Friday, May 31, 2013

BEA Midday Check-in and Giveaways

Hey folks, I'm here in the Press Room at BEA checking in, winding down and eating baby carrots. I just wanted to let you all know that the authors I've been meting today have been really great about sharing books. When I tell them that I don't want the books personalized because I am going to give them away on my blog, a number of them have been gracious enough to give me multiple copies for the giveaway! I am overwhelmed (emotionally and physically - my shoulder's killing me) by the giving and can't wait to pay it forward to you.

So, let's get this conversations started: which genre of books are you most looking forward to seeing come out of my bag? Here's what you have to choose from so far:
  • YA books
  • MG Books
  • Picture Books
  • Books about food and nutrition
  • Bill Bryon's latest work
I'd list the titles for you, but there are other press peeps (probably much more important than I) waiting to use this computer.

Thanks for giving me the excuse to hang out in here!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

BEA 2013 Book Party and Livestream

Again I find myself sitting before my keyboard thoroughly exhausted and exhilarated. Today was the first official day of BookExpo America and, for me, that translated into one thing: BOOKS. There are so many new titles coming our way to be excited about.

I started reading Eve Silver's Rush (it will be released on June 11th) on the way home and I'm already hooked. I went to the BEA YA Editor's Buzz Panel where I was given a sneak peek at five new titles for this Fall that I can't wait to begin. I got Lemony Snicket's new book and met the man himself! Of course, I ran half way across the convention center to get a copy of a new book on writing.

I'm not going to list all the titles that I got right now. I apologize for that, but I simply can't move to go retrieve them. I have to reserve my energy for tomorrow. I'm hoping to get a hold of Holly Black's new book and I can't wait for the BEA YA Middle Grades Buzz in the morning. I will say this, for most of the autographs I got today, I asked the authors to sign it "To RRTI Reader" because I'm planning on giving these books to YOU as soon as I finish reviewing them, so stay tuned for all the exciting reading coming your way!!

In the meantime, stay tuned to the BEA Livestream all day Friday where you can see awesome things like the Children"s Book & Authors Breakfast featuring one of my favorites, Rick Riordan as well as Veronica Roth (don't yell at me because I still haven't read Divergent there are SO MANY BOOKS in this world!) and Mary Pope Osborne with Octavia Spencer as the Master of Ceremonies.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

7 Big Take Aways From BEA Bloggers Conference 2013

BookExpo America 2013
I spent my entire day in the Jacob Javits Center for the BEA Bloggers Conference. I learned so much, met a bunch of super cool people and even brought home a nice stack of new reads. All that came from today can not be expressed in one post, but I thought I would do a quick, off the top of my head list of big take aways from the day. (I promise to expand upon these in the future!)
  • "What are you reading?" is an important question that people have stopped asking each other for some reason. We should change that.
  • It is important to develop relationships with our local book sellers and libraries.
  • Love of books can be spread beyond your blog by getting involved in your community.
  • Clear and conspicuous disclosure statements need to be written whenever on book reviews of books that are received for free. One disclosure statement in a sidebar of a blog will not suffice.
  • The Vine APP is cool and I need to start using it.
  • Triberr is another social media outlet to put on my "you need to check this out" list.
and, my personal favorite life lesson:
  •  I SHOULD ALWAYS CARRY AN EXTRA PEN WITH ME. (I was seriously the most embarrassing writer on the face of this planet: my pen ran out of ink and I had NO REPLACEMENT!)
That's all for now. I have to get to bed to get ready for day two of my adventure. For your entertainment until my next post, don't forget to check into the BEA LIVESTREAM to see what's happening right now!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

BookExpo America 2013 Livestream

The time has come. The big book party is here and just in case you can't make it out to the Jacob Javits Center on one or any of the days, we'll bring it to you. Watch the BEA Livestream to see the big author events and book reveals as they happen!

Wednesday (May 29, 2013) is just the BEA Bloggers Convention, so there won't be any new live materials until Thursday, but while you wait for that, check out the preloaded videos BEA has posted to get you ready for the main event!

I promise, if I see any of the cameras recording while I am there, I'll be sure to wave.

I'm Going To Be Okay, Right?

As I checked times and bus information last night the nerves began to jitter. I will have to be out of my house at 6:30 am tomorrow morning just to make it on time to the first day of the book party I have waited all year for: BookExpo America. To a Nicole of another time, that was nothing, these days it is a daunting task. It is not the waking that is the issue, of course (too many times I am still wide awake at that time with no sleep in sight), it is instead, waking pain free, symptom free and with the ability to be social that causes problems.

A blog is fun because of its beautiful technological shield of detachment. I can't tell you how many times I sat before my keyboard, in pain, grimacing, running away to the bathroom mid-sentence or, stopping completely to lay down because the room starting spinning. The words I type never reveal my secrets. Not unless I tell them to. I edit out the ugly, to present my happy face. There was a time when I was strong enough to do that in real life too. I'd go to work, smiling, sincerely happy to be there, but in pain all the same. I'd fight the pain, squash it down and present a figure pleasing to the public.

I miss that power. Even with full understanding that habit is partially to blame for my current weaknesses. I miss the hide-able symptoms. Though my chronic conditions are both in the  family of "you don't look like you're sick" diseases, my face, or more specifically, my eyes have begun to betray me. I suppose the smile I present seems ingenuine these days, because when I offer it up with my super shield, "I'm okay," too many people look at me and say, knowingly, "No, you're not."

So what I am wishing for is a miracle. I am wishing for the next four days to be good days. I am wishing for symptom-free hours so I can talk to new people introducing myself, without having to introduce my chronic diseases as well. Is it possible? I don't know, but I'd like to hope so. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing Group: Round Robin 1

I love this book !
I am happy to say I have found a pretty cool local writing group here in Staten Island. We meet a couple of times each month and, even though we are a small group, it has been tons of fun to get together and share our fiction.

This weekend we decided to leap into another project as an experiment to see how we would do writing together. We are doing a "Round Robin" writing project. We picked a writing prompt, a word limit for each of us and gave each other deadlines to complete our part. Here is the general explanation:

The prompt: Your character starts receiving flowers and anonymous gifts. She doesn't know who is sending them. Her husband is suspicious, and the gifts begin to get stranger...
Your addition to the story must be between 100 and 300 words.
When we selected the order of the writers in the round robin, I got picked FIRST! I had the honor of starting this crazy project off.  I just finished my excerpt and shared it with the group, so the next writer can get started sooner rather than later. I am really excited to see where my story goes. I love this project!

I'd like to share my beginning entry with you. I'd also like to invite you to join the round robin on your blog (it would be loads of fun to see the different directions this beginning could take).

If You Want To Join The Fun

If you have a blog and you'd like to continue this story, go ahead. Follow the rules above (limit yourself to 100-300 words) and then post the link in the comments below. If you want to keep it going, ask your blog's readers to do the same in your post! We can follow along with the story as we hop from post to post!
The Story Begins Here... 

Lily couldn’t believe her husband was this romantic. She received four deliveries on her sick day, each with a note saying, “You deserve this.” When the lily arrived she was overwhelmed; Benny hadn’t bought her flowers in years. The two gifts that followed were funny. She showed Benny the evil eye pendant on Saturday saying she needed it for work. The watch that followed was a nod to Lily’s tardiness which drove Benny crazy. The last gift was adorable, even if it was confusing. It was a stuffed sheep.

Lily felt like they were dating again. She cuddled the fluff as she signed for it, smiling.

“Mrs. Venti,” the deliveryman stopped her from closing the door, “That’s a ewe.”

“A ewe?” Lily held back a giggle.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“And?” she asked.

“That’s it,” he said with a shrug.

“Well - uh - thanks,” she said, giving him a sidelong glance while closing the door.

The phone rang. It was Benny, “Tell Miranda I don’t have time for her shit when I’m at work,” he said. Lily’s sister would’ve told her if she was messing with Benny; it was only fun when they were in on it together, but she didn’t want to let Benny in on that secret.

“What did you get today?” he asked.

She described her gifts, wondering what game Benny was playing.

After a moment he said, “Yeah. Well. I don’t get it.”

“Get what?”

“The message,” he said.

“Ben, what are you talking about?” Lily wanted in on his hijinks.

“This letter says your gifts are a message, but ‘Lily pendant watch ewe,’ doesn’t mean anything.”

Lily looked at the table where the gifts were laid out and felt hollow. This wasn’t funny, “The pendant’s an eye, Ben. The message is ‘Lily I watch you.’”

To Be Continued (by YOU!)...

Monday, May 20, 2013

BEA Announces Livestreaming for 2013

Great news for all you book lovers out there that won't be able to make it into New York City at the end of this month for BookExpo America. They have announced that they will be livestreaming a number of the author events for you to tune in to.
The BEA Live streaming program, which was launched last year to enormous success, utilizes the technology of Livestream, a leading company in the streaming technology field and a premier platform for producing live events online.  This year, an estimated 250,000 people will be able to view a huge range of authors as a result of the Sony partnership which is providing considerable underwriting for the initiative.
Last year I was able to embed the livestream screen right here on Rivera Runs Through It, and hope to do the same again this year for your convenience, so be sure to check back during the event on May 29 – June 1, 2013. Here's some of what BEA is planning to share:
A few of the authors whose participation will be available for viewing to the public through BEA Live include Doris Kearns Goodwin, Chelsea Handler, Octavia Spencer, Ishamel Beah, Rick Riordan, Chris Matthews, Helen Fielding, Neil Gaiman, Robbie Robertson, and Amy Tan to name just a few.  Other programming which will be captured for viewing include all the BEA Editor Buzz panels as well as author interviews from the ABA’s Celebration of Bookselling and Awards Luncheon.     Both the live programming and the recorded programming will be archived and will be available for viewing on demand during the show as well as after.  
 In the meantime, if you are looking for more information about BEA, please visit and connect with BEA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sick Day

I'm on my couch missing my book club all because my body has decided to be uncooperative today.

I hope for a better tomorrow.

Here's the only thing I (kind of) write today - it's from my tumblr page:

I hope you're having an awesome day!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Book to Movie Review - The Great Gatsby (2013)

Jay Gatsby is not an ordinary man, he is, after all The Great Gatsby. Anyone who has read Fitzgerald's work knows that, but how does one portray this in a twenty-first century movie theater? How can one remain true to the era of the story (1920s) while building a story and character that can be just as magnanimous in 2013?

You call Baz Luhrmann.

I went to see The Great Gatsby last night and I loved it. Luhrmannn magically sets the scene with an aged, depressed and alcoholic Nick Caraway (Tobey Maguire's character) telling a doctor the story of a man who above all others embodied hope, Jay Gatsby. As he begins to reflect, Luhrmann presents the scene by embedding actual footage of the era into his introduction. By the time we are set free into Luhrmann's creative hands for the rest of the Gatsby ride, we are sold on setting, tone and emotion.

A surprise for me was how effectively the 3D was used in this film. My husband and I only went to the 3D showing because it was earliest one, but I must say the extra money was well worth it. Taking the trip with Nick to his first party at the Gatsby mansion in 3D was nothing short of awesome. It is a refreshing change to see a filmmaker use this technology to enhance their film, not just its ticket prices.

However, even if you skip the 3D, you still won't miss this film's greatest enhancement: the music. In my opinion Luhrmann has an amazing ability to add his soundtrack to the list of characters in his films. In Gatsby he delicately wove together classic sounds from the 1920s with cutting edge artists from today. This tapestry of tunes brought a vivacity to Gatsby's parties, heartbreak to love scenes and adventure Nick's journey in his brand new New York life. It is, without question, one of the major reasons this film will succeed with modern audiences.

In the end, this movie succeeds because of the strength of its story and characters. In Jay Gatsby we find a larger than life character who clings to hope in such an innocent way that he misses the obvious ugliness of his heart's desire and the world he inhabits. In Nick Calloway, we find a man balanced between two worlds of old and new money, with a foot in each door deciding which direction he wants to step. The actors become these men through their demeanor, their dress and their gait. These two, of course, are not alone. The entire cast delivers stellar performances driving the audience to love and hate them at all the right moments.

Book to Movie Review

As much as I enjoyed The Great Gatsby when I first read it this winter, I must (regretfully) admit that in some small way the story felt stale to me. Perhaps it was my own imagining of what the worlds of "old money" and "new money" are actually like in this era or any other. I don't think it was Fitzgerald's writing for any matter. The thing is, I read it and felt like that was definitely an "assigned reading" type of book that, perhaps, would come to life in a second reading (which I have been reluctant to do).

After emerging from the theater last night, I can see how hopelessly wrong I was! This is one of those cases where I will not say that "the book was better than the movie," nor will I say "the movie was better than the book," rather I will round this all up by saying this movie fully enhanced the reading of The Great Gatsby. So, in particular, if you have any kids moaning and groaning about this "Gatsby guy" they've been reading about in English class, I would highly recommend bringing them to the theater, just to give them a sense of the thrill within the pages.

My Final Word

I don't know what your plans are for this weekend, Old Sport, but if you are a book lover, a movie lover and you are looking to get transported to another time for a couple of hours, then you owe it to yourself to go see The Great Gatsby while it is on the big screen.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

KidLit Review - 10 Plants That Shook The World by Gillian Richardson

10 Plants That Shook The World by Gillian Richardson from Annick Press

Plants might start out as leafy things growing in the earth, but they can come into our lives in unexpected ways. And believe it or not, some have even played an exciting role in our world's history. Discover how: Countries went to war to control trade centers for pepper A grass called papyrus became the first effective tool for sharing knowledge through writing Europeans in the 1600s cut down rainforests to grow sugar, contributing to soil erosion Cotton improved the livelihoods of a few, but caused unthinkable suffering for many more Corn fueled new technologies and turns up in thousands of everyday products The discovery of rubber revolutionized transportation, making bike and car tires possible Tea and chocolate became big business, and the race for profits was on Dependence on the potato caused one of the greatest tragedies in history, while the bark of the cinchona tree saved countless lives from malaria.

The ten plants in this book are the source of profound changes in the world, both good and bad. Through vibrant illustrations and astonishing facts, you'll discover that without them, our lives today would be vastly different.
My Review

While the intended audience of this book is children, I have to say, even at my age,  I learned a ton from reading it. I was captivated by the history behind each of the plants Gillian Richardson profiled in this book, they are:
  • Papyrus
  • Pepper
  • Tea
  • Sugarcane
  • Cotton 
  • Cacao
  • Cinchona
  • Rubber
  • Potato
  • Corn
For each plant Richardson begins with a brief overview of where it originated, how old the plant is, and the plants "likes" and "dislikes." Then she gives us the story of the plant, which is, in essence, its history. To be honest you, if this was all that was in this book, my expectations would have been satisfied, but Richardson had grander plans.

For each plant there were additional embedded blurbs concerning individual anecdotes about the plant in our world. How each plant affected economies, environments, world explorations and warfare were all aspects discussed. Each section also featured a narrative describing a pivotal piece of the plant's history from the perspective of a person whose life was directly affected by it. I thought these stories were beautifully creative ways to bring even a small aspect of the history to life for the reader.

The color palette and art by Kim Rosen were seamless throughout the book and kid friendly. (Here's a post about Kim's work on the book!) Flipping through the pages of the book, you get the impression that it is informative and intriguing without being overwhelming. By the end of my read, I was shocked by how much information was packed in this unassuming book!

My Final Word

It is easy for us to forget how amazing something as simple as pepper or tea is. This book is a great reminder for adults and the beginning of that education for kids. The beautiful balance between straight expository (fact based) text, creative nonfiction, lists and artwork found in this book is rarely accomplished so well. Reading this book was a pleasure and I plan to read it again.  I think this book is great read for kids interested in history or the environment, but can also be an excellent resource book for any reports that may be coming up during the school year.

Which of the ten plants written about in this book would be most earth-shattering for you to live without?
What do you look for in a nonfiction read? 
When buying a book for a child, do you prefer to gift fiction or nonfiction? Why?
Thanks for reading!

I was given a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Are Short Stories, Exactly?

Short story versus novel
Two nights ago I wrote a short story. It was a first draft. Yesterday, I rewrote it after I blogged. Then last night, I went to the Barnes & Noble Cafe, ordered an Iced Tea and rewrote that same short story five times. Something hit me while I was doing this: there is a distinct difference between writing short stories and novels. However, as clear as that epiphany was, the actual difference was something that still eluded me.

I decided to do some research on the topic because it is becoming obvious to me that I need help. One thing is clear to me: a short story is not a short novel. Unfortunately, that's what I think I have been writing this week.

The Big Differences Between Short Stories and Novels

On his blog, The Ranting Room, Bruce Bethke described the difference between the two types of writing as follows:
Speaking in sweeping generalizations now, a short story focuses on a single event that either changes or provides some insight into a single person, a small group of people, a situation, or an institution. A novel reveals a vastly wider and deeper story.  
Christopher Anderson described the difference on Articlesbase as follows:
The short story gives glimpses of lives and events; whereas, the novel or novella encapsulate entire lives and multiple events. 
In an interview with HuffPost, T.C. Boyle discussed the joys and drawbacks of each of these two types of writing:
The joy of the story is that you can respond to the moment and events of the moment. The drawback is that once you've completed a story, you must write another even though you find yourself bereft of talent or ideas. The joy of the novel is that you know what you're going to do tomorrow. The horror of the novel, however, is that you know what you're going to do tomorrow. 
I'm starting to get a sense of where I've been going wrong...

First Draft - Telling My Story Too Quickly

Initially in my quest to start writing a short story I focused on word count. The two contests that I am looking to enter are both flash fiction contests, so we are talking super short (under 750 words). Since this was my primary focus, what I wrote was a super short novel. There's a story there, maybe even a full three act structure (though the acts are lightning fast), but after each read I was faced with the reality: it lacked the energy and power of great short stories I have read in the past.

Then Emphasize the Details

I decided that I wasn't adding enough details and description. My story had a beginning, middle and end, but it was missing some richness in the telling. I dug through looking for ways to describe economically. I had to chop an entire paragraph of other narrative to add in descriptors everywhere else, but I thought it was worth it.
Getting back to basics

I read it again, something was still wrong.

Where's the Character Development?

There is a tiny cast of characters in my story, so I should be providing my reader with a clear picture of who they are. I was not. Above all I think this is my greatest weakness at this point. In fact, I think the problem has been staring me in the face: Right now my story is about something, not someone and I don't think that's how most short stories work.

Now What?

Now I am going back to my writing. I am going to rewrite my story again. I don't know how many times I am going to do this, but I don't mind. I am learning. I think the hardest part is going to be picking which version of this story should be sent out into the world when I am finally done!

Thanks for reading!
How would you define the difference between short stories and novels?
Do you have a favorite short story writer?
Do you write short stories? Why or why not?


Additional Finds:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Are Writing Contests Still Relevant?

By the end of April of this year I made a decision: I want to focus on short story writing. My plan was to seek out various writing contests to add motivation and deadlines to my work. I have found two writing contests so far that I am working on entering by the end of this month. I've been brainstorming and working on a short story and then yesterday, while in Barnes and Noble, I found this month's Poets & Writers screaming out to me.

In addition to a ton of advice on how to bring your contest entries to life, there is a compelling article by Kevin Nance entitled The Winner's Circle which discusses what it actually means to win a contest today. Since I am relatively new to this arena, I was surprised to read about the great transformation the writing community has undergone in terms of contest availability since the 1980s. It comforts me in one sense, as I can now readily understand why I did not feel there was a place for me to share or test my writing when I was younger. On the other hand, the news of the over-saturation of the writing contest market raised the big question that titles this post: Are writing contests still relevant?

Here's what I learned: 

There Are a Ton of Writing Contests Available

Depending on what you are looking for this may be read as good news or the worst. What does it mean to you to be "the winner"? Do you think that should mean that you are the penultimate, that no others stand above you, that you are uniquely talented in a way others can only dream of? Well, then this "new world" of contest saturation is going to be disappointing. With so many competitions, a "win" translates as a job well done on your writing piece. You are a good writer, perhaps even an excellence one that someone noticed and awarded. You can now say that people other than friends and family appreciate your work.

Writing Contests Help Support the Writing Community

In terms of contests where an entry fee is required, I have always been a bit wary, however, this article changed my mind. Oftentimes these fees are what keep various literary magazines afloat. In fact, the great surge in writing contests in the last 20+ years is attributed to exactly that: a means of funding. So, rather than be wary of these entry fees, I have decided that I would like to explore which magazines I'd like to support in the same way I explore charities. I'll pick one or two who have the type of writing I like to write (and read!) and focus my energies on their competitions.

Agents and Editors Notice Contest Wins, But They're Not Always Impressed

On pages 64 and 65 of this month's issue of Poets & Writers there is an embedded piece called Do Contests Matter? where six agents and editors give their impressions of contest wins in a cover letter. The overall sentiment was along the lines of something I said earlier, the recognition that someone other than your friends and family can appreciate your writing. Of course, if you won one of the "big" contests, they are still show stoppers, and there are some publication notes that also turn heads.

Some Writing Contests Are "Bigger" Than Others

It should come of no surprise, since there is a saturated writing contest market, that some names draw more attention than others. Most of these names should come of no surprise to you, as they are the "biggies" we are all familiar with:
  • Pulitzer Prize Well, duh. The Pulitzer still packs a punch no matter who you are sending your correspondence. I am quite sure I didn't have to tell you that, but I thought I'd be thorough in my listing. The Pulitzer is given to published works in the following categories: fiction, drama, history, biography & autobiography, poetry and general nonfiction. Here's how to enter.
  • Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction This "award recognizes outstanding collections of short fiction. Collections may include long stories or novellas (est. length of a novella is 50-150 pages). However, novels or single novellas will not be considered." The award is "a cash award of $1,000, and their collections are subsequently published by the University of Georgia Press under a standard book contract." Here is how you enter.  
  • The PEN/O.Henry Stories "gathers twenty of the best short stories of the year, selected from thousands published in literary magazines." While an author can not send a story in individually for submission, you may be interested in reading about the submission process
Of course, everyone has their own favorite writing contest, but these three names emerged a number of times in my reading.

My Final Verdict

After reading all of these articles I have come to realize that my thinking of the writing contest world is very similar to my thinking about the academic world. The number of students who can earn an A+ in their studies is limitless and the number of schools dolling out assessments is constantly growing. This does not diminish the significance of each individual A+. However, if the A+ is awarded by a teacher is who is known to be lenient in some way (like our friends and family with our writing), then it obviously does not hold the same amount of weight. If, on the other hand I have an A+ awarded from Harvard's strictest professor (let's call him Dr. Pulitzer), then my accomplishments are easily lauded.

I went to a small, private college for my undergrad. I was on the dean's list. I got an education that lead me not only to a brilliant career as a teacher, but also yielded an actuarial job offer on Graduation Day. After I graduated, I jumped on every opportunity I could to learn (and be assessed) more. By my count, I have been assessed in eleven different colleges, constantly pushing my learning and my experiences. Every single school taught me something new and unique, no matter how big or small its program has been viewed by others.

I will do the same in my writing. I think I love the idea that there are so many writing contests out in the world. While the individual names of small contests may not impress the masses, I am in this to learn, to write and to see that my writing means something to somebody, right?

So, to answer the big question: Are Writing Contests Still Relevant? the answer seems abundantly clear: to me, absolutely.
What about you?

The two contests I am working on right now are both for flash-fiction length works:

Monday, May 6, 2013

YALit Review - Guardians Inc.: The Cypher

Guardians Inc.: The Cypher Synopsis
GUARDIANS INC.: THE CYPHER is two stories in one. A glimpse into a multinational company that is in reality the oldest of secret societies, one that spans close to seven thousand years of existence, weaving in and out of history, guiding and protecting humanity from creatures and forces that most of us believe are only mythology and fairy tales.

The other is the story of Thomas Byrne, a young man thrust into secrets he shouldn’t be aware of and dangers he shouldn’t face but, that he ultimately will, for he is a Cypher. The only one who can steer humanity’s future.

The ultimate conspiracy theory is that Magic is real. Kept in check by technology but, every five hundred years the balance can shift and, if it does, technology will fail and those creatures we’ve driven into myth will come back with a vengeance.

To protect the present, Guardians Incorporated needs to know the future.
 My Review

As soon as I picked up Guardians Inc.: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain I was hooked. The story begins with 15 year old Thomas Byrne getting ready to face Vice Principal Killjoy... ahem... I mean Khanna for a fight he got into in his new school. Immediately I was drawn into Thomas' tale and was curious about the Vice Principal whose school reputation seemed to cloud over some real secrets. Thomas is in a new school because his parents went missing on a vacation while Thomas was staying with his grandfather, Morgan. Since Morgan has to get a new job to help support his grandson he and Thomas look through the newspaper for job listings, which is when the real fun begins.

Both Thomas and Morgan are hired by a mysterious company housed in a mansion that appears two and half blocks away from Morgan's house. Of course, this mansion is not ordinary in any way and as we follow Thomas in his new job, we start to see how unique it is. This mansion was one of the most fascinating parts of the book. Just like the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter stories, Thomas' story is of a world that exists just beyond the reach of our own, but affects us all. I love this kind of story and, in that sense this book delivered. The cast of characters are also likeable (when they are supposed to be) and I can definitely see myself following this adventure through to its sequels.

If I had any criticism of this book it would be that it felt like a "first book." In other words, there was a lot of origin and world building which is, of course, necessary, but for that reason I felt like the book ended just when the action was truly escalating. This is a great hook to get me to read book two, but I wonder if the target audience - YA - will feel cheated while reading.

To Delve Further

For those who are captivated by the Guardians Inc. world, there is a Guardians Inc website and a Guardians Inc. Facebook page to learn more about the author, the characters and the universe they operate in.

My Final Word

I highly recommend this book to fans of Percy Jackson. While this story is completely unique in its conflicts, our teenage male protagonist learning of his secret powers that are needed to save the world is something Percy fans will gobble up!

Thinking only of books in a series, is there any "first book" that you think works well as a standalone?
If you lived in a world where magic was put up against technology, which side would you take? 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Why You Need Celebrate Free Comic Book Day

Did you know that the first Saturday in May is a Nerd-tacular holiday? No, I'm not talking about Star Wars Day which is celebrated every May 4th ("May the fourth be with you!") which only conveniently lands on the first Saturday this year. I'm talking about FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!
I said "free" and "book" in the same sentence so I know I have your attention. What's holding you back? Is it the word "comic"? Do you have some repressed (or maybe not so repressed) feelings about comic books and those who read them? Enough! Let it go! I'm going to allow Stan "The Man" Lee explain why:
Comics are an art form, like film, television, anything. People who look down on comics, I give them this example: suppose Shakespeare and Leonardo Da Vinci were alive today. Suppose Shakespeare said, "Hey Leonardo, let's collaborate and do a comic book." And Leonardo painted it and Shakespeare wrote it. Would anybody say, "Eh, it's just a comic." It really depends on who's doing it and how it's done. You can't condemn the medium. There could be comics that are masterpieces, some that are a waste of time. But that goes for every other form of the media. 

Perhaps you only have one view of what comic books are. Maybe you see the blockbuster movies released each summer (the hours can't pass fast enough until I get to see Iron Man 3 tonight!) and you're thinking, Superheros are for movies, not for my reading. Or maybe you don't even like the movies.... (really?) Anyway, the point is, just as there are a myriad of genres in the "regular" writing world, there are tons of different kinds of comics and graphic novels out there for you! You just need to find the right one for you.

This is why you need to celebrate Free Comic Book Day! On May 4, 2013,comic book shops are going to open their doors and give away comic books for free! You can grab a bunch of books just to see what you like at no expense to you. I can't think of a better deal than that.

In addition to expanding your own reading universe, if there are any children in your life (your own kids, nieces, nephews, students, etc), then you owe it to them to have a day that celebrates books and reading. The number of people who attribute their ability to read to comic books is simply astonishing. If you know of a struggling reader, this may be their ticket. As the video below explains, since comics contain both art and words, they activate both parts of your brain!

Since I am fairly certain that I have now convinced you to come and celebrate Free Comic Book Day this year, I thought I might share with you how I will be celebrating the day.

It's All About Comic Book Jones

If you live in Staten Island, or near enough, then you must come visit Comic Book Jones on Forest Avenue. One step inside and you won't need any convincing to come and join the legions of comic book readers worldwide. This store is fun, friendly and comfy (I opt to sit on the couch instead of the chair shaped like a hand!).

In order to fully celebrate tomorrow's holiday, Comic Book Jones will have artists and writers on hand to sign books and do sketches. Here is their flyer listing who's going to be there:

The thing is, if you don't live anywhere near me, you probably have a Comic Book Jones-like place near you (okay, honestly, it probably won't be as cool... sorry). You can use the Free Comic Book Day's comic book shop locator to find out where it is.

What I'll Be Picking Up

Obviously, with a giveaway of any sorts it is always first come, first served, but after checking out the Free Comic Book Day website's list of Saturday's free books, here's what I have my eyes on:

Kaboom! is a publishing company devoted to kids. They publish Peanuts, Garfield, Adventure Time as well as some other familiar favorites. First of all, I am a huge fan of the Peanuts and collected Garfield as a kid, so any time I can gobble up one of those stories I'm happy. But, thanks to my good friends at Word Of The Nerd, I just found out that there is going to be a Herobear and the Kid story in there! Herobear is a comic I used to collect that I long gave up on. It was created by a former Disney animator and, as would be expected, is amazingly drawn. The story is adorable and fun for all ages. I am so excited this book is back! (I am now wondering what happened to my Herobear stuffed animal that used to live inside the back window of my car!).

TMNT New Animated Adventures Okay... full disclosure here. My husband and I love the brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. I sing along to the song, have an obsession with the Crang and how they talk and I think Michelangelo is just the funniest guy on TV. When I saw there would be a comic book based on the series, I added it to my list. I don't know if I will follow along with this book, but this is the perfect day to give it a shot!

Mouse Guard/Rust Flipbook This book is from my current favorite publisher in the comic book/graphic novel universe, ARCHAIA. Archaia's books are just plain beautiful. Last year's Free Comic Book Day book was a small hard covered book jam-packed with some of my favorite Archaia characters. This year follows suit with Mouse Guard and Rust the two Archaia books that my husband and I just happen to be following at the moment. Arachaia is a great company to check into if you want to find some rich stories with artwork and beautiful book binding to match!

There are lots more that have caught my eye - The Walking Dead, for instance (but I know my husband will pick that up!) - but these three are the ones I'm honing in on in case the crowds get restless and I need to move fast!

Go ahead and check out the Free Comic Book Day website to pick out the books you might find interesting. The site not only provides the titles and covers of what will be available this year, but there are also links to previews for some of the books!

A Final Message From Mr. Hugh Jackman

Happy reading!
What are your feelings about comic books?
Do you have a favorite comic book (either current or past)?
How do you plan on celebrating this year's Free Comic Book Day?

Free Reads from BEA

Last year was the first year I registered to attend the BookExpo America (BEA) held here in New York City at the Jacob Javits Center. It was the first time I was able to attend all of the panels and events held there and I must say that some of the most exciting information poured out of the "Book Buzz" panels.

What Is Book Buzz?

For the uninitiated, the Book Buzz events are panels where you get to hear about the most exciting books that will be making their way to bookstores this year. One of my favorite Book Buzz books from last year from the YA Book Buzz panel was Skinny by Donna Conner. There are numerous Book Buzz panels because they are separated by genres and also by those delivering their favorites (ie. Librarians' Book Buzz).  For those who can attend BEA, once you get out of a Book Buzz panel you essentially make it your life's mission to gather up as many of the Buzz-ed about books from the Exhibition floor so you can sink your teeth into them right away! But Thursday, BEA released a special surprise so we don't have to wait until the end of the month for our teasers.

Download Book Buzz 2013 for FREE!

BEA announced the digital release of Book Buzz 2013 Thursday morning on their Facebook page. What does this mean? Well, right now YOU can download a book full of exclusive excerpts from over 25 of this years biggest books to come (for readers outside of the US, it includes 11 of the titles)! The book is available for the Kindle, the Nook, Apple devices, Sony and Kobo. Here is the link to get you started: FREE Book Buzz 2013. I downloaded mine to my nook this morning and I am already excited by some of the author names I recognize (Michael Pollan, Joe Hill, Sarah Dessen) and by the debut authors I have yet to discover!

Come To BEA

After you've read the excerpts and got yourself really excited for all of the new titles heading to your bookshelves, why not come on down to the biggest book party New York has to offer? If you are going to be in the New York area on June 1st, BEA opens its doors to the public with what they call the Power Reader ticket. Here's what BEA has to say about the offer:

With a Power Reader ticket to BEA 2013, available for only $49, you will…

  • Discover new and upcoming books before they hit the stands
  • See and meet the hottest authors
  • Talk to publishers about favorite books
  • Mix and mingle with other book lovers and share your passion for reading
  • Get autographs and advanced reads of unique books (quantities limited)
  • Get tons of giveaways from exhibitors
  • Enjoy a day in New York City!
And if you can get a group of 3 or more to join you, BEA is offering a special discount for you if you register before May 17th:
Grab your book-loving friends and head over to BEA as Power Readers. The more friends you invite, the bigger the savings! Bring your book club or just make it a girls day out in New York City!
Receive the following discounts on your group of at least 3 or more: 10% OFF groups of 3 or more, 15% OFF groups of 5 or more, and 20% OFF groups of 10 or more.
Group discounts will expire on May 17. Don’t miss out on these great savings—Order your tickets today! To purchase your discounted group tickets, please contact Diana Press at
I highly recommend this event to all book lovers and, to my writer friends out there, I shouldn't have to tell you why you should be there: books are your business!

So, if you have the date available, and you can afford the admission, let me know when you'll be there. I plan to be there for the entire event providing my Rivera Runs Through It readers with all of the latest Buzz and news straight from the floor!
 Thanks for reading!
Do you have a favorite local book event you like to attend?
Do you enjoy reading the "buzzed about" books each year, or do you prefer making your own discoveries?
  For those who have been to BEA before, what tips to you having for maximizing one's enjoyment of the event?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Author Interview - Amber West

I just finished up my weekly author interview for the StoryDam writing community. If you aren't familiar with Amber West, her blogging or her writing, I highly recommend that you check her out.
Here's a link to today's interview: StoryDam Author - Amber West.

If you are a writer and you are looking for a relaxed group of online writing friends, then I highly recommend that you check us - StoryDam- out. We have a website, we have a Story Dam Facebook Group and most notedly, we have a chat every Thursday night at 8pm EST under the hashtag #StoryDam. In fact, I need to head to my chat right now!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May's Reading Challenge

It's Spring. It's time to clean and what am I buried in? Books to read! A huge portion of them are ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) that I wish to read and review. The problem is, typically, life gets in the way of me accomplishing this. Well, not this month!

Thanks to Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, there is a challenge this month that is going to light the fire under my lazy reader's butt to get me to read and review as many of the ARCs I have in one month: it's called the "Clean Sweep ARC Challenge." If you would like to join me, the linky to join will remain open until May 15th, so it is not too late!

My reading list for this challenge 
(which includes ancient ARCs from last year's BEA through digital ARCs that were approved as recently as yesterday!) 

The Last Policeman
The Curiosities
The Company of Writers
Guardians, Inc. : The Cypher (read and REVIEWED)
Eat Drink Vote
The Facebook Diet (read!)
crush.candy. corpse
The How-To Handbook
Identity Theft
Burning the Page
Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time
Being Henry David
The Revelations of Jude Connor

I still have more. Finishing this list will not be a complete sweep, but writing this list out like this is showing me exactly how many I still have to read. If I can get through this batch, I'll come back and add more.

For now, I think I better stop blogging and jump into that reading list. 

Thanks for reading!

This list includes fiction, YA, graphic novels, books on writing, nonfiction and short stories: which genre are you most interested in hearing (reading) about?

IWSG - The Fun House Mirror

How could I possibly be writing an insecure writer blog post the day after I miraculously completed my second novel? Easy. Today is the day of reflecting. The day where I look back on the last month of creating, writing and inventing and warp it. I look into my writer's reflecting glass and can help but see how terrible my novel is. Why am I doing this to myself? Because I am a writer and writers are insecure.

In the last 20 hours I have told myself
  • I should just trash the novel now that I am done with it.
  • I should give up on novel writing all together.
  • Instead of revising, I should just start over because the first draft is so worthless. goes on from there. With every insecure thought I remind myself that I somehow wrote over 15,000 words yesterday and that there are good pieces in the story. It may not live to be a full length novel, but perhaps parts will be short stories or novellas.  I keep telling myself all the things I know I should be proud of, and I am proud of, but in the quiet in-betweens my insecure voice returns. I let her talk, sometimes I listen, but I promise I won't let her rule me!

Thanks for the support!
How do you keep your insecure voice quiet?