Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Still reading but...

So, I have been reading adult books for a change. We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I am in the middle of just because I've heard so much about it and Sympathy by Dede Crane, which I have been meaning to read since I heard her speak a few months ago. Haven't finished either yet, although I am enjoying the Dede Crane book much more. So beautifully written. Have also been flipping through tons of garden design magazines as I try and pull something affordable together for my front yard--sadly J.K. Rowlings is the only children's author I've ever heard of who is really flush, but don't get started on writers' incomes.

I started a Nora McLintock mystery, Password: Murder last night in an effort to figure out how mystery writers do it. Of course I know what one should do, but can't seem to get to the mystery partgoing until half way through. Maybe I'll just have to give up my feeble mystery attempt, and enjoy that others like McClintock do it so well. Later.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth CRaft and Sarah Fain

What happens when post-high school plans suddenly change? Bass Ackwards and Belly Up happens. Becca, Kate, Harper and Sophie are best friends enjoying a last summer after high school in their home town of Boulder Colorado. All plan to go to different universities, but Harper has a dream, or is it a secret? When she finally confesses her change of plans to her three friends, one of them decides to chase her dreams, while another sets out to discover hers. Becca is the only one who is on track to accept a scholarship and ski for her dream university coach, but her friends insists that she too has to set herself a challenge, the challenge of falling in love.

Sounds good, and it sort of was, at least until about half way through when I just got bored.. This is a debut for Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, both seasoned television writers who have worked on The Shield and Angel, neither of which, I confess, I have even heard of. But then, I’m not the target audience, and I think that might be why I started out enjoying Bass Ackwards, but had a hard time finishing it.

It wasn’t the structure of the novel that I found tiresome. Each chapter contained one scene from each of the girls’ point of view. The point of view shift was clear and well handled. Each chapter began with snippets of the girls’ lives; sometimes an email from one of the girls to another, sometimes a list, or even a ticket stub.

After a while though, I realized that I didn’t find any of the characters particularly interesting. I also found that there were too many off-putting little things: the label dropping, the fact that each girl finds a hunk, the made-for-tvishiness feel to the story if that makes sense. And, after a while I found the predictability of the plot really put me off―Kate broke away from her parents, retreated after a traumatic experience, fell in love, but didn’t’ let it knock her out of the saddle so to speak. Becca got on the wrong side of her coach, fell in love with a jock at her new school, but , slept with a jerk from back home over Thanksgiving, and was forgiven by her real love, Sophie got duped by a Hollywood cad, won a speaking role in a movie while a struggling actor who is really in love with her waits in the wings, Harper wrestled with writing the great American novel in her parents basement while her hunky high school English teacher also waited in the wings for her. Like I said, predictable.

Still, my 18 year old thoroughly enjoyed it so you never know. If you like labels, hunks, and best friends this one might be for you. Besides, this writing pair has serious potential. I just wish they'd put it to better use. Mabye next time.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More news

So for those who are interested in finding out more about L. Lee Lowe, the hot writer who is posting chapters of a serialized YA novel that I mentioned in the last post, a British writer by the name of Clare Dudman (will have to check out her books now) has done an interview worth looking at. L. Lee, if you are reading, you put us all to shame. Articulate and funny!

At the opposite end of the kid lit spectrum, Margriet Rurrs, a fellow BC writer who is now based in Oregon, is doing a bookmarks from around the world thing. Very cool. This is how she describes it:

I have initiated an international bookmark exchange for children.
I'm looking for teachers in as many countries as possible to expand it. I have lots of schools in Canada and the US and would like to match them to schools elsewhere. If you are, or know of, a teacher in another country please pass this on.

The rules are simple:
• teacher should send me ( their mailing address and let me know how many kids participate.
• students make a homemade bookmark. On it they write one sentence about their favorite book in English and in their own language if different.
• they will receive an address to mail bookmarks to and will receive same number of bookmarks back for their students.

It's a fun and simple way to create global awareness and international friendship through books!
We have bookmarks going out to Pakistan, Mongolia, Cambodia etc.
Thanks for your help,


For any who don't know her work, check out her website.

And now, back to my book. S.

Check out this new serial YA novel

Check out this new YA serialized novel by L. Lee Lowe @ The writing is taut, visceral, and very tight. In fact, it's head and shoulders above a lot of what I am seeing pubished. I had a few quibbles about tense shifts and hunky guys that seemed more like college boys than high school kids, but the story will grab teens and suck them in within a paragraph and so will the very cool graphics. I am a total sucker for serialized stories, of the sort that used to appear in mazagines when I was a teenager, and at one time were popular in newspapers. This new web version should really appeal to the YA crowd who tend to spend a lot more time on-line than some of us older farts. Way to go L. Lee whoever you are (complaining here in case you come across this--so little on your profile page.) All for now, still reading Bass Ackwars and Belly Up. S.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Another beautiful west coast sunny day. A nice little surprise was a good review in my local paper of A Pod of Orcas, one of my books that was published in 2002 but was recently released in softcover. I love those nice little surprises. After mailing off another manuscript, I'm all about lounging around and reading today with maybe a little bike ride thrown in to keep various bulges in check. Tonight my daughter will be back from her intensive publishing program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and I can't wait to hear how it all went. This is my bookloving daughter who has wisely chosen the other side of the publishing picture; the one with a regular paycheck! If you haven't already, check out her bookblog.

In the meantime, I'm reading Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain published by Little Brown. I am only 50 pages into the 386 page book, but so far it is hilarious.

More later. S.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Zee's Way by Kristin Butcher

Finally, my edits are showing up on blogger. So, as I was saying earlier, I finished Zee’s Way by Kristin Butcher. For those of you who don’t know, it’s part of a great series that Orca Book Publishers has done for reluctant teen readers. This is a fabulous series―well worth checking out, and Orca is a really good publisher. I should know, they published my first 6 books!

The thing is, it’s kind of awkward reviewing books by people you know, and I’ve known Kristin for quite a few years now; since she retired from teaching and moved to Victoria. I don’t see her much as she’s moved up island (island talk for anything north of The Malahat-a highish altitude pass just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island). Kristin is easy to review though, cuz she just keeps getting better. Zee’s Way isn’t her newest book, and it isn’t her edgiest. It is really good though. I think I like it so much because of Zee’s artistic bent. He doesn’t start out as a graffiti artist, but with the town’s new mall being anti-teen, graffiti becomes a way for him to express his anger and frustration. Not surprisingly, he gets caught. The mural he is coerced into painting to cover his earlier work ends up being a doorway for communication between the town merchants and Zee and his friends. I really liked the way the story is told from Zee’s perspective. I liked the way Zee feels about what he paints, even before he gets caught. I like how he gradually comes to see another way of looking at things, and I like the way his art leads the older generation to look beyond teen stereotypes. I think kids will like it too. Living by a high school, I often see people my age cross the street rather than walk by a group of teenagers hanging out in front of the school.

Butcher has a way of expressing opposite points of view through character, which is to say without preaching. She’s also a pro at snappy dialogue which she frequently uses to move a scene along. I suspect her ear for teen talk grew out of the years she spent teaching. Another thing that I like is that Zee’s home life difficulties are integrated into the story, but don’t take it over as it might have done in the hands of a less skilled author. Zee’s Way just might have you looking at graffiti with new eyes, and perhaps some of the kids who use graffiti to express themselves might look at things a little differently too. Now that’s a lot to accomplish in a little over 100 pages. But, that is what this book, and what Orca Soundings is all about. Short, readable, relevant teen novels that are hard to put down. Check out Zee’s Way, and some of Orca’s other titles at Orca Book Publishers.

So, it's only 11pm and I can get a few chapters of reading in before bed. Until next time. S.

I am so frustrated! I have been trying to edit my blog and the edits do not show up. It's driving me crazy.

Finished reading Zee's way by Kristin Butcher last night. I'll reveiw it later. Definately no more 2am reviews for me--especially since blogger won't seem to let me edit them! Later. S.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

edits finally showing up

If you read the post below earlier, sorry sorry sorry. Edits just have't been showing up. If you missed the 2am version--lucky you! S.

26a by Diana Evans

I know I know. I'm on vacation. But, sometimes when I read a good book, I just have to talk about it with someone. My book club isn't meeting again until the end of the summer and "bookstore girl", my daughter (see the sidebar for her blog) who is even more obsessive about books than I am, is away doing a publishing program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. So, I just finished a fabulous book and want to talk about it. It's called 26a and it isn't a kid’s book.

26a is the story of identical twins, Bessie and Georgina, of the loft and life they share on Waifer Avenue in London. But it is so so much more. It is also their parents story--Ida their mother, who at 15 runs away from her village in Nigeria (and an arranged marriage) to Lagos where a few years later she meets and marries Aubrey, a thirty-two year old banker who is trying to break away from his mama's boy past). They fall in love, move to London, and raise a family. While Ida retreats into herself, and the village and family she carries inside of her, Aubrey is unable to recover from his unhappy childhood and traumatizes his growing family with his Jekyl/Hyde personality. It is also the story of Bel, their first born, whose ability to see frightens her father and comforts her mother and the story of Kemy, a 'third sister' to the twins, and the least traumatized by moves between Nigeria and London. Most of all, it is the story of love and dependence and of how two can be one and how loss can be be born or how it cannot.

Evans writing style is complex and sophisticated with point of view switches that challenge and yet are integral to the story. It is poetic but not in the least flowery which I detest, nor obtuse which I find incredibly frustrating. I totally loved it and recommend it highly. I really think it would appeal to young adults as well as an older audience and can easily see why Evans won the Orange Award for New Writers for this one and why it was short-listed for the Whitbread First Novel Award. I can’t wait to read more of her work. So buy this one today folks.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Cure for Crushes by Karen Rivers

Haley Harmony is neurotic, a hypochondriac, and by her own confession in The Cure for Crushes by Karen Rivers, “a bad girlfriend.” This isn’t Haley’s first appearance. She made her debut in The Healing Time of Hickeys. In this second novel, Haley spends an inordinate amount of time, crushing on inappropriate boys (her friends’ boyfriends, the concession guy at the hockey rink) and a lot of time worrying about why she isn’t really into her current and only ever boyfriend, Brad who comes across as the best thing since sliced bread. She is also a tad over the top when it comes to online research of the symptoms of various diseases she is sure she is suffering from (migraines, anxiety disorder, diabetes, brain tumors, etc.). And, she is hair obsessed and is constantly growing, cutting, dying or angsting over growing, cutting and dying her hair. In fact, hair is one of the five regular category entries in her ongoing diary.

But that isn’t all. Haley is as list obsessed as she is hair obsessed; so much of her diary is list heavy. Being a little list-obsessed myself, I loved it, and Haley. Reasons to be in a good mood, what to get her father and boyfriend for their birthdays, what she is afraid of, symptoms of above mentioned ailments, possible but unlikely careers, reasons detention sucks, reasons why she is friends with Jules even though Jules drives her crazy, and of course―things that she did instead of studying for finals. These are just some of the lists that appear in Haley’s diary. While Haley might drive you crazy, you can’t help but love her. She is hysterically funny in a self-depreciating sort of way, and manages to get herself in trouble more frequently than not.

Excruciatingly self-conscious teenagers are hardly new material but Rivers does a superb job of capturing this angst-ridden time of life. Rivers uses humor to take some of the sting out of turbulent waters of high school life, but perhaps what The Cure for Crushes does best is let all the Haley Harmonys of the world know that they are not alone.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Omar On Board

I love Maryanne Kovalski. She’s one of those illustrators whose work just shines with kid appeal. Take Omar On Board ( a follow-up to Omar On Ice) for example. Omar is a bear, of the variety that goes to school, has friends, and can skate faster and twirl more gracefully than anyone. But, what happens to a bear with winter talents when summer rolls around? Omar and readers are about to find out at the end-of-school party in Ms. Fudge’s class.

Ms. Fudge wants her class to end their year with a splash and what better way than with a swim meet. Being bears, they head to the pond. Poor Omar! When Ms. Fudge called for floating, he sinks. When it’s time for the backstroke, Omar crashes. Kovalski’s chubby bear isn’t discouraged though. He’s sure that when it’s time to jump off the high board, he’ll be able to leap higher than his classmates. After all, Omar is a champion jumper on ice. Unfortunately, when Omar reaches the top of the diving board, he has other things on his mind―things like worrying. “Finally Omar does the only thing he can do. He turns around, crouches down, and crawls back to the stairs. Once he has made his way down Omar is comforted by friends.

This might appear to be an appropriate ending, but here is one of the places Kovalski shines as a writer. I won’t spoil the end of the story, but Omar does demonstrate that sometimes things we couldn’t do for ourselves, we can do for others.

Of course, Kovalski’s real strength lies in her illustrations. The look on Omar’s face when he is sinking is priceless and Omar’s friend, Elsie is adorable in her pink bathing cap. And Ms. Fudge is pure primary teacher― warm and caring, yet on top of things with her whistle strung around her neck and her sunhat perched securely on top of her head.

Omar On Board is meant for any kid who has not mastered something his peers have been able to do with ease, which pretty much means everyone in my books. You rock MaryAnn, and so does Omar.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ingrid and the Wolf by Andre′ Alexis

You can always tell the locals from the tourists on BC ferries. The tourists are the ones glued to windows, binoculars and cameras, while the islanders have their noses buried in newspapers or a book, or are too busy gossiping with other islanders to notice the view. So, I finished an adult mystery on the way over to Pender Island, one of BC’s gorgeous, part forested, part sun-drenched rocky beaches west coast answers to paradise, and read Ingrid and the Wolf by Andre′ Alexis on the way home.

Despite there being a few adult writers who write brilliant kids books, I’m sad to say that most do not. So you can understand my reluctance to crack the cover of Ingrid and the Wolf. Just another adult writer dashing off a quick kid’s book between ‘real books’ for a little income, I thought. I must admit though, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to give it a chance was running across an article (can’t remember where―The Globe & Mail or maybe Quill & Quire) where he says that he read a draft to his kids who told him it was BORING, a humbling experience for any writer. Fortunately for us, Alexis took the criticism seriously.

The story is about eleven year old Ingrid, who lives in Toronto with her immigrant parents. Ingrid’s life changes for the worse when a new girl comes into her school. Sheila uses typical bully tactics to isolate and victimize Ingrid, but Ingrid refuses the role of victim. It seems that she is not the first in her family to do so. It turns out that she is of royal Hungarian descent, something her parents tell her only after strange dreams of a wolf haunt her sleep. Her grandmother sends Ingrid a plane ticket to Hungary although Ingrid’s parents are reluctant to let her go. Finally, Ingrid’s determination wins out and she is sent to the old country to meet her grandmother. Instead of being welcomed into the bosom of family, Ingrid’s worthiness to carry the family title is challenged to a series of tests.

Will Ingrid stand the tests set down by her ancestors? And what about the wolf who has plagued her dreams? These are questions that gnaw at Ingrid as well as the reader. The fact we know no more than the main character pulls us further into the story. Clearly Alexis listened to his children. Ingrid’s story is not the least bit boring. Alexis recall power as a story teller may lay in his ability to create a place and time and traditions that are hauntingly real. The wolf, the mansion, the tests that Ingrid must undergo―these do not seem in the least fictional.

Unfortunately, the place where Alexis is weakest is in his ability to bring Ingrid back to a plausible present. While I wasn’t entirely convinced of the outcome relating to the wolf, I could at least suspend disbelief. Where I had trouble, was with Ingrid’s relationship with her best friend, who was two dimensional at best. But, these are small failings. I won’t wait so long before picking up a second Andre′ Alexis children’s book, should he choose to write another. I feel certain that his next will improve upon what has been a very strong beginning in the challenging world of children’s literature.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sorry, I was away but a new review coming tonight

Sorry sorry sorry. I forgot to mention that I would be away for 4 days, visiting another lovely Gulf Island. I did have some ferry reading time, so will review Ingrid and the Wolf by Andre Alexis either tonight or tomorow morning. (I know Andre has an accent, but I can't remember how to access it on my computer).