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I don’t think I’ve read a stranger (in a good sense!) book in this year’s contest than PICCOLO: AN INTERN’S TALE, by “Piccolo Fortunato” and Elias T. Ressler. Piccolo is an Italian greyhound, and he narrates his own story, and the book (the cover of which is terrific) is illustrated throughout with what appear to be woodcuts. It’s a charming and entertaining book, and it manages, at once, to be both earnest and serious and also quite tongue-in-cheek. I’m an academic who works on Virginia Woolf, and I am reminded immediately of Woolf’s book FLUSH, which is told from the point of view of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel. I’m curious if the author has read it. The writing itself is smart, sly, and very effective, and I found myself often laughing out loud at the sheer verve and nerve of the narrative and the voice. Ressler is clearly an odd duck in the best sense of the term. In a sea of standard mysteries and genre books this year, this one clearly stands out. I have almost no complaints, and would very much like to see the other book in this series. The book’s physical production (from a publishing house in England) is also very well done, and the woodcuts are reproduced beautifully. Quite entertaining and fun.
Judge’s Commentary*: Northman’s Daughter
What a beautiful story! The research you did was superb! It was great seeing how the facts of history related to your characters and the mythical world that you created. The character of Svana is well developed and likeable. She pulls the reader into the story with her personality. You can really hear the accents when reading. It’s wonderful to see how Svana grows through the story. The length of the book and type size is perfect for a middle grade or a young adult book. There are a few places in the story where the action lags a bit. Tightening up the text or perhaps even cutting out that section would help the pacing, particularly in the second book. There are quite a few words that are difficult, especially for younger readers. It’s great to see the glossary in the back, which gives the definitions as well as the phonetic spelling. There are a few typos, but nothing that detracts from the readability of the story. My only criticism would be that the cover design doesn’t really capture the wonderful story inside. It looks like a travel book. This would not be something that a young girl who enjoys historical fantasy would immediately recognize as a book she’d like to read.
Judge’s Commentary*: Wolfdogs
I’m digging the wolf photo. And I certainly cannot disagree with the synopsis. I like the paw print at the chapter headings.
Ha! Funny opening. Your writing style is infectious and conversational – a harder trick than many people might think. A little bit of overuse on the one-line paragraph. It’s interesting to watch his growing attraction to music. It’s sort of like a relationship (p. 24).
“The many layered lands…” that’s a great paragraph. (p. 38) “The air was almost delicious.” great line (p. 70).
I like the surreal sensation of finding himself in New York. That’s exactly what it’s like (p. 90). “like a plant tilting toward sunlight” (p. 105).
I really enjoy your writing – just note all the little gems I’m pulling out. You have a gift – which is why I’m finding this book frustrating, because I’d really like this thing to have an actual story. Even well-written reflections and self-discoveries do not carry the same weight as a strong story (p. 124). Yikes! Dead rabbit. Rude way to wake up. I love the discovery of the record treasure chest (p. 146). “like an archaeologist peeling back the bandages on a mummy” (p. 162)…. I love your writing style, your quirky way of looking at things, and this still might be the best book I’ve read for a while, because talent is talent, and you’ve got it. Whatever happens in this contest, keep at it. And best of luck.
Judge’s commentary*: Northman’s Daughter
The Northman’s Daughter filled some gaps in Irish history and folklore for me. You have obviously done a great deal of research to make the scenes live and breathe for the reader. The travels in time were very creatively maneuvered, and the characters sparkle with passion, pathos, wit, and humor.
The grammar errors are minimal. However, you will want to know that the Oxford comma (comma before the “and” when writing three or more items) is back in vogue….
The cover needs a picture that grabs the attention and the imagination of your readers. While the picture does depict the coast of Ireland, those who are geographically challenged won’t even get that. Find a picture that depicts Svana in one of the most important scenes in the story….
Thank you for the privilege of reading your novel; I truly enjoyed the way you put the stories together around Svana, and I loved the fact that her father was restored when she forgave him.