Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ryan's Legend and The Legend Returns - Editor's Review

Welcome to Day 7 of The Legend Series Blog Tour!

It's confession time... I love, love, love books for kids. When my children were little, I was happy to read the same book over and over and over with them. As they grew older, we ventured into smaller chapter books, and finally full-length novels. Both Ryan's Legend and The Legend Returns are novellas we would have enjoyed, more than once, snuggled up on the couch reading to each other.

It's clear that L.F. Young hasn't left his childhood behind. The first time I read the books, I could clearly hear the voice of Ryan in my head. Young's humour is spot on for early middle grade readers - innocent, silly, engaging - and the childhood adventures are something both adults and children can identify with.

Most importantly, a young reader can connect with Ryan. He's honest, forthright, and respectful of both his parents and his new best friend. He's a boy who likes to get dirty, loves adventure, and has a special respect for nature. Above all, he's believable. This is a character who could step off the page, walk into your house, and be best buds with any ten-year-old. He isn't perfect, but he's a charmer. 

As I worked through these books, it was easy to tell that L.F. Young respects and understands kids, nature, and the world around him. He doesn't dummy down the important stuff, he doesn't preach, and he doesn't mess around with the rights and wrongs of the world. He simply tells the story that's in his heart, and the end result is a fantastic adventure that makes for great family reading. 

If you're an emerging reader, a teacher, a parent, or a lover of  reading, this adventure-filled, dragon-dealing, fun-loving book is for you!

Day 8 of the blog tour will by held on September 25, 2015. Priya Prithviraj has a special video interview with L.F. Young prepared that you won't want to miss!  

Here's the cryptogram clue for Day 7 - if you'd like a PDF file of the clues to use in your classroom or at home for fun, feel free to contact Morning Rain Publishing, and they'll email it to you.

Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a notebook, an MRP book bag and a surprise gift!

And last, but not least, use the coupon code below to save 20% on both Ryan's Legend and The Legend Returns when you purchase directly from Morning Rain Publishing. They'll immediately send you a PDF copy of the books, but you can send them an email to request an alternative file format for your eReader (mobi or ePub).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes - book review

As I'm maturing, so are my tastes in literature. I still love an easy read, but sometimes sinking into something different is worth the time and effort. When I first started reading "Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes", I thought I was about to be bogged down by politics and Middle Eastern history. To be honest, neither topic holds my attention for long - not because they aren't interesting, but because there are so many layers to peel back, that I know once I start, I won't be able to stop until I've reached the centre. Even then, I know there will be more to learn, and it's a complicated labyrinth I can't allow myself to get lost in.

I want to say I loved the book, but it read more like a journalism assignment than a memoir. Political and social history aside, there wasn't much emotion to hold onto.  In my opinion, the most intriguing aspect of the novel was tracking the slow decline of Kamal Al-Solaylee's sisters' freedoms. They went from being bikini-wearing, music-loving, Western-world-embracing, independent young women to being forbidden to show their faces in public. Repeatedly, Al-Solaylee talked about his escape plan, but he never shared it with those who also might have benefited. He purposefully distanced himself from the family who had protected him his entire life so he could build a life of his own.

This wasn't so much a book about coming out as a gay man in an intolerant society as it was a detailed history of his father's determination to keep his family safe while his children were sucked into religious extremists' directives - partly out of necessity, partly as a way to fashion their own psychological escapes. They were a wealthy, Yemeni family with resources that existed outside of the country - I can't imagine what it might have been like to be poor and without those resources.

Growing up gay in a society that punishes deviant sexual orientation must have been terrifying, but these emotions are buried under thousands of words detailing changing political and religious atmospheres. Al-Solaylee made it clear that his desire to escape was greater than his love for his family, but he told his story with such lackluster emotion, or personal insight, that I failed to connect with him and his plight.

After thinking about it, I wonder if there wasn't more his editor could have done to coax some emotion from the straightforward facts and events. Upon completing the book, I was left with the feeling that this was little more than a homework assignment. The writing was clean, the story-line concise, but his reason for telling it was lost in a sea of factual details. It made me feel as though his disconnect from his family made accessing his long suppressed emotions impossible. Perhaps it was easier to list the facts than to dive deep into his own psyche.

I enjoyed the book - I must have, or I wouldn't have read it to the end - however, I clearly need literature that makes me feel connected to the characters, even if they are strangers I'll never meet. Al-Solaylee tells his story with grace and dignity, and gave me plenty to think about with regards to the situation in the Middle East, immigration, and the unfortunate need to sometimes put oneself first in order to survive.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

My Secret Weapon

Intrusive self-doubt wriggles its way in long before the first draft is done, builds a little nest, and breeds both contempt and self-loathing. Most of the time, I manage to work around the annoyance by tip-toeing over the bits of work I find disturbing and by finding detours around things I don't fully understand.

But sometimes... I let it gnaw at me and discard a project entirely because I'm not ready to make it work.

And that's not cool.

For the past month, I have been revising Remember Newvember, a chick-lit novel I wrote six years ago. Not only does the cover need refreshing, the interior is in desperate need of a good spring cleaning. While working on the edits, I found something I didn't even know I was missing.

When I wrote Remember Newvember in 2009, as a NaNoWriMo project, I didn't have any expectations. It was the first manuscript I'd written in over fifteen years, and I did it for fun. The only thing I had to focus on was writing 1600 words a day until I'd reached 50 000. I didn't worry about offending anyone, copyright, character development, or grammar. I didn't care if the content was repetitious, juvenile, or inaccurate. I just wrote for the simple delight of putting words on paper.

And you know what? There's a freshness about this novel that isn't present in my more recent works. It's clunky and difficult to read at times, but the honesty in the writing shines through in every word. It's not likely I'll ever get that level of innocence back - there are no do-overs on first-time accomplishments - but I can take myself a little less seriously and leave the self-doubt and criticism for the editing process.

I might not have eradicated the beast, otherwise known as self-doubt, but I think I might have found an effective weapon against it. It's called joy, and it's the reason I write.