Tag Archives: book review

Another Must-Read Book for Parents

Over the weekend, Dear Daughter and I journeyed to the bookstore. She is starting an anti-bullying program in the elementary schools in our district and wanted to buy a few books on bullying. While scanning the child care aisle with her, I came across a book that screamed for my attention.

HOW TO SAVE YOUR DAUGHTER’S LIFE: Straight Talk For Parents From America’s Top Criminal Profiler.

Yeah, I know right? If you love your daughter, how do you not pick it up and turn to the cover blurb? And once you’ve turned, how do you look your daughter in the eye and put it back on the shelf?

You don’t. And you shouldn’t. I’m dead serious. This book is a wake-up call for parents of girls. Not that the information doesn’t apply to boys, because it does. In fact nearly every scenario described in the book can be played out upon a little boy or young man. A terrifying thought when you consider your only job as a parent is to raise happy, healthy children. And if your child’s physical and emotional well-being is destroyed via assault by another human, you will have neither.

We will have neither.

Our children will suffer when we could have been more in control. Now don’t get me wrong, reading this book will make you raise your eyebrows at some points–who is Pat Brown, America’s top criminal profiler, to tell me what to do?–and want to slink away in embarrassment at others. She does not sugar coat her advice, but neither does she judge. She simply lays it all out on the line.

I work with at-risk children and I had no idea how easy it can be to slide into a life of prostitution. Nor did I understand all the forms prostitution can take. This book is an honest view into the world we subject our children to each day without nary a thought.

I’m not even kidding when I say I couldn’t put this book down. I bought it on Sunday during our family vacation and started reading Sunday night before bed. I finished it on Monday about halfway home from the lake. By dinner time, I’d already talked to my boys about the new rules in the house.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get a mass rebellion from my eleven and eight year olds. I’m banking on this early intervention to teach them the right way to treat others in their lives–namely the girls they like, will want to date and someday hope to marry.

Because not only did I learn how to keep my daughter safe, but I also took away from it how I can help my boys learn to keep your daughters safe.

As parents, we have been entrusted with our children’s lives. It is our responsibility to give them the best advantage we can and to protect them with everything we have. It is also our responsibility to raise upstanding, caring and respectful young men.

Educate yourself. Lead by example and for all that is holy, take care of your children to the very best of your ability.

Please.

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The Ultimate Wake-Up Call to Parents: Want to Go Private?

I’m going to be honest, I struggled with reading Want to Go Private.  Not because of the writing, but because of the content.  And because I’m a mom with a daughter, and the mother of three sons.  Also, because in my career as a child advocate I’ve seen first hand the impact that poor choices have on a teen’s life.

Want to Go Private?

Those very words strike fear into my heart, and have since my (much younger) brother and sister caught the first wave of internet chat rooms.  After reading Sarah Darer Littman’s YA novel, these words rip me apart.

If ever there is a call to challenge books, this would be it.  It’s graphic enough to make me queasy and personal enough to make people extremely upset.  Yet for all that, I applaud Ms. Littman for writing a book that needs to be available to a generation of children who live and die (sometimes literally) by the rulings of the internet.

What am I talking about?  Sexual predators who have easy access to our children’s innermost thoughts, fears and information.  But before you shake your head and say, “Impossible.  Not my children.  They know better,” hear me out.  Or rather, read Abby’s story yourself.

Starting highschool is difficult in the best of times.  For shy, fourteen-year-old Abby, being on the bottom rung of the social ladder is the catalyst for engaging in online chats with a “boy” named Luke.  As she struggles with a failing friendship, an unrequited crush, clueless parents and an annoying little sister, Abby retreats into a cyber friendship with the one person who actually listens to her.  Cares about her.  Accepts her.  And, eventually, loves her.

The first part of Want to Go Private? was frustrating to read.  Abby’s a smart girl.  She knows all the reasons to stay away from strangers.  She’s a good kid–just like yours and mine.  I wanted to shake her back to reality whenever she fell for Luke’s game.  I wanted to ground her for life when she began sharing far more than her thoughts.

At times, I felt like Ms. Littman rushed Abby’s physical responses.  Yet, the emotional ones were spot on.  In a few short months, Abby had believably become addicted to her relationship with Luke.  Ms. Littman’s execution of it will help parents and teens understand just how vulnerable kids are when it comes to their emotional attachments, how easily they are swayed by seemingly inconsequential events and how fiercely loyal they are to those they trust.

And so ends the first part of the book.

The second one had tears streaming down my face.  My heart literally ached for the anguish and uncertainty brought on by Abby’s careless behavior.  In this section Ms. Littman masterfully unravels the layers of a teen’s me-centric world in a way that should help teens understand their every action does, indeed, affect others.  It also proves just how easily we can lose control of our lives.

Logically, I feel like every teen and every parent should read this book.  Emotionally, I struggle.  I don’t want my daughter exposed to some of the content.  Particularly by my choosing.  And yet, it tells a tale of misplaced loyalty and betrayal far better than any lecture by any adult will ever be able to.

Kids tune parents out.  Kids listen to other kids.  My daughter will hear Abby’s words in a very different way than she will ever hear my own.

This book needs to be read.  It also needs to be discussed.  Before handing over my copy to my Dear Daughter, I told her that it was one of the most difficult books I had read.  I explained that it was graphic, though not gratuitous.  I told her parts of the book made me want to throw up.  I also told her I loved her and wanted her to remain safe.  She knows I’m here for her when she gets to the tough parts.  She knows, from past experience, that we’ll discuss the book when she’s done.

For the record, we have.  You can read our MAD Review of Want to Go Private? here and see just how much this novel affects teens.

Parents, if you have a child active in social networking, this is a must-read.  Before your child ever picks it up.  It is an amazing tool to open the door to the emotional side of our lectures.  It will help you remember what it was like to be a kid and how uncaring your parents sounded when they harped on you about things like grades and sports.  How you simply wanted somebody to see you, understand you, listen to you and love you.  Anybody.

Even a boy like Luke.

Book Reviews and Other News

Since starting my preschool in September, I’ve not read a single novel.  Sad, but true.  At least it was until last weekend when I devoured three books. 

THE DUFF

By Kody Keplinger

This is a tough book for me to review, as I read it through the eyes of a mom with a fourteen-year-old daughter.  The amount of swearing and sex was disturbing to say the least.  Not that children aren’t faced with this kind of thing in the halls at school, but to me, literature has always been an escape from the nastiness of real life. 

Yet I suppose I should have suspected a bit of hubbub from a book written about the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. 

However, when I put my child advocate hat on, I could appreciate the honesty of the main character and the addictive nature she fights with as she struggles through her parents’ divorce.  Instead of using alcohol to ease the depression and confusion, she turns to sex to numb her from the pain. 

In the end, Ms. Keplinger did a wonderful job of portraying low self-esteem and the fight for self-respect.  The characters were believable and the message was subtle.  Maybe a bit too subtle for my taste, as I picture some kids not quite getting that casual sex is a bad thing since the MC ends up with her bed partner.  Spoiler.  Sorry. 

Definitely worth the read if you can get past the language and into the meat of the story.  Definitely not something I will pass on to my Dear Daughter until she adds a few years to her age—though that’s likely just my over-protectiveness coming out.

PRETTIES and SPECIALS

By Scott Westerfeld 

These are two books I would let DD read right now.  I tested the first in the series (UGLIES) this past summer and just now had the time to enjoy the last two.  And enjoy, I did.  In fact, I read the page-turning SPECIALS in five hours. 

At the heart of these stories, Mr. Westerfeld addresses human nature and the ability to triumph or succumb to outside pressures based on our inherent personalities.  I know, sounds dry and psychological, but they’re not.  Trust me.

They are action-packed, character-driven adventures set in a dystopian future. 

The thing I loved most about these books was the depth of the characters.  The protags were flawed and the antags had redeeming qualities.  My second favorite thing: the wide range of emotions and desires Mr. Westerfeld captured throughout the series.  This grass-is-always-greener approach led the MC through many thought-provoking scenarios where the fate of others rested in her hands. 

My only complaint—comes from the mother in me—was the cutting in the second book.  This form of pain relief is so prominent amongst youngsters these days and I hated to see it so up-front.  However, the handling of it was honest enough that it worked.

 One thing Mr. Westerfeld does is gets kids.

Now, for the News 

  1. I’m attending the Iowa Region’s SCBWI conference this weekend.  It proves to be amazing, and I am open to any questions you may have.  Please leave a comment or shoot me an email letting me know what you want to know and I’ll try to find the answer during my amazing three days with industry professionals.
  2. I have officially finished my MG novel revision.  Now it needs a once over and it’s ready to send to my agent.  Yay!  This book has been long in the making (six years) and I hope I did it justice with my latest epiphany.  It’s amazing how much we grow as we write, edit, commiserate with peers and polish our prose.  I love it.  The whole process is a journey worth taking, whether publication is the end product or not. 
  3. I have a secret.  A very big secret that will go viral tomorrow, Friday, April 1st.  It’s not an April Fools joke, but rather, a great tool for any writer of any level regardless of genre or age group you write for.

Please, please, please check back here tomorrow for the details.  And once the cat is out of the bag, I urge you to pass along the info to anyone you know, love or respect who ever hopes to someday see their name in print.

So, as a reader, what’s your latest read?  Anything I can download on my Kindle for the quiet evenings in my hotel room this weekend?  I’d love to get your suggestions.

As a writer, what do you most want to know about the writing industry?  Are you currently craft-centered or are you looking for publishing tips that can lead you to your dream agent and subsequent publication?  Does the e-revolution tickle your fancy or is traditional publishing your ideal?

 Inquiring minds want to know!

Got Savvy?

No, I’m not talking about Jack Sparrow, though he definitely had the ability to woo women folk with his endearing slurs and misplaced charm.  Rather, the savvy I’m talking about is Ingrid Law’s middle grade novel, which I won in a contest from my dear friend and blogger over at Book Binge. 

In Savvy thirteen year-old Mibs has a story to tell and by golly, she’s gonna get it all out.  This endearing MC has a conversational tone that sucked me in from the get go.  I felt as if I was privvy to a secret, like no one else in the world was getting the low down on the Beaumont family but me.  So bring your flashlight, crawl under the blanket and settle in for a quick review.

So, what is Savvy?  In Mibs’ world, savvy is a special thing you get when you turn thirteen.  It’s that little extra something that makes you who you are and sets you apart from everyone else.  It’s the salesman who can sell ice to an eskimo.  That’s savvy.

Yet, Mibs’ family takes their savvy one step further.  They can move mountains, change weather patterns and pull radio waves right out of thin air.  As our story opens, “on the Thursday before the Friday before the Saturday” of her thirteenth birthday, Mibs dreams of xray eyes and other teenage girl wishes. 

However, before the night is out, those preteen wishes disappear with the screech of tires and the smashing of cars.  With her father in the hospital, the focus is no longer on Mibs’ cake, candles and impending powers.  Instead, her savvy is all but forgotten.

Forgive me for interjecting this quick writer’s dissection in the middle of a reader’s review.  In light of all the book beginning contests going on, I can’t help but point out what makes the opening line of this book amazing.

Great Beginnings

“When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it”

I was hooked from the first sentence of this whimsical tale.  It has everything a great opening line should have: intrigue, information, voice and a little spunk. 

  • Intrigue: how in the world can a thirteen year old cause a hurricane?  And where is “inland”?
  • Information: right away, Miss Law tells us without saying a single word that this book is for middle grade readers.  She does so by giving Fish’s age and by the tone of the sentence.  It’s written young, not quite YA yet.  We also know this family has some issues and already they’ve had to move. 
  • Voice: “…we moved to the deepest part of inland…” shows the MC is going to spill her family’s secrets, but with her distinct flavor–in her own round-about way.  It screams, “hang on, this is going to be a wild ride.”
  • Spunk: Fish.  Who in the heck names their kid Fish?  Yep, this is a family I want to hang with, if only to find out more about the hurricane-causing brother.  And who better to tell the story than the sassy Mibs?  “Of course.” 

When Mibs wakes up on her thirteenth birthday, things have changed.  She believes her savvy has arrived in the ability to wake those around her.  Her course of action becomes obvious–she must make her way to her father’s hospital bed and wake him from his crash induced coma. 

Savvy is the story of Mibs’ journey as she stows away on a bus of misfits.  The cast of characters grows as unlikely friendships are made and unplanned stops along the way land Mibs and her traveling companions in one predicament after another.  By the time she reaches her father’s bed side, she realizes her savvy is not what she thought. 

Can she still save her ordinary poppa, whose only savvy is losing all his hair?

Grab a copy of Savvy and find out for yourself.

What’s in your Tacklebox?

I’m a sucker for hearing it like it is.  I don’t like sugar coating unless it’s on my donuts and I don’t like smarmy, schmmoozy words with an underlying purpose.  They make my skin crawl just a little–like when the baker tries too hard to slip the day old cinnamon twists in with the fresh ones just to get them off the rack.

You’ll get none of this with Lynn Price in her masterpiece, The Writer’s Essential Tackle BoxIn it, she writes for us, not herself.  After all, she’s an author and the editorial director of Behler Publicatons.  She doesn’t  benefit in any way if we sell our picture book Squirrels in Space.  Rather, she writes to give us an edge in a convoluted industry filled with contradictions and ever-changing practices.

I first became interested in Ms. Price through her blog.  What attracted me was her writing style.  She’s up front, honest and makes no apologies for how she feels.  Sound off-putting?  It’s not.  Because sprinkled within her posts like candy bits on a cake donut are wit and charm that have literally made me laugh out loud.  Almost every time I read her blog I learn something new about the publishing industry, the submission process or myself as a writer. 

Needless to say, when a fellow AQer began spouting off about a great new book he was reading, I was intrigued.  Finally he spilled that it was none other than Lynn’s Tackle Box.  Of course, I deliberated for a moment or two then purchased a copy for myself.  Who says word of mouth doesn’t work?

And now, I’m passing this word along to you: if you have only one book on your writer’s bookshelf, it should be The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box.  I know, because I have 27 of them.  Writing books, that is.  Not Tackle Boxes. 

So what makes this book stand out above the rest? 

Unlike many of the other books on my shelf, The Tackle Box is all encompassing.  One of the biggest mistakes budding writers make is not knowing the industry.  And there is so much to know.  Rather than tell it all herself, Ms. Price engaged the help of industry professionals to reveal the nuts and bolts of every aspect of book making. 

From agents to publicists to book reviewers and authors, she has every question covered and some we never thought to ask.  Ms. Price did her homework so we wouldn’t have to.

Yet she doesn’t stop there.  Once we’ve digested the process from manuscript to bookshelf, Ms. Price serves up an entire section on the dreaded submission process.  As an editor, she has seen her share of queries, paritals and fulls.  Rather than let us suffer through all the mistakes she’s encountered, she provides an honest reaction for us to learn from. 

“I wince every time I hear this…” and “I implode on a regular basis…” are just a few of her non-coated truths. 

I would rather hear this from a book, when I still have my query letter in front of me and can tweak a sentence or two, rather than in a rejection letter after I’ve offended my targeted agent.  Or worse yet, after I’ve been rejected by every available agent willing to consider a manuscript on alien squirrels. 

I was lost for days reading and rereading her myth busters on the submission process.  I think you will be too.

And if that isn’t enough, The Tackle Box tackles the controversy over publishers.  Who are they and what do they want?  What’s the difference between a POD, vanity press and small press?  Why is it important to know everything about your potential publisher before you submit your manuscript? 

True to her blog style, Ms. Price fearlessly takes on the ups and downs of each option and lays them out for us in easy to understand format.  By the time I was done reading, I could no longer plead ignorant on any aspect of publishing.  This alone would have satisfied me as a book buyer.  Yet, the best part remained.

Her tips on writing.  Granted, it’s a small section, like the pudding in the middle of an eclair, but it is packed with writing rules and leaves nothing out.  Want a tip on independent clauses?  It’s in there, complete with an example sentence for hands on learning.  POV, italics, cursing?  Yep, yep and yep. 

Yet in the end, what I loved most about this book is that Ms. Price doesn’t tell me how to get published, rather, she gives me the tools to do it myself.  And that comes in the form of a tackle box.

Armed with my line, hooks and a comprehensive guide to the process, I can confidently trawl the waters of the publishing industry.  With luck I’ll reel in a book deal.

 

*Disclaimer: no donuts were harmed in the writing of this post, nor was I paid in any way to assess the virtues of this book.  Rather, when I sent an email to Behler Publications with the intent to purchase The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box for my blog contest, they donated the prize.  For anyone following my blog or my tweets, you already know the Behler Blog is one of my most referenced sites–and that was before the donut donation.*