A Bevy of Bambino Book Reviews

Great Bambino Books

What I learned from a writer’s class is that children’s picture books are harder to write than it seems like they should be!

The Kissing Hand

bambino books
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn


The classic, A Kissing Hand, was the most touching of the books I found when I researched prize-winning picture books for a class assignment. It is a classic, published in 1993 about Chester Raccoon who did not want to start school. His mother gave him the most unusual going away memento that any loving mother could give.

Continue reading “A Bevy of Bambino Book Reviews”

Book Reviews: Good for Travel – Peter Abrahams Collection

Peter Abraham’s Collection Recommended by Stephen King

Yes, I just told you that my goals are to use Always Write for my book reviews and this blog for traveling. Because there are book reviews here already, I am going to repurpose some the posts from time to time.

Here’s my logic to how this relates to travel.

If you’re going on a trip, you need some books to read. Don’t blame me for recommending these books. Steven King included his favorite books in his book On Writing.

After I had read Steven King’s On Writing, I thumbed through his suggested reading list at the end of the book.  Granted he published his book ten years ago, so these are classics.  Probably voracious readers have already heard of Peter Abrahams, but I started at the top of the alphabetized list, so I started reading his books.  He does what I haven’t even come close to mastering.  He writes descriptions, metaphors newer and fresher than clean socks, similes as puzzling as a Sudoku, which I never work out correctly no matter how much scratching I do along the sides.

Lights Out – Peter Abrahams

In Lights Out Abrahams chose a wrongfully imprisoned, vengeful murderer as the hero.  This poor man’s mother neglected him. His older brother set him up, lied to him and abandoned him, leaving “Nails” to serve his entire sentence in prison for something he never did. Of course, he killed a few bad guys in jail that picked on him, which kept him locked up. When he eventually emerged, looking younger and more fit than his outside colleagues, he searched for his brother. Nails seemed dumb, but you had a feeling he would solve the mystery of why he went to prison, and get the sexy woman in the end. You wondered if his brother would get caught, and by whom. He did, but not in any way I would have expected or chosen to read, for that matter, but it kept me reading. No matter what he did, Nails’ brother got an appropriate comeuppance, but not one you’d wish on your worst enemy.

Revolution #9-Peter-Abrahams


Revolution #9, published in 1992, told the classic story of a smart woman marrying a man she thought she knew and finding out on her wedding night that she didn’t even know his name, nor the people who came and took him away. The government thought they could close the twenty-year-old murder case when a counterfeiter blew Charlie’s cover in return for favors he would soon need again. No one had reacted with more surprise than Charlie when the bomb he had built and set under the building exploded, killing the eleven-year-old son of a professor at his college.

Running for his life, abandoned by the real terrorists, Charlie changed his identity and took cover as a lobster fisherman. He had not been discovered. Then he accidentally fell in love. When he married, news of Charlie’s reappearance twenty years later triggered many levels of events reaching into the depths of the government before the reader discovers the true perpetrators. But did they get away with it, and let Charlie live?  Only those who read the book will know for sure.

Abrahams Collection
My old blog with a new name. Tagline: Blogging and Traveling Near and Far

I also read Oblivion.  Such a title that might have clued me into the surprise, but it didn’t.  It’s unclear by the end of the book if it actually has a resolved, happy ending.  It’s sort of happy, but because of the oblivious, I’m not sure.

Petrov is an investigator who wins court cases for his clients.  He’s dramatic and thorough, attacking each case with the tenacity of the locked door on my front loading washer. (That’s another story.)  Somehow along the way, he loses his way, and ends up in the hospital, falls in love with the nurse, and ends up head to head against his past and another love.  Abrahams packs more surprises into each chapter than I have had in my life.  If you read it long ago, you may have forgotten all the turns and twists, but I doubt it.

Abrahams Collection

If you haven’t read this trio of mysteries, treat yourself a few days of good reading this summer.  🙂  What are you reading?

Abrahams Collection
My old blog with a new name. Tagline: Blogging and Traveling Near and Far

 

Enjoy Multiple Movies While You Vacation

“You’re kidding. You’ve never seen To Kill A Mockingbird?” my friend Jean said on the second evening of our vacation in Scottsdale, AZ.  I interpreted that to mean, “On what uneducated, uncultured planet did I grow up?” So we went to Target and purchased more movies than we could see in the few vacation days we had left. When we got back to the condo, we watched the movie most important for my education first.

atticus_and_tom_robinson_in_court

It had every storytelling tip I’ve ever read for writing a breakout novel. The story, narrated by an adult viewing her childhood experiences, illustrated the historic perspective. The youngest character, Scout, through whose eyes we saw the events unfold, brought a fresh innocence to an issue that still refuses to die down. Her childhood experiences still influenced her as an adult.

Conflict makes interesting storytelling. Scout, about six, and her brother Gem, about ten, had plenty of conflicts. In fact, Scout had several scrapes in school defending her father. Although Scout had lots of spunk and was willing to try anything, if it meant she could tag along with her brother, she was also loving.

Scout in tire

In order to be a breakout novel, a book needs internal issues tied to larger issues. In this case, the trial of a black man alleged to have molested a white woman provided the requisite controversy. In 1962 when the movie came out, the lack of civil rights in the South was coming to a boil.

At least some characters in breakout novels need to change during the story to keep it from being flat and dull. I think all of the major characters made some changes. One of the characters who changed the most was a client who wouldn’t talk but brought the family gifts to pay for his attorney fees. When Scout picked him out of the lynching mob and began talking to him, he spoke up and broke up the mob. I think even the steady pillar of a father changed at the end when he realized that the law couldn’t solve all the problems that society had.

In an excellent book bad things need to happen to good characters, and the more bad things the better. This story had more than its share of obstacles. The father, Atticus, almost got lynched. The villain accosted and almost killed Gem and Scout in the forest. Atticus lost his case, in spite of his brilliant defense. The defendant didn’t wait around for a retrial. One disappointment led to another. The virgin viewer has no clue what is going to happen at every step.

Stories, at least in America, usually need a happy ending to break sales records. This tale didn’t end well for some of the characters, but the family took away some valuable life lessons. Scout made a new friend and lost her fear of the biggest monster in the neighborhood even as he was confirmed as a murderer.

Jean was right. I must have grown up on another planet. I should have seen To Kill a Mockingbird. The good news is that I’ve seen it now. If you haven’t you must have grown up on my planet, and you should upgrade your education.

We saw two Julia Roberts movies that I would characterize as mediocre. The first one, Secret in Their Eyes is showing in the theaters, so I’m not going to spoil it by telling you too much. You can watch more than enough trailers for that. I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for the man who was killed in the line of duty. He was never portrayed as a noble character. Therefore, I felt that the sympathy the characters portrayed at the end were not sincere.

good cop bad cop

I’m not sure how I felt about the love situation either. The authors built the drama well, but for me, it just hung there and didn’t move me.  Again it seemed contrived and insincere. The husband remarked that “he,” meaning the past loved one, had been in their marital relationship for twelve years. Really?  We only heard from the husband one time, so there was no build-up of jealousy. We do not have any indication that the two lovebirds were in contact during the intervening years because they didn’t seem to know what had transpired in each other’s lives. So why would the husband make such a random statement?

I think this movie needed some time to work out the bugs.

august_osage_2796696c

The second Julie Roberts movie we watched at the condo. August: Osage County seemed more sincere or believable maybe, but we left the DVD at Diamond Resorts in Scottsdale, AZ for the next guests or employees to not enjoy. I don’t think this movie had an upside. Both Jean and I were shocked that so many stars studded it. That doesn’t sound good. But then neither was the movie, in spite of the fact I like the stars in it. They were just clouded over by a lousy plot.  Don’t waste your $5 to buy the DVD. That’s my opinion anyway.

On what planet did you grow up, and what good movies have you missed?  Which ones have you seen that you would recommend for those of us just joining planet earth in 2015?

 

Books You Must Put Down and Movies That Transport You Out of This World

To be honest, if I’m reading fiction, I can’t put the good books down. If I’m reading non-fiction I have the opposite reaction. The better it is the sooner I put it down and start practicing what I just read.

Because I chose to take part in NaNoWriMo this month, I’ve read non-fiction, how to books to improve my fiction writing as I write.  Along with that I began blogging again, although not at the frantic daily pace I did three years ago when I started.

Writing the Breakout Novel

The first book I began, and hope I’ll finish is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. If you write seriously, you’ve probably read it, but I’ve done other things. His writing style is professorial with honest suggestions, examples, and a summary at the end of each chapter, so you don’t forget the main points. The problem is that I get a few pages into each chapter and I go to my new novel, and begin revising – from the beginning.  I may never finish either my novel or the book.  The good news is that this book is making a difference in how I write fiction.

Every Writer Needs a Tribe

This morning I just downloaded a free non-fiction book, Every Writer Needs a Tribe, from Jeff Goins who I know from My 500 Words. One of my favorite writing friends, Tonia Hurst, invited me to this writing group on Facebook.  This book is very short, 42 pages, and talks about building a writing platform. As a blogger, I have a platform that is pretty scattered, and Goins advises against that, but as most of what I’ve posted on this site has been about blogging, I think you all should know about this book.

The two movies I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks I recommend that you not get up in the middle and walk out. Both of them are still showing, at least in Visalia, where we get a smattering of the current movies.

The Martian, unbelievable as a science fiction should be, enables you to suspend reality and live on Mars with the astronaut that gets left for dead when the rest of the crew takes off to avoid certain annihilation by a fierce Martian storm. (Whew, try saying that sentence without taking a breath.) The photography and Photoshop tricks used to make this movie are every bit as enjoyable as the plot and the acting, both of which helped capture this movie a 93% approval rating.

The Intern entertains entirely differently. If you love Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, you will already love the film. No man is as perfect and loveable as the senior intern played by De Niro, but every romantic wants to believe in him.  I saw this chick-flick with four other retired, successful, busier than working-women friends for our birthdays.  We all loved the movie. The Rotten Tomato website rates this movie as a 60%, but if you believe chivalry didn’t die with your grandparent’s generation, this movie is for you.

Those are my recommendations for you. What do you recommend for me to make it through NaNoWriMo?

Notes on Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – funniest book ever.  I can hardly get through this.  I’m 17% done.  I have written something since I was old enough to write.  No pressure to publish, just love to write.  Can’t help myself really.  It just flows out. Anne Lamott can tell you exactly what happens.

Marsha
What should I write today? the autobiography of my childhood, or a book about the history of – oh say – women?

 

“You sit down to write… what you have in mind is…a history of-oh say- say women. …Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives.  … After a moment I may notice that I’m trying to decide whether or not I am too old for orthodontia, and whether right now would be a good time to make a few calls, and then I start to think about learning to use makeup and how maybe I could find some boyfriend who is not a total and complete fixer upper, and then my life would be totally great… Then I think about all the people I should have called back before I sat down to work and how I should probably at least check in with my agent and tell him this great idea I have and see if he thinks it’s a good idea, and see if he thinks I need orthodontia-if that is what he is actually thinking whenever we have lunch together…”

Maybe you will be better at finishing this book than I am so far.  As soon as I start reading, I have to write the same thing that happened to me only in a different way.

So I’m trying to get through at least one more chapter without stopping to write any more of her funniness.

HOWEVER, I’ve been on a writing roll since 12-27, but husband told me yesterday.  I thought he meant 12:27, but that’s another argument. (minor, minor one folks)

The other day after rewriting Girls on Fire for at least four hours, I took a break to take the dog outside.  The good news is that I had dressed.  Many days I don’t change out of pajamas until I know I have to go somewhere, and now I hate to leave the house for any reason.  But that day, I did throw on some jeans and a t-shirt I’d been wearing for a day or two.

Retirement MMP & K

My hair was still rumpled in a way only women with hot flashes understand.  The straight bangs that used to be thin and straight are now fluffy in all directions.  The back of my hair sticks out about an inch from my head then falls limply leaving a huge part the size of my  hand in the back.

bing car

So I walked out on the front porch and waited for the dog, who I’ve ignored all morning, and who drives up but the Bing car.  Maybe you’ve never seen the Bing car.  It’s white with a black sign on the side that says Bing.  On the top is a 5 or 6 foot pole, and on top of the pole is a camera(s).  The Bing car drives down your road at about 30 miles an hour shooting pictures from all angles from the camera(s) perched on top of the car.  The result will be pictures you can zoom down to see your street at any angle.  I’ve always worried that one of these cars will shoot through the fence in the backyard when I’m skinny dipping at midnight so no one will see me.  So far, until last week I’ve been safe, but last week the Bing car drove down my street.

Road Trip
Road Trip Yes, it took plenty of gas.  

I wouldn’t worry as much, but the picture that is up on Google has been there since we had our GMC motor home, which was about 6 years ago.  So I’m obsessing that this horrible series of shots of my bad hair day will be up there for everyone to see for the next 6-7 years. What if I become famous?  Will newspapers pick this up and publish it?

Now do you see why I’ve only read 17% of this wonderful book?  You’d better read it yourself instead of waiting for a book review from me.

How are you today?