Friday, May 30, 2008

THE POSTCARD, by Tony Abbott

THE POSTCARD, by Tony Abbott (Little Brown 2008)(ages 8-12). In this fun and quirky novel, Abbott delivers mystery, humor, suspense, and a touch of nostalgia.

A week into summer vacation after eighth grade, Jason is sent down to St. Petersburg, Florida, to help his father settle his recently-deceased grandmother's affairs. After the funeral (which is attended by some truly bizarre individuals), and while going through his grandmother's papers, Jason discovers a magazine of pulp mystery-adventure serials. Then, after a mysterious phone call, he finds a postcard connecting his grandmother's never-talked-about past; the author of one of the (never-completed) serials; and a grand old hotel (featured in the postcard). Joined by Dia, a neighbor girl, Jason must discern fact from fiction as he attempts to untangle an intricate web of love, family, deceit, obsession, and, yes, postcards.

Never dull, often funny, THE POSTCARD offers a sophisticated mystery without stinting on character development or relationships. Highly recommended.

GENIUS SQUAD, by Catherine Jinks

GENIUS SQUAD, by Catherine Jinks (Harcourt 2008)(ages 10+). In EVIL GENIUS, Catherine Jinks introduced Cadel Piggott, a child prodigy and son of arch-criminal Phineas Darkkon. At age seven, Cadel has already shown an aptitude for criminal endeavors and psychological manipulation. Through his father's influence, Cadel is placed into the Axis Institute for World Domination. By age 13, he's a star pupil and yet he -- in part through outside friendships -- becomes increasingly uneasy at the immoral nature of his activities.

In GENIUS SQUAD, Cadel is placed into foster care after the downfall of the Axis Institute. There, he is approached by and asked to join the eponymous secret organization. Soon, however, he begins to suspect there's a secret agenda...

Both novels are fun, entertaining, and suspenseful. Cadel is portrayed in a genuine and engaging fashion (even when undertaking rather appalling "pranks", i.e., felonies.). In GENIUS SQUAD, Cadel is less the anti-hero and more well-rounded and human, as Jinks successfully establishes his growth as a person. The novel additionally provides a suspenseful cliff-hanger to the forthcoming Book 3.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night...

Greetings from Austin.

So. This morning at around 12:30, we were awakened by rain and what sounded like someone dropping rocks onto our roof. Then the wind came, and there was a loud crash as something broke the window in Cyn's office. The cats fled under large pieces of furniture... We couldn't see across the street due to the rain.

As we were gathering to move downstairs, we turned on the cable news station and heard the weatherperson use the reassuring phrase, "I've never seen a thunderstorm this bad before." Admittedly, she was young, and had the night shift, but still. :-). Then they started showing pictures of baseball-sized hail.

According to the weather maps, the storm formed two angry purple lobes, one just to the north and one just to the south of our house. Fortunately, we kept power throughout and our trees are still standing (one of them lost a small branch).

By the time the storm blew through (it took only about fifteen minutes where we are), most of the neighborhood to the north of us (one of many, I gather) was without power, and hundreds of trees were down. The streets and sidewalks were a green carpet of leaves and branches. So far as I can tell, there were no actual tornadoes, although there were wind gusts of up to 70 mph.

This morning, the schools in our neighborhood are closed due to power outages.

More here from the Statesman. And Time Warner. And KXAN.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Writer Conferencing

Last weekend was the Spring conference of the Austin SCBWI chapter. Speakers included editors Alvina Ling and Deborah Wayshak; agent Erin Murphy; artist's agent Christina Tugeau; writing professor Peter Jacobi; and retired educator Naomi Pasemann. Many thanks to Regional Advisor Tim Crow and all the volunteers for their hard work!

Cynthia and I had the pleasure of co-hosting the Friday night reception for speakers and volunteers. Alvina blogs about the weekend at bloomabilities, while Cynthia has more at spookycyn.

Then, this weekend, Cynthia and I received and prepared the twenty-seven manuscripts for a writer's workshop we're hosting at our house at the end of next month. (We're calling it the "Awesome Austin Writers' Workshop" :-)). Author Julie Lake was kind enough to come over and help collate and package the manuscripts. Afterwards, we hand-delivered the more central authors' manuscripts, while Julie took several for delivery near her neck of the woods. Now all we have to do is read and critique the things...
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