Guest Post: Danica Davidson and The Minecrafters Blog Tour!

adventure-against-the-endermen 600We at the Library Ladies are excited and honored to participate in the Minecrafters Blog Tour along with author Danica Davidson! For those unfamiliar, the Overworld Adventures books take place within the “Minecraft” Universe, and have proven to be a popular series for kids of all ages. Kate can personally attest that she sees a lot of these books being checked out her her library. We are very excited to have a guest post from Danica Davidson, the author of the upcoming “Adventure Against the Endermen”, the first in a whole new series of books! Today she is going to talk about what libraries and literacy mean to her, and we are very thankful for her perspective. Thanks, Danica!

danica3I don’t know what I would do without libraries. I was the kid who went into the library and walked out with a pile (wait, that’s still true). I love the smell, feel and experience of holding a book. I love how books will open up new worlds and new perspectives to me in a way that nothing else does. I love all the options libraries supply, where there are so many books on different subjects, and that they’ve been there for me when there was no money to spare for buying books. When everything else is gone, there’s still the library.

It’s not a big surprise that has someone who had an interest in storytelling from an early age would end up a voracious reader. (According to my mom, when she would tell me bedtime stories and I was three, I would take over the stories and tell her what happened.) I always appreciated that my parents encouraged me to read and let me read what I wanted, and after initially dictating stories to my parents, I started writing down my own stories in early elementary school. I was making picture books for myself in first grade and by sixth grade I was writing short novels. My dream was always to be a professional author. I started working as a journalist in high school and got my first book contract three years ago. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been a reader and had access to books.

Since then, I’ve written kids’s books and YA books. My book Manga Art for Beginners will soon have a sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, and my Minecrafter books (middle grade novels for ages 7-12 that take place as if Minecraft is real) have turned into two series. The first series, Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine and Battle with the Wither, are coming out as a box set November 7, the same day the first book in my spinoff series, Adventure Against the Endermen, comes out. The new series will have the same main characters, but different villains and adventures. I have also written a Barbie graphic novel, where Barbie and her sisters throw a puppy party to get all the local shelter pets adopted, and a Tales from the Crypt comic where a fight in the high school locker room leads to a deadly act. Just as I like reading in all different sorts of genres, I love writing in all different sorts of genres. This is how I experience the world and I want to write more books for different ages, including books for adults.

I believe that literacy is one of the most important issues out there, because so much stems from being able to read and from reading on different topics. I’ve been told by librarians that my books are hard to keep on the shelves, and that’s what I want. I want to write stories that keep the pages turning, that readers up later to see what happens, to have characters that people find involving. I find very few people don’t actually like to read; most of the time when I hear kids say they don’t like to read, it’s because they could use more help in their reading, or because they haven’t been introduced to books that interest them. Often the books I was assigned to read in class didn’t interest me much; I liked the books I could pick out for myself at the library better. If kids know “Yes, there are books about [plug in your interest]” I think that would make a world of difference for some young readers. I believe in encouraging kids to follow their interests when it comes to reading and their own creativity. Oftentimes when kids find books they like and learn that reading can be fun, they’ll expand into reading about other subjects as well and become more well-read on different topics.

Many librarians use Minecraft in their libraries these days, especially for STEM reasons. I hope they can also like their Minecraft-obsessed patrons know there are also books for Minecrafters! In my books, 11-year-old Stevie lives in the Minecraft world, but they he finds a portal to Earth, making Earth friends and paving way for adventures that take place in the Overworld, the Nether, the End . . . and, yes, on Earth as Minecraft infiltrates it! The books also talk about real world things, like friendship, cyberbullying, insecurity, stuff like that. I want to mix the fantastic and the realistic, so kids can read about issues they have . . . while being right there with my characters as they fight zombies and save the worlds from the villainous Herobrine. Hey, anything can happen in books!

For more information about this fun blog tour, please visit  https://littleredreviewer.wordpress.com. Thanks again, Danica! And happy reading, everyone! 

Emily’s Corner: “The Blue Castle”

20170202_140222Emily and I (Serena) have been friends since the first week of freshman year of college. Other than a lost purse (I did the losing, Emily did the calming), take a wild guess as to what we bonded over? Yes, that is correct: books. And the fact that we both had plans to be English majors and would go on to coordinate our schedules to have as many similar classes as possible! All that said, Emily has agreed to be a semi-regular contributor to our blog, so keep your eyes open for posts from her in “Emily’s Corner” on random Mondays going forward!

 

95693Book: “The Blue Castle” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Publishing Info: 1908

Where Did I Get this Book: Amazon. Though book cover purists be warned; when I tried to purchase this book for a friend they only had a recently published version that has a horrendous new book cover that makes it look like an adolescent romance novel!

Book Description: Valancy lives a drab life with her overbearing mother and prying aunt. Then a shocking diagnosis from Dr. Trent prompts her to make a fresh start. For the first time, she does and says exactly what she feels. As she expands her limited horizons, Valancy undergoes a transformation, discovering a new world of love and happiness. One of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s only novels intended for an adult audience, “The Blue Castle” is filled with humour and romance.

Review:

Emily here, I’m a college friend of Serena’s, fellow book nerd and English major. I have gleefully followed the Library Ladies since its inception, so I was delighted when Serena asked me to write a guest post. Picking a first book to review is almost as hard as picking a favorite book, but the one that always comes to mind is “The Blue Castle” by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Most people know of L.M. Montgomery because of “Anne of Green Gables,” but I’ve been surprised by how few people (even fellow English nerds!) know of her stand-alone books. This one is a gem. This is the book I re read every year, the book that I foist upon friends and strangers alike.

I discovered “The Blue Castle” at the library my sophomore year of high school and instantly fell in love with the timid-turned-feisty protagonist. Valancy Sterling is the snubbed and put-upon spinster of her family. At the ripe old age of 29 (!) she is considered a failure and a dull one at that. (It’s a toss-up which is worse to be in the Sterling clan.) After receiving life-altering news, she flips a Victorian finger to her family and sets off on her own adventure.

It’s not a new concept by any means, but the genius of this book is in the hilarious characters. Yes, we have the typical overbearing and aloof mother, the whiny aunts, and the golden-child cousin who can do no wrong, and the pompous uncle who finally gets put in his place at the end. But Montgomery is a master at writing characters who shine, whose flaws and virtues alike liven up what would otherwise be a trope. You get the sense that each character, no matter how small or unimportant to the plotline, has their own significant life story.

The characters that truly shine are Valancy and the two male leads. No, this isn’t a love triangle scenario, thank goodness, but each man is a hero to her in his own unique way. The first is the aptly titled Roaring Abel, a carpenter and a drunk, but also a thoughtful and generous man. His character problem is what opens the door for Valancy to escape her domineering family.

The second man is of course the love interest, but here is where Montgomery throws another twist in the story. Barney Snaith does not love Valancy. “Never even thought of such a thing,” he says to her very face! You’ll have to read the book to see how Valancy gets around this one, and I assure you the result is both delightful and decidedly unladylike!

Overall, what I love most about this book is watching Valancy’s progression from dutiful daughter to a someone who creates a colorful life for herself. And yes, gets a happy ending after all.

Rating 10:  This is the finest that Montgomery has to offer!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Blue Castle” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Best Lesser-Known Books” and “Anne and Friends.”

Find “The Blue Castle” at your library using Worldcat!

Guest Author: Kristen Twardowski

As a special treat this week, we have a guest post from blogger and author, Kristen Twardowski. Kristen wrote the book “When We Go Missing”, and has put together a post ruminating on reading, writing, her personal inspiration, and advice for aspiring authors. We are very lucky that she is willing to share these insights with us, and send her thanks and gratitude.

Welcome Kristen!

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I’ve long suspected that books, the ones we love as well as the ones we’ll never see, haunt both readers. Many of us read because we are searching for something. Maybe it is as simple as entertainment, but more often we want to find a book that makes us feel a certain way or one that tells us something about ourselves or our world.

For me, writing deals with those same issues. I write because I am looking for the answers to questions that I don’t always know I’m asking. This quest has followed me throughout my life. I like knowing things and have found there are many different ways to learn them.

History will always be my first love. I studied it in undergrad, and during my graduate work I focused on gender, particularly different iterations of masculinity in Imperial Germany. I have also worked with a wolf research and education center where we studied animal behavior and held various tours and seminars for the public. My professional life has also always revolved around sharing knowledge. I worked in academic libraries before I transitioned into the academic publishing industry where I have worked in books editorial and journals sales and marketing departments. I currently am in a role where I perform data analysis and promote books and journals. Though I never envisioned myself as a numbers person, my job is a rewarding one that ensures that readers have access to different perspectives of the world.

I recently delved into one of those alternate viewpoints in my debut novel When We Go Missing, which was released in December 2016. The novel is a psychological thriller that follows the story of Alex Gardinier, a woman who believes that her ex-husband is a serial killer and who can do nothing to stop him from her room in a psychiatric ward. When I began to write the book, I was looking to explore several themes: how people get away with murder in the United States and how the various victims of violent crimes respond to trauma. In particular, I delved into the ways that the justice system underserves poor communities, immigrants, and minority populations.

I struggled with several different aspects of writing When We Go Missing. At the most basic level, the book was on a quicker timetable than I prefer. When left to my own devices, I stew over manuscripts for long enough too ruin them. In the summer of 2016, I decided to try and overcome this roadblock by committing to publishing When We Go Missing before the start of 2017. I also found myself battling against the urge to write a nonfiction study of crime in the United States. Academia nursed me at its bosom, so the temptation to simply analyze the world was always there. I did manage to restrain myself and did not fill the novel with footnotes and citations. (The struggle was a real one.)

Now that When We Go Missing has been released into the world I have several other manuscripts that I am currently working on. The first of them is work that I like to call a modern mythology and is loosely inspired by Old Norse legends. The second manuscript is a coming of age story, which is not a subject that I ever anticipated writing about. I simply woke up one day and needed to put ideas to paper. I will very likely pursue publishing the modern mythology, but the future of the coming of age tale remains unclear.

In some ways, writing a modern mythology is returning to my roots. I am a fantasy lover at heart because those stories often distill truths about life even when surrounded by absurd and magical things. (But aren’t those things true in their own ways as well? Life is a little absurd and a little magical after all.) My favorite authors include folks like Diana Wynne Jones, Peter S. Beagle, Jan Siegel, and Melanie Rawn because they manage to portray existence in all of its beauty, and complexity, and wonder, and sadness. I always hope that that tangled web of emotion bleeds into my writing.

I encourage all aspiring writers to spend a little time on self-reflection and determine what stories they want to tell. Not everyone has to have the existential wonderings that I wander into, but writing is about more than simply putting words together. It is also about knowing what you want to say, knowing what you don’t know, and trying to draw the reader into that emotional and intellectual space. As I said before, we read to find meaning. Writers should acknowledge if only to themselves what truth they are trying to find.

Visit Kristen at https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/

And check out Kate’s review of her book “When We Go Missing”