Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review of Sisters of Misery, by Megan Kelley Hall

Maddie Crane has lived all her life in Hawthorne, a little town close to the infamous Salem, MA. Together with her mother and grandmother, she lives a pretty routine life. But there is some darkness about her. For one, her father abandoned her and her mom, and, together with four other school 'friends', Maddie belongs to a secret club called Sisters of Misery, one of those mysterious fraternities going back many generations. The leader is Kate Endicott, a rich, evil girl who has a psychological hold over Maddie and the other three girls, and whose favorite past time is to make other people suffer. Though Maddie is a good girl, she's too affected by peer pressure to stand up to the girls.

Then one day her cousin Cordelia and her mom come from California to live with them in Hawthorn. At once, Maddie is mesmerized by her beautiful redheaded cousin. Cordelia is mysterious, ethereal, and very different from the regular girls at school. Immediately, Kate is overcome with jealousy and does her best to humiliate Cordelia. She also torments Maddie with having to choose between her loyalty to her 'sisters' and her friendship to Cordelia.

Eventually, things go too far, and what is supposed to be a night of harmless initiation on the Island of Misery turns into a bloody, sadistic ritual...

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I like the author's prose and the way she weaves elements of history, witchcraft, and superstition into this modern day story, but there are aspects of the novel that didn't work for me nor allowed me to connect with the protagonist.

To start, the protagonist is a weak follower. She's good at heart, but never really stands up for what she believes is right, in spite of the atrocious, sadistic actions of her so-called 'best friends'. I found the violence in this book excessive for the age group (13 and up, I'm guessing, since the protagonist is 15). I feel that the author is talented enough without having to resort to shocking her readers in order to get their attention (yes, I feel this book is one of those with shock value). I would have found the novel more believable if the characters were older. The villainess, Kate Endicott, is so mean that she borders on the cartoonish. Her evilness is too exaggerated, to the point of being unbelievable. Let me put it this way: Cruella could learn some tips from this fifteen year old. The most sympathetic character is the victim, Cordelia, which is a real pity because she is gone for half of the book.

But, as I said, there are many good things about this book. The prologue is really grabbing, in fact one of the best and most memorable I've read in a long time. The darkness and the vivid, macabre images will stay in my mind for a while. The story moves at a fast pace, is quite suspenseful, and has a lot of imaginative twists and turns, so I'm sure many readers will enjoy this book.

I, however, kept turning the pages, hoping that justice would be done and that Maddie would get some backbone and stand up to her 'friends'. Even though I know the story isn't finished and there will be a sequel, I was disappointed. Granted, Maddie is a victim of peer pressure, but to me, a protagonist must have substance, even if she initially starts off being weak. So I guess this is my problem with Maddie. For me, she lacks substance. Reading this novel has remainded me of the important role of a sympathetic protagonist.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Rave Review from ForeWord Magazine

Heather Shaw, Editor-in-Chief of ForeWord Magazine, just gave my book a rave review.

I'm absolutely thrilled!

“There’s not a reviewer out there that wouldn’t benefit from this review of reviewing… this is a great reference book for libraries…”

Read Heather's full review here.

ForeWord seems to have a lot of weight with libraries, and since I'm in the process of an emailing campaign to libraries, this review comes very handy. My co-author and I are contacting all public libraries by state and sending them promotional flyers by email. So far I've done all the libraries in MA. It is a very time consuming activity and after we do a couple more states we'll check with the publisher to see if our promotional efforts have been effective. For a list of public libraries by state, we're using this site:

We're also planning to contact college bookstores and English departments of colleges and universities. Already our book is being used as a textbook for a book writing course at Loyola College, MD, so we're quite excited about that and hopeful that other schools will follow.

Here's what other reviewers are saying...

"The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing should be considered mandatory reading for novice and aspiring book reviewers, as well as having a great deal of enduring value as a reference for even the more experienced reviewer. Additionally, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing will provide to be informed and informative reading about the book review process for authors, publishers, publicists, booksellers, librarians, and the general reading public." --Reviewed by James Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review.

"This book from Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards is the first 'Reviewer's Desk Reference' for book reviewers at all levels."
--Reviewed by Ernest Dempsey, The World Audience

"As an experienced reviewer I learned that I do not know it all and will keep my copy of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing for reference. It is not a book I will loan out because it won’t be returned...If you want to break into book reviewing, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a must-have reference. Heed the author’s advice and you can write reviews that will get you and the books you review noticed." --Reviewed by Sharon Broom, Armchair Interviews.

"The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a useful took for both amateur and professional book reviewers, as well as book review editors. There should be no doubt that the good tips, thoughtful perspective and resource information can be of considerable value to anyone wishing to practice this art." --Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Allbooks Reviews.

"I do recommend The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing as a must-have resource guide. Calvani and Edwards present a well-written gold-mine to potential reviewers as well as a source of information for experienced reviewers and authors." --Reviewed by Irene Watson, Reader Views.

"The Slippery Art... is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in book reviews - writers, reviewers, publishers, publicists, librarians, booksellers and readers." -- Reviewed by Francine Silverman, Editor of The Book Promotion Newsletter

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dream Realm Award Finalist


I just discovered that my novel, Dark Lullaby, was one of three finalists at this year's Dream Realm Awards for the Horror category.

The winners were announced at a science fiction convention in Houston, Texas on August 16th.

Even though I didn't win, I'm deeply honored to be chosen a finalist. I'll be receiving a framed certificate in the mail soon. I'm looking forward to displaying it on my office wall.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Review of Janoose the Goose, by J.D. Holiday

Janoose the Goose
by J.D. Holiday
Book Garden Publishing
Copyright 2008
ISBN: 978-0981861401
Children's Picture Book
11"x 8 1/2" paperback, 24 pages, $10.00
Visit the publisher's website and watch the trailer at

In the farm, all is well until the naughty fox decides to stop for a little visit... well, a little visit that translates into bullying and terrorizing the little innocent ducklings. Luckily, Janoose the Goose is there to defend the duckling and chase the fox away. Impressed by the goose's bravery, the other farm animals decide it would be great if Janoose could stay at the farm and keep order, but Janoose is supposed to fly away soon, and besides, there are no jobs available for her at the farm. But if Janoose leaves, who will defend the other animals against the fox? Will Janoose be able to stay, after all?

Janoose the Goose is a cute, engaging story that will be enjoyed by young children ages 3 to 8. My daughter, though she's old for the book, read it with interest and loved the illustrations. The artwork, done also by the author, fits the story well. The illustrations, though simple, are colorful and attractive and have a traditional style that I've always enjoyed in children's books. Janoose the Goose is a worthy addition to a any kid's or classroom shelf.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Brillante Weblog Premio-2008

I would like to thank young adult author Beverly McClure and children's author Margot Finke for nominating me for the Brillante Weblog Premio-2008. Thank you so much, Beverly and Margot! It is an honor and it was such a delightful surprise to be nominated.

As a nominee, I get to make my own nominations... and here they are!!!!

Lea Schizas,
Amy Moreno,
Cindy Reeg,
Jessica Kennedy,
Donna McDine,
Mary Jean Kelso and K.C. Snider,

Rules for next recipients of the Brillante Weblog Premio are as follows:

1. The award may be displayed on a winner's blog.
2. Add a link to the person you received the award from.
3. Nominate up to seven other blogs.
4. Add their links to your blog.
5. Add a message to each person that you have passed the award on in the comments section of their blog.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Guest Post: "Is There a Picture Book Designer in You?" by Jan Amenta

I recently finished painting watercolor pictures for one of my children's picture books with the intent of designing the book myself. It was the goal that made me willing to conquer the challenge of learning the page layout software Indesign Creative Suite 3 or CS 3 by Adobe.

I was comfortable using Adobe's Photo Shop having made examples of pages for a previous picture book project. In fact, I designed most of the pages, which led to the realization that I could design my books if I had the right tool.

Listening to other authors and self publishers, they seem to fall into two groups. Those that hired someone to do the designing and those who do it themselves.

Indesign CS 3 cost about $750 US and came with a video workshop and once I registered the product I took the free offer for a one month trial to to access Adobe's library. I also bought Adobe Indesign CS 3 ClassRoom in a Book, with lesson files on CD that take you through the layout exercises. The internet was where I got most answers to my questions by researching on Google and elsewhere. Also, there are websites by Indesign professionals and internet groups that have a wealth of information. To get answers to hard to find questions I went to the These are all key to understanding the Indesign CS 3 software.

Once I got the hang of it, and knew where things were, including what tools to use and how to use them, I could not believe how cool this software program was. For instance, to make a page in the book, I made a frame on a first layer, using File> Place, I added a picture, chose the text layer, made another frame and added the text. You can resize an object or picture right on the page, apply drop shadows, and ghost background images, and add gradients which is a gradual blending between colors. And there is another way to get pictures placed in a document and that is to open Adobe Bridge which is a separate tool that comes with Indesign. In Bridge you can look for files anywhere on your hard drive by opening Bridge right inside the Indesign workspace and view contents you need to bring into your document and then, just drag and drop the picture.

If you have basic knowledge of art software such as Photo Shop or Corel Painter, like to learn, and don't mind doing research you might be able to design your children's picture books yourself.

While you consider this as your option you should start by reading a few books on book design, especially picture book design. I found that looking at other children's books got my imagination going.

Before you start the design process you will need to decide where the book will be printed so you can get information from the printer on what their needs are.

You will need to know the template sizes for the interior and book cover. There are margins, bleeds and gutter sizes to know and what settings should be on or off just to name a few.

If this all sounds like it's too much then don't do it. Go another route to get your book designed and in print. There are plenty of good publishing services that have designing as part of their packages or you can hire a professional book designer.

--Jan Amenta writes children's picture books under the pen name of J.D. Holiday. Her book, Janoose the Goose, is the first in her "Read-a-long with Your Child Storybook" series. Visit her website at: