Applewhites at Wit's End, Mary McGarry Morris, Norma Fox Mazer, She's Come Undone, Stephanie S. Tolan, The Good Mother, Wally Lamb, When She was Good

Two Reviews — When She was Good and Applewhites at Wit’s End — and One Giveaway

Thought for the day:

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” 

~Charles Dickens~

A gift for my writer friends. Here are a couple of links I think you will find valuable.
Every Tuesday over at Literary Rambles, a blog written by Casey McCormick, you can find a writer’s tip. The link I have here harkens back to the old “show don’t tell” chestnut, about which I wrote not so long ago myself. You can see that post by clicking HERE. The tip in Literary Rambles is a verrry interesting take and well worth your time. You might want to subscribe to Literary Rambles. I think it’s a blog that is always worth reading (and Casey gives away a LOT of books!)
I found a great post on what makes a good query. Take a look if you’re trying to sell some writing:

For my fabulous giveaway from last post, the winner is Debi! (Cue the confetti and balloon drop please!) Congratulations to you, Debi. I will be sending you a copy of Warriors in the Crossfire autographed by Nancy Bo Flood. It is terrific and I know you’ll enjoy it. I have another giveaway for today, so stay tuned.

Back in July of 2011, I reviewed The Lost Mother by Mary McGarry Morris. If you missed it, you can read it by clicking HERE. The reason I bring this up is because I read a book this week that had some commonalities with that book and the other book I mentioned in that review, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. There is something about a book that is so sad, nearly hopeless, that usually draws me in and pulls me reluctantly along through such a journey. When a friend told me recently she had heard an important publisher speak about a book at a conference and he actually choked up as he talked about the book, I thought I really had to read it. The book is When She Was Good by Norma Fox Mazer. I certainly had heard of Mazer, an incredibly prolific author of books for teens, but didn’t know this book. I went to the library and picked up a copy. It’s not a new book. It was published ten years ago, so it should be easy to find.
This tells the story of Em Thurkill, a young woman who has grown up in the most depressing of circumstances. Her father is an alcoholic who frequently beats her mother. Her mother suffers from debilitating depressive episodes. Em’s older sister Pamela is some kind of crazy, unbelievably mean to Em, and pretty much evil incarnate.
The book opens with Em buying a coffin for her sister.
I didn’t believe Pamela would ever die. She was too big, too mad, too furious for anything so shabby and easy as death. And for a few moments as she lay on the floor that day, I thought it was one of her jokes.
Mazer then sends the reader back to an earlier time to shine a painful light on Em’s early, tragic life. The story is told much in flashback and jumps around a bit. A lot of it seems to be a strange kind of stream of consciousness from Em’s point of view and leaves the reader wondering if Em is as crazy as the people around her. We witness tremendous loss, frustration, embarrassment, desertion, abuse, hunger, and abject poverty, but through it all, Em somehow keeps on keepin’ on, hoping somehow her life will improve. And it does.
After I read the book, I went to Amazon and read a bunch of reviews of the book. Most people love it, but some really disliked it. There was no ambivalence about this book. Except for me. I feel ambivalent about it. The writing is amazing. The story is heart-wrenching. Em is a sympathetic character, but I never felt like I was living in this story. And that, to me, is critical for me to love a book. School Library Journal says this is for grade 8 and up, Publishers Weekly says age 12 and up. I just don’t see this as a tween book. I’d be hard put to offer it to high schoolers, but mature ones could handle it. Do I recommend it? Well, I’m ambivalent about that.
Now because I hate to leave things on a down note, I’ll give you another quick review for a funny book that is definitely for tweens/middle graders. This is my review for Applewhites at Wit’s End, a review that was published by Sacramento Book Review.

Applewhites at Wit’s End

Posted in Tweens by – May 11, 2012

Applewhites at Wit’s End By Stephanie S. Tolan
HarperCollins, $15.99, 272 pages
ISBN 9780060579388
Randolph Applewhite returns home to North Carolina after directing a show in New York to announce to the family that all their money has been embezzled. The family is destitute and they will have to sell the  family homestead. The members of the extended family who live at Wit’s End are all artists of one kind or another and need their space and quiet to continue their creative endeavors. They finally come up with the idea of running a summer camp for creative prodigies. With all their diverse talents, they have no doubt they can run workshops to keep a dozen young people busy for eight weeks and restore enough of the family fortune to keep Wit’s End. What could possibly go wrong? First, they only get six campers, not the twelve they need to make a good profit. Then they meet the campers. This sequel to Surviving the Applewhites has the same cast of slightly crazy characters with the addition of six campers who fit right into the Wit’s End lunacy. It’s fun and silly and, other than the annoying baby-talk of young Destiny, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book for kids ten and up.

And this is the giveaway book. It’s fun and funny. So leave a comment and I’ll put your name in the hat for a nice hardcover copy of Applewhites at Wit’s End. Blog, link on Facebook, or Tweet a link to my blog and let me know for an extra entry.
On the book giveaway, this is for U.S. only. Sorry, but it would be too expensive for me to send books out of the country. But please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Remember, if you have trouble leaving a comment, click on the title of the post and it will give you just this post with a comments section on the bottom. Also, if you haven’t signed up by email, please do. Just look in the upper right-hand corner of this page, pop your email address in, and you will receive an email each time I put up a new post. Your information will not be shared with anyone.

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