Author Interview: April Henry

Hi bookies (you book explorers)!

As you can tell from the title, the long-awaited author interview with April Henry is complete. I think you’ll enjoy hearing what she has to say as she seems like a pretty cool person. Also, if you like mystery books, check out her work! So, now I present to you the interview!

hardcoverlover: First, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions during your flight. So far, Ive only read two of your books, The Girl Who Was Supposed to Dieand The Night She Disappeared. They were pretty awesome. It seems there are several similarities between the two. Do you care to tell us about why that is so?

April Henry: I usually write about teens who find themselves in trouble, often girls.

hardcoverlover: Why do you choose to write about female protagonists?

April Henry: Being female myself, those are the stories I am often drawn too. There is often a male main character too, even if he is not a POV character.

hardcoverlover: Which of the characters you have created is your favorite character?

April Henry: I like Jaydra, who is going to be in the sequel to Girl, Stolen (Count All Her Bones, due out May 2017). She is a body guard who knows martial arts. She is a real bad ass. Her name is borrowed from a kung fu brown belt I know, an amazing and fierce woman.

hardcoverlover: Wow! There’s going to be a sequel? I definitely want to read that! What does your character think about you? Would he or she want to hang out with you, the author?

April Henry: I have created literally hundreds of characters. I think most of them would want to hang out with me. I feel that, as their creator, I understand where they are coming from and why they are the way they are. And who doesn’t want to be understood?

hardcoverlover: You’re right. Let me test how well you understand them. What sort of Starbucks coffee would your characters order? Simple coffee or some sort of complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare?

April Henry: Perhaps they would be like me. I used to order just non-fat lattes, but SA Bodeen turned me on to asking for “ristretto shots.” I’m not exactly sure what that entails, but it does result in the creamiest latte.

hardcoverlover: Hmm, interesting. I will have to try it out some time. Are you currently writing a book? Would you like to tell us about your upcoming book?

April Henry: I am always writing a book. My next book that will publish is Count All Her Bones, the sequel to Girl, Stolen. It comes out May 2, 2017.

hardcoverlover: I can’t wait. Speaking of waiting, how long does it take you to write a book?

April Henry: Usually nine months. I once had to write a book in nine weeks (for reasons too complicated to explain), which was horrible. I cried a lot. I got it done, but I don’t remember anything about those nine weeks.

hardcoverlover: Wow. Tough job there. Where do you get your ideas? I know one of them came from a real-life crime you read about. What other sources do you use?

April Henry: Almost all of them start with a news story. The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die started with a song lyric that made me think “What if?” And the book I’ve just started writing (working title: The Lonely Dead) started with the idea of a girl who can talk to the dead.

hardcoverlover: How do you name your characters?

April Henry: Sometimes I have to play around with names to find the right one. Like in The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die, the main male character was originally named Gareth but that never felt quite right. Then I changed it to Ty, and it clicked. I sometimes use the first names of students I meet or names from my daughter’s eighth grade graduation program.

hardcoverlover: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

April Henry: I usually have at least a rough outline.

hardcoverlover: How involved are you in your story? Do you fall into the world as you write it or do you just see it from the outside?

April Henry: I usually see it in my head like a movie, although I’ll often speak dialog aloud or act out certain movements or gestures.

hardcoverlover: That’s really cool. You get to enjoy your “movies” too! Do the stories seem to write themselves or are you constantly pushing it along?

April Henry: It’s a mix, to be honest.

hardcoverlover: How do you work through the dreaded writers block?

April Henry: I have learned that you can always edit crap, but you can’t edit nothing. So my best tip is to turn off the internet in 45 minute chunks and make your hands continuously move over the keys for those 45 minutes.

hardcoverlover: Good philosophy. Where do you write? Is your workspace the definition of “neat freak” or do you prefer to keep a “controlled chaos” atmosphere?

April Henry: I have a treadmill desk. It’s mostly clean, although there is a guest bed in there that can end up being a catch-all space if I’m not careful.

hardcoverlover: I know what you mean. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

April Henry: Sometimes my goal is a number of hours, sometimes it’s a number of words. I think goals help me stay more focused.

hardcoverlover: What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

April Henry: I might research some at the beginning and then more as I go along. I have taken classes on how to get out of rope, duct tape, zip ties and handcuffs; sword fighting; knife throwing; how to shoot pistols and machine guns; how to escape detection; disarming an armed attacker,;fighting in close quarters; kung fu; and Brazilian jiujitsu.

hardcoverlover: That’s a lot of dedication to your work. But, hey, at least you learn really cool and valuable skills. I pity whoever tries to take you on. Speaking of skills, your books tend to have really interesting, attention-grabbing covers. Who designed your book covers?

April Henry: My older covers were designed by Rich Deas. April Ward (both work for Macmillan) designed the last five or six.

hardcoverlover: Like I mentioned before, I’ve only read two of your books. I suppose I have many to catch up on. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

April Henry: Close to 30 if you count unpublished ones. Twenty have been published and two are in the pipeline. Asking about a favorite is like asking a mother about her favorite child.

hardcoverlover: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

April Henry: How easy it is to get out of handcuffs.

hardcoverlover: I guess I will  have to research it. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

April Henry: I had one called Satellite that never found a home. It was an adult book about a guy who learns he doesn’t have Huntington’s disease. Maybe someday I will revisit or self publish.

hardcoverlover: Hmm. That’s unusual. To learn that you don’t have a disease. I think it would make an interesting read. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

April Henry: I wrote three books that never got published. The first was roundly rejected. The second got me an agent, and nice rejection letters from editors. The third did not even get nice rejection letters from editors. The fourth sold in two days in a two-book deal.

hardcoverlover: Good thing for us you’re not a quitter! What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

April Henry: The only ones that hurt are the ones you suspect are right.

hardcoverlover: Aww! I’m sorry to hear that as a reviewer. I hope we balance it out for you. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

April Henry: A review for an older book said the villain was too two-dimensional, and it was right. My favorite compliments are to hear from teens who have started to read for pleasure because of my books.

hardcoverlover: Makes it worth it, huh? If inspiration strikes you in an inconvenient place like driving a car or eating with friends at a restaurant, what do you do?

April Henry: Make a mental note.

hardcoverlover: You must have a good memory, unlike me. Now, I know we’ve been bombarding you a bit with all these questions about your books and your work. But here comes the youpart. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? For example…

Whats the most amusing thing that has happened to you?

April Henry: I was once leaving a plane when I reached back to put on my backpack and accidentally grabbed what I thought was the armrest. It turns out to be a businessman’s crotch!

hardcoverlover: Yikes! I’m not sure how I would deal with a situation like that. I assume you like reading if you’re an author. What book are you reading now?

April Henry: March by Geraldine Brooks (told from the point of view of the father in Little Women) and The Handmaid’s Tale (again) by Margaret Atwood.

hardcoverlover: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

April Henry: I read The Darkest Corners and What Waits in The Woods and liked both of them. I don’t have internet on this flight, so I don’t remember the author’s names.

hardcoverlover: That’s okay. We will entertain you instead. We have a series of small but fun questions your readers want to know the answer to. I hope you don’t mind.

Pen and paper or computer?

April Henry: Computer. My handwriting was already bad and then I broken my hand in September 2015.

hardcoverlover: Ouch. Light or dark chocolate?

April Henry: Dark, preferably with nuts.

hardcoverlover: Ooh, me too! Favorite color?

April Henry: Teal.

hardcoverlover: Dogs or cats?

April Henry: Cats.

hardcoverlover: Tea or coffee?

April Henry: Coffee all the way.

hardcoverlover: E-reader or print book?

April Henry: Print unless there’s simply no room.

hardcoverlover: A true booklover’s answer! Chocolate or vanilla?

April Henry: Chocolate.

hardcoverlover: Sandals, sneakers, heels, boots, or flats?

April Henry: Flats. At home I am mostly barefoot.

hardcoverlover: Same here. Do you like manga?

April Henry: Not really. Don’t hate me.

hardcoverlover: That’s alright. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee in your case). Do you subscribe to any magazines and, if so, which?

April Henry: Oprah and The Sun, which is a wonderful literary magazine.

hardcoverlover: How would your best friend describe your personality?

April Henry: Funny, caring, sometimes too jokey.

hardcoverlover: You get the class clown award, I guess. My friends occasionally have to remind me to act my age too. Do you go out of your way to kill bugs? Are there any that make you screech and hide?

April Henry: I have a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the most part.

hardcoverlover: Fair enough. Do you like your name? Why?

April Henry: Yes, because it’s unusual but easy to spell.

hardcoverlover: Do you have any siblings?

April Henry: A brother and a sister, both younger.

hardcoverlover: Haha! I win. One older brother and three younger sisters. Favorite TV show?

April Henry: Game of Thrones.

hardcoverlover: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

April Henry: Right now I’m drawing a blank. I feel like at this point I have been asked everything.

hardcoverlover: So sorry! Now, just to wrap things up, is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

April Henry: Thank you for reading my books!

hardcoverlover: Okay everyone! Now you know! Thank you again for your time. I appreciate that you were able to answer our questions, and I’m sure all our readers appreciate it too.

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Review: The Eye of Minds

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Hi bookies (you literary nerds)! Here’s a new review for you.

Title: The Eye of Minds
Author: James Dashner
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
# of pages: 310

So let’s jump right into this. This book is quite interesting. Sci-Fi books about virtual reality, connecting your brain to a virtual ‘net, or especially life-like videogames are always iffy for me. Some are very good, others are too deep, and some are just not my cup of tea and I can’t muscle my way past the first few chapters. The description seemed more or less interesting, but it still depended on how the author chose to develop the story, right? Just take a look at the blurb:

An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

This book started out iffy to me, but it wasn’t too focused on world-building which actually helped me. It focused on the situation, what’s going on, and that was interesting enough to keep me going.

Michael is a rich gamer kid who loves gaming above all else. Gaming is basically his life. Whenever he’s not gaming, he’s just doing the regular things that have to get done to get through the day. His best friends, Bryson and Sarah, have that in common. The three are an amazing trio out to have fun who have good programming skills and apparently to much time on their hands. With nicknames like the Terrible Trio, the Trifecta to Dissect-ya, the Burn-and-Pillage-y Trilogy, shows how they aren’t the most mature kids out there, but they just want to have fun with friends. However, they’ve never met in person. With terms like the NerveBox, Coffin, VirtNet, Core, Portal you know you’re talking about a futuristic setting.

Now about the main characters, all three are young teenagers who can be classified as gamer nerds. But they have the computer skills to back it up. So while they may not be anyone important in real life and they may be looked down upon, they don’t mind because they matter to each other and are hackers with advanced skills in the gaming world where they usually live anyway.

Unfortunately, their carefree life is about to come to a sharp halt. A secret organization blackmails Michael into helping them catch a criminal mastermind in the gaming world who is not satisfied with infecting the game- now when he kills in the game, you’ll die- or worse- in real life. So not only does Michael have to catch a killer with nearly unreal, advanced computer skills… He has to do it without any help, besides that of his two best pals. If he loses, it’s game over for his life. Or so he thinks. What is the killer’s obsession with Michael? What is the secret behind his identity and motives?

This book does a good job in world-building, despite the challenges. However, the plot can get a little slow in some parts. I think I most enjoyed Michael’s interactions with his friends. He is someone who spends a lot of time in his head, but he doesn’t really get anywhere with all that thinking. Strangely enough, though his friends are the only ones that matter in his life, Michael doesn’t really share any of the problems that really worry him. He is a sort of confusing character that when you look back on it, doesn’t seem to have much depth. The ending was a total surprise though and a real cliffhanger that neatly sums up all the small details that don’t really make sense in the book.

So this book, to sum it all up, is not really my cup of tea. Despite that, I enjoyed it and would be interested in reading the second book. I give this book a 3/5. Keeps a good interest level but can be a bit tough to slog though at times. If you love videogames and wish you could live in them, maybe this book is for you. What’s your favorite genre? Let us know in the comments below.

Review: The Night She Disappeared

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Hi bookies (personal book collectors)!

I recently read a pair of books by a new (to me) author. April Henry. She has written great books from what I can tell. I don’t usually read this type of book, but let me explain what I’m talking about.

Title: The Night She Disappeared

Author: April Henry

Genre: Mystery, Young Adult, Crime Fiction

# of pages: 229

As always, here’s the blurb:

Gabie drives a Mini Cooper. She also works part time as a delivery girl at Pete's Pizza. One night, Kayla-another delivery girl-goes missing. To her horror, Gabie learns that the supposed kidnapper had asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper was working that night. Gabie can't move beyond the fact that Kayla's fate was really meant for her, and she becomes obsessed with finding Kayla. She teams up with Drew, who also works at Pete's. Together, they set out to prove that Kayla isn't dead-and to find her before she is.

Has it gotten your attention yet? It got mine when I pulled it off a shelf. It’s basically one of those middle school, who-is-the-criminal type of books. But I was surprised when I did a bit more research to learn that this book is based off of a real-life crime. April Henry got the idea from an old newstory about…well, let me just let her explain it:

The Night She Disappeared was inspired by a real-life case that happened nearly 30 years ago. A man ordered some pizzas to be delivered to what turned out to be a false address. He asked if “the girl in the orange Volkswagen” was working delivery that night and was told a different girl was. That girl’s car was later found with the keys in the ignition and the pizzas and her hat on the ground. Her body was never found.

The parents hired a psychic, who zeroed in on a young man who owned a truck similar to one that had been seen in the vicinity. Right after that man talked to the psychic, he killed himself, never revealing where he had left the delivery girl’s body. For years, the case was considered closed — until another man, already in prison, confessed to the murder. The man who committed suicide had nothing to do with it. I was always fascinated by this twist, and decided to write a book with a better outcome than the real story. I also wondered how it would feel to know that you were the girl the killer asked for first. In high school, I worked at Pietros Pizza, so I was able to draw on that experience for real-life details.

I have to say, that does sound like an interesting news story that would spark ideas. But now back to the review. Well, it was a quick read. I finished this book in a few hours. It wasn’t so easy that I got bored. That was good. It is written in pretty simple language so it works well for kids. The point of view switches between Gabie, Drew, Kayla, and a tiny bit of the abductor’s and a few minor characters.

Now, while I’m sure kids will understand the story and language, I’m not so sure that 6th grade age level kids and below should read this. It’s not hard to understand, but there are a few parts that get a little dark. The main character, Gabie, becomes obsessed with understanding what might have happened to her workmate and how she must have felt when she was kidnapped. So she tries to copy some ‘scenes’ she imagines happened and has some disturbing thoughts due to her guilty conscience. Take a look at this example:

“And why the rock? Did she cut her hand falling? Or was it something worse? Had the bad things happened yet, or was it just the beginning? Or- my heart quickens here- maybe Kayla was the one who hefted the rock. Maybe she hit him in the head and then fled the quickest way she could, by jumping into the river. But how could she survive a nighttime swim in swift-moving water?

And that’s when I kick off my shoes.”

Clearly, these questions are not very good ones to get obsessed with. Younger children would probably not benefit from these type of questions. So I would recommend this book for those 13 and older.

For those of you that meet this requirement, this book isn’t that scary. The story is mostly focused on Gabie and how she is feeling, her relationship with Drew. You’re trying to figure out who the bad guy is and what his motivations are. Honestly, the book doesn’t really say. I guess this can be seen as realistic, because in real life, you don’t always get a reason or why people do bad things to others.

In contrast to the realism, the end is a mostly happy ending with the main problem reaching its conclusion and the relationships that were damaged were repaired. The end focuses mostly on the budding romance between Drew and Gabie, which you could see coming from a mile away. So there’s nothing shocking or too descriptive (it is for kids after all), but it was enjoyable to just chill out to.

As for my rating… I will give it a 3/5. It does well for the audience it is focused on, but it can give more details. It jumps straight into the romance between Drew and Gabie without giving it enough time to develop. The abductor mostly remains as a sort of ‘shadowy figure’ even when you uncover who it is. I would have liked for the author to explain more about the abductor to make it more realistic or have more of an impact.

What about you bookies? Does this rating seem fair to you? What would you rate it? What was the first book to ‘traumatize’ you?

Review: The Help

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Welcome back, bookies (my literary-inclined pals)!

Today I want to talk about another book that has been made into a movie. Have you heard of “The Help”? Let me provide you with the details.

Title: The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Genre: Historical Novel

# of pages: 522

Now for those of you who have been under a rock (just kidding!), this book has been a big hit. As you have surely noticed, this is a historical novel. That’s not to say that it will sound like your high school history textbook. It’s a fictional story with a historical setting- the 1950’s when blacks were hated and discriminated against. So let’s look at the blurb, shall we?

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step….
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope,The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

Have you ever read “To Kill a Mockingbird”? It’s a great book that I read in high school. It’s  a classic, pretty interesting, and talks about the same era. Well, in my opinion, “The Help” is so much better. I mean, let’s just start with the title. “The Help”; Such a nice, simple title that immediately tells you what the whole book is focused on. Now think about it. It’s not easy to do that in two words, but Kathryn Stockett was able to.

Moving on. The story itself is so well-paced. Usually, with historical novels, there are small parts where I get bored and that I read through without any interest in order to get to the interesting parts. Well, that’s not the case with this book. I did not want to put this book down. I was only able to do so when absolutely necessary. How did the author achieve this? She focused on the human aspect of the story. After all, we might live in different times, but emotions stay the same and so do a lot of personal relationships. We still care about family, friends, colleagues, etc. And we still feel anger, sadness, happiness, disappointment, surprise, joy, just like the generations before ours did. So by focusing on this, you get sucked into the story. It’s something you can relate to. Now, I’m not saying everyone will enjoy this. But I think most will. Especially if you are interested in topics like discrimination, racism, human rights, history, etc.

I love the character development here. You can actually see the growth of the character as she stops being so accepting of her situation and learns to adapt to new circumstances that are initially out of her comfort zone. I love how the story alternates between the 3 main characters, but it is very well-balanced. It doesn’t feel like just one character takes over. It feels like you’re getting to know all of them, one at a time. I also really liked how the story is told as if the character was having a conversation with you, explaining how things are.

It addresses a serious topic in a way that seems very natural. It doesn’t push one opinion or another. It just focuses on a “this is my life; let me introduce you to it” sort of storyline. For example, after having to deal with an unpleasant encounter with her fake-nice boss, Aibileen mentions,

“I put the iron down real slow, feel that bitter seed grow in my chest, the one planted after Treelore died. My face goes hot, my tongue twitchy. I don’t know what to say to her. All I know is, I ain’t saying it. And I know she ain’t saying what she want a say either and it’s a strange thing happening here cause nobody saying nothing and we still managing to have us a conversation.”

The author does such a great job with having the characters tell the story that I think few people would get offended. Those that do are probably looking for something to fight over.

You may have seen the movie. If you have, I have to say that the movie is remarkably close to the book. But somehow, the book seems to be even better. If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it first, then read the book. Save the best for last, like dessert. When you read the book, you get to know not only the reactions and emotions displayed on their faces but also what they are thinking and feeling on the inside. You get to enjoy more of their quirks, like Minny’s hilarious sassing when she is insisting her boss has to tell her husband that she wants to hire Minny as the help.

“And what’s Mister Johnny gone do if he come home and find a colored woman up in his kitchen?”

“I’m sorry, I just can’t-”

“I’ll tell you what he’s gone do, he’s gone get that pistol and shoot Minny dead right here on this no-wax floor.”

Miss Celia shakes her head. “I’m not telling him.”

“Then I got to go,” I say. Shit, I knew it. I knew she was crazy when I walked in the door-

“It’s not that I’d be fibbing to him. I just need a maid-”

“A course you need a maid. Last one done gone got shot in the head.”

high-five-self

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I absolutely love this book and can’t say enough to express how much I enjoyed it. It’s thought-provoking, funny, sad, happy, exciting and basically, just goes through the whole range of human emotions. I give it a 5/5. Absolutely wonderful and totally worthwhile!

What about you, bookies? Did you enjoy it? Have you seen the movie? What differences did you notice between them? Say your piece below!

Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Howdy bookies (you book huggers)!

Have I ever mentioned I’m from Texas? Well, now you know. I spent most of my childhood elsewhere though, so my upbringing isn’t really “Texan”. Back to the main point!

I read a book from my new stash! (Yes, it’s a whole “stash”! does a happy dance) It’s called “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I was really excited when I found it at a thrift store. I had watched the movie based on it. It was very close to the book’s content, I think. But for now, let’s give you the basics:

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Title: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s Literature, Fable
# of pages: 216

I have been really interested in the Holocaust since the tender age of about 6 years old. I would hear about it, from adults. I would hear these experiences about how and why people were persecuted. But best of all, at least from my point of view, is that I would hear all of those things applied to me like: “Yeah. Some day that could happen to all of us.” Since I was one of the “us”, I took a personal interest in it. And I think that’s what really makes it seem real, what really helps you appreciate history. So when I found this book, I was pretty happy. I had watched the movie, which was ok. And of course the book is nearly always better.

So about the book itself, the blurb reads:

Berlin, 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides taht there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastation consequences.

This sounds great, right? But no. It was a disappointment. I guess, if it is children’s literature, it’s ok.  But it’s not great. I didn’t really get into the story. It is told from a third person point of view with knowledge of Bruno’s p.o.v. But you are being told the story. You are not really experiencing it. In a way, I guess it feels like a general description rather than a story. And Bruno never becomes someone you can really identify with. I mean, you get to know a little of how he thinks. He is a small child, spoiled, but he hates the “Fury” and has not been taught/brainwashed by societal values of Nazi Germany, despite the fact that his father is a very proud Nazi commandant. Bruno is selfish and thinks highly of himself, but you don’t quite hate him because he tries to do what he has been taught is right. However, sometimes, by applying the manners he has been taught, he ignores the bigger picture. I suppose, though, that it should be expected of a nine year old. For example, he makes friend with a Jewish boy in the concentration camp. Bruno notices how hungry he is and how he is getting skinnier and skinnier. He takes him food, whatever he can carry on a long walk.

“[…] but the walk from the house to the place in the fence where the two boys met was a long one and sometimes Bruno got hungry on the way and found that one bite of the cake would lead to another, and that in turn led to another, and by the time there was only one mouthful left he knew it would be wrong to give that to Shmuel because it would only tease his appetite and not satisfy it.”

Obviously, since Shmuel is starving, it would be better to give him that little mouthful, but Bruno doesn’t understand that. Nor does he understand who the “Fury” is, why he must say heil Hitler, why all the people on the other side of the fence get to wear pajamas all day and he doesn’t, and other things such as that. He isn’t really observant.

What I do like about this book is that it is that it accurately portrays the interests and some of the point of view of a little boy. Bruno doesn’t get along with his sister and tries to use words and phrases that he doesn’t really understand. He likes food and eats even when he’s not hungry. He likes to explore, but doesn’t really do much of it. It limits the information you get to what Bruno understands/experiences. However, the story is told with an adult “voice”.

” ‘He runs the country, idiot,’ said Gretel, showing off as sisters tend to do.”
“But still, there are moments when a brother and sister can lay down their instruments of torture for a moment and speak as civilized human beings and Bruno decided to make this one of those moments.”

Think about it. Does this really sound like the “voice” of a kid? No. And if a child (and most adolescents) were to read this book, he/she would become bored really easily, while and adults would probably become a bit frustrated with the overly simplified interests and limited knowledge Bruno has. My favorite part was probably the ending:

“Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.”

Because it is emphasizing the fact that it can happen again, that history is a lesson learn from.

So, it’s a book that sounds a lot better in theory than it does when you read it. I had high expectations, and this book failed them. I don’t think this book will really appeal to anyone. Therefore, I give this book 1/5 stars.

What about you bookies? How would you rate this book? Is the book or the movie better? In my opinion, neither one was great, but I think I enjoyed the movie slightly more than the book, making this one of the rare exceptions to the “the book is always better” rule. Which movies have you found that are better than the books?

Review: The School Story

The School Story

Hi bookies (those who pour their hearts and souls into literature),

I just read a great book. It’s not the normal adult or young adult books that I’ve posted reviews on before. No, this is my first review on a children’s book or “tween” book. I don’t mind and I hope you won’t either. There’s the famous old saying about books that goes like…hmm…what was it again? “Don’t judge a book by a cover”? Well, this doesn’t just apply to covers or books, as everyone well knows. So I also apply it to book genres and intended audiences. I don’t limit myself to fit in the “intended audience”. That’s how I have found a lot of funny, clever, and entertaining books that I have really enjoyed. One of them being…

Title: The School Story
Author: Andrew Clements
Genre: Children’s Literature

There are plenty of reasons to read this book. The author is a well-known writer who in my opinion writes really good children’s books that happen to appeal to adults as well. Maybe you’ve heard of Frindle or The Landry News? Both excellent books that are written by the same author. The author writes really good, clean books. Best of all, it has what I love the most along with a good story- lessons/facts you can learn. (Want to find another book that excels in this? See my soon-to-come Pastwatch review.)

If this isn’t enough to convince you, think about this. If you read this book, you’ll break out of bubble you might be placing yourself in. Why do you have to stick only to adult books? Have fun. Be a kid again. Remember your own dreams and goals and those good times back in your childhood. As every good reader knows, you tend to open up your mind to new things when you read books. You gain so much mental flexibility with all the adventures and knowledge coming to you. So why not take a crazy chance? Why not do a crazy dance? ink&scales walks over to slap me Thanks Aramia, for snapping me out of a sudden bout of quoting lyrics. Anyway, in case you still need ANOTHER reason, think of the advantages of reading children’s books as an adult. You will be able to “connect” more easily with the younger generations, you’ll understand their interests/p.o.v., plus you’ll be able to recommend good books for your own children or for other people’s children. (Especially if you are a teacher!) So, if you’re not convinced…see a doctor. Something must be wrong with you! For those of you who are following me so far, let’s get started with the book’s pros and cons.

The title is pretty simple and I basically ignored the cover until the very end. When you read the book, DON’T SKIP AHEAD!!! There’s a small twist that I found pleasantly surprising, a bit amusing, and clever. Well, you might be wondering: what’s the book about anyway? Here’s the blurb:

Two middle school girls scheme to publish a book in this novel from Andrew Clements, the author of Frindle.

Natalie’s best friend, Zoe, is sure that the novel Natalie’s written is good enough to be published. But how can a twelve-year-old girl publish a book? Natalie’s mother is an editor for a big children’s publisher, but Natalie doesn’t want to ask for any favors.

Then Zoe has a brilliant idea: Natalie can submit her manuscript under a pen name, with Zoe acting as her literary agent. But it’s not easy for two sixth graders to put themselves over as grown-ups, even with some help from a couple of real grown-ups who are supportive but skeptical. The next bestselling school story may be in their hands—but can Natalie and Zoe pull off their masquerade?

This book is well-paced and interesting. As I was reading, it flowed so smoothly that I never noticed when one chapter ended and another began. I will admit it was a quick read. It took me less than 2 hours. But I feel that it is totally worth it.

not hard in one day

As for the plot itself, I think it will appeal to most adult readers. Why? Well, if you are an adult and still love reading or have it as a main hobby, congratulations! You are one of the few. I had a few classmates in school who loved reading, just like me. Unfortunately, life got to them and got them so busy that as an adult, they didn’t have time to read. Once they finally got enough time to try to rekindle that love, it was too late- damage had been done and reading just wasn’t the same for them. So if you are an adult reader, chances are that you have passed the danger zone. You still love reading and as an avid book reader, you have thought about how a good book is created. Maybe you’ve even considered writing your own book. That’s what this book is about.

As for the previously mentioned lessons it teaches, some of them are loyalty, bravery, true friendship, loss,  parent-child relationships, etc. It does teach about all these things in the subtle form a story.

The adults in this story are the adults there should be in this world and the way we should strive to be. The kids in this story are very real, down-to-earth, street-smart kids who have a good heart and try to achieve dreams by planning ahead and thinking things through. Could they have backed down and given up? Yes. Will they? No. Why is it so necessary to get the book published? Do they publish their book? That’s for me to know and for you to find out!

I give this book 5/5 stars.***** Definitely should be read! What do you guys think? Do you agree with the rating? Have you read any of Andrew Clements books? Which ones?

Author Interview: Al Macy

Hi bookies (you bookworms),

As we finish a good book and turn to that last page with a satisfied sigh, a lot of times we begin to wonder how the story would continue. How did the characters live after the previously mentioned events? We begin to think: I wish the author had told us more about this or that. And as a result, we wish we could talk to the author and make those suggestions or ask him/her those questions.

Well, I’m happy to announce we got that chance. We have secured an author interview for those that want to get to know Al Macy a bit better. This is the time you get to see what he’s thinking, working on, and know more about the how he thinks. Feel free to ask questions to the author below and you might get an answer! Enjoy!

Author Interview

hardcoverlover: First off, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. So far, I have only read one of your books: “Yesterday’s Thief”. Tell us a little bit about it.

AM: It’s a paranormal thriller involving a mind-reading detective (Eric) and a jewel thief (Viviana). Viviana traveled forward in time to escape the police. I’d like to tell you more about what happens, but that would spoil things for the readers.

hardcoverlover: How did you get the idea for this book?

AM: I asked myself the question: “What would happen if someone materialized in the middle of a televised baseball game?” That’s it. That’s the whole genesis of the book. Next, I figured out how that might happen, what might have caused that.

In the same way, my first novel, Contact Us, came from a similar question: “What would happen if everyone on Earth sneezed at exactly the same moment?”

hardcoverlover: Wow! That sounds so easy! Of course, getting an idea and making a story out of it must be really different. You must put a lot of work into it, I’m sure. But, how did you come up with the title?

AM: In the past I’ve come up with titles on my own, just thinking about possibilities until one caught my fancy. Bad idea. Now, I come up with fifty or more ideas, and then present them in a forum filled with authors (kboards.com). The authors make comments and vote on which title they think is best.

My original title idea for Yesterday’s Thief was The Lady Unvanishes. I actually liked that title, but it’s derived from a Hitchcock movie that came out in the thirties! Yesterday’s Thief is more fun.

hardcoverlover: Yes, I think so too. Would you like to tell us about your upcoming book?

AM: I’m ninety-percent done writing The Universe Next Door. In it, Jake Corby, the main character in Contact Us and The Antiterrorist, is transported to a parallel universe with his dog and his eighty-three-year-old grandmother-in-law.

The grandmother was a mid-level character in Contact Us, but so many readers told me she was their favorite character that I had to give her a prominent role in the next book.

Here’s the first draft of the blurb:

Jake Corby is recovering from his last mission, enjoying life with his new family, when he’s sucked into a parallel universe with nothing but his clothes, his dog, and his eighty-three-year-old grandmother-in-law.
On this version of Earth, the dinosaurs didn’t go extinct and the world is ruled by a spacefaring civilization of dinobirds. If Jake wants to return home, he’ll need to not only survive but locate the rulers of Earth so they can send him back.
Worse, Corby learns that a universe collision is imminent. Unless he can adapt to his new reality and work with the dinobirds to ward off that danger, his universe, as well as countless others, will cease to exist.

But I’ve been really bad. I’ve started work on another book even though I’m not done with The Universe Next Door. This next one will be another Eric Beckman book (the main character in Yesterday’s Thief). Eric, the mind-reading detective, will go undercover in an insane asylum. I’m excited about it, but I can’t tell you more!

hardcoverlover: Sounds really interesting! Now, about your writing process: how long does it take you to write a book?

AM: It took me 4.5 months to write Yesterday’s Thief. This graph shows my progress (number of words written versus time):

Al Macy progress chart

I tried writing The Universe Next Door faster, but it’s not working out that way.

hardcoverlover: How do you name your characters?

AM: I use a tool that’s part of Scrivener, the novel-writing software I use. Here’s the dialog box:

Al Macy Scrivener namer.png

hardcoverlover: Hmm. That’s pretty interesting. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

AM: Outline all the way. Scrivener makes it easy. Here’s what things look like, outlined in Scrivener:

Al Macy scrivener outline.png

I’d show you the whole thing, and with text that’s actually big enough to read, but that would give too much away.

hardcoverlover: Dang it. I guess we will just have to wait for the next book! Sounds like this Scrivener is a pretty important tool. I think you have given aspiring authors a good idea of how to organize their stories. Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

AM: I proofread my first several books by myself, but now I outsource it. I had to read a book six times to find all the errors. Aargh! It’s better to spend that time writing my next book. So now, I have a great editor who does that for me (Julie at FreeRangeEditorial.com).

hardcoverlover: Where do you write? Is your workspace the definition of “neat freak” or do you prefer to keep a “controlled chaos” atmosphere?

AM: I’ve got a relatively neat rolltop desk in my living room. It has a great view of the forest, and I’m heated from behind by our woodstove. This is what it looks like (but it’s rarely that neat):

Al Macy workspace.png

hardcoverlover: Ooh, looks cozy! How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

AM: I’ve written three novels and two nonfiction books. By the way, if your readers are so infatuated with me that they have to have more, more, more, my book Drive, Ride, Repeat is free on Amazon.

Yesterday’s Thief is my favorite so far.

hardcoverlover: Well, Mr. Macy, we really do appreciate the work you do and especially the time that you took to answer our questions despite your busy schedule. We look forward to your future books.

For more information on Al Macy, see his bio here or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.