Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Girl in the Glass - Susan Meissner

I wasn't planning on posting again until the new year, but I just finished a book I was sent to review from WaterBrook Multnomah from their  Blogging for Books program. (I receive books from them in exchange for my honest feedback.) Since I should have gotten this posted a while ago, I thought I should share my thoughts before 2013.

by: Susan Meissner
Published 2012

This is quite the book! I will admit, I'm not one to be well-versed in Italian art or the ancient families of Florence. Most of the descriptions found in the book were new to me. For those of you who have been to Florence or love the art, sculptures and architecture of its past, much of the book might pull at certain places in your heart.

That said, let me share the book description from the back cover.

Renaissance is a word with hope infused in every letter.

Since she was a child, Meg has dreamed of taking a promised trip to Florence, Italy, and being able to finally step into the place captured in a picture at her grandmother’s house. But after her grandmother passes away and it falls to her less-than-reliable father to take her instead, Meg’s long-anticipated travel plans seem permanently on hold.

When her dad finally tells Meg to book the trip, she prays that the experience will heal the fissures left on her life by her parents’ divorce. But when Meg arrives in Florence, her father is nowhere to be found, leaving aspiring memoir-writer Sophia Borelli to introduce Meg to the rich beauty of the ancient city. Sofia claims to be one of the last surviving members of the Medici family and that a long-ago Medici princess, Nora Orsini, communicates with her from within the great masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.

When Sophia, Meg, and Nora’s stories intersect, their lives will be indelibly changed as they each answer the question: What if renaissance isn’t just a word? What if that’s what happens when you dare to believe that what is isn’t what has to be?

The Girl in the Glass completely captivated me. It is filled with beautiful imagery and description and almost has a poetic quality to it. I was enthralled with the messy lives of the main characters, how they intersected, and how the truth and what you imagine are both possible in the same lifetime. As the main character, Meg's life was the messiest, and she was the first to admit it. I loved watching her character evolve and figure out just who she "was" and who should really wanted to be.  The ending was a bit unexpected, but most of it was what I hoped would eventually happen. It is a book that will make you take a step back and look at reality and dreams in an entirely new light. My favorite quote is from Meg on the last page of the book:
"And that what might be is worth risking to have."
If you are looking for a book to start the new year, this is one I would recommend. And for you children's book lovers, this is one adult book I think you'll love. 

Other links of interest:
I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah for my honest opinion. The views expressed here are my own. 

See you next year! I promise this really is my last post of 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a 
Merry Christmas
and a 
Happy New Year
 from my family to yours!

See you in 2013!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday Writing Contest

The wonderful Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting her 2nd Annual Holiday Writing Contest. I didn't participate last year, but thought I would give it a try this year. It's been a while since I've written a short story, but it was fun to get in that mindset for a little bit.

Before I post my story, let me share a few of the rules of the contest from Susanna's blog.

Write a children's holiday story beginning with any version of "Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh." You may use that actual opening, or you may change it to any similar version "[Verb of your choice]ing through the [any substance you choose] in a [conveyance of any kind]." For example, "Dashing through the sand in a two-wheeled donkey cart" or "Sloshing through the swamp in a green and white canoe" or "Flying through the air in a striped hot air balloon..." You get the idea, I'm sure :) Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words. 

So without further ado, here's my story!

The Perfect Solo
(346 words)
“Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh.”
            Would the song ever end? If there was one thing I couldn’t stand, it was my sister practicing over and over for the school Christmas program. With the lead solo, she wanted to be perfect. Perfect. Yes, Tiffany was perfect in every sense of the word – perfect grades, perfect hair, perfect smile.
            Then there was me. Ordinary Chloe. I struggled with math, had frizzy hair and wore glasses. My part for the program – a dancing tree. Seriously? Couldn’t I have at least sung in the choir?
            Finally the night of the Christmas program arrived. My fellow dancing trees and I took our places and waited for our turn on stage.
            I felt someone tug on one of my branches. It was Tiffany. She mumbled something I couldn’t hear.
            “What?” I asked.
            She mumbled again.
            “I can’t hear you,” I said a little too loudly.
            “Shush, Chloe,” said Mrs. Turner, my teacher.
            Of course, why would Tiffany get in trouble? She tugged on my arm again, and I turned around.
            “Shouldn’t you be getting ready for your big solo?” I asked.
            “My voice is gone,” said Tiffany.
            “I think I practiced too much. I can’t sing!”
            I could see tears rolling down Tiffany’s cheeks. I didn’t wait to admit it, but I hated to see her cry.
            “Let me sing for you. I’ve heard you practicing so much, I know it by heart. I can sing back here and you can mouth the words. No one will know the difference.”
            “Really, you’d do that for me?” Tiffany wiped her eyes.
            “Sure, isn’t that what sisters do? Help each other out?”
            Tiffany smiled. “I’m so glad I have you for a sister.”
            We told Mrs. Turner our plan, and she agreed it was a good idea.
            After the show, Mom and Dad gave us both a hug. “I’m guessing there’s a story behind what happened tonight?” asked Mom.
            Tiffany put her arm around my shoulders. “I have the best sister in the world.”
            I smiled. “Me too.”

I hope you enjoyed it! Have a Merry Christma

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Writing Goals and Review

The beginning of December has just flown by!  I realized I still needed to post the outcome of my November goals. Having you out there to encourage me and keep me accountable has been great!  So, here we go...

  • Start and complete PiBoIdMo 2012 - Check! I filled my notebook with 30 ideas!

  • Finish the novel writing class I'm taking with the Institute for Children's Literature by completing revisions of my middle grade novel in preparation to begin the querying process. - I'm not done with the class, but I'm making progress. More on this in a moment.
  • Complete a rough draft for November for the 12x12 in 2012 challenge. - Unfortunately, I did not complete a rough draft, but that ties into the above goal.
While I was revising my manuscript last month, I still felt like something was missing. I still needed a little something more to make my story really mine.  As I revised I continued to refer back to a critique I had received over the summer with many helpful suggestions and questions that needed plot answers. I also spoke at length with an author friend who helped me to see what I really needed to do to help make my story more personal. After really thinking it through and making some tough writing decisions, I decided to rewrite my manuscript, changing it from third person to first person. Major decision to make!!

If I was going to do this and succeed, I knew I needed to make some choices. I want to complete my story and with my writing time really crunched right now, I've decided to totally focus on my middle grade and put picture books on the back burner. I know, I know, I just came up with 30 more pb ideas, but my middle grade needs to come first. So, that's my plan.  This also means that starting in January, I won't be posting much on Perfect Picture Book Friday. Hopefully I will be back at some point, but middle grade comes first right now.

I'm happy to report that my new revision is going very well. I feel like I'm really into my character with the first person perspective. This month has been hard to find writing time, but I'm still plugging away and writing when I can. Someday I hope to report that this major revision is complete!

This isn't my last post of 2012, but I don't know how much I will be around the rest of the month. For all my blogging friends, I won't be stopping by much the rest of the month, either, but I'm looking forward to seeing you again in the new year.

I hope you are all enjoying the month with family and friends.  For as busy as December is, I just love this season!  Have a great rest of the week!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - The Fourth Stall

The book I'm sharing with you today was recommended to me by a fellow writer. She raved about it, especially the first person voice of the main character - a sixth grade boy.  I'm happy to say that I absolutely LOVED it too!

by Chris Rylander
Walden Pond Press 2011

From Goodreads:
Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It's what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys' bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.

Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it's going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that's just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else's problems is that there's no one left to solve yours.

As I said I absolutely LOVED this book. The two main components - baseball and a mystery/thriller for middle graders hooked me right away. But, don't think this is a hardcore read, humor was woven into the story line as well, making the book well-balanced and real. Reading a book from the perspective of a sixth grade boy and seeing everything from his eyes really pulled me in. At some points, I would revert to my own thoughts as a mother - how could his parents let him do that, or how could they not know what was going on, but then I would remember that maybe they were aware, but the whole point of the book was to see things from Mac's eyes, not an adult's. Definitely not a perspective you read much in middle grade. I loved the relationship between Mac and Vince and seeing how they dealt with the problems they needed to solve and how those problems impacted their bond as friends. 

At the end of the book was the first chapter of the sequel - The Fourth Stall Part II, which I can't wait to read soon!

For more middle grade recommendations, please see the list to the right on my blog. Have a great week!