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Friday, April 28, 2006

And the winners are...

The Edgar winners are:

Best Novel: Citizen Vince by Jess Walter
Best First Novel by an American Author: Officer Down by Theresa Schwegel
Best Paperback Original: Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford
Best Critical/Biography: Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
Best Fact Crime: Rescue Artist: A True Story of Thieves and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick
Best Short Story: "The Catch" by James Hall
Best Young Adult: Last Shot by John Feinstein
Best Juvenile: The Boys of San Joaquin by D. James Smith
Best Play: Matter of Intent by Gary Earl Ross
Best Television Episode: Sea of Souls, Amulet, Teleplay by Ed Whitmore
Best Motion Picture Screen Play: Syriana, screenplay by Stephan Gaghan based on the book by Robert Baer.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Edgar Awards

Today, April 27, the Mystery Writers of America will be announcing the winners of the prestigious Edgar awards--given to the best mystery books of the year in several categories.

This year's nominees are:

Best Novel
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Red Leaves by Thomas H. Cook
Vanish by Tess Gerritsen
Drama City by George Pelecanos
Citizen Vince by Jess Walter

Best First Novel by an American Author
Die a Little by Megan Abbott
Immoral by Brian Freeman
Run the Risk by Scott Frost
Hide Your Eyes by Alison Gaylin
Officer Down by Theresa Schwegel

Best Paperback Original
Homicide My Own by Anne Argula
The James Deans by Reed Farrel
Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford
Kiss Her Goodbye by Alan Guthrie
Six Bad Things by Charlie Huston

Best Critical/Biography
Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron
Behind the Mystery by Stuart Kaminsky
The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes edited by Leslie S. Klinger
Discovering the Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade by Richard Layman
Girl Sleuth by Melanie Rehak

Best Fact Crime
Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick
The Elements of Murder by John Emsley
Written in Blood by Diane Fanning
True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel
Desire Street by Jed Horne

Best Short Story
"Born Bad" in Dangerous Women by Jeffrey Deaver
"The Catch" in Greatest Hits by James Hall
"Her Lord and Master" in Dangerous Women by Andrew Klavan
"Misdirection" in Greatest Hits by Barbara Seranella
"Welcome to Monroe" in A Kudzu Christmas by Daniel Wallace

Best Young Adult
Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams
Last Shot by John Feinstein
Quid Pro Quo by Vicki Grant
Young Bond, Book One by Charlie Higson
Spy Goddess, Book One by Michael Spradlin

Best Juvenile
Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach
Wright & Wrong by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz
The Missing Manatee by Cynthia DeFelice
Flush by Carl Hiaasen
The Boys of San Joaquin by D. James Smith

Best Play
River's End by Cheryl Coons
Safe House by Paul Leeper
Matter of Intent by Gary Earl Ross
Mating Dance of the Werewolf by Mark Stein

Best Television Episode Teleplay
CSI: "A Bullet Runs Through It" by Richard Catalani and Carol Mendelsohn
CSI: "Grave Danger" by Anthony Zuicker, Carol Mendelsohn, and Naren Shanker. Story by Quentin Tarantino.
Law and Order: "Special Victims Unit-911" by Patrick Harbinson
Sea of Souls: "Amulet" by Ed Whitmore
Wire in the Blood: "Redemption" by Guy Burt

Best Motion Picture Screenplay
A History of Violence
The Ice Harvest
Match Point

Edward L. Fish Memorial Award
Eddie Newton "Home"

Grand Master
Stuart Kaminsky

Mary Higgins Clark Award
Breaking Faith by Jo Bannister
Dark Angel by Karen Harper
Shadow Valley by Gwen Hunter

At the Mystery Writers convention, author Janet Evanovich was elected president.

We'll be back with the winners tomorrow or Saturday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Octavia Butler

A century from now when scholars look back at today's literary scene and identify who the "giants" are, Octavia Butler (1947-2006) will be one of the names that are elevated.

She is one of those writers who helped to prove that science fiction can be serious literature. She used the genre to explore such things as race, gender, politics, science, and poverty. Her work was recognized by such awards as a MacArthur genius grant, Hugo Awards, Nebula Awards, the Langston Hughes Medal, and a PEN Lifetime Achievement Award.

She died in February of this year. Within a month, several publishers and organizations banded together to create the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund. This scholarship will pay the way for writers of color to attend either Clarion Writers Workshop or Clarion West. These are workshops in which Butler herself got her start in 1970. She also taught Clarion workshops in both Seattle and East Lansing, Michigan.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

2006 Caldecott Award Winners

I am a huge fan of children's and young adult literature. Very easily my favorite novel of the entire genre is Phantom Tollbooth, a delightful romp that captured my imagination as a child and continues to delight me as an adult. I was always a little disappointed that the author Norman Juster never had more books for us. Or rather, that he did only book that I was never able to find.

So I was thrilled recently when I opened up the winners of the 2006 Caldecott awards announcement and learned that the author of the medal-winning book was none other than Juster. I know what book I will be picking up on my next trip to the bookstore or library.

Mind, he wasn't the winner. Caldecott Awards are given to the illustrator of children's books, so the medal went to Chris Raschka for his work bringing to life Juster's The Hello, Goodbye Window.

This year's Honor Books are:

Rosa illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Nikki Giovanni
Zen Shorts illustrated and written by Jon J. Muth
Hot Air illustrated and written by Marjorie Priceman
Song of the Water Boatman illustrated by Beckie Prange, written by Joyce Sidman

Monday, April 24, 2006

Autism Awareness Month

In an earlier post, I mentioned Autism Awareness Month as one of several events taking place in April.

What I forgot to do was to mention that Lynn Kvigne at BookHelpWeb's sister site, BeadingHelpWeb, posted a beautiful autism charm necklace picture in her April news while talking about autism awareness.

It's worth checking out.

Turn off your TV week

"Do you know we are ruled by TV?"-- from the poem An American Prayer by Jim Morrison

Now I'll confess, despite not owning a set, I have nothing against television. I think there are some wonderful stories being told on television. It's a wonderful media in that you can extend a story over a period of years. Granted, there are some artificial impositions on the story given the contracts of actors and the whims of ratings. Still, there is good storytelling going on.

However, I also appreciate the turn off your television movement.

This week launches the National Turn Off Your TV Week. Its organizers suggest spending a week doing something other than watching television: getting outside, playing games with your family, making things, or my personal favorite: reading.

My week isn't likely to be very different. Since I don't have a television to turn on, turning it off isn't going to make much difference. So I'll spend this week catching up on things that slid behind while I was sick last week: working on a freelance book, finishing up chapters for work, and crocheting ponchos and purses for an upcoming show.

However, I also have a few books at bedside that I'm working my way through: two books on attention deficit disorder and a book of drama lessons for 5- to 11-year-olds. I'm also expecting the arrival of a biography of an Olympic swimmer and Elizabeth Peters' latest novel.

If you find yourself unprepared with books for a week of a silenced screen, perhaps you might be interested in one of April's new releases:

  • Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger
  • Dead Days of Summer by Carolyn Hart
  • Hitched: A Regan Reilly Mystery by Carol Higgins Clark
  • Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark
  • Dark Tort by Diana Mott Davidson
  • Elements of Style by Wendy Wasserstein
  • Dark Harbor by Stuart Woods

Saturday, April 22, 2006

April 22 is Earth Day

Sen. Gaylord Nelson gets the credit for founding Earth Day--a Day in which we take time out to appreciate the world around us and commit to what we can do to making it a better place.

In 1963, President Kennedy went on a 5-day conservation tour, a tour which planted the initial seeds for Earth Day. However, it wasn't until 1969 that it was announced that the next year would be the first Earth Day--a day which would be a nationwide demonstration on environmental issues. This time, the idea grew. The first Earth Day turned out 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated.

American Heritage Magazine said that the 1970 Earth Day was "one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy."

In July of last year, the founder died, but his idea blazes on ahead. In 2006, the Earth Day network launched a three-year campaign to educate the populace on climate change. Want to dig your teeth into some serious reading on climate change?

These books might be a good place to start:

  • Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment by Yale dean James Gustave Speth
  • High Tide: The Truth About Our Climate Crisis by British journalist Mark Lynas
  • Climate Change: A Multidisciplinary Approach by William James Burroughs

For more information about Earth Day, check out either ConsumerHelpWeb's blog entry or that of BeadingHelpWeb.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Having too much sympathy

It is not uncommon for an extended series to slowly wane in power and interest. An author who writes outstanding books at first can go to the well too many times.

After putting down a somewhat disappointing read by one of my favorite authors last week, I started thinking about why this occurs. Shouldn't a series get better as the author becomes more familiar with the characters and more comfortable with the setting? Shouldn't dialogue flow easier as the authors become more intimate with their creations?

Yet, I think one of the problems is inherent in the intimacy that authors develop with their characters. First, it becomes essential that the main protagonists survive so that the next book can be written about them. If you're on book 12 in a series, even the most gullible of readers isn't going to believe that the main characters are ever in any mortal danger.

What becomes even more threatening, though, is that the characters are often shielded from emotional and psychological danger. Perhaps it is because the fans of the series would become too outraged or perhaps it is because the author herself/himself has become too fond of the characters, but rarely can any real harm come to the characters.

This lack of risk, lack of conflict, lack of suspense, can hurt a story. As fans, we've come to really like characters and we don't want anything bad to happen to them. However, as readers, we want a story that is compelling and interesting. These two desires clash with each other and I'm not sure what a good solution is.

Certainly, there have been some series in which this rule is ignored. George R.R. Martin is considered a breakthrough fantasy writer because of his willingness to kill off main characters, in particular sympathetic ones. However, his Song of Ice and Fire is less of a series and more of one long story broken up into several lengthy books.

How does the author of as series overcome this challenge? Especially a writer of thrillers or mystery novels?

That's an answer I haven't found yet.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Children's Poetry Week

We're coming to the end of Children's Poetry Week.

The Children's Book Council designated April 10 through 16 as National Young People's Poetry Week. They have a list of suggested activities that range from reading poetry, writing poetry, to creating displays. They even suggest hosting a bad poetry reading.

While the banal modern poetry that I've been exposed to since leaving school squeezed out most of my joy for the genre, I do remember the enthusiasm with which I embraced the poetry of my youth. Granted, Shel Silverstein made poetry more appealing than any joke or comic book. There was a time when I read Where the Sidewalk Ends so many times that I had it all but memorized.

Now as an adult, I'm finding that there are other poets who have stepped up to fill in the gap left when Silverstein died in 1999. Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith have produced the delightful Math Curse and Science Verse books. They're filled with poems that delight not just the children, but the adults who "get" the literary references that they are making and the poems from which they're borrowing.

Another of my favorites come from Patricia Polacco. She's adapted Mother Goose nursery rhymes to have a very Russian feel to them in her Babushka's Mother Goose. This is a book that my husband and I have used for drama games with kindergarten students and they relish each and every one.

Of course, while there are many wonderful children's poetry books, many children will also take delight in poetry that is not specifically written for them. Certainly the great classic poetry is great in part because of its ability to reach across generations and ages and speak directly to our hearts. When read aloud, children will delight in the sounds of our language. Even if they don't understand every word, they'll respond to the resonance and mood of a poem.

Our household has a particular bent toward Shakespeare and the bard's work is filled with wonderful poetry for all ages. My 8-year-old has taken delight in the songs from Twelfth Night and Puck's speeches in Midsummer Night's Dream which he recites with exaggerated glee. What kid wouldn't like to make the noise of a hungry lion roaring or a wolf behowling the moon?

So while the week is drawing to a close, there's still time to find a favorite poem and read it to a child.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Drop Everything and Read

Well, sure, if you're reading here, you probably don't need much of an incentive to drop everything and read, right?

Here's one for you anyway:

In honor of Beverly Cleary's 90th birthday today, there is a national promotion to drop everything and read.

The DEAR program (Drop Everything and Read) is already popular in many schools. Whenever a teacher calls it out, the students do just that--they drop everything and settle in to read the book of their choice.

But for today, it's getting expanded as a tribute to Beverly Cleary. The beloved children's author has written 39 books--all of which are still in print. Her sales numbers come close to that other juvenile fiction powerhouse: J.K. Rowling. According to a Newsweek article, her Ramona books are about to be made into a movie.

In fact, it is Ramona herself who is the national spokesperson for National D.E.A.R. Day.

How can you participate? Your local libraries, bookstores, or other organizations may be holding special events. If they're not, you can still participate on your own. Drop everything and read for 30 minutes.

Better yet, you can help others read. Public school libraries in the Gulf Coast are in desperate need of money to fix books and replenish collections lost to last year's hurricane. The National Education Association is trying to help out by launching Books Across America. They're looking for people to make a cash donation, buy books for school libraries, buy books for a child, organize a book drive, or volunteer.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Zilpha Keatley Snyder is one of those writers who had a constant, though unobtrusive, presence in my childhood.

Five years ago, if you'd asked me her name, I'd have struggled to tell you who she was or what she wrote. Yet, when I was on my quest to find rich literature for my young neice to read, her name kept coming up again and again. I'd pull books from the used shelves at the library bookstore. They'd immediately strike chords of recognition--these were books I'd read and savored as a child. They were books that made my heart beat faster when I picked them up, so keen was the memory of the enjoyment I got from their pages.

But with the callousness of youth, I'd been so enamoured of the characters and the stories that I'd paid scant attention to the name of the author.

The first book of hers I read came from my older cousin. She loaned it to me because the two main characters shared our names: Bridgette and Robin. My cousin especially liked that her name belonged to the young, intelligent, beautiful protagonist while mine was the old, eccentric woman. Not that I cared--for both characters and the entire story of The Velvet Room fascinated me. It instilled in me a dream of a secret place that would be my own retreat, a place where there were books and comfortable chairs and a peaceful silence. It's a retreat I still carry with me in my dreams and it often has the look of Snyder's Velvet Room.

She's perhaps best-known for her book The Egypt Game, a book that takes us into the game of several children. In a letter to my neice, I told her, "It takes awhile to realize the world is different from ours. It’s the world that ours could be. It’s the world that is created through tolerance, imagination, and friendship.

Their story continues with The Gypsy Game, a story that ends up being somewhat darker, but still just as touching and compelling.

The Witches of Worm helps us to understand the pangs of loneliness. Snyder takes us into the mind of a child who does things most of us find rephrehensible. She pushes the blame upon a newborn kitten, a kitten she is convinced is an evil witch who is attempting to control her. Along the way, we learn more about the heart of a child.

She's also written three series: the Castle Court Series, Stanley Family Series, and the Green Sky Series.

Her books are always fascinating and she has an amazing ability to create characters that are real and meaningful to teenagers. Her books resonate with her respect for them and teem with imagination.

She is herself a gracious woman who has been writing stories since she was 12 years old. In the interview on BookHelpWeb's home page for the next two weeks, she shares with us a little about her books, how she writes, and why her books are so popular.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Interviews coming soon

Just a quick little preview about the interviews coming to the BookHelpWeb home page in this next month.

Our next interview will be Zilpha Keatley Snyder, a three-time Newbery Honoree. She's written a whole bookcase-full of young adult novels over the past several decades. She's perhaps best-known for The Egypt Game. I'll talk more about her in the next couple days.

Then in two more weeks, we'll be posting our exclusive interview with George R.R. Martin, the author of the New York Times bestselling Song of Ice and Fire fantasy saga. His much-anticipated Feast for Crows novel came out this past fall and his fans are already waiting book five with an eagerness that is akin to Harry Potter fans.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Thunderbird Falls

One of the blessings of being a reviewer is that sometimes there are authors and books thrust upon you that would never otherwise capture your eye. For me, one of these has been C.E. Murphy.

Granted, the covers of her books are attractive enough, but despite having Native American lineage, I've never been much attracted by its mystique. Nor has Celtic lore had any pull on me. So left to my normal reading habits, my eye would have skimmed right over C.E. Murphy's The Walker Paper trilogies.

And that would have been a loss.

Murphy, a relatively new writer, has burst onto the publishing scene with success that many would envy. She has gone from unpublished to having contracts in hands for three separate series--two fantasy and one action-adventure romance. She recently was invited to contributed a novella to a book alongside such better-known names as Mercedes Lackey and Tanith Lee.

On a personal level, I have been charmed by her work and am on my way to becoming a devoted fan of her Walker Paper series. Granted, the first work had its flaws, but they were flaws that bothered me but little because I was so taken with the characters, premise, and plot. Each offering since then has further reeled me into the series.

The second full book the series (though it comes chronologically after the novella found in Winter Moon) is being released in May 2006. Thunderbird Falls continues the story of the reluctant shaman who must save Seattle whether she wants to or not. That means you have a month left to read the first book in the series: Urban Shaman. Go ahead. I think you'll find the series to be a treat.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

April is...

T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month, William Carlos Williams claimed it was the saddest month. While they differ on the precise adjective to apply to this first full month of spring, there are plenty of organizations who are ready to tell you what to celebrate or be aware of during the month.

With recommendations ranging from serious to tongue-in-cheek, BookHelpWeb is once again offering you a reading list to match up with the celebration of your choice.

Mathematics Awareness Month

  • Math Curse by Jon Sciezka
  • Sir Cumference and the First Round Table by Cindy Neuschwander
  • The Grapes of Math by Gregory Tang

National Autism Awareness Month

  • Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm

National Poetry Month

Panda Month

  • Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin Jr.

Stress Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

National Frog Month

  • Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel

International Guitar Month

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

National Garden Month

National Humor Month

Minority Health Month

  • Healthy People 2010: The Cornerstone for Prevention

Confederate History Month

Workplace Conflict Awareness Month

National Car Care Awareness Month

  • The Everything Car Care Book by Mike Florence, Rob Blumer

Jazz Appreciation Month

  • Jazz 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Jazz
  • The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine

Cancer Control Month

  • What to Eat if You Have Cancer by Daniella Chace
  • The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer

Keep America Beautiful Month

Oral Health Month

  • The Oral Health Bible by Michael Bonner
  • George Washington’s Teeth by Deborah Chandra

Cyberawareness Month

Enjoy your month!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Actors who write children's books

There has always been a tight relationship between books and the silver screen. The two often feed off each other with movies being made from books and "novelizations" following most movie releases.

So it isn't terribly surprising that many actors have become authors. What is interesting is the increasing number of actors who have written children's books--books with relatively little chance of being turned into big screen movies. It's almost become its own publishing niche given the number of celebrities crossing the line into children's book writing.

Julie Andrews wrote Mandy and The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles more than 30 years ago and has continued to contribute to children's literature. This month will see the release of The Great American Mousical. She's also written Dragon: Hound of Honor, Dumpy and the Firefighters, Dumpy to the Rescue, Dumpy's Apple Shop, and Simeon's Gift.

She also works with HarperCollins to put together "The Julie Andrews Collection"--a collection of "new works by established and emerging authors, out-of-print gems worthy of resurrection, and books by Ms. Andrews herself."

Joining Ms. Andrews as a children's book authors are such folks as:
  • Henry Winkler, who wrote a collection of Hank Zipzer books. Poor Hank is called the world's greatest underachiever, a boy who struggles with his learning differences.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis' books have become bestsellers by promoting a positive message and a delight in family. Her titles include I'm Gonna Like Me, It's Hard to Be Five, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, and Today I Feel Silly.
  • John Lithgow's writing has garnered him Parents' Choice Awards--in particular for his Boredom Blasters. He's also written Lithgow Party Paloozas!, The Carnival of Animals, I'm a Manatee, Micawber, Marsupial Sue, The Remarkable Farkle McBride, and Child Magazine's selection of "Best Book of 2005": Marsupial Sue Presents The Runaway Pancake.
  • Sonia Manzano, best-known as Maria on Sesame Street, shared 15 writing Emmy awards as a staff writer for Sesame Street. She's also written her own book: No Dogs Allowed!
  • Actress Katharine Ross has written The Little Quiet Book and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bug.

Other actors who have written children's books include:

  • Jerry Seinfeld
  • Katie Couric
  • Bill Cosby
  • Jay Leno
  • Spike Lee
  • Jane Seymour
  • John Travolta
Not everyone thinks this trend in celebrity-published books is a good idea. In 2004, the Post-Gazette in Pennsylvania wrote an interesting take on the trend:

Jane Yolen has a point when she says, "celebrity children's books eat up all the available oxygen ... I have over 250 books out, have won a great number of awards within the field, have been given four honorary doctorates for my body of work, but have never been on 'Oprah' or spoken to Katie Couric or gotten a $100,000 advance for my work."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

April 4: Maya Angelou

Today is Maya Angelou's birthday.

She is a woman whose use of the English language is utterly spellbinding. Whether it is her novels or her poetry, her words strike at something deep within my soul. There is an emotional reaction not just to what she says, but how she says it.

Now, it could be that it is her ability to speak six different languages (English, Arabic, West African Fanti, Italian, French, and Spanish) that gives her such a command over words. But I rather think it is because she is someone who is in tune with the world around her and passionate about influencing the world around her.

Maya Angelou is a writer, a poet, teacher, historian, actress, playwright, civil rights activist, producer and director. She is, to borrow a phrase from one of her poems, a phenomenal woman.

Pages Magazine: March

Reading about books can often be as interesting as reading books themselves.

I have a friend who is convinced that you should not have to know anything about an author in order to appreciate his or her work. I agree that a work should stand on its own, but I also find that my reading experience is enhanced when I have the opportunity to learn more about the person who wrote it or the context in which it was written.

It's for that reason that I enjoy my subscriptions to Pages Magazine. It's a magazine that combines "celebrity" news with reviews, information about trends, and news about what is happening in the books world.

The March issue took a look at four decades of feminist writing in honor of women's history month. They interviewed Erica Jong, Ariel Levy, and Helen Gurley Brown. The article opened a window into the personalities of these women--personalities which fairly sparkled with intelligence and good humor.

There was also an interesting article about how reading skills among kids have been improving. The author asked whether J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter deserves the credit.

All in all, I look forward to my monthly issue of Pages. They've struck a good mix of content and I always walk away enlightened.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Saralinda turns 18

Today we celebrated my niece's 18th birthday.

I felt something akin to glee when we asked her what she'd like to get--offering to take her shopping to pick out her own gift--and her response was books.

I'm in heaven.


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