Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger GamesI have recently finished The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I’ve seen these books on bestseller lists for quite some time, but whenever I read the synopsis for the first book I couldn’t envision myself getting into it. In my younger days I loved horror and had no problem with watching or reading about gory situations or war. But I  have to confess — I’ve grown to be a bit squeamish. One particular quote from School Library Journal made me hesitatant to read it:

“Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch.”

I finally had a change of heart at Writer’s Day in L.A. Several of the speakers spoke very highly of the book. Rachel Cohn, in fact read a passage from the first few pages of The Hunger Games, during the conference. I was intrigued! So I finally decided to sample it on my kindle — what could it hurt?

I was hooked right away! Collin’s captured her main character, Katniss Everdeen’s, voice flawlessly.  I also loved that the whole story was told in the present tense. Her writing reminds me of a saying — that a good author makes the reader forget that they are reading a book; instead they become fully immersed in the world of the story.  That is so true in The Hunger Games. You are not merely reading a book, you are living it — right down to hearing each cannon being released, visualizing the stunning costumes, and feeling the emotions of the characters.  And my concern for it being too gory? Well it is certainly not a story for the faint of heart, however the violence that is seen is appropriate to the story — you are seeing exactly what Katniss sees. The world of Panem is not a fluffy, happy-go–lucky one. It is a world in a state of turmoil, and rebellion. Even having finished the series, I still think about these books and likely will for quite some time.

The Hunger Games compels you to keep reading it — I literally could not put the book down for hours. If you have not already read this book, I highly recommend it!

My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Book Review Disclaimer: I review books from time to time because I love to read and share about my experiences. Some of the best books I read come at the recommendation of other voracious readers like me.  At this time all books being reviewed at my blog are from my personal library. Should that change, I will be certain to notify my readers.     
 – Christine


Last week I got the chance to visit a Scholatic Book Sale Event. All the books for sale were 50% off their cover price!

You know that feeling you get when kids are playing with a toy? Maybe with a barbie doll for example — my personal favorite? Sometimes they ask you, “will you play with me?” Secretly on the inside you’re ecstatic, even if all you out say out loud is, “sure.” It’s fun to get the opportunity to let loose and be a kid again. That’s how I felt at the book sale. I enjoyed picking my books out lovingly. I will also be able to use them as “research” for my writing. I am looking forward to sitting and enjoying them from the comfort of my own home.

One of my purchases was Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, which is actually referenced in Eve Bine Stock’s How to Write a Children’s Picture Book: Learning from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Corduroy, Where the Wild Things Are, The Carrot Seed, Good Night, Gorilla, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and Other Favorite Stories. Stock’s book is the first in a series of three that teaches aspiring picture book writers how to structure their books.  I am delighted to have a copy of Goodnight, Gorilla that I can go back to again and again.

Another of my finds was the The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. This is a story that I always hear children talking about, mainly boys but some girls as well. At the end of the book you can find instructions on how to make your own origami yoda. I was definitely intrigued and am curious to read this story.

I also found a picture book that had two stories in one ~ What Sisters Do Best/What Brothers Do Best.

One of the golden rules for any writer is to “read, read, read” in your genre, which I highly agree with. I now have several new books to study, analyze, and enjoy!

I love this kind of research! Don’t you?

The Magic of Story Time

Imagine the following scene…

A room full of children varying in ages from 5-11 playing with toys. Two children are throwing toys, two others rolling around on the floor, and still two more are playing very loudly and not following directions. The adults in the room have tried redirecting to new activities, attention getters, giving warnings, separating children, etc. And yet the room does not get any calmer.

Enter the storybook…

The group has been gathered together for story time. Amongst the moans and groans comments can be heard such as “picture books are for babies” or “I don’t want to read a story…it’s boring.” And yet the storyteller ignores the comments and begins reading the story. She is animated and uses voices to tell her tale. You can feel that she really believes in the power of the story and within minutes ~ actually more like seconds the group of children that had just been so wired up is mesmerized and fully engaged in the story.

Story time truly is a magical time but in order for it to be so the storyteller has to believe in the magic of story time.

I remember when I first started reading picture books to groups of children I dreaded it. I would get performance anxiety and I was unsure of myself. I would think to myself, “why are these children going to sit here and listen to me read this story to them?” and “I have a horrible storytelling voice.”

As long I as had that attitude, of course I was unsuccessful. But somewhere along the way I learned to love reading aloud.  I started to see how much children enjoyed having picture books read to them. Their eyes get so intense. Sometimes they smile and laugh. Other times their eyes go wide or they make faces. Sometimes they will reach out and try to touch the images on the page. I just love it. I also began to notice that children of any age, from 3 up to 11 could really enjoy the simple act of having a story read aloud to them.

I learned to believe in the magic of story time. Because if you believe in it with all your heart chances are children will believe in it and love it too.

Writer’s Day in L.A.

Yesterday I attended the SCBWI-LA’s 30th Annual Writer’s Day. It was my second official writing conference since taking up writing seriously again.

I was a little anxious about attending at first. I kinda felt like that little five year old girl I once was. I was always nervous about having to move for the 3rd time in two years and then go to a new school and make new friends all over again.  Well I’ve come a long way since then and I am happy to report – I loved every minute of it!
The camaraderie with fellow writers was excellent. I also felt very inspired by the speakers of the day which included: Susan Patron- Author, Margaret Miller-Editor at Bloomsbury, Toni Johnston-Author, Bruce Coville- Author, and Rachel Cohn- Author.

The conference took place at Clairbourn School in San Gabriel ~ a truly beautiful campus with white picket fences, pristine playhouses and equipment, quaint buildings and bright green lawns.  I kept trying to envision children on this campus ~ and inadvertently may have created a character for a new story.

The day was jam-packed full of precious, eye-opening information for any aspiring children’s writer. I walked away with a bag full of freebies, a page full of notes, and a head full of ideas. If you have a chance to attend this event next year- you are in for a treat!

I’ve joined SCBWI!

At the recommendation of several fellow writing friends and Children’s book author Merrily Kutner I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in October 2010. As I am not yet a Published Author I am currently an Associate Member.

Here is a link to my profile page if you’d like to take a peek!

I cannot express to you how invaluable this organization has been for me thus far.  The bulletins are jam-packed with information ~ inspirational stories, online resources, contests, workshops, and much more.  When I read the March/April 2011 issue I was more inspired to write that I had been in some time. Ideas that had been stagnant seemed to come alive. SCWBI is a nationwide organization, but also has local chapters with local events. In my area I’ve signed up for several events coming up soon such as Writers Day in L.A. and Agents Day at Newport Seabase.

I know I have not yet tapped into all the potential benefits of SCBWI (for instance I’m still working up the courage to join a critique group.) To all aspiring children’s writers, if you haven’t looked into SCBWI I highly recommend it!

A story reborn…

Out of the ashes rose a phoenix…wait scratch that, a raven.

When I was thirteen years old I began my love affair with dark, paranormal fiction (back then I think the whole section of the bookstore I was drawn to was simply called “Horror.” One of my favorites was Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden. Some of the vampires in the story could transform into animals. This inspired me to write a novel about a young shape-shifter on a quest. I called it Ravyn’s Quest. I began typing the story on my tiny Mac Classic. I actually made 3/4 of the way through the manuscript before I realized I didn’t know how the story would end. I sent my character on this treacherous journey only to realize I didn’t know what she was going to do when she got to where she was going. I always thought in the back of my mind, some day I’ll finish it.

It has taken me seventeen years but I have finally resurrected my story. The original version is still trapped on that little mac, but I didn’t need it anymore ~ I started from scratch. The story comes to me in waves, and I feel I have a solid idea for the whole novel. So far I have completed a preface, and 2 chapters. I am very excited about this project. Wish me luck as I dive into writing my first full length young adult novel.

My Personal Journey

I think it is quite apropos that my new music obsession (actually an old music obsession that has been rekindled) is with the rock band “Journey,” because I have been on quite an interesting personal journey of my own. You might notice my lack of blogging the past few months.

Well, in a nutshell…here is what happened. I was blessed enough to enjoy a family trip to one of the most beautiful places on earth ~ Tahiti, in early Nov. 2010. When I returned to a gloomy, rainy California I had a bit of a case of the post-vacation blues. Okay, more the a bit, more like a lot! Just as I was trying to recuperate and get over it I received my first rejection note from my manuscript submissions. I was expecting this of course but nonetheless I was already feeling down and this just tipped me over the edge. After that I didn’t get the urge to write at all for quite some time. Once my writing bug finally returned it took a turn for the personal ~ so for the most part I have been writing in a journal, which contains such inward thoughts, its hard to share them on a blog in such a raw state. Perhaps one day I will be able to or even turn it into a story.

By the way, upon further research, I revisited that rejection note I received and found that particular publisher does not typically respond if they are not interested in your work. Just knowing that, gave me a little glimmer of hope to send manuscripts to them in the future. I am able to think of it as less of the more final “no” to merely a “not now, not this project.”

Query Time

I am so excited to have sent out my first set of queries and manuscript submissions for my first children’s book, Iris the Colorful Spider in the past few weeks! If the query package process is foreshadowing the road I’m on it is going to be a bumpy one!

I spent several weeks researching publishing houses, manuscript submission guidelines, how to write query/cover letters and more! I also spent a big chunk of time on getting to know the books each publisher produces and whether or not it seemed like my manuscript would be a good match for them. Once I had completed all of these things I was ready to take a day to put together my packages and send them off.

And then the hitch…

First my printer decided to put big black inky lines all over the pages of my manuscript. There was not way I could send that out. It looked completely unprofessional. My hubby and I lost several hours to cleaning and checking the printer after which the printer died all together! Ugh!Then I decided to send my copies to be printed at Kinkos. I lost several more hours due to technical difficulties.  Finally, I picked up my finished copies from Kinkos only to find that half of my order was missing. Double ugh! The next morning I visited my Mother-in-Law and she allowed me to use her printer to print up those missing copies. I was finally able to send my packges off by Monday morning.

If anything I think this served as a reminder to me ~ this is not an easy breezy process. I may succeed but it’s highly possible I may fail this first time around. I am going to learn a lot and hopefully grow and learn from my experiences. I will keep you all updated on the progress of my submissions. It should be approximately 2 months or so before I hear anything. Some publishers will not contact you at all unless they want to accept your manuscript. Wish me luck!

Book Review: 2011 Children’s Writer and Illustrator’s Market

I have been absent from the blogosphere for about two weeks now, sorry Readers. It has been an insanely busy two weeks! I made it through the first two weeks of school and a weekend trip to San Luis Obispo for the Central Coast Writer’s Conference (more to come on the conference soon!). Our drive for the trip was a total of 10 hours in one weekend. I have also spent this last week trying my hand at queries/manuscript submissions, which has been quite a challenging, yet enjoyable ride thus far.

During my free times in the evenings I have been avidly reading, writing, and researching. One of my current reads is the “2011 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.” The book came to me very highly recommended by both peers and patrons. I can certainly see why! As you can see by my photo at the left I have already “Post-ited”  many pages to come back to in my copy.(I’m a post it addict!)

Here are a few things I like about the book:

1) It’s a great reference book for Writer’s looking to get their works published. It includes valuable information about publishing houses, submission requirements, contact information and more!
2) It’s more than a reference book, it includes inspirational stories and “how to articles”
3) The online component is another awesome resource. Each purchased copy comes with a 1 year free subscription to to the Writer’s Market online.
4) Glossary of industry and writing terms. These have proven to be very helpful for me to get to know the field better and build my knowledge base.

If you are a new Children’s Writer (or even a veteran) I highly recommend this book!

My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Book Review Disclaimer: I review books from time to time because I love to read and share about my experiences. Some of the best books I read come at the recommendation of other voracious readers like me.  At this time all books being reviewed at my blog are from my personal library. Should that change, I will be certain to notify my readers.     
 – Christine

Loving my new Kindle

A few weeks ago my husband bought me a Latest Generation Amazon Kindle for my birthday. I don’t have any other kindle models to compare it to, but nonetheless I am very happy with it. It sure beats what I was using before. Last December my brother-in-law gave my hubby an itouch for Christmas. At night time, when he wasn’t using it I hijacked it and instantly downloaded the Kindle application for itouch. From December 2009 until now I had been reading books off of the itouch. The screen was tiny and I had to turn pages every few seconds but it did the job. So in essence, in the contest of kindle vs. itouch for reading, kindle wins, no contest. I am also amazed at how much the screen text looks like an actual page out of a book. I’m all for authenticity. Now all it needs is to emit puffs of paperback scented air every few seconds and it will have completely replicated the sensory experience of reading a physically real book.

So what am I reading at the moment you might ask? For pleasure I am reading “Blue Moon: The Immortals.” by Alyson Noel. My favorite genres have always been YA and adult dark & urban fantasy, and Sci-Fi. I loved reading the Twilight series but my love for this type of  book began many years earlier with books such as Christopher Golden’s “Of Saints and Shadows” and L.J. Smith’s “The Vampire Diaries” being among my favorites.

I’m also reading a few books on writing right now including Stephen King’s “On Writing” and William Strunk’s “Elements of Style.”

If you have a kindle and have not checked out Amazon’s huge selection of Free Popular Classics, you should do so. I have downloaded “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen and “Anne’s House of Dreams” by L.M. Montgomery to name a few.

I love being organized, so having all of books in one place on my kindle has been very comforting for me. You can also put your books into categories which I found to be equally delightful!

Do you own an e-reader? How do you like it?