Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Pat Schmatz - Author Profile

Pat Schmatz is an author whose Young Adult novels can speak to any reader. She writes with a power an passion that is contagious and she tackles hard topics, in her writing. I was first introduced to her writings by an electronic ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of Bluefish from Candlewick, via NetGalley. I am incredibly thankful. In under a week I read three of her four novels. Pat grew up in rural Wisconsin and has settled back there. But her journeys have taken her through stints of living in Michigan, California, and Minnesota. She is a travel enthusiast who journeys when ever she can, From Vancouver, to New Zealand, to Japan, and any other place she can and back again. Pat volunteers and does administrative work for the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis. In the summers, she is on the staff of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. In between she's running or skiing in the woods or swimming in the lake, she studies Spanish and Japanese and reads and rereads and writes and rewrites.

1. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

I have no idea what I'd be doing. I finished my schooling with an M.A. in Physical Education and worked as a fitness consultant for a while, but I didn't love it. Writing is the only thing I've loved. Everything else is a job - I give my time, I receive money. Some jobs I've liked better than others, and I prefer to work for someone who is doing good in the world, but for me jobs have been mostly interchangeable.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

I talked about wanting to be a writer from very early on. When I told a middle school adviser, Mrs. McQueen, that I wanted to be a writer, she gave me a notebook and said "Then write." That's the best and most nurturing advice I've had to date, and I have followed it.

3. In writing Bluefish, what sparked you to write mainly from a guy's perspective, and specifically a guy with a learning disability?

I can't say I was sparked on either count. Travis came to me loud and clear, and he was a guy, and he loved the woods and swamp, and school was not working for him. Everything else grew out of that.

4. Mousetraps revolves around the themes of friendship, but also someone who was harassed at school who seeks revenge. That is a controversial topic to approach with all of the school attacks that have taken place. What gave you the courage to present Rick in such a sympathetic light?

I don't think it was a matter of courage or choice. The day Columbine happened, Rick began to talk in my head and I felt as if I knew him. The specifics of the story developed from there, but Rick was fully formed from the beginning. Knowing him the way I did, I couldn't possibly present him in any other way.

5. Your approach to truth and reality in Circle The Truth was rather unique. A young man who does not know the truth about who he is, and because of that the relationships he has. It was an amazing story, but how did you come up with the concept of a character who only communicates by reading Bible verses?

The first scene I wrote was Rith finding that spiral staircase in the middle of the night, based on a dream I'd had about my own house shifting in the night. As I wrote the next scene, where he descends the stairs, I discovered Bible Man along with Rith. I don't know where the concept came from - it was just there. The great thing about Bible Man was, whenever I got stuck in the plot of the book, I'd close my eyes and stick my finger on a page in the Old Testament, and whatever I found, I wrote. That's how I found the dog vomit verse.

6. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

Don't worry about what other people think, or money, or practicality. If you love an art, do the art. Do it all the time. If you are afraid (and we all are), do it anyway. If you're not afraid, then you're playing it too safe. Take a risk, and then take a bigger one. It's best if you're not comfortable.

7. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

S.E. Hinton, most of all. Others are Stephen King, Lois Duncan, Joseph Krumgold, Willard Motley, Madeleine L'Engle, Jim Kjelgaard, and Mary O'Hara.

8. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

I start with a grain of an idea - from a dream, or a news story, or a conversation, or any combination of impressions. I begin to play with the idea by writing sketches, scenes, conversations, poems. I work on getting to know the characters. I might write conversations (or arguments) with them. I'm currently working on a book called Lizard Radio, and I spent almost a year sketching and reading about lizards before I began the first chapter.

Once I start the actual first draft, I work my way through, a chapter at a time. When I get stuck, I free write by hand for fresh material. I might write a scene by hand that I realize will come late in the book, and I save it. If I'm really stuck, I write letters to my characters and they write back to tell me what I'm doing right or wrong. Sometimes they yell at me. I rarely know where I'm going, but I follow my nose. I work with a critique group, chapter by chapter, and their feedback helps me to shape the direction of the next chapter.

When I finish a first draft, I let it sit for a while. Then I begin the revision process, retyping the entire story as I go. I make out a time line, with a few words to describe the scenes in each chapter. I typically move through several full revisions before I send it to my agent. She gives me feedback, and then it's more revision. At some point, when she thinks it's ready to sell, she begins to shop it to editors.

Once an editor buys the manuscript, I enter a much more focused revision process with that editor. Once that revision is complete, we move to line-editing and copy-editing for the fine detail of word choices and accuracy. I love working with editors - including the copy editors. They have my book's back, and take care of it in ways I could never do on my own.

9. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

Oh yes, for sure. I don't listen to music while I'm actually writing, but I put together a list and listen to it when I exercise, or when I go out for a walk to think about the story. When I'm early in a first draft and getting to the know the characters and setting, I adjust the playlist a lot and listen to the music all the time.

10. What were your favorite books and authors to read as a youth?

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jim Kjelgaard were my favorite authors until I stumbled on The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. That locked in at the top of the list, and has been my favorite ever since. I love many books, but no other has grabbed my heart in the same way.

11. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?

I'm a total Ann Patchett fan. I love The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I still love Stephen King. All three of them do something I haven't been able to figure out how to do - beautiful character ensembles with shifting viewpoints. Among YA books, I closely follow Markus Zusak, Jacqueline Woodson, and Kate DiCamillo. All three of them take risks and leap ahead to some entirely new place with each book, and I admire that.

12. Some of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

Honestly, I don't think about it much. What happens to my stories once they're released is none of my business - I no longer own them. I figure if I do my art, tell stories as honestly as I can, and try to move with integrity in the world, good things will happen. I know I'm not a particularly good businesswoman, and that's okay with me.

13. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

Hm. I don't even know what a torrent site is, so I'd have to say no…

14. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

My characters are very real to me. I might think about what Mrs. Estronsky would say about something, or how Rick feels about something on the news, or how Travis would like that bird in flight. I hear their voices in my head, and think their thoughts, long after the book is published. But they usually don't grow or change beyond the bounds of the book itself.

I have found myself thinking about what happens to Velveeta in high school though, and that makes me think another book might be starting in my head.

15. One of the greatest strengths of your books is the characters. Which of the characters that you have created is your favorite and why?

Ohh, that's hard. Velveeta is the easiest character I've ever written because she never shuts up. I'm fond of Mrs. Estronsky and Bible Man because they both came out of nowhere and keep giving me good advice. Travis is the character that has been the hardest to write - because he never talks - but I spent so much time trying to get to know him that he has a special place in my heart. Really though, I love all my characters. I have to, or I wouldn't want to have them in my head all the time. To me, those characters in my head are the best part of being a writer. Many of them enrich my life in huge ways, and they make me be better in the world. I realize that I create them, but it doesn't feel like that. It feels like they come and hang out with me and I'm the luckiest person in the world.

16. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

Hm. I don't disagree with that goal. My education taught me how to think, and that's been useful. More importantly, it taught me how to learn, how to focus, how to take ideas from others and shape them and form them and own them. In my experience, higher education wasn't particularly helpful in developing my art, but it showed me how to find what I needed on my own, and gave me the confidence to seek sources that resonate for me. Higher education provided me with the tools to access whatever I needed. Maybe that's the most important thing - to see education as access to maps and tools. It's up to the individual which maps we use, which tools become our favorites, and how to decide where we actually want to go.

17. Many people have commented on how each of your books would make great films. Have any of them been optioned or has any interest in actually developing them begun?

I haven't had any offers or interest yet in film rights for any of my books.

18. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?

I just finished a first draft of a new YA novel with a working title of Lizard Radio. I have a vague idea of a book about Velveeta tapping on the back of my brain, but I have a lot of work to go on Lizard Radio before I can dip into that.

19. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and watch all seven seasons over and over (sometimes in Spanish). I don't watch much current TV, but occasionally I'll Netflix a series - recently, I've liked Glee. Some of my favorite movies are Rocky Horror Picture Show, Stand By Me, Empire of the Sun, and Billy Elliot.

20. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

For today, it would be:
Lisey's Story by Stephen King
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Rumi - The Big Red Book
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Knock on Any Door by Willard Motley
Essential Neruda Essencial (Neruda poems in English and Spanish)
The biggest kanji workbook I could lay hands on (I'm an ongoing student of Japanese)
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling

21. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

For aspiring authors - write! And read. Read and write and write and read. For artists in all mediums, know the masters, find your favorites, soak in the work of those who have gone before and those who excel in the field now, and do your art every day. And know your truth. If you don't know your truth, set out to find it and never stop. You can't lie in art. You may be talented and understand the craft, but if you're afraid of the truth it will trip you up every time.

Thank you pat again for taking some time to answer some questions for the readers at Book reviews and More. I for one anticipate your next book, and know I will be rereading your existing books soon.

Books by Pat Schmatz:
Bluefish
Mousetraps
Circle the Truth
Mrs. Estronsky and the U.F.O.

Author Profile Interview with Pat Schmatz

Monday, 28 November 2011

Breaking Up- Aimee Friedman and Christine Norrie A Fashion High Graphic Novel

Breaking Up
A Fashion High Graphic Novel

Aimee Friedman (Auhtor)
Christine Norrie (Illustrator)

Graphix an imprint of

Scholastic
ISBN 9780439748674

The back of this book begins with the statement: "There's a fine line between a friend and an enemy. One minute there's all this TRUST, and LAUGHTER, and LOVE. And the next minute … there's HURT. And CRUELTY. And BETRAYAL." All of us have been there. We have had friendships fail for many different reasons but this book tries to examine a group of friends as they have a falling out and with some effort maybe recovery. What happens when best friends break up?

This story is written following four friends through their junior year in high school. The four friends have a major blow up and falling out. As each goes their own way they encounter different problems and circumstances in life. And yet soon they realize that life sometimes bring us back to people who meant a lot to us. And sometimes it is the time apart that makes friendships strongest.

The story is very well written. Aimee Friedman and Christine Norrie have crafted a great graphic novel. The art work is awesome, similar in style to both Faith Erin Hicks and Hope Larson. The story is in some ways like Cecil Castellucci's and Jim Rugg's Janes series. It was a great read and a graphic novel I know I will read many times over.


Books By Aimee Friedman:
South Beach (2004)
French Kiss (2005)
A Novel Idea (2005)
Hollywood Hills (2007)
The Year My Sister Got Lucky (2008)
Sea Change (2009)

Contributed to:
Mistletoe (2006)
21 Proms

Graphic Novel:
Breaking Up (2007 - with Christine Norrie )

As Ruth Ames:
This Totally Bites - Poison Apple Book 2 (2009)
At First Bite - Poison Apple Book 8 (2011)

Author Profile Interview with Aimee Friedman

Friday, 25 November 2011

Empire of Ruins - Hunchback Assignments III - Arthur Slade

Empire of Ruins
Hunchback Assignments Book 3
Arthur Slade
Harper Collins
Browse Inside
ISBN 9781554683581

Arthur Slade has another smash hit on his hands. In this amazing novel we are reunited with Modo, Octavia, and Mr. Socrates, and Tharpa joins the expedition this time around. And of course, it features our favorite mechanical hand villain, Miss Hakkandottir. This time the steampunk adventure takes us to the colonies once again as we immerse ourselves in the Victorian World with a technological twist.
Now the adventure heads to the Australian Outback and a rumored Egyptian pyramid in the middle of the Jungle. Filled with a mix of Victorian sense and sensibility, and the steampunk cutting-edge technology, the story takes us into an alternate past. This story is wonderfully written with greater character development and depth than the earlier two books. Slade is a master storyteller and as he draws us into this world and the complex relationship between two spies serving their country, Modo and Octavia both explore new feelings and expectations. This adventure is to see and find a legendary God Face, an ancient relic supposed to turn an enemy arm upon itself. But with poisonous mechanical falcons, an assassin, and Modo and company always seeming one step behind, can they pull it together and achieve another victory for England and the Crown?

This book was another amazing read by an incredible Canadian author. Arthur Slade has been in my top ten reads almost every quarter and every year for a few years running. This book was no exception. I had heard a rumour that this book 3 was to be the last, but now Arthur Slade has confirmed at least a 4th book, breaking with his tradition of only doing trilogys for series, such as Northern Fights and his Canadian Chills. I already anticipate the next, and if you have not read them, read the Hunchback Assignments.

They are exceptional works of fiction!


Books by Arthur Slade:
John Diefenbaker: an Appointment with Destiny (2000)
Dust (2001)
Tribes (2002)
Monsterology (2005)
Villainology (2005)
Megiddo's Shadow (2006)
Jolted (2008)
Shades: 17 Startling Stories (2011)

Hunchback Assignments Series:
The Hunchback Assignments (2009)
The Dark Deeps (2010)
Empire of Ruins (2011)
Island of Doom (2012)

The Northern Frights Series
Draugr (1997)
The Haunting of Drang Island (1998)
The Loki Wolf (2000)

The Canadian Chills Series
Return of the Grudstone Ghosts (2002)
Ghost Hotel (2004)
Invasion of the IQ Snatchers (2007)


Books as Stephen Shea: 
The Not So Simple Life
Damage
Viper - Short Story


Visual Bibliography for Arthur Slade
Author profile interview with Arthur Slade.

Author profile interview with Stephen Shea. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Circle The Truth - Pat Schmatz

Circle The Truth
Pat Schmatz
Carolrhoda Books
ISBN 9780822572688

Pat Schmatz is an author I discovered this year, and immediately she became one of my favorites. In under a week I read three of her four available books. She writes powerful stories that delve deeply into the questions of who we are and finding our place in the world. This book is about learning who you are. It part about learning to be, and to be good at being, no matter what life has thrown at you.

Rith is a young boy coming of age. He lives with his mother, his step father and his step sister who adores him. But strange things are happening to Rith. When he awakes one night and goes to the top of the stairs, he finds that the normal staircase has been replaced by a spiral staircase. This new staircase leads to a living room that is not his own. He is led to these stairs and to this room by a strange cat that again is not his own and yet seems to belong to him or at least has a plan for him. The cat leads him down the spiral stairs to a bizarre old man in an armchair sitting in front of a fire. This old man only speaks in quotes from the Bible. No matter what Rith asks or how much he persists, the Bible man only speaks in verses. Yet His words ring with truth to Rith and soon he starts looking up the verses and reading more. Rith shares this story with his new friend, Toby and soon Toby's father. As Rith circles the truth and tries to figure out what is going on he starts fighting more with his step father, causing tension with his mother. And soon even his little sister seems to be in danger. Can Rith figure out the cryptic quotes from Bible man? Can he find his place in his family and his world?

This was an amazing story. I find myself thinking about it often and know that I will reread it soon. This book will make you think. It was well worth reading and I give it the highest recommendation I can.

Books by Pat Schmatz:
Bluefish
Mousetraps
Circle the Truth
Mrs. Estronsky and the U.F.O.

Author Profile Interview with Pat Schmatz

Monday, 21 November 2011

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods - Suzanne Collins - Underland Chronicles Book 3

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
The Underland Chronicles
Book 3

Suzanne Collins
Scholastic
ISBN 9780439656245

As each story unfolds, Gregor grows and matures as he faces each new challenge and works through each prophecy. These stories are very well written and to be honest, I am enjoying them more as each book progresses, whereas with the Hunger Games Trilogy, I enjoyed each book a little less. Suzanne Collins has crafted an amazing land under, filled with various creatures, races, alliances, wars and more. The Underland is very different from the city above that Gregor comes from. Above in the Overland, Gregor is almost 12 and goes to school, and worries about money, and food and looking after his family. Each time he finds himself in the Underland he finds that he is the warrior prophesized about long ago who must often not only save the day but learn to make the hard choices along the way.

In each book the stakes seem to get higher; the first was saving his father. The second was protecting his band and finding the Bane. Here in the third novel, if he cannot solve the riddle all Warmbloods in Underland will die, and if the disease gets topside maybe all warm blooded creatures on earth. To make matters more personal, his bat, Bond, was one of the first sick. The prophecy of blood is even written backwards and can only be read using a mirror, but it states:

"Warmblood now a bloodborne death
Will rob your body of its breath,
Mark your skin, and seal your fate.
The Underland becomes a plate.
Turn and turn and turn again.
You see the what but not the when.
Remedy and wrong entwine,
And so they form a single vine.
Bring the warrior from above
If yet his heart is swayed by love.
Bring the princess or despair,
No crawlers care without her there.
Turn and turn and turn again.
You see the what but not the when.
Remedy and wrong entwine,
And so they form a single vine.
Those whose blood runs red and hot
Must join to seek the healing spot.
In the cradle find the cure
For that which makes the blood impure.
Turn and turn and turn again.
You see the what but not the when.
Remedy and wrong entwine,
And so they form a single vine.
Gnawer, human, set aside
The hatreds that reside inside.
If the flames of war are fanned,
All Warmbloods lose the Underland.
Turn and turn and turn again.
You see the what but not the when.
Remedy and wrong entwine,
And so they form a single vine."

Can Gregor solve the riddle, can he saves those most deer to him? Will he be able to live up to the title of warrior yet again? It is a lot on the shoulders of a boy almost 12. But once again Gregor must step up, and as we journey along with him it is an amazing adventure.

These books are very well written. Though originally published for a Young Adult audience, I have recommended them to numerous people of all ages (11-47) all of whom have enjoyed them greatly. They are great reads. Give them a try.

Books by Suzanne Collins:
The Underland Chronicles:
Gregor the Overlander (2003)
Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (2004)
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (2005)
Gregor and the Marks of Secret (2006)
Gregor and the Code of Claw (2007)

The Hunger Games trilogy:
The Hunger Games (2008)
Catching Fire (2009)
Mockingjay (2010)

Other books:
Fire Proof: Shelby Woo #11 (1999)
When Charlie McButton Lost Power (2005)

Suzanne Collins Visual Bibliography


Friday, 18 November 2011

PAP – Post Activation Potentiation - Tony Horton One on One Volume 3 Disk 11

Tony Horton
One on One
P90X - MC2
Volume 3 Disk 11
PAP - Post Activation Potentiation

Beachbody


Tony calls this workout PAP Post Activation Potentiation (which most scholarly articles either hyphenate or combine to Postactivation.) and it is very different from any of the other workouts from Tony. In the One on One Series, P90X or P90X+, there is both far more variety and more repetition then we are used to from Tony. For the variety there is an extensive pre and post PAP section of the workout. Then the actual PAP is broken into 2 sections - the first you do three exercises and repeat 4 times and the second you do 4 exercises and repeat 4 times.

The Exercises are: Warmup:
1. Heel Walk
2. Huggers
3. Ball of Feet Smackers
4. Deep Lunges (Twist & Reach)
5. Burpee Salutations
6. Under The Fence Push Ups
7. March Skippers
8. Supine Scorpion Twists
9. Crossover Run
10. 1-Leg Front & Side Swingers
11. Speed Slalom
12. Chatarunga Pushups
13. Speed Front-Back Hops
14. Loading Dock
15. Lateral Jumps
16. 2-Dog Push Ups
17. Speed Slalom
18. Chatarunga Pushups
19. Speed Front-Back Hops
20. Loading Dock
21. Lateral Jumps
22. 2-Dog Push Ups

PAP Set 1:
1 Front to Back Lunges
2 Flying Lunges
3 Forearm Side Arm Balance

PAP Set 2:
1 Push Up Rows
2 Plyo Pushups
3 4-Ball Chatarunga Iso
4 Floor Clock

Post PAP:
1. Doorway Chest Stretch
2. Eagles Lat Stretch
3. 3-Way Band Stretch
4. Piriformis Stretch
5. Quad Stretch
6. Bow-Lat Stretch On Bench (or Ball)

Equipment Needed:
4 Exercise/Medicine Balls
Mobility Balls
Dumbells/Powerblocks
Exercise Bands

As stated earlier, it is a very different workout from some of Tony's earlier works. It will take a while to get used to the change. I had to do the workout a few times before I even attempted to write this review. My impression is that this will be a great workout to switch it up from time to time, but I doubt most people will work it into the schedule regularly.

As a side note, it is with great disappointment that I have heard the One on One's are coming to an end. Tony will be focused on marketing and sales of P90X MC2. We can only hope that he will return to this subscription based format at some point in the next few years.

To find out more about this series or other workouts in the collection, follow the links below. I have created a random workout generator that uses 1 on 1's and P90X if your interested.

Volume 1, Disk 1: Plyo Legs
Volume 1, Disk 2: Power 90® Road Warrior
Volume 1, Disk 3: Killer Abs

Volume 1, Disk 4: Just Arms
Volume 1, Disk 5: 30-15: The Upper-Body Massacre
Volume 1, Disk 6: Fountain of Youth
Volume 1, Disk 7: Super Cardio

Volume 1, Disk 8: Mammoth UML
Volume 1, Disk 9: Bun Shaper
Volume 1, Disk 10: Medicine Ball Core Cardio
Volume 1, Disk 11: Recovery 4 Results

Volume 1, Disk 12: Diamond Delts
Volume 1, Bonus Disk - Holiday Workout

Volume 2, Bonus Disk - Pay It Forward
Volume 2, Disk 1: Cardio Intervals
Volume 2, Disk 2: Core Ball Sandwich
Volume 2, Disk 3: Patience "Hummingbird"
Volume 2, Disk 4: 10-Minute Crusher Pack

Volume 2, Disk 5: Butt and Belly (I Dare You)
Volume 2, Disk 6: Back and Belly
Volume 2, Disk 7: On One Leg
Volume 2, Disk 8: Iso Abs
Volume 2, Disk 9: Cardio Confusion - Mason's Choice
Volume 2, Disk 10: 100/30/20
Volume 2, Disk 11: On One Leg 4 legs
Volume 2, Disk 12: Upper Body Balance

Volume 3, Disk 1: Chest, Back & Balls
Volume 3, Disk 2: ARX2 (Ab-Ripper X 2)
Volume 3, Disk 3: Shoulders and Arms MC2
Volume 3, Disk 4: Base and Back
Volume 3, Disk 5: Yoga MC2
Volume 3, Disk 6: Plyocide
Volume 3, Disk 7: Stretch And Recovery
Volume 3, Disk 8: V Sculpt
Volume 3, Disk 9: Core Synergistics MC2
Volume 3, Disk 10: UBX
Volume 3, Disk 11: PAP
Volume 3, Disk 12: Total Body X

(Disclaimer:
I am asked frequently if I am a Beachbody Coach, no I am not, I am just some one who has used their products, P90X, 1on1 with Tony Horton and more and liked them and achieved good results. I am not paid by Beachbody or any of their affiliates. You can see my full disclaimer here.)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Mousetraps - Pat Schmatz

Mousetraps
Pat Schmatz
Bill Hauser (Illustrator)

Lerner Publishing Group
ISBN 9780822586579

Mousetraps revolves around the theme of friendship, but also someone who was harassed at school who seeks revenge. That is a controversial topic to approach, with all of the school attacks that have taken place. And yet Pat Schmatz not only tackles it but does so with a sensitivity and insight few would have. She examines the complex issues around harassment and bullying at school, and the aftermath of it. It follows a young man who returns to the High School where he had been attacked as a child by a group of other boys. Pat has stated; "The day Columbine happened, Rick began to talk in my head and I felt as if I knew him. The specifics of the story developed from there, but Rick was fully formed from the beginning. Knowing him the way I did, I couldn't possibly present him in any other way." And in doing so she presents a wounded young man who is working to seek his revenge but in the process starts his own true healing.

The story also revolves around the theme of friendship. Maxie and Rick were friends in grade school - they were best friends. They would design elaborate mousetraps, crazy inventions. Rick would come up with the ideas and Maxie would put them to paper. After Rick was attacked at school he disappeared from school and from Maxie's life. Then years later he shows up the first day of High School. To Maxie, in some ways he is the same person, but in other, darker ways, he is not. As Maxie works out her feelings for Rick, things around Rick seem to be unraveling fast. Maxie needs to figure out what she wants and if she can be the one to help Rick.

This story was written with skill and craft. It portrays a conflicted young man on the verge of violence. Yet Schmatz does an amazing job of showing us what can shape someone and push them to the brink of violence, and does it with understanding and grace. It was an amazing book and I highly recommend it to readers of all ages.

Books by Pat Schmatz:
Bluefish
Mousetraps
Circle the Truth
Mrs. Estronsky and the U.F.O.

Author Profile Interview with Pat Schmatz

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Rescue - Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 3 - Kathryn Lasky

The Rescue
Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 3

Kathryn Lasky
Scholastic
ISBN 9780439405591

eISBN 9780545283342

With every book I read, I become a bigger fan of Kathryn Lasky and/or Ga'Hoole. Even though the movie is so different, it was my first introduction to Ga'Hoole and the Legends of the Great Tree and the Guardians who reside there. The books had been on my to-read list for a long time, but because they were older, had constantly been pushed down the reading list. But now I am completely hooked and look forward to each new adventure as I finish the previous book.

In this third installment we return to Soren, a Tyto, barn own, and his band of friends who go on a rescue mission searching out their beloved teacher Ezylryb. Ezylryb had gone missing while searching for information about a new villain on the horizon, Metal Beak. The history and legends of Ga'Hoole is a long and intricate tale. They are stories what will challenge your spirit and make you think you can be better than you currently are. They are stories as truth that will help you see the world in a new way. Lasky is a master story teller and these books are masterpieces each unto themselves and as a greater whole. So come join Soren, Gylfie, Digger, Twilight and Otulissa as they embark on yet another heroic adventure.




Books by Kathryn Lasky:

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book:
1: The Capture
2: The Journey
3: The Rescue
4: The Siege
5: The Shattering
6: The Burning
7: The Hatchling
8: The Outcast
9: The First Collier
10: The Coming of Hoole
11: To Be a King
12: The Golden Tree
13: The River of Wind
14: Exile
15: The War of the Ember
A Guide Book to the Great Tree
Lost Tales of Ga'Hoole

Wolves of the Beyond:
1: Lone Wolf
2: Shadow Wolf
3: Watch Wolf
4: Frost Wolf
The Wolves From The Beyond Field Guide

Daughters of the Sea:
Hannah
May

Starbuck Family Adventures:
Double Trouble Squared
Shadows in the Water
A Voice in the Wind

Born to Rule
Unicorns? Get Real!

The Royal Diaries:
Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England 1544
Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country, France 1553
Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles, Austria-France 1769
Jahanara: Princess of Princesses, India 1627
Kazunomiya: Prisoner of Heaven, Japan 1858

Dear America:
Journey to the New World: The Diary Of Remember Patience Whipple, Mayflower, 1620
Dreams in the Golden Country: The Diary of Zipporah Feldman a Jewish Immigrant Girl, New York City, 1903
Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1932
A Time for Courage:The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, Washington, D.C., 1917

My Name Is America:
The Journal of Augustus Pelletier: Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804

My America:
Hope In My Heart, Sofia's Ellis Island Diary
Home at Last: Sofia's Immigrant Diary
An American Spring: Sofia's Immigrant Diary

Standalone Titles:
The Last Girls of Pompeii
Blood Secret
Broken Song
Star Split
Alice Rose and Sam
True North
Beyond the Burning Time
Memoirs of a Bookbat'
The Bone Wars
Pageant
Beyond the Divide
The Night Journey
Prank
Hawksmaid
Ashes
Chasing Orion
Dancing Through Fire

Children young adults non-fiction:
3038 Staat der Klone
John Muir: America's First Environmentalist
Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles
Shadows in the Dawn: The Lemurs of Madagascar
The Most Beautiful Roof in the World
Sugaring Time
Days of the Dead
Searching for Laura Ingalls
Monarchs
Surtsey: The Newest Place on Earth
Dinosaur Dig
Traces of Life
A Baby for Max

Picture Books:
Lunch Bunnies
Show and Tell Bunnies
Science Fair Bunnies
Tumble Bunnies
Lucille's Snowsuit
Lucille Camps In
Starring Lucille
Pirate Bob
Humphrey, Albert, and the Flying Machine
Before I was Your Mother
The Man Who Made Time Travel
A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet
Love That Baby
Mommy's Hands
Porkenstein
Born in the Breezes: The Voyages Of Joshua Slocum
Vision of Beauty
First Painter
The Emperor's Old Clothes
Sophie and Rose
Marven of the Great North Woods
A Brilliant Streak
Hercules: The Man, The Myth, The Hero
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!
The Gates of the Wind
Pond Year
Cloud Eyes
I Have an Aunt on Marlborough Street
Sea Swan
My Island Grandma

Adult:
Night Gardening (pseudonym of E.L. Swann)
Dark Swan
Mumbo Jumbo
Mortal Words
Trace Elements
The Widow of Oz
Atlantic Circle

Author Profile Interview with Kathryn Lasky



Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest We Forget - Je Me Souviens

We give thanks for those who serve and those who have fallen that we might have the freedoms we do. Thank you.
(Bottom image courtest Dirk HR Spennermann Photeography.)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bluefish - Pat Schmatz

Bluefish
Pat Schmatz
Candlewick
ISBN 9780763653347

Few books have as immediate an impact on me as this book. As someone who grew up with a learning disability, a dual form of dyslexia, reading this book was much like reliving some of my own childhood. Schmatz does an amazing job of capturing the feelings, emotions and immense frustration of having a learning disability and being different from other people. She captures the sense of being an outsider at school and the embarrassment of going out to special education classes. She also captures how that frustration can lead to physical outbursts as it often seems like the only outlet available.

Our cast of characters includes Travis, a young man with anger issues, and a learning disability who is living with a recovering alcoholic grandfather; Mr. McQueen, who is more than just a teacher, but also an educator; he knows how to reach students that others give up on. He is the type of teacher we all need at one point or another in our life, who really connects with us. And the immensely enjoyable Velveeta, a young woman in the special education class also who is an outsider but one with a big heart.

As these characters and their stories start to intertwine, we have a story that unmasks us as readers. With such strong believable characters this story is driven both by the action and the silences between the characters. As Travis and Velveeta begin to trust each other, they make a connection to one another, and that connection is the beginning of their own process of growth and healing. This book was an amazing read, and I know that it is one I will read over and over again.

Schmatz has written a book that should become a classic in Children's literature. It should really be required reading for all middle school children to help them see the people and world around them differently. This book was so amazing that I bought and read two other of Pat Schmatz's books in under a week. Get it! It will not disappoint.

Books by Pat Schmatz:
Bluefish
Mousetraps
Circle the Truth
Mrs. Estronsky and the U.F.O.

Author Profile Interview with Pat Schmatz


Monday, 7 November 2011

The Seed - Fola

The Seed
Fola

Createspace

ISBN 9781463567897

There are certain "Self Help" books that I have read that have been favorites - sometimes for years, sometimes just for a season. Some of these were amazing. Paolo Coelho's The Alchemist, Dan Millman's The Way of the Peaceful Warrior; Noah ben Shea's Jacob the Baker, or Robin S. Sharma's The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari each had a lasting impact on me and was read a few times. So when someone approaches me with a book they think is in the same class, I am always a little leery, and when the author approaches me, even more so. Unfortunately that was the case with this book.

The author set it up as containing the wisdom of the ages and being very enlightening. I cannot say for certain it is the worst book I have ever read but it is definitely close. It follows a character through different periods of history, supposedly reincarnated or continually living and learning new lessons in each epoch of history. The story rambles, the character is weak and it was a great effort just to finish the book and not give up. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would not even rate this book. Usually I can find something good to state about a book - for this one, other than the author's enthusiasm, I can't find anything good to say.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Why God Matters - Karina Lumbert Fabian and Deacon Steven Lumbert

Why God Matters:
How to Recognize Him in Daily Life
Karina Lumbert Fabian and
Deacon Steven Lumbert
Tribute Books
ISBN 9780982256534

This was an amazing little book. The physical book is almost 120 pages. The eBook comes in around 40 pages. But while reading the book, I went back and forth and reread many sections. I probably read the book about 4 times through. I read this as an eBook. The nice thing about it was having it with me all the time, on my iPhone, on my iPad, on my MacBook Pro, on my Desktop or on my Kobo eReader. What made it nice to always have it with me was that often I went back and reread sections a few times over, pondering them, meditating on them and absorbing them before moving on to the next point. The book is written as a series of pensees, reflections or meditations called life lessons. Each chapter is a different Life Lesson, which are alternately written by Karina and Steven, daughter and father. These lessons are:

The Reluctant Convert
Love in a Pot of Rice
So Help Me, God, I Didn't Do It
Martyr for the Trivial
Out of the Depths of Despair
Does God Send Flowers?
The Close Call
Bare Feet
Who, Me?
Small Steps, Steady Progress
Cough Up
My Non-Personal Relationship with God
The Patient Friend
Influence

Each chapter begins with a personal story and then the Life Lesson learned from the experience. Each life lesson is supported with a biblical verse and with a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This book is a little treasure that I know I will go back and reread again to inspire and encourage me in my faith. It is a great book that was very well written. The book also includes a list of books for further reading and a few prayers at the end of the book to help start us along the path of deeper devotion. So give it a try; it will challenge you in your faith and motivate you to go deeper in your spiritual journey!

Books by Karina Fabian:
Magic, Mensa and Mayhem (2009)
Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator (2010)
Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life (2010)
Mind Over Mind (2011)

Edited by: Karina Fabian:
Infinite Space, Infinite God I (2007)
Leaps of Faith (2008)
Infinite Space, Infinite God II (2010)

Contributed to:
Firestorm of Dragons (2008)
The Zombie Cookbook (2009)
The Book of Tentacles (2009)
Twisted Fayrie Tales (2009)
FRIGHTLINER: And Other Tales of the Undead (2011)
Mother Goose is Dead (September 2011)

Author Profile and Interview With Karina Fabian

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Old MacDonald Had A Farm - Little Scholastic - A Hand-Puppet Board Book

Old MacDonald Had A Farm
A Hand-Puppet Board Book

Little Scholastic

Scholastic

ISBN 9780545026031


This book is the first in this series that we have read. My children and I loved it. They want to play and read the book again and again. The 5 year-old can read it to the younger children, and the younger children love
the finger puppets. It is amazing that the 6 pages in the little board book can read again and again. You use the finger puppets to point to the words and to the animals and it is a great learning tool.

Scholastic Hand-Puppet Board Books:
Hey Diddle Diddle
Old MacDonald Had A Farm
This Little Piggy
Hello Dinosaurs!
Twinkle, Twinkle Panda Bear

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

We're Back!

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. Or at least sort of, after taking the month of October off from being online, no blogging, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Google+. I have decided to make some changes to the lineup. Here is what I will be attempting to do with the blog for the next while. The goal is three posts a week; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If I have an author interview profile it will run on Wednesdays when I have them. Fitness reviews will run on Fridays. And I will attempt to review at least one Catholic book a month and post that review on the First Friday. Depending on when a Quarter ends fall I might have extra posts outside this schedule but will endeavor to meet this schedule going forward.