Thursday, May 20, 2010

101 Things I Learned in Film School by Neil Landau with Matthew Frederick

Hachette Book Group kindly sent me this book for review. It's a fun book to read with lots of great information!

Each page has a bullet idea, short and sweet, with a couple of paragraphs to make the point.

It's easy to read, is in form that is memorable, and much of what is said could also be applied to writing. I found it very useful and that the points made were very pertinent.

One point was: Conceal the action. Don't show them everything, make them imagine part of it. And that immediately brought to mind the Columbo shows. He had a wife and talked about the Mrs. a lot, but you never got to see her. It kept you watching the show, though!

Another point: Film, novel, television or stage? They talk about the best venue for your writing. One amazing point for me was that they pointed out that MASH was a novel, movie, television series and stage production. I never knew it was a novel, I just loved the movie.

There are many points in this book. Who knows which ones will talk to you and which ones will give you a push in learning to write better films?

Hachette has agreed to provide copies of this book for giveaway.

If you would like to have a copy of this book, follow the two steps below:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog;

2) Send me an email at info @ (take the spaces out) with your name and address and why you would like to win the book.

I'll pick the winners in about a week.

Additional note: Brianne Beers will be interviewing this author on June 2nd at 1 PM. The link to the show is: Go listen and learn more about the film industry!

Senator's Son An Iraq War Novel by Luke S Larson

War is never good, and this particular war is still ongoing. Mr. Larson sent me a copy of his book and asked me to review it.

I wasn't sure how he was going to deal with the fact that the war has not ended (or resolved), but he writes about the beginning of the war and that works well.

This not a "heavy" book. It covers a heavy subject and good people die on both sides, but he doesn't get into such detail that you would be bogged down and depressed and not want to finish it.

The soldiers sent into war knew how to fight. When they got into Iraq, they were asked to help rebuild. Since they were patrolling the streets there and knew the conditions the people were living in, they could understand the need - even if they didn't have experience for it.

Like any dinosaur, the head is almost out of touch with the body. The Armed Services are close to the same way. Those at the top are not familiar with the conditions facing the fighting body, and they give instructions that are almost impossible to follow and ignore the local troops advice.

This book kept my attention, party because it talks of the early 2000's when the war first started and also has a futurist story set in 2047. Both are related, but you don't know how until the end of the book. And it's very ironic ending.

If you would like to have my copy of this book, follow the two steps below:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog;

2) Send me an email at info @ (take the spaces out) with your name and address and why you would like to win the book.

I'll pick a winner in about a week.

Samurai Spirit by Burt Konzak

Subtitle: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life. Tundra Books provided me this copy for review.

In the past, I bought the Book of Five Rings to read during my business career days, so this subject matter drew me in to see how it was handled for young adults.

This is a collection of short stories that are drawn from various Japenese classics to illustrate the concepts taught in martial arts that lead to the creation of the Samurai spirit.

The stories are clear and make their point. The additional information at the end of each chapter about Samurais, their swords, and their lives share Japanese history with those not familiar with it.

They have a very different way of looking at things and approaching things, and most any young adult could benefit by taking a look at their techniques.

If you would like to have my copy of this book, follow the two steps below:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog;

2) Send me an email at info @ (take the spaces out) with your name and address and why you would like to win the book.

I'll pick a winner in about a week.

Gunsmoke An American Institution by Ben Costello

Gunsmoke was part of my childhood, so when I saw this on the list of Five Star Publications, I had to have it. They sent me the CD edition to review, and this was something new for me.

Originally I thought it might be a bit hard to read or negotiate through the document, but it's in PDF form and lists the chapters on the left hand side, so it's easy to use.

The print is large enough to easily read, the photos are wonderful, and I especially enjoyed reading the actor's biographies.

This is truly a trip down memory lane. Looking at the photos was like being in front of the TV again watching the program. I could identify the story line from some of the pictures.

I was amazed to see that Burt Reynolds had been on the series for a time. And quite a few other stars came for short visits. They have photos of them and interviews with most about Gunsmoke's influence on their careers.

Many of these performers have died by now, but their pictures and their actions will always rest in memories.

This would make a very special gift for someone who also enjoyed the series. It's still playing on TV Land.

Give them their own little piece of history that they can pick up again and again and remember "the good ole days".

This book comes in the CD edition or as a coffee table book. If you'd like to buy a copy, visit .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Snake Charmer by Jamie James

Subtitle: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge. This is a Hyperion book and was sent to me for review by Book Reporter.

The first thing I need to confess is that I HATE snakes! I've been fearful of them for my entire life. So I hesitated over asking for this book for review. However, it's non-fiction and the idea of someone who is entranced by snakes and is willing to endanger his life to learn more about them enticed me.

Joe Slowinski is an adventurous young man who takes advantage of every opportunity he finds to learn more. He starts with paleontology and then graduates to venomous snakes. So he almost dies from his first snake bite - he was still hooked on finding new species and visiting unexplored countries.

The author leads you into the story very well with tales about Joe's early adventures (and misadventures). Soon you're reading about snakes and not even knowing the difference! After all, did you know: "The largest species of the group, the reticulated python (Python reticulatus), is the longest snake on Earth; a specimen measuring more than ten meters, or thirty-three feet, was shot in 1912 on the island of Celebres in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). The heaviest snake on reliable record was a green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) killed in Brazil in 1960, which was just under twenty-eight feet long and forty-four inches in the 'waist,' putting its weight at well over five hundred pounds."

This book is full of facts about snakes, what's known and what is still to be learned.

When Dr. Joe Slowinski goes to uppermost Burma, he knew what kinds of snakes to expect. He circumvented certain laws and requirements to get to the area before another explorer, and he knew what snakes he was collecting.

However, he took it for granted that his staff could correctly identify them also.

As many in the animal world do, snakes would mimic the markings of a dangerous snake for "protection" against their nature enemies. A mis-identified snake and being too far from medical facilities proved to be too much for Joe.

This book shows you how much Joe accomplished in 38 years, as well as how much work it takes to plow through the paperwork, politicians, and jungle environment to do real research.

There are numerous photos of Joe during his life and is really a celebration of Joe's life.

If you'd like my copy of this book, please follow these instructions:

1) Leave a comment here on the blog.

2) Email me your name and address and why you'd like this book to info @ (remove the spaces).

I'll pick a winner in about a week.

Stones, Bones and Stitches by Shelley Falconer and Shawna White

The subtitle is Storytelling Through Inuit Art. This is an amazing book. It's a Lord Museum book published by Tundra and sent to me for review. Storytelling always catches my eye, but the presentation of the art in this book is eye catching and attractive. The artists' cultural heritage shines out of their artwork.

Written for young adults, it covers the Northest Territories of Canada artists: Oviloo Tunnillie, Joe Talirunili, Jessie Oonark, Lukta Qiatsuk, David Ruben Piqtoukun, and Kenojuak Ashevak. These works are exhibited in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada.

The people are proud of their tribes, the hardships endured, and their work. You can read about their personal histories, as well as see where they work and what medium they use to express their art.

This is a good way to learn about Inuit life, as well as take a mini tour of the museum from far away.

I found it a fascinating read and an excellent historical reference source.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Gardener by S A Bodeen

This book is a chilling read. I think because as far out as the idea is, it's not something that is totally unbelieveable. You may have stretch your imagination, but who knows what our future might be like?

Mason is a young man getting ready to go to college. He enjoys school, has a scarred face from a dog bite, and has no father at home. He and his Mom do fine and life is great. Until one day when he goes to the nursing home to help his Mom at work.

He discovers four young people that are comatose. They respond to nothing he does.

He happens to have a DVD of his father reading a book to him (when he was a baby) and since he has no father now, he tends to keep it close to him. It gives him comfort. But when he plays there in the nursing home, one of the comatose girls awakens. And she doesn't want to stay there, she wants to go away with him.

The moment he walks out the door of the nursing home, his life changes...

This book is intriguing, fast-paced, and a real thriller. If you have a child that is a reluctant reader, this one should grab their attention and keep them rooting for Mason. The ending was a surprise to me.

Feiwel and Friends sent me this review copy and will be publishing the book in June.

If you'd like to have my review copy, leave a comment here on the blog and email me at info @ (take the spaces out) with your name and address and why you'd like to read it. I'll do the giveaway in about a week. It'll take me a lot longer than that to forget this book...

The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel

Anton is a very confused young man. His family is corrupt, his cousin talks him into selling forged passports and social security to illegal aliens, and his fiance keeps cancelling their wedding.

The author does a good job of showing how Anton can't stand living the way he has been. He doesn't think it's right and his family doesn't think it's wrong, so he uses part of his skills to get a "real" job in another firm.

Then one day, things go wrong there. They find out his Harvard diploma is not his - how, he's not sure.

From here, Anton's life gets more and more complex and unsure. The Feds get involved, his girlfriend is involved, his "wife" (they finally do marry) had other plans even when they married and his cousin is still trying to run his life.

Staying on the island of Ischia by himself leaves him plenty of time to think and wonder what he's going to do with his life. That is if he makes it out of the situation he's in now...

This was a very interesting and complex read with current event issues and much emotional trauma. The book was provided to me by Unbridled Books.

If you'd like to find out what happens to Anton, leave a comment here on the blog and then send me an email at info @ (take the spaces out)and give me your name and address and why you'd like to read it. I'll be doing a giveaway in about a week.

The Gettysburg Approach to Writing and Speaking Like a Professional by Philip A Yaffe

Mr. Yaffe is an author, former reporter/feature writer for the Wall Street Journal, and has more than 40 years experience in journalism and marketing communication. He shares some of his knowledge and techniques in this book. He also provided me this copy for review.

I worked for city government for 25 years and have seen many speaking and writing styles during that time. I wanted to see what Mr. Yaffe recommended.

The first two segments of the book are: Fundamentals of Good Writing and Oral Presentation: Giving Voice to Your Words.

He offers you good, precise, and concise advice on how to format your writing (what works and what doesn't) and how to make your oral presentations be heard and remembered.

The Appendices in the back are exercises for you to put his techniques to use and show how effective they are. There are enough examples that you should be able to become confortable with the technique.

This book is a good resource for those who are beginning to need these skills in life and for those that have been doing it a long time but aren't seeing the results they liked to get. His advice applies to all ages.

If you'd like my copy of this book, please leave a comment here on my blog and then email me at info @ (take the spaces out) with your name and address and why you'd like to read it. I'll pick a winner in about a week.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace

Touchstone Books is the publisher for this book. Joe Wallace has written several non-fiction books about baseball and some short stories, but this is his first novel. The words flow smoothly and the plot entices you and keeps you reading.

I asked for a copy because I used to play baseball as a girl. I also got put on the boy's team in a Catholic parochial school because I was too strong to play with the girls. (Grew up with boy cousins.) So the thought of a girl who was strong enough to pitch professional baseball sounded intriguing to me. Even more so when you know there really was a sixteen-year-old girl who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig - and then was banned from the sport because the game was too strenuous for women. Yeah, right...

The story is set in the twenties and you feel just like you stepped back into that era. All the problems that Ruby faces happened to other young men and women then. It was a time of sickness and death, displaced family members, desperate people, bootleggers, as well as baseball greats and folks who prospered.

Ruby loses most of her family and finds she's the only caretaker for her two nieces. However, she has no job skills and there is no money saved, so she must find something to do to support the children and feed them.

Her first attempt at a job is a miserable failure, and the only Ruby can do that is unusual is throw a ball hard and fast.

She matures quickly and bargains hard and begins to make a bit of money at the Coney Island side shows, but there is evil there, too.

If you'd like to find out how Ruby solves her problems and how she manages to keep her nieces safe (as they keep her safe, too), leave a comment here on my blog and send me an email with your name and address for mailing at info @ (take the spaces out). I'll pick a winner in about a week.

Nana's Getting Married by Heather Hartt-Sussman

Georgia Graham has illustrated this children's book and her illustrations are a hoot! Tundra Books is the publisher and they always have an excellent taste in authors and artists combos.

Nana is just perfect. She's around all the time, cooks him fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, reads him bedtime stories, knitted him mittens and socks and turtleneck sweaters. But then she meets Bob, and everything changes.

As Nana changes step-by-step, he lets his parents know that he DOES NOT APPROVE. He thinks all the changes are gross (dates, makeup, love songs, different hairstyles - ugh!)but everyone else thinks it's great.

Sharing Nana is no fun at all! But then he finds out that she's not moving far away and he's invited to come and stay with her and Bob. So he agrees to be ring bearer.

A very cute story about a boy who wishes his grandmother would just stay the same, but gradually realizes that she's happy with her new fellow and the changes she's making.

This is an unbound copy of this hardcover book and I'll be giving it away. Leave a comment here on the blog and send me an email with your name and address and why you'd like it at info @ (take the spaces out). I'll draw a winner in about a week.

Rattlesnake Rules by Conrad J Storad

This is a hardcover book printed by Five Star Publications and donated to me for review. The illustrator is Nathaniel P. Jensen, and there is a curriculum guide included.

First off, I almost didn't want to review this book because I hate snakes. But I'm very glad I did.

While written for young adults, I learned some things about rattlesnakes reading this book. It's well written, has a lot of concise information and is a great reference tool.

He points out that all the stories about rattlesnakes are not true, tells you the facts about them and how to deal with them.

The illustrations are dramatic and a bit silly and will keep the child reading.

This highly delightful book that will teach children a lot and lend itself easily to a classroom or daycare environment. There are activities for the children to participate in before reading the book and others for after. It will teach the children how much they did know and how much they learned.

I highly recommend this book - it's a great way to learn!

Daddy Calls Me Doodlebug by J D Lester

This is a children's board book and is illustrated by Hiroe Nakata. The book was provided by Random House.

The title caught my eye and then the front illustration drew me into the book. This is the perfect book for a small one who loves to laugh.

Daddy calls he/she many little endearments (as most parents do) and each name evokes an illustration of animal parents of all kinds doing fun things with their small ones.

The board book is heavy duty and should withstand small hands looking at the pictures again and again. After a few rereadings, children will probably be able to read the story and make the fun noises all by themselves!

This is a great children's book - it made me smile. Look for it at your local bookstore, it came out April 27th. Happy reading!

Long Road to the Circus by Betsy Bird, David Small (Illustrated by)

Suzy is tired of boring summers.  Then she finds out there is a retired circus performer living in her area.  She also finds that her Uncle ...