Author Self-Interview! (Fun Facts About Me)

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So the idea and questions for this post come from the Usborne “My First Story Writing Book” which is an awesome resource for helping kids learn creative writing skills! I thought it would be fun to answer some of the questions they ask myself and share!

I live with…
Myself
My husband, Steve
My 3 cats (Spyder, Mao Mao, and Icky)
Depression
Yearning

The most unusual thing about me is…
I’m a physical and mental trainwreck (who knows what is actually wrong with me???)

My worst fear is…
My husband dying.
Being alone.
Having to support myself entirely.
Spiders getting into my ears.
Getting sicker or being in even more pain.

I feel happy when…
People appreciate and compliment me.
When I am being creative!

My biggest ambition is…
Make more money as a freelance writer/book reviewer (maybe review books for bigger companies).
Work with kids again. Maybe hold more children’s writing workshops in the future.
Grow my blog/vlogs.
Advocate for those with chronic illness and mental illness.
Sell more art on ebay!

My first memory is…
Riding in a stroller and being frustrated that I couldn’t get out!

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A Whole New Look at the Right Brained vs Left Brained Debate!

I found parts of this book truly fascinating. Who knew that you could even have a stroke that completely shut down one half of your brain but left the other half functioning normally? Think you are truly left brained or right brained? Find out for sure here!

2 Great YA Books About a Sensitive Subject

Suicide is a sensitive subject, and one that people often shy away from, even if it has touched their own lives personally. However, as someone whose life was deeply impacted by a loss due to suicide, I try to be open about its reality and unafraid to tackle it head on. In the spirit of that, I want to share the following two videos I made about young adult novels I’ve read recently that really handled the subject well in my opinion, and will give readers plenty of food for thought:

If you enjoyed these videos, please subscribe to my channel on YouTube and leave a comment here or there!

Book Review – ‘The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe’ middle grade series

Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe

It has been quite a while since I posted a book review, but I just love this new series so much I had to share my thoughts about it! So far, “The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe” book series (written by Gordon McAlpine and illustrated by Sam Zuppardi) consists of two published books. The first volume is entitled “The Tell-Tale Start” and the second is called “Once Upon a Midnight Eerie”. As you can probably tell already, the author loves a good play on words (as do I!).

I was initially drawn to this middle grade (ages 8+) children’s series while browsing the children’s department at Barnes & Noble. The cover and title of the first book immediately captured my attention because I have always loved Edgar Allan Poe. When I studied the book further, I found the premise quite original. To sum it up, the books revolve around Edgar and Allan Poe, twelve-year old identical twins who also happen to be the great-great-great-great-grandnephews of the famous horror/mystery author. One thing that makes these twins unusual (and help creates some of the drama) is that the boys have a telepathic communication ability and pretty much function as one person. In both books, there are significant threats to the lives of both main characters, so it is full of action, suspense and a touch of morbid humor for kids who like that kind of thing. Of course, since it is a middle grade series, Edgar & Allan always manage to foil their enemies and survive.

I think the best thing about this book series though are the parts where you get to see Edgar Allan Poe himself in the “great beyond”. It is hilarious to see our poor Poe having to work for the seemingly grumpy and narcissistic William Shakespeare in heaven. Poe constantly finds himself in trouble in heaven because he is always breaking the rules to interfere in the lives of his nephews on earth. Of course, being in trouble is nothing new to Poe, seeing as he was quite used to it during his earthly life. I also love how in the second book, Edgar and Allan are joined by a pair of twin girls named “Em” and “Milly” Dickinson, who happen to be the great-great-great-great-grandnieces of the famous spinster poet Emily Dickinson (more name puns there). I look forward to seeing which other literary greats (and their descendants) may be written into the story in the future.

I realize that not all adults like to read children’s books like I do, but I hope that if you have kids in the middle grade age range you will have them check out this series and see if they like it. I am hoping it will become popular enough to go on for quite a while because I want to keep reading it!

Children’s Book Review, “To the Cider Mill”

Author Danna York holding a copy of “To the Cider Mill”

As you might have noticed, I have been on a bit of an art kick lately, so today’s featured book is a great pick since it is very artistic, as well as literary. It is also very timely because autumn is quickly sneaking up on us, so I know teachers and parents are already looking ahead to plan fall activities and excursions. Now on to the review…

“To the Cider Mill” by Danna York is actually three books in one! That might sound a little crazy, but it is true. For the price of one book, your child gets a coloring book, a sketch book and a rhyming picture book story about the fun childhood experience of visiting a cider mill!

While the book is about the size and shape of a typical children’s coloring book, the setup is a little unusual. For each double-page spread, you have one page with a fun, harvest themed picture to color and a little rhyming verse at the bottom and on the other page you have a mostly blank space for children to create their own pictures with a little suggested drawing exercise. The suggested drawing exercises go along with the rhyme and illustration on the adjoining page and are generally fall-themed as well.

I really liked the concept of this book and think it would be a great gift for creative kids everywhere. I could easily see this book being used in a preschool or elementary classroom, for any kind of artistic group or to bring extra excitement to that annual trip to your own local cider mill. It would also make a great keepsake for parents, grandparents and other loved ones.

If you are interested in more information about “To the Cider Mill” or would like to order a copy, please visit the author’s Facebook page or email her at yorktim@att.net.

Review of “The Adventures of Cecilia Spark” series

For this post I am going to share reviews of the first two books in the children’s chapter book series, “The Adventures of Cecilia Spark”, written by Ngaire Elder and illustrated by Peter Maddocks.

Book #1 – The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: The Brimstone Forest

I could tell right away that Cecilia Spark is a character after my own heart. Instead of being into “girly” stuff like princesses, dolls and tea parties, Cecilia is all about adventure! She would much rather be out bug hunting or chasing dragons than sitting around painting her fingernails, which makes her my kind of heroine! It seems rare to find a book series where the main character is a strong girl with interests that fall outside of the female stereotype. While I enjoyed some girly pursuits growing up, I was always a “tomboy” who would rather be outside getting dirty than inside doing something domestic. This series will definitely appeal to girls who like adventure and fantasy.

I also really liked the elements of fantasy woven into the story and the creative names that the author bestowed on some of her characters. For instance the bad witch named Trixa, the dragon named Jinxi, the talking mouse named Soldier and the “Thingamabob” which turned out to be a good witch named Senorita Favorita. This book is full of creativity and imagination, aspects which are sure to delight young readers. The illustrations are simple black & white drawings, but they are very well-done and definitely add visual delight to the storyline. I would definitely recommend this book for grades K-3 (although kindergartners and first graders might still need some help reading it).

  Book #2 – The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: The Mystical Mountains of Terra

With the second book of the Cecilia Spark series, Cecilia finds herself facing an even bigger adventure than last time! This book is about twice as long as the first book in the series, but since it comes in at a little under 100 pages, it is still appropriate for the chapter book age set. In this book we get more of a look at the history behind the magical world that Cecilia finds herself drawn into. It was cool to find out how Soldier became a talking mouse. Although I don’t want to give the plot away too much, I will say that the plot for this book was more complex and personally, I found it even more fun than Cecilia’s first adventure. Using the suspense technique of pitting her characters in a race against time to help defeat evil, the author made this story into a book that is hard to put down.

We also meet several new characters in this book that I really enjoyed. Ractus the Armadillo was probably my favorite, maybe because he could be a little grumpy and high-strung, but in a lovable way. The two other new characters who really stood out were Pacha (a friendly little raccoon, who isn’t quite who she seems to be at first) and Turan (a half-human, half-tiger creature that plays a pretty important role in the climax of the story).  Again, this is definitely a series that would be enjoyed by children age 4-9.

If you would like to find out more about The Adventures of Cecilia Spark, please visit the series’ website, www.ceciliaspark.com. On the website you can find out where to order the book and enjoy some extra features like character illustrations, print-off activities to go along with the books and news stories related to the book series.

Review of middle grade novel “Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe”

When I heard that a 12-year-old girl named Halima Sahar Muhammad was releasing her first middle grade novel, “Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe”, I was eager to get the chance to read and review it. Partly, because I love to encourage young writers and partly because I was also 12-years-old when I wrote my first full-length chapter book (although I never did get it published).

Anyhow, “Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe” was a fun read. It’s not a particularly long read, at only 94 pages, so it won’t intimidate reluctant or struggling readers. Kids are sure to enjoy the humor in the story (especially the constant sibling banter between the main character, Riley, and her big brother, Atticus). Although it took awhile for the book to actually introduce the “kitchen katastrophe” part of the story, the plot is steady and comes to an expected, but satisfactory conclusion.

One of the things I liked best about this book is the author’s keen eye for detail. She obviously has a gift for description. In fact, many of her food scenes made me quite hungry! If Halima doesn’t grow up to be an author, I have the feeling she may grow up to be a chef, because she obviously knows ALOT about food and cooking for a girl her age!

Overall, my impression of this book is that it was a good first release, one that would be enjoyed by both girls and boys age 7-12 or so. I’m sure this young author has a very successful future ahead of her, regardless of what she chooses to do.

For more information on Halima Sahar Muhammad or “Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe” (including ordering information), please visit the author’s website, http://www.halimasworld.blogspot.com/.