Seeking my Mr. or Mrs. Slave…ahem, Guest Bloggers

I am opening up my space to folks who would like to reach an audience of several hundred unique visitors per month, and have a passion for books. It’s very simple: You reach out to me, and tell me what you want to write about. If I like it, the post is yours for an available post day, which is typically Monday or Thursday.

If you are an author, and you want a review or a interview (author or character), you may message me. Unless I previously agreed to an interview or book review before September 1, I am seeking only children’s literature, or books written by kids. Books can have pictures, but they must be mostly text and targeted at an audience for 8+. Also, you must be 14 years old to request any review or interview. Otherwise, I need a parent’s permission first.

You are not required to offer me a reciprocated post, but if you do, I am more likely to take you up. So go ahead and send away- welcome to Bradan’s World!

bonus if you got the reference in the title. Post it here and let’s see who gets it first!

Book Review: Percy Jackson, the All American-Greek God-kid

The Last Olympian " Signed "

For my first book review at the rebranded site Bradan’s World, I want to focus on a hyper popular book which already has so many purchases I doubt Rick Riordan gives a darn if I steer a few more his way. But here is a review for his last book, The Last Olympian.

Where I got it from: I picked up the copy from an indie thrift store, and they just had the last book in the series. I guess I got there before the other fan finished book four.

Scoring: As you know, I give 0, 1, or 2 points for plot, style, editing, book cover, and intangibles. Book Cover replaces belivability, which is hard to be precise about. Instead, I’ll put that towards intangibles. Every review has some spoilers, so read at your own risk.

Plot: You may need to pick up books 1-4 to figure out everything that happened, but Rick’s writing is good enough that I got the plot without needing to go back. At this point, Percy Jackson, the son of Poseidon, is trying to figure out a way to stop Kronos, Lord of Time, from destroying Olympus where the Gods are. Apparently Greek Gods looove Manhattan and so this is where Mount Olympus is, along with the last half of the novel. After a losing battle with Kronos, who is using the body of Luke Castellan to do his bidding, Percy goes to camp Half-Blood to regroup. He and his friends eventually go to Manhattan where a dark battle is brewing. It’s up to Percy and his outmanned friends to stop a very powerful army, led by Kronos, at the feet of Olympus.

I will judge this book as a standalone, and I can see why it hit the bestseller’s list. It’s really good, the plot makes sense, even if the ending is not quite as dramatic as I would like. 2/2

Style: This is where Rick’s writing stands out from every other kid’s book I’ve seen. It’s really funny. The entire thing is a comedy, but he does a great job at making the dramatic scenes dramatic when he needs to. At times his serious parts were weak because of all the jokes, but no complaints with his writing. 2/2

Editing: I am generally lenient with minor spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors. If you are an indie author or small publisher, I give a lot of leeway. For a traditionally published dude? Not so much. I found a few typos and punctuation errors. Not enough to ruin the story, but come on, Disney. 1.5/2

Book Cover: I loved the cover of the reprint edition, which is the one I have. So much so, I wanted to find John Rocco (Riordan’s cover artists) and ask how much he charged to do a book cover for a comparable novel. 2/2

Intangibles: This is the “emotional” pitch of the book or other factors. Familiar readers know that if you make me cry or feel something in my stomach, you will hit the bestseller’s list. I want to lock that in as a fact.

This book needed to be a little darker towards the end. While the plot and the romantic angle did work, it just came up short. Much as I hate giving halfsies, I have to. 1.5/2

Overall: 9/10 Only a little too much out-of-place humor and a few typos missed by editors from a big publisher kept this from being a solid 10/10. But this book is really, really good. It’s unique (enough), creative, and fun. I can get why kids love it, and I’m sure a fairly high number of adults loved the book and the series too. Good job Rick.

Be one of over 35 million and buy a copy of his book:

At Amazon

at B&N

Book Review: Impulse

Happy Independence Day weekend for all you Americans!

If you missed my author interview with Iffix Santaph over his debut novella, Impulse, check it out here.

As promised, here is my review of the novel, which I received in exchange for an interview and review. Like last time, I’ve divided into five categories, and each was worth 0, 1, or 2 points. Scored on a scale 0-10.

Plot (semi-spoiler alert): The reader is introduced to the Gwalf, human-like creatures who live in the city of Trounador. Jendra is the main character and heroine of the novel. She and her friend Leon discover a human body which is unconscious at the start of the novel, and they want to find a way to find out where the human is from. Together with Leon’s cousin Toby, they search for a way to help the alien.

To do this they must dodge obstacles, like the Je’ rax. We soon learn a Je’ rax is NOT a dinosaur, but a scorpion-like creature with huge pincers. Jendra is caught by one, but Toby manages to make its head explode. Kids will love that line.

Along with Toby and Leo, her “just friends” friend (spoiler!) They run into the Lizan and have to be ready for the their attack, which is set up nicely for book 2.

The intended audience is “middle grade”, but I felt like this was more a YA (teen) novel than middle grade. Some of the dialogue was okay, but at times it was confusing. The author sometimes didn’t explain things well, like when he mentions the squig (half squirrell, half pig), brings it up several times, then never fully explains what it is or why it’s relevant to the story. The plot itself is not the most straightforward, and in the writing style space below you’ll see why. It’s unfair to give this a 0 or 1, so I’m going half. 0.5/2

Writing style: If you read my last review, you know I am not a huge fan of multiple points of view, and this book had even more than the last book. Whereas John was good at separating POV’s by scene, Iffix did not do as good a job with this. We got in to too many character’s heads, sometimes on the same page, and it made the story hard to follow. For adults, this isn’t a huge deal, but 11-14 year olds, the intended audience, will simply be unable to keep up. Honestly, this was a tough read, and I am an adult. 0/2

Editing: The editing was really well done. I didn’t spot any missed proofreading marks, or they were so few in number it didn’t bother me. The page layout was great. This was by far the best part of the book; effort was clearly put into this. 2/2

“Believability”: This varies from genre to genre, but the point is, can I believe what’s going on? I honestly struggled with this. The book is fantasy, so nothing was “unbelievable”, but I think there could have been a better job selling its concepts.

For example, the author talks about aliens such as the Lizan, who are clearly distinct from the Gwalf, but for some reason different species all speak the same language and the same way; the same was true with the humans. I was trying hard to figure out exactly where I was, Earth, or somewhere else.  The plot itself is fairly believable; if you were trapped in a city surrounded by caves and waterfalls, wouldn’t you want to escape and explore the rest of the world?  1/2

Emotion: This is another made up section, where I give my emotional feel for the book. I have a saying: If you, the author, can make me cry, you will write a book as successful as Twilight. I’m not joking; emotions besides hot and cold are not easy for me. This section can be for any emotion, though.

I just cannot say I was moved enough to become emotionally attached. It wasn’t that the book was bad, only that it was not spectacular. Again, a 0 is unfair, but it really was not quite a 1. 0.5/2

Overall grade: 4/10.  

I don’t like giving mediocre grades, especially since I do talk to Iffix online and he’s a genuinely sincere guy and very proud to be an indie author. The book is not terrible; the book was well-edited and his vision for Troundador City is exciting, with the caves and waterfalls. It reminded me of Pokemon, moving around in caves with mysterious creatures lurking about. The Gwalf are a society worth exploring in further. I just wish he had done so, and eliminated the too-often multiple POV’s between characters. Even if he wants us to know what’s going to happen, it’s often better if the reader does not. Hopefully the next books in the series will let the reader get to know Jendra and Trounador City further.

I will add this though: Check out his website and look at his Impulse Gallery, where he obtained artwork from DeviantArt artists. It’s really good. if only he had made his story a graphic novel…

You can also find his book at Amazon or visit his website iffixysantaph.com

Have English Books Lost their Flare?

I found this article and I didn’t even think about this issue. If you write books in the English language, are you prepared to lose your place to novels written in other languages?

“It’s the calm before the storm for Barcelona-based French agent Véronique Kirchhoff, who has 70 meetings spread over four days at the upcoming Bologna Children’s Book Fair. And that doesn’t include her French and Spanish clients who she sees independently from the fair. A one-woman show, Kirchhoff has been running her literary agency, which specializes in illustrated children’s books, for seven years, the last three of which have been from Barcelona. She is quick to point out that, “I’m not a French agent selling worldwide, I’m an agent from everywhere selling everywhere. Otherwise I couldn’t make a living.”

Later…

“There is another change Kirchhoff has noticed recently at the Bologna Book Fair where she has a stand in the English-speaking halls.

“There are more and more stands from publishers I’ve never seen before from all around the world. More people are going to Asian, French, Italian, Portuguese or Eastern European stands and the English stands are not as busy. The English are losing their supremacy in terms of selling rights because others have books that are so much more interesting. It’s a question of creativity. People are tired of the same style coming from Anglo-Saxon countries. In the texts as well, I see more narrative in other books. English books are sweeter, but so what? What publishers want is an original story.”

As far as digital books are concerned, “we were told digital is the next big thing. It’s definitely growing in fiction but this is not happening at all in illustrated children’s books. As agents we are asked to grant ebook rights, but publishers usually don’t use them. Now I only grant ebook rights if the publisher can tell me how they can use them. So the market hasn’t developed as was announced—it might, but I don’t think so. Most e-books for children are not books but games. You give a child an iPad in a car during a trip, but you give a child a book before he goes to bed.”

Kirchhoff is upbeat about the future: “I think the children’s book market is coming back to life and I can’t explain why. Although pop ups (novelties) are a harder sell because manufacturing prices keep rising, there is an amazing revival of storyboard books that began one or two years ago. I’m selling picture books really well. There is a focus on beautiful illustrations. A lot of my fellow agents say the same thing. I’m super happy because it was very hard there for a while…”

First off, this isn’t a surprise. There are very few things with global popularity. Only a select few books can have mass appear worldwide. Just because you have a novel in ten languages doesn’t mean it will have equal appeal everywhere. It’s only reasonable that each country has its own local celebrities and local literary culture. Why get a foreigner’s book when you may have your own version from a local person who speaks your language and knows your culture?

However, does this mean foreign book-buyers will turn away from English-language books. I hope not. Because if they do, I’m going to be in trouble, particularly with books aimed at kids and teens (debut YA novel expected Fall 2015). Granted, I won’t focus immediately on foreign-language sales right away, but it’s something to keep in mind.

It’s interesting how children’s books are making a comeback even though the number of new kids born every years has been in overall decline for a long time. Of course, we need to separate “Young Adult” Novels with a huge adult following from kid’s picture or middle-grade books.

B&B: English-language books are still in vogue, but it is true there’s been a lot of repetitiveness coming from the market. It’s far easier to publish a book which is a different take on an already successful idea rather than explore or experiment with new concepts.

This brings us to the next allegation: There are not enough books aimed at children from diverse (read: non-Caucasian) backgrounds. Is this a legitimate problem? Or just griping from people who can’t “make it”? I’ll explore this topic very soon.

The Obvious Answer to Why Boys Read Less than Girls

I love switching out planned topics for new ones at the last minute. Answering this question “Why don’t boys read as much as girls?” Is one of those unexpected but elephant-in-the-room questions when it comes to kids books.

Today’s pondering article, from The Book Seller: (spelling differences left in their original form).

“The children’s book market is in fantastic health. As The Bookseller have reported, in 2014, children’s book sales were up by almost 10 percent, year-on-year — particularly impressive in the context of an overall decline in print book sales — and this shortlist shows why: it’s a brilliant selection of books, demonstrating how much imagination, creativity and talent exists in children’s publishing at the moment.

Selling books to boys is difficult. As has been discussed elsewhere, only 3 of the 18 authors on the Waterstones shortlists are men (one of them, G.R. Gemin, is a Nosy Crow author, shortlisted for his fantastic debut novel Cowgirl).

Boys don’t read as much as girls. Tempting as it might be to dismiss that statement as a gross generalisation, it is objectively, statistically the case. Recent research by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) found that more parents of girls said that their child read daily than parents of boys (75 percent vs 68 percent). Parents of girls were also more likely than parents of boys to report that their child enjoyed stories “a lot” (83 percent vs 74 percent). And girls are almost twice as likely as boys (18 percent vs 10 percent) to read stories more without than with an adult.

This is what motivated us (please excuse the shameless self-promotion) to create our Jack and the Beanstalk app. More than any of our other apps, Jack and the Beanstalk is aimed at reluctant boy readers. It has an emphasis on reading for pleasure, built within a “game-like” architecture — a non-linear narrative, a “scoring” mechanism, multiple endings — that we think works well at encouraging boys who love on-screen gaming to participate in a reading experience.

I don’t mean, by all this, that because we’ve found ways of using screens to engage some boys with reading that we can give up on print (and it would be foolish to think so: while the children’s print market enjoyed its meteoric growth last year, digital revenues remained stubbornly small).”

Um…I can answer this question. And no, non-linear books on e-readers won’t solve the problem.

When I was a kid I read a lot of books in: Goosebumps, Fear Street (R.L. Stine’s Teen series), Hardy Boys,  Encyclopedia Brown, Harry Potter, and some sci-fi books like Ender’s Game and my favorite, Boat of a Million Years (not a kid’s book but still a good read). Later in my teens I read more manga like Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Worst,and Elfen Lied. What did they all have in common? Other than HP, which was more mystery-oriented plots, all the other books had more action and drama and less “feeling” about characters. Action and mystery, not narrative prose, drove the plots.

Heck even my video games had more substance than the teen books offered to me as “bestsellers”. I was simply not interested in Twilight and general romance novels, or the typical BS which may win critical acclaim but sell few copies (like how many Oscar winners are well-received by critics but rarely do well at the box office) which is a lot of what is published as Young Adult (teen readers). So the Japanese mange gave me: ninja fights, pirate fights, ghost soul fights, high school street brawls, etc.

All of these series, the English and Japanese, still had emotion and character development as part of their backgrounds, but the action drove the plot, not “literary prose” (writing about how one feels about something) which tends to be more published. Granted, there are also thriller novels but most of the more interesting ones are adult-oriented, and thrillers often lack deep character development needed to sell a great series. Go look up the rejection histories of Dr. Seuss, HP, and Chicken Soup if you want to see how great series are not even given the time of day while what the “literary community” wants rarely sells well.

So then, why don’t boys read:

Answer: Too many kid’s books are “female-friendly”. Focused too heavily on romance and “how someone feels” about something, or poltiical correctness (minority books with minority settings- I am Latino but I don’t want to read a book about some Hispanic kid living in racist White America trying to get by- how about a Hispanic kid who swings powerful swords and is cocky but brings the heat when it matters? Saves the day because he’s badass and not because he’s Hispanic/Latino? (hmmm). Most literary agents and acquisition editors are women with English lit or Creative Writing degrees, and action adventure books like James Bond are generally frowned upon in the academic world, especially when compared to books like The Great Gatsby, War and Peace, etc.. If you don’t believe me, compare the number of books about ninja/pirate fights published annually to “critically acclaimed” books  minorities living in 1950s racist America or books heavy on female characteristics.

I’m not against these books; they have their own appeal and their own place in literature. But if you want boys to read, how about stuff I want to read and not what adults think kids should be reading.