Friday, July 13, 2018

Gone Hiking

The Ninja Librarian is taking a couple of weeks off to go hiking.

To entertain you while I'm gone, I'll share a few photos on random days :)

Spider Meadow
Glacier Peak Wilderness
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Middle Grade Review: Quicksand Pond


Title: Quicksand Pond
Author: Janet Taylor Lisle
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. 240 pages (Hardback)
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Newbery Honor winner Janet Taylor Lisle’s gorgeous and profound new novel about a pivotal summer in two girls’ lives explores the convictions we form, the judgments we make, and the values we hold.

The pond is called Quicksand Pond.

It’s a shadowy, hidden place, full of chirping, shrieking, croaking life. It’s where, legend has it, people disappear. It’s where scrappy Terri Carr lives with her no-good family. And it’s where twelve-year-old Jessie Kettel is reluctantly spending her summer vacation.

Jessie meets Terri right away, on a raft out in the water, and the two become fast friends. On Quicksand Pond, Jessie and Terri can be lost to the outside world—lost until they want to be found. But a tragedy that occurred many decades ago has had lingering effects on this sleepy, small-minded town, and especially on Terri Carr. And the more Jessie learns, the more she begins to question her new friendship—and herself.

My Review: 
I picked this one up to fill the "Q" slot in my middle-grade alphabet reading challenge. I didn't realize until now that it won a Newbery Honor, though I'm not totally surprised. Or maybe I am, because I ended up with mixed feelings about the book. On reflection, those mixed feelings may be in large part why it's a prize winner.

The story is strong, and at the start it feels like it's going to be kind of a sweet story about a growing-up summer. You know the sort. Peaceful, with everything sorted out in the end. But things get more and more unsettling, and disturbing, and Jessie doesn't always know what is the right thing to do (nor does she always do what I would wish she would). Because of that, I was in some ways unsatisfied, and definitely not at peace. The ending leaves some things unresolved or not made clear, which always bugs me a little (I must have an awfully conventional streak in me, because I want to know just how it all works out, and not be left trying to interpret clues).

In the end, the importance of the book doesn't lie so much with how satisfying the story feels, but with the insights it shares about judgement and the assumptions we all make about others. As with a number of new books I've read recently, it's clear that Jessie's parents don't always act in the best ways, though they are clearly loving parents who want to take care of their children. But are they always good people? Jessie is clearly reaching an age where she'll have to ask that question more and more.

My Recommendation:
This is worth a read. It certainly brings up the question of gossip and how what we all think we know may be wrong. It's a little disturbing, and not the peaceful read I was expecting, but the author is addressing some important issues about rushing to judgement. We can all use a reminded of the dangers of that.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Quicksand Pond out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher 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."  

Monday, July 9, 2018

Cozy Review: Shelved Under Murder


Shelved Under Murder: A Blue Ridge Library Mystery
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Crooked Lane Books (July 10, 2018)
Hardcover: 300 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1683315957
Digital: ASIN: B075QJHPR9

Autumn leaves aren’t the only things falling in the historic Virginia village of Taylorsford—so are some cherished memories, and a few bodies.

October in Taylorsford, Virginia means it’s leaf peeping season, with bright colorful foliage and a delightful fresh crew of tourists attending the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates local history and arts and crafts. Library director Amy Webber, though, is slightly dreading having to spend two days running a yard sale fundraiser for her library. But during these preparations, when she and her assistant Sunny stumble across a dead body, Amy finds a real reason to be worried.

The body belonged to a renowned artist who was murdered with her own pallet knife. A search of the artist’s studio uncovers a cache of forged paintings, and when the sheriff’s chief deputy Brad Tucker realizes Amy is skilled in art history research, she’s recruited to aid the investigation. It doesn’t seem to be an easy task, but when the state’s art expert uncovers a possible connection between Amy’s deceased uncle and the murder case, Amy must champion her Aunt Lydia to clear her late husband’s name.

That’s when another killing shakes the quiet town, and danger sweeps in like an autumn wind. Now, with her swoon-inducing neighbor Richard Muir, Amy must scour their resources to once again close the books on murder.

Although I received a review copy in a timely fashion from the publisher via NetGalley, I am unable to post a review, as I got busy (moving and all that), and didn't finish the book before it expired. Since I was more than 1/3 of the way in and enjoying the story, I will probably pick up a copy and finish once it is available. My rating will hinge in part on whether my very early conviction about who dunnit is correct, but I can vouch that the writing is strong, the characters interesting and reasonably well-developed, and the setting interesting (okay, maybe I'm a little biased to libraries).

The Ninja Librarian missed the boat this week, but author Victoria Gilbert didn't, and has stopped by with a great guest post--thank you so much!

Dream Casting – Why I Don’t

There’s a very popular activity in booklandia where authors “dream cast” their books. This means they find actors—I use “actor” to refer to both male and female performers, by the way—that they feel would be the perfect person to portray their characters on screen.  This information is often posted on their blog, or in a guest blog post, or on Twitter and other social media sites.

I’ve done this in the past, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone from having fun with this activity. But I no longer participate, and I’ll tell you why.

I have two reasons. One: the best person for a role may not be the actor you assume, based mainly upon appearance, to be the perfect fit. Two: if your book does get turned into a movie or TV property, your comments about the actors you particularly “want” in the role might come back to bite you.

Expanding upon reason one—I’m a former theatre major who did some work in costume design and technology after college. When I was involved in this career I sometimes sat in on casting calls for plays. It was an enlightening experience to be on the other side of the table during auditions. One thing I learned was that often my preconceived “image” of a character would be blown away by a particular actor.

Based on the text or the director’s expectations or other factors, I’d often form a strong idea about how a particular character in the play should look. But then an actor who didn’t resemble that preconceived vision would audition—and totally change my mind. Sure, the text said something about red hair or light eyes, and this actor had dark hair and eyes. But that didn’t matter when they could bring the character to life in a way that no one else could.

So I know that simply adhering to textual descriptions of characters isn’t always the best way to “create” a character for the screen. Which is reason one why I don’t “dream cast.” (I do use actor photos to portray my characters on Pinterest, etc., but that is just for a visual representation of how I have described the characters in my books. I’m not saying that those actors would be the best people to actually portray the characters on screen).

Which bring me to reason number two—not making a big fuss over certain actors being “perfect” for a role because…someone else might end up with that role. If your book is adapted for the big or small screen, directors, producers, and casting directors will be in charge of who gets the parts, not you. (Unless you are mega-famous, and even then the author doesn’t always get the final say).

So, let’s say you’ve been very vocal about wanting Actor A to play your protagonist. You’ve posted about this a lot, so everyone knows—or can go back to your posts and tweets and so on—to view your strong opinions. Then your book gets picked up by a film or television studio. Only, they decide to cast Actor B. Maybe your book fans get upset over this casting and there’s a lot of social media fuss that casts a shadow over the production. Do you really want this? I don’t, which is why I don’t “dream cast” anymore. I want to allow the film or television experts to do their jobs, as well as the actors, without a lot of negativity concerning casting decisions.

Which brings me to the news that A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS and SHELVED UNDER MURDER have been optioned by Sony Pictures Television! Of course, I don’t yet know what will be developed, if anything, from this option deal, but I am very excited to see how my characters and settings may be brought to life.

And I promise to keep an open mind about the casting, whatever happens. I won’t be upset if the actors don’t exactly resemble the descriptions in my books. As long as they portray the heart and soul of the characters, it’s all good!

That's fantastic news about the options, Victoria! Best of luck to you with that, and thanks again for stopping by and helping me out  :o

About the Author:
Victoria Gilbert, raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned her early obsession with reading into a dual career as an author and librarian. She has worked as a reference librarian, research librarian, and library director.

When not writing or reading, Victoria likes to spend her time watching films, gardening, or traveling. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers, and is represented by Frances Black at Literary Council, NY, NY. Victoria lives in North Carolina with her husband and some very spoiled cats. This is her first Blue Ridge Library mystery.
Author Links:
Facebook author page:

Purchase Links:
Amazon     B&N         Books-A-Million      Indie Bound 

And... with all that, we also have a giveaway! Enter to win a signed hardback and some swag!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Friday Flash/photo story

Okay, first off, I know it's not Friday anymore. The Ninja Librarian is leading a rather chaotic life just now, and that's just the way it is.

So, sort of a story, sort of a photo thing, mostly just me rambling about what we did for the 4th of July.

We'd been working on the house like crazy all day because we had the cleaners coming Friday and needed to clear the way for them to clean. At dinner time I realized we didn't really have anything for dinner, so I ran down to the store on my bike (as usual). I was starting up the hill toward home when I overtook a couple of heavily loaded bike tourists. It was pretty late and a long way to camping, so I asked where they were heading. The answer: "I'm not sure. I guess Half Moon Bay."

Quick calculation on my part, and I pointed out it was 30 miles (and now about 6:45 p.m.). So I did what I've long said I'd do someday: I invited the cyclists home. They turned out to be a couple of young Germans doing the coast plus. They'd just finished criss-crossing the Sierra several times and taken the train from Bakersfield, then transit to the station in our town. (Note: we had recently learned about, but hadn't signed up because we are moving. If you are interested in meeting interesting travelers, check it out).

After we ate our burgers, corn on the cob, and ice cream (4th of July, remember?) we all 6 rode our bikes up nearby Mt. San Bruno to watch the fireworks.

The summit was totally fogged in, and the wind blowing about 25 MPH. We told Julia and Christoph they were getting a true experience of Daly City.
Julia and my sons.
After that we descended to where we could actually see the fireworks on the SF waterfront, and hear those from all over the Bay.

Back at the house and thawed out, we gave Julia and Christoph a place to sleep (not *quite* on the floor, but close, things at our house being as they are just now), and saw them off the next morning.
Ready to ride!
We will definitely be participating in Warm Showers in the future, when we have a home again!


Now, in further news, just because: after 40+ years, I cut my hair. All the way.
First, I had my husband hack off the braid for donation.
Not so sure that was smart!
Hope that makes someone happy. What's left isn't nearly so red.
Okay, I think I can live with this!

And that's all the news from the Ninja Librarian!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

IWSG: Long-term Goals

It's a 4th of July IWSG! Posting a day early so we can all enjoy the holiday. If you don't live in the US, you can enjoy it anyway--just eat some hot dogs or burgers, and make a bunch of noise.

Purpose: 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! Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to the IWSG page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
 The awesome co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!

July 3 question - What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

I like this month's question, because it reminds me to look beyond the disaster my writing life is right now, while we pack and fix up and clean and plan and have zero time for writing or even thinking about writing, and think about the bigger picture. I am almost able to imagine that I will be writing again soon.

My writing goals have remained pretty simple: I want to keep writing, and publishing, roughly one book a year (seems to be about what I can handle). That's been true since the start, though it took a few tries to figure out how to do the annual book. What has changed is that I want to add more short stories into the mix, and start getting those stories published rather than merely sharing them on this blog. To my surprise, I haven't changed from being pretty happy with being an author-publisher rather than being conventionally published (for my novels). I still toy with the idea of finding the right book to plug to the agents, but I find I'm also pretty committed to continuing the mystery series as is, and I recognize that my ventures into fantasy (see: Gorg the Troll, whose book is still in rough rough rough draft form) are probably not commercial. I *like* making money at the books, but it's not essential. Writing the stories and finding readers is the important thing for me at this stage of my life.

I do toy with moving a bit into non-fiction: some of our adventures in the next few years may be worthy of publication, even if we aren't young people doing over-the-top things. Maybe the AARP magazine would like to share how retirees can get out and explore the world, even afoot!

Your turn--how are your goals doing? Do you set them deliberately, or do you only know what they were in retrospect?


P.S. Since sales of poor Halitor the Hero remained lack-luster during the month of special pricing, I think I'll leave those sale prices in effect--just 99 cents for the ebook, and $7.99 for the paperback. 
Note: My ability to fill orders for signed copies will be extremely limited for the next year. If you want books direct from me, now's the time to order!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Non-fiction Audio: East to the Dawn


Title: East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart
Author: Susan Butler; read by Anna Fields
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2009. Originally 1997 by Da Capo Press, 512 pages.
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Blurb:

Amelia Earhart captured the hearts of the nation after becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1928--and her disappearance on an around-the-world flight in 1937 is an enduring mystery. The image we have of Amelia Earhart today--a tousle-haired, androgynous flier clad in shirt, silk scarf, leather jacket, and goggles--is only one of her many personas, most of which have been lost to us over time. Through years of research and interviews with many of the surviving people who knew Amelia, Susan Butler has recreated a remarkably vivid and multifaceted portrait of this enigmatic figure. Listeners will experience Amelia in all her permutations: not just as a pilot but also as an educator, a social worker, a lecturer, a businesswoman, and a tireless promoter of women's rights. We experience a remarkably energetic and enterprising woman who battled incredible odds to achieve her fame, succeeded beyond her wildest dreams, and yet never lost sight of her beginnings, ensuring that her success would secure a path for women after her. This richly textured biography is the perfect complement to the 2009 film Amelia, starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, and Ewan McGregor. 

My Review:  

This was a fascinating story, once we got past the requisite exposition of Amelia's family antecedents. I in fact had no idea of much of anything about this remarkable woman aside from her role as a pioneering female pilot, and her eventual loss at sea while flying around the world (and even for that, my mental image had her lost in the wrong ocean).

In many ways, Amelia seems a bit unfocused. As she enters adulthood, she can't quite grasp what she wants to do--though much of her seeming instability of purpose is a combination of shortage of funds and a tendency to run up against the obstacles placed in the paths of ambitious women in the early 20th Century. In fact, I gather from the book that she herself was pulled two ways by her need for a serious and useful career--and her love of fast cars and fast airplanes. So maybe she was an adrenaline junkie, not ADHD.

What was cool to figure out was that in spite of flying being where her fame was located, Amelia's real importance is as a social worker and above all as an advocate for women's rights. She spent much of her life fighting against the injustices of "women can't do that," and even her flying was as often as not in the service of proving the nay-sayers wrong.

The book is well-written, though I would have spent less time on the generation before Amelia and maybe moved faster through her early childhood as well. But it is clear, and aside from some issues with keeping a lot of characters straight (always a problem with audio books, especially non-fiction), was easy to follow. The narrator was excellent, which is to say, I hardly noticed it (except, I think, for one Seattle-area mispronunciation, which I can no longer recall).

My Recommendation:
Well worth reading/listening to. I'll bet the printed book has lots of photos that I didn't get to see, so it might be worth getting and reading that.

FTC Disclosure: I checked East to the Dawn out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher 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."