August 16, 2009

Review: 39 Clues #5, The Black Circle

Posted in 1 tagged at 11:42 pm by suepenkivech

THE 39 CLUES BOOK 5 – THE BLACK CIRCLE by Patrick Carman

When Grace Cahill died, she offered her heirs a choice – either accept a check for a million dollars, or choose to take a clue and be part of a hunt for the secret to the Cahill family’s fame and fortune.

Her grandchildren, Amy and Dan, chose to take a clue. With the help of their au pair Nellie, they’ve travelled the world, collecting further clues and dodging their scheming relatives, each of whom is determined to be the first to acquire the secret.

In this chapter of the series, Amy and Dan are awoken by a hotel clerk with a telegram, and thrown into yet another adventure. An unknown agency identifying itself only as NRR is guiding their steps, forcing them to leave Nellie and Saladin behind and giving them a deadline to follow a series of instructions to track down the next clue – in Russia. Realizing that it will be impossible to meet the deadline on their own, Amy and Dan select an unlikely ally; their cousin, Hamilton Holt.

Unfortunately, while the Holts are cooperating, the Lucian teams are united against them. The Kabras and Irina Spasky will do anything to keep them from uncovering some of Russia’s – and by extention the Lucian branch’s – darkest secrets.

Each of the 39 Clues books deals with a specific period in history, and THE BLACK CIRCLE is no exception. While Amy and Dan hunt for the clue, they learn the stories of the Romanov massacre, the monk Rasputin, and the legend of Anastasia, the Russian grand duchess whose body was never found after the massacre.

Recommended for ages 8 – 14, but adults will enjoy this series, too!


July 16, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Posted in 1 tagged , , , at 12:19 am by suepenkivech

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, KV Taylor started posting WIP Wednesday reports on her blog to track the progress she’d made on her newest novel.

Given that I tend to start strong and then trickle off for a few months, I’m going to give it a shot and see if it’ll help keep me on track!

From the Ashes is my newest work in progress, a science fiction time travel/romance story about a man named Mark who goes back in time to save his world – and to save his friend’s sister from herself.

5,756 / 80,000 words. 7% Complete!

Here’s a quick excerpt from Chapter 2, for your reading enjoyment:

“Leanne, I’m telling you, I didn’t do it.”

Leanne sighed and reached up to rub her forehead, oblivious to the way the motion left her reddish-blond hair in disarray, and tried desperately to suppress the headache she could feel inching its way up to a migraine. She’d been so lucky with Paul, in the year and a half since their parents had died – he was a good kid overall, and didn’t cause her any real problems.

His best friend, though-

“Mr. Piotrowski, we have witnesses who saw you with the can of spray paint,” the school principal said, leaning forward over his desk. He looked, Leanne decided, sort of like a pit bull – same skinny pinched face, same stubborn, ready to bite expression.

She’d never been fond of pit bulls.

June 28, 2009


Posted in 1 tagged , , , at 5:57 am by suepenkivech

Got a story in under the wire for Hadley Rille Books’ Destination Future anthology! Whoever said summer was supposed to be relaxing didn’t have two kids and a deadline for submissions!

Aaaanyway, now that that’s done I’m going to start querying out “Unnatural Selection” again. The rewrite went well, and I’m really happy with it this time – hopefully agents will feel the same! Gilly’s on hold until I feel like dealing with the pacing issues, so it’s time to start outlining the next book, a sort of science fiction/timetravel romance. Watch for more info here!

I borrrowed a new batch of genre YA books from the school library this week when I was catching up on my book processing, so new reviews should be coming soon, too!

March 25, 2009

Book Reviews

Posted in 1 tagged at 3:58 am by suepenkivech

Castle of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix

If you’re looking for your traditional fairy tale story, this isn’t it.

Cecelia’s grown up in a remote town. Her life is as dull as everyone else’s – she cleans, gets the cow from the pasture, goes fishing with her friend Harper – until the sun’s gone down.

That’s when her studies begin. Because unbeknownst to her peasant neighbors, Cecelia is the true princess of the kingdom, raised in disguise to protect her from whatever enemy killed her royal parents. Only her nanny, the knight who tutors her in etiquette and government, and her friend Harper know the truth.

But is it true? The “decoy princess” in the palace has a different perspective, as do the girls already in the palace dungeon, who tell stories remarkably like Cecelia’s. But if she isn’t the kingdom’s real princess, why are forces gathering against her?

Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass

Recipe for a great book: Pick the three most dissimilar people imaginable – a home-schooled astronomy buff who’s spent her entire life in the middle of nowhere, an A-Clique princess whose dream is to become a supermodel, and an overweight sci-fi fan/artist with a mile wide inferiority complex.

Toss them together on a campground preparing for a solar eclipse, and mix well. Let both the insecurities and strengths rise to the surface, and toss in a situation that forces them all to work together. What do you get?

A really great juvenile/YA story. If this one doesn’t win an award, I’ll be sorely disappointed.

39 Clues: The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis

Amy and Dan’s quest for the clues takes them to Japan this time, searching for clues left by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of history’s greatest warriors. But this time, outsmarting their relatives isn’t enough – they need to cooperate with them!

March 19, 2009

Blog News!

Posted in 1 at 7:41 pm by suepenkivech

Wonderful news! The amazingly talented Corinne Duyvis has agreed to create a sketch of Gilly Oglethorp for my blog. For those of you who don’t know Corinne, check out her work at her website; not only is she a professional artist, she’s also an aspiring writer!

March 15, 2009

Good News from Carnivah House

Posted in 1 tagged at 1:13 am by suepenkivech

Per an e-mail received yesterday, Carnivah House is pushing ahead with the publication of The Infinity Swords! No release information as of yet, but I love the premise of this anthology, and am really looking forward to reading the other accepted stories.

Details to follow once I have them!

March 14, 2009

Review – Les Miserables, as performed by St. Catherine’s High School

Posted in 1 tagged , , , at 12:00 pm by suepenkivech

Something different today, as reviews go. Instead of a book, I’m feeling a need to gush over the performance of Les Mis I saw tonight at St. Catherine’s High School in Racine, Wisconsin.

Now, I’m a long-time fan of Les Mis, as some of you probably know. I’ve gone through two copies of the 25th Anniversary Concert CD, I have the DVD, and I was fortunate enough to see a professional live performance a few years ago in Milwaukee. So, when my daughters came home from school and told me St. Cat’s was performing the play this weekend, I immediately checked the calendar and asked if they wanted to go. Even the “School Edition” as performed by high school students promised to be a real treat for them, though I’d expected a “compressed” version of the original play.

Surprisingly, my older daughter, who enjoys performing in live theatre, declined in favor of watching Wolverine and the X-Men on TV (Sadly for her, this proved to be a rerun, so I imagine there will be regrets expressed tomorrow). My younger daughter begged to go anyway, so we rushed through dinner and headed off to the theatre. Unfamiliar with the School Edition, I’d thoroughly expected to see, at best, the highlights of the regular stage performance.

I was wrong.

There were parts cut from the play, granted – mostly some of the back and forth between Javert and ValJean, which no one who hasn’t listened to the CDs for years were likely to miss. Second verses of certain songs were lost as well. But the performances themselves – I had to keep reminding myself that these were high school students. Alex Krummel did an amazingly convincing performance as Jean ValJean, which I can’t think would be a role easily played by your average high school senior. He has an incredible voice, and if there were any notes he missed, I didn’t notice.

As for Zena Mengesha, who played the part of Eponine…

Eponine is my favorite character in Les Mis by far, and I absolutely adored Lea Salonga’s performance on the concert DVD. The professional actress whom I saw years ago impressed me far less in the role than the high school student who performed tonight. Eponine’s death scene, as performed by Dominic Diehn (Marius) and Zena Mengesha, was easily my favorite part of the play, and the next scene had begun before the audience stopped applauding.

The play was 3 hours long, including a 15 minute intermission – an ambitious undertaking for a high school. I have a great deal of respect for everyone involved in the show – all of the performers, the orchestra, the directors, whoever was responsible for the amazing backdrops. They’re performing again on Sunday at 2pm, and if you’re in the area, I strongly recommend catching the show.

March 5, 2009

Reviews – “I, Q” and “Skeleton Creek”

Posted in 1 tagged at 11:53 am by suepenkivech

Am I writing? Yes. But it’s the beginning of the new bookfair season, and I’ve got a stack of books to read – it’s much easier to booktalk if you’ve actually read the books in question. And so…

“I, Q” by Roland Smith

One of the best books of the season thus far, and a must-read for kids who are into action, adventure, and espionage. “I, Q” has has all three – in addition to likeable, believable characters, enough gadgets to make James Bond jealous, and a fast-paced plot. Step-siblings find themselves mixed up in a battle of espionage agencies from various countries, all of which have one goal – to find out whether or not the girl’s “deceased” mother, a former Secret Service agent, is actually dead. Highly recommended for ages 8 (if a strong reader) – 14.

“Skeleton Creek” by Patrick Carman

Technically, I shouldn’t be reviewing this book yet, as I’m only on page 30. On the other hand, I’d hate for anyone to miss out on this, just because I got busy with other things and I haven’t finished it yet.

You know the creepy music that plays in horror movies? The kind that starts quiet and sort of sneaks up on you, building the tension despite the fact your conscious mind doesn’t even acknowledge it’s playing at first?

The mental equivalent of that creepy music began playing on page 1 of “Skeleton Creek”. On the surface, it seems innocuous – a pair of teens decided to find out why their town had been renamed back in the 70’s. It’s clear that their curiosity has landed them in trouble, though – there was some sort of accident, and the main character is confined to his room, writing laboriously in his journal. His best friend is still out there, though, with her video camera – and sending him the footage, which you can watch right along with him via the internet by typing in the codes in the book.

As multimedia book experiences go, I’ve got to say, the concept is unique. I’m looking forward to getting back to the book soon, because I want to know what’s going on – and what’s already taken place.

Recommended highly to middle and high schoolers. Possibly younger with a high scare tolerance.

Forthcoming review: “39 Clues: The Sword Thief”, probably later this week.

January 26, 2009

Back to Business

Posted in 1 at 8:22 pm by suepenkivech

So, the holidays are over. The kids have returned to school, and the Christmas decorations are back under the basement stairs, where they’ll stay until I realized I inadvertently packed the Halloween decorations behind them. That being months away, it should be time to get back to writing.

Well…it is, and it isn’t.

You see, with the re-opening of schools comes the beginning of the Spring bookfair season. I’m not entirely clear on why they call it “Spring”, given that there’s a lot of snow outside, but I suppose it’s easier than changing themes at a randomly determined date when winter might actually (as opposed to officially) be over.

More to the point, though, it means that I’m running around from school to school, setting up fairs, doing “book talks” for the volunteers and students, and ordering more stock when the schools in question run out. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing, but that’s okay. I’m fitting it in piecemeal.

On the Writing Agenda:

1) Still working on The Adventures of Gilbert Oglethorp, aka Prince Charming. I expect I’ll be working on this for some time, though I got past the block I had last month and the new chapter is in progress.

2) A futuristic/steampunk mystery, with a pair of time travellers who are the Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson team of an AU Victorian Massachussets. This is probably going to be slightly longer than the average short story, but I’m only about 1/3 of the way done with it, so it’s really too early to say.

3) Researching quantum physics for my (hopefully) next novel. I can’t really remember the last time I read this much non-fiction, but I’m enjoying it.

4) Trying to drum up ideas for the 2012 Apocalypse anthology by Severed Press. I was going to provide a link, but their site seems to be down at the moment. I’m hoping this isn’t an indication that the anthology won’t be happening after all.

On a totally unrelated note, if you’re a fan of comics, pick up Peter David’s most recent issue of X-Factor (#39). Beautiful writing in there, as one can always expect of Peter David. I have my own opinions on where he’s going with the storyline, but I’m looking forward to him proving me either right OR wrong.

Hope everyone out there is having a wonderful 2009 thus far!

December 13, 2008

Magical Mayhem

Posted in 1 tagged , , at 9:21 am by suepenkivech

So, the first stand-alone story in the Gilly Oglethorp saga is making its way to a potential market today.

I’m excited about this. Gilly’s a lot of fun to write, and I love his supporting cast (now introducing Merdle the Incompetent Wizard).

Cross your fingers that the kids’ magazine I’m sending it to feels the same!

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