Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Book Review: Meet Franklin Bean (Franklin Bean Superhero series, book 1) – by Emmy Swain

Meet Franklin BeanBook: Meet Franklin Bean
Author/Publisher: Emmy Swain
Illustrator: Levi Whitworth
Date: 2011
Genre: children’s
Pages: 34
Price: Kindle $2.88; paperback $8.85
My Rating: An interesting, fun mystery for the young readers; addresses bullying and other life issues
 

This is a short chapter book with great illustrations by Levi Whitworth and is book one of a series by Emmy Swain.

Chapter titles are:

  1. Our New Home
  2. Franklin Meets Mom
  3. New Friends
  4. Restless Night
  5. Fisherman Saved
  6. Day Before School
  7. Where Are You?

Meet Franklin Bean is a story about a young boy, John, who has to relocate with his mother after she lost her job. He is nervous about moving to a smaller house in a different neighbourhood and having to change schools. Unfortunately, John meets up with bullies soon after moving and his misery increases until he finds a stray dog, Franklin Bean. But there’s something amazing about Franklin Bean – he can talk! John’s life begins to look and feel much better.

Franklin Bean has another amazing secret that – in this book – John hasn’t figured out yet.

Meet Franklin Bean has some applicable life lessons in it, but Emmy Swain presents them in a way that is fun without seeming as if it is teaching. This is a good story for very young readers and pre-readers.

You can find Meet Franklin Bean on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Book Review: The Princess Within for Teens: discovering your royal inheritance – by Serita Ann Jakes

The Princess Within - for teensBook: The Princess Within – for Teens: Discovering Your Royal Inheritance
Author: Serita Ann Jakes
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Date: July 1, 2014
Genre: young adult (teen girls), christian help
Pages: 183
Price: $10.79 paperback
My Rating: not a completely satisfying read, but helpful in ways

 

I received the ARC of this book from Library Thing in exchange for my honest review.

Usually books of this size I can eat up in no time; not so with this one. It took me far too long to read the whole book, and not because I am far beyond my teen years. I enjoy YA and MG and Picture books; my own writing centers around those genres, so that wasn’t the problem.

Serita Ann Jakes created a modern day Cinderella and used that as a jump off point for each chapter. That in itself was okay, but sometimes there was not much connection to the idea throughout the rest of the chapter.

The book begins with glowing letters of praise about the author from her two daughters. From there she sets up a hopeful scenario for the reader, beginning with a quiz of self-discovery and giving results to help the reader see herself as one of Disney’s princesses. Unfortunately, she didn’t follow through the same way with all the quizzes she created. In the same vein, she included short testimonies but it was puzzling to see where they were placed when a few didn’t have anything to do with the chapter they accompany.

Here are the chapter titles:

  1. Princess, why are you hiding?
  2. But everyone is invited!
  3. Parents just don’t understand?
  4. The power to choose
  5. Is that any way for a princess to act?
  6. We are family
  7. A word of truth
  8. Wash off those cinders!
  9. Dress the part
  10. Face those fears
  11. You fit right in
  12. In the powder room
  13. Where the boys are
  14. Where did the time go?
  15. Kick off your shoes
  16. Sweet dreams really do come true
  17. A prince is waiting for you

Reading those titles makes one think this is going to be such a great read! It is and it isn’t. Although the message is there it didn’t carry through smoothly with the idea presented at the beginning, as if the writing of this book was a little rushed. It felt as if the connection with God is interrupted time and again.

Although there are as a few other statements made that were amiss, there is one suggestion I was appalled to read, where the author presented a scenario about God and asked the teen reader to give her opinion. First of all it is a moot point which cannot possibly have an answer. It’s as if the author didn’t understand the holiness of God in even suggesting such a scenario could exist. It had no place in this book at all and didn’t add to it in any positive way to affirm the reader.

After reading The Princess Within for Teens, perhaps a young reader will come away with hope of her place in God and will not even notice the gaps in the presentation. Serita Jakes’ intent is to encourage her, to help her stand in the midst of the stresses and problems that each day may bring to her. If this is what the young reader is looking for, although it could use a little work, she will probably find The Princess Within for Teens to be a good beginning. The drawback is the subtitle of this book is Discovering Your Royal Inheritance and there was not much connection and teaching or encouragement in that aspect.

Serita Ann JakesThe Princess Within for Teens follows her adult edition of The Princess Within.

You can find The Princess Within for Teens on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Illustrator contributes his talent for children with cancer!

There’s always something, isn’t there? :)  I finally finished the book I was reading and was going to get a review ready when I discovered I’d lost my internet connection. Repairs were being done on the tower after something went wrong following the weekend’s stormy weather, I was told. When all was restored I didn’t get back to my computer at a decent time to prepare the review.

I am scheduling this post for Thursday morning. Since on that day I am going to be participating in a Dementia Strategy in the city (an hour away) I’m not staying up late tonight (Wednesday) to work on my review. I’m very tired, trying to stay ahead of depression and not doing very well at it, and making myself go to some things so I don’t crawl under a rock to hide. (I’d really rather hide.) Besides that, October 30 is my husband’s and my anniversary, so we are meeting after the strategy and his work day to go out to dinner somewhere before coming back home.

What I decided to do instead of working on a book review is share a post the wonderful Tara Lazar has on her blog. (She wants it shared; I don’t just copy other people’s posts.) Tara is the creator of PiBoIdMo which I’m happy to be participating in again –  with the hope it helps me keep going and thinking creative thoughts.

The post is about an illustrator who is contributing his talent to help children with cancer. Please go HERE to read about it. It’s really inspiring. There’s even opportunity for you to help if you are so moved.

While you’re on Tara’s blog, take a look at the PiBoIdMo page. Sign up if you want, there’s still time to get in on the fun if you’re reading this before November 8th. If you don’t want to register you can still benefit from the posts but you can’t participate in draws to win neat writers’ stuff or join the FaceBook group — if you’re on FB — which I’m not — so I miss out. (I seem to miss lots of stuff because of that. *sigh*)

As I was saying, check out Tara’s guest - Illustrator Steve Barr. You’ll be impressed, and you get a drawing lesson, too! 

Do you draw or want to learn? (I want to learn!)  Are you taking part in Picture Book Idea Month in November? (You are? Me too! :) )

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

Exciting book publishing news, a Q & A, and a limited-time introductory offer!

This is a different review and interview – very exciting game-changing news!

Did you hear Amazon’s big news September 3’14?: Amazon today announced KDP Kids, designed to help children’s book authors prepare, publish and promote both illustrated and chapter books in Kindle Stores worldwide. Children’s book authors can use Amazon’s new Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool to easily create illustrated children’s books that take advantage of Kindle features like text pop-ups. Once the book is ready, authors can upload it to KDP in just a few simple steps, and use KDP’s category, age and grade range filters to help millions of Amazon customers choose the right books for their kids. Authors can earn royalties of up to 70%, while keeping their rights and maintaining control of their content. Authors can also choose to enroll their books in KDP Select for additional royalty opportunities like Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and access to marketing tools like Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotions. Get started today at kdp.amazon.com/kids.”   But first READ ON! 

KDP is Kindle Direct Publishing, and if you would love to attempt it but feel you aren’t tech savvy enough to manage it, or if you just want a good tutorial to help you, there is help I am excited to tell you about! The editors of Children’s Book Insider, the industry’s largest publication for children’s writers, immediately set about creating a course that would explain the software and demystify the entire process, from finding illustrations through publishing and marketing illustrated Kindle children’s books. They’ve called it Kindle Kids Mastery. With no further delay, here’s the information you need, thanks to Jon of Children’s Book Insider. (applause) And please forgive my formatting of this Q & A which may not work out the way I want it to.

What is Kindle Kids Mastery?

A comprehensive online course that teaches authors how to create an illustrated children’s book in Amazon’s new Kids Book Creator software, format, convert it and publish it to Amazon’s Kindle store. The course also covers, in detail, how to find illustrations and offers expert advice for marketing a Kindle eBook.

How is it delivered?
The course is entirely online and includes videos and downloadable PDF transcripts. Buyers get lifetime access, and access to Updates which are being added regularly to the site.
 
 
How much does it cost?

After October 15, 2014, the price will be $197. Until then, the introductory price of $127 is in effect. There are no additional costs – everything is included.

 

What does the course include?

There are nine modules that cover:
* 5 Things You MUST Do Before Creating Your Kindle eBook
* Finding Illustrations and Creating Your eBook Cover (videos cover everything from finding a professional illustrator through using low-cost design services and adapting stock images)
* Creating Your eBook Using Kindle Kids Book Creator Software (a series of videos that allow you to watch over Laura’s shoulder as she creates eBooks in the software. Everything is broken down in the simplest terms, and we explain every major aspect of the software.)
* Uploading to Amazon and Creating Your Author’s Page (Videos that include some very important things, such as how to create a strong description and how to maximize your author page.)
* ONE-ON-ONE SESSIONS: Kindle Marketing Advice From the Pros (three in-depth interviews – on video with full transcripts – with authors who are masters at Kindle marketing. You’ll learn how to get reviews, how to draw readers to you and how to start building a fan base today. Experts include Amy Harrop, Deb Drum, Katie Davis and Beau Blackwell)
* A full eBook on how to adapt your own photographs or stock images and turn them into unique illustrations. We’re on record as saying that hiring a professional illustrator is always the first and best choice, but if your budget doesn’t allow that right now, we’ll show you how to create really cool pieces of art from existing images.
Plus there are cheat sheets, a checklist and more.

 

Who created Kindle Kids Mastery?

The course was personally created by Laura Backes and Jon Bard, editors of Children’s Book Insider for the past 25 years.
 
 
 

QUESTIONS ABOUT KINDLE KIDS’ BOOK CREATOR SOFTWARE:

What, exactly, does this new software allow me to do?
Kindle Kids Book creator is a standalone piece of software that you download on to your computer. It takes you step by step through the creation of an illustrated children’s eBook. You can create in landscape mode (to mimic traditional picture book layouts) or portrait mode (for easy readers, middle grade and YA novels).
Authors can create text pop-ups, so even readers using small screens can easily view text. The software outputs your eBook in .mobi file format, ready to be uploaded to Amazon.
What’s the big deal?
The real breakthrough here is the ability to create heavily illustrated children’s books. And the ability to do it landscape mode, which is traditional for picture books. If you’re creating a young adult novel or other book that doesn’t require much in the way of illustrations, you’re probably better off not using the software and uploading your formatted novel directly to Amazon. But, if you’re creating picture books, illustrated easy readers or illustrated chapter books, this is a major step forward.
What does it cost?
The software is free, and uploading to Amazon is free. Amazon makes money on each sale of your eBook, not on the eBook creation process.
Is it truly something an author with no technical ability can use?
From our testing, we’d say yes. It’s intuitive and nicely designed. There are a few things that true tech newbies may find a bit confusing at first, but they’re easily overcome.
Does this software work on a Mac? (Also: Does this software work on Windows XP?)
According to the official download page, the Windows version works on Windows 7 and 8,so it won’t run on XP. The Mac version runs on OSX version 10.7 and above.
Is anyone making money selling Kindle children’s books on Amazon?
One of the folks we interviewed for Kindle Kids Mastery is a children’s author who is exclusively creating Kindle eBooks. He told us that — just from being part of the Kindle Unlimited plan (Amazon’s Netflix-like subscription service) he’s getting between $1.80-$2.00every time someone downloads and reads one of his books. And that’s on top of his direct sales. So clearly authors — particularly those who have built a promotional platform (blog,social media, mailing list, etc.) and aren’t shy about advocating for their books — are seeing real benefits.
Illustrations are so important. “Any cheap thing will do” probably won’t in the long run, as you’re going to be competing with the very best in illustration.
This is certainly true, but I’ll hearken back to the answer to the question just above this one. The ability to self-publish creates the opportunity for authors to create different types of books with different purposes. If you’re creating a lyrical picture book with text that you’ve slaved over for months, you should absolutely do everything you can to employ the services of a world-class illustrator. But, if you’re putting together something less “meaty” that’s designed to sell as an eBook for $2.99 and provide a child a bit of fun, sharing royalties or paying a big work-for-hire bill may not fit into your budget. In that case, looking for inexpensive alternatives is perfectly reasonable.
The bottom line? If your dreams of self-publishing are being held back by a lack of artistic talent and/or lack of budget to hire a top artist, you shouldn’t just throw in the towel. There are ways to get good quality artwork that can fit your needs. But I’ll certainly agree with your main point — illustrations are extremely important and a talented illustrator can work real magic on a book. In an ideal situation, I would certainly advocate for hiring a professional.

 

The ability to self-publish easily is flooding the market with amateurish books. Without gatekeepers (editors) to sift the bad from the good, how can any of us get the attention of readers?
You’re certainly right about the amount of truly bad books being published. But that’s a natural outgrowth of the democratization of the publishing process. The same thing happened to music a decade ago — when anyone with a computer and microphone could record a song and release it online, music fans suddenly found themselves engulfed in a sea of bad music. But they adapted — review blogs, curated lists and recommendation-based services like Pandora helped separate the wheat from the chaff.
We’re still in the very early stages of publishing’s digital revolution. I have no doubt at all that similar outlets will arise in our world to help make sense of the chaos.
But here’s the key — and its a big one: In order to rise above the masses, your work must be excellent. Craft is more important than ever. The path to success right now is by getting word of mouth: parent to parent, teen to teen. Bad books don’t get talked about. Good books do.
Don’t publish crap just because Amazon is making it easy. Work your craft.

 

Doesn’t that sound exciting?! (Thank you Laura and Jon!) Because this is the first and only course specifically about this, Kindle Kids Mastery is
the immediate answer for all writers to take advantage of this
opportunity.
I’ve been in communication with Jon of Children’s Book Insider (who supplied me with the above info) after I learned of their exciting course,
read all the info, listened to an interview with Laura of CBI, became fully convinced and purchased the course! I’d been inspired to consider preparing one of my children’s book manuscripts for converting to an eBook. I know, shocking, since I was one who was so slow and hesitant in even reading eBooks. I love real paper books, but it seems that sometimes the better way to go is electronically, although once a book is an eBook it doesn’t mean it can’t later become a paper book as well. Many do.

Now is your chance to do something about this great price cut before it’s gone. To learn more and get Laura’s “Kindle Kids Mastery” course at the $70 off introductory price, go HERE to Kindle Kids Mastery now! There you’ll find a full table of contents and a video tour.

The $70 discount expires midnight, October 15, 2014! Please don’t put it off and miss this great deal like I tend to do. (But not this time!) And remember: all buyers get lifetime access with free updates!

When you get a book ready to publish with the help of this course, let me know how you liked it.

You can find Kindle Kids’ Book Creator and Kindle Kids Mastery course listed on my Writers Helps page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

What have YOU read lately?

Hi All!

I’m sorry to say it’s another day – or maybe week – of no book review as I am having to take a little break. I really thought I would have one ready for today, but … have you ever found yourself in a place of being hardly able to even read a book? I don’t want reading and reviewing to become something I don’t enjoy anymore, so that’s a bit worrisome for me.

Since this is my week at home it’s my chance to try to get caught up in my own house a bit – if possible. My naturopath gave me capsules to help me sleep better so I will be more rested my next week with Dad, and to help me de-stress.  I’m hoping to get back to devouring books again very soon. :)

I do have some exciting news to share with you depending on how quickly I can get a post together about it. Of course, it is to do with BOOKS!  :)

In the meantime, what I would love is for YOU to share a sentence or two about the books YOU are reading this month, or this season, or tell us about your favourite book of all time. I am really interested in knowing what you are enjoying and if it’s something I would like for my own reading pleasure. Even if you have never left a comment it would be so nice to hear from you with your book thoughts. 

Would you do me the favour of sharing in the comments about your reading and help me out a little here, please?

Thank you for faithfully following my blog; I appreciate you so much.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Book Review: Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone – by Darlene Foster

Amanda in Alberta, The Writing on the StoneBook: Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone
Author: Darlene Foster
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Date: July 6, 2014
Genre: middle grade fiction
Pages: 98
Price: paper $9.35; Kindle $3.88
My Rating: an adventure young readers will love
 

I received a copy of Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone from the author in exchange for my honest review.

If you haven’t met Amanda before, you’ll need to know she is a twelve-year-old, adventurous, travel-loving girl who seems to find mysteries wherever she goes. This time, in Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone, not even the one leaving home she still gets involved in a situation.

Amanda invited Leah, her friend from England, to vacation in Alberta, Canada. For Leah – as it was for Amanda when she visited Leah in England – so much seemed strange to what she was accustomed to at home.

Amanda’s parents are busy people but make time to take the girls to various interesting places, such as dinosaur museums, a cattle drive, and unique stores for shopping for “cowboy” attire. While they were at a rodeo, Amanda noticed a little stone drop out of a clown’s pocket, but she couldn’t get the man’s attention to tell him. When she picked up the stone she noticed unusual markings on it, so she slipped it into her own pocket. Things happen from then on to make Leah’s vacation one to remember! Cowboys argue over something, a surly bothersome man keeps following her, she is suspicious of ‘questionable’ people – and Amanda and Leah are involved in another sometimes dangerous adventure.

Darlene Foster‘s writing is suited to young readers. The Amanda series is fast-paced, action-filled, and written so that the young main characters are the real problem solvers but with adult involvement.

You can read my reviews of two books in Darlene Foster‘s Amanda series: Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask, and Amanda in England: The Missing Novel.

You can find Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Book Review: Amanda in England: The Missing Novel – by Darlene Foster

Amanda in England, The Missing NovelBook: Amanda in England: The Missing Novel
Author: Darlene Foster
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Date: August 9, 2012
Genre: juvenile fiction; adventure (age level 7-13, grade level 3-6)
Pages: 73
Price: paper $8.80; Kindle $3.65
My Rating: a fun read that educates while taking children on an adventure
 

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Amanda in England: The Missing Novel is book three of the Amanda series by Darlene Foster. Written for middle grade readers it is a quick-paced easy read. 

Amanda is a curious adventurous twelve-year-old whose friend in England invited her to come for a visit. Having a love of travel she happily accepted Leah’s invitation.

From the time Amanda arrives things begin happening. One thing leads to another, and she finds herself involved in the mystery of a missing valuable book. Young readers will enjoy the antics and escapades of Amanda, Leah and two local kids they meet as they encounter a strange acting lady, run into trouble when two men chase them, and try to keep all the trouble they’re in from Leah’s parents. While following Amanda readers will also be learning a little about some of the sites and sights of England.

Darlene Foster has written four books in the Amanda series so far. If you want to read my review of her first book in the series, go to Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask.

You can find Amanda in England: The Missing Novel listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)