Monday, February 8, 2016

YA/Middle Grade Audio Review: Chomp, by Carl Hiaasen


Title: Chomp
Author: Carl Hiaasen. Read by James Van Der Berk
Publisher: Listening Library, 2012. Originally by Knopf, 2012, 290 pages
Source: Library (on-line resources)

Publisher's Summary:
Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he's grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one.

When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called "Expedition Survival!", Wahoo figures he'll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show's boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo's acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who's sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out.

They've only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna's dad shows up with a gun . . .

It's anyone's guess who will actually survive "Expedition Survival". . . .

My Review:
I like Carl Hiassen's juvvy/YA novels. I've even gotten used to Florida, where they are all set (an alien space to this Westerner, for sure).  Each one of his books I've read has been the best, which either indicates that he keeps getting better or that I have a poor memory. In any case, this one had a number of elements that appealed. There was, of course, Hiaasen's usual dry humor and use of slightly absurd, over-the-top (I think. On the other hand, Florida may be a bit...different) situations. In this case, he also had a great time doing a marvelous send-up of a certain star of a "reality" survival show (show and star shall remain nameless), especially with the bit about having to eat something disgusting every show. Since the backpacking forum where I'm an active member periodically has fun eviscerating the alleged survivalist for stupid moves and bad advice, I had extra appreciation for what Hiaasen does to poor Derek Badger.

But even aside from snarking at reality TV, it's a great read, with a plot that keeps ramping up to a hold-your-breath finale. 

The audio was beautifully done, with characters well distinguished and fully realized.

I would put this at older middle grade to young adult level--maybe 12 and up. There's no sex, but there is some pretty serious violence, including life-threatening situations and that dad with a fist and a gun. Also perfect for any adult who has ever thought That Show was stupid. Mr. Hiaasen is a powerful advocate for preservation, and his dedication to protecting the Everglades is clear.

Full Disclosure: I checked Chomp out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Flash? Friday photos!

This week's assignment from Chuck Wendig was to write a story in the form of social media.  I had a lot of trouble getting my mind around this, maybe because I don't do enough with social media to have the feel? Or maybe because it's hard. Anyway, for that part of it, I'll direct you to my story Blackberries, written before social media, but in something of the spirit, being told entirely in "honey-do" notes. Then I'll go on and do a photo piece, because I'm really rather caught up right now in my current novel.

 McGee Lakes, King's Canyon NP

I've posted before on the trip over Lamarck Col and into the Evolution Valley, so I'm going to just focus on the off-trail part of last summer's 7-day Sierra trip. Our 3rd day we dropped from the Darwin Bench to the John Muir Trail, followed it a mile, and headed cross-country up to the McGee Lakes.

Full packs and ready to start.
 Departing camp in the morning, and looking across to where we are headed (behind that peak). There is, alas, a very deep valley between, as there so often is.

 Crossing Evolution Creek. Refreshingly cool water.
That's me. My spouse took this photo.
 Climbing up toward the next level.

The stream coming down through this meadow provided a perfect lunch stop. Eldest Son lost no time getting his feet wet.
If my memory serves, this would be McGee Creek, though it wanders a bit from the lakes to the valley floor.
 Finally reached the lakes, which were well worth the climb!
The spouse, either surveying the landscape or waiting with some impatience for his wife.
We spent two nights at the lakes, giving us a day to explore. The spouse climbed the round peak shown here across the lakes. I climbed farther than I intended up the west side and had a great view back down to the lakes. Our camp was on the peninsula you can see in the photo. By this time, there were no other hikers in the basin.
McGee Lakes

 Our second night we got the first and most mind-blowing of three great sunsets in a row. It doesn't get much better than that: kicked back in a camp chair, watching the light show.
Is it still a selfie if it's a photo of your feet?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Book Launch Jitters

The purpose of the IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Publication Jitters

I brought out another book last month. That's always a perfect time to be insecure, since it then starts accumulating reviews and sales and...wait, that's not very many sales. And really, no one has reviewed it yet. Oh, no! What's wrong??!

See where I'm going here? Whatever happens after launch day, an author has the option of freaking out. A note from someone who found a typo or a bout of second-guessing your ending as you start on the next book can cause you (by which I mean "me") to assume that your career is over. What's more, everyone's going to know you're a fraud, and your big brother will laugh at you.

Wait. I think my author nerves have merged with the ones I developed to a fine pitch back in graduate school. Or is it just that whatever we do, and however well we do it, some part of our brains insists on freaking out?

Well, let it. I'm going to keep working on the next book and let this one go. That doesn't mean I'm not going to worry, mostly about my failure to leverage the launch in the most effective way possible. But I'm going to do that worrying while eating chocolate and writing another book.


Congratulations to Helen H. and LL M., winners of the Goodreads Giveaway for Death By Trombone.

Watch for the blog tour in April, with Death By Ice Cream on sale for 99 cents for the ebook--and another giveaway!