Splintered by AG Howard

Splintered

 

This is a re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa Gardner is the great granddaughter of Alice Liddell, the real girl for whom Lewis Carroll created his masterpiece. But what if he got it all wrong? What if Carroll dumbed down and made the dangerous Wonderland merely magical and quaint? What if something truly horrific happened to Alice and was covered up?

Alyssa’s mother is in a mental hospital and, as the book opens, we follow the daughter and her peculiar artform utilizing dead bugs. Alyssa is edgy, artsy, and perhaps mad like her mother. Or is she? As her mother worsens, Alyssa is summoned back to under-land to face a curse put in place generations ago.

AG Howard has done a wonderful job in creating a dark, sinister under-land. Carroll’s book has a sophistication of language, but the tale can easily be read by grade-schoolers. Howard’s book confronts YA topics including mental illness, cruelty, animal abuse, and sexual awakening. Alyssa herself is no Alice. She has a dark side seen reflected in the character of Morpheus who is her guide in under-land. At times she is attracted to him and at times she is repelled, but she seems to have control over neither. This is book one of what is becoming a popular series.

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OPPORTUNITY- A FEW GREAT BOOKS

chronamut

Image by Chronamut

One of the things I’d really like to do in 2018 is to reach out and partner with other authors who are writing books for kids similar to my own. In general, I’m looking for writers who are creating in the newly emerging genre called visionary fiction.

Does your book involve any of these?

* spiritual/esoteric wisdom relevant to life today

* evolved consciousness

* ghost stories, NDEs, dreams/visions, psychic abilities, healing, etc (all pointing to a

bigger  understanding of our reality)

* reincarnation

* spiritual evolution, the rise of Kundalini

If so, I’d be interested in hearing about you and your book(s), and to perhaps do an interview on this blog. Please send me an email at: himalayaspencerellis AT yahoo.com and tell me about your work.

 

GRAB THIS!

From now until Jan. 2, INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS (Kindle edition) is discounted to 99 cents on Amazon.

Sixteen year old Blake travels to Base Camp on Mt. Everest to spend time with his physician father. When a deadly avalanche occurs, Dad is forced to rethink things and sends Blake away. Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey that will challenge everything he believes. In the magical Himalayas, he will be forever changed by what he experiences.

Get it here: goo.gl/U12pqh

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ADVENTURE IN 19th CENTURY CHINA

Interview with Madeleine McLaughlin

 Beggar Charlie

I recently finished Madeleine McLaughlin’s middle-grade adventure novel called Beggar

Charlie. Set in China when the opium trade flourished, it follows the journey of young

Charlie when he and a companion are stranded alone after a rebellion. Told from

Charlie’s point of view, we experience the horror and fear of trying to survive and get

back home. Madeleine McLaughlin also writes for adults, but today she joins me to talk

about writing for the younger set.

Welcome Madeleine!

M McLaughlin head shot 2014

I’m always interested in how a story comes to an author. Was it this period in history, or the character of Charlie that first came to mind?

Well, I’m very interested in the 19th century. I’ve read a lot about that age in China plus Victorian England. There was a lot of interesting stuff going on back then. In China, the opium wars, the opening of China to foreigners and of course Cixi, the Empress. So, wanting to write a boy’s adventure story (girls like it, too) I decided on that era. Then I had to think of my main character. Well, what’s more Victorian than the character of the orphan? Nothing! Voila, Beggar Charlie was born.

china

Every part of your novel feels authentic. What kind of research was necessary to get the details right so that the reader felt this?

Like stated above, I have been reading history books about this era for many years. History is fascinating. But I also looked for diagrams on the internet about the shape of cities in China at that time. You can always find something on the internet. Also, Victorian England is a favorite study of mine mostly because it’s where a lot of today’s sciences began. Botany, Geology, Paleontology were all begun in England in the Victorian era. And the study of London is so interesting and of course, a bit sad because of all the poor and disadvantaged people who had no way out. But really, anyone or anything you can learn from is good.

china2

Did you read adventure tales when you were growing up? Did any of them resurface as you worked on Beggar Charlie?

Never. I read mysteries and horse stories. Nancy Drew and Donna Parker. I was a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie which is kind of adventurous but it’s a real history. No Kipling or anything even remotely adventure.

How did writing a middle-grade novel affect the way you handled writing about drugs and violence?

Well, I tend to believe that the young kids nowadays are exposed to drugs and violence very early. There are all sorts of violent cartoons to wean them on and tv shows tend to be nothing but guns, guns, guns. The term glorifying violence comes to mind. And then in the hip-hop music scene you have all sorts of overdoses and pill popping. So, although it may be fair to criticize any writer for putting it in (and I have been) I tried to ‘tell it like it is’. That is, opium destroyed China and violence was the result. The Boxer Rebellion comes to mind. That’s my idea here, to tell the truth through fiction.

china1

Do you tend to use outlines for your writing projects or do they grow more organically?

I didn’t use an outline for Beggar Charlie. I just wrote until I ran out of steam and then I thought about what I would write the next day before I went to sleep.

What aspect of writing brings you the most joy and what do you find most challenging?

Just the rush of writing it down is good. I mean, your story is usually not great then but the rush of ideas and the writing them down feel good. It feels uplifting. The challenge is to get everything straight all your seasons exactly right (instead of starting a scene in winter and ending in summer) and all the rewriting cohesive.

What are you currently working on?

Another middle-grade book entitled, The Last Words of Edward Broome. I’ve almost finished the first draft.

For more information on Madeleine McLaughlin’s book, check out the following links:

Amazon link: goo.gl/cp9NTS

MuseItUp link: goo.gl/QrvMBB

What Will I Be Reading Over the Next Few Months?

Every once in a while, I scroll through the new offerings in my library’s YA e-books list. Often the “hottest” books are all checked out and I’m not great at waiting for the holds queue. Although if I really, really want a certain book, I will try it before resorting to buying it. Sometimes I find something available that I want to read right away. Sometimes nothing appeals and I run over to Amazon because they have a much better search engine that can find a book without me pulling my hair out! (Who designs these library search functions? I’m torn between whether I think they should be ashamed of themselves or just locked up in a mental ward.) Anyway, a recent search had me positively giddy with delight! I found a ton of books I’m interested in. I’ve listed them below and will be starting with Haunting the Deep by Ariana Mather. From there, I don’t know which title I’ll be able to get or when, but this is going to be my basic reading list. Maybe you’ll find a book below you might want to try, or comment on one you have already read. Let me know!!

Haunting the Deep– Ariana Mather

Haunting

“The Titanic meets the delicious horror of Ransom Riggs and the sass of Mean Girls in this follow-up to the #1 New York Times bestseller How to Hang a Witch, in which a contemporary teen finds herself a passenger on the famous “ship of dreams”—a story made all the more fascinating because the author’s own relatives survived the doomed voyage.”

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen– Katherine Howe

Appearance

“It’s July in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.

As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose-petal lips and her entrancing glow. There’s just something about her that he can’t put his finger on, something faraway and otherworldly that compels him to fall even deeper. Annie’s from the city, and yet she seems just as out of place as Wes feels. Lost in the chaos of the busy city streets, she’s been searching for something—a missing ring. And now Annie is running out of time and needs Wes’s help. As they search together, Annie and Wes uncover secrets lurking around every corner, secrets that will reveal the truth of Annie’s dark past.”

The Last Leaves Falling– Sarah Benwell

Last

“A teen grapples with ALS and his decision to die in this “deeply moving” (Booklist, starred review) debut novel infused with the haunting grace of Japanese poetry and the noble importance of friendship.

Sora is going to die, and he’s only seventeen years old. Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), he’s already lost the use of his legs, which means he can no longer attend school. Seeking a sense of normality, Sora visits teen chat rooms online and finally finds what he’s been longing for: friendship without pity.

As much as he loves his new friends, he can’t ignore what’s ahead. He’s beginning to lose the function of his hands, and soon he’ll become even more of a burden to his mother. Inspired by the death poems of the legendary Japanese warriors known as samurai, Sora makes the decision to leave life on his own terms. And he needs his friends to help him.”

It Wasn’t Always Like This– Joy Preble

It Wasn't

“In 1916, Emma O’Neill is frozen in time. After sampling an experimental polio vaccine brewed on a remote island off St. Augustine, Florida, she and her family stop aging—as do the Ryans, her family’s business partners. In a way, this suits Emma fine because she’s in love with Charlie Ryan. Being seventeen forever with him is a dream. But soon a group of religious fanatics, the Church of Light, takes note. Drinking the elixir has made the O’Neills and Ryans impervious to aging, but not to murder—Emma and Charlie are the only ones who escape with their lives.

On the run, Emma is tragically separated from Charlie. For the next hundred years, she plays a cat-and-mouse game with the founding members of the Church of Light and their descendants. Over the years, a series of murders—whose victims all bear more than a passing resemblance to her—indicate that her enemies are closing in. Yet as the danger grows, so does Emma’s hope for finding the boy she’s certain is still out there . . .”

A Psalm for Lost Girls– Katie Bayer

Psalm

“Tess da Costa is a saint—a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that’s what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess’s sainthood official. Tess’s mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted—overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again.

The fervor for Tess’s sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who’s been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess’s shrines. It’s the final straw for Callie. With the help of Tess’s secret boyfriend Danny, Callie’s determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie’s investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for—a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana’s kidnapping. Told in alternating perspectives, A Psalm for Lost Girls is at once funny, creepy and soulful—an impressive debut from a rising literary star.”

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn– Marianna Baer

Inconceivable

“Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She’s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father’s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers’ home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn’s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets—strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin?”

ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY(YA) by Lara Avery

                                                                     YA REVIEW:

book

Bryce was seventeen when she stood on the diving platform five years ago during Olympic trials. The dive went horribly wrong. In the coma, time stood still. One day she miraculously awakens to a world that’s left her behind. Her parents’ marriage is on the rocks, her sister is grown up and engaging in rebellious behavior, her boyfriend engaged to her best friend. For Bryce, yesterday she was a world class Olympic athlete with everything going for her, now she’s a twenty-two-year old woman whose body is damaged and all the relationships she counted on are forever changed.

As Bryce starts to adjust to being back in her body, certain odd experiences begin to happen. Her interaction with everyday reality is altered. Colors and shapes are more vivid, some things less tangible. These were very promising glimpses that kept me reading thinking this book could be quite special. Eventually, Bryce has recall of events that occurred while she was in the coma that Newtonian science would have a hard time explaining. Toward the end of the book, she has a precognitive event. Unfortunately, these incidents are not the main thrust of the book and don’t form any kind of cohesive plot.

This book is focused on a budding romance with a medical student Bryce meets at the hospital and her building new relationships with friends and family. The problem with this for me is that the author has a structure with strong life and death themes and has side-stepped them a little too conveniently. As a result, this is one of those books that splits the readership down the middle. There are many five- star reviews for this book, but equally there are a lot of people who hate it.

THE LITERARY GARDEN

Coming from Colorado to live in the Low Countries, I was immediately drawn into the wealth of colors the early breaking spring delivered here. People took great care with small spaces planting gorgeous flowers that have bloomed from early March right through. Right now, showy hydrangeas in white, blues, and pinks overflow my neighbors yards. I have enjoyed all the sights, textures, and scents as I walk the streets. It also got me thinking about books centered around a garden. Below are a few I think may be worth checking out.

The Girl from the Tea Garden- Janet MacLeod Trotter

Tea Garden

“In the dying days of the Raj, Anglo-Indian schoolgirl Adela Robson dreams of a glamorous career on the stage. When she sneaks away from school in the back of handsome Sam Jackman’s car, she knows a new life awaits—but it is not the one she imagined.

In Simla, the summer seat of the Raj government, Adela throws herself into all the dazzling entertainments 1930s Indian society can offer a beautiful debutante. But just as her ambitions seem on the cusp of becoming reality, she meets a charming but spoilt prince, setting in motion a devastating chain of events.

The outbreak of the Second World War finds Adela back in England—a country she cannot remember—without hope or love, and hiding a shameful secret. Only exceptional courage and endurance can pull her through these dark times and carry her back to the homeland of her heart.”

 

The Princess’s Garden: Royal Intrigue & the Untold Story of Kew- Vanessa Berridge 

Princess Garden

“The British enthusiasm for gardening has fascinating roots. The Empire and trade across the globe created an obsession with exotic new plants, and showed the power and reach of Britain in the early eighteenth century. At that time, national influence wasn’t measured by sporting success, musical or artistic influence. Instead it was expressed in the design of parks and gardens such as Kew and Stowe, and the style of these grand gardens was emulated first throughout Britain and then increasingly around the world.”

The Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett

secret garden

“Mistress Mary is quite contrary until she helps her garden grow. Along the way, she manages to cure her sickly cousin Colin, who is every bit as imperious as she. These two are sullen little peas in a pod, closed up in a gloomy old manor on the Yorkshire moors of England, until a locked-up garden captures their imaginations and puts the blush of a wild rose in their cheeks; “It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of roses which were so thick, that they matted together…. ‘No wonder it is still,’ Mary whispered. ‘I am the first person who has spoken here for ten years.'” As new life sprouts from the earth, Mary and Colin’s sour natures begin to sweeten. For anyone who has ever felt afraid to live and love, The Secret Garden‘s portrayal of reawakening spirits will thrill and rejuvenate. Frances Hodgson Burnett creates characters so strong and distinct, young readers continue to identify with them even 85 years after they were conceived.”