Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy

Cracking wise and cracking skulls.  Skulduggery Pleasant is an all new kind of hero.  First of all, he’s a skeleton.  Noticed that, did you?  Secondly, he’s immersed in another world that exists alongside ours.  Finally, he’s a magician, and a darned good one.  We’re talking fireballs from the palms, people.

I have only read the first book in this series, but I liked it enough to want to read the next one.  Stephanie is left an entire house in her uncle’s will, but that’s only the beginning of her weird day.  She ends up spending the night in the house alone, where she is attacked by someone claiming to want something her uncle had hidden.  Cue the hero to save the day, only this hero is a skeleton in a three piece suit.  They set out on a series of adventures to find the object sought by the dark side, meeting strange and wonderful characters along the way.

Now, while I did enjoy this book and I do look forward to reading the next one, I did find it to be a bit dialogue heavy.  If you have a 9-12 level reader who likes a lot of action, this might not be the book for him or her.  The action is there, and is so well written that I could clearly visualize it in my mind as I read, but even those scenes have a lot of talking going on between the characters.

It could be that the next books in the series have less exposition via dialogue.

All in all, I’m not sure that this is a YA/9-12 book that will really appeal to adults like some others in the genre do, but it has intrigued me enough to want to keep with it.  I’d love to hear what others think.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

This post could also be titled Why the Book is Always Better than the Movie, by Nancy Dunne.  This is, in my grown up opinion, one of the best YA/9-12 series of books I’ve seen in a long time.  The main character,  Greg, is an awkward pre-teen who has been given a diary journal by his mother, and the books are basically his handwritten words with cartoons drawn in to help explain the story.  These books are hilarious, especially to those of us who were awkward but didn’t really know it at the time.

Greg’s mother and father play important roles in his story, as do his older brother Rodney and baby brother Manny.  Greg’s best friend Rowdy is the typical kid who has hit pre-teen land but would rather stay in little-kid world.  There are other characters who, when they make appearances in the book, will remind you of kids you knew growing up and will surely remind younger readers of other kids they see every day at school.

The movie…well, I’m not a movie reviewer, but I tend to always think that the movie/TV show is better than the book.  In this case, I believe it to be true.  There is so much in the book that can’t be put on the screen faithfully.  While I think the movie makers tried their best (and there is even a book to prove it that shows how the movie was made), this is one work that needs to remain on the page.  It’s the Diary…not the web log.

I loved these books and anxiously await anything else that Jeff Kinney writes.  Get them for your kids but read them yourself.  Neither of you will be disappointed.

Radiance, by Alyson Noël

I spoke in an earlier post about the Immortals series, by Alyson Noël. If you remember, it was not one of my favorites of the YA fiction series I’ve read recently.  However, there is something in the books that keeps me reading them.  Perhaps I just need some closure.

I have not made it to the point that I’ve read Dark Flame, the latest in that series published here in the UK (I believe that the next one, Night Star, has already been published in the US, but there you are).  But when I was given an ARC of Radiance by a co-worker, I was intrigued.  In the Immortals books, one of my favorite characters has become Riley, the younger sister of Ever who became a ghost after the car wreck that killed the rest of Ever’s family.

Radiance is, I believe, classified as for the 9-12 crowd rather than teen, and that’s appropriate because one of the biggest complaints Riley has is that she died before she could become a teenager.  The story tells us what happens after she crosses the bridge with her parents (the one that Ever didn’t cross because she was brought back to mortal life).  She takes on the task of helping those that have become stuck in between the worlds to cross over, and it is said to be the first in a series.

I think that Ms. Noël should stick with this age group because Radiance is an extremely well written and engaging novel when you put it in the 9-12 year old context.  I think that’s what bugs me about the Immortals series…they come across as juvenile, which is saying something considering they are YA fiction and not adult fiction.  Read Radiance, it won’t take you long…but it will stay with you long after you’re done.

Just keeping up with NaNoWriMo…

 

 

You can keep up with how much I’m writing and how far behind the daily targets I am with this widget. Red= No writing.  Yellow=Under Daily Target.  Green=made or passed daily target.   I will try to update my word count after each burst of writing, but since those generally happen once a day I’m not entirely sure this will be a riveting thing to follow.

Soon I will be back to my normal posts here at Well Read.  Coming up soon, I’ll tell you why I read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and why you shouldn’t.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on Alyson Noel’s Radiance and the wacky vampires from Morganville, as well as Skullduggery Pleasant and a return to South Carolinian supernatural in Beautiful Darkness.  November’s shaping up to be a CRAZY month!

13 Treasures, Curses and Secrets, by Michelle Harrison

(edited from a review originally posted on Goodreads.com)

To be honest, I chose this book because I am a part time bookseller (at the time, in the children’s section) and I want to be well versed in what I’m selling. What I found was a gem of a book that, while a bit shaky in parts, overall has fascinating cast of characters that I truly came to care for as the story progressed.   Michelle Harrison, former bookseller with the same company for whom I now work, has hit the mark in this series and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the third book in the series, 13 Secrets, will be even better than the first two.

Tanya is a young teenager with the second sight, and has been plagued all her life by the fey that she can see. She experiences many of the same feelings all teenagers do, not being understood by her parents, that she is somehow different…but Tanya’s feelings are based in fact. It’s only when she is sent to spend summer holidays with her grandmother that she finds out just how different she is.

The twists and turns in the story kept me guessing and involved in the book until the very end.   What started out as an exercise in good bookselling turned into a lovely story that I can read over and over.  Now to wait until February for the next one!

Proud Racer Series, by…well…me.

 

Right, what kind of writer wanna-be would I be if I never shamelessly promoted my own writing?  Why, on the front page I’ve listed my other blog, Isn’t the Lettuce Brave? as well as touted my contribution to Touring Old Blighty.  I’ve even mentioned NERDA’s World, an ASL v-log that is seriously suffering from neglect at the moment, and that’s not written in English!

So, here you are, my shameless plug about my own writing, so that we can get it out-of-the-way and get on with talking about real authors, already.

When I was working for the Department of Mental Health in South Carolina as a sign language interpreter, I was sent often to a psychiatric hospital to play the hurry up and wait game.  The rules of that game include being on the hospital grounds for a set amount of hours a day so that any Deaf/Hard of Hearing patients that might be receiving treatment at the hospital could have language access.  The reality of it was a lot of sitting around, reading books, finishing paperwork, and waiting to be called down to the ward.

During one of those long days, an idea began wiggling its way out of my head and into a word processing program.  I missed my dogs dreadfully every time I had to be away from them, and I guess that day I was missing my first greyhound, Hunky.  I started thinking about how his life was before he came to me, when he was growing up, training, and eventually making a go at racing.  In a few days, the first in the Proud Racer Series, One Greyhound’s Journey was finished and I was looking for a publisher.

In a nutshell, the story starts with a puppy being born on a greyhound farm in Florida.  He is given his Name and sent to School, so that he can learn to be a Proud Racer like his father was.  In truth, Hunky was a mediocre racer, but his father, Fond A Hulk, was a star of the Florida racing circuit.  The story follows Hunky to a few tracks, then back to the farm before he is Petted Out, which means he is released to an adoption group for re-homing.

The other star of the novella is Hunky’s sibling, Marky.   Called Re-Marky-Able by the Nice Lady who whelped and raised them, Marky was born with a defect that caused all of his feet to be flat.  This prevented him from racing, so Hunky had to leave his brother behind every time he left for School or to go to the track to race.  In the end, he left Marky behind one last time to be Petted Out, but met a whole new cast of characters at his new home, including a new “brother” called Henry,  a sister called Jeany, and cats called Franny and Zooey.

In the greyhound owning community, One Greyhound’s Journey was met with cries for a sequel, so that those who followed Hunky’s story would know what happened with Marky.  Who knew that shy, flat-footed boy would become almost more of a star than Hunky?  Along came A Tail of Two Brothers, the sequel to One Greyhound’s Journey, in response to Marky’s fans.  It seems that Marky has been released for adoption as well, and unbeknownst to Hunky has come to Hunky’s New Home as a foster dog.  The brothers are reunited and spend some time catching up, before Marky goes to live with Hunky’s Aunt Lisa, and has a New Home of his own.

The third book in the series is probably my favorite (well, after Hunky’s, because you never forget your first love, do you?) and definitely the one of which I am the most proud.  Blind Faith is the story of a greyhound that changed my life when she came to live with me at 10 years young and left far too soon just a week shy of her fourteenth birthday.  Shotgun Liz, or Lizzard, finds a lot of the time that she can’t remember her early life on the farm, or at the track, except for in her dreams.  She has come to live at Hunky’s house, and meets his housemates Jeany, Bo, and Profile along with the foster dogs that are there with her.  Lizzard, who is mostly blind,  hits their lives with hurricane force and doesn’t let go, whether she is breaking out of her wire crate, re-arranging the trash on the floor in the den, or generally bossing the young pups around.  Through it all, she has faith that this home will be hers soon, and she’ll no longer be a foster.  Copies of this book are available only through me at this stage.

Finally, the fourth book is about the newest member of my family, Daisy.  Racing at Jacksonville and Sanford Orlando as FTH Oopsie Daisy, she is guided through the process of adjusting to her new life by Profile, now a Bridge Angel who appears only to Daisy.  There is a Mommy to look after, a Jeany NOT TO CROSS, and scores of other new experiences waiting for Daisy in Half Crazy.  To be honest, I am the least thrilled with the cover of this one and will most likely be re-releasing it with new cover art, if I don’t put all of them in one book first…which I may do.  Stay tuned, if you’re one of the handful of people interested in what my dogs have to say.

Now, you’ll notice if you’ve clicked on any of the links above that some of them link through to Amazon and some to Lulu.com.  I have published all of these books with either Penman Publishing, Inc. (One Greyhound’s Journey, A Tail of Two Brothers, and Blind Faith) or Lulu.com (Proud Racer, Proud Racer: Half Crazy) but only some actually have ISBNs.  (That would be a lesson I’ve learned along the way…always get an ISBN on your book or it won’t sell anywhere save out of your car’s boot.)  I hope that you’ll give my little books a chance so that you can get to know the greyhounds that have changed my world for the better.

In loving memory of Hunky (Fond A Hunk), Jeany-Bean (Bud’s Lady Jean), BoBo (Flashy Jo Star), Profile (Mo Tivator), Lizzard (Shotgun Liz), and Marky (Re-Marky-Able) as well as Franny and Zooey, my fearless feline greyhound-testers.  Thanks to all of you for making my world a more complex and beautiful place.

L-R, Profile, Lizzard, Hunky, Bo and Jeany (and me, holding on for dear life)