Feb 7, 2010

Solution Sunday and two reviews.

Where I tell you a little about what works me
and you tell me a lot about what works for you.

I believe as writers, we have all heard the advice read your genre.  I have heard arguments for the opposite, but I agree.  In order to have an understanding of appropriate language and pace, you need to know what works, and what doesn't.

My current WIP is a middle grade novel called The Lemonade Stand.  I have recently read two MG books and one worked for me on levels beyond what I was looking for and the other was an example of what I don't want to do.  I don't want anyone to think I am saying that I learned what not to do, just what not to do to get the results that I want.  Yeah.

First, I read The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch.  The cover is great, the author's pen name is brave, and I love the title.  
Here is the premise via Goodreads:
This is the story about a secret. but it also contains a secret story.

When adventurous detectives, Cass, an ever-vigilant survivalist, and Max-Ernest, a boy driven by logic, discover the Symphony of Smells, a box filled with smelly vials of colorful ingredients, they accidentally stumble upon a mystery surrounding a dead magician's diary and the hunt for immortality.

Filled with word games, anagrams, and featuring a mysterious narrator, this is a book that won't stay secret for long.
For me, the premise oversold the book by a long shot.  I thought I was holding a Lemony Snicket and The Mysterious Benedict Society cousin in my hands, but it ended up being a whiny, immature wannabe, kind of like a third cousin, that you hope with be thrice removed one day.

Every fifty pages the mysterious narrator would state that is is just too dangerous for her to continue and for our safety she must spare us.  Hi, even the eight year olds reading this book can tell the remaining two hundred pages have to be about something.

Okay, it wasn't all bad, and I hate that phrase, but it's true.  There was high (and low) quality wit.  There were characters that you genuinely liked, they just were not 3D enough to love.  The story fell as flat as the pages did when I finally closed the book and sighed, wishing I had picked something else to spend a week on.

Overall, I give The Name of this Book is Secret 3/5.  I am intrigued to read the second book and see if the rest of the story forces itself off the pages and into my heart.

And now for the good review:

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

In Every Soul a Star, Wendy Mass does something incredible. For the first 200 pages, you wonder several things. What's going to happen? Why am I supposed to care? What do these three characters have to do with each other?

Every Soul a Star follows three narrators as two of them congregate on a campground owned by one of the character's family.

From the front flap: 
Ally likes the simple things in life- labyrinths, stargazing, and comet hunting. Her home, the Moon Shadow campground, is a part of who she is. She refuses to imagine it any other way. 
Popular, gorgeous (everybody says so), and a future homecoming queen for sure, Bree wears her beauty like a suit of armor. but what is she trying to hide? 
Overweight and awkward, Jack is used to spending a lot of time alone. But when opportunity knocks, he finds himself in situations he would never would have imagined. 
Mass brings these three separate characters and constructs a well-thought out and brilliantly explained story of self-discovery and friendship. Mass describes everything in the right detail and allows you to not only see the Moon Shadow campground, but to breathe it, your skin will prickle. When it comes time for the eclipse, you will be emotional and eager. Just like with the eclipse, the last fifty pages flash by and last a lifetime.

When I finished Every Soul a Star, I felt convinced that I was a fourth narrator and had just made lifelong friends.  5/5

The next MG book on the docket is The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart.  I loved the first two, so I cannot wait for this one.  That'll be after I finish Fire, Going Bovine, and Hush, Hush.  Why all the YA's?  Cuz I have YA WIP's too...I'm a crazy.

I know I want The Lemonade Stand to be quirky and witty, but I also want the book to mean something to someone.  So, kind of like a cross between Wendy Mass and Trenton Lee Stewart and...yeah.

Also, I discovered something disturbing last night: Blogger only let's you follow 300 blogs!!!!  I am upset over this.  I have added many blogs that only have a few followers, but I love their writing, so I want to spread the word.  I have added sites with big followings because they are helpful with advice and networking.  I have added some non writing related blogs because I like them.  I think I have to create a new email and blogger address....Ew.  Has anyone else run into this?
Solution: Google Friend Connect.  Yay, problem solved, I'm still the next Caesar.


  1. Woo Hoo!

    I'm bummed out about The Name of this Book is Secret--the description sounded like one my son would like. I'll get it from the library anyway.

    Do you want to go find a solar eclipse? That's the way I felt after reading Every Soul a Star. Wait until you read A Mango Shaped Space. I love your last sentence in your description of Every Soul a Star.

    I had heard that about the following thing. That's a bummer. How your empire is growing.

  2. I would love to know what your son thinks. I was utterly bored, so from his perspective, maybe things will be exciting. Let me know!

    I totally want to go to an eclipse...like rreeaallyy bad. Mango and I have a date for April.

    Empire. Ha.

  3. My fifth grader has the Mysterious Benedict Society on his bookshelf and hasn't read it. He is an avid reader, but after the Harry Potter series and Percy Jackson, he can't find something he loves as thoughs and I think it disappoints him! I'm going to nudge him to start it.
    Whoa, you already follow 300 blogs?!

  4. Beautiful reviews, Jonathon. I am going to put Every Soul a Star on my list. (feeling a little panic, you should see my stack from the library. One of which is Swim The Fly).

    When my son and I read the MBS, I loved the beginning. The set up is wonderful but the plot didn't pull it off for me. But I totally agree with Lemony Snicket. If we could all write like Daniel Handler, that would be boring I suppose, but what a thing to reach for.

    I love all the banners. And your sensibility and your comment at Anita's. You're fantastic.

  5. I am not sure what it is about THE MYSTERIOUS..., but between the illustrations, the character bonds, and the narrator not making it all about him, I just love the first two. I cannot wait to read the next one, but unfortunately I got called for three holds from the library in one week, so I need to get on those first.

    HP, obviously, PJ&O surprised me at how wonderful they are! I seriously do not like the covers, but when I finished the first book, I knew I'd be done with the fifth by the end of the week. Three days later I was done.

    Has he tired the 39 CLUES series? The first is also written by Rick Riordan, but after that, each book is penned by a different MG author. Also, in March Riordan has a new series coming out.

  6. Tina - Thanks, friend. I am surprised you didn't car for MBS, but the second book is even better.

    As for Swim the Fly, truly a remarkable book, masked by slapstick boy stuff, you guys will love it!

    As for your last sentence, thanks, but really, it's a reflection of you guys.

  7. Thanks for becoming my follower Jonathon!!! I'm sending you an e-mail now :-)

  8. My daughter did like The Name of this Book is Secret alright, but I noticed she didn't beg me to get the next one like she did for The Mysterious Benedict Society. :) She's not snarky enough for Lemony Snicket. ;)

    I love the title for your MG, too!!

  9. Dena - ; )

    Robin - Thanks for the comment and compliment!

    Nat - It's not hard to follow 300 blogs...I don't read everyone of them, I add some that I know I want to refer to later.

  10. I have been wanting to read that star book. Thanks for a thoughtful review.

    And I must say, having written other things (but being stuck on my MG) that MG is terribly difficult to do right but BRILLIANT when you get it done.

    Kudos to you for really taking the time! I'm sure your MS will thank you. :-))))

  11. Thanks for coming to visit my blog. :)

    I haven't read THE NAME OF THIS BOOK IS SECRET yet, but my son did and he really enjoyed it. It's on my TBR list. I write YA, but MG is my other favorite genre.

    I wish you luck with THE LEMONADE STAND!

  12. I don't read a lot of MG, but your reviews have rekindled my interest. And, you've got me interested in Stewart's books, too. Thanks!

    I think it's important to read outiside your genre. I read a lot of nonfiction mixed in w/YA.

    Good luck with The Lemonade Stand and your other WIPs.

  13. Thanks, Jon and I'll get him to read MBS and look into 39 clues!
    And I just reread my post and I wrote as thoughs instead of as those. Those kind of mistakes are pet peeves of mine! Is it WTF Wed? :)

  14. JKB - Great thoughts, thanks!

    Dawn - I am always curious to get a child's opinion of a children's book I don't particularly care for. They are the experts after all. Please, let me know his thoughts.

    Paul - Mixing it up is good, indeed. Pick up Stewart's I am determined to get twenty people to read him this year, report back!

    Kelly - I do that crap alllllll the time! Now that you have read my writing, I don't feel like we have anything to hide from each other. Today can definitely be WTF? Wed. I am not sure if I am even posting tomorrow.

  15. I hate it when books with a great premise disappoint or fall back on current trends. But I like seeing what made them work or not work in order to apply it to my writing.

  16. Every Soul A Star is an amazing book, as are all the other Wendy Mass books I've read so far. She has a wonderful way with words and I love reading her stories. Great review! :)

    Enjoy Going Bovine and Hush Hush- both are great novels (and Patch in HH is a HOTTIE! hehe).