Tag Archives: new authors

Author Crushes

I have a new author crush every week.  How about you?  Do you fall in love with authors you meet from friend’s recommendations and from the new books at the library?

My latest crushes are for middle grade authors Gordon Korman and Mary Amato!  Korman was recommended to me by a new reading friend when she heard I was looking for examples of dialogue from a boy’s perspective.  Both my grands are boys and I am writing several middle grade novels which my BETA readers call “girls’ books.”  I want to appeal to all genders, so I picked up Ungifted to hear a different POV on my way to meet friends for lunch 2 hours away.  Still driving last weekend, on the way to a children’s writing conference, I fell in love with Gordon Korman’s humor, character development and pacing. Ungifted is told from many different children and adults in school and home settings. What more could a reader and a writer hope to gain?  This week at the library, I picked up one more book by Korman, Schooled, and I am prepared to laugh and enjoy more of his multiple voice books. Readers of both genders and all ages can enjoy these books.

Mary Amato is a new author I met at the children’s writing conference.  What a find!  Her Our Teacher is a Vampire and other (Not) True Stories also was created with multiple characters’ voices.  Each of the students in Mrs. Penrose’s class adds letters and articles to a blank book Alexander received for his birthday.  The resulting novel is humorous and authentic, full of likeable middle grade protagonists (plus teachers and a librarian.)

An old flame grabbed me at the library:  Pam Munoz Ryan!  The Dreamer and Echo are different genres and interesting additions to her body of children’s stories that range from picture biographies to historical fiction.  I relished Riding Freedom, Mice and Beans, and When Marian Sang:  the True Recital of Marian Anderson.  In my latest read from Ryan, I discovered a fictionalized biography of the famous poet, Pablo Neruda, with illustrations by Peter Sis.  What a delightI discovered in The Dreamer and I await a different experience in Echo which is based on ancient folktales!  Many poems are added at the end of the book.  An intriguing idea they share with us lovers of children’s literature.

One more new find is Leah Pileggi, author of Prisoner 88.  I was looking for another book recommended by my ten-year-old grandson which had a similar title.  It is amazing to hear of 4th and 5th graders reading about prisoners, but they love the authenticity of these books.  Prisoner 88 is about a 10-year-old-boy who is the youngest prisoner in the history of Idaho’s Territorial Penitentiary.  In 1885 Jake has a rude awakening, as you can imagine.  Later in history, Yanek (Jack) becomes a prisoner in 10 concentration camps in Germany. He lived in a Polish Ghetto and then was imprisoned around 1939 for the sole reason that he was Jewish.  Prisoner B-3087 is the memoir of Jack Gruener, penned with his wife Ruth and Alan Gratz. These two historical fiction books are both survivor stories you will want to read.

If you are considering writing your own children’s books, I recommend you join me in a great organization:  the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Lin Oliver founded this organization and, as a realistic and personable speaker at the latest regional conference, she shared her passion and advice for us pre-published authors.  You may recognize Lin as co-author with Henry Winkler of the “Hank Zipser” series.  Thanks to Lin Oliver, I met many aspiring children’s authors, agents and editors.  Peer Critique advice was available and valuable.  New friends from my own state and region will be a fine addition for my writing friends’ network.

[Don’t forget that if you see any errors in my posts, please alert me.  A new writing friend wrote that Jane Eyre was written by Emily Bronte.  I am too embarrassed to let her know… Should I tell her.  What do you think?]

Happy Reading in 2016 and Love from Best Books By Beth!

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Filed under Associations for Writers, Boys' books, Children's Literature, Historical Fiction, reading journals, Realistic Fiction, SCBWI

CHALLENGING BOOKS

Challenging Books

I love finding reading challenges such as Good Reads and one shared on Facebook by reading teachers.  My own personal goal for 2016 is 75 books.  One fun Reading Challenge of 2016 reminds us of the interesting categories of books we could choose to reach our reading goals.  For those readers who find a large number unattainable this year, you will love the 12 book categories of the Reading Challenge and the 30 categories of a children’s summer challenge to help you choose your next great read.

What do you do when you cannot find the “next great read”?  I go to the 12 category Reading Challenge of 2016 and try to remember those books which

  • Intimidate me
  • Were written in 2016, or
  • One written before I was born!

In fact, I read several books this past month that I had picked up and put down several times, because they were “Challenging books” in genres I don’t usually choose to read.

I hope you are now intrigued to find out books I found intimidating.  The Thirteenth Tale beckoned to me from the Audio book section of my public library.  Two narrators were listed on the cover and the summary was partially hidden from view.  So I tried this gem which I had abandoned in 2010.   Jill Tanner and another reader made me listen every time I hopped in my car.  The only problem was not being able to jot down the great reading and writing quotes. So I found a hardback copy of the book to re-read sections of this Gothic tale of a supremely dysfunctional family living in the moors like Wuthering Heights.  One memorable section was when the protagonist, a young biographer, became ill and her doctor asked her if she had been reading and re-reading Bronte and the like.  His prescription was to change reading habits.  What did he recommend?  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes!

Speaking of Gothic terrors, I also read a contemporary Gothic tale which takes place in a local neighborhood in Maryland.  Severna Park, MD is not what we would consider a scary place.  The setting of Devilish is not the usual one Lucia St. Claire Robson chooses for her historical fiction titles, so I was curious.  The red cover grabbed me; plus the uniqueness of a book with devils and writers and suburban housewives should draw readers who are looking for something new and humorous.  If you enjoy Janet Evanovich books, I think you will howl with the demons and sylphs and the main characters as they solve the mystery of how to rid their block of sneaky ghosts as well as save themselves from a serial killer with help of two handsome police.

What could top a book about devils and writers?  The Lives We Bury by Allen Eskers was recommended by a bookseller in Tampa, FL.  The foul language of a college student along with another dysfunctional family headed by an uncaring mother did not interest me at first, but I was hooked on “Challenging Books” for my reading in June.  My husband is the next to try this mystery which crosses genres with diverse characters and exceptional writing. Let me know what you think of this unusual contemporary thriller far different from the cosy mysteries I usually recommend.

Many mixed reviews, but mainly great ones highlighted book review literature in 2016 about The Nest.  Two recommendations by good reading friends encouraged me to read another tale of a dysfunctional family.  Why keep reading this one?  You will want to know what happens to each member of this family, hopefully so different from your own. The author sets up a great premise when she explains the inheritance four siblings expect to receive in the future when their youngest sibling reaches the age of 40.  The “nest” is what they call it their whole lives, but that inheritance is disrupted by unforseen happenings. Read Cynthia D’Apix Sweeney’s novel to find out how they learn to live with the changed circumstances of these usual and unusual lives.

Because I was tired of the same old themes of abandoning mothers and sulky teens, I read my friend Martha Crites’ debut mystery Grave Disturbance. When you meet Grace, a mental health evaluator, in the interesting setting of the Cascades foothills near Seattle, you have found a unique novel with diverse characters we hope to meet in a series about the people of the Pacific Northwest. Grace is not a detective by profession, but she takes the clues she finds and solves an unusual set of crimes to the setting and the characters in her world.

Another fascinating world is the arena of health clubs and the connection with deaf patrons and sign language interpreters in B. K. Stevens’ mystery Interpretation of Murder.  Lighter than the previous recommendations, B. K. (Bonnie) Stevens keeps you engaged in her story with reluctant sleuth Jane Ciardi, who will take any job from sign language interpreter to private detective assistant to waitress and even weekend office cleaner. Jane even learns martial arts, a new theme in Stevens’ books, to help her solve the crimes committed in the story.  I want to read more stories about this determined character as she tries to erase her debts and help anyone who needs her assistance.

 

Happy Reading in the summer of 2016!

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Filed under Adult Literature, Mystery, Reading challenges, Uncategorized

Book Clubs Take Many Forms

I have participated in several book clubs.  Some meet at friends’ homes, bookstores, libraries and online.  My latest was an entire conference of mystery writers.  Can you imagine the fun of being surrounded by mystery readers and writers, all of us fans of the cosy mystery stories? Everyone was friendly and welcoming because we all shared the love of mystery fiction and wanted to learn more about our favorite genre! Join us next spring for Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD.

After having met many authors online first, I was fortunate to meet more in person.  Ellen Byron, author of a new “Cajun mystery series” about a spooky B & B staffed by the Crozat family, brought props and everything Mardi Gras to remind us of her fun setting. Exciting clues will keep you guessing throughout her series.  Plantation Shudders is the first in the Cajun Mystery books, followed by Body in the Bayou to be released in the fall!  You will want to visit Cajun country after reading these novels!

Edith Maxwell writes 4 different mystery series.  I just finished her newest series debut book about a Quaker midwife in the time of the 1880’s. Delivering the Truth reveals the clues to the theme from a great cover.  Rose Margaret Carroll seems modern to today’s readers because the Friends Society encourages equality for all men and women. As a midwife, Rose is able to learn much about all the society in her hometown. She seeks the truth about victims and perpetrators.

Nina Mansfield intrigued me with her young adult debut Swimming Alone.  This fast-paced novel will keep you guessing this summer.  Go to the local bookstore and the beach with fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks to find the clues she and her new friends search to discover the Sea Side strangler!

Cooking and mysteries often go together. Maya Corrigan is an author from VA who combines them expertly and humorously.  Her book series offers a grandfather who wants to cook and assist his granddaughter solve local crimes.  The recipes at the back of the book offer you the chance to make some great treats! By Cook or By Crook is the first in her “Five Ingredient Mystery Series.”

My other love is plays and Cindy Brown drew me in with her new series of an actress who solves crimes unexpectedly!  Macdeath, the first in her series, was nominated for an Agatha Award for best first mystery.  The competition was fierce and I loved all the nominees in person and in print!

Historical mysteries might be your cup of tea, Agatha fans.  Try out Victoria Thompson’s “Gaslight series” which takes place at the turn of the 20th century.  I read three this spring starting with number one, Murder on Astor Place followed by Murder on Amsterdam Avenue (Agatha nominated title), and then Murder on Fifth Avenue.  Can you read them out of order?  Yes, Vicky, a delightful person, fills you in on the back story, but I know most readers like to read historical titles as they are released. There are a few plot lines you will want to follow in order.

Suspenseful cozies are becoming more popular. Hank Phillippi Ryan is bringing back her first protagonist Charlotte McNally this fall, but you may want to pick up her Jane Ryland titles The Other Woman, The Wrong Girl and What You See.  I love the puns and double entrendre in her titles! Be prepared for fast-paced plots with these investigative reporters who will remind you of this Emmy Award winning author.  Yes, Hank has won awards for her own journalism and for her books too.

Another new author I met is Martha Crites whose debut Grave Disturbance was recently nominated for a Nancy Pearl Award.  Be prepared to be scared by her realistic mystery set in the Seattle area.

My friends Marcia Talley and Sujata Massey, as well as Elaine Viets, are working on new titles set in Annapolis, India, St. Louis or Florida I hope to read in the fall when they are released. Check out your local independent book store for the latest from these fun authors.

Reading all these mysteries and more helped bring me out of a slump in finding fun books to enjoy.  Hope you discover some fun reading in this blog:  a new author, a new series, or a fun summer read!

Next post will feature literary fiction titles and will include Amazon links.

 

 

Happy Reading in 2016!

 

 

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Filed under Adult Literature, Award winning books, Book Clubs, Malice Domestic, Mystery, Uncategorized

Children’s Books

Children’s literature!  Isn’t reading children’s books how all readers began their love of our language and the written word?  Think back to the first story you remem-ber your parent reading aloud to you.  My first remembrance is this book published by Better Homes and Gardens (1950). My favorite story was “The Story of the Live Dolls” by Josephine Scribner Gates.  Now my family’s the favorite is my husband’s reading (in dialect, “Br’er Fox, he lay low.”) of the classic southern tale, “The Tar Baby” by Joel Chandler Harris

Following those favorites were nursery rhymes, folktales and fairy tales, and of course fiction written especially for children.  Soon I was reading “Dick and Jane” by  William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp on my own, followed by “Raggedy Ann” stories by Johnny Gruelle. “The Bobbsey Twin” series were gems I received for each birthday; Laura Lee Hope introduced me to my first mystery series.  There was only one problem with these books:  I finished each one in a day!  What should I read next?  I wondered.  Luckily for me, my mother wrote and edited a column for the local newspaper in Fort Wayne, IN.  Sue Webber was best friends with the book reviewer who passed all the children’s newest hardback books from publishers to me.  There were so many, that I do not remember the titles.

In junior high school, we lived in such a small town that the school was a junior/senior high with one library.  I remember having to ask my mother for a letter to give to the school librarian granting me permission to check out books from the high school stacks.  My first checked out book was an abridged Shakespeare.  Are there any readers out there from Leo, IN?

Why write about children’s literature now?  We love to read mysteries, historical fiction, women’s popular and literary fiction, but the best children’s writers will surprise you with their insights, the tightness of their stories and their skill in creating this shorter (?) fiction.  I actually read more children’s literature as an adult than as a child growing up, because I wanted to advance to the “good stuff” at an early age.  It was in library school at the University of Maryland that I learned to appreciate writers of children’s books.

Have you been waiting for some recommendations for yourself and your children and grandchildren?  I will highlight some popular and some lesser known titles not to be missed. Let’s begin with titles for pre-school children.  Don’t we love to read about brave, interestingly unusual characters?  The “Olivia” series by Ian Falconer will find you in awe of this outrageous pig.  I will bet you don’t know about a set of bold, imaginative characters penned by a friend of mine.  Don’t miss Amy Reichert’s While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat about Rose and Violet’s story Take Your Mama to Work.  You will love the illustrations by Alexander Boiger who discovered just the right style to portray Rose and Violet.  Reeve Lindbergh (yes, the daughter of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh) writes for pre-schoolers as well as books for all ages.  Homer, the Library Cat is one of my favorites.  Of course, I love all books about libraries.  (Another post idea?)

Grade school children love to read about children who perform differently than the norm.  Lois Lowry writes for all ages of children and adults, but I want to recommend one of my favorite series starting with Gooney Bird Greene, which follows the antics of a new second grader who amazes her teacher and her classmates.  The series continues with six realistic chapter books suitable for children seven to ten.  Maybe these readers also like historical fiction, so I can recommend What To Do About Alice? and  Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story By Deborah Hopkinson.  She writes about many subjects such as history, lighthouses, wars, and knitting with many more interesting subjects.

Older students will like realistic fiction, fantasies and mysteries set in Maryland and Washington, D.C. by authors such as Mary Downing Hahn, Anne Spencer Lindbergh, Priscilla Cummings and Katherine Paterson.  My favorites include Hahn’s The Doll in the Garden, and Time for Andrew:  A Ghost Story, Lindbergh’s The People in Pineapple Place and The Hunky Dory Dairy, Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins, and Priscilla Cummings’ books Face First and Blindsided. Please check the websites for ages and grade levels for these titles or send me questions in the COMMENTS section.

 

I cannot end this post without sharing some new mysteries I personally read this year which are highly recommended for middle grade readers in third through sixth grade.  Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chad Grabenstein won an Agatha award for the best children’s mystery of 2014!  In contention was the first in a new series by Amanda Flower called Andi Unexpected.  I was fortunate to meet the author of The Sherlock Holmes Club by Ohio teacher Gloria Alden.  All of these titles provide me with inspiration as I construct my own children’s mystery!

 

I hope my followers will send me more great children’s titles to review and read.  If you know of any budding writers who wish to have their children’s books read, please send them my way.

 

Happy Children’s Literature reading in 2015!

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Filed under Award winning books, Children, First Novels, Historial Fiction, Mystery

Welcome to my Blog!

There is nothing more I love to do than talk about books, except to read them! You will find lots of reviews and discussions about the latest, greatest and most interesting books for book lovers. Whether you like mysteries (my favorite), historical fiction, or children’s books, you’ll find what you’re seeking on this blog, Best Books By Beth. I welcome new authors to send me their books and I will be happy to review them!

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Filed under Children, Historical Fiction, Mystery