Bergers Book Reviews

Before You Write Your Novel

Before You Write Your Novel
Author: James McCreet
Publisher: Routledge
Genre: Creative Writing
ISBN: 978-1-138-18673-6
Pages: 214
Price: $25.95

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First-time novelists sometimes struggle with the prospect of writing a book. There are so many decisions to be made, and without a plan, it’s easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed. Fortunately, Before You Write Your Novel: Essential Skills for the First-Time Novelist addresses these questions and help authors stay on the right track.

In a step-by-step manner, James McCreet walks first-time novelists through the creative process. First off, he asks how ready the author is – if he has the necessary skills and determination to complete the work. Then he looks at the idea – is it enough to carry a whole novel or does it need to be fleshed out a bit more? Story building, plots, subplots, narrative approaches, and other construction elements are covered, as McCreet dissects a few sample novels. Finally, he pulls this all together in an overview of the novel outlining process.

Those who like to work with outlines will find McCreet’s approach extremely helpful, as he lays everything out for the author to follow along. Those who prefer the “pantster” approach will probably find this information more useful at the time of revision. No matter which camp you belong to, this is a great how-to book for any author to add to his writing toolbox.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 29, 2016 Posted by | writing | Leave a comment

Chloe by Design: Balancing Act

Balancing Act
Author: Margaret Gurevich
Illustrator: Brooke Hagel
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-1-62370-258-8
Pages: 384
Price: $14.95

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In winning the Teen Design Diva contest in Making the Cut, Chloe is given the chance of a summer internship with a designer in New York City. She hopes that working for Stefan Meyers will hone her design skills and help her to be successful in her career.

Chloe is lucky to be rooming with other interns in an FIT dormitory, and will be able to share her joys and accomplishments with girls who have also been there. But one of the interns is jealous of Chloe’s success and tries to bring her down every chance she gets. Balancing a high-pressure job with a potential love interest proves to be more difficult than Chloe imagines, but her few dates are a source of pleasure. As Stefan Meyers guides his staff toward a successful Fashion Week, Chloe is thrown into the chaos and given the chance to shine. But is it enough to be a part of the event, or does she really want to showcase her work?

Balancing Act shows us Chloe at her very best. For such a young girl, she’s amazingly mature in how she handles her work responsibilities. She consistently shows up on time (or even early) for work, stays late, tries to always do her best, and even chooses work over dating. And outside of work, she always takes the high road when dealing with difficult personalities. Chloe is a great role model for teens, who will love her for the exciting career she’s chosen. As there is no mature material in these books, this series is appropriate for younger girls, also.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 21, 2016 Posted by | teen | Leave a comment

The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw

The Drawing Lesson
Author & Illustrator: Mark Crilley
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Genre: Art / Graphic Novel
ISBN: 978-0-385-34633-7
Pages: 144
Price: $18.99

Author’s website
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David really wants to be an artist just like his classmate, Ryan Pasternak. So when he spies an artist, Becky, sitting on a park bench, drawing, he begs her to teach him. Soon he’s learning how to draw what he sees.

David pesters Becky for more lessons, showing up at the coffee shop she frequents and even at her home. Although Becky seems to get angry with him at times, she feels David is working hard and has some real talent. In a series of lessons, Becky shows David how to shade, beginning with a loose sketch, understanding light and shadow, using negative space, checking proportions, simplifying things, creating a composition, and bringing it all together. David is an eager and willing student, and by the time he completes his lessons, he’s mastered most of the basics.

Although David would love to continue learning with Becky, she needs to move out of state, and a tearful good-bye ends this tale. The Drawing Lesson is a wonderful “how to draw” book, told through a graphic novel story, that really explains how to draw what you see. I highly recommend this entertaining and educational book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 19, 2016 Posted by | art, graphic novel | Leave a comment

The Shadow of Seth

The Shadow of Seth
Author: Tom Llewellyn
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Genre: Teen / Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-92934-518-2
Pages: 186
Price: $10.95

Author’s website
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Seth Anomundy lives in a small apartment in the back of a boxing gym, on the poor side of Tacoma, with his mother, a cleaning woman. And now she’s dead, apparently murdered. The cops don’t seem interested in finding out what happened to her, so Seth needs to take matters into his own hands.

On a delivery run for the clock repairman he occasionally works for, he meets one of the rich girls in school, who immediately takes an interest in him. As he speaks with his mother’s clients, he retraces her steps that fateful night, narrowing down the suspects. The cops have issued an arrest warrant for the woman he considers a second mother when she disappears after the murder, and Seth wants to clear her name. But he also needs to steer clear of King George, a teenage thug who suddenly wants him dead.

The Shadow of Seth is an interesting whodunit. Clues are carefully presented and the reader is able to follow along as Seth figures out what happened. But some of the characters’ actions don’t ring quite true, and Seth acts more like he’s researching the death of a stranger rather than his own mother. Fans of simple and straight-forward murder mysteries without too much emotional involvement will enjoy this novel.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 18, 2016 Posted by | mystery, teen | Leave a comment

Ishi: Simple Tips From a Solid Friend

Author: Akiko Yabuki
Publisher: POW!
Genre: Philosophy / Self-help
ISBN: 978-1-57687-816-3
Pages: 40
Price: $12.95

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Ishi is a pet rock with a warm smile and words of simple wisdom. In this book, author Akiko Yabuki encourages us to listen to Ishi’s message, be happy, and share Ishi with a friend.

In the first frame of each two page spread, Ishi finds himself in an uncomfortable situation. Then in the second one, he shares some of his simple wisdom on how to deal with the situation and make himself feel better. Feel stuck? Always move forward, not backward. Sad about what’s missing? Focus on what you have and appreciate it. Feeling unhappy? Smile – happiness will follow.

Ishi is listed for Pre-school to Kindergarten aged children, but I feel that Ishi’s wisdom can also be enjoyed by adults and teenagers. As we age, we may find ourselves even more stressed than children, and Ishi’s gentle smile is a soothing balm for frazzled nerves. I highly recommend Ishi: Simple Tips From a Solid Friend for all ages.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 11, 2016 Posted by | philosophy, self improvement | Leave a comment

Smithsonian Magnetic Adventures: Jungle

Smithsonian Magnetic Adventures - Jungle
Author: Emily Rose Oachs
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: Children / Nature
ISBN: 978-1-62686-305-7
Pages: 64
Price: $22.95

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The rain forest is a fascinating place with an unusual climate and several layers. Each of these is specially suited to certain plants and animals. These layers include the floor, understory, canopy, and emergent, plus rivers and flooded forests. The Jungle guidebook is organized by layer, highlighting some of the birds and animals that live there.

Deforestation is an ongoing problem in the world, as the rain forests shrink every year. This impact and how kids can help try to stop it is also presented. A metal case with rain forest scenes allows kids to place magnetic animals in the right layers or in a jungle panorama.

Kids who love nature and animals will enjoy learning about the jungle with this kit. Smithsonian Magnetic Adventures: Jungle would also make a great addition to classroom libraries.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 8, 2016 Posted by | animals, children, nature | Leave a comment