Allison's Book Bag

Archive for the ‘Sci-Fi’ Category

Stinkwaves Magazine is the brainchild of Tevin and Nicole Hanson.  Tevin is the author of numerous books and short stories. He enjoys skateboarding, reading half a dozen books simultaneously, and chasing his two small children around the house while singing horrendous versions of children’s songs. Nichole is a full-time mom of two children and an avid reader of young adult books. Thanks to Nicole for taking time for this interview, and for sending me a free sample copy of Stinkwaves Magazine.

ALLISON: Why did you start Handersen Publishing?

NICOLE: Handersen Publishing actually started as silly handmade books for friends and family featuring Tevin’s quirky story ideas and art. Then, after reading a few literary magazines, we thought, “Why not start a literary magazine for middle grade and young adult readers?” and Stinkwaves was born. All this time Tevin was trying to go the traditional route for publishing his middle grade books. We finally decided to give self-publishing a try. We started with Hole in the Wall, Mr. Boggarty, and An Evening of Temptation and The Ultimate Sacrifice. When it was time to take on new authors, we immediately started with past Stinkwaves Contributors and became a full-fledged publishing house!

We want Handersen Publishing to be a place where reluctant readers can find a book to connect with, and established readers can find something new to challenge themselves. Each project that we take on has some type of twist to the traditional books in that genre. Some of our books have been labeled bizarro fiction, and we kind of like that title.

ALLISON: How has this venture changed your life?

NICOLE: We are now running Handersen Publishing full time, which is both amazing and exhausting. It’s amazing to be able to work from home and be doing what you love, but it takes a lot of time and energy. Seriously, though, how can you complain when you make books for a living, and get to work with great kids making slime and thumb theatres?

ALLISON: Why both books and a magazine?

NICOLE: It just kind of worked out that way for us, and I’m glad it did. We have met some amazing talent through Stinkwaves. And each of our authors was originally published there.

ALLISON: What skills—business or otherwise–does each bring to Handersen Publishing?

NICOLE: Books are where we have found the most success. Unfortunately, Stinkwaves has had a hard time finding readers, it’s a great little magazine, and we’ve been lucky to get some great submissions, but we’re finding that a lot of readers aren’t super familiar with what a literary magazine is, especially when it is for a middle grade and young adult audience. Anytime we get it into kids’ hands, though, they really like it and seem to connect with the stories and poetry.

ALLISON: How involved is your family with Henderson Publishing? *Who is in your family?

NICOLE: We are definitely a family business. Our two kids Elinore (6) and Gordon (4) are the inspiration for most everything we do. They encourage us to stay young and think young. They are also great helpers when it comes to creating art or setting up for an event. Our daughter Elinore is also great to have in an audience. She has a fabulous laugh that inspires other kids to get involved with the show and have fun!

ALLISON: What other activities do you and your family enjoy besides Handersen Publishing?

NICOLE: Right now, it seems like our lives revolve around books, but it’s what we all love. Whether it’s finding the perfect book (or twenty) together at the library, snuggle time reading, or watching a movie that was based on a book, book time is the best time! We also have a lot of fun with art, jumping on the trampoline, or spending time together at the park.

ALLISON: Share one success story.

NICOLE: We recently booked our first paid gig for a reading event. We’ve done a lot of donated time events, but it was very exciting that an organization found value in what we do, and invited us to come and work with their kids. It was also a TON of fun!

ALLISON: Share a major challenge and how you overcame it.

NICOLE: The publishing industry, itself, is a major challenge. Navigating libraries, bookstores, online marketing, websites, social media . . . the list goes on and on. We overcome this one step at a time. We currently have four authors from the UK and Ireland, and it’s a challenge learning another regions rules and processes, but we are working on it, one step at a time.

ALLISON: What are your future dreams—for Handersen Publishing or personal?

NICOLE: We want Handersen to be successful so that we can share literacy and the importance of books and reading. There are a lot of communities that struggle to have the necessary resources to encourage kids to read. If we can succeed we will have more resources to share, whether it’s actual books or events that connect kids with books and authors.

ALLISON: Where can those who live in the area find you?

NICOLE: Our books are for sale online both through our website (free shipping) and on Amazon (they even qualify for FREE PRIME shipping). We are also season vendors at the Haymarket and the Fallbrook Farmers Markets in Lincoln, Nebraska, and you can find us at craft fairs and other events throughout the year. Also, Indigo Bridge (Lincoln, NE), Francie and Finch (Lincoln, NE), Chapters Books and Gifts (Seward, NE), and The Bookworm (Omaha, NE) all carry Handersen Publishing titles.

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Isn’t Stinkwaves a deliciously fun name for a young people’s magazine? I hold in my hands an 80+ page literary magazine packed with stories, poems, and artwork by contributors of all ages. With its wide range of genres—from adventure and fantasy to scary and silly–the magazine will appeal to young people and adults.

The Spring Issue hosts an eclectic collection of writings. To start, there’s a how-to article on writing and an interview with an author. My favorite story is The Prize to be Won. Think the movie Mission Impossible and mice. That’s all I’m going to tell you! Other top contenders are: The Caterpillar mixes fantasy with reality as it tells the tale of a man whose life would be perfect except he must ride the bus, and then one day he meets a caterpillar who forever changes the course of his life; The Winter of the River is a love story about two young people who discover a new world at the end of the river, but that new world takes them on two different paths; and A Wish for Stolie weaves humor into a tale of a dump ranger who unleashes a genie from a bottle, only to potentially lose his chance a wish when his friend falls into a ravine.

The Spring Issue also boasts a colorful cover and multiple illustrations. The latter are all submitted and, as such, vary in their style and quality. A duck drawing looks computer generated, a robot forms a perfect stencil, a flower drawing resembles those found in adult coloring books, an alligator emerges from a watercolor background, and much of the remaining artwork is either line drawn or painted. The most adorable are the bear sketches accompanying a poem entitled “I’m my own best friend” and the most striking is that of an ink-drawn city landscape. If they don’t already have one, many of the contributors should have a promising art career.

My one concern about the magazine is its hefty price of $20 for two issues. My circle of writing friends immediately put that worry to rest. The ladies (who are also parents) enjoyed the magazine and reassured me that families who want quality reading for their teenagers will not be deterred by the price.

In today’s market, with many print publications folding, relatively young publishing companies need to stand out to compete. The content of Stinkwaves is quirkier than the norm, which should have high appeal to its adolescent audience. In addition, editors have selected submissions from authors of various experience levels and from all around the world, ensuring both a fun and quality read for readers of all ages. Bravo to Henderson Publishing!

Gabby Duran is a name you’ll remember. She’s the world-renowned babysitter in a hilarious science fiction series by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners for middle schoolers. What makes Gabby so famous? The fact that she’s sought by leaders and celebrities all over the world for the most impossible babysitting jobs. What classifies the books as science fiction? The fact that the Association Linking Intergalactics and Earthlings as Neighbors hires Gabby as babysitter of aliens. To date, the series has three titles. All are fast-paced, action-packed, and will have high appeal to reluctant and avid reader alike.

Gabby Duran and the Unsittables introduces Gabby’s family, friends, and enemies. Her mom is single and believes her husband lost in a war. Gabby has a younger sister who, although she lacks social skills and interprets every speech as literal, is super smart and handles all the family’s finances and schedules. Best friend Zee is a mad scientist stuck in an adolescent body who would like nothing more than to analyze the aliens that Gabby meets. In contrast her musician friend Satchel remains blissfully ignorant even when Gabby’s life is in danger. At the same time, Gabby’s sworn enemy is zealously determined to get to the bottom of Gabby’s secrets and to outplay Gabby in the school band. This initial title also introduces Edwina, Gabby’s contact with alien parents. Edwina is uptight, primly-dressed, and no-nonsense. She’s also totally confident of Gabby’s abilities and deeply concerned about the safety of her alien charges. These charges come with some tall orders. For example, Gabby’s first job is to care for a girl who is no larger than a garden gnome and who can transform herself into anything she wishes. Oh, and she’s also in line for the throne for one of the plants, and so key to intergalactic peace.

The subsequent two titles introduce equally unusual babysitting charges. In Gabby Duran and Troll Control, Gabby encounters the first family to truly dislike her. The mother wrinkles her nose upon meeting Gabby, describes her as “uneasy on the eyes,” and throws around the word unpleasant. The father attempts to act polite, but can’t resist a sneer or cleansing his hands with sanitizer after Gabby and he shake. And who is Gabby’s charge? A frizzy-haired, mole-covered troll with a habit of stealing and showing off. Gabby also encounters the first true setback of her new job. Prior to now, she’s successfully remained secretive about her job and handled babysitting at odd hours. With this newest charge, she inadvertently allows him to get kidnapped. In Gabby Duran and Multiple Mayhem, Gabby has not only redeemed herself in the eyes of Edwina, but received the dubious honor of babysitting One. It’s her first experience with a real baby; all her other charges have been toddlers or preschoolers. Gabby soon discovers that One isn’t all he seems to be. In one short evening, One has replicated into not just two, three, four babies but thirteen! Despite it being against agency orders, out of desperation, Gabby calls her friends to help. To make matters worse, a classmate discovers Gabby’s secret and her mother might be dating a bad guy.

Is there anything I don’t like? Okay, the characters are mostly one-dimensional. But that’s often the case with light-hearted books. Besides, over time, idiosyncrasies are revealed such as the fact Gabby blushes, sweats, and speaks in a high-pitched voice when telling a lie. True, the plots are simplistic. But again, that’s often the case with easy-to-read series. And, eventually, subplots are developed such as the mystery of what happened to Gabby’s dad. The most serious criticism I have is that the overblown “good versus bad guy action” is so outrageous that I gave up trying to understand it.

Over all the series has a lot of creativity and heart. It reminds me of the Scary School series by Derek the Ghost. Those titles entertained me for a few hours and turned one of my reluctant readers into a fan of books. I’m enthused to own the first three titles of Gabby Duran and equally eager for the next book to be published.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer are fantasies inspired by famous fairy tales, most notably Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. The fourth actually inspired both Fairest AND Winter, the final books in the series. As a prelude to my review of those two books, I’m sharing some of the origins of Snow White. Tomorrow, I’ll return with reviews. Save the date: November 27!

A magic mirror, a poisoned apple, a glass coffin, and the characters of an evil queen/stepmother and the seven dwarfs. These are all elements of the German fairy tale, Snow White, made famous by the Grimm Brothers. There are many versions of this story, one of the most modern being found in The Lunar Chronicles. Let’s now take a step back in time to look at the origins to the Grimms version.

Like many of the Grimm tales, it is believed that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been in existence since the Middle Ages, passed down through word-of-mouth over the centuries. Recent research suggests, however, that the tale may be anything but fiction; the story may have roots in true tragedies. Two young German ladies have been identified as possible inspirations for the story of Snow White and her jealous stepmother.

Snow White_SevenDwarfsAncient Legends describes the claims of German historian named Eckhard Sander, who argued that the character of Snow White was based on the life of Margarete von Waldeck, a German countess born to Philip IV in 1533. At the age of 16, Margarete was forced by her stepmother to move to Brussels. There, Margarete fell in love with a prince who would later become Phillip II of Spain. Margarete’s parents disapproved of the relationship as it was ‘politically inconvenient’. Perhaps due to having been poisoned. Margarete died at the age of 21,. Historical accounts point to the King of Spain, who opposing the romance, may have dispatched Spanish agents to murder Margarete.

Mental Floss puts a slightly different spin on this tale, saying that back in the mid-1500s, there was a girl named Margarete who lived in a mining town called Waldeck. Possibly due to problems with her father’s new wife, Margarete moved out of Waldeck at the age of 17, and headed for Brussels. At this point, the two versions of Snow White begin to mesh. Apparently, Margarete attracted the attention of Philip II of Spain but someone didn’t care for the idea of Philip marrying Margarete and she fell gravely ill. Her handwriting in her last will and testament was shaky enough to make most people think she had developed tremors, a sign of being poisoned, by whom no one knows.

What about the seven dwarfs? Both sites suggest that Margarete’s father owned several copper mines that employed children as quasi-slaves. Ancient Legends suggests that the poor conditions caused many to die at a young age, but those that survived had severely stunted growth and deformed limbs from malnutrition and the hard physical labor. As a result, they were often referred to as the ‘poor dwarfs’. Mental Floss writes, “Children worked in the mines there, so you can see where retelling of the tale eventually morphed the children into small men over the years.”

What about the poisoned apple? Sanders believed this stemed from a historical event in German history in which an old man was arrested for giving poison apples to children who he believed were stealing his fruit.

Not all experts are convinced, however, by Sander’s claim that Snow White’s character stems from the life of Margarete von Waldeck. Ancient Legends refers to a different account, in which Snow White is based on Maria Sophia von Erthal, born 1729 in Bavaria. She was the daughter of 18th century landowner, Prince Philipp Christoph von Erthal and his wife, Baroness von Bettendorff. After the death of the Baroness, Prince Philipp went onto marry Countess of Reichenstein, who was said to dislike her stepchildren.

SnowWhite_TalkingMirrorMental Floss concurs with the above details, adding a few of its own. For example, Maria’s outlook under her stepmother wasn’t quite so bleak, in that there was no huntsman seeking internal organs for proof of Maria’s death. However, scholars still believe it wasn’t an easy existence. “Presumably the hard reality of life for Maria Sophia under this woman was recast as a fairy story by the Brothers Grimm.”

What about the dwarfs? The dwarfs in Maria’s story are also linked to a mining town. The smallest tunnels could only be accessed by small-statured men, who often wore bright hoods, as the dwarfs have frequently been depicted over the years in the tale of Snow White.

This version of Snow White also accounts for the poisoned apple, the glass coffin, and the mirror. The poisoned apple may be associated with the deadly nightshade poison that grew in abundance where Maria lived, while the glass coffin may be linked to the region’s famous glassworks. Whether the acoustical toy that could speak had been in the house during the time that Maria’s stepmother lived there or Maria’s father gave the looking-glass to his second wife as a gift is debated, but the fact remains a “talking mirror’ existed.

Set in the future when books outlawed and even thinking is discouraged, Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is the story of a fireman who is troubled because is job is not to put out fires but to start them. The winner of many literary awards, Farenheit 451 is an established dystopian classic. In this post, rather than present a literary analysis, I’ll focus on how Bradbury came to write this short masterpiece and two main themes it covers.

In my edition of Farenheit 451, the first thirty pages are taken up with a foreword and an introduction, both by Bradbury himself. In each, he shares the origins of this relatively short novel. Apparently, the theme of books being burning had long been on his mind. Bradbury states that he had written numerous tales with belabored warnings on the theme, before specifically listing five unpublished ones that he led to The Pedestrian. This latter, inspired by an encounter with a policeman who questioned why Bradbury and a friend were out walking the streets, led to a second walk as well as a 25,000 word novella entitled The Fireman. Bradbury also credits various world events, both current and historical: Hitler torching books, Stalin and his match people, Salem witch trial, and the triple burnings of the Alexandrian library.

How did his 25,00 word novella grow to double its size and gain publication? Apparently, Ian Ballantine started a hard and soft publication venture and saw in Farenheit 451 the makings of a proper novel, if Bradbury could add 25,000 more words. Bradbury then faced a dilemma, in being a “passionate not intellectual writer” or a writer who needed to write his story an emotional blaze. In his youth, he had spent hours in libraries, taken notes about firehouses, and seen his grandmother’s house on fire. All of these memories played on his mind as, with the roughest of outlines, he wrote Farenheit 451 in nine days. Wow.

In researching Bradbury’s background, two themes were regularly cited for Farenheit 451. Naturally, the first is that of censorship. Although Bradbury later distanced himself from this claim, Bradbury clearly loved books and libraries. He even claimed to have graduated from libraries, having spent ten years there, two or three days a week, after his high school graduation. His characters also bear out the claim with their speeches, especially a lengthy one by Beatty who visits Montag who has taken a sick day. To summarize, Beatty talks about how society as a whole tried not to step on the toes of any individual group. Doing so led to books and magazines becoming a “nice blend of vanilla tapioca”. In time, books stopped selling, except for comics and sex confessions. So far, this doesn’t actually seem like a rant against censorship. Eventually though, Beatty explains, the job of firemen was to ensure that everyone remained equal. “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door.” As such, firemen were provided the job of burning books to ensure that ideas don’t upset anyone and that everyone remains happy.

Another theme cited is that of the negative impact of television. Although Bradbury himself turned some of his writings into screenplays and shows, he apparently disliked this medium. One can also see this theme evident in Bradbury’s characters, especially in the interactions between Montag and his wife. She seems obsessed with her TV parlor, to the point that the programs feel more real to her than the world around her. Mildred forgets until four days after the fact that the neighborhood girl died. She also prefers to watch her shows than talk to Montag about when their marriage started, whether the two of them are truly happy, or why books are wrong. The theme is also evident in the character of Clarisse, who is considered a troublemaker because she likes to notice the grass, the flowers, the moon, and to ask questions about history, instead of watching television.

Since first encountering Bradbury in my youth, I have appreciated him for his style and ideas. My husband is also a longtime fan. We have many of Bradbury’s writings, with one of my favorites continuing to be Farenheit 451. More than anything, what strikes me is how timely this book written in the 1950’s remains with its high praise of ideas and books and regards to cautionary comments on technology. In our fast-paced society, Farenheit 451 reminds one not only to take time to read but to also simply stop to observe, listen, and experience the world in which we live.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?


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Fall 2017: Focus on Cats!

All things cats ahead! I will post roundups of cat training books, cat Trap-Neuter-Release books, cat coloring books, and cat cozies. For all other animal lovers, I will also post roundups of dog cozies and zoo books.

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