Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews

Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews

This week’s children’s book reviews are up over on my blog. Please drop by and see them. As ever, I hope you enjoy my choice of books and the reviews of them, and, of course, my choice for Book of the Week. Don’t forget to scroll down the page at Mungai and the Goa Constrictor where you can read the full reviews of all the books.

Children’s Book of the Week

The Issy Books by Pat “Gigi” Calfee – Illustrated by Isybilla Gee

Other books reviewed

Kiwi in Cat City by Vickie Johnstone

Switch by Karen Prince

A Tale of Four Birds by Gramps Doodlebug

Guest Post: Portraying My Characters as Real Human Beings by Dianne Lynn Gardner

Author Dianne Lynn Gardner

I am very happy to introduce my guest for the week, Dianne Gardner, who asks if teenagers can turn their awareness of their parent’s inadequacies into respect for them, as Ian, the main protagonist in her book does, and grasp what a large part the power of love plays. Welcome Dianne and thank you for being here.

As much as Ian wants him to be, Alex Wilson isn’t a perfect father.

I’ve heard a little buzz about my book Deception Peak concerning that very subject. Alex Wilson, a grown man, a father, doesn’t make excellent choices, he’s a little selfish actually and  the reader wonders if they can trust him. But really, as they say, there’s a method behind the madness! It wasn’t an accident.

I wanted to write a book that teen-age boys can relate to. I don’t come from a perfectIan Wilson from the book Deception Peak by Dianne Gardner family, and my kids certainly weren’t raised in one. I see many, many children being raised in single parent homes. Often the parents aren’t much more mature than the kids. Not their fault. Perhaps they had emotional issues that set them back. In Alex’s case, he’s still surviving the death of his spouse, and coming to grips with being a single parent.  No one taught him how and he certainly didn’t expect things to turn out like they did.

A broken family means imperfection.

How could I put a perfect dad in a book meant for teens living in an imperfect world?

They’d know I was lying to them.

Alex Wilson - A character in Deception Peak by Dianne Lynn GardnerAnd you know, there isn’t anything in the Book of Life that says just because we reach a certain age (adulthood— when’s that by the way?) we’re going to make perfect choices… like there’s some software programmed into our brains that clicks on at age such-and-such.

If I were writing that message in my stories, than woe to the kids who’d be waiting around for the reboot!

It just doesn’t happen. And it isn’t fair to kids to try and convince them otherwise.

We are in the middle of a journey. Child, young adult, adult, senior, whatever stage we’re at, we’re learning and growing. Hopefully we get some sense  as we grow older, but there are events in life that can set us back too.

What’s important, and something that I wanted to make sure the reader gets from the series, is that no matter how many faults Ian finally realizes his father has-he still loves him.

No matter how many personal problems parents have today; problems like Dad not paying child support, or not coming around to see their children enough, or Mom drinking too much, or Mom and Dad fighting, or even Mom and Dad not understanding what the kids are going through…the real issue Deception Peak addresses is, how can I love my parent despite his or her inadequacies?

For Ian, he doesn’t even see it as a choice. He loves his dad. Period. But he wrestles with passing judgment on him none the less. It isn’t until his eyes are opened to how others view the world, that he realizes his critical eye.

Indeed, the need for family becomes evident in the midst of tragedy, and Ian is exposed to tragedy.

One of the most crucial eye openers Ian gets is when he meets Vilfred for the first time. A cripple, unable to move but for his friendly smile and wise advice, Ian learns the story of Vilfred’s sacrifice to save an undeserving people from their own idol worship. It humbles Ian. Vilfred is a man who was much like his own father once. A hunter, strong, caring. With Vilfred as his mentor, Ian begins to appreciate his father, and to respect him.

As a side note, compared to some of the situations kids find themselves in these days I’d say Alex Wilson is a pretty cool dad – regardless of taking the plunge with his son into a dangerous and mysterious realm.

“Deception Peak”, published by Hydra Publications, is available from Amazon in Paperback and Kindle  formats.

Hydra Publications

Official book blog

Book video trailer

Deception Peak by Dianne Lynn Gardner- Book cover

Guest Post: Creating Happiness by Tara Fox Hall

Snake cat bed

If you would like to win this beautiful ‘snake’ cat bed, please leave a comment for Tara (US only). The winner will be chosen at random next week

A would like to extend a very warm welcome to my guest, Tara Fox Hall. Tara’s love of cats comes over very strongly here as she tells how she came to make cat beds for animal shelters. Tara has been a frequent guest on my blog over the past year, and always manages to surprise with her caring and generosity.

Tara Fox Hall at LetchworthThere are those that say that happiness can’t be bought. Godiva chocolate aside, I believe that is likely right. But it can be brought forth with the gift of creation. Some people have talents for fundraising, or for organizing people to achieve a common goal. Others are innovators and problem solvers, able to find answers to complex issues that plague our society. Still others are caregivers, donating their time and love in a physical sense. And some—like me—are crafters, using our fondness and skill for creation to bring a little more happiness into the world.

Maine Coon on a cat bed

Enjoying the moment!

It started simply: I was taking time off to help my mom—and subsequently poorer than I’d ever been since getting out of college—and it was coming up on Christmas. So I took my grandmother’s sewing machine I’d inherited and taught myself to sew, beginning with tablecloths and placemats and pillows that were easy. After the holidays, I noticed that my couch style dog beds I’d bought years ago were all close to needing replacing, but I didn’t have the money to replace them (think 75-100$ each). So instead, I decided to make new covers. With a lot of trial and error, I made new covers for a fraction of the cost. Better yet, I made a pattern so I could continually make new ones.

With my dogs taken care of, I turned my attention my cats. I’d never really had cat beds per se; the cats that called my home their home just slept wherever they chose. Intrigued, I tried a few different styles and got some real-time cat feedback, finally settling on the most popular design; an oval bed with a detachable center cushion. After seeing how much my cats liked them, I began making them for family and friends. Then it occurred to me that animal shelters might appreciate some donated beds, also.

I have been making cat and dog beds of various designs for shelters now for five years. At first, I made them for SPEAK, Inc, a local shelter that I had been doing volunteer work for since 1992. But I enjoyed making them so much that I

Cat on green floral bed

One very cosy cat on her new bed

contacted other rescues and also offered my beds to them. To date, I have made beds, cage pads and crate pads for the Binghamton Humane Society, Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary, SPEAK, Inc., Animal Care Council, Lifelong Tails, Springfarm CARES, ECMCR (East Coast Maine Coon Rescue) and now OMCR (Only Maine Coon Rescue). Total, I would guess I have made over 300 large beds and 200 cage/crate pads to date.

The beds aren’t hard to make, but they are time-consuming. I have been questioned several times as to why I don’t make them for profit, as they are so popular with cats. The reason is that the material and stuffing costs so much that I’d have to charge a high price, and even then, the margin would be a small one, considering the time they take to make. So instead, I opt to continue donating them. The shelters win, as they get high quality beds that stand

up to many washings. I win, as donating these beds instead of selling them allows me to write off the cost of the materials

while letting me enjoy my sewing hobby. And the cats win, as they have a little more joy in their worlds, especially the

December the cat

Testing for softness!

ones that are very old, or have serious health ailments that are not adoptable. It’s my small way of buying happiness and giving it to others in need.

If you have a talent for something, consider trying to use it to benefit a charity of your choosing. Everyone can always use a little more happiness in his or her world.

I am happy to donate a snake pattern cat bed in honour of Shadow Man, Book 2 of the Lash series, to one lucky commenter.

If you would rather not trust to luck, I am donating a bunch of cat beds to Only Maine Coons Rescue They will be selling them at:

The Meadowlands Expo Center
355 Plaza Drive, Secaucus, NJ 07094
Nov 16th-18th Fri. 4 pm – 8 pm Sat. 10 am – 7 pm Sun. 10 am – 5 pm.   AS well as putting a few online in their Facebook auction which opens 11-7-12

Shadow Man by Tara Fox Hall - Book coverShadow Man – The Blurb                                                                                                                                                                                                        The renegade vampire Eli begins amassing a flock of true believers, threatening America’s vampire hierarchy. Weresnake Lash partners with old enemy Danial and new allies Burl and Spiderboy to track down and annihilate them. Betrayed and left for dead, Lash re-emerges the victor, edging ever upward in the Assassin’s Ranking, and catching the eye of the sultry nightclub singer Cassandra Nile. Drawn into drugs by Cassie, Lash begins to doubt himself, yearning to leave his life of violence, even as enemies close in from every side.

Buy on Amazon Kindle                    Buy in Paperback

Read an excerpt

Weeks passed as we pursued Eli all over the Southwest. We had some close scrapes, but we managed to come out with us still alive, even as we killed more and more vampires.

Then, on May 30th, we got the break we’d been waiting for. We’d been chasing Eli through Nevada for the past two days, trimming his last batch of vampires from him, until now the force was little more than seventy. Some vampires had even broken with him, but according to Devlin’s wishes, we killed them too, even when they surrendered to us on their knees, begging for their lives.

I wish I could say I felt something for them, but I didn’t. I thought of my sister at home, her children missing their father, and I killed them with a song of vengeance in my heart. I killed some of them for Jeanna, too; she’d never wanted any of this, and not gotten even one night in warm water beneath clear sky and stars before meeting her doom.

We finally cornered Eli and his remaining forces in a small town just before daybreak. They had abandoned their trucks outside the town near a wide river. Burl burnt the one bridge leading out of town and disabled their trucks, while I went house to house using my sense of smell to find out where they’d holed up for the day. At just about six p.m., I found them.

Eli and his remaining force were holed up in a burnt-out school. The place was falling down; the bricks over one window had cracked apart to spill like toppled cards onto the weedy lawn below, all of the windows were broken, and a small section of the roof was missing. The fucking place looked condemned, like it might fall down at any moment. It was filled with shadows, and in those shadows, seventy-some vampires were waiting for us, knowing this shitpile would be their grave if they didn’t succeed in killing us. Burl and I looked at each other; neither one of us was eager to go in. We were both sure to get wounded badly, if not killed.

But daylight was waning. And so we went in.

The halls were filled with dust and the charred remains of desks. Burl went first, picking his way through the debris holding a globe that glowed. He’d used it before; it was some kind of magical object he’d picked up over in Asia. I grumbled at him, saying it ruined my night vision, but Burl countered that it ruined the vampires’ night vision too, and that was better than nothing.

We checked the basement first, and killed about ten vampires, mostly in one-on-two skirmishes. But the majority were not there. It wasn’t until we reached the second floor that we were attacked in earnest.

Burl was just rounding the corner when a vampire dropped onto his back silently. And then they were everywhere, snarling, their fangs gleaming. I felt at least three pairs of sharp fangs sink into me, and then I was shooting, blowing them away from me, and before I could breathe twice, I was out of bullets.

Visit Tara’s Website

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For info on my recently published series books, click on the titles.

Lash: Shadow Man     Broken Promise

The Fishing Pole: Musings on Amazon by Katherine Gilraine

This week I am thrilled to welcome my Guest Blogger, Katherine Gilraine, with her thoughts on the Amazon phenomenon

The saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he will eat for life.” We can all relate to that at one point or another in our lives, and in the world of publishing, we have to learn what constitutes the fish, and what constitutes the fishing gear, so to speak.

Self-publishing has turned the process of getting books released on its head. We the authors know it, the readers know it, and while it’s still new, we got used to the fact that self-publication is a very viable method of releasing written work. Not only that, but with gumption and hard work, it is profitable.Guest Blogger Katherine Gilraine on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Curzon"

However, in recent times, Amazon has been dominating the e-book and e-publication market to such a degree that there have been noises that it’s a monopoly, and how they’re taking over the e-book market.

Let’s be clear: it’s not. Why? It’s not a publisher. It’s a distributor, first and foremost, and an extremely effective one. Considering that its best-selling product has been the Kindle, of course it will do everything in its power in order to keep the Kindles well-stocked. Amazon has recognized the power that e-readers have on the world of reading, and it has been ensuring that there is no shortage of material for it. If it means opening up the doors to self-publishers, then by all means.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

So how, might you ask, does this relate to the fishing-pole saying?

Let’s see what Amazon symbolizes in respect to the saying. Amazon isn’t the teacher who teaches you to fish. By no means. No. Amazon is, more or less, the fishing pole and a bucket, next to a sign in the road that says, “This way to the river”.

The tools to success as an author are, without question, within the author. Story, writing skills, marketing, and perseverance. Those are the bare bones, and Amazon is only supplying you with the tools to utilize those bare-bone skills: distribution, marketing, and access. In exchange for getting the right to distribute your e-book – and this is only made exclusive with KDP Select – the tradeoff is a much greater exposure. But does Amazon, in and of itself, drive people to your book? No. That is where you, the author, employ your marketing mojo. The tools are there, and what you do with them is entirely up to you. No two people use the same fishing technique.

Now, to touch back on the monopoly issue.

It’s pretty clear: Amazon is the dominant market for e-books right now. B&N’s Nook is a second. Behind that is Apple iBooks. But in all actuality, Amazon is not discouraging competition. Far from it. It’s simply doing business and pushing out its next product. The reaction from the other e-readers and e-reader markets, theoretically, should be “Okay, I see X by Amazon and raise you Y by [competing product].” It’s just simply not happening. Instead, there have been a slew of bad decisions.

B&N had cut percentages to affiliates in digital sales. Big Six publishers have recently declined to renew their contracts with Amazon, and this is sure to have echoing implications for authors who have been traditionally published with the Big Six. On top of that the Dept. of Justice had come down on Apple and some Big Six companies over e-book pricing. And none of this does the authors any good.

So yes, authors will put their digital eggs in the Amazon basket, because they see Amazon rolling out one innovation after another, and they know that their faith will be rewarded. B&N and the Big Six are still holding onto the trad-pub and print-book-first model of publication, while Amazon has been thinking of what innovation to put into place in 2020, and it shows in their success.

My personal experience was with Amazon’s KDP Select program, which does appropriate exclusive rights to digital distribution – in other words, once in KDP Select, your book goes nowhere but Amazon in digital form for 90 days – but in exchange for it, you get a series of marketing options. Amazon Prime members would have free access (which doesn’t impact your royalty), and an option of free-copy marketing days. I had opted to make the first book of my series free, and when Amazon does promo, they do promo. All I did, really, was put the links on Facebook and Twitter.

In only 24 hours I had moved well over three hundred copies across three countries, and sold my other books – yes, as in royalty sales. The next couple of days after the freebie promo ran out, I started seeing paying sales of the first book. The ranking for the promo day, at the end, had listed my book as #6 in Science Fiction Adventure subcategory. In one day.

Apart from that I’m seeing the momentum carry forward past the one-day promo, which is resulting, directly, in sales. Needless to say, my two books will also get their turn with the free-copy promo.

But bear in mind this: Amazon had only appropriated rights to the digital distribution only with my KDP select membership. I am still the owner of my first publication copyright, being self-published, and I see the tradeoff of exclusive distribution for the sort of exposure boost that it provides as a good one.

Fact is, while Amazon isn’t a publisher, it is doing what most publishers aren’t: keeping the author and the customer in mind. Self-published authors have either been through the traditional publishing gamut or had opted out of it because it was not suitable to their needs. With the advent of Kindle and e-books, Amazon had also extended a hand of partnership towards the self-publishing world. This partnership is of very mutual profit: Amazon gains more material for distribution and potential profit, and the author gets an entire market for their work. And avid readers who want to discover new authors have the chance to do so.

Let’s cut to the chase: Amazon did not get to where it was by thinking of profit or by wanting to hold onto a business model that is rapidly growing antiquated. It has been doing nothing but its business, and it has encouraged the competition from other e-distributors, who had failed to rise to the challenge. Monopoly it is not, and a publisher it is not, but it is certainly one of the most effective distributors there is. It offers you an enormous potential, but it will not actually step forward and teach an author how to market a book. The author still has to do work.

If you have to take it back to the proverb, you can say that Amazon for a self-published author is a fishing pole with a baited line. You just have to figure out how to use it, and once you do, the possibilities are endless.

Kat Gilraine

For more information on the author, please visit

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Where to Find Amelia Curzon

Blog 1 – Carte Blanche
Blog 2 – Curzon
Facebook Page
Book Blogs
Amazon,com – Mungai and the Goa Constrictor – Paperback – Mungai and the Goa Constrictor – eBook – Mungai and the Goa Constrictor – eBook
Guest Blog Spot – Scarlett rains
Guest Blog Spot – Nick Wastnage