Review: Elemental Island

elemental island

Summary: Astie has always been different. Her 12th birthday is looming and she still has not decided on her thesis. All the Learners at the Hub picked theirs years ago. If it wasn’t for her cousin, Jakob, life would be unbearable on Elemental Island. On the verge of being diagnosed with Social Syndrome, she stumbles upon Danny who has landed in a forbidden flight machine….(continued here)

Age Level: Middle Grade (ages 8-13)

Genre: Adventure (with low level Sci-Fi feels)

Pages: 224 (hardcover)

Published: December 2015 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This book is a celebration of differences. In a world where everyone loves logic, order, and alone time, main character Astie is on the verge of turning 12 with no scientific thesis to obsess over and an enjoyment of spending time with people, and hugs, that is going to get her shunned as having what is known as Social Syndrome. Of course, Astie winds up saving the day. But I will leave it to you to discover just how she does it.

I enjoyed this book very much. It was a quick read, coming in at only a few hours in one of my days to read it, but the storyline has stuck with me. The world Ms. Hoopmann created is a logical, scientific narrative of what an island full of fully functioning autistic humans might be like. They are secluded. They are safe. They have no contact with an outside world, because there isn’t one (as far as they know). They like it that way, and if anyone starts being too social, or illogical, or touchy feely. Well they might have to be retrained. This flip-flop of what we normally see in books made me happy and excited to read on. I really liked the interactions between our main character and her family and friends. They were written true to how someone with non-neurotypical tendencies might speak and react, which I really appreciated.

This book earned 3.5 dragons from me. Go check it out.

 

The Fir Tree – Review

The Fir Tree is a story I had heard before, but did not know well. The sad tale is a cautionary fairy tale with traditional Hans Christian Anderson tropes and an ending that will bring a tear to your eye. In this beautiful green, cloth bound edition, the illustrations of Finnish artist Sanna Annukka elevate the story to new heights of beauty and devastation. Gorgeously rendered and written, this book is definitely worth the read. 4152frzf4cl-_sx282_bo1204203200_*this book was sent to me in exchange for a fair and honest review by blogging for Books*

What is “Diversity?”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually think of skin color/ethnicity/sexual orientation when I hear the word “Diverse.” What I DO think about are things like genre, country of origin, is it original or trope-ful, target audience, etc. Apparently that’s not what most people think of, however, because they start talking about the ‘other’ things…i.e. color, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. So here are my two cents, I expect most of you will disagree with me and (PSA) I’m not particularly sorry about it. I hope you have your own opinions. I will continue to adore you whether or not you agree with me. Moving on:

  1. I’m all for proper representation of minorities…white women are becoming a minority (at least where I’m from) so don’t roll your eyes at my white protagonist.
  2. I have no problem with most people’s sexual orientations. Yes, I said most because there are some orientations that I just can’t figure out or wrap my mind around. However, I don’t want to always read about something I’m not a part of just because it makes me ‘more diverse’
  3. I do believe that reading across genres and age levels is part of reading diversely.
    1. I do NOT believe that reading in one genre and age level will allow you to be properly diversified.
  4. If you don’t think about country of origin for the story and/or characters then the diversity falls a bit flat (in my opinion)
  5. If a character is NOT specified as being white, don’t complain about “all those white chicks/characters” in literature. Guess what…I know a lot of ethnic people (male and female) with blond or red hair. Welcome to the age of discount drug store hair dyes and cheap(ish) eye color changing contacts.

Ok, this has been slightly rambly and soap boxy…but I did try to keep that to a minimum. What do you think about all this? Am I wrong? (I’m not…but you’re probably not wrong either).

Weekly Reading Goals: 8/21-8/27

Every Sunday I go on my BookTube Channel and talk about whatever goals I have for the upcoming week. These videos are more for my benefit (I have to at least TRY if I tell you I’m going to do something) but several people have responded well to them and so I keep going. This week, I decided to things a bit differently. I discussed my goals for reading and writing very quickly, and moved on to other life goals. The more in-depth look at reading goals will go here, on my reading blog (and the writing goals will grace my writing blog.) Simple right? So why did it take me so long to come up with the idea….let’s not go there.

Now that the intro stuff is out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the matter.
My week’s Reading Goals:

  1. Read 300+ pages.

Some of you might find that number to be small potatoes. Others of you might be blown away by it. The truth is, this number was a fairly arbitrary pick for me, so let’s break it down.

a. Clayton Stone at Your Service by Ena Jones

This MG book is 180 pages long but I started it last night so I have about 150

more to go. That’s approximately 1/2 of my reading goal this week.

b.  A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I am currently on page 515 of 807 so, technically, I have completed this   week’s read-a-long goal. However, I have been reading at least a chapter or two before bed every night and see absolutely no reason to stop that habit at this point. If I read about 100 pages this week, that leaves around 50 left in my goal

c. Heartless By Gail Carriger

The 4th book in the Parasol Protectorate series, I borrowed Heartless from

Overdrive on e-book and I am having a hard time reading it in this format

(my eyes are horrid). However, 50 pages should be fairly easy to accomplish.

BONUS: The Faceless Ones By Derek Landy

No pages here, this is a strictly audio endeavor, which I intend to complete

today. Skullduggery Pleasant is too funny to put away for long.

 

SO what are you reading this week? Leave me a comment and let’s chat about it! Happy week 😀

 

 

3 Reasons to read MG as an Adult

There is a debate happening across BookTube and book blogs right now, one that happens every few years, about reading YA (young adult) fiction as *gasp* adults. I won’t get into it because I am, in fact, an ‘adult’ and I do, indeed, continue to enjoy YA books. It happens. What I do want to discuss today is something I think deserves just as much discussion: Children’s and Middle Grade books. Specifically, the benefits of reading children’s and middle grade fiction long after you’ve passed the top end of that particular age bracket. Don’t worry, I’ve narrowed this down to a top 3 list!

1)      If you are a parent, teacher, caregiver, aunt, uncle, cousin, or person who lives near children (a.k.a. pretty much anyone on the planet) reading children’s and middle grade literature allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of the younger generations. You can not only monitor what they’re being exposed to through their reading, you can also find common ground to strike up conversations. Start a book club with them and discuss the important things, both in the books and in their lives.

Similarly, if you’ve been reading children’s and middle grade books in a wide variety you will be more readily equipped to suggest the book that might change a child’s life. For example, you hate reading but love skateboarding and now you’re grounded until you choose a book and write a review for class? Try out Tony Hawk’s autobiography.  You might just help with an assignment, but this might be the way they get into reading…or pass the fifth grade.

2)      Books meant for a younger audience deal with hard hitting issues such as death, race, orientation, and even terrorism in a more direct and seemingly sensitive manner which can help ease you into dealing with these issues in a much swifter and easier fashion than many adult books, which either swerve around the problem or tackle it with bloody force. Articles on dealing with grief might help eventually, but a good cry while reading through L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables might help you get up and try a lot faster than a ‘professional’ giving step by step instructions.

3)      Finally, sometimes you just want to relax, de-stress, and read something that allows you to revisit the home and innocence of your youth. You miss the times of braces, first crushes, and bff’s for-like-ever. These can all be revisited smoothly and swiftly with an old favorite (I like to curl up with one of Ann M. Martin’s Babysitter’s Club Books or some Winnie the Pooh myself) or even through a new modern ‘classic’ like Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series. Maybe the feel of a Nancy Drew book can transport you back to the summer of awkward growth spurts and braids, or the flow of Harry Potter remind you of acne and beginning football.  Whatever it is, read to remember the wonder and awe of your childhood. Let the stresses of your ‘adulting’ melt away. Believe again.

It’s ok, no one will judge you for enjoying a good book.  If they try to, just ignore them and retreat to a well-made couch fort. No one has time for that sort of negativity!

10 Reasons I didn’t Recommend: Shadow Hunter Edition

I am currently posting a series of videos on my BookTube channel (Elizabeth Tyree (Soul Stained Ink) in which I recommend books across age levels. As I was making lists and starting to film, I realized that there was one series that gets a LOT of hype but that I just really didn’t want to recommend people read. When I started really thinking on the whyfors of that decision, I found a few reasons behind it so…let’s count them down (shall we, yes we shall).

 

Top 10 Reasons why:

I didn’t recommend The Shadow Hunter books for fantasy and/or YA readers.

 

10) The world is not something incredibly new or exciting. Yes, Cassandra Clare did some interesting things with it. However, the idea of Nephilim, protectors, supernatural wars, and the mist that keeps mere mortals from understanding it all is a well-worn path. While that is not a turn off (and I actually like the books well enough) there isn’t enough of a different spin here to make it worth my effort to suggest.

 

9) The characters often flip their own personalities. They seem, in a few places, to be people who don’t know their own temperaments. Things that should be handled one way by a character, are most decidedly not. That is confusing, especially for new or slow readers.

 

8) Rampant Bullying. Think about this…There is a constant feel of bullying coming from the Nephilim, the vampires, the Fey. They all bully each other and seem to really LOVE bullying Clary and Simon as they come into the new knowledge of the Shadow Hunter world.

 

7) Unhealthy Relationships. Clary and Jase. Clary and Simon. Clary and the Lightfoots. Jase and the Lightfoots. Clary and her parental units. The List could go on and on. The relationships in this series are not typically good and/or healthy. They’re abusive, in multiple ways, and they’re often treated as inconsequential (except for the homo-sexual…who is bullied by himself. That was the only true feeling relationship I spotted).

 

6) Speaking of unhealthy relationships….EVERYTHING having to do with Jase and Clary’s forbidden love trope. Neither of them handles it well and, quite frankly, it’s a bit pathetic.

 

5) The evil being depicted is a fallen Nephilim. Yet another trope being trampled to death here. While he has a few decent lines, the use of him and his little minion boy falls quite flat for me.

 

4) The parental units or lack thereof. Seriously, the way they treat their parents and guardians and get treated in return is just ridiculous. To be fair, 75% or more of the books don’t even include parental type units.

 

3) The way magic handlers are, well, handled. Let’s see…Magnus Bane is flamboyant and insane and affects this personality but basically just makes it seem ok to do whatever want, to whoever you want, for whatever reason you can come up with. Consequences are a very real thing, no matter who you are or want to be!

 

2) Confusion, difficulty, and dismay…The books, especially the first two, are very difficult to get in to for many people. The storyline is convoluted and difficult to follow in places and it has discouraged many a reader. Though, to be fair, some people have found the struggle to help them move into the joy of reading. The writing style is hard to handle, drags, and often doesn’t provide the promised size of pay off.

 

1)     OVERHYPED this series is severely overhyped. It is everywhere you look. New series are being spawned left and right, following The Shadow Hunters all over the world and through the ages. People talk about this series A LOT. I don’t know that it deserves the amount of hype it gets. However, the fact remains that most people will have heard about Cassandra Clare and her Shadow Hunters. I wanted to recommend something people probably wouldn’t have already heard all about.

Interview | MG Author Chris Grabenstein

In the past few months I’ve discovered an author that’s been around awhile, but that I’ve only just discovered. Since then, I’ve read multiple books by this middle grade author and can honestly say that he is my new favorite author.

Chris Grabenstein is a funny, interesting, and intelligent author from Buffalo, New York. He co-writes the I FUNNY, HOUSE OF ROBOTS, TREASURE HUNTERS, and JACKY HA-HA books with James Patterson, as well as writing many of his own, fabulous, works. My current favorite is a three way tie between Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, and Dr. Libris Library. You can find Mr. Grabenstein at Goodreads and at chrisgrabenstein.com.

I caught up with Chris this past week and he very kindly answered a few questions for me to pass along to you. So, without further ado, here is Author Chris Grabensteins Interview.

1) I stalked your Goodreads page and saw that Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was inspired by a library in New York and that a 5th grader made the comment that got the ball rolling for Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, which are both amazing, but who did you base the characters on? And are YOU MR. Lemoncello?
The characters come from various sources.  Kyle Keeley, who is the third son in his family, is based on my memories of being the third son in my family.  The only time I could ever beat my big brothers was when we played board games.  Sierra Russell is based on every bookworm I’ve met on my numerous school visits (and seems to be a character that resonates with a lot of young readers and older ones, too!)  Miguel Fernandez is based on (and named after) a fifth grader I tutored at my church’s Homework Help program.   And, yes, Mr. Lemoncello is sort of based on me and also the late Jim Henson, whom I worked for back in the 1980s.   The wackiness comes from me.  The unbridled creativity coupled with a bajillion dollars comes from Mr. Henson.
I, like many of us, adore the late Jim Henson. This makes me love Lemoncello even more (which I didn’t know was possible)
2) Welcome to Wonderland, Home Sweet Motel is coming out October of 2016 and (on your website) features Roadside Americana. Was it a piece of that roadside Americana that prompted and inspired this story? If so, what piece started the journey?
WONDERLAND is based on my memories of visiting my grandmother every summer in St. Petersburg, Florida.  We’d pack up the car and hit the road, stopping at places like South Of The Border and Weeki Wachee Springs (mermaid shows!).   While staying at an extended stay motel in Michigan, helping my wife take care of her father, I remembered how much I used to LOVE staying in a motel when I was a kid.  Swimming pools!  Snack vending machines!  Toilets sanitized for my protection.   So, I wondered, what if I was a kid who LIVED in a motel!
I feel a road trip coming on!
3) You’ve written books across the age levels, is there any difference in your writing process when those age levels and genres change?
When writing for ages 8-12, I have to watch my language.  No, not that way (even though I do).  I have to be more aware of the vocabulary I am using and, if I use a word that may not be in a fifth graders lexicon, put it into a context where the meaning can be understood.  I also write for short attention spans because I have one, too, and get bored easily in the long descriptive paragraphs that most readers tend to skip anyway.
4) What IS your writing process? (I, personally, tend to be a pantser. Do you outline, meticulously write note cards, or just let the words flow?)
When I was writing one, maybe two, books a year I was definitely a pantser.   Now, as I attempt to write or coauthor 5-6 books every twelve months, I craft a very tight outline with all the major beats, twists, turns, etc. planted.  I find that my working on the outline for a week or two, I save a month or two one the back end with rewrites.
Maybe I should start working on finding the right kind of outline again…I gave up that search awhile ago but…saves a month or two on rewrites!
5) Do you have any superstitions or traditions that help you get more writing done and, if so, do those change depending on the story, age level, or genre?
No real superstitions.  Just a very boring, self-disciplined work ethic.
6) I’ve seen you give the advice to ‘write, write, write…’ and ‘give yourself permission to write a bad first draft.’ Do you have any other advice you’d like to give to aspiring (or already there) authors?
Follow Elmore Leonard’s TEN RULES FOR GOOD WRITING
Especially the last bit of advice:  “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
7) Do you read Indie and/or self-published authors? What advice would you give them?
I must admit that I don’t have much experience with self-published books.  I have self-published a few e-titles of my own and have great respect for those who can make it work for them.  I don’t have the marketing/promotional energy to do it correctly.
He’s not kidding! I am a totally indie author at the moment and I never have that energy!
8) What books are on your reading pile right now?
Edward Eager’s KNIGHT’S CASTLE, HAMILTON, and UNDERGROUND AIRLINES.
Look, even Chris Grabenstein is reading Hamilton, I need to jump on that bandwagon.
9) Finally, in Dr. Libris the protagonist(s) find an island on a lake where story characters come to life. What character(s) would you most like to have come to life to spend a day with you? (yours and/or someone else’s)
Mr. Lemoncello. So he can tell me what happens next.
a) that means we’ll possibly be getting a 4th Lemoncello book (the 3rd is coming soon!)
b) he’d be on the top of my list too, along with Gandalf. I want to see Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Lemoncello hanging out.

A Light Bit of Housekeeping

Hello! As the title might make you suspect, I have a few things to go over with you today. The first and foremost thing for us to discuss is that the blog will be changing. I’ve spent the past couple of days setting up an “Author’s Blog” here on WordPress and any strictly writing posts, including glimpses at and excerpts from my writing, will be posted there. I will share the odd post on Here There Be Dragons but if you don’t want to miss out on those posts, it might be better to subscribe to Soul Stained Ink (estyreesoulstainedink.wordpress.com). This blog will continue to be used for book reviews and posts about everyday life.

Speaking of reading! I’ve been given a personal challenge, both by some friends and by my own pride, to read George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. As I have a Mass Market Paperback edition, this book is slightly over 800 pages. So I thought, WHY NOT MAKE IT A READ_A_LONG/BUDDY READ? SO…If you would like to read-a-long with me or just follow my journey, please feel free to join my new Buddy Reads with Beth Goodreads Group! If you don’t have a Goodreads or prefer not to join the group, that’s fine! I’ll be attempting to remember to post weekly Game Reads updates on this blog and I’ll have updates and chats on my BookTube channel if you’d rather go watch my face talk about my thoughts on the book.

You can also keep up to date on Twitter (twitter.com/writerbaby13), where I’m sure I will be lamenting my choice to do this!

I am also getting ready to do a series of book recommendation videos, which I will link on Here There Be Dragons AND I will recommend a few books in the same genre/age level to just you guys, something special for you 😉

Finally, I am contemplating starting a newsletter that would include writing and life updates, perhaps images, and snippets from current works in progress. If that is something you might be interested in receiving via e-mail please leave me a comment letting me know! If several of you might enjoy that, I will get it set up and linked for subscriptions soon.

I hope that you all have a wonderful and blessed week. Don’t forget to check out Soul Stained Ink, the blog and/or the BookTube channel, and get your copy of A Game of Thrones ready!

 

 

 

Saturday Stories 7/9/16

This past week was a doozy in the world of words I like to surround myself with and snuggle down in to.

First of all, I joined a Buddy Read/Group Read of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern which began for most of us on Monday, June 27th and is continuing on as people read and discuss at their own rates (One of the readers set up a thread on an existing Goodreads group) and so we are all still delving into the book even if we’ve finished as more of our compatriots comment on the different sections. I, myself, completed this book around Wednesday and absolutely adored it (rating around 4.5 stars, but I bumped it up to a full 5 or Goodreads). I own the beautiful floppy paperback version and also borrowed the audio book from Overdrive. It was fabulous, though the physical copy makes it a bit easier to follow the fluid and jumping time frames.

In the middle of reading The Night Circus, a read-a-thon started up…one that I have been anticipating and refining my TBR list for over the past 2 months. The #SmoresandMayhem Middle Grade Read-a-thon ran from July 1st – July 8th and had only one ‘rule’: each book must focus on a story that takes place during/in/around summertime.

For #SmoresandMayhem I managed to read 5 1/2 books (and DNF 1 more).

I re-read The Babysitter’s Club Super Special 1: Babysitters on Board (By Ann M. Martin) and High Wizardry (By Diane Duane). I haven’t read either of these books in so long that it was almost as though I read them for the first time. I remember loving the BSC book and feeling a bit MEH about the wizarding book and..my feelings haven’t really changed, except that I’m more outspoken about them now.

Along with those two I also completed Deep and Dark and Dangerous (By Mary Downing Hahn), The Wish in the Bottle (By Morna McLeod), and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (By Chris Grabenstein) (this was read on audio book and it was AMAZING. Listen to it!). I quit on The Girl who Circumnavigate Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (By Catherynne M. Valente) within the first two chapters. I have handed it over to my mother in order to determine if this is a book that I really do need to try to read again later, when I’m not still on a high from reading a couple of 5 star books prior to picking it up. I’m having the same issue with my 1/2 read book, The Westing Game (By Ellen Raskin)

The cool thing though, is that all the only physical library book I checked out for all of this was High Wizardry…meaning that I knocked out 6 books from my little TBR bookshelves. I’m down to about 45 now!

With all of that reading going on, I did kind of neglect my #HotandSticky Summer Writing Challenge work. I’m still a bit ahead of the game, but not by much with three days of 0 word count so far this month. Today’s (Friday, July 8th) ending target total word count 19,032 and my total current word count is 22,169. I definitely need to get my booty in gear again!

Unfortunately, I’ve lost over half of the original Sylvester outlines and have changed the story so much I’m now stalled in it trying to remember what I wanted so I know what to change (I hate it when I get all switch happy and forget what happens!). So I switched to writing the new children’s chapter book, a sequel to the recently finished Paulonious Punk (which hasn’t even been properly edited yet!) but the past couple of days has just felt like trying to pull cold taffy so all the myriad of picture book ideas, the children’s book, the 5th in the dragon series, the 2 NA/A fantasy stories, and the 2 rewrites are all just being left to their own devices. Normally one will speak to me and the rest get put aside for a bit but right now, right now I’m woefully falling behind. I better get over this soon, though, because I get CRANKY when I don’t write. It’s worse than PMS…it’s SWS (stalled writing syndrome)..and Midol does NOT help! (Coffee, Coke, Dark Chocolate, Chips and Salsa, 90s alternative music, and Netflix binges…these help. Please send some and save my poor family).

All that being said, here is a clip from the children’s chapter book. I’ve only just begun but I really enjoyed this scene, I hope you do too!

That afternoon Pauly called an emergency meeting of the adventuring club. With Fredrick and Mark Finkle still out of town at their lake house for the summer, Pauly, John, and Grandpa were the only official members available, but a quick vote allowed Sarah to tag to along too. If she got too annoying they could stick Grandma with her and ask them to bake cookies or something.

“This is gonna be SO GREAT,” Pauly exclaimed before remembering his role and sheepishly banging his small gavel on the president’s podium (a miniature dinosaur with flat top hair do and a mouth that would open and burp bubbles when you tickled its left ear). “I officially call this meeting to order! Is there any new business to attend to?”

“Yes,” Grandpa Punk solemnly raised his hand and waited to be called on. “Thank you, President Pauly,” he cleared his throat. “THIS IS GOING TO BE SO AWESOME!!!!!!!”

This caused the entire group to dissolve into a laughing it that was so loud and long it disturbed Grandmother Punk, who was in the process of baking and became afraid that her desserts would fall apart if the laughter continued.

When they had sobered up and managed to settle down a little, Pauly posed a serious question.

Fetching the club’s brand new “adventure notebook” (a pleather bound journal with the picture of a mountain on the cover) from its place of honor on top of the cluttered old desk in the corner, he began, “I think that we should each write down what’s going on and our thoughts and stuff about it from now until the end of the trip. That way we have a…a….a.”

“A reckoning of events for posterity,” Grandpa suggested with a smile.

“Exactly, a whatever it is that Granpa just said,” Pauly straightened his spine and schooled his facial expression into one of solemn thoughtfulness, “All in favor?”

Two ‘ayes’ and a ‘yupyup’ rang out among the many inventions and tools of the fort/shop.

“It has been decided,” Pauly intoned seriously, “So it shall be done.“   He passed the notebook and feathered pen to his second in command. “Johnny, will you start us out please?”