Tag Archives: Middle Grade

February Farmer’s Market by @MLaSarre

I’d like to start this, my inaugural blog post for Lit World Interviews, by expressing my gratitude for my Monica LaSarrefriend Ronovan and his invitation to share a wee bit of my perspective on reading and writing as part of his beautiful, Indy author-supporting website and blog. Ronovan does a fantastic job of keeping things lively and focused on a cause near and dear to our hearts: applauding and supporting Indy authors and making sure that we do all that we can to connect readers with great books and new authors. I’m so pleased to be a part of this mission.

As a new children’s author I find myself asking the kids I meet in my life a simple question at every opportunity (I call it market research, for free!). To the friends that sleep over with my kids, to those I meet at the elementary school during my volunteer hours as a reading helper, to the kids I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with on the floor of the kids’ book section at the local library, I ask: What’s your favorite book? I started noticing a pattern in their responses and an idea for this series of blog posts was born.

You see, as an Indy author, we all know how hard it is to compete with the steady stream of titles churned out daily by big publishing houses. As a children’s Indy author, I find it uniquely challenging to market my children’s books because social media – an Indy author’s best friend – is geared towards adults and keeps children just out of my reach. Kids read what they see in stores, on the shelves at Barnes and Noble and Costco, or the books they see in the Scholastic catalogs sent home from school, the books with intriguing cover art that catch their attention and prompt them to beg their adult to buy these books for them. And if you’ve ever tried, as I have, to get a teensy bit of shelf space at Barnes and Noble or Costco or get in Scholastic’s catalog, you know how hard that is. So, it’s no surprise to me anymore when the kids in my world tell me their favorite books are Diary of a Wimpy Kid, any number of Rick Riordan’s books, or the Warriors series. These are the books in front of them, so these are the books they read.

I am thrilled for the authors of successful kids books, I truly am. I’m a fan of Rick Riordan, he is brilliant. My only problem with the fact that kids only read what they see is that I believe kids are missing out on the breadth of creativity that is afforded to them in the world of Indy children’s books. Let me put this into grown up terms for you to illustrate.

Are you a foodie, like me? Sure, we buy our food staples at the local grocery store, but what we really love is the farmers markets. Only in a farmers market can we find the small batch goat cheese from a local farm, local and raw honey carefully crafted by the beekeeper up the highway, the jams that were lovingly jarred from sun-kissed strawberries in the tiny garden of a widower with a big heart. You don’t find those things in the local chain grocery store, but you love those wonderful products just the same. In fact, your palette would be woefully underwhelmed if you didn’t have those artisan-crafted treats to keep things fun and new and exciting.

Books are the same way, I think. Kids don’t know what they’re missing when they read books they see in the big stores. They don’t know that they’re missing out on the small-batch, carefully crafted words of an author who hasn’t made a big name for herself and probably never will. It’s up to the grownups in the world to bring their kids to the farmers market and show them what they’re missing. So, it is my heartfelt passion to be part of the group of grownups that highlights the books kids are missing out on. Your job as grownups is to help unite kids with the wonderful books of no-name authors who don’t have big house publishing contracts.

Starting with this post, I invite you to take a stroll down the lanes of this kids-book-loving farmers market I’ve prepared for you. The authors I highlight here have not compensated me in any way for mentioning their books and I bought their books myself.

This month, I’ve read three books by Indy authors that I think kids will love (I’m a kid at heart, and I loved these books!).

For Dr. Seuss Fans: Go Baby, Go! (Author and Illustrator: Beth Davis)

Go Baby, Go!From a talented author and illustrator comes this super-fun book, perfect for new readers or parents/guardians/teachers reading aloud to young children, ages 4-6. The author’s illustrations are as colorful as the rhyming tale of a baby carriage on the loose. I laughed out loud in many spots and was completely entertained by the witty encounters the runaway baby has with the police, artists, old men and even a band, to name a few. Very clever, very fun, I completely enjoyed this book.

Amazon Link: Go Baby, Go!

For Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables Fans: Through the Fields to School, My Life in Montana (Author: Maxine Albro Pogreba)

A heart-warming and poignant story of a woman growing up on a large Montana ranch, this book was every bit as Through the Fields to Schoolcomforting as sitting down with my grandma and hearing stories of the “old days.” Through short vignettes, the author tells the story of running through the fields to school, her large family of nine kids, and some of the stories she recalls from childhood. I particularly loved that this isn’t a long book and it’s written in a simple style that an elementary school-age child would appreciate. This would be a read aloud friendly book for bedtime or classroom story time, maybe as part of a history curriculum. I love giving kids the opportunity to see the truth of what simpler times were like – it’s great for their imaginations to recall that, not too long ago, families didn’t have so many of the luxuries we have to today. This is a priceless perspective that goes a long way towards instilling an appreciation for today’s modern conveniences. This is a well-written, delightful read.

Amazon Link: Through the Fields to School

Harry Potter Meets Game of Thrones: Son of a Dark Wizard – The Dark Wizard Chronicles Book 1 (Author: Sean Patrick Hannifin)

Son of a Dark WizardThis newly published first book in a promising new series caught my eye because of its stellar cover. It intrigued me and I simply couldn’t resist reading the first page…which led to finishing this book in one sitting. Prince Sorren is the son of a dark wizard who has recently been killed by a boy believed to be the Chosen One of prophecy. Intent on avenging his father’s death and retaining his right to the throne, he sets out in search of the Chosen One and prepares for an epic battle. With an array of interesting characters, this book was remarkably well-written, well-rounded, and a page turner. So many times I have seen fantasy books become completely distracted by intricate back story and overly-detailed descriptions of setting, but not this book. For readers aged 9-13, this will be a riveting adventure that leaves them rooting for an unlikely hero. I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

Amazon Link: Son of a Dark Wizard

I’m so pleased that I found these wonderful new Indy children’s books to share with you, especially because I enjoyed reading them immensely! I look forward to updating you again soon with more books your kids are missing out on! Until then, remember, take your kids to the farmer’s market from time-to-time so they too can experience bounty by reading non-mainstream, excellent children’s literature.

Monica_LaSarre_Author.jpgAbout the author: Monica LaSarre is a ghostwriter and the author of Jasper Penzey: jasper-penzey-book-11.jpgInternational Boy Detective, an 8-book mystery/detective chapter book series for 8-12 year olds. Read more about her on her website, http://www.monicalasarre.com. She can be reached via email at mlasarre@gmail.com

Amazon Link: Jasper Penzey International Boy Detective: The Ruby Brooch of Atlantis

 

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#BookReview by @RonovanWrites of Jasper Penzey: The Ruby Brooch of Atlantis by @MLaSarre

monica lasarre jasper penzey book review banner

Title: Jasper Penzey International Boy Detective: The Ruby Brooch of Atlantis
Author: Monica LaSarre  monicalasarre.com
Format: Hardcover
Price: $13.01
File Size: 5430 KB
Print Length: 144 pages
Genre: Detective, Adventure, Middle Grades, Fantasy
Simultaneous Device usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Chalfant Eckert Publishing
Published: 21 Oct 2014
Language: English
ASIN: B00OR2NFXG
ISBN-10: 1633081206
ISBN-13: 978-1633081208
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Word Wise: Not Enabled
Sold by: Amazon
Barnes&Noble

Nine year old Jasper’s life changes unexpectedly when his father announces the two of them are moving to Greece because of his work. With a mysterious gift and message left for him on his windowsill Jasper begins an adventure in a new country that takes him in search of the secret to finding the Lost City of Atlantis. Does Atlantis exist? How can he find it? And who is trying to stop him?

With a 10 year old, intelligent and inquisitive son of my own I was looking forward to reading this book. The book is aimed at Middle Grade readers and I can see that through some of the word usage and the thinking processes used by Jasper. Very well done. Very much Recommended on that front. Some of he words will push a young reader just enough to make it a challenge but not take away from the enjoyment.

Being a debut novel I was surprised by the great imagery the book provided. LaSarre really does an amazing job of making you feel like you are in the various environments of the book ranging from Louisiana to Greece. Very good descriptions but not at all over done. Just the right touch.

The characters in the book are mostly believable with only a couple of actions that caused me to pause as to how and why but nothing to take away from the book. The story itself is very easy to follow and the flow is good until right near the end where a few things became slightly confusing because of the action taking place but ultimately it all came together.

For a young reader this would be a great book. It gives just enough to make for an interesting read without being loaded down with a lot of unneeded mythological or archaeological details you would find in an older reader book. My son is the next one to read it. He’s been waiting for it.

Monica_LaSarre_Author.jpg
Monica LaSarre @MLaSarre MonicaLaSarre.com

Ratings
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think: 3/5
Overall Enjoyment: 4/5
Readability: 4/5
Recommended: 4/5
Overall Rating: 3.7/5

Review by:
Ronovan

Ron_LWI

 

 

@RonovanWrites

RonovanWrites.WordPress.com

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Q&A with Vashti Quiroz-Vega Author of The Basement @VashtiQV

THE BASEMENT

by Vashti Quiroz-Vega

 

Book Description

 Robbie is a meek boy in New York City who struggles with the desire to prove himself to his friends, his enemies, and himself. Robbie’s father is a stubborn man determined to teach his son through tough love. When he witnesses Robbie being bullied, he forces his son to face his fears. Robbie is sentenced to a frightening challenge––staying in the basement alone for a night. But what lies in the dark recesses of the basement? Will Robbie make it out alive and well? Will the urban legend about the terrifying creatures that hide in the dark basement prove to be true? And most importantly, will Robbie prove to his friends and his father that he is brave enough to take on the challenge? The Basement is a tale of angst, teamwork and solutions, treasure hunts and adventure, and facing fears. It focuses on the small world of one group of preteens and the very real and wondrous challenges they face.

I never expected a book like this from a lady like this. When I first approached Vashti, who I met through her blog, about an interview I wanted to learn more about the author behind The Basement. I still want to learn more but in truth, I want to know about this book and how it came to be and what else this author has planned for us. I’m going to get out of the way of this interview, simply ask the questions and let you meet . . .

VASHTI QUIROZ-VEGA

Ron Cover ShotRW: Vashti Quiroz-Vega. Love the name. Tell us a little about your ancestry. I am very into history. And your name spins all sorts of imagery through the echoes of my mind.  And is there a meaning behind your name?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: My first name, Vashti, is Persian in origin and has very little to do with my ancestry, I’m afraid. Vashti is the name of a queen in the old testament of the bible in the book of Esther.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: Your book, The Basement available on Amazon,where did the idea come from?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: The Basement began as a short story I wrote in high school. I won an award for it and put it away in a box, along with a bunch of other stories. Years later, I came across it. After reading it again and with the encouragement of others, I decided to expand the short story into a novel.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: The book is about an 11-year-old boy and his troubles, how did you connect with the character?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: I have a brother and two sisters. I’m close to all my siblings, but I grew up especially close to my brother (maybe determined by the fact that I was a tomboy). The Basement is loosely based on memories I have from childhood. The main character, Robbie, was inspired by my brother and my nephew, Joshua.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: And the abuse parts?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: There has been no abuse in my household, but I did know a child growing up who was verbally and physically abused by a parent. The parent did not try to hide this from anyone. I saw and heard this child being abused on many occasions. This experience and the memory of this child have stayed with me till this day, which is why I tolerate no kind of bullying or abuse of any kind.

An ex-boyfriend once told me that I was a perfect mix of femininity and masculinity because I am feminine and very much a woman, but I am also assertive, straightforward and I love basketball, action movies, UFC and camping.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: What did it feel like writing the character of Robbie, the 11 year old boy in the book, as you had to basically become him for periods of time?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: When I wrote The Basement, I essentially became an 11-year-old boy. I felt vulnerable––like my life was not in my control. I guess I felt like a child in a scary world.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: For those reading who may not be familiar with you can you give an example of an author and perhaps a book that would give them an idea of what this book is like as far as feel and style?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: That’s a tough one. Some people have compared my storytelling to that of several other writers, including Stephen King and Anne Rice, who are two of my favorite writers and whose books I have been reading for years. So I don’t doubt that there is some of their influence in my writing, but I believe that I’m developing my own style. Not that I wouldn’t love to write as well as Stephen King and Anne Rice, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: Are you a character in The Basement?MC_99732309_4

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: Let’s just say that several of the characters in The Basement have some of my personality traits.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: Tell us about your writing process. You took a short story and turned it into a full-length novel. How did you go about that?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: As I re-read the story, I added, changed and rearranged sentences, and I replaced and deleted words. I had read so many books and learned so much since writing that story in high school that expanding it was not that difficult. Even now, I feel that I have learned so much since publishing The Basement. I guess that’s how it is with writers. We are constantly reading, learning and improving. I feel that my second book, Lilith, will be much better written than my first, and my third book, Dracul, will probably be better written than my second, and so on. That doesn’t mean any of my books are badly written. It just means that as I learn and gain experience, my work will reflect that. I have noticed this when I compare Stephen King’s earlier books with the books he’s written in the last couple of years. But I have always enjoyed all of his books.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: Can you walk us through how you went from complete and satisfied manuscript to now available for purchase? Many will be reading this who haven’t gone through it yet, and since you have on a number of occasions, I know I would personally like to hear it from a pro like you.

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASTHI: Wow! You flatter me, Ron. 😉 I’ve actually gone through the entire process only once with my book The Basement. The best advice I can offer anyone who has finished writing a story is to give the finished manuscript to several trusted people and ask for their honest opinions. Then after revisions (if any), hire a professional editor.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: Ah, I get the impression you have published several because of how professional everything seems. What other works do you have available and what are you working on presently?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: I have written a variety of short stories, from horror and dark fantasy to sci-fi and romance. You can check them out on my blog.

I’m in the final stages of editing my book Lilith. This is a dark fantasy about angels aimed at a young adult/ adult audience. I’m hoping to have it available in early 2015.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: Is there a lot of romance in your work or sensuality?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: There’s always a little romance because I believe that’s part of life and reality. There’s also some sensuality in my work-in-progress because that’s part of who I am, and that part of my personality comes through in the story.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: How understanding are your friends and family when the writing mania takes hold of you?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: Some are very understanding, especially other writers because they’ve been there. Others––not so much.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: What would be your ideal agent be like to sign with?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: I would love an agent who truly enjoys my story. The editor that’s working with me on my second book ‘Lilith’ truly loves the book. It is obvious by her enthusiasm, the comments she’s made and the questions that she’s asked me. It makes a difference when the agent loves the genre and story. Also, an agent that is hardworking and self motivated is great. One that will stop at nothing to get you the best deal possible for your book. I would love to get into one of the big publishing houses.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: Now for a few fun and trivial questions. What’s your go to beverage while writing?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: Water. I know you’re thinking, “boring,” but I prefer to be sharp and focused when I write. Being well-hydrated does that for me. I don’t drink much coffee, beer makes me bloat like a blowfish, wine puts me to sleep, margaritas and rum are fun, but put me in the wrong frame of mind, and I get distracted easily. So while I’m writing, it’s water for me.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: What is your escape from writing when you need that break before burnout happens?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: Reading, cooking, baking, hiking, kayaking, getting together with family and friends, watching one of my favorite shows on TV (Criminal Minds, Law and Order, Castle, Modern Family . . .) or going to the cinema, playing with my dog, and other things I shouldn’t mention––not necessarily in that order.

 

Ron Cover ShotRW: And finally, as a writer, what is your favorite word and why?

 

Vashti's Web PhotoVASHTI: Wow! There are several words I love, but the first word that comes to mind is “Dulcet.” Why? Because it’s a beautiful word, I enjoy pronouncing it and writing it down. Meaning: 1: sweet to the taste 2: pleasing to the ear 3: generally pleasing or agreeable.

Thank you, Ronovan, for inviting me as a guest author to your awesome blog. I appreciate you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I want to thank Vashti for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. And I hope she comes back when her next book is due out.

Her various contact information appeared in some links throughout the interview but I am putting them all here together so you can follow her everywhere. Also here are some some fan art of her and one of her characters from The Basement, Natasha. Don’t worry, she won’t mind, I already do and if she will let me follower her she’ll let you too. And we are all about supporting each other here, right?

 

ScaredGirlFinal FanArt
Fan Art of ‘Natasha’ from The Basement.
Vashti5
Fan Art of Vashti

Website

Author Site

The Basement Fan Site

Goodreads

Twitter

Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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