Friday, May 27, 2011

New Book Review -- Take Me to the River

I have enjoyed many books by Will Hobbs, but Take Me to the River captivated my attention all the way.  It has everything a reader of YA novels can enjoy:   Adventure.  Mystery.  A dangerous kidnapping.  And for river rafting fans, a great river journey impossible to forget.  It's a coming of age story as well, since both Dylan and his cousin, Rio, are forced to grow up in a hurry.

This review is a reposting of my review from Sacramento Book Review.  Please visit that site, as well as San Francisco Book Review, and enjoy a reading feast of reviews in every genre by a variety of reviewers.  You'll want to bookmark those sites.

Take Me to the River

HarperCollins,$15.99,184 pages
When Dylan heads for the tiny ghost town of Terlingua, Texas, he’s expecting a week of canoeing on the Rio Grande with his uncle and his cousin, Rio. Dylan's uncle makes his living guiding canoe trips on the river. But, on arrival, Dylan learns his uncle is in Alaska on a river job since the local economy is suffering.
Dylan stays with Rio, though, and the two boys decide to take the river trip alone. Both are experienced canoeists. Still, the part of the river they are navigating is dangerous at best, and soon after they set off, Hurricane Dolly is on her way to meet them. Even more frightening dangers await them when they meet up with a murderous gangster who has kidnapped a young boy after a deadly shoot-out.
Hobbs’s writing winds and soars and drops and crashes like the river itself, as the boys navigate rapids, rocks, and hidden debris–all while struggling against additional flooding from the storm and worrying about the gunman’s growing impatience. Every bend in the river, every cave, every cliff-side is rendered distinct. This book takes you on the ride of your life, with a guide who knows his rivers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Still Working on Rewrite for Contest

Dear Blog Friends,

I am still working on my mystery rewrite for the contest.  Come by Friday, though, as I'll still have a new book review posted.  Then next week I'll be back to normal blogging.

Thanks, and have a great day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review Friday -- The Eyes of Pharaoh

This week I had the pleasure of reading a historical mystery by Chris Eboch, The Eyes of Pharaoh, set in ancient Egypt during the reign of Ramses the Third.  This is a fast-paced adventure, with historical details that plunge you into the era, engaging characters that feel realistic, and tension that never lets up.

Thirteen-year-old Seshta is one of the young temple dancers in the Temple of Hathor.  Her dream is to eventually leave the temple and become a renowned performer.  Her two best friends are thirteen-year-old Horus, son of her family's former maid and apprentice to a toymaker, and sixteen-year-old Reya, a conscript in Egypt's army.

When the story opens, Seshta is focused on the coming dancing contest for the temple dancers.  The Pharoah himself will see the contest, and winning could ensure Seshta's future as a performer.  Then Reya meets up with her and Horus, saying that he has information about a threat from the Libu (a tribe from what is  present day Libya).  Reya is on his way to inform the general, but wants Seshta and Horus to know something first, in case something goes wrong.   Then Reya disappears.

Since Reya is a soldier, his family assumes he is on a mission.  But Horus's blind sister dreams of Reya being trapped in a small place, alone and scared.  Seshta, too, has ominous dreams of danger, and she decides it is up to her and Horus to find and rescue their friend.  The two become spies, asking questions in the marketplace that lead them to the army garrison, a merchant's wealthy grounds, and a prince's estate, as they uncover clues about a plot to overthrow Pharaoh Ramses the Third.  Even the head of the Eyes of Horus, the secret police, seems to be involved.

This book sparkles with drama, historical accuracy, and lively characters today's young people can relate to. I wish I'd had Eboch's book when I was teaching sixth grade.  The unit on ancient Egypt is always a favorite with students, and her book brings the era to life.

For information about how to contact Chris Eboch and how to order her book, visit her website (click on her name).  You'll find other good reads by this author (including the Haunted series), information on writing, and lesson plans for her historical books.  For my own part, I want to read her Haunted books next, since I love a good ghost story!  Then again, the Mayan book looks intriguing as well . . .

Happy reading!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Busy With Rewrites for Contests

Apologies for the days of no posting.  I've been busy rewriting a mystery and a children's verse story to enter them in contests, as well as working on a travel article for a contest.

I'M ALMOST FINISHED, and I must say, there is nothing like a deadline to make one productive!

Tomorrow I will be reviewing a terrific new book by Chris Eboch, so come have a look.

Till then, happy writing -- and happy reading, too.  There's nothing like a good read to get those writing wheels turning again.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review Friday -- The Memory Bank

Something really strange happened to my Wednesday post about almost being a juror.  It disappeared before I could respond to comments.  Go figure.  Pressed the wrong button?  I dunno.  Anyway, my apologies to those who had a comment.  Because then it came back -- minus the comments!

Meanwhile, here is the promised book review for Book Review Friday.  This is a re-post from Sacramento Book Review.  By all means, check out the site and read good reviews by other reviewers, as well as some essays by interesting columnists on a variety of topics.

The review:

The Memory Bank

By Carolyn Coman
Arthur A. Levine Books, $16.99, 280 pages
This remarkable book about two neglected children uses an innovative approach for the narrative. The book opens with eight pictures showing Hope dressing her baby sister and giving her a whistle to wear.  (The whistle will prove important later.) The text begins with a car ride where their parents abandon Honeyon the roadside and tell Hope to forget her. Hope cannot forget. For the rest of the book, pictures alternate with text as Hope tries to find out what happened to her sister.
“Hope sprang up in bed like she was spring-loaded at the waist, her sister’s name thundering inside her head. But no sooner had the dream awakened her than it was chased away by what she had awakened to. Where was she?  Oh yes, yes, now she remembered: the Dream Vault.”
Hope moves into the garage. When she isn’t slaving over chores, she sleeps and dreams about Honey. One night a mysterious stranger shows up to take Hope to the World Wide Memory Bank. The Bank’s administrator, Sterling Prion, is concerned about Honey’s lack of memory deposits. Violetta Mumm, who runs the Dream Vault, is fascinated by Hope’s dreams. Everyone is concerned about a mysterious Clean Slate Gang that seems bent on destroying the Memory Bank. By the book’s end, all these strands converge in unexpected ways.
Coman distills her quirky, humorous text like poetry. Honey is an utterly charming heroine. Shepperson’s black and white illustrations quiver with life. This is a book to savor.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Book Review Friday -- How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack

It’s Book Review Friday again, and today I’m pleased to share Chuck Sambuchino’s humorous book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack (Ten Speed Press / Crown, Sept. 2010).

I have never owned a garden gnome, and reading this book made me count myself lucky. Who knew the danger behind those rosy cheeks and Santa Claus beards? Sambuchino’s premise is that these gnomes are fiendish little statues who actually live and breathe and are out to get you once you’ve let them into your garden.

But, if you are one of the luckless who trusted the cuteness of these statues, don’t despair. Sambuchino’s thorough survival guide is divided into four sections and covers every aspect of handling the threat: risk assessment; gnome-proofing your home and garden; defense tips for actual confrontation; advice for dispensing with dead gnomes....

Sambuchino’s sly humor had me laughing out loud a few times; more often, I was quietly snickering. His weird solutions are worthy of movie scenes: Picture a desperate homeowner digging his own moat or mixing his own quicksand or planting underground sensors to spot gnomes’ tunneling activity. Picture this same homeowner practicing the art of rising from bed in attack mode, or putting kitchen utensils in padlocked drawers, or going to Antarctica to dispose of a gnome who may or may not be dead.

Included in the book are testimonials of those who have survived an attack, as well as quotes and advice from gnome defense experts. The “gnomenclature” insets tracing an ominous history behind various expressions (such as “a baker’s dozen”, “Murphy’s Law”, etc.), are almost believable. Andrew Parson’s photographs somehow capture expressions of inherent gnomish evilness, adding an air of gravity and plausibility to the wildness of Sambuchino’s premise.

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack is a “one of a kind”, good summer read -- one you might consider giving to a friend; especially if they have made the mistake of populating their yard with these dangerous figures.

Chuck Sambuchino is an editor for Writer’s Digest Books. He is the editor of Guide to Literary Agents as well as Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. You can visit his website to learn more: . His book can be purchased at Amazon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Worthy Project to Change Lives

My nephew in Raleigh, N.C. started Friends United about a year ago, a non-profit organization devoted to developing opportunities for people in poor communities. Recently Friends United partnered with an organization called Brahmi, an NGO (non-government organization) in India. The founder, Dr. Channa Raju, founded a school in the community where he grew up. This school provides education to children in a very poor community who otherwise would lack access to it.

Dr. Raju wants to start a computer lab at the school, but the area only gets 3 hours or so of electricity a day. Friends United and Brahmi partnered with SELCO Energy, a socially responsible solar energy provider, to install solar panels at the school and use solar energy to provide not only lighting at the school, but the electricity necessary to power the computer lab. This will help these kids take the ‘next step’ in their advancement.

The total project cost is 15K. They have already raised 5K and are using the Global Giving challenge to raise the rest. The Global Giving folks have approved the project, and now they need to raise at least 4K through 50 different donors. If they are able to do that, not only can the school project be finished, but their organization will be given a permanent spot on Global Giving's website, giving them access to a national audience of philanthropists who can continue to help.

You can go directly to the Global Giving site to learn more about the project and to donate. (100% of all donations from the Global Giving challenge will be used toward this solar project at the Anjana School.)

The following site shows a video produced about the school and this project when Board members visited the school in December.

And at the following site, you can read about Manjula, a former student at the Anjana school who is now giving back to her own community by teaching at the same school.

What we take for granted is life-changing opportunity for others. Please do visit these sites. Thanks.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Home Again

We're back in Sacramento. Got to our house at twelve midnight, Friday night -- 26 hours after we left the hotel in Santiago for the nearby airport. Our dog was delirious to see us, and likewise. But we were soooo tired. Fell into bed and left unpacking for the week-end.

When we left for Spain, Sacramento was trying to have spring in spite of wet, rainy days. And in our absence, friends tell us, April was cold, cold, cold. But, walking around Midtown yesterday, I was delighted by all the flowers. Right in our backyard the azaleas and roses are billows and ruffles of color. Our neighbor's irises are splashes of purple, like Van Gogh's famous painting. Several people in Midtown have planted yellow broom! (Ah, after rhapsodizing over the Spanish broom, it was like seeing an old friend.) Geraniums brighten roundabouts and doorsteps. Gebera daisies in all shades dot garden patches. Lantana and verbena spread in every hue. Ginko trees have opened their fan-shaped leaves, and branches of elms and sycamores form green tunnels over the streets.

Walking our dog, I had to visit my two favorite bookstores to browse flowers of another sort, flowers of the spirit. For what is a book, if not the burgeoning of someone's soul? I picture authors through the ages musing with pen and parchment or, more recently, hunched over their computer keyboards, quietly blooming. Book shops and libraries to me are gardens of the heart. The riches beckon from shelf after shelf.

Naturally I couldn't leave without a flower or two.