Guest Book Review: Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello

Length: 122 pages

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN-10: 143273704X

ISBN-13: 978-1432737047

Genre: Children’s Fiction/YA

Rating: FIVE stars

Suitable For: Ages 10+

Available from Amazon/most booksellers

 

The Arthurian legends have timeless appeal and Cheryl Carpinello’s book Guinevere: On the Eve of a Legend is no exception. As an educator dedicated to encouraging reluctant readers, and having taught the legends of Arthur to high school classes for nearly 20 years, the author knows her stuff and her love of the legend shines from every page. Although much has been written about Arthur both as boy and king, and books have been devoted to the adult Guinevere and her ill-fated marriage to Arthur, this book comes as a surprise by introducing Guinevere as a young girl. In fact, our heroine is truly on the eve of a legend as the book centers around Guinevere’s 13th Birth Day, the turning point for her, when she crosses over from being a child to a young woman. We find Guinevere in the opening pages having the time of her life. With her friend, seven-year-old Cedwyn, she spends most of her time playing, roaming the castle grounds and occasionally the forest, hunting for rabbits or mythical creatures. But life has plans for her, as Guinevere finds out, and life’s plans, a combination of what her father and the wizard Merlyn have decided for her, do not sit well with this fiery-tempered and independent young girl. Upon hearing she will be betrothed to the young brave King Arthur and then married to him on her fifteenth Birth Day, Guinevere decides to run away from home. She is not interested in being married and is even less interested in becoming a queen. Her attempt at fleeing is short-lived, partly because Cedwyn’s legs are too short to do much running, partly because foraging for food in the wilds loses its appeal very quickly, and partly because Guinevere realizes that she must eventually grow up and grasp her destiny with both hands. In this coming-of-age story, her friend and advisor Merlyn is there to guide and instruct her. With magicality, tenderness, and spinning a sense of enchantment, Merlyn uses the teachings of legends and the forest to illustrate the lessons one must face in life. In this way Guinevere realizes that if she enjoyed being a princess so much, it is just a small step to enjoying being a queen. She also understands how much her father loves her and that her happiness is all he desires. Besides, she still has two whole years to enjoy before having to really grow up.

Cheryl Carpinello’s take on the Arthurian theme is unique and enchanting. Her descriptions of everyday life, food, behavior, weapons, and attitudes of the early Middle Ages display a wealth of research. Information is subtly introduced to enhance the story and does not overpower the reader. Her descriptions are rich, palpable, and appropriate to whatever scene one reads. The moment when the children see the unicorns is one of poignant magicality. The scene with the brachet, the rabbit, King Pellinore, and the hapless Painted Dragon is roaringly funny! Cheryl Carpinello has created a book along the lines of The Once and Future King, with the same kind of appealing humor and dry wit in her Merlyn. She has included an interesting glossary for young readers to fully enjoy their understanding of an historical environment; as well as Q&A for educators, and a recommended reading list. I look forward to reading Cheryl’s next book Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom.

No monetary compensation was received for this review.

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

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Out and About at the Zoo by Jo Linsdell

Enjoy a rhyming story of a young child’s trip to the zoo in Out and About at the Zoo by Jo Linsdell. A young boy is on a trip with his Mum where this is a lot to see and do. Talking parrots, long-necked giraffes, crazy climbing monkeys and more fill this day out at the zoo with tons of fun.

This simple, delightful book for youngsters is a perfect way to prepare children for their first trip to the zoo or to remember a recent zoo visit. Kids will be able to memorize the simple, lyrical prose while the bold colors will captivate them. What I think is so wonderful about this book is how it teaches children to cherish those times with their mother.

Out and About at the Zoo is an adorable story for your little ones.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Paperback:32 pages
  • Publisher:CreateSpace (May 18, 2012)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1477446591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1477446591
  • SRP: $8.99

I received a free electronic copy of this book. This review contains my honest opinion, for which I have not received any monetary compensation.

Jo Linsdell is a freelance writer, author and illustrator. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Rome, Italy with her husband and their two young sons.

Author website: www.JoLinsdell.com

Purchasing links:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.it

CreateSpace.com

Interview with Susan Wingate, Author of Spider Brains

Most recently, Susan Wingate’s novels, SPIDER BRAINS and DROWNING each reached Amazon Bestseller status in 2012. DROWNING won the 2011 Forward National Literature Award for Drama. She would love for you to read her books. You can find them all under the tab on this site labeled “Books”. SUSAN has written eleven novels, two short story collections, a few plays, one screenplay and tons of poems. Her latest 2011 novel DROWNING  (contemporary women’s fiction), won 1st place in the 2011 Forward National Literature Award and also won a finalist award for the category of Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit in the 2011 International Book Awards. A vibrant public speaker, Susan offers inspiring, motivational talks about the craft of writing, publishing and marketing, and how to survive this extremely volatile (e-)Publishing industry. She presents these lectures for private groups and at writing conferences, libraries and bookstores around the country.

Thank you for joining us today, Susan. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Absolutely! Well, I love animals and always seem to include them in my writing. I live on a small island off the coast of Washington State where we have a beautiful country home that sits on five acres of lush earth. A large pond brings lots of wildlife to our spot. We see Great Blue Herons, bald eagles, mallards, wood ducks, fox, raccoons and herds of deer. As well, I have two dogs–a Cocker Spaniel named Rocky and a Westie named Robert. And, don’t cringe but we have twelve cats! That’s a bunch but they all came to me as feral cats (wild cats) from around this rural landscape on which we live. Now, they’re all quite tame, fat and happy! We also have fourteen birds–cockatiels, doves and pigeons. Obviously, my husband loves animals (and me) too.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

My father was a writer and I remember him reading to us his work way back when we were just small children. His bachelor’s degree was in English and he minored in speech. So, we always had reading in our lives. He influenced me a great deal. I think I’ve always hoped that one day I might write like him. He usually wrote these fun adventure stories with tons of humor.

But it wasn’t until I was thirty-nine when I began to take my writing seriously. At that point, I believed writing would be my future.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I write both adult and juvenile fiction but with juvenile fiction I can explore the relationship between human beings and other animals. And, even more so with juvenile fiction, where I can bring to life animals who think, feel and act much like humans do. There are several studies that prove animals as being sentient beings, feeling and sensitive beings. I give this notion legitimacy in my stories. But I also like to explore the human condition. For instance, some of my stories like SPIDER BRAINS touch on other serious topics such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and the treatment of ADD. SPIDER BRAINS also deals with the topic of death and loss, hope and redemption.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

I’m not sure that either–adult fiction or juvenile fiction–is more difficult to write than the other. There may be different considerations for each but writing novels, no matter the genre or age, entails the same amount of work. A writer must to come up with a viable idea. A writer must create some sort of road map for the idea. In my case, I develop an outline. And then a writer must log 50,000 words and up, all that will hold a reader’s attention.

Another point for this question is that SPIDER BRAINS almost fell into my lap. Literarlly! I explain this point further in just a few more questions.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

I think nailing the younger characters in each story, in voice and style and action. Young people speak differently than adults and usually with tons more emotion. They talk with their entire bodies–they roll their eyes, flip their hair, make strange sounds when they need to add emphasis, they do this full-body-slump when they’re upset. For me, young people are more interesting to observe because they hold nothing back.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

SPIDER BRAINS: A LOVE STORY tells the story of fifteen-year-old Susie Speider. She sees herself as a nerd and she’s a word freak. One night while Susie is lying in bed trying to sleep, she notices a spider traversing her ceiling. After getting a closer look at the spider and feeling as if they’ve bonded, she puts her finger next to the creature to see if it will climb aboard in order for Susie to put it outdoors. Well, one thing leads to another, as they say.

This is the book’s blurb. I think it tells the story best… “After her father’s death last year and, now, in the throes of a gnarly teacher’s whim, a small black arachnid bites fifteen-year-old Susie Speider on the finger. The bite sends her nights into fantastical dreams about taking revenge on the teacher who, ultimately, holds her college aspirations in the palm of her cold, calloused hand. But after Susie figures out the dreams are real, she begins visiting the teacher regularly… as the spider! And, oh, by the way! Who is that boy spider munching on flies, hiding over there in the corner?”

What inspired you to write SPIDER BRAINS?

One night in bed, I noticed something strange. It was very early in the morning. My husband had gotten up for work and flipped on the bathroom light switch. The brightness shone against the ceiling and there, not too far from the bed, was a spider making its way across the ceiling. I thought about retrieving it and then setting it free outside but before I could set one foot on the floor to do so, a story flashed across my mind. For about an hour I wrote notes covering the over-arching idea which resulted in the novel SPIDER BRAINS.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

The paperback for SPIDER BRAINS can be found at bookstores and on Amazon.com.

The eBook for this book can be found exclusively on Amazon.com. http://astore.amazon.com/theoffwebo03e-20

People can also buy the book directly from the publisher, Roberts Press at http://www.robertsbookpress.com.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

I do! Thank you for asking. My website is http://www.susanwingate.com and my blog is http://susanwingate.wordpress.com/writing-from-the-couch-with-susan-wingate/

What is up next for you?

Well, right now, I’m working on two novels. One is the 2nd book in the Susie Speider Series. The second is in a new genre for me. It’s an apocalyptic thriller. It still falls into the category of Young Adult but the apocalyptic thriller will be new for me. I’m having tons of fun writing that one too.

Do you have anything else to add?

I just want to say thank you for having me on your great blog. It’s quite an honor for you to spend your valuable time featuring me and SPIDER BRAINS. So, thank you very much! It’s been a pleasure answering all of these great questions.

Thank you for spending time with us today, Susan. We wish you much success.

Guest Blogger: Dominick R. Domingo, Author of The Nameless Prince

Seth Bauman has issues. His Mom split ten years ago, right after his birth, and guardian Uncle Troy won’t discuss the past. Seth’s only friend is Mexican immigrant Elena, whom he must walk home from school through Silverlake’s gang-ravaged streets. When Elena is abducted by a local gang ‘the Mayans,’ Seth has no choice but to follow the Boatman of the L.A. River into the sprawling network of sewers and metro tunnels concealing Mayan headquarters. To Seth the great labyrinth unfolds as a magical realm called ‘the Interior,’ whose residents immediately deem him the ‘Nameless Prince’ of prophecy, sent to save them from peril.

To find Elena, Seth embarks on an odyssey of riddles and self-discovery. Only in ‘Interia’ is it safe to discover the truth about his past, and the forgiveness that will set him free. In rescuing Elena he rescues his own innocence. In fulfilling prophecy by learning his name, Seth discovers the greatness that lies within.

Excerpt and purchase link: http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheNamelessPrince_ch1.html

Book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcYISQLNEFM

Creating the World of Interia and Those Who Live There by Dominick R. Domingo

No doubt about it- I’ve grown to love Seth and Elena and all the other fanciful creatures from The Nameless Prince. I love them as if they were my own children. And the mystical realm of ‘Interia-‘ it’s as real as my own neighborhood of SilverLake. I find myself longing to return time and again to visit (and with several rounds of edits and the scrutinizing of print proofs for errors, you can bet there have been plenty of ‘visits’ of late!) Both the characters and the world they inhabit became real to me over time- more dimensional, more authentic. Simply put, they evolved. I like to know my characters so well I know what any two would say to one another if stuck in a room together- even if they never meet in the storyline. Some of my favorite dialogue has come out in the aforementioned exercise, in scenes that will never appear in print!

Developing the characters and the setting was very organic- informed every step of the way by synchronicity. Though my concept was well-founded in inspiration, and I took the time to mold the initial gut-level expression of it in to an airtight outline, I remained open during the execution process. Open to what the Universe threw in my path daily. Open to incorporating ‘happy accidents.’ Open to the cathartic function of putting pen to paper, which inevitably infuses new meaning and subtext at every turn.

Often when fleshing out a scene, I know the ostensible goal- how it functions in the story arc. I know the overarching themes of the novel itself. But sub-themes slyly weave themselves into the narrative based on what’s on my mind that week or what I’ve been going through, adding resonance. In this way, every work by a given author can be seen as a snapshot of his or her world views and emotional imprint at the time it is written. Many authors are taught to resist sentimentality or subjective attachment, striving for objectivity. We try to avoid a moralistic or ‘preachy’ tone. But in the end, even when speaking about what we believe to be objective and universal, all we can really draw upon is our own experience on the planet- our own metaphysical values.

The most clear-cut example of this infusion in the writing of the ‘Nameless Prince’ occurred while I was writing the montage of Seth visiting the prophets. I believed I was speaking about a certain set of concerns, but only later realized the cathartic function, and what I was actually working through in my own life. I knew consciously that Seth’s journey of self-discovery was to be an Odyssey of Riddles. ‘It is the way of the Universe,’ according to Constantine. I knew that each piece of the puzzle would come from a different prophet, all of whom were scattered about the Interior. I even knew I wanted each prophet to be a creative of some kind, suggesting that the creative process is divine, and that perhaps that our prophets in this life may be those we least expect. What I didn’t know- couldn’t know- was that while writing each prophet would come to represent a voice inside of me on my own creative journey. Each prophet came off my pen paralyzed in some way by futility. The writer, a troll, has writer’s block. The mathematician has been stuck on a calculation for as long as he can remember. The aging performers are obsolete, passé.’ Each is freed from his or her predicament only once they provide Seth the clue that he came for, which will contribute to saving the Interior from peril. Only later did I recognize that each prophet’s dilemma reflected my own sense of purposelessness in the moment. I learned along with Seth that the circuit is complete only once we’ve given something. I have come to believe passionately that there should be a final step added to the seven accepted models of creativity that is as yet unacknowledged sharing the work.

The impetus for creating the Interior was my own discovery of a homeless camp on a series of islands in the L.A. Flood Channel. I’d taken the time one day to wander off the beaten path to explore, and found myself in an absurd little oasis surrounded by graffiti and barbed wire. The dwelling before me was magical- like Tom Sawyer’s island- all corrugated tin and mismatched artifacts. I imagined it was home to the gatekeeper of a magical realm. I’d long wanted to write a ‘through the rabbit hole’ story- one in which the protagonist meets a sage in an unlikely place. As a child I’d been captivated by the Narnia Chronicles, The Reluctant Dragon, Bridge to Terabithia, The Indian In the Cupboard, and countless others on that template. The juxtaposition I’d stumbled onto- urban grittiness and the magical realm it disguised, seemed to foot the bill. But here’s what sealed the deal: I went back some time later ( probably the next time I had an afternoon to be ‘idle,’ ) and I could not find the island. It had up and disappeared. I was struck by the idea of an alternate realm that could appear or disappear at will, and The Nameless Prince was born.

Later, in an intuitive writing moment, I referenced a portrait of the main character’s birth mother, with a tear suspended in the corner of her eye. I did not analyze its meaning but knew I needed to keep bringing the image back. It reappeared many times, and I discovered along with Seth (without giving too much away) that it was an image he had glimpsed and stored away in his subconscious, in the form of a mural hidden in the graffiti of the L.A.Wash.It became a central image in the novel. When writing the conclusion of the novel, I took another walk in the L.A.wash for reference, and inspiration. I needed to describe the flora and fauna after a storm, and wanted authentic details. I stumbled quite by accident upon the very image that had appeared in the novel- the mural of a woman with a tear suspended in the corner of her eye!

Every resident of the Interior took an a life of its own this way. Many play a role in the ‘Hero’s journey,’ and pay homage to existing traditions. The Gatekeeper, the Minotaur, the troll high on a mountaintop. They’re all true to their archetype, but with a twist: the Gatekeeper here controls what passes to and from the Interior. Seth’s court-ordered therapist explains in the end that his psyche created a fantasy realm as a safe place to reveal some harsh truths that would set him free. According to this premise, the Gatekeeper Constantine can be seen to regulate the flow of information between the conscious and subconscious minds. This is only one way to look at it, of course. J

Another peculiarity of the Gatekeeper in The Nameless Prince is his inscrutable, evasive nature. He represents duality. Seth experiences this duplicity as betrayal, a necessary milestone in his journey. In a way, Seth’s Odyssey in the Interior is very much a parable for overcoming the rage of disillusionment, and returning to innocence.

Many other residents of the Interior created themselves. Interia became a mirror version of Seth’s normal life- one in which a thing’s appearance ‘is secondary to its essence,’ according to Constantine. ‘A place to reconcile the lie of words.’ For this reason, whatever dares to pass through the portal transmutes in appearance. The pollywogs Seth and Elena spent hours naming are now enormous behemoths, the frogs they raced on the concrete riverbed are now great, amphibious dragons. On the Interior readers will recognize fragmented elements from Seth’s world- the creations in his sketchbook come to life, neighborhood fixtures, his very own guardian Uncle Troy in different form. Local gang the Mayans, who have waged war onSilverLake’s growing homeless population, become the Dark Forces that threaten all of life on the Interior.

I am fascinated by the creative process. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mistake my own writing for brain surgery or rocket science in importance. But I am passionate about the role of art and literature, storytelling, in society. I believe it enforces change, on both a micro and macro level- in the world at large, and one heart at a time. By no means do I feel I am a master at any one craft- but I am addicted to the pursuit! And I can take credit for none of the alchemy I’ve described above- much of it is the result of putting pen to paper. It is the nature of the creative process, which we can all indulge in!!

Dominick Domingo is a veteran Animation Artist (Lion King, Pocahontas, Hunchback, Tarzan, Fantasia.) who’s illustrated YA books for Penguin, Random House, Lowell House, Disney Publishing, Hyperion Books, and Harcourt. Developing original screenplays as a filmmaker led to a growing writing resume. To capitalize on it, Dominick recently penned a collection of Narrative Nonfiction essays titled “Jesus Shoes,” two of which have been included in anthologies. One of the essays, ‘L’Epiphanie,’ was awarded the 2011 Solas award in the humor category for ‘Best Travel Writing.’ The Nameless Prince represents Dominick’s foray into Young Adult urban fantasy. He’d be happy to retire as a full-time author. He lives in the Silver Lake neighborhood of L.A., surrounded by hipsters. 

Author web site: http://www.namelessprince.com/

Author blog:   http://www.dominickdomingo.com

Circle of Secrets by Kimberley Griffiths Little

When her father takes a temporary job in Russia, Shelby Jane is sent to live with the mother who abandoned her family a year ago. Angry and feeling alone, she’s certain living in the heart of the Louisiana bayou is going to be miserable.

Tormented by her classmates, Shelby is relieved to find a friend in Gwen, a mysterious girl living by herself on the bayou. As events unfold, Shelby wonders if Gwen is tied to the blue bottle tree near her mother, Mirage’s house. Painful memories prevent Mirage from talking about the past, and Shelby is still too hurt to talk to her mother about all that is happening. As the past and present collide, can Shelby and her mamma break through the pain of the past year to heal their hurts?

Circle of Secrets by Kimberley Griffiths Little is a family drama filled with secrets, mystery and ghosts of the past. In this haunting tale, Little has blended a superb plot, rich descriptions and well-developed characters to come up with a page turning middle grade novel. The Lil Diva (10) purchased this book at a Scholastic book fair this spring. She loves mysterious stories, and this seemed like it would fit the bill. It also helped that the book came with a charm bracelet.

For me, Circle of Secrets started off a bit slow. I wasn’t truly captivated by the story until some of the pieces started to fall into place. Young people, however, will find Shelby Jane a relatable character whose strained relationship with her mother propels the plot forward during the first half of the book. Shelby is dealing with her anger over Mirage abandoning the family. She certainly has no desire to live with her, but it’s entirely out of her control because her father is temporarily out of the country. This speaks so well to how a young person can feel about the lack of control she has over her own life.

From the time Shelby first meets Gwen, mystery surrounds the girl. The more time they spend together, the more questions Shelby has about Gwen’s ties to the blue bottle tree behind Mirage’s house and why her mamma refuses to go near it. What I truly like about this book is how well Little tied the past to the present, and sometimes in unexpected ways, like the similar games played by kids at Shelby’s school and back when Mirage was growing up. Little ties everything up in a nice, big mysterious bow, and the reader is eager to pull the ties and open up a fabulous story.

The Lil Diva and I read this together as part of her reading requirement for the library summer reading program. She loved the book, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she read it over again at some point.

Mom’s rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Lil Diva’s rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Reading level:Ages 8 and up
  • Hardcover:336 pages
  • Publisher:Scholastic Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10:054516561X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545165617
  • SRP: $17.99

We purchased this book at a school book fair. No review was expected. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have received no monetary compensation.

Guest Book Review: FATED (BOOK ONE of The Soul Seekers) by Alyson Noel

Genre: Young Adult
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Paperback: 440 pages
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
ISBN-13: 97-1-4472-0680-4
Rating: 4.5 stars

Life changes for Daire Santos at age seventeen. In fact, things get so weird that her mother, Jennika, a film make-up artist, sends Daire to her grandmother in a little town called Enchantment, New Mexico. For a rebellious teen like Daire, this dusty backwater is anything but enchanting. She is also scared of what’s been happening to her: animals follow her; crows mock her; the atmosphere turns hazy and glowing people appear from out the blue. Daire wonders if she is actually having the nervous breakdown her mother thinks she is. Once in Enchantment, her grandmother starts piecing together the puzzle that Daire’s life has become. She is not going nuts. Daire has a role in life that ultimately she’s not too keen on accepting. Her father was a gifted Soul Seeker, as is Daire. His death points to the ominous force looming, one that Daire needs to battle. To do this, she has to learn her craft as a mystical Soul Seeker, one who can navigate between the Upperworld, Middleworld, and the dark Underworld. Daire must also connect with her Shaman bloodlines and her animal guide to harness the kind of magickal powers she’ll need. Added to this, Daire meets Dace, the boy she has dreamed about. He is a handsome, pure young man, with similar powers. Alas, his twin, Cade is the exact opposite, and represents evil incarnate. The fight for control of Enchantment begins…
In a novel twist, this book introduces Native American traditions, mythology, and legends to the YA market. This makes for an intriguing story as the reader learns with heroine Daire. Admittedly, Daire starts out a little whiney, but that’s understandable with so many seemingly crazy things happening to her. Daire also loses control when nightmarish visions plague her, and that’s not good for the people around her. Daire’s grandmother is a fount of wisdom and it’s a unique way for the author to weave in the kind of traditions and history that give this book its unusual slant. Fated is filled with a rich mythology in the soul visions, the spiritual quest, and the animal guides that all have meaning for Daire. This book does focus on spiritual growth in a fascinating way, and makes a nice change from the usual menu of vampires/werewolves and other undead elements in the YA market. Daire learns about love, trust, faith and hope; all the things that have eluded her up until now. Teens keen on an interesting read will love this book. Fated is Book One in the Soul Seekers series. Look out for Book Two: Echo later in 2012.

(First reviewed for Jozikids)

No monetary compensation was received for this review.

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

Hello from the Outer Banks

Hope all of you are taking these days to read a few good books. The Lil Princess (8) has already completed her reading for the library summer reading program, and the Lil Diva (10) isn’t far behind. Because the Lil Diva is going into the middle school next year, she is part of the teen program, which I’m not thrilled about, but she’s doing well. It’s the reading material I’m worried about. I definitely need to skim everything she brings home to make sure it is age appropriate–though I think my version of age appropriate might be different than the library’s.

We’re finishing up our final days on the Outer Banks and should be back in MA over the weekend. I would love it if you would share some of your summer reading with us.