In 2008, Malcolm Gladwell published his New York Times bestseller, Outliers.  Based largely on the research of Anders Ericsson, Gladwell frequently refers to the 10,000-hour rule, citing it as the magic number that contributes to developing greatness.  Since the writing of that book, Gladwell has fallen under criticism for failing to adequately distinguish between the quantity of hours spent practicing, and the quality of that practice. The takeaway here is that practice may be important, but it’s not the whole story.  In authoring a personal story of success, a person needs to employ very specific, deliberate methods of practice. All of these details flooded back to me when I pickedRead More →

Eleven-year-old Buddy Pennington is hexed with bad-luck blood so that everything he touches seems to end in disaster, it does.  (I found the author’s use of these parentheticals, along with his Huckleberry Finn-like river setting, a clever way of establishing local color). When Buddy accidentally sets his mother’s bakery on fire, he decides that he is tired of being a burden to his mother and would be better off with his father, so he leaves Collardsville, a boring but respectable town, and sets out for the swamplands in search of freedom and his pop, a true wild man. After five years absent from his father andRead More →

Fans of Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird or Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events will likely enjoy Temre Beltz’s new tweens novel, The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom with its fractured fairy tale elements, its message that words matter, and its invitation to believe in magic. Set in Wanderly, a kingdom that lives “by the book,” Birdie Bloom is a Tragical, an orphan sentenced to live out her days at Foulweather’s Home for the Tragical, “a house full of bad endings” (16).  The children living here have been brainwashed by Mistress Octavia—who manages to put a damper on everything with her sinister plotting—to believe that they are nothing,Read More →

After years of ecological abuse, Earth is being held together with solar paneling and wishful thinking.  As Earth undergoes a restoration project that includes filtering carbon out of the air, reforesting the Amazon, returning planetary temperatures to normal ranges, launching a filtration system for the oceans, and initiating breeding programs to reverse species extinctions, many humans will need a new home.  Because survival of the human species actually depends on a population reduction on Earth, an International Space Agency (ISA) ship leaves Earth to inhabit Tau Ceti e, a world similar to Earth. While those statements outline the basic plot arc of Bridget Tyler’s newRead More →

Book Two of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The Traitor’s Game series is packed with treachery, and everyone is a suspect or shares some blame.  The Deceiver’s Heart opens with sixteen-year-old Kestra Dallisar in possession of the Olden Blade, a dagger capable of destroying the evil magician and tyrant Lord Endrick if it is wielded by the Infidante.  When the girl who would save Antora fails in her attempt and Endrick steals her memories and turns her into an IronHeart to spy for him, Kestra changes dramatically.  As a weapon of the Dominion, Kestra thinks an arranged marriage to Basil will be far worse than anything elseRead More →