Category Archives: Books

Boom! Boys are reading influencers!

Great news from the 2017 Digital Book World Conference via Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson in their January bonus issue of The Hot Sheet.

According to Nielsen Book Research director, Jo Henry, boys ages 9-12 have grabbed an increased market share of the juvenile book market! Boys are influencing more book purchases so (hopefully) we can infer boys are reading more. That is fantastic news!

Several very interesting points from Jo Henry’s presentation were highlighted in The Hot Sheet about this current upward development in the boy reader.

  • This trend shows up when comparing 2010 to 2016 figures, with an increase in books being bought for boys aged 9 to 12.

  • What books are being bought for boys? Fantasy and adventure.

  • Authors represented in this realm include J.K. Rowling, of course, as well as Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, R.L. Stine, James Dashner, and Kathryn Lasky.

  • Interestingly, 64 percent of these books aren’t being bought for boys as gifts; in many cases, they’re being asked for by the boys and offered by their parents.

  • The main discovery method of these books by boys is in-person, usually through spotting a store display or TV ad.

                                                     (Source The Hot Sheet, January 2017)

Boy readers, I applaud you! You are awesome. You are readers, despite what we are continually fed about your lack of desire to read. Keep it up. Keep seeing books or hearing about books you are interested in and asking for them. Your action in regard to finding the reading material you like is impressive. It gives me hope.

Reading builds empathy. Empathy builds great human beings. Great human beings build great societies.

Boy readers, keep searching for books that interest you. Keep struggling until you find your fit. It is out there. Don’t give up. Ask your librarian, your friends, or your teachers for recommendations. Check out http://www.guysread.com or send me a message if you are struggling to find your reading niche. Find your place in the world of literature. You are never bored with a book around.

But most importantly, keep reading, boys!

lincoln-as-a-boy-reading-at-night

Eastman Johnson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

IN THE BEGINNING Cover Reveal

 

Today Month9Books is revealing the cover and some excerpts for their Charity Anthology IN THE BEGINNING! Which releases October 25, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!
On to the reveal!

 
Title: IN THE BEGINNING: Dark Retellings of Biblical Tales
Editors: Laureen P. Cantwell and Georgia McBride
Author: Stephen Clements, Nicole Crucial, Mike Hays, Sharon Hughson, Marti Johnson, Elle O’Neill, Lora Palmer, & Christina Raus
Pub. Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon
|
B&N |Goodreads
 
In the Beginning (Oct. 25, 2016) –Eight authors
come together to build a powerful collection of dark young adult short stories inspired by the mysteries, faith, and darkness found within the Bible. Old Testament and New Testament, iconic and obscure figures alike are illuminated, explored, and re-envisioned throughout this charity anthology from Month9Books.
 
IN THE BEGINNING, edited by Laureen Cantwell and Georgia McBride
 
Daniel and the Dragon by Stephen Clements
A troubled orphan named Habakkuk dutifully follows his master, the prophet Daniel, into temples of blood-thirsty demon-gods, battles with unspeakable horrors, and bears witnesses to mind-breaking evil until his master’s zealous defiance of the king’s law seals their fate.
 
Babylon by Nicole Crucial
Far above the earth, in Second Eden, where moments and eternities all blur together, young Babylon befriends Sefer, the Book of Life. As Babylon awaits the moment she’ll fulfill her destiny, she and Sefer try to understand the world in which they live.
 
Last Will and Testament by Mike Hays
A homeless young boy, Baz, bears the weight of humanity on his shoulders and upon his body. When dark forces test a new-found friendship, Baz’s willingness to bear the ugliness of their world will be shaken. 
 
The Demon Was Me by Sharon Hughson
Based on the story of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, this tale provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where a teenage boy seeks to journey to a better land and yearns to discover the kind of man he’s meant to be, only to be hijacked by an evil spirit intent upon chipping away at the hope, faith, and resilience of its host.
 
The Deluge by Marti Johnson
A non-believer shares the story of Noah’s ark-building and the deadly downpour that follows. Fear, faithlessness, and the fallibility of mankind collide in a community where second chances aren’t unlimited and a better-late-than-never attitude just might be your doom.
 
Condemned by Elle O’Neill
Just sixteen-years-old, Barabbas finds himself pulled out of Routlege Academy and into a reality show competition—against Jesus himself—where the reward for the winner is life.
 
First Wife by Lora Palmer
In a first-person retelling of the saga of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, themes of family, deception, guilt, and heartache emerge amidst the first days of Leah’s marriage to Jacob—a marriage mired in trickery a mere week before Jacob was to marry Leah’s sister Rachel.
 
Emmaculate by Christina Raus
Based on the story of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we enter the troubled mind of Emma, who finds herself torn between her religious upbringing and the purity ring that binds her to her boyfriend and the pregnancy that results from her relationship with another boy.
 
Anthology Excerpts:
 
From THE DEMON WAS ME, by Sharon Hughson:
 
The ghastly black fog overtook me. 
Icicles pierced my back. Every muscle in my body spasmed. I plunged face-first against the ground. Something sharp gouged my cheek. Shivery tingles pervaded my insides. A vile presence pressed against my mind.
            
“Get out!” I rolled to my back, arms outstretched. I wanted to fight, throw the intruder off me. But how can you resist something as ethereal as air?
            
Laughter rang in my ears. Sinister. It shuddered against my soul. Terror and hopelessness collided in my chest. A foreign power clutched at my mind.
            
I screamed. I rolled to my side and squeezed my eyes shut. If only I could disappear.
            
Another dark wave of laughter echoed through my skull. Convulsions gripped me. Against my will, my limbs flailed in every direction. A spike pressed into my mind. I cradled my throbbing head. My body, a tumbleweed in the wind, spun on the ground.
  
From BABYLON, by Nicole Crucial:
 
Only those will enter Heaven whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
 
These were the first words I heard, in the beginning of time.
 
But Sefer, the protest comes, Revelation wasn’t written until the first century.
 
My answer is that time is a funny little plaything to God, or so I imagine. That first sentence was the wind that breathed life into my chest, the binding of my pages, the ink in my soul. It knitted together my stardust-atoms from across centuries and millennia and planes of existence.
 
And when the first dregs of consciousness swirled at the pit-bottom of my spine, I yawned and opened my eyes to paradise.
  
From CONDEMNED, by Elle O’Neill:
 
To his surprise, as he heard the metal door grind to a stop, there was a popping sound, like the flash-lamp did when they experimented in Classic Photography at Routlege. Except no camera appeared—not that he could see anyway—but rather a digital time clock, bold red numbers, already beginning their descent, in striking relief against the black paint covering the walls.
 
29:48:12.
 
29:48:11.
 
Of course they would include the fractions of a second, he thought. He was now fighting a tiger against a racing clock. For all that they were merely numbers, he saw their dwindling trickle as if he were watching grains of sand pour through the hourglass of his fingers, helpless.
 
29:47:03.
 
The tiger looked at him. It didn’t glance his way. It directed its massive head at him, its eyes trained on Barabbas … and they didn’t turn away.
 
Another man, in another arena, stood calmly while the tiger advanced. His breathing was even, he did not watch the clock, and he looked with love upon the prowling beast. When it snarled, he slowly exhaled; when its whiskers glanced his weaponless fingers, he blinked gently as the hot breath of the tiger dampened his skin.
  
From LAST WILL & TESTAMENT, by Mike Hays:
 
I’ve found money, I’ve found food, and I’ve found myself in plenty of trouble on plenty of occasions, but I’ve never found another human being just lying around. That’s what happened when I found a person-shaped ball of olive drab and camouflage clothing—which would have been more at home in the reject pile down at the army surplus store—under our
decrepit, worn sign for the “Extraordinary 
League of Witch Assass_ _ _.”
 
It’s true. I found a boy about my age sleeping at the end of the Extraordinary League of Witch Assassins driveway.
 
 
From UNWANTED, by Lora Palmer:
 
“Let me see you,” he whispers. “Let me truly see you.”
 
I swallow down the fear this moment brings, the anxiety that once he does see me, he will no longer accept me. No, I must stop thinking this way. My husband is not like Jacob, dazzled by the superficial beauty of my sister. My husband, my love, will see me.
 
Taking courage from this, I let out a shaky laugh as he helps me stand. I long to see him, too.
 
“All right,” I say.
 
He lifts my veil, his deft fingers moving slow, relishing the anticipation of this moment. At last, he lifts the linen over my face and lets it slip to the floor behind me. We stare at each other, stock still, in stunned silence.
 
It was Jacob.
 
From EMMACULATE, by Christina Raus:
 
The Ten Commandments are pretty straightforward. Killing? Bad. Lying? Nope. Adultery? Don’t even think about it. But is real life really that straightforward? If you tell your boyfriend that you’re going golfing, when really you’re going out to cheat on him, is the lying or the adultery worse? What if you stab the guy you’re having an affair with? Isn’t being a murderer worse than being a cheater? I think the stabbing is worse than the lying and the cheating combined. So, it was kind of unfair for God to group killing, lying, and cheating all together under one umbrella. They all seemed really different.
 
I was an adulterer. I couldn’t deny that. I was also a liar. A very, very good liar. But I wasn’t a murderer.
 
 
From THE DELUGE, by Marti Johnson:
 
The stench of mildew and mold is heavy in our nostrils, and my lungs feel as though they are on fire. My breathing is audible in the lulls between the thunderclaps. My mother huddles, shivering, propped between two rocks. She is coughing painfully, and I can hear her teeth chattering.
 
It is hard to breathe because the air itself is full of water.
 
A deeper shadow has fallen across the side of the mountain on which we are sheltering. I pull aside the brambles, and gasp in amazement when I realize what it is. “Look!” I call to the others, and point at the sight. The ark has risen with the water, and now bobs up and down. It sits high in the water. We hear nothing from it but the creaking of the wood timbers and the sound of the branches and rocks on the hillside scraping against its hull.
 
 
From DANIEL AND THE DRAGON, by Stephen Clements:
 
Your god is a liar!” roared the wizened man in thin black robes, as he pounded his breast with his fist.
Habakkuk stood by the gates of the temple as his master picked a fight with a sanctuary full of the slavish followers of Bel, a bloodthirsty demon god. A fire raged in the fanged maw of a giant, stone head sunken into the back of the temple, there to receive the offerings rendered unto Bel. He had seen this before in other temple raids with his master, though not on such a massive scale, and not at the heart of the demon cult in Babylon itself. The fire raged as the greatest offering that the Babylonians—who adored Bel above all other gods—could sacrifice to their deity was their own newborn children, rolled their screaming, helpless bodies down a stone, handshaped altar into the fire. They offered the fruit of their wombs to their dark god, who devoured the innocent souls sacrificed to him in eldritch rituals.

Giveaway

 

 Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive an eGalley of IN THE BEGINNING, International. Click HERE to go to Month9Books and enter!

 

A Words Look: The Call To Wisdom

Fun fact about me: I’m an Old Testament kind of a guy. Recently, I ran across an impressive Bible quote in the Refusal of the Call chapter from Joseph Campbell’s THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. The intensity of the Old Testament language may be what draws me to the OT. Also, the stories! Man alive, there are so many great stories in the Bible. Even if you don’t read the Bible from a religious foundation, the stories are well worth your time.

Well anyway, here is the passage from Proverbs on The Call of Wisdom. It truly fits the form of classic Old Testament.

Proverbs 1:20-33
The Call of Wisdom
20 Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.
21 At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
23 Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
25 and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you,
27 when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.
32 For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

 IMG_0179

 

Good News! IN THE BEGINNING ANTHOLOGY Announcement

The good news can now be shared publicly. The charity anthology, IN THE -BEGINNING, will be released in October. The anthology will benefit the Write Girl organization and contains YA dark retellings of Bible stories. My contribution is Last Will and Testament. It is based on the following verses from Isaiah, Chapter 53:
He was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard. Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying, while we thought of him as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God; whereas he was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises.

Source: The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?
image

SIGN UP FOR THE COVER REVEAL NOW!

In the Beginning (Oct. 25, 2016) – Ten authors come together to build a powerful collection of dark young adult short stories inspired by the mysteries, faith, and darkness found within the Bible. Old Testament and New Testament, iconic and obscure figures alike are illuminated, explored, and re-envisioned throughout this charity anthology from Month9Books. A portion of the proceeds from the first five hundred copies sold will benefit WriteGirl.org.

IN THE BEGINNING, ed. Laureen Cantwell and Georgia McBride

Daniel and the Dragon by Stephen Clements

  • A troubled orphan named Habakkuk dutifully follows his master, the prophet Daniel, into temples of blood-thirsty demon-gods, battles with unspeakable horrors, and bears witnesses to mind-breaking evil until his master’s zealous defiance of the king’s law seals their fate.

Babylon by Nicole Crucial

  • Far above the earth, in Second Eden, where moments and eternities all blur together, young Babylon befriends Sefer, the Book of Life. As Babylon awaits the moment she’ll fulfill her destiny, she and Sefer try to understand the world in which they live.

The First Mourning by Dorothy Dreyer

  • Brothers Cain and Abel come to life in a haunting tale of sibling rivalry bound by insecurities, the need for parental approval and affection, and the precarious line between love and hate. Some sins can’t be undone.

Last Will and Testament by Mike Hays

  • A homeless young boy, Baz, bears the weight of humanity on his shoulders and upon his body. When dark forces test a new-found friendship, Baz’s willingness to bear the ugliness of their world will be shaken.

The Demon Was Me by Sharon Hughson

  • Based on the story of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, this tale provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where a teenage boy seeks to journey to a better land and yearns to discover the kind of man he’s meant to be, only to be hijacked by an evil spirit intent upon chipping away at the hope, faith, and resilience of its host.

The Deluge by Marti Johnson

  • A non-believer shares the story of Noah’s ark-building and the deadly downpour that follows. Fear, faithlessness, and the fallibility of mankind collide in a community where second chances aren’t unlimited and a better-late-than-never attitude just might be your doom.

Josie’s Coat by Amy McNulty

  • A reimagining of the tale of Jacob’s favorite son Joseph, his dreams, and his famous coat. Josie, a dream-worker, is great at her job, but her coworkers’ cruel jealousy over her success leads to her enslavement and the loss of her dream-walker status.

Condemned by Elle O’Neill

  • Just sixteen-years-old, Barabbas finds himself pulled out of Routlege Academy and into a reality show competition—against Jesus himself—where the reward for the winner is life.

First Wife by Lora Palmer

  • In a first-person retelling of the saga of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, themes of family, deception, guilt, and heartache emerge amidst the first days of Leah’s marriage to Jacob—a marriage mired in trickery a mere week before Jacob was to marry Leah’s sister Rachel.

Emmaculate by Christina Raus

  • Based on the story of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we enter the troubled mind of Emma, who finds herself torn between her religious upbringing and the purity ring that binds her to her boyfriend and the pregnancy that results from her relationship with another boy.

Add to Goodreads!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25946627-in-the-beginning-charity-anthology

A Halloween 2015 Words Look: Poe for Evermore

Besides Ogden Nash’s poem, The Duck, Poe’s The Raven ranks as a Mike Hays favorite. But, alas, it was too much work to memorize the whole thing for school poetry recitations, so The Duck was/is my go-to poem.

Here’s a link to the whole poem, The Raven, if you wish to read it in its entirety to celebrate the holiday. Better yet, listen to one (or all) celebrity readings of the poem at the Mental Floss link.

This post is my condensed version of Poe’s classic with only the last lines of each verse. To my untrained eye, it gives a cool, new perspective to the poem, especially when read fast.

Only this and nothing more.
Nameless here for evermore.
This it is and nothing more.
Darkness there and nothing more.
Merely this and nothing more.
’Tis the wind and nothing more!
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
With such name as “Nevermore.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Happy Halloween 2015! Forever-more.

20-40_crow-_joe_mckenna-ccbync20_sm

A Words Look: SUMMERLAND by Michael Chabon

I am re-reading SUMMERLAND by Michael Chabon to prepare for my late July guest blog post on the wonderful literature review blog, Mother Daughter Book Reviews. SUMMERLAND is a fantastic book which seems to have somehow got lost in the shuffle for reasons I will lament upon in the blog post.

Released in 2002, it is a masterpiece combining myth, a hero’s journey, Native American culture, and baseball in order to save the Four Worlds from Coyote, who means to put an end to it. Young or old, I highly recommend adding SUMMERLAND to your reading list.

Summerland

Below are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book, in which, the young, chosen-one hero, Ethan Feld, finds a copy of the Ferisher (fairy) instruction manual on catching, How to Catch Lightning and Smoke, in his possession, and begins to read it.

“The first and last duty of the lover of the game of baseball, “ Peavine’s book began, “whether in the stands or on the field, is the same as that of the lover of life itself: to pay attention to it. When it comes to the position of catcher, as all but fools and shortstops will freely acknowledge, this solemn requirement is doubled.”  -Introduction to How to Catch Lightning and Smoke by E. Pevine.

It was here, playing for the Snake Island Wapatos amid the cottonwoods and wildflower glades of the seventy-two-team Flathead League, that he (Peavine) had first begun, in his words, “to grasp the fundamental truth: a baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day.”

A Words Look: RAISING STEAM by Terry Pratchett

I will miss the writer Terry Pratchett. He was a master.

I came to the Pratchett game late. I don’t know what rock I lived under, but I did eventually see the light and find his work. The Discworld novels, the Tiffany Aching books, DEATH, Hogfather, the collaboration with Neil Gaiman, GOOD OMENS. It makes my head spin to consider the volume of outstanding art he produced.

There’s been this vision in my mind of a huge two story wall existing in some secret location which served as a Discworld storyboard. I imagine illustrations of characters, storylines, locations, and a sapient pearwood trunk—all on an octarine background floating on the back of the Great A’Tuin. Truly a piece of wall art one could spent a decade studying. Maybe someday…

Terry Pratchett died March 12, 2015 from his Alzheimer’s. His speech on his Alzheimer’s is magnificent and can be read in a past post. It is a bit depressing to think of the stories he did not get to paper. The volumes of ideas nature kept for itself and we will never see. I think a good life goal will be to read every Terry Pratchett book published. I will give it a try, I believe.

Here’s an example of Terry Pratchett’s genius. It is from his latest (and 40th) Discworld book, RAISING STEAM.

“Most of them arrived in time to see something heading out toward them, panting and steaming, with fast-spinning wheels and oscillating rods eerily appearing and disappearing in the smoke and the haze, and on top of it all, like a sort of king of smoke and fire, Dick Simnel, his face contorted with the effort of concentration. It was faintly reassuring that this something was apparently under the control of somebody human—although the more thoughtful of the onlookers might have added “So what? So’s a spoon,” and got ready to run away as the steaming, dancing, spinning, reciprocating engine cleared the barn and plunged on down the tracks laid in the field. And the bystanders, most of whom were now byrunners, and in certain instances bystampeders, fled and complained, except, of course, for every little boy of any age who followed it with eyes open wide, vowing there and then that one day he would be the captain of the terrible noxious engine, oh yes indeed. A prince of the steam! A master of the sparks! A coachman of the Thunderbolts!”

RaisingSteamCover

Bystanders to byrunners to bystampeders…

Nobody can do it like Terry Pratchett did.

Rest in peace, Sir.

You will be missed.