well-received, so I try to write the best story I can and trust them to choose the best cover.

I cannot speak to the specific process within the publishing company of creating the cover. I know there are graphic artists and cover designers who submit suggestions. Perhaps you might consider interviewing an editor about this? (mine might be willing, please let me know if you are interested in approaching him about this, and I’d be happy to pass it along)


Interestingly, The Crepe Makers’ Bond had a different cover originally. I loved the first cover, but it was not well-received. My publisher swapped it out for a cover that better reflects the themes and tone of the book. I later heard criticism, both on line and from kids directly, that the first cover seemed cold and made them think of “their mom’s book club.” Ouch! Not exactly what we had in mind. The new cover has been embraced and I believe it has contributed to the early success of this book. If I had chosen, it would still have the first cover, which illustrates my original point: I am a writer, not a cover designer!

What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?

 I was a high achieving student. My parents were both educators, so not getting good grades was never an option for me. In elementary school I loved English, history, and all the “word” subjects. I struggled constantly with math and felt a lot of disappointment in myself about that. I worked very hard to please my teachers and parents, and sometimes I felt like I was “tricking” everyone who thought I was smart because I didn’t really feel smart. I just knew how to work hard. By high school I realized that working hard could get me where I wanted to go, and I learned to stop trying to figure out the “smart” question. The hard work led me to a good college. I still struggled with math and the sciences in college, but I majored in English and found joy and success in that department.

I have written in school and for myself for as long as I can remember. It’s how I process the world, through writing. I may not be good at math, but I can write about how it feels to be frustrated by it!

A funny sidebar: my first little stories and poems, around second grade, are written right to left. I am left-handed, and perhaps had some early dyslexia. I can still write in mirror image fairly effortlessly. It is my only interesting “party trick.” Oh, and I can do the Vulcan hand sign and speak Pig Latin too!

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

I have such a hard time choosing favorites because there are so many! As a kid, I loved Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, Madeline L’Engle, and about a bazillion others. Right now, I read all the stuff my kids read, and some of it is absolutely amazing. The Hunger Games books are fantastic (I am team Gale if you are wondering). The Percy Jackson books are brilliant, and right now I am reading the Gregor the Overlander series. Such imagination! I read the Twilight series, and found them quite compelling. I could go on for days about books and authors, there are so many that inspire me. I love reading as much as I love writing.

Thanks for “talking” to me. Happy Reading!

Thanks for spending some time with us Julie (and secretly I'm amazed by the pig latin. I can't speak it at all!!!)

May 18, 2011

Guest Post by Maureen McGowan Author of Cinderella Ninja Warrior - Plus GIVEAWAY

Yesterday I posted my review of Cinderella Ninja Warrior.  You can check it out HERE.  Today I'm lucky enough to have a guest post from the author and a giveaway!

I asked if Maureen could talk a little about her writing process.  I'm constantly trying to get explain to my 7th graders the process of writing - that it's not once and done. 

Here is what she had to say.

My writing process is slightly different for every book that I tackle. That said, I usually start with an overall concept or idea. Cinderella: Ninja Warrior is obviously based on the traditional fairy tale, so my first step was to think about which story elements from the traditional story, if any, I wanted to use. I decided that I couldn’t have “Cinderella” in the title if the story didn’t end happily. I also thought it should include a prince and a stepmother. But beyond that, I let my imagination take over.

One of the things that’s always bothered me about the traditional Cinderella fairy tale is: if life was so bad with her stepmother, why didn’t she leave? Now, I know that girls and women living centuries ago, didn’t have as many choices as we do now, but still… So I started off by figuring out why my Cinderella couldn’t leave. That led me to magic and I decided to make some of the main characters wizards.
I also needed to give Cinderella the skills to escape on her own—I didn’t want her to be saved by the prince. I also wanted the story to include a lot of action and adventure. While thinking about those things, an image of ninjas dropping from trees to attack Cinderella popped into my mind. I thought that was funny—and exciting—and soon I had the overall concept set.

Once I had the basic concept, I started to outline the plot. That is, plan what would happen in the story and when. This part was especially difficult, and especially important, for my Twisted Tales because I knew I’d be including choices for the reader.

For the reader interaction, I decided that I didn’t want “wrong” paths or different endings. I think fairy tales promise happy endings by their nature, so I decided that no matter which route the readers chose, they’d end up at the same ultimate happy ending. I also didn’t want to include “wrong” paths—sorry, you die!—because I figure that a smart heroine, and smart readers, will make smart choices. The way I see things, each day we face choices, and the alternatives aren’t necessarily right or wrong—just different. So I wanted to present reasonable alternatives at each decision point without making it obvious which choice was better. Also, a capable heroine—even if she makes a mistake—should be able to face whatever challenges her choices place in her way.

When I decided on this structure, I didn’t realize what a difficult path I was laying out for myself as a writer! My choices about the book created challenges for me—almost as tough as those facing Cinderella in her magic competition, or Lucette (Sleeping Beauty) when she’s the only one awake and facing vampires in the night.

I had to be very careful to ensure the key story elements either: occurred in the common sections; or occurred in each alternate path differently, but with similar outcomes. Confusing. I know. There were times while writing these books when my head was spinning so badly I didn’t know which end was up!
Once I had an outline, I wrote the first draft of the novel very quickly, in about five weeks. Instead of writing one version of the story all the way through, I wrote both alternatives at each decision point before moving on. (With Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, I wrote one path all the way through first, then went back to write the alternative paths. I’m not sure which method was better…)

After I finished the first draft, I cleaned it up a little and then shared it with my critique partners—other authors with whom I share my work. My critique partners let me know what worked well and what didn’t. It’s hard to accept criticism from others about your work, but I trust them to be honest with me (as I am with them) and they always give me a lot to think about, even if I’d rather not hear some of it at times.
Once I absorbed their criticism, I made a plan to revise the manuscript. Typically, I like to take a week or two off at this point. But in writing these books I wasn’t granted that luxury, because I had very tight deadlines. I got the offer to write this book in mid-October, 2009 and it was due January 3, 2010!
When revising, I try to tackle the major story elements first, things that affect the plot or the nature of the characters. Once I think I’ve got the story down, I start to look at the actual words more closely. I cut out words I don’t need. Make sure my sentence structure is varied—for example that every sentence doesn’t start with the word “she”—and that I’ve chosen the very best word in every situation.

Once that was done I sent it to my editor. (Who had some comments to make, too.)

Writing and editing a novel is challenging work, but worth it in the end. At least for me.




Thank you so much for sharing! I can't wait to hear the reaction of my students!

Now for the giveaway!




To Enter:
YOU MUST ANSWER THE QUESTION!
Fill out the form
US and Canadian residents only
Ends May 25th at midnight CST

THE QUESTION:
If you could "twist" any fairytale which one would it be and why?
I'd twist Robin Hood and have Robin be the one who had to be "saved"!


May 17, 2011

Book Review: Cinderella Ninja Warrior

Title: Cinderella Ninja Warrior
Author: Maureen McGowan

Book Summary
In this fast-paced story full of adventure and romance, Cinderella is more than just a servant girl waiting for her prince—she's a tough, fearless girl who is capable of taking charge of a dangerous situation. Seeking to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother, Cinderella perfects her ninja skills and magic talents in secret, waiting for the day when she can break free and live happily ever after. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Cinderella and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read!
My Review
I've been seeing a ton of these books where a classic tale is changed in some way as well as a lot of retelling of fairy tales. Cinderella is probably my favorite Disney "princess" story, so I was pretty interested in this one.  I'm glad I got to read it!

Ok we all know the story of Cinderella and the argument about how she needs "saving" from the prince.  Well this is a Cinderella that needs saving, but she's far from helpless.  I so love the fact that this Cinderella is learning magic and ninja skills.  Given the chance she would be able to fight back.  Unfortunately for her this story still contains the evil step mother and bossy step sisters.  And to make matters worse - this step mother knows magic.  She uses that magic to keep Cinderella locked in the house.

The Characters:  Loved Cinderella.  She was just fun.  I could see hanging out with her and having a good time.  She never gave up and jumped into situations that scare her without backing out.  She wasn't completely confident, but she refused to give up.  I loved how she entered the magic competition even though she didn't know much magic and if her step mother saw her it could be the end of any chance of escape.  It's cheesy but you know the saying "when life gives you lemons make lemonade"?  Well Cinderella did that and more.  Gotta like the kick butt ninja she was becoming!

Ty, the love interest, seemed nice and sweet, but he did lack the depth that Cinderella had.  He was necessary to carry out the Cinderella story, and I really liked that he wasn't there as the only way to save Cinderella.  It was clearly more of a partnership with pure support.

The step mother and sisters were pretty stereotypical but that was to be expected since that's the role they need to play in the story.  I did like that they weren't so over exaggerated to the point of being too much.  They were annoying, mean, cruel and horrible but not too much so.

The plot:  If you don't know this is a "pick your own ending" book.  I haven't read on in years, and I found it really fun.  I've been reading a lot of books lately where I didn't like some of the choices that the main character made, so it was refreshing to be the one making the choices!  The plot had enough twists and surprises to keep things interesting which was great considering the Cinderella story is one we all know.  I did have a few things figured out before they were revealed, but also some things surprised me.  The plot pulls you along - well it did me because I was excited to get to the next choice!  I liked how it all ended and was amazed at how all the different paths came together.

I do have to comment briefly on the love story.  We all know that Cinderella is the story of a girl finding her prince.  This one is no different even though this Cinderella could kick most princesses' butts.  The love story was sweet boarding on cheesy, but it feet the story.  I had a lot of "awwwww" moments, and I think we can all use those.

Final Thought:  Nice ninja action mixed with magic and love. 
Best stick-with-you image: Ok I'm a sucker for pretty gowns so the description of a gown she wore!
Best for readers who: Like choices, likes a twist on the familiar and likes fun stories
Best for ages: 11+

Now stay tuned tomorrow for a great guest post by the author and a giveaway!!!

May 16, 2011

Cover Crush: The Pledge

I love book covers.  Book covers draw me to a book.  I've been known to find a book with I cover I love and pick it up and show it to everyone.  I do get cover crushes. 

Well today I'm crushing on:

The Pledge
by Kimberly Derting

I just love this cover! It's bleak yet eye catching.  The darkness contrasted with the face of the girl is so striking.  I cannot wait to see this one in person!

About the book
Words are the most dangerous weapon of all...

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she’s spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can’t be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country’s only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

Countdown Widget
I don't normally add countdown widgets to my blog, but I'm adding the one for The Pledge (hey it lets me see the cover more!) If you'd like to add it too go HERE to get the code.

Cover Crush was partially inspired by The Book Worms Cover Crazy posts. 

May 15, 2011

There is No Try

Very quick writing update. Very exciting day. My first rounds of revisions are done!!!!! Now to reprint and go again.

I'm learning so much about my writing process and what I can do next time around to make it smoother. I need my chalkboard painted on the wall so I can map out better!

Say I know a lot of writers use Scrivner (spelled wrong maybe) but its Mac only. Does anyone know of a similar program for Windows??? Thanks!

Today is a good writing day!!!

A Need So Beautiful Book Trailer

The book trailer for A Need So Beautiful is out. 

Isn't it great?!?!

I wanna read the book more now!



May 13, 2011

Friday is For the Guys Book Review: Scrawl by Mark Shulman

On Fridays I like to focus on books that would be good for boys.  Not that girls wouldn't enjoy these books, but they are definitely written more for boys.
 
Today I have a book review of:

Scrawl by Mark Shulman

Book Summary
Tod Munn is a bully. He's tough, but times are even tougher. The wimps have stopped coughing up their lunch money. The administration is cracking down. Then to make things worse, Tod and his friends get busted doing something bad. Something really bad.
 
Lucky Tod must spend his daily detention in a hot, empty room with Mrs. Woodrow, a no-nonsense guidance counselor. He doesn't know why he's there, but she does. Tod's punishment: to scrawl his story in a beat-up notebook. He can be painfully funny and he can be brutally honest. But can Mrs. Woodrow help Tod stop playing the bad guy before he actually turns into one . . . for real?
 
Read Tod's notebook for yourself.
My Review
I'm always amazed by a book that has as strong clear voice - one that seems to come off the page and almost walk around the room as a real person.  I found that voice in Scrawl. It was the strength of that voice that pulled me through the rest of the story.

The characters:  The main character Tod is a bully.  There is no way around that.  He takes money from others, scares them - all the traditional stuff.  It would've been really easy to dislike him, but because the book is written from his perspective you understand the why he is doing some of what he does.  It doesn't excuse what he does, but at least you understand and can sympathize some (and I believe Tod would hate me saying I had "sympathy" for him!).  What comes through most for Tod is that deep down you know he's got so much that could be going for him.  He's unbelievably smart.  He can figure out the "game" that people are playing and play right along or pull it right out from them.  It was interesting, as a teacher, to see what he had to say about teachers and how they treat kids.  Tod's thoughts did make me step back and look at my own thoughts. 

The other interesting part about Tod was, that even though he was a bully, he still did these things that were sooooo non-bullyish, and he cared about things that people would never in a million years think he would care about.  His personality was not the stereotypical bully personality all the way through.  The cool part - he knew that and sometimes he'd show it just to throw people off - to remind them that the world isn't always how they think it is.

The Plot:  Much of what put Tod in detention was unclear at the first.  This is mainly because Tod is writing the story, so he doesn't feel the need to explain the whole thing.  I had to piece things together even at the end when more was told.  I did have a bit of a problem following the story some because I got confused as to whether something happened in the past or just now. 

The story is much more character driven than plot driven, so although you do see Tod conflicted with what to do I felt it was much more focused on who Tod was and the question of who he was going to be.  Every conflict in the story seemed to push that question to the front.  What I liked about this and the plot over all was that it had a clear wrapped up ending for the current situation but not for Tod's life over-all.  It didn't end like a Disney movie.  It ended in reality, and that I liked.

One side note about the ending - the very end there is a whole thing about how something is worded. I had to read it several times to get it exactly.  I do worry that some readers (younger ones) might not get that at all and then miss some of the point of the story.

Final thought:  Tod's voice was so strong it was like I was listening to him read his notebook!
Best stick-with-you image:  The end of the play
Best for readers who:  Like stories that are more about a character and less about a story
Best for ages: 13+
Other books or authors that are similar: Walter Dean Myers

May 11, 2011

Two Team Owl Double Review: Bitter Melon and Revolution

Today I have to very mini reviews from one of my biggest readers.

First up:

Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Book Summary
Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school. But is being a doctor what she wants? It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her? Set in the 1980s.

Team Owl Review
This book is really an amazing book with an amazing plot.  The main character in Bitter Melon is Frances (that's her American name, her real Chinese name is Fei Ting), and her whole life she had been expected to go to a medical school to be a doctor, because that's what her mother wants her to do. She hadn't really challenged that until she ends up in a speech class instead of a calculus class, and discovers her love and talent in speech. This book is really about Frances finding the power and courage in herself to make her own decisions about what she wants to do with her life, and her many struggles along the way.

Best for ages 12/13+

My note:  I tried to read this one and had to stop after about the first 75 pages.  I just couldn't get into, but a think a teenage girl would relate so well to the main character's struggle with her mom.  As a mom I had a completely different perceptive.

Next Up
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Book Summary
BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Team Owl Review
My note first! - I handed this book to this particular student to read because I knew she wouldn't be intimidated by the size.  (It's quite long)  She jumped in.  I asked her a few days later how it was going, and she wasn't so sure.  She was a bit confused.  Like the next day she came in and said it just go sooooooooo much better, and she was really liking it now.  The funny things is - well read her review and you'll see.

What she wrote when considering a review 
I read Revolution and I was going to do a book review for it, but I could not figure out what to say! I loved/liked the book but the book itself is kind of...confusing??? I don't know but it sure made it hard to try to come up with a review! But to basically sum it up, the first few pages or 1 chapter are 100% confusing, but once you get past that, she pretty much lays off the big words, and it gets WAY good. Although she throws a twist in at the end that I wasn't sure I liked that much, but I think that I grew to liking it a little better as the end came near. But the book itself is a little thicker...but once you get into the story, the pages go by fast. Oh and I l<3ve the cover!

Waiting on Wednesday: Texas Gothic

This is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post I talk about books yet to be released that I'm excited about OR already published book's I've seen that I'm really wanting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers aren't sharing so that more books are shared.

I'm Waiting On:

Texas Gothic
by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Released July 12


I think this one just looks awesome, and yes the cover did catch my attention for sure. 
Has anyone gotten their hands an ARC of this one???
  
Book Summary
Amy Goodnight's family is far from normal. She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business. Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister. Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less normal than it normally is. Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

May 10, 2011

Review and Author Interview: Halloween Kentucky Style

Today The O.W.L. is excited to welcome Charles Suddeth author of the very fun tween book
Halloween Kentucky Style.

First let me tell you a bit about the book and what I thought of it.

From Goodreads
For Halloween 1959, Mike and Timmy try to trick their cousins, Alice and Rose. The trick is on them when a homeless man and their nine-year-old neighbor team up to give them a Halloween scare that they will never forget.
My Review
I remember growing up heading out on Halloween planning on scaring some people.  I lived in a very (VERY) small town, so we'd run around all evening scaring people, hiding from others and just genuinely having fun.  This book reminded me of that time so much!

What I really liked were the voices of the main characters.  Sometimes I read a tween book, and the way the young character talk is so completely off.  I didn't find that at all here.  Although set in 1959 is still has the true ring of young boys and girls.  I could just see these kids carrying out their plans and reacting to what ended up happening. My favorite line that showed how perfectly drawn these kids were was, "Mike was excited.  This was going to be so much fun, if nothing went wrong.  And what could go wrong?" (pg 30).  That just sets up the characters and the events that unfold.  Love it!

Final thought: Very cute book about something we all love - pulling a prank on others.
Best stick with you image:  Can't say - too much of a spoiler
Best for readers who: Love Halloween.
Best for ages: 8-11

INTERVIEW
I was lucky enough to have Charles Suddeth answer a few questions about his writing and life.

Welcome to The O.W.L.

1. For your most current book - what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
        When you write a story and it clicks it is a really wonderful feeling. I liked the story and my friends liked it, but we were all prejudiced. However, an editor at Random House wanted it. The acquisition committee turned it down because it was seasonal, but they would have just sold it for one Halloween. A second publisher offered me a contract, but they weren’t going to promote it right, so I didn’t sign it. Diversion Press offered me a contract. I took it because I found out that they would have it in print for several Halloweens.

2. Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!       I’m old fashioned, so I wrote the rough draft on paper. I can be more creative with pen and paper. It took about two years for the book, mostly for editing and the many revisions. I can understand why you’re interested in revision. I think most writers either hate it or they’re afraid of it—or both. Once you get to know revision, it can be a lot of fun. First, you have to be just as creative with it as you are the rough draft. Don’t be afraid to throw out paragraphs or even chapters or at least rewrite them. Always print out your manuscript and edit on paper. It will let you see your mistakes and/or weak sentences. And read it aloud, even if you’re alone, especially dialogue. Again, you can often hear problems that you couldn’t read. Find someone who can give you good advice and let them read it.

3. Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
      Some of the events are loosely based on things that happened to me or people I knew. Determining where the characters came from is more difficult. Although I didn’t specifically base them on anyone, I’m sure that subconsciously I must have.

4. How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
     I was asked for my opinion about the cover, but I have a small publisher. I told the editor what I wanted and she accommodated me. Large publishers don’t often involve the writer in the cover at all. They even change the title to meet their marketing needs. This is the computer age, so I was told that my cover was photo shopped. Even the printers get digital files, so I have copy that was sent to the printer. It has both covers and the dimensions in fractions of an inch along the margins for the printer.

5. What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
      I was usually a good student, but honestly, not always if I didn’t like my teacher. I didn’t have favorite subjects when I was in school, except I didn’t care much for social studies. My sixth-grade teacher had me write a short story, and I have never stopped writing since. An English teacher in high school helped me appreciate and write poetry. I still write poetry, but just for fun.

6. And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
     There are so many wonderful writers that it’s hard to narrow down. Mark Twain quickly comes to mind. He not only used his imagination and came up with fantastic stories, but he was conscious of his writing craft. So his work has survived the test of time. When I was in school I liked to read James Fennimore Cooper and Edgar Rice Burroughs, because their stories were great too. Unfortunately they didn’t pay attention to their writing, so their books have gone out of style and they sound clunky. Some of my favorite authors today: JK Rowling because her stories are believable fantasies and she has made readers out of countless kids. Charlaine Harris writes a series of books about Sookie, a young woman fighting vampires. Although they’re too extreme for those under eighteen, Sookie has a tongue-in-cheek attitude that reminds me of young adult books. Another writer I like is Mo Willems. He writes a picture book series about a pigeon, but he drags the reader/listener into the story. When I was younger I liked John Steinbeck, because he was such a marvelous storyteller. Another one I liked was A. A. Milne and his Winnie the Pooh, because of his absolute whimsy. And of course, Tolkien who created a magical world like no other. Instead of super heroes, Tolkien’s tales involved little people doing super things.


Thank you to Charles Suddeth for stopping by!