Interview with Jason Kristopher

June 14, 2014 at 7:08 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

P10200191. Your books (The Dying of the Light) are a series of zombie apocalypse novels. What do you think your stories have that set them apart from the rest of the zombie genre?

First, a realistic and scientifically-vetted reason for zombies, as in it’s not just supernatural or science fiction ‘hand-waving.’ Second, and this is the key difference, the books aren’t about the zombies. Yes, they have zombies in them, and action and blood and guts and gore, but at its core, The Dying of the Light is a story about people. I always tell potential readers that it could’ve been anything that ended the world: aliens, earthquakes, global warming… none of that matters. This series is about the end of these people’s own personal worlds, and how they deal with what happens during and after, and more importantly, with each other. That’s the real story – the rest is just window-dressing.

2. What inspired you to write zombie novels? Did the characters come to you as products of the apocalypse, or did you drop them into that setting after their inception?

The idea for the story was a mash-up of two different dreams, actually. One about a lone zombie survivor on an island, the other about the end of the world (though I didn’t know at the time what had done it). My writer’s brain smashed them together, and suddenly, there was a zombie apocalypse trilogy. It makes me a bit nervous about the other connections my mind makes, actually…

3. Stephen King says people who don’t read don’t have the tools to write. Who are your favorite authors? Who inspires you to write? Who do you read to gain more writing energy?

on-writing-coverWould it be trite to say Stephen King? His book On Writing is the single best treatise on the craft of authorship that I’ve ever read. As for other fun favorites, I have a ton, but a few that come to mind: Isaac Asimov, Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C. Clarke, Donaldson, Jordan, Koontz, Niven, Pratchett… see what I mean? For inspiration, I look at some of my friends, like George Wright Padgett (Spindown), who wrote one of my personal Top 5 sci-fi books. That is inspiring, to me. I like to re-read some books if I’m having trouble with a book I’m writing, too. For example, I’ll revisit The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series if I’m stumbling over dialogue – even though it’s English slang, Douglas Adams was a master of dialogue.

4. Do you have play lists of mood music you write to? If so, which artists/songs generally make the cut?

If I have music on, it’s generally instrumental – tuneful background noise, basically. The soundtrack to Lord of the Rings, or Last of the Mohicans, that sort of thing. If I’m struggling with a particular type of scene, I’ll find some music that fits that ambiance. For example, my “Car Chase” playlist has Guns N’ Roses, Project Pitchfork, Rihanna, and even Motley Crue. But usually, I like it quiet or very low music when I’m writing; it keeps me focused.

grey gecko press5. You are not just an author, but the owner of a publishing company: Grey Gecko Press. Tell me a little about that. What made you decide to open such a venture and what are your goals for the company?

I’ve always been business-minded, and when I published my first book, I knew there would be business expenses involved. Originally, I never planned to publish anyone else’s work, but then a friend (author Wayne Basta) asked if I could help him, and Aristeia: Revolutionary Right became the second book published under the Grey Gecko imprint. I found I really enjoyed working with other authors to share great stories, even if they weren’t mine, and I had the ability to do it… so why not? From the beginning, the company has been about treating authors fairly, publishing great books, and doing things the right way, even if that bucks centuries of tradition.

As far as goals… well, I’ve long said that I’d like for Grey Gecko to be ‘the Google of publishing.’ Most people interpret that to mean I want to be rich, when that’s not at all my goal. I want Grey Gecko Press to be huge because it would mean that every author would have a chance at the same kind of success that only a few get now with traditional publishing. Every struggling writer, pounding away at their keyboard (or typewriter, I’m not judging) would know that at least one company would look at their work when it was done, regardless of their past publishing experience – because, at the end of the day, Grey Gecko isn’t about making money: it’s about publishing great books and putting authors first. As you can tell, I’m quite passionate about this endeavor.

6. You’re quite an entrepreneur. What other projects do you have up your sleeve?

I think it’d be grP1020027eat to have a Grey Gecko bookstore, for one thing. For another, we haven’t been able to focus on as much as I’d like with Grey Gecko is giving back to our community. I’ve got some ideas for creating local resources and ‘maker-spaces’ for writers of all types and kinds. When we’re ready, I’d like to take our business model into other fields, as well, including movies, film, and even music. So yeah, a few projects on the horizon!

7. How would you feel about having your books made into a television show or series of movies? Would you want to write your own screenplays? Who would be your ideal director?

One of the comments I have most about my books are that they’re very visual, very cinematic, and I agree! I think they’d make great movies/TV shows, mainly because that’s what I see in my head when I write them. I’m not sure about writing the screenplays myself, although I’d give it a try. There’s a lot about the behind-the-camera part of the film industry that I don’t know, so I’d at least listen to some experts… though naturally I’d want final say. I’d rather not have it made at all than made badly. I’m not sure of all the director’s names on The Walking Dead, but they do such a masterful job with a show that’s so similar in tone, that I’d likely pick one of them, given the choice.

Jason and rene8. You’ve had booths at Comicpalooza and done numerous book signings with local bookstores. What were those experiences like for you? What are your favorite parts? What are your least favorite parts?

Despite what I may say on Sunday afternoon at a convention, I actually enjoy talking to people about our books. Helping people discover a new book they haven’t heard about, or seeing their excitement at the next volume in a series, or seeing the light of wonder shine in a child’s eyes as I hand them a copy of Greystone Valley is why I do what I do. As far as book signings go, I enjoy them for many of the same reasons; talking to people about my books and getting tP1020015hem excited about reading is a blast. What it really comes down to for me, though, is that I’m a storyteller at heart; however I can tell you a story, I’m going to do it. My least favorite part of all these things would be the setup, teardown, and logistics that go into planning them… mainly because I’m lazy! I’d love to show up with a cup of coffee and find everything set and ready to go, but that’s the price you pay for being your own boss, I guess!

9. What other published work have you been a part of? And what can we expect to see from you in the future?

Aside from The Dying of the Light, I’ve also published several short stories, some of which are based in my zombie series, some not. I also contributed one of my favorite short pieces, The Art of Steaming, to the horror anthology A Fancy Dinner Party, along with 9 other Grey Gecko Press authors, and it was also featured in the collection Penny Dreadfuls: Halloween Special. For future work… boy, have I got some ideas for you!

First, I’m finishing The Dying of the Light with the third book, Beginning, due out this winter. Then there’s Under a Cloud-covered Moon, the first in a series about an irascible, anti-hero detective who works for the Seattle Metahuman Crimes Unit, solving crimes by and against ‘metas’ – non-supernatural mutants who’ve been called ‘vampires’ and ‘werewolves’ for centuries by those who had no idea of their true nature. I’ve also got a middle-grade/YA story in mind about a Teddy Bear (because it’s a job, not a toy) named Freddy McPhane, as well as my epic fantasy series of 30 books (no joke), not to mention the 150+ other ideas I have written down. I’m going to be busy!

10. If there is one thing you would want your readers and fans to know about you, what would it be? If you had one request of your readers and fans, what would it be?

I want all my fans and readers to know that I love hearing from them! Whether it’s a quick note, or a detailed letter, I’m always excited to connect with my readers, which is best done through email at jason@jasonkristopher.com.

For a request, I’d request everyone who enjoys the books they read, especially indie books, to leave a review on Amazon, GoodReads, or elsewhere. Short of buying more books, a review is the best way to support indie authors and small press. That and telling all your friends, of course! To find out why reviews are so important, visit my blog: On the Importance of Reviews, or, It’s Just 21 Words!

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Unexpected Odes to Literature

June 10, 2014 at 11:19 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

City of Lost Souls 2Title: City of Lost Souls

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy

Length: 534 pages

For me, what makes the writings of Cassandra Clare so captivating isn’t the fairy tale romance, the paranormal elements, or the bad ass fight sequences… at the heart of it all, it’s the way Clare manages to make a young adult fantasy saga an sequence of unexpected odes to her favorite pieces of literature.

“No man chooses evil because it is evil.  He only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” – Mary Wollstonecraft

“Love is familiar.  Love is a devil.  There is no evil angel but Love.” – William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

“I love you as one loves certain dark things.” – Pablo Neruda, “Sonnet XVII”

“All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.” – William Butler Yeats, “Easter, 1916”

Whether the story was constructed around these quotes, or the quotes City of Lost Souls 1were slipped into the story, the two halves were beautifully married together.  Just as Clare always manages to do.

If you recall my review of The Book of Secrets you should be well aware of how much I cherish this particular aspect of storytelling.  I love peeping into the mind of the author and what they’ve read before – what work we may have both cherished.  I love to see how others acknowledge how literature builds a soul.  Even if that soul is an imagined character in another book.

A reviewer on Goodreads mentioned they thought it was silly that all these Shadowhunter kids were completely oblivious of what went on in the mundane world half the time – Jace completely misses references to Madonna or Dungeons & Dragons games – but are well versed in William Shakespeare and Dante.

As a classical book geek it makes perfect sense to me.  I was raised on Charles Dickens and the Brontes, not the latest boy band or pop culture trends.  Poetry is timeless.  New Kids on the Block obviously not so much.

One doesn’t expect these odes and references in a paranormal teen romance.  I suppose that’s what makes them so stunningly lovely.

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City of Glass

June 9, 2014 at 8:31 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

It seems even though this is my second time reading this book (my second time through the series as I prep to read the final volume!), I didn’t write proper reviews for each one.

I addressed the series, made references to Cassandra Clare’s work in many of my reviews, but City of Glass never got a review all it’s own.

So here it goes:

city-of-glass2Title: City of Glass

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult/ Teen/ Fantasy

Length: 541 pages

The book cover finally features a boy *with* his shirt on. However, the cover still annoys me. I suppose I’ll never get over how embarrassing they are. I’ve never preferred having actual people on the front covers of the books I read, unless of course they’re in some sort of Victorian garb. For some reason a person on the cover never truly embodies the mood of a story the way I want it to. I prefer buildings, scenery, landscapes, or the hint of a person.

For instance…

City of Glass 1That’s a cover I don’t mind flashing the masses, a train full of people, other moms at a public park, or I don’t know – MY KID.

Who am I kidding? In the U.S. the cover up top is the only one that is going to move copies of the book.  I’m an odd duck.  I know that.

Regardless of all that – I still adore these books. Brain candy, teen flick, romance nonsense and all. I just love them.

I love the book references, the intelligent quotes, the very teen appropriate quips.  I love that Jace (Jonathan) Wayland/Morgenstern/Herondale/whoever reminds me so very much of my own Jonathan at that age.  Clare has cocky teenage boy dialog down to an art.  Jace’s cockiness rings true and familiar, the knowledge that he is attractive and desired, edged with angst anyway.

I remember those conversations.  I remember the beautiful, desired boy flirting with me – the short, somewhat tomboyish and frumpy nerd who was always a little out of place.  Granted, I never got Luke & Leia -ed like Clary and Jace did.  But I think what makes these books so marvelous is despite the fantasy, despite the action and apocalyptic level of drama, despite the paranormal parts that drip into every aspect of the story – there’s something familiar for everyone in these stories.  Especially City of Glass, and the ever burning question so many romances have: If it’s not forbidden will he/she still want me?

This time around I re-read the first book, City of Bones, after seeing the movie. The library didn’t have the second book, City of Ashes, on hand so I just skipped it and went onto City of Glass. By doing this, I was brought to a whole new level of appreciation for the series, Cassandra Clare, and each book individually.

Even though I jumped in having skipped the second book – I wasn’t lost. Although the second book is pivotal to an epic saga of the Nephilim, I didn’t feel out of sorts by not having read it. Clare does such an excellent job of having each book stand on it’s own even though it’s merely a puzzle piece in a giant story. I love that.

I know it’s the thousandth time I’ve said this, and I shall say it a thousand times more – Well done, Cassandra Clare, Well done.

Do I feel bad about re-reading young adult titles over and over again and the age of thirty? No, not anymore.

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”- C.S. Lewis

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S. Smith Book Signing – Earth Day Every Day Part Four

April 17, 2014 at 12:18 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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The Half Price Books Clear Lake store was a lovely host today for S. Smith’s first signing of her Texas Earth Day Tour.

The weather was gorgeous, a little chilly for we Texans, but quite beautiful.  A great day for an author from Oregon to set up shop in Houston.

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Last night, in preparation, I made seedling cupcakes. Yet another great Pinterest idea that the Texas humidity took a toll on. The fondant sort of got floppy the warmer it got throughout the day, and the green sort of melted a bit. But over all, I’m pleased with my first try.

We met new readers today, and enjoyed chatting with the customers in the store. Of course, the first and most common questions was, “What are the books about?”

If you’re stumbling across my blog for the first time, Seed Savers is a young adult series about a dystopian society where growing your own fruits and vegetables is illegal.  So naturally, an underground organization is created to keep the art and know how of gardening alive.  It’s good garden sense mixed with the danger and adventure of kids on the run from the government entities hunting them down.

There are three books in publication that Sandy is signing and selling right now, but the series is set to be five volumes long.  The story is pretty epic, in my opinion, as you can tell if you read through all the past Seed Savers posts featured on this blog.  I adore this woman and all her work, and I hope that everyone who purchased her book today feels the same way when they’re done reading.

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S. Smith will be at Good Books in the Woods Friday night and then at Half Price Books Humble 1-3 pm and HPB Montrose 6-9 pm on Saturday.  If you missed today’s signing, please make time to see S. Smith at the other Houston stores before she flits off to Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas.  The author is from Oregon so this very well might be a once in a lifetime opportunity!

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April Events 2014!

April 1, 2014 at 3:59 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The month of April is full of Earth Day celebrations. More specifically, S. Smith, author of a dystopian young adult series that I can’t seem to rave enough about, has planned a trip to Texas from Oregon!  I’m so excited!

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Earth Day GBitW(1)

Earth Day 2014 revisedShe will also be at the Montrose HPB (hpb.com/011) on Saturday, April 19th, 6pm-9pm.

Then she’ll be making rounds in San Antonio, Austin, and finally Dallas!  Check out her website for more details on events in those cities: http://authorssmith.com/book-news-and-events/

seed savers book marketingAlso, although I am based out of Houston, this is a Dallas event that I support with all my heart and would love to attend if I were able:

Deep Ellum Karyna

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Literary Journal Monday – Mapping My Mind

March 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I am not ADD, but my mind is often many places at once. It goes and goes… it races… it is unstoppable.

hungerI’ve been reading Hunger by Michael Grant.  It’s one of my niece’s books – the second in a series she introduced me to.  No, that’s not how I want to start this post – is it?

I was craving a little bit of dystopian society literature after reading Herodotus.  My brain spinning in a circular momentum about democracies, oligarchies, and dictatorships.  Darius and then Xerxes tyrading around ancient lands building the Persian Empire.  A thousand utopian and dystopian variations of all societies throughout history – a million possible outcomes for our modern world – twisting about in my mind.  Conveniently, it was at this moment that a trailer for the movie Divergent came on and I thought, “It’s about time I read Veronica Roth.”

Cue discussion of autism I’ve been having on and off with people since reading Not Even Wrong written by Paul Collins. Collins is an amazing author and obscure historian. Still suffering from story hangovers from Divergent and the movie Tonight You’re Mine (all about instantaneous human connections) – I found myself thinking about my niece’s Gone series.

Set in a town in California, all the kids fifteen and under have been left in a supernatural bubble – all adults over puberty have vanished, leaving kids and babies to fend for themselves and create a new government. Not unlike Lord of the Flies, different factions have formed. One is under the leadership of Sam Temple, another under his half brother Caine (the biblical implications of Caine and Abel not to be lost on readers, of course). Sam and his new girlfriend, Astrid, are two of the oldest left behind. They have formed a parental union for the younger kids, caring for all the helpless, including Astrid’s autistic brother.

Like bumper pool – or pinball, if you missed out on the bumper pool phenomena – the synapses in my brain spark and twitch and leap bringing me back to Paul Collins/Not Even Wrong/ McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Then, I find myself thinking, “Goodness, it’s Literary Journal Monday.

tonight you're mineTonight You’re Mine still echoing in my gut (I’m pretty sure I love that movie far more than what is considered healthy or normal), I veer toward the London Magazine when selecting my Literary Journal Monday feature. (Tonight You’re Mine is set in Scotland – not England, but for an American like me, it is the closest I can get in Literary Journals once I mentally cross the pond.)

London Magazine February/March 1981 Vol. 20 Nos. 11 &12

The Private Letters of Tennessee Williams and a piece on Gore Vidal catch my eye. I flip through the first few ads, the table of contents, then stop dead on a heading: FINAL REMINDER.

“If we are to survive the next issue we need 1,000 new subscribers or their equivalent, and we need them immediately […]”

P1010303My reading screeches to a halt and I turn to the shelf. Were there more? Did they have to cancel the magazine? Did they get their 1,000 readers? Ah, sigh, they survived. At least until 1989 where the collection at the bookstore stops. So clearly, they got their 1,000. I wonder who these 1,000 were and if this final reminder is what provoked them to officially subscribe. Or were they friends and family of existing subscribers, terrified their favorite magazine would cease to exist if they didn’t recruit others to love what they loved?

My thoughts have veered so far off track that I forget what I was reading altogether. I flip through the journal in my hand trying to grasp the reason I had sat down to look at this in the first place.

It’s March. St. Patty’s Day is coming up. Irish authors keep popping in and out of my mind. Ireland… Scotland… Tonight You’re Mine… music… poetry… Derek Mahon, an Irish poet’s name blinks at me from the page of the literary journal in my hand. Literary Journal Monday, of course. I read the poem “The Elephants” first. I love elephants. Then my eyes skip over to “April in Moscow” and I read “Spring burst into our houses…” It does, doesn’t it? Just bursts right in and none too soon. At the end of the poems there is an ad for the Poetry Society Bookshop at 21 Earls Court Square in London. I wonder if it is still there.

If they do still exist, I bet they have a copy of Lang Leav’s Love & Misadventure. I’m dying for a copy. Leav has been speaking to my soul lately. Misadventures stuck in the cogs of the mind of a woman turned 30.

A line from Grant’s book swings into full view of my mind’s eye:

“He buried his face in her hair. She could feel his breath on her neck, tickling her ear. She enjoyed the feel of his body against hers. Enjoyed the fact that he needed to hold her. But there was nothing romantic about this embrace.” – pg. 21

There rarely is when a hug is really needed. It’s that moment Leav writes about…

When words run dry,
he does not try,
nor do I.

We are on par.

He just is,
I just am
and we just are.

– Lang Leav

The lack of selfishness between the characters at this point is refreshing in fiction and real life.

In a 2014 American Society of infantile adults who never learned to fend for themselves and work hard without constant praise, we are fascinated by literature and movies where children and teens are forced to grow up overnight and be adults.

It’s sad when the idea of fifteen-year-olds co-leading a community and making wise, unselfish decisions for themselves and each other sounds absurd and fictional. My associative mind leaps back to all the ancient history I’ve been studying, back to the likes of King Tut – pharaoh at age nine – dead by nineteen, married somewhere in between.

We believe in responsible marriages like the Romans, but we chase telepathic connections like the Greeks. What a very convoluted and contradictory way to live – the reality of a dystopian society is that every society is a dystopia – even a society of one. Our minds are everywhere and nowhere. Of course we are in conflict.

I suppose you Literary Journal Monday followers got a little more than you wanted. I bit off more than I could chew today. I attempted to map my own mind and identify all the associations and patterns, leaving myself somewhat exhausted from chasing whimsies.

At least I got to spend a few stolen moments in this room…

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A Little Bit of Fad Reading

March 5, 2014 at 5:12 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

divergentTitle: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (An Imprint of HarperCollins)

Length: 487 pages

So I finally took that leap onto the [fad] train.

When I worked full time in the bookstore, chatting with customers, recommending books in person, I would have read this as soon as it was a thing for the sole purpose of finding something on the shelves that was similar when we were out of stock.  It was published in 2011, the year I left.  That last year was also one spent handling more inventory and displays as the store’s SIM than handling people and their whims and desires in the book world.   So though I was vaguely familiar with the title I totally missed the need to devour this title in a day and come back with a list of titles to hold over disappointed customers until we could get this one in their hands.

Somewhere along the road in my stay-at-home-mom life I discovered Hunger Games, and fell in love.  Though part of a huge fad, Hunger Games was no Twilight Saga or Vampire Diaries series.  Hunger Games was epic and beautiful and insanely well written.

So when I saw the preview for the movie Divergent, I thought, ‘What the heck? Let’s see if it will surprise me too.’

Color me surprised – again!  I really liked this one.  I read it in one day – nearly one sitting.  It tends to be easy to do that with contemporary young adult novels, no matter how long they are.

I found Hunger Games more moving, but I was able to relate more to the main character of Divergent more.  I’m nervous to see how they portray her in the movie, the book version is a person I feel very in tune to.  Katniss Everdean is someone I admire and look up to as a literary character, but whom I share very few similarities.  Tris’s story feels as though Roth dropped my mind into her version of dystopia.  Tris feels how I feel and tends to react in ways I am known to react.  (So far anyway.) Many of her fears were my fears at 16, actually I can’t think of one that is different.

For that it was incredibly enjoyable and easy to get into, and despite this being completely entertaining fluff fiction, I consider the hours spent reading it time well spent.

I’m interested to see how the  rest of the books go (it’s a series), as well as the movie adaptation in theaters this month.  Although I’m a little nervous that it might be too easy to amp up the cheese factor for the big screen – but I guess I’ll have to take a flying leap onto that fad train as well or I’ll never find out.

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Storybound

June 13, 2013 at 9:08 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

StoryTitle: Storybound

Author: Marissa Burt

Publisher: Harper Collins Childrens

Genre: Middle Grade/ Young Adult/ Fantasy

Length: 406 pages

Phenomenal premise! It hooked me (and the kiddo) from the cover.  It’s a delightful mix of Chronicles of Narnia meets Harry Potter.

Just look at that cover – it imbues pure magic.

Yet, it took me far too long to read it.  Mind you, a lot of it was out loud to the toddler, but even so I felt a little disconnected.

I think Storybound is genius in concept, and I even think it is well written.  A girl from the World of Readers (yes, our world) gets WRITTEN IN to the World of Story – where kids are trained on how to be heroes and ladies, archetypes are studied, there’s a class on Villainy, and the Talekeepers are basically the government.  And the Muses? A mystical group of entities from the past that have been eradicated.

Absolutely genius!

I think, however, I finally found a modern young adult book that is truly meant for young adults and didn’t manage to grasp the adult audience as the fad of young adult books has done so far.  That’s perfectly fine… it’s a fantastic book, and I intend to hunt down the sequel (Story’s End) and read it as well.  I also intend to own these sometime and have them available for my daughter to re-discover when she can read on her own.

But I will wait to find them used.  I don’t feel the need to rush to Barnes & Noble and purchase fresh new copies NOW.

As a reviewer I find this sort of situation the most difficult… you know the one: I LOVE the book, but I’m not IN LOVE with the book.  I feel as though I have failed the author in some way, like I didn’t give it a proper chance.  Maybe if I read it over here I’ll get the butterflies while I read, maybe if I change the music, maybe if I set the mood just right it will work the way I expected it to.   I’ve done this with boyfriends in the past – “he was perfect, but I just didn’t have that connection…”  That’s how I feel about Storybound, it’s perfect, but we just… didn’t… have that… connection.

So here is one I recommend, and encourage you to read; but my passion isn’t stirred and I may have to be reminded to add it to my friend and customer-renowned lists.

Adults that do fall in love with this will probably be ones who are die hard fans of the TV Show Once Upon A Time –  a show I wanted to love, but didn’t.

Kids who should get their hands on this should also have The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Above World (by Jenn Reese), The Land of Stories (by Chris Colfer), and The Castle in the Attic books (by Elizabeth Winthrop).

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Discovering the Ice Age

April 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Magic Tree House Adventures in my library with my toddler.  I can’t wait to take her to the Natural Science and History museum!  I think it’s about time for her first trip.

She is completely enthralled with Jack and Annie now, and begs for the next story as soon as we’ve finished the last.  For parents just coming in for these blog posts, it helps to have some kind of tactile activity and/or lots of related picture books available while toddlers listen to chapter books.

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She was really into the bits about the Woolly Mammoths.  We learned from Mary Pope Osborne’s research guide that there were different kinds of mammoths: Columbian Mammoths were the biggest, Woolly Mammoths the second largest, and there were smaller ones called Pygmy Mammoths.  Of course, a two-year old sees these different mammoths and calls them Daddy Mammoth, Mommy Mammoth, and Baby Mammoth.  It’s ok, we still have time to figure it all out.

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My child is enamored by sharp teeth and weapons.  She also likes maps and any time a location is discussed in a history book she wants to know where it is in relation to Texas and Virginia.  Texas because that’s where she’s from, and Virginia because that’s where Pocahontas met John Smith.   This was the topic of conversation when the Giant Beavers of North America were discussed during our Ice Age study.

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We prefer the Life in the Ancient World book over the Early Humans book.  It has a lot more detail, it WILL be used as our first official History textbook and I already have the lesson plans blocked out.  There are projects scattered throughout, both crafty and educational, and I think it is a must have homeschooling tool – especially for those pursuing a classical route.  Rocks and Fossils is a really awesome book for an older child.  I think around ages 8-11 this is going to be a household favorite.

Purchase from Amazon.com

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Afternoons on the Amazon

March 30, 2013 at 3:52 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Our Magic Tree House Adventures

DSC02997As part of our Magic Tree House regimen, the kiddo and I read through everything and anything we could get our hands on regarding rainforests.  It’s been about a week, and every afternoon we’ve been diving into the magic of the Amazon River and its surrounding rainforests.

Last time we shared our Magic Tree House Adventures, we’d just finished our fourth set: Pirates Past Noon and Pirates! Fifth in line was Ninjas at Night, and I was searching high and low for a Research Guide (“Fact Tracker”) on Ninjas and could not find one.  It looks as though I may have dreamed that one up.  So we read the fictional adventure and moved on to Afternoon on the Amazon and Rainforests, the sixth set.  I couldn’t find Rainforests anywhere either!

So I built my own unit with out the help of Mary Pope Osborne, and found some pretty awesome books in our personal library the process…
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Ladybird Explorers Plus: Rainforests

The Ladybird Explorers Plus series are flip/tab books with tons of information.  They are great book to have if you have lots of different ages in the house.  Even though I can’t say that from the experience of having lots of various aged children, I can say it from the experience of being just as fascinated by this book as my toddler.  The pictures are lovely, the facts surprising (I didn’t know there were dolphins in the Amazon River, they must have skipped over that in my childhood rainforest studies), and the tabs and flaps were fun.  One of our favorite tabs makes an Asian elephant move a heavy log.  Another causes the monkeys to swing through the trees.  It includes detailed but simple charts with flaps that show the water cycle in a rain forest, and clear glossy photos that overlap pages like you would find for an overhead projector.  The chapter “Beauty in the Forest” lives up to its name and is indeed full of very beautiful illustrations of the trees, birds, and flowers.

Rainforests

Learn About Rainforests by Jen Green

The Learn About series is fantastic for the pictures now, but even more important for all the projects later.  This really spells out detailed activities to do with an older child when we tackle the rainforest more formally.   It shows you step by step how to plant your own canopy, how to make molds of animal tracks in the forest, and the basics of field studies.   It is only 63 short pages in length, but the pages are full of facts, gorgeous photography, and 24 projects geared toward 8-12 year olds. It is advertised as “a fascinating fact file and learn-it-yourself project book” which to me is the very definition of what you should have in a homeschooler’s library.  I’m not sure why they are priced so high on Amazon, but I got mine for a couple bucks at Half Price Books.

Usborne Living WorldThe Usborne Living World Encyclopedia

First, I love Usborne.  Second, the Living Encyclopedia will be making its way into many lessons, as it covers all living things all over the world.  Being that it covers so much, naturally there is a huge section on rain forests that made for some nice supplementary pictures to gaze at while reading our fiction.  The kiddo was really taken with the unrelated lady bug on the front cover, but also liked seeing the extra pictures of the dolphins and jaguars while we were reading Dora and Diego’s Adventures, where they travel through the rainforest, use a dolphin to pull them through the Amazon river, and save Baby Jaguar.

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