Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Weekend With The Transcendentalists

Concord, Massachusetts was everything I hoped it would be. Knowing, as I do, that not everyone shares my fascination with the Transcendentalists, I will skip over my trip to the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson (where we got a private tour because, oddly enough, we were the only ones there) and the Concord Museum (which is built on the site of Emerson's orchard--the guy appears to have owned a lot of property in Concord, including a nice chunk around Walden Pond) and expound, instead, on Wayside.

Why do I think you'll care? Well, it turns out the Alcotts lived at Wayside before they lived next door at Orchard House. The life Louisa lived at Wayside is the life she wrote about at Orchard House.

On top of that, Nathanial Hawthorne lived at Wayside after the Alcotts. Turns out that Nate wrote a children's book, because who doesn't?

Things become even more interesting, if that is possible, after Hawthorne's death. Evidently he had quite a following post-death (I'm hoping for that for myself), and when his home came up for sale it was purchased by one Daniel Lothrop. Lothrop and his wife were both Hawthorne fans.

They were also book people. Lothrop was a publisher whose company eventually (and after his death) became part of Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. His wife, Margaret, also known as Margaret Sidney was the author of...The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew! As well as a bunch of other Pepper books. And other things.

The people at The Wayside claim the Pepper books were the Harry Potters of the 1890's. I don't know if that's entirely accurate or a bit of wishful thinking on their part, but it does cause one to reflect, does it not? Because while I have read the first of the Pepper books, a whole lot of people have not. A hundred years from now will Harry have gone the way of the Peppers? We'll never know.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject of children's literature and Concord, we went to Walden Pond on Sunday, and while I can't say that Thoreau wrote any children's books (though very little surprises me in terms of kidlit authorship), I can tell you that D.B. Johnson was going to do an appearance there that afternoon. D.B. Johnson, of course, is the author and illustrator of the Henry books about a bear who is a great deal like Henry You Know Who.

We walked over five miles over the two days, also.

Transcendentalists, children's authors, and's hard to ask for anything more.

For more images relating to the Transcendentalists, check out my The Transcendental Writers of Concord Pinterest board

Swearing In Kids' Books--They're For It!

The Curse of Swearing in Children's Books in The Guardian. The author disses "barking spiders" from Leviathan. If I recall, I rather liked that.

Link from Pimp My Novel.

Friday, September 24, 2010

At Last, I'm Off To Concord Again

After nearly two years I will finally get back to Concord, Massachusetts this weekend. Ah, Concord, Land of the Transcendentalists.

The year after my first trip, I reread Walden, and it was a great experience. I've been trying to read Emerson this past year. Ah, well, maybe after visiting his house tomorrow I'll feel like giving it another go.

Can You Believe It? National Punctuation Day?

Yes, indeed, National Punctuation Day exists, and we are living it as I write this. So this seems like a good time to post a bit about The Punctuation Station by Brian P. Cleary with illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff.

The Punctuation Station is a nicely done meshing of text and illustration in which basic punctuation marks are explained. It's written in rhyme, by the way. The writing is appropriate to the age group, assuming that picture books are read by the preschool age group.

But do preschoolers need to know how to use punctuation? As I was reading The Punctuation Station I wondered, Why? I expect most picture book readers to need to be read to. Or, at the very most, to be emerging readers. If they're doing any writing at that point, do they need to be all that meticulous about punctuating it?

Then I recalled the young teacher who told me about classroom read-alouds. The Punctuation Station would probably be another example of a kind of picture book that would make a very fine read-aloud, this time in classrooms where post-picture book students are learning to punctuate.

Enjoy the rest of your National Punctuation Day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Funny But Maybe Not Strongly YA

After spending a big chunk of the spring and summer reading nineteen books by the same author, I am now happily knocking off some YA titles. I stumbled upon My Summer on Earth by Tom Lombardi. Definitely an entertaining work that was easy to knock off.

Clint--well, Clint Eastwood, a name our main character chose because it isn't douchey and because his human "suit" looks like Eastwood when he was young--is an alien on a mission to collect another alien who defecated (human humor--he means defected, of course) years before. The earlier alien is a well-known actor whose name we never learn because Clint always refers to him as the douche. While Clint works on completing his mission, he is involved with a long series of escapades because he doesn't understand Earth culture. He runs into a large number of douches and douche-like situations.

The book is laugh-out-loud funny. Not only did I not get tired of hearing Clint say "douche," it actually became funnier the more he used it.

I did wonder, though, if this book was really YA. Sure Clint is said to be a young alien in his own culture, and he's wearing an adolescent human suit. (Seriously. It is a suit. I won't tell you where he stashed his valuables. Use your imagination.) Plus there's a little father-son friction, though it feels sort of tacked on.

In spite of all that, the book seems to be much more of an outsider-looking-in-on- human-culture story rather than a story about an adolescent making a transition to the adult world. Clint could have been any age. He didn't have to be a teenager. Plus a lot of the scenes seemed as if they belonged in a book for twenty-somethings.

For instance, in one scene, Clint believes he's following a group of people into church but they're really going into IKEA. IKEA--very twenty something. YAs aren't all that into buying furniture. I think an equivalent for a YA book would be something similar to Best Buy, a place where they could purchase piles of technical crap. And then Clint complains to someone about humans worshipping in stores. Again, the realization that humanity isn't that terrific strikes me as something that happens in a twenty-something book. In my experience, an adolescent's response to hearing that humans worship in stores would be, "How do I become a member of that church?"

I'm not saying that to be all jaded and diss teenagers, by the way. I think they're into material things in part because the adult world has exploited them commercially but also because buying mass quantities of junk is a way of helping them to define themselves. I am what I have. With luck, they'll outgrow it. Say, when they're twenty-something and realize that junk really is junk.

But, anyway, I think those stereotypical YA books about girls going to the mall may be a little more realistic portrayal of teen culture than a book in which a pretend teenager realizes that worshipping at IKEA probably isn't a good thing.

That is not to say teenagers--especially older teenagers who are getting close to being twenty-somethings--won't enjoy My Summer on Earth. After all, Clint is hoping to get himself some human loving and his idea of human language involves large quantities of obscenity. But, you know, they could have read it if it had been classified as an adult book, too, and then it could have been marketed to adults as well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lord Byron For The Young?

I haven't been very conscientious about following The Trease Project, but I managed a visit just now and learned that in 1969 Geoffrey Trease published a book about Lord Byron for "teenage readers who might have studied his poetry but were sheltered from his person."

I wonder if many teenagers study his poetry today.

You can find the odd copy of Byron, A Poet Dangerous to Know on the Internet, but very little about it.

How About Joan Of Arc, Zombie Hunter?

I went to this article about Random House publishing its first digital-only children's title because kids' digital titles is another one of those things we discuss at the dinner table. But then when I saw what the title (a short story) was about, I got kind of excited. I was always greatly taken with St. Joan when I was a Catholic child, and, of course, I'd be interested in a story about her surviving the fire.

But, you know, I want Joan to be a power woman, not someone who is rescued by a guy. So, I'm thinking, how about a St. Joan and the zombies story in the manner of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

Or, better yet, some evil soul who doesn't mind risking eternal damnation could do a whole series of saints vs. the paranormal tales. My mind is reeling.

Pimp My Novel, which has become one of my favorite blogs, provided the link.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Be One With The Book

Last night at dinner I started pontificating about what is and is not a YA book, which was rehearsal for me pontificating here. As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins is YA because it deals with an adolescent male who, over the course of the story, decides what kind of man he's going to be. You've got both a YA character and a YA theme. You have a YA character acting as a young person in his relationship to adult characters. So, I guess, you could say you have YA scenarios, too.

What's particularly interesting about As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth is that you also have here an adult male character who, over the course of the story, decides what kind of man he's going to be. This is a male character who definitely acts as an adult in his relationship to younger characters.

In fact, at one point I was wondering if this was teenage Ry's story or adult Del's story as observed by teenage Ry. Which would have been interesting, too.

This is a journey story, and journey stories usually have built in narrative drive because of the journey structure. I felt the drive in As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth kept screeching to a halt as the story shifted from Ry to his grandfather or his parents. We needed that information because they were the reason for Ry's journey. But, still, for me the flow didn't flow as smoothly as I would have liked.

But then I remembered that Perkins is what I think of as a Zenny writer. With Perkins, who wrote the incredible Criss Cross, you "have to just enjoy what you're reading as you're reading it and forget about what it has to do with a storyline. You have to get into the moment."

And, hey, I can do that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Almost Missed "I Can Read"

This month's I Can Read Carnival is at The Book Chook.

And This Helps Explain Why Bookstores Don't Like To Deal With Self-Published Books

Pimp My Novel explained the book return policy book publishers extend to bookstores. A year or two ago, I was at a particularly interesting author gathering at which booksellers were speaking. One of them explained why she tries to avoid selling self-published books. She didn't talk about the quality of the writing or of the design/production. She talked about this book return policy.

When dealing with book publishers, she can purchase a number of titles from any one of them, return what she can't sell, and get credit for her next purchase. When dealing with individual self-published authors who have not found some kind of distributor, she can't. Or, if an author offered to take back the books and send her a check, think of the hassle. And multiply that hassle by 750,000, since that's the number of books that are supposed to have been self-published last year.

If every self-published book were a masterpiece, it would be mind-boggling for booksellers to deal with the bookwork involved in getting those books onto their shelves.

I believe some booksellers will accept some self-published titles on consignment if they are titles of high interest to their communities. But you can still see that the consignment model isn't the one they regularly work with and would be a nightmare to manage with a large volume of authors/titles.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Okay, Now This Is Disturbing

As a general rule, I don't get my knickers in a twist over school censorship issues because they tend to be a lot of the same old, same old. Parents wanting to monitor their own children's reading, which I personally believe they have a right to do because we live in a free country, think they can only do this if they take it upon themselves to monitor the reading of other parents' children, which they don't have a right to do because, as I just said, we live in a free country. Take care of your kids, I'll take care of mine, thank you very much. It tends to be the same thing over and over again.

The recent attack on Speak in Missouri is more disturbing to me. What I find so ugly about it is the suggestion that sexual violence directed against women is sexually arousing.

Speak is a very well done problem book about a teenage girl so traumatized by rape that she can't speak. The whole point of YA problem books is that they present a problem and a way of dealing with it. They do not encourage or reward the problem. In fact, many of them aren't particularly satisfying as works of fiction because they are so instructive and improving.

In order for Speak to be classified as soft core pornography, as the author of the complaint about the book suggests, readers would have to find the prospect of a man forcing himself sexually upon a woman arousing. In fact, the people classifying Speak as soft core pornography would have to believe that violent sexual acts are arousing.

How dangerous is that?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Is It Wrong To Tell Young Women That They Can Do Long Division While Wearing High Heels?

Salon on Danica McKellar: Are Her Math Books Bad For Girls?

After 152 years of feminism, we should all be ashamed that anyone has to write books to encourage young women in any field, mathematics included.

Friday, September 17, 2010

More On Accelerated Reader

I like to read about Accelerated Reader because I know some of my books are AR titles. The Book Whisperer had quite an interesting post on the subject earlier this month called How to Accelerate a Reader.

Never Let Me Go Movie Is Here

I loved Never Let Me Go, which became an Alex winner. Salon reviews the movie.

Great Time To Join Facebook, Gail

From Nathan Bransford--Can I Get A Ruling: Does Social Media Help Sell Books? I only skimmed his overwhelming number of commenters, but it appears that many of them feel it does. We have to keep in mind, though, that Nathan Bransford's followers are probably very active in terms of social media. He wasn't surveying the whole world but a very specific subset.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How To Do It

In days of old, books about writing stunk, to put it bluntly. Mindnumbing stuff. Over the last few years I've found some better ones for myself, and Simply Donna has a post on Kid-Friendly books about the Writing Process for the younger folks.

Oddly enough, I have one of those books, The Punctuation Station, upstairs. And now I will read it.

Link from Cynsations.

A Passion For Bridge

Some reviewers have said that The Cardturner by Louis Sachar is about bridge. I'm not a reviewer, of course, but I think it's about passion. It's about people feeling passionately about an...I guess we'd call it an interest...and pursuing it. A reader can understand a passion for bridge even if she doesn't understand bridge--or even like playing cards all that much unless she's doing it on a computer to avoid working. How many young readers will get it I cannot even begin to guess. It's possible that teenagers who recall or are still experiencing passions for Legos, comic books, television shows, or computer games will have no trouble at all understanding what young Alton and his great uncle Trapp are experiencing at the bridge table.

In case they don't, though, Sachar has brought in some more traditional modern kid story lines. You have your somewhat slacker adolescent male forced to spend part of his summer with a much older, outside-the-box character (a set-up I've used myself), a mysterious foiled romance from long in the past (I'm toying with that one now), and a little additonal romance for the young 'uns. Oh, and you also have a little mystical stuff going on, though I wouldn't go so far as to call it magical realism.

You might say all this additional stuff is a safety net to keep the readers who aren't all that into the passion required to play bridge on a competitive level.

I liked The Cardturner, myself, though I did think the greedy parents were over the top. In fact, I indulged in a game of computer hearts today after finishing the book, and I'd thought I'd broken myself of that a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Will There Be No End? Or Is There A Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

I've been revising the first three chapters of the new book over and over again these last few months. I've done about six revisions, I believe, but I gave up starting new folders for each draft and have just been sawing away at the first three chapters of the third draft, reworking them and reworking them.

Six revisions doesn't sound like much, but, remember, I work very slowly. There are many more chapters to revise or perhaps discard, and many chapters still to be written because I've never finished a complete draft.

Sometimes this past year I would think, the first draft will be done by summer. Or the first draft will be done by September. Then I'd do some more work on those first three chapters. Now I'm thinking maybe November or Christmas.

Today, I finished the sixth revision of Chapter Three, closed up the file, thought, That's done, and went upstairs. By the time I got there, I'd thought of some more things to do to Chapter One. Oddly enough, I didn't do those things, but I did a few others that I feel very good about.

Though I know I sound chronically depressed at this blog sometimes, I do feel that in the last week I've worked out some important backstory and a relationship. And about fifteen or twenty minutes ago I came up with a title.

The Fletcher Farm Body. For the time being, anyway, I'm feeling good about that.

So what I'm talking about here, folks, is what started out to be the 365 Story Project and has evolved into something else that I'm calling The Fletcher Farm Body.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

She Was One Of The Few Out There

Earlier this month, Cynsations did an interview with Elizabeth Kennedy of Children's Books. Back in 2002 when I started Original Content, I did an Internet search of children's literature blogs. Elizabeth Kennedy's site was one of about a half dozen that turned up. That's all there was back then.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Adventures With Facebook

The big news at Chez Gauthier is that after a couple of years of thinking about it I am now on Facebook. I've been there for a couple of weeks, requiring assistance the first weekend from two Facebook citizens, one of them being Sheila Ruth. Today we (by which I mean Computer Guy, of course) finally placed Facebook badges to your left and on my Home Page.

Though I've been hearing about the need for authors to have a social networking presence for a long time now, I resisted for a couple of reasons. First off, when I first heard of Facebook years ago, it was from an on-line acquaintance who joined because she was a YA writer and Facebook was where the YAs were. She, and a couple of other writers I heard about, were rapidly approaching middle age and racing off to Facebook to connect with teenagers. At the risk of sounding like Alexia Tarabotti, it did not seem all the thing to me. It seemed a bit like exploiting the young. Now, I was appearing at schools and bookstores at the same time, which some could argue sounds like exploitation, too. But I was invited to those places by adults. I was monitored. Hobnobbing with adolescents at Facebook seemed an awful lot like hanging out in front of the high school at closing time.

Now, however, it appears that Facebook users might not find many YAs to hobnob with. So exploiting kids, anyway, doesn't worry me so much these days. Exploiting a social situation, yes, but at least I'll be exploiting adults in that social situation.

Secondly, marketing is a time suck, and there's been lots written over the last couple of years about marketing not working, anyway. On top of that, with Internet marketing it doesn't matter how much you do, there will always be something new coming up that you could be doing. First there was a website, then a blog, then listservs, then another blog at Amazon, then Facebook, then Twitter. You can't convince me that Twitter will be the end. Just how far should a writer go with all this? Well, this one will go as far as Facebook, anyway.

Plus, in the past I didn't care for the way Facebook looked, but I've grown accustomed to it these past few weeks.

I can't say I'm overwhelmed by the place so far. I find that a lot of writers on Facebook don't use so-called professional pages, but personal profiles, which are private and open only to friends. That's fine. That's social. But if you're there because conventional wisdom says that authors must market themselves in social networks, I don't quite see the point of limiting yourself to 30 or 300 or, in rarer cases, 3,000 people who are supposedly your friends already. A big part of Internet marketing is to have a presence out there that people can stumble upon or hunt for. The classic website rewards seekers with serious amounts of information. Or, at least, it should. A social Facebook page may be so closed to the public that someone finding it may get only a name, a picture, and a message to friend me.

Of course, maybe you're the kind of writer whose 30, 300, or 3,000 Facebook friends are all movers and shakers in the publishing world, and you're not there for the sake of finding new readers. But then your Facebook presence isn't really for marketing, it's for something else. Shmoozing, maybe? Schmoozing is good, though it's one of those skills I've never acquired. I can't even schmooze at a bridal shower.

Though my Facebook presence involves a professional page rather than a schmoozy one, I'm hoping to make it a little more casual than my Original Content presence, in large part because I don't believe in duplication of effort. If I'm going to be in different places on the Internet, I can't be doing exactly the same thing. I will sometimes link to Original Content posts, however. I'm not sure what my criteria for doing that will be. Perhaps just how I'm feeling that day.

If you're a Facebook fan, you are welcome to join me there.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Another One Of Those Things That I Must Not Desire Or I'll Become Unhappy

Just minutes ago I learned that a new critique group is forming in a town about twenty minutes from my house. I can't look into joining because of the family/work schedule I'm following nowadays. Sometime this past year I was asked to join a group that actually meets right in my town, and I had to pass on that for the same reason.

The two times I belonged to a critique group, I found it very time consuming. And that was before I had to cut back on my writing time. Reading the other members' writing samples and planning critiques came right out of my work day, and then there was the loss of an evening or two each month for the actual meetings. Since the work day (either business marketing or life maintenance) extends into the evening for me, as it does for so many others, going to group meant not doing something else, which then was left hanging over my head.

I like the networking aspect of critique groups, but as with everything else in life, I think it's an activity writers have to really give some thought to in terms of cost/benefit. Nonetheless, I'm aware I might be missing something.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Connecticut Book Award Finalists Announced

I know two of the five authors with books nominated in the children's category for this year's Connecticut Book Award. Oddly enough, it was in the paper yesterday, but it's not up at the website yet.

Anyway, I know Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Pegi Deitz-Shea. Patricia Hermes, Anne Rockwell, and Robert Holland also have books that have been nominated.

I know one of the authors in the biography or memoir category, too. Susan Campbell has one of only two books nominated in her category so she has a fifty percent chance of winning! Yes, Susan!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I've Never Read Anything By Shel Silverstein

Nonetheless, I enjoyed Children's Books You (Might)Hate, which goes on at great length about Silverstein's book The Giving Tree. What is particularly interesting about this article is that it inspired 272 comments.

Link from Blog of a Bookslut.

Baseball The Way I Like It

I've mentioned before my lack of interest in baseball. Also my enthusiasm for Alan Gratz's historical novel Samurai Shortstop. I've recently finished his The Brooklyn Nine, another historical work. Gratz's method of blending baseball with history makes the sport a whole lot more palatable for me.

The Brooklyn Nine involves nine different generations of the same Brooklyn baseball loving family, all portrayed in late childhood or mid-adolescence. We begin with the young immigrant Felix Schneider in 1845 and end with Snider Flint in 2002. Many of the different generations happen to coincide with well-known, some might even say stereotypical, moments in American history, such as the Civil War or the Jim Crow period. But this is a book for middle grade students, and it seems to me as if it introduces young readers to those historical periods. For child readers who aren't taken with history, reading about a sport they're familiar with may be the lead in they need to enjoy their past.

One of the things Gratz does that I particularly enjoy is that he doesn't say too much. He mentions in the first chapter that an uncle has changed the spelling of the family's name and changed churches in order to fit in, but we don't learn until a few generations later that what he did was give up Judaism. Gratz never makes a judgment about it. He never uses the term "Jim Crow" in the Jim Crow chapter, but readers realize that something has changed, that the position of African Americans--and Jews--has become more precarious. One family member clearly is suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, but Gratz never tells us about it. He shows us. (She lived in a period when the condition may not have been recognized.) The chapter on the child number runner was just plain fascinating. That's got to be a subject a lot of kids know nothing about. This adult sure didn't. The reporter in that chapter, who we learn in the Author Notes at the end of the book was based on a real person, was one of my favorite characters.

The Brooklyn Nine is described on the cover as "A Novel in Nine Innings." To me it reads more like interconnected short stories. That's even better, as far as I'm concerned. I don't think kids get many opportunities to read short stories.

This book would make a wonderful addition to school libraries and extra credit reading lists for social studies classes.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Katniss Vs. Bella

Laura Miller has an interesting article at Salon, "The Hunger Games" vs. "Twilight". Don't read the comments if you haven't read the second two books, since there's at least one major spoiler there.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What You Can Learn From Writing Essays

I finished the Bodhidharma essay at 8:05 this morning after getting up shortly after 6 to work on it because last evening I realized that I would never get a concluding paragraph using the last page I had at that point. I needed to go in a slightly different direction. In short, I had to bring the ending back around to the beginning.

The big problem with writing essays, as I see it, is staying on task. At the end of the essay, you have to be writing about the same thing you were writing about at the beginning of the essay. You really can't meander. This, my little lads and lasses, is why topic sentences were invented. Also transitional sentences. If you're going all formal, the topic sentences for each paragraph should link you back to your thesis statement. If you're going more personal essay/creative nonfictionish, transitional sentences between paragraphs will at least keep you linked to the thought that came before so you don't wander off.

Thank God I remembered that around eight o'clock last night.

To bring this essayish post ending back to the beginning, I will conclude with the thought that you can learn to stay on task from writing essays.

Monday, September 06, 2010

And In Conclusion

I actually have a couple of interesting things to blog about--a reader response to a book I finished a few days ago, an announcement regarding some new activity on the Internet--but I am totally bogged down this evening on an essay I need to turn in to my taekwondo instructor tomorrow because I'm testing for third dan this week. See, the essay is about my spiritual descent from Bodhidharma, a legendary figure who many martial arts writers consider to have had a hand in the spreading of martial arts throughout the east.

And I don't have a last paragraph. So that's what I'm obsessing on this evening.

Friday, September 03, 2010

"Now you can read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!"

I'm going to warn you right now, some of the titles at Better Book Titles are crude. So don't go there unless you love that kind of stuff. Included in the more recent posts are better book titles for The Westing Game and a Gary Paulsen book I'd never heard of.

Interesting point about the new name for Bleak House--I saw Bleak House on PBS a few years ago, and, seriously, all I can remember about it is that someone got smallpox.

Perhaps We Have Some Problem With Movement Because We Sit All Day

'Dancing with Stars' but not authors.

Link from Bookslut.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

There Is Nothing Like A Dirigible

I was a big fan of Kenneth Oppel's Airborn. In fact, I just bought a copy for my niece. I liked the first sequel, Skybreaker, even more. So I recently sought out the third book in the series, Starclimber.

Starclimber takes a long time to get going. I recall the earlier books as having a lot of thrilling action scenes, and these didn't start appearing until after the halfway point this time. The first half is all about the main character's training for going into space, which is a different place for him. In the first two books he was in the air, dealing with dirigibles. In the alternative world in which those books take place, dirigibles move around. A lot of things can happen on them and to them.

In Starclimber, however, Oppel has confined himself and his characters to a ship that travels into space along a wire. The real action doesn't start until halfway through the book, and the situation limits where the ship can go and what it can do. So there just weren't as many thrills this time around.

There's more romance, for those who care about that kind of thing. I would have preferred a bad guy.

This series started out very strong, and though this one isn't up there with the others, in my humble opinion, fans of the characters--or of their world--will want to continue reading.