Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio & Will Staehle

Warren the 13th

Information

Goodreads: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye
Series: Warren the 13th #1
Source: Quirk Books
Published: November 2015

Official Summary

Warren the 13th is the lone bellhop, valet, waiter, groundskeeper, and errand boy of his family’s ancient hotel. It’s a strange, shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and mysterious riddles—and it just might be home to a magical object known as the All-Seeing Eye. Can Warren decipher the clues and find the treasure before his sinister Aunt Annaconda (and a slew of greedy hotel guests) beats him to it?

This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.

Review

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye is a creatively creepy middle grade novel that invites readers into the mysterious Warren Hotel–a business that once was prosperous but seems to have traded customers for monsters and ghosts.  Captivating red and black artwork draws readers into the story and invites them to help solve the story’s mysterious: Who is the silent, bandaged-wrapped guest? What’s lurking in the boiler room?  And what is the legendary All-Seeing Eye?

The book does imply several tropes common to middle grade novels: an evil stepmother aunt who makes Warren complete ridiculous chores,  a kindly chef who sneaks Warren treat, and other such characters. However, the story puts just enough twist on the tropes to make them seem interesting and new.  There’s also the fact that Warren the 13th is not a stereotypical protagonist–described as toad-like and hunched and perhaps liable to be mistaken for a monster himself. (Except that he has glamorous hair.)

The mysteries are not really interactive, which I was somewhat expecting based on the artistic nature of the novel and the jacket copy. Middle grade books with actual solvable puzzles and such are becoming a trend (and one I like).  However,  the story does provide readers with enough clues to solve the mysteries as Warren does, which is great.  There’s nothing worse than a mystery the reader isn’t given enough information to figure out, in my opinion.  The ending was also genuinely surprising to me, despite some foreshadowing.

Overall, Warren the 13th is just fun.  It has a creepy vibe, but it’s often more quirky than scary, particularly since many things are not what they initially seen.  It’s also a really beautiful. Even the trim size is unique, since the book is square.  I loved reading this and would love to continue on with the series to share in Warren’s and his friend’s adventures.

4 stars

Bonus Story

Warren Friday the 13th

To celebrate Friday the 13th, Tania del Rio has written a bonus story about Warren that you can read free! Quirk Books has the story and activity book about Warren’s unlucky day available to download here.  Book #2 in the series, Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, will be out in March 2017.

Briana

Classic Remarks: Does The Hobbit Need More Female Characters?

Classic Remarks

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.  Feel free to comment even if you are not officially participating!  This week’s prompt is:

Should Tolkien have included more female characters in The Hobbit?

I have never been a huge proponent of every book needing to have equal gender representation because I believe every book should have the types of characters that suit the story.  I never read Little Women or Anne of Green Gables and think that more boys ought to be involved, because these are stories about girls growing up, and many girls (though not all–and other books represent that) naturally find themselves hanging out with other girls when they are young.  Certainly at the time these books were published, girls and boys were naturally separated because they were expected to have different roles.  Girls usually gathered together at recess while the boys played.  The boys climbed trees and threw the fruit down to the girls.  The girls and the boys would even sit on different sides of the classroom.  We might not want these roles today, but they do paint an accurate picture of the time, so I can’t complain about how the books represent them.

The same might be said of other books that have mostly male characters–and these are the books that usually come under fire for not having more equal gender representation.  They very often feature mostly male characters because it is appropriate to the setting or the time period, or to the type of story being told.   Moby-Dick features male characters because you’d expected to find all men on a whaling ship.  The Red Badge of Courage features male characters because Civil War regiments were comprised mostly of males (excepting the women who had to disguise themselves as males to be accepted into the army).  A Separate Peace features all male characters because it’s set at a prep school for boys.  The Chosen focuses on male characters because it’s about a friendship between two boys.  None of these books can be classified as sexist solely based on the fact that they feature mostly male characters because that’s the point of the novels–they’re set in male spaces.

And The Hobbit?  Does this one count as a book that should feature mostly males in order to be true to the time period it represents?  After all, it’s a fantasy, not historical fiction, so anything can happen.  An author don’t need to remain true to the Middle Ages when assigning genders.

First, we should consider that J. R. R. Tolkien  was a university professor who taught medieval texts and was inspired by medieval works.  When you read works like Beowulf or the Kalavela or King Arthur and decide to set your story in a medieval-ish world populated by heroes who go on an adventure to fight a dragon–well it does seem likely that you would make all those heroes male in order to be true to the works you are drawing upon.  In fact, a person who grew up reading texts like this, where there were not likely many heroines donning armor to fight as knights, would probably need to make a conscious effort to not just copy the only gender roles he was familiar with.

However, we should keep in mind that The Hobbit was published in 1937 and that it’s perhaps unfair to hold a book from this time period to the same standards of gender representation we would hold a fantasy adventure to today.  If few people back then were calling for equal gender representation in books or asking for more ladies to don armor or fight dragons, it’s very likely that such a thing just didn’t occur to many authors.

Tolkien’s failure to think outside the box and add a few female Dwarves to The Hobbit, however, does not seem to indicate a dismissive view towards women in general.  He populated Middle-earth with quite a few impressive women, including Eowyn, Galadriel, Luthien, Melian, and Elwing, to name a few.  These women do don armor, do fight alongside the men they love, and do very often succeed where the men have failed.  Indeed, the women are often more powerful and skilled than the men they associate with or marry.  Clearly, women in Middle-earth can fight and heal and perform magic and do any number of things.  They run the spectrum and do not hold to any particular type in order to be considered strong or worthy.

So why aren’t there any women in The Hobbit?  I’m not quite sure, but I don’t think it’s a detriment to the story, which I have always found enthralling, humorous, and poignant by turns.  I don’t need a character to be female in order for me to identify with them, just as a male reader should not need male characters in order to identify with them.  Bilbo, with his reluctance for adventure and his love of the simple pleasures in life speaks to me.  His growth from an unsure Hobbit to a daring one who risks everything to do what he thinks is right, speaks to me.  He and his companions could be any gender and his adventures would be equally delightful.  I love a good female character and enjoy reading stories that talk about the types of problems that are often specific to female characters.  But not every story needs a female character, just as every story does not necessarily need a male character.  Some types of stories work just fine without.

Krysta 64

How to Be a Pro at Guest Posting

How to Guest Post on a Blog

Why You Should Guest Post

If you’re the type of blogger who Googles blog advice and frequents large blogs that are solely about how to increase your blogging traffic, you’ll notice a common theme: Guest post, and you’ll get more readers.  These people obviously know nothing about the book blogging niche.  I’ve said before that guest posting is simply not the key to overnight success in book blogging.  When these people advise you to guest post, they’re envisioning you pitching your guest post to an enormous site with possibly hundreds of thousands of followers.  Book blogs just don’t get audiences that big, and the biggest of them may not even ever take guest posts.  However, this only means that guest posting won’t quickly turn you into the Next Big Thing in books blogs.  There are still valuable reasons you might want to guest post.

Reach a New Audience

When you gust post, you’re still reaching a new audience.  You just need to have realistic expectations about how large that audience may be.  Think of yourself as building connections and starting conversations with new people, instead of amassing minions for your blogging empire, and you might find guest posting very rewarding. It’s just that you may get 5 click throughs to your blog instead of 500, and you may get 2 new followers instead of 200.

Get Name Recognition

If you guest post often, you’ll start to get name recognition for your “brand.”  People might not click through to your blog to first time they see you guest post on a blog they already follow, but they may click through if it’s the third time they see you guest posting for a blog they know and trust.  By guest posting, you’ll be able to position yourself as a blogger who’s interested in building connections and who has enough interesting things to say about books that other people are happy to feature you on their blogs.

How to Get the Most of Out of Your Guest Post

Once you’ve decided you’re interested in guest posting, here a few steps to help ensure the process goes smoothly.

Include a Title

This is an obvious step if you think about it, but you’d be surprised how many people send guest post drafts without giving a title for the post.  If you forget, it’s possible the blog owner will simply send you a quick email asking if you have a preferred title. However, if you’re close to deadline or there are other factors at play, you might find a title assigned to your post.  This isn’t the end of the world.  Mostly likely it will be titled something quite appropriate and reasonable. However, there’s no need to relinquish control over the title if you don’t have to.

Provide an Author Bio and Blog Link

A guest post is a wonderful opportunity to introduce new readers to your writing and your style, and the first step is telling them who you are. Consider including a brief bio with your post about you and your blog, and make sure you include a link to your blog (or whatever website or social media you want to work on promoting).  If you don’t specify what you would like included, the blog owner will probably just throw you a credit line that says something like “Maria blogs at I Love Books.”  Again, it’s not the end of the world, but why settle for that when you can tell new readers something fun about you and get them intrigued about your blog?

Write Thoughtful Content

I’ve noticed a recent trend in the blogosphere that some bloggers seem reluctant to share exciting ideas or great content on other blogs.  Why give that blog page views for something fascinating you wrote, right?  The quick answer: your guest post may be the first time readers have heard of you or your blog.  Give them a great impression and show them that if they click through to your blog, they’ll find even more strong content.  Don’t miss a great opportunity to find readers by simply tossing a guest post together.

Be Aware of Image Copyright

Of course you want to make sure you’re always following image copyright rules on your own blog, so it’s doubly important to ensure you’re following them in a guest post.  There is nothing more awkward for someone hosting a guest poster than having to email them that it would be illegal to include the images they sent in their draft in a published post, and they need to choose another image or just go without.  Be kind to your host and head off such an embarrassing email exchange in the first place.

Check the Guest Post for Comments

Again, an obvious step if you think about it, but one that guest posters often forget. Make a note of when your guest post is going live on the other blog, then promote it to your followers on social media and check it the next couple days for comments.  The blog owner may try to address some comments if you never come back to the post, but as the author of the post, you’re the one with the best authority to answer. If you’re writing about a topic or book the blog owner doesn’t know much about, they’ll be completely stuck trying to answer your comments for you.  Of course, responding to the comments is also a great way to connect with new potential readers.

Vet Potential Blogs Before Guest Posting

If you fall into the camp of bloggers who worry that good content might not be best utilized as a guest post, consider the types of blogs where you would like to guest post. Ideally, the tone of the blog will be one that meshes with yours.  You may also want to think about the blog’s fan base and the reasons they’re seeking guest posts.  Are they having a specific event? Going on vacation for a week? Or on an indefinite hiatus and filling the blog with others’ content?  Do they seem to have active readers and commenters?  Are they just starting out or fairly established?  Asking these questions can help you find a blog to guest post that will work for you.

Briana

30 Discussion Post Prompts for Your Book Blog

30 Discussion Post Ideas for Your Blog

On Literature

  1. What would you like to see more of in X genre?
  2. Do you think there are any problematic representations of romantic love in books?
  3. What do you think of required reading in schools?
  4. Do you read classics? Why or why not?
  5. What’s your opinion of Shakespeare? Genius? Overrated? Confusing?
  6. Have you ever read a book in a second language? What was the experience like for you?
  7. Tell us about your favorite childhood books.
  8. Do you like characters who have vastly different sets of morals from your own?
  9. Do you think characters should learn something by the end of the book? (Learn to love their bodies, learn to be confident, etc.) Or can they end somewhere similar to where they started?
  10. What underrepresented fairy tales should get adaptations?

On Reading and Books

  1. What do you love about your local library?
  2. How do you organize your books?
  3. Do you get rid of books? How do you decide which ones go? What do you do with them?
  4. Do you have an official reading schedule, or are you a mood reader? Why?
  5. What books did you “have” to read for school did you end up really liking?
  6. Do you collect different versions of the same book? Why?
  7. Have you ever destroyed a book?
  8. How did you become interested in reading as a hobby?
  9. How have school literature classes influenced the way you read?
  10. What do you think about turning books into art?

On Blogging

  1. What makes you want to read a blog?
  2. What is some of your best blogging advice?
  3. Have you tried blogging advice that didn’t actually work for you?
  4. How do you balance blogging and real life?
  5. What are some of your favorite blogs you want to recommend to others?
  6. What made you want to start blogging?
  7. What are some of the best things about the blogging community?
  8. What have you learned about writing from blogging?
  9. What have you learned about reading from blogging?
  10. What did you not know about blogging before you started?

See Also

How to Title a Blog Post

how-to-title-a-blog-post

Every blogger, of course, has an individual style and there aren’t necessarily any “right” or “wrong” ways to title your blog posts.  However, if you struggle trying to think of what to call your posts, consider some of the suggestions below.  These are the points I consider when choosing whether or not to click on a post.

Title Your Post What It Is.

Bloggers tend to follow a lot of other blogs, maybe even hundreds of them, so the decision to read or not read your post may be made in a matter of seconds as your followers scroll through their feeds.  If you title your post something like “Find out what book made me laugh the hardest this year” or “Yellow squash and zombies?  What gives?” you might lose readers who don’t want to bother clicking on your post only to find out they don’t want to read about the book you’re featuring.  You might also end up accidentally making readers feel slightly tricked if they click on the post thinking it’s about squash only to discover that squash isn’t featured at all.  Help your readers out and let them know exactly what they’re going to be reading.

Try to Ask Original or Thought-Provoking Questions.

Writing original content can be difficult when there are so many bloggers out there, but it pays to try to feature discussions and posts that others aren’t.  If you write a post titled something like “How many books are on your night stand?” you’re not giving readers a lot to engage with.  Basically they can only comment with however many books they have on their night stand (assuming they have one) and then the conversation risks coming to a stop.  I don’t click on posts with titles like this because I’d prefer to read something that people have to discuss.

Avoid “Yes” or “No” Questions.

When I see a post with a title like “Should books have covers?” I mentally say to myself “Yes” and then don’t click on the post because it seems like the question has already been answered and I don’t really need the author’s input.  A question like this also seems to have a sort of obvious answer (see the point above) so I’m less inclined to click on it.

Even if the question is a more engaging one such as “Are sequels good or bad?” you’ve already primed the reader to answer “good” or “bad” in their heads and move along.  You’ve also accidentally suggested that the conversation isn’t really an engaging one to have since it’s apparently so easily answered with one word–even if that’s not the case.  Instead of asking a question like this, try titling your post with a provocative answer.  What is your conclusion about sequels?  Tell your readers upfront in the title and let them decide if they want to engage with your argument.

Consider Search Engine Hits.

Trying to be original and clever in post titles can be stressful, but keep in mind that your post titles should have the keywords you want search engines to find.  So if you title your post exactly what the post is about because you can’t think of a good pun that day, it’s all right.  At least you’ve increased your presence in search engine algorithms!

Krysta 64

How Plagiarism Can Affect Your Readers

 

How Plagiarism Can Affect Your Readers

To clarify from the start, this post is not in response to any particular recent events. However, I have written in the past about how plagiarism can affect those who have been plagiarized, how it can affect our community at large, and why it shouldn’t appeal to the plagiarist.  I realized I was missing a discussion of how plagiarism can affect those who read the plagiarized content.

Plagiarism in Academia

In the real world, I occasionally teach literature and writing classes to undergrads, and I have discovered my fair share of plagiarized essays. (I try not to think about the ones I might not have caught.)  And although I realize the plagiarism is not really about me–it’s about the student cheating him or herself of a proper education, or it’s about the student cheating other students in the classroom–it often does feel very personal.

It takes me an average of 40 minutes to grade a typical essay I assign. Teaching experts talk about life/work balance and trying to spend 20 minutes maximum per essay, but anyone who has graded know that 20 minutes is often an elusive dream.  Well-written essays are often faster to grade, but ones that are a little confusing or need a few more revisions before final submission take longer.  The only way for me to cut down on grading time is to cut down on providing useful feedback–and that’s one thing I’m not willing to do.  It’s quick and easy to scribble a note that says “Page 2 is a bit confusing. You should clarify your ideas before the final draft.” It takes much longer to read and reread page 2, try to figure out where the author is trying to go, and offer concrete solutions for him or her to get there.

So when I realize I have spent 40 minutes commenting on an essay or a draft that has been plagiarized, it angers me.  I have wasted 40 minutes of my life reading an essay my student did not write, may not have even read him or herself, and will not be able to apply my feedback to.  And I will have to spend even more time documenting the plagiarism, finding the original sources so I can report it to the proper school boards, and double-checking all the student’s past submitted essays for plagiarism I may have missed.  Each of these cases takes hours.  I know the student never meant the action personally; it has nothing to do with me.  But still.  They showed the y have no respect for my class.  No respect for my time.  They lied to me, and they clearly think I’m foolish enough to fall for it.

It’s even more upsetting fielding students’ various reactions.  I hear stories of students who have been repentant, and I have a lot of respect for that. Unfortunately, this has not yet been my experience. Some students go down with the ship, declaring nothing was done wrong. Some students lash out.  Some try to carry on in the class as if nothing happened at all.  Some go to the honor board and try to convince the committee that somehow the whole thing was my fault because I never told them what plagiarism was (I always do).  None of these reactions make it any easier for me to deal with the case.

So, yes, dealing with plagiarism is a hassle. It can be emotionally draining, if the plagiarist becomes confrontational.  Yet most of all, it feels like a betrayal.  To read someone’s work in good faith, to have respect for them as a student and as a writer, to truly want to see them grow and then realize you were being given lies can be devastating.  It’s not personal, but it certainly feels as if it is.

Plagiarism in the Blogosphere

Although plagiarism in the blogosphere has some differences from plagiarism in academia, I think my story above illustrates the emotional roller coaster that a reader can experience after discovering they have been reading plagiarized work.  Even when the plagiarism has nothing to do with the reader personally–they weren’t stolen from, they weren’t asked to do anything particular with the work, etc.–discovering the plagiarism can feel like a betrayal.  I think this, perhaps even more than the lack of a sincere apology, can be what makes it difficult for bloggers who have plagiarized to rebuild their audiences.

Publishing plagiarized work is simply a waste of readers’ time.  They thought they were reading original work from Blogger A, when really they were reading Blogger B’s  work, or something that was cobbled together haphazardly from multiple sources.  But they if wanted to be reading Blogger B’s writing, they wouldn’t be reading Blogger A’s blog.  If they wanted to read excerpts from multiple blogs, they would be reading those blogs instead.  Readers are being promised one “product” and being given something else.  When they discover the plagiarism, many will be upset that Blogger A had no respect for their time.

They may also be upset that Blogger A lied to them, and believed the his or her followers were silly enough they would never notice the plagiarism.  There’s nothing worse than imagining a plagiarist sitting at home and laughing at how gullible everyone is because they believe the blogger is publishing original content. (I’m sure plagiarists don’t actually laugh about this. In fact, many of them may be seriously stressed out by the threat of discovery, but the readers don’t know this. They will assume the plagiarist was happy to lie to them.).  No one enjoys being lied to, and no one likes to think they were successfully deceived for a time.  Rebuilding an audience after treating them like fools can be difficult.

Conclusion

Presenting your readers with plagiarized work is a breach of trust.  When people are following your writing career (whether it’s academic work, professional writing, or a blog you run as a hobby), they feel an investment in you and in your writing.  Discovering that their interest and good faith was taken advantage of can be devastating for readers; it can make them feel that you have no respect for them and their time.  I know many people plagiarize out of a desire to present good work to the world, to give their readers something they think is more worthwhile or more interesting or more well-written than what they would produce on their own.  However, the truth is that readers want to read original work.  No one would be reading your writing if they weren’t interested in what you personally had to say.

Have you ever discovered you were reading plagiarized work? How did you feel?

Briana

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

smileINFORMATION

Goodreads: Smile
Series:  Smile #1
Source: Library
Published: 2009

SUMMARY

In sixth grade, Raina trips while racing and suddenly her life is filled with dental appointments, braces, fake teeth, and a whole lot of embarrassment.  How can a girl feel like she belongs in high school when she feels like everyone is staring at her mouth?

Review

It’s not difficult to see why Smile won an Eisner award and regularly flies off the library shelf.  Semi-autobiographical in nature, the book tells the story of Telgemeier’s tween and teen years, after she trips during a race and injures her two front teeth.  Faced with the possibility of having a misshapen smile for the rest of her life, or having to wear embarrassing dental equipment, Raina finds herself lacking self-confidence and struggling to fit in at high school.  It’s a coming-of-age story many will surely relate to.

Even so, I admit I did not really see myself in Raina.  I never understood why so many students hate braces because it seems like most people wear them at some point.  And it was difficult for me to understand why Raina took so long to realize that her friends were treating her badly, or why she cared that she had to wear awkward orthodontia at night in the privacy of her own home.  I suppose in many ways I was a much more self-assured and self-confident teen than Raina.  But I think her struggles at fitting in can still be relatable to readers.  Perhaps Raina is self-conscious about her mouth.  Most readers will be able to understand her self-consciousness in some way or another.

I was not totally blown away by Smile, as I expected to be based on its popularity.  However, it’s a nice story about one girl learning to find her way through high school.  And it’s engaging with its bright colors and the well-timed sense of humor.  I understand why younger readers like it so much, even if I didn’t feel particularly invested in the story myself.

4 starsKrysta 64