Author experiences, Book Marketing, Book Reviews, Bookstores

The Importance of Informative Book Reviews — Southern Writers – Suite T

Below is a re-post from the excellent Southern Writers blog. Do you read reviews before buying a book? More importantly, do you leave reviews for books you like/dislike? If I’m online, I tend to scan both the good and bad reviews to get a balanced feel for a book. But what if you’re browsing in a bookstore? Sometimes the best books are ones you just stumble upon and take a leap of faith based on the back cover!

By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers MagazineSo many books—so many hours in one lifetime to read them. There’s no way to plow through them all. And that’s the reason book reviews are so important.I recently bought a couple of books recommended for a trip I was soon to take. Since I was going…

via The Importance of Informative Book Reviews — Southern Writers – Suite T

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Book Reviews, Fiction

Kids’ books to beat winter boredom!

If you have children, you probably have mixed feelings about the holidays–excited and scared at the same time! Two weeks! How am I going to keep them busy for two whole weeks?? There are only so many holiday crafts, parades, and Christmas films.

How about supplying the kids with books to keep their brains active and you sane!! Here are a few I’ve read and liked…

Picture Books

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The Gingerbread Witch is a fun story written by Lisa Logan with help from her 4-year-old son, Dean. My kids (age 7 and 4) love it because it’s not your typical sweet-as-sugar children’s book (often written more for the parents than the kids!). There’s an actual story here–a really good one! And a lesson to be learned.

Chapter Books

        

Straight from the horse’s mouth — my daughter and I both like these mysteries involving Cam, a girl with a photographic memory and her best friend Eric. They are great at solving mysteries! We especially like the very first in the series, Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds.

Young Adult

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Into The Land of Snows by Ellis Nelson is a fast-paced story about 16-year-old Blake who must deal with his parents’ recent divorce. When he gets into trouble, his father demands that Blake join him — at Mount Everest! I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but I’m enjoyed it so far and have read lots of Nelson’s well-written book reviews. I have high hopes for this book!

 

Book Reviews

Reading the clear, confident style of Haruki Murakami

Sorry for the delay in postings — and in replies to comments! I’ve been busy with the kids, other family stuff, and trying to not get heatstroke with the 95+ degree weather in NC! The water in our paddling pool is like a Jacuzzi’s! Needless to say, not much reading being done, but I did manage to finish the mammoth 1Q84 (over a period of months) and am currently working on another Haruki Murakami novel, slightly shorter!

I love Murakami’s clear, ram-rod-straight writing. I love the way he creates mystery and gradually reveals what he’s up to, like weaving embroidery threads together. But you don’t end up with a plain-old woven braid; his stories are never predictable. At least not the ones I’ve read so far! He’s not afraid to be different, and he doesn’t sacrifice a good story for elitist-sounding “literature”!

Book Reviews

Review: Valley of Thracians

Our first issue of The Apple Core talks about the elements of suspense writing: the reader knows something bad has happened, and the author delays the answer to the problem, making us crazy with anticipation! When you think of suspense, you probably think of Alfred Hitchcock and murder mysteries, and perhaps “Columbo,” who knows the identity of the murderer but makes us wonder if (and how) he’ll ever figure it out!

But as we’ve seen in my previous post, children’s books can be suspenseful, too. In fact, any kind of  book (including the classic The Secret Garden) can contain elements of suspense. Valley of Thracians: A Novel of Bulgaria by Ellis Shuman is a somewhat unconventional thriller. Set in Bulgaria, it’s also part travelogue, and the “hero” is an elderly gentleman with a limp. Not your typical “noir” setting or private “I”! But that doesn’t make it any less suspenseful. From page one, I was hooked!


Shuman describes the cities and culture of Bulgaria with vivid detail– I wish I could describe settings that well! His main characters are fascinating and believable — a grandfather in search of his grandson who went missing after joining the Peace Corps and is presumed dead, and a mysterious female friend the grandfather meets in Bulgaria, who seems to good-naturedly want to help him. But does she have something to hide? I loved that Shuman kept me waiting for the answers to all the questions that kept popping up — in perfect suspense fashion! And I enjoyed learning about Bulgaria and the ancient Thracian culture — it was never dry or dull, and the story pulled me along until the very end!

My advice — don’t read the book description on Amazon. I just saw it for the first time today and was so relieved that I didn’t read it before beginning Valley of Thracians. In my opinion, the book is much more suspenseful WITHOUT knowing some crucial details about what happened to the grandson. Personally, I love not knowing what’s going on in a book — that’s what keeps me reading, to solve the mystery! Anyway, check out Valley of Thracians — it’s written for adults, but it would be appropriate for teens, as well as voracious younger readers!

P.S. Full Disclosure: Southern Bend Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This basically means, that if you choose to click on a link and buy a book from Amazon, Southern Bend Books could potentially earn a few pennies, which Louisa will then put back into the business of creating books!

Book Reviews

Review: The Demon Headmaster!


In keeping with The Apple Core’s first issue about writing suspense, I thought I’d talk about a great children’s book that I read when I was younger, The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross.

I read this book when I was about 9 or 10 years old and immediately loved it! I still have my copy and will pass it along to my daughter when she’s old enough in the hopes that she enjoys it, too. In this novel, Dinah is an orphan who has spent the first 10 years of her life in a children’s home. She moves in with a foster family, the Hunters, and must adapt to having two brothers, one of whom (Lloyd) seems extremely upset about having a sister! Besides hanging up pictures of flowers and ballerina’s, a new sister (he believes) will mess up things at school. This is our first clue that all is not well …

Harvey, the younger and friendlier brother, is philosophical about Dinah moving in: “Might be a good thing. She might be on our side. Another Normal.” Lloyd is doubtful: “No, she’ll be one of them.” We are left to wonder what on earth is going on at that school!

While waiting to go inside on her first day, Dinah notices that the kids don’t run around and play like normal kids — they walk in single-file lines and stand in groups reciting their times-tables. Things get even stranger when the headmaster (British version of the principal) calls the students into an assembly… Later, Dinah can’t remember anything that happened. Everyone is scared stiff of the headmaster, but why? Dinah is determined to find out!

The book was first published in 1982 but has been reprinted several times since then and even (I found out recently) was made into a TV series! I also discovered that Gillian Cross has written several more books about Dinah’s adventures with the Demon Headmaster. I’m reluctant to read the others, as I love this first one so much I worry that the others won’t be as good and will somehow spoil it! Here’s my battered old copy; the cover is so wacky, I love it!

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P.S. Full Disclosure: Southern Bend Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This basically means, that if you choose to click on a link and buy a book from Amazon, Southern Bend Books could potentially earn a few pennies, which Louisa will then put back into the business of creating books!