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Archive for January, 2020

Author Interview with Holly Hall Becker and Book Give-Away!

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Author Interview with Holly Hall Becker & Book Giveaway!

Interview by Mirah W. (mwelday)

 

I would like to welcome Holly Hall Becker to the PaperBackSwap blog!  Holly and I attended college together and we have been great friends for over 20 years. I am so honored to call her my friend and so proud she made the decision to write a book.  Holly is a talented writer and for years she has been capturing the spirit of her local community and tackling important topics and events for various magazines and newspapers. Recently, Holly published her first children’s book, Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure and I am so happy she agreed to join me for an interview. I hope you enjoy getting to know her and learning more about her book! Don’t miss the information on how to enter our giveaway at the end of the interview.

Mirah: Holly, you’ve been a writer for years, what made you decide to write a children’s book? 

Holly: I had the idea for Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure when my kids were much younger. It was just a fleeting thought after commenting on my oldest son’s hair one morning before school. I think he was in first grade at the time. Over the years, I’d think about that book idea. I’d always say to myself, “Maybe someday I’ll do. I’m just too busy now.” Then I realized if I kept saying that it would never happen. Finally, in Jan 2017, as part of a New Year’s resolution, I decided I should at least write the story down and see where it went.

M:  How would you describe your writing process for this book?  How was is different or similar to your process writing articles? 

H: I wrote the first draft of Bed Head in a coffee shop in a couple of hours one afternoon. I had the outline for the story already stored in my head from years of thinking about this book. However, I did put the story away for a bit and returned to it several times along the way. Life just gets busy with three children, freelance work and other commitments. I proofed and rewrote pages and had several trusted friends read drafts and listened to their feedback. Illustrations also take some time, especially ones with such beautiful detail likes the ones Pablo Agurcia created for this book.

Writing a children’s book was quite different than writing articles for newspapers and magazines. Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure was creative writing whereas the articles I write for publications are nonfiction and involve interviews, notes and research. The way a children’s book story flows from page-to-page and reads aloud to an audience is also quite different. The book, of course, took much longer to complete than an article.

M: What did you enjoy the most about writing a children’s book? 

H: I’ve enjoyed so many things along the way, but I have to say that having the opportunity to read Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure at story times and in classrooms has been the best by far. It’s really a full-circle moment of seeing what started as just an idea become a reality. I love watching the reactions of the kids while I’m reading, and their questions and comments are often hilarious. It’s also rewarding to see people enjoy something that you worked so hard on for so long.

M: I imagine you have received all kinds of funny questions and comments from kids!  How were you influenced by other writers when brainstorming and writing Bed Head?  

H: I’ve always appreciated children’s books with some humor. I loved reading books to my three children that made me smile or chuckle. I’m a big fan of picture books by Mo Willems and David Shannon for that reason. I also admire the clever humor and play on words in children’s books by Amy Krouse Rosenthall.

M: You mentioned the book’s illustrator, Pablo Agurcia, earlier. His illustrations are fabulous.  How did the two of you decide how the story would be captured on the pages?

H: When I wrote the first draft of the book, I wrote a few general notes at the end of each page of what I envisioned happening in the illustrations. Pablo took those basic ideas and expanded on them creatively. He’s incredibly talented and added so many small details to the illustrations that really enrich the story. I was blown away when I saw the illustrations for the first time.

M: Did you receive any input from your kids when writing Bed Head? How did they impact your story? 

H: I wouldn’t say they had much input into the book, but they definitely were my inspiration for this book with chronic cases of bed head. A few lines of dialogue in the book are straight from my son’s mouth.

M: I can say from experience, your kids do say some pretty funny things! I love all the names you use in the book. How did you select the names for the characters in your books? 

H: I used the names of my children and my nieces in the book, as well as Illustrator Pablo Agurcia’s children’s names. I needed a few more names for hairs in the book so I asked two of my friends if I could use their children’s names.  An initial suggestion I had from someone who read an early draft was to make the names easier to pronounce.  I didn’t take that advice, but I like that some of the names are not as common or not the common spelling. I think it’s more representative of the names I see on class rosters today.

M: With a name like Mirah, I appreciate you using names that aren’t as common or use the common spelling! What do you want kids to take away from your book? 

H: I want kids—really anyone—to laugh and be entertained by this story. I think bed head is a common occurrence at many homes and children can relate to it. I hope that children and the adults reading the book to children will share a special moment together. Hopefully the story sparks a child’s imagination to dream up other ideas about how bed head happens.

M: Speaking of how bed head happens, what do you recommend to those who wake up with a serious case of bed head and they have to get out of the house quickly? We’ve all been there!

H: Hats are a lifesaver! I love hats in general, but I always keep one near because some days I just don’t feel like messing with my unruly hair.

M: And now for the fun stuff; which do you prefer:

Pie or Cake? Cake unless it’s key lime pie!

Inside or Outside? Hmmm. Definitely inside if it’s cold. I do like outside when the weather is warm. My screened in porch is my favorite place. The best of both worlds! My family also loves visiting national parks on our summer vacations.

Television or Movies? TV. I love to become obsessive about a new TV show and binge watch.

Winter or Summer? No surprises here. Summer!

Concerts or Radio? I always have the radio on when I write, but I do love a good concert when I have the opportunity to go to one.

Phone Calls or Texts? It might sound strange, but I like how text messages are quick and a great way to stay connected to people. I like being able to send a quick word of encouragement to someone or a meme to make someone laugh. I enjoy receiving them, as well.

You can follow Holly Becker on her Instagram page: Link

I hope you have enjoyed this author interview with Holly! I would like to give away a copy of Bed Head: A Hair-Raising Adventure to one of my fellow PaperBackSwap members! I remember being read to when I was a kid and Holly mentioned how much she enjoyed seeing children’s reactions when she did book readings, so to enter to win your copy, comment below with whom you would like to read this book with! You must be a PaperBackSwap member in good standing to win.  All comments must be submitted by Friday, January 31 and a winner will be selected at random. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – There’s Something in a Sunday

Monday, January 27th, 2020


There’s Something in a Sunday
by Marcia Muller


Review by Matt B. (
BuffaloSavage)

After a friend of her boss is murdered, female PI Sharon McCone finds herself drawn into a case that takes her to a ranch, a mansion, and skid row, all of which have well-conveyed atmosphere. Another strength is in the believable characters, from homeless people to hypocritical yuppies to friends on the way to becoming alcoholics. I hope I do not make this outstanding mystery sound like a downer, because it’s not. McCone mysteries end on an upbeat note, leaving the reader looking forward to the next one. Readers into old-school Seventies mysteries can’t go wrong with Marcia Muller.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday Review – The Case of the Buried Clock

Monday, January 20th, 2020

The Case of the Buried Clock by Erle Stanley Gardner

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

In the 22nd novel starring the lawyer with super-powers and his trusty sidekicks Della Street and Paul Drake, Gardner shows that he’d mastered his way with punchy dialogue. Plenty of clues make the plot elaborate but not bewilderingly complicated: a clock set to sidereal time; the “truth serum” scopolamine in the vic’s body; an uncertain time of death; and finally Gardner’s trusty old “two revolvers” confusion.

The Mason novels that Gardner published during WWII make passing references to war-time culture, such as blackouts, tire rationing, frugality with gasoline, and internment of Japanese-Americans (it was California, after all).

Also, readers who’ve read many of his novels will recall that Gardner tended to look at reality with no illusions. For instance, in this one Gardner tweaks home-front pieties when the returning veteran says that instead of giving a “flag-waving” speech at a luncheon, he bluntly told them that winning the war was going to take a lot of hard work and that the US could be defeated in the conflict. Even more shockingly, Mason bluntly asserts that there are no ethics when dealing with the police.

Perry Mason fans regard this 1942 mystery as one of their favorites. The plot is crystal clear, and for once, he plays fair with the reader, laying out all the clues.

 

 

 

Fiction Review- Your Perfect Year

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Your Perfect Year: A Novel

Your Perfect Year by Charlotte Lucas (translated by Alison Layland)

Review by Mirah W (mwelday)

I recently received news that would impact my career and I was feeling a bit discombobulated. It wasn’t news I was wanting, and I found myself going through the stages of grief over the change…and not necessarily in the correct order. I was angry one day, in denial the next, just all over the place.  I went to find a book that I thought could give me a new perspective on things.  I found Your Perfect Year.

A bestseller in Germany, Your Perfect Year is about how we can get so stuck in our routines and expectations that we fail to see what is happening around us.  Jonathan has been living a regimented existence without any joy. Hannah has been thrown for a loop with her boyfriend’s recent decisions.

One day during a punctual and structured outing, Jonathan finds a daily planner complete with activities for every day of the next year.  Why was this diary left for him?  And how can a diary written for someone else really make a difference to him?  Jonathan tries to find the real owner of the diary but when he finally admits to himself that maybe he needs some change in his own life, he decides to embark on a new life using this diary as a guide.

I am giving Your Perfect Year 3 out of 5 stars for ‘I liked it’. I found the characters a bit difficult to connect with, but the storyline was a good one. I am not sure how much of my lack of ‘spark’ was a translation issue (originally written in German) or a story/character development one, but I still liked the book and the overall theme.  Sometimes life deals us uncertainty and confusion and how we react can truly change our lives. This was the message I needed during my own time of confusion and frustration with the changes being thrown my way. If you’re in the same boat, go on this adventure with Jonathan and see the difference an open mind can make.

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction Review – Leaving Time

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Leaving Time: A Novel

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I have long been a fan of Jodi Picoult. Her take on current social and ethical dilemmas make for heartbreaking and heartwarming fiction. I recently read Leaving Time and I was, once again, struck by Picoult’s ability to create a story that captivated me.

Jenna has been searching for her mother Alice for years. Alice was an elephant researcher and disappeared in the wake of a tragic and mysterious event at the elephant sanctuary where she worked. Jenna joins online chat groups and forums and searches Alice’s journals for any clues to explain her disappearance. Jenna refuses to believe her mother would abandon her without a word.

On Jenna’s journey for the truth she joins forces with two others: Serenity, a psychic, and Virgil, a private detective. The three of them slowly pull back the layers of family drama that led to the tragic event leading to Alice’s disappearance. But in true Picoult form, when the truth is revealed I was left stunned with the outcome and precision and depth of the story.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Picoult novel and this was just the right one to reintroduce me to one of my favorite writers. Complex relationships and grief impact each of the characters in compelling ways and I found Leaving Time a truly enjoyable read. I give Leaving Time 5 out of 5 stars for heart, emotion, and imaginative story-line.