Next Up For Review

Next Up For Review
The Center Cannot Hold, Elyn Saks

Monday, March 19, 2012

Revisiting Aradia, Book One

I don't often revisit a book once I've reviewed it. Come to think of it, I never revisit a book once I've read and reviewed it. Like the old saying goes, 'there's a first time for everything'. This is my first.
A long time ago, when this blog was in its infancy, I read and reviewed, Tales of Aradia, The Last Witch, Vol. One
I really liked the premise of the book. It had really great potential. But, I just could not get past some of the basic story telling issues. I ended up giving it a rather poor review, with side bar notes explaining why I felt I had to do so.
I felt bad doing so; really I did. As a writer, I'm acutely aware how much bad reviews sting. 
The author, Ms. L.A. Jones read the review and sent me a personal email asking what I thought she could/should do to improve the book. Of course, her kind insistence that I share only added to my massive guilt. One I finished blundering through my apologies about being so hard on her, I tried (with my limited, not nearly an expert experience level) to point her in the right direction.
She met with an editor, worked through some rewrites and sent it back, asking ever so kindly if I would take another peek? I agreed. Although most of her story was grammatically correct (and I'm no grammarian, so please take that with a grain of salt) it still lacked some of the vital elements the book required to flesh out the best story. Now I had the daunting task of having to break the news to Ms. Jones that I still did not think this was work worth putting out there. 
I think I said something like: right work, wrong editor.
At this point, if I were L.A. Jones, I would have told that snobby, nobody of a writer, Elsie Love to *suck it*. But, because she was determined to see her project through to its true potential, she went out and found another editor! (I love determination. Nothing makes me happier than a good underdog story).
Guess what? She gave me another crack at her book. I admit, I was hesitant. After all, what were the odds she actually found an editor who 'got it'? In spite of my reluctance, I agreed. 
I'm very glad I did. 
This last round took the Tales of Aradia and moved it from the category of a bunch of good ideas lacking continuity, proper scene set up, good conversation and flow and turned it into a winner!
So now, without further tongue wagging I would like to say to LA Jones: Congratulations! You, my dear, put in the time and effort, never giving up and it shows! Your editor, Mr. Harrison Bradlow was the perfect partner for your writing tango.
I would *highly* recommend this book, especially for lovers of YA series. You will not be disappointed!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chasing China, Kay Bratt

Rabbit, Rabbit! Ha! Beat you to it.
What the hell?
You know...'rabbit, rabbit?' The thing you say on the first of each month to bring fortune to your family and home? No? Well, now you know! Speaking of rabbits, under the Chinese zodiac, those born in the year of the rabbit are gentle, sensitive, compassionate, amiable, modest and merciful, with a strong memory.
I should be a rabbit. Sadly, I'm not. I'm a pig. Keep your snarky comments to yourself, please.
While we're on the topic of good fortune, I had the particularly  good fortune to be selected  as a reader of Kay Bratt's , 'Chasing China'. On top of that, I scored an interview. For those unfamiliar with Kay, she spent four years living in China. While there she volunteered in an orphanage. 'Chasing China' is a work of fiction, based on her experiences, thoughts, and passions.
Let's start with the interview, shall we?

Do you ever see yourself returning to China to work in another (or the same) orphanage? How did you manage to come home and not adopt? I imagine that had to be tough…

Oh, believe me; I brought some of the kid’s home! But unfortunately I had to take them back, too. While working at the orphanage, it was a constant fight against the yearning to adopt. I met many children there that I carried a deep, motherly love for and could see adding to my family. (Several of those children are featured in Chasing China!) However, to adopt would have made it impossible for me to continue to do the amount of work I was doing, because I would have had to slow down to concentrate on bonding with an adopted child. In some cases that can take more time and attention than parents can imagine, so I chose to continue helping many kids rather than only one. Also, a specific little girl came into my life and her status made it impossible to adopt her. I knew that if I were to ever adopt, it would have to be her or no one. It wasn’t meant to be but we are still working on getting her status changed so that she can have a family again one day. As for the future, when my youngest daughter sets off to college in a couple of years, I see myself conquering the empty nest syndrome by involving myself in another orphanage. It probably won’t be the orphanage I wrote about in my book, but anywhere that I will be satisfied with anywhere that I can make a difference in the lives of children.
2. Your books all maintain a thread to the country you shared such intimate experiences with. Do you see yourself moving in a different direction any time soon?
All of my books share the common thread of China because that is where I discovered my passion in advocating for children, and the many memories I collected are useful to build characters and plots. At this time in my life, I can’t imagine ever not having these strong feelings to speak for children in China, but I also realize that I can do the same type of work in any country. There are children in need everywhere, even here in the states. I spent the last two years juggling my China projects while working as a CASA volunteer to give a voice to underprivileged children in my own community. This year I began working with AOW (An Orphans Wish) and am back to concentrating solely on children from China, because that is where my heart is. But who knows what the future will bring?
3. When you are writing do you crave any specific foods?
When I’m writing I don’t let things like eating and sleeping get in my way, *wink*, but I find that keeping a carton of Whoppers malted milk balls beside my computer keeps me on task. Instead of stopping for meals during crunch times, I just pop a few pieces of chocolate and I’m good to go.
4. Are you a planner, or do you write whatever comes to mind and mass edit later?
I am such a planner that I drive myself and my family crazy. Even during my downtime—let’s say dinner and a movie—on our way home I am usually going over the plan on who does what first when we walk in the door. Who is going to walk the dog? Who’s taking their shower first? What are we going to watch on television? What’s the schedule for the next morning? (I know I can be a real should see me on vacation, it takes a strait jacket to make me relax!)
When it comes to writing, I usually outline the story and write the structure, then go back and flesh it out with the good stuff. Many times I write chapters out of sequence because if my mind is on one specific scene, it refuses to wait. Usually I want to capture that fresh creativity before it slips away underneath the pressures of everyday life. My working manuscript has lines of red throughout marked with reminders like, “write about the character’s multiple personalities here,” or “insert chapter where character loses her mind here.” (Okay, I made those up, but you get the point. I make a note and keep on ‘truckin!)
With Chasing China, I wrote the ending almost immediately. I knew how I wanted it to end, and I spent weeks researching material to create the accurate details. While the research was vivid in my mind, I wrote it and then had to work out everything to get Mia there. I also tend to edit while writing, as I don’t like a messy page.
5. Do you have any projects currently in the works?
I have a project that is in the final editing stage with a release date set for late March. A Thread Unbroken, my upcoming novel, follows the story of two girls abducted to be sold as future brides to a family in a remote area of China. The girls depend on each other to get through the trauma of their kidnapping and new, harder lives as they conspire to find a way home. I was inspired to write the book after reading a story on a Chinese website about an abducted woman, who after twenty years remembered a few details that allowed her to find her first family. By that time she had embraced her new life but wanted her parents to know what had happened to her, and that she was okay. Her story brought to light the thousands of cases of stolen girls and women in China each year. Trafficking is a common travesty that highlights the diminishing numbers of women in their country. They also refer to this as an imbalanced gender ratio, attributed to the famous Chinese One Child Policy.
6. Coffee, tea, or cola?
I’ve never tasted coffee in my life and witnessing the addiction to it others have, I think I’ll stick to my one Dr. Pepper a day! (But hey—I am from the south so an occasional sweet tea with my meal is a given, Elsie!)

Cover: A Beautiful work. Nicely done. Love it!
Story: B This book quite n interesting read. I've never been to China. I've never studied the culture, government, economic policies and atrocities. Having stated that, I felt this book did a good job covering all of the above topic s without being prejudiced. Having said that I should add there will be others who might disagree. There are many parts of this story which are difficult to imagine happening to anyone, let alone small children. It is tragic and sad.
Mia, the  star of our journey, goes 'home' to find her birth parents. She is young, naive and alone. However, she quickly finds friends to help along her path. Without any paperwork to point her in any direction, she traipses about the country.
As a mother, this terrified me. I kept waiting for someone to snatch her up and lock her away for asking too many questions.
As a friend to those who've adopted, I wondered...would this be a good book for them to read? Would they be willing to share this with their adopted children at a certain age? 
I honestly have no idea. I would recommend it. It is eye opening and heartwarming. The best message: Mia would never again need to go chasing China.  
Amazon Prime members: FREE
Everybody else: $2.99 ebook $9.35 paperback
Website: Kay Bratt, Uncensored