Monday, September 17, 2012

Never Too Old to Learn New Things

It may be true that we're never too old to learn new things, but I, for one, find it much more difficult to learn as I continue to age. I still retain the capacity to learn, but figuring out the tools with which the younger people are learning is giving me fits. My three-year-old granddaughter can figure out video games that dumbfound me.

Today, however, I did learn something new, and useful. It's probably been around for some time, but it is new to me as of this date. I'm speaking of the ability to check certain books on Amazon for specific word usage. 

This knowledge may be of no consequence to many people, but as a parent who likes to stay in tune with my young reader, it's invaluable. I read a lot of middle grade and young adult books, and when I find something that I think will appeal to one of my kids or young friends, I recommend it. But I may be in the middle of another book when my son brings something home from the library, and I like to know what he's reading.

Recently I read an MG book that had quite a few expletives tossed in - for flavor, or shock factor, or just to make it seem more realistic - I don't know the reason. I didn't find them so shocking that I wouldn't want my kid to read the book, but it did surprise me a bit. I was under the impression that slang curse words that are easily recognizable were mostly frowned upon for MG. Running across one or two interspersed in the text won't stop me from reading, but it does sort of make me cringe. And when I stop to cringe, I'm pulled out of the story, and that isn't such a good thing.

While at the library this morning, I talked with one of the children's librarians about a book that did not contain any foul words, but I thought it was definitely more in the YA age group that MG. There wasn't a single character, living or dead, under the age of fifteen, and the dead kids were relating some exceedingly graphic stories of how they died. Perhaps that isn't anything to be concerned about, but the tone of the book just didn't resonate at MG.

The librarian thanked me and said she would read through the book to make a determination, and then pulled a YA book up on Amazon. She showed me how to look inside the book. This is what made me do a little happy dance. It doesn't work with all books, but there is a feature on many of them that allows you to check for certain words in the text. She brought up one rather spicy slang word, and it brought up a hundred and one instances where that word was used in the text. It also showed exactly where each instance of that word was used, so that one could see the context of how it was incorporated. She didn't even type in the really bad word, but I saw enough to know that there were a lot of instances of that one in there, too.

I'm not complaining about the words in YA books. I'm simply excited to know that I have a way of checking out the context of books before I purchase them. Sometimes excerpts and reviews don't give us that.

Perhaps I'm just an old, behind-the-times reader who has little to look forward to, but I like learning about new technology - when I can understand it. This is something that even I can do.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week ahead. Check out this little gem on Amazon if you haven't, and let me know if it helps you.

Happy Reading,


Thursday, September 13, 2012

I'm Featured Today on the Euterpe Blog Giveaway

Just wanted to remind everyone that I'm the featured poster on the Euterpe Back-To-School Giveaway Extravaganza today.You can get there by clicking on this link.

For simply leaving a comment on the Euterpe's post - not here - you have an opportunity to win an ebook copy of Michaela's Gift in the format of your choice.

But in addition to that, I have some other fun prizes that might come in handy at this time of year. The prizes included are:

A lockermate magnetic dry erase board with 3-way mirror (plus pen)
4 mini notebooks or memo pads
a packet of brightly colored staples
a rope eraser
4 metallic gel pens
4 glitter gel pens
3 glitter glue sticks
8 pack of markers
a pencil box to store it all in
a box of Bottle Caps
and six beautiful magnetic bookmarks

So hurry on over to the Euterpe blog and leave a comment. It will only take a moment, and you could win it all.

Happy Reading,


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Euterpe Blog Back to School Extravaganza

I’ll be away from my computer for much of this week, but I wanted to stop by for a quick message about a great and fun opportunity for readers out there. The Euterpe imprint for Musa Publishing is conducting a giveaway promotion that includes free books, fun posts, and an assortment of exciting prize packages. To read all the news, just click on this link.

There are special blog posts all week on the Euterpe blog site. I’ve listed the schedule below, and even though I am late for yesterday’s post, if you go to the link I have provided, you should be able to backtrack and find it, and register for the prizes.

Monday, September 10th, Summer Adventures by Mindy Hardwick. This post includes a prize package provided by Ms. Hardwick.

Tuesday, September 11th, My Summer Vacation by HL Carpenter, and Back to School with Kaitlin Bevis.

Wednesday, September 12th, School Days by L. K. Mitchell. Includes another prize!

Thursday, September 13th, My Dog’s Tail by yours truly. I’ve included a prize pack that includes a few items that Michaela might have used in her art creations.

Friday, September 14th, New School Year Top 10 Rules to Live By, by Dusty Crabtree.

I believe most, if not all, of the above giveaways include either an author ebook or a physical copy of their book, as well as the other prizes listed. In addition to these Euterpe blog posts, there are also several guest blog posts included. As follows:

Monday, September 10th: Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing by Martina Boone: The Things That Travel With You by Jennifer Mason-Black
Wednesday, September 12th: 
Muse, Rant, Rave by Melinda Collins: Stacy York's Top Ten Teen Movies by Margaret Lesh (includes a prize pack)
Friday, September 14th: 
Myth, Magic, & Mystery by Susan Sipal: Ye Olde Caves of Nottingham by Sharon Ledwith (includes a prize pack).

And if that isn’t enough to keep you busy for a while, there’s more! Euterpe is also giving away two awesome prize packages. This is an opportunity for each member of your book club to receive a free copy of a novel, including a discussion guide and a Skype interview with the author. The giveaway is conducted through Rafflecopter, so it requires a few keystrokes on your part, but that’s little cost when you consider the possibilities it can afford you. The two novels included in these giveaways are Stained Glass Summer, by Mindy Hardwick, and Persephone, by Kaitlin Bevis.

So if you want to sign up for the chance to win any of these great prizes, simply follow the link I provided near the top of this post. It will take you directly to the Euterpe blog.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review of First Frost by Liz DeJesus

Way back in 1953, a song was introduced in the pop charts entitled Young At Heart. Frank Sinatra crooned the lyrics, and he must have worked his magic, because according to Wikipedia, it became a million-selling hit. Pretty impressive.

In case you aren’t familiar with the lyrics, I will tell you that the song begins by telling us that fairy tales can come true. That’s a pretty exciting idea for many young girls, because who doesn’t want to live a fairy-tale life? Hmmm. Interesting question. But before you make any snap judgments about it, perhaps you should look into the life of Bianca Frost.  She could give you some ideas about a fairy-tale life that you may not have considered.

Bianca Frost, by the way, is the heroine in Liz DeJesus’ latest YA release, First Frost. Here’s a little information about Liz.

Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico.  She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi'er Publishing, October 2007) and The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 31st 2011). Liz is currently working on a new novel.

Author's Links:

Also, in case you haven’t read all the great interviews and reviews Liz has already received regarding First Frost, I wanted to include her book blurb so that you can get a better idea of what the book’s about.

 For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.”

Gathered within the museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist.

She’s about to find out how wrong she is

Hmmm. When many of us think of fairytales, our thoughts turn to beautiful princesses, handsome and dashing princes, and, of course, a happily-ever-after. To make it interesting, we have to throw in a villain, of course, but one that can eventually be overthrown so that all ends well. At least, that’s what Disney has taught us.

Whether good or bad, over the years, fairytales have lost most of their gruesomeness and are much tamer than the stories the brothers Grimm first produced. That makes them much more pleasant for bedtime reading to our young children. But with First Frost, Ms. DeJesus has restored some of the fright factors in her tale. Her characters are not at all the stereotypical puppets one often expects in a fairytale, either.

I enjoyed this tale quite a bit. Bianca is a reluctant heroine, and those are often the best kinds. She’s tired of being a slave to the family business, and often resents her lot in life. After all, she’s a teenage girl, and wants a little excitement and variety. She should remember the old saying about being careful what you ask for, especially when there may be witches in your background.

I loved the character of the prince. I don’t want to give anything away, but he was a pleasant surprise for me, and Ms. DeJesus did an excellent job of painting vivid word pictures of his rather unique personality.

I also learned quite a bit in reading First Frost. Ms. DeJesus referenced several old tales that I had either forgotten or was not familiar with, and it was a nice addition to the story.

I will warn, however, that her villains are capable of quite unscrupulous behavior, and sometimes their actions bring about rather chilling results, so this isn’t something I would recommend for younger readers. Also, there is some offensive language that, although probably typical of a YA audience, I wouldn’t encourage for the younger set. She has listed the genre as YA, and I just don’t want any of my readers to get the impression that since it’s fairytale based that it would be a good choice for the younger readers.

My very favorite aspect of this story is the way Ms. DeJesus has showcased the power of love. She has tied the main characters together with heartstrings that are almost overwhelming at times with their sheer strength. I commend her for the way she accomplishes this with her word choices in the critical scenes. And she doesn’t limit these feelings to just Bianca and her prince, but has left us with no doubts that Bianca is truly the princess of this fairytale, and most definitely deserves her happily-ever-after.

I wish to thank Ms. DeJesus and Rachel Marks for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour. I don’t consider myself an official reviewer, so I don’t ever rate the books I choose to review. I do, however, limit my reviews to books that I would personally recommend to a friend.

Happy Reading,

Cordelia Dinsmore

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is a Creative Writing Class Worth It?

Labor Day weekend was a busy place around my old farmhouse. My husband and I undertook the task of tearing off more than one-hundred years' worth of siding and replacing it with concrete siding. We've been doing all the work ourselves, and it's turned out to be a huge labor of love, and sore muscles, and near tragedies. Several weeks ago my spouse made a poor judgment call, and discovered the hard way that his aging body doesn't mend quite as quickly as it used to. He also learned that climbing to the second floor level to remove siding, without arranging for someone to hold the ladder, is not the smartest choice. Fortunately, we don't think he broke anything of major importance, although his right arm hasn't recovered fully as of this date.

We hope to finish the siding by the end of this month, and then we can move on to the next project. We are in desperate need of a second bathroom, but we will be calling in some professional help with this one. We're also waiting for a professional to come out to seal and stain our new deck. We hope the drought breaks soon so that we actually have something green to enjoy while we sit on our new deck in the evenings. 

I did leave my husband to his task on Monday, to make a quick trip up to a local college. I had been invited to speak to a small class on mass communication. It was an opportunity for some young adults to learn a few details about epublishing, and affording me a bit of experience in public speaking in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. 

The class was very impressive. They were respectful, attentive, and asked pertinent questions while expressing interest in the answers I provided. Their questions revealed that they had given thought to the information they were seeking, and not simply a way to pass the time so they could get to their next class. It's been many years since I spent time in a classroom, and the experience made me miss those days. Then the instructor invited me to stay for lunch, and we had an engaging conversation that made me wish even more that I was once again part of that life.

So now I'm looking into a creative writing class. I've never been a part of one, even though I've always known that it would probably be a helpful addition to my education. It's hard to go back to a college campus and not feel that tug.

What I could use from any of you reading this, is some information. If you've participated in a creative writing course, what did you gain from it? If you're a writer, did it further your career? Was it a total waste of time, or did it help you in unexpected ways? I'd really like to know before I invest the time and funds.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm currently in the middle of Kepler's Dream. Haven't made a final decision on it yet, but the characters are quite interesting.

Happy Reading.