Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kidtales Adventures in Reading: Tristan Wolf Review by Wendy

This is a new review for my first book, Tristan Wolf. If you have read Tristan's story, I would love to hear from you too!

Kidtales Adventures in Reading: Tristan Wolf Review by Wendy: Tristan Wolf by Mariana Llanos This book is  an   exciting imaginary and at times scary adventure.  It reminded me of my son’s tales in the ...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review: Captain Chemo by Renee Robinson

Captain Chemo is a cheerful poem to bring hope to kids who are battling cancer. With a simple chant "Out, cancer, out!" the author gives kids a tool to build up their confidence and strength. She encourages children to fight and to keep a positive attitude when going through chemotherapy. The coloring pages at the end of the book, with some cute and funny characters, are a great bonus.

Author Renee Robinson is a cancer warrior herself. The "Make a Wish Foundation" is granting her a wish and will make this book available for children at hospitals. What I find remarkable is that even though Ms. Robinson herself--and her family-- are going through a tough time, she still has such a drive and passion for creating and helping others.

Let's hope that this book gets to the hands of many young children who need a smile and who need someone to tell them, I understand you, keep fighting, you are going to be okay. That is the message and importance of this children's book.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: Never Say BOO to a Frilly by Margot Finke

Margot Finke has crafted some clever and fun books to help kids (and grownups) learn about the amazingly diverse fauna of Australia. Native to Australia, Ms. Finke's tales are full of facts, rhyme and new words to learn. So, children not only will learn about these animals in an entertaining way, but also they will build up their literacy and vocabulary skills. That is a win-win!
The illustrations are colorful, detailed, yet artistic and will aid in keeping the young ones focused. I really enjoyed the landscape paintings and especially the ones with the birds.
Never Say BOO to a Frilly is a fantastic book, to keep the ones in the house busy reading and learning. I might self learned a few facts about these fascinating creatures. I give it five stars!

The Author:
Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who now lives in the US. She writes rhyming
picture books and young teen adventure chapbooks. Her latest are a PB, Kangaroo Clues, plus a young teen adventure, Trial by Walkabout—a follow up to Taconi and Claude: Double Trouble. Many of her books have an Aussie theme. Margot
aims to “HOOK Kids on Reading” by writing books with a WOW factor. She loves doing FREE Skype Author Visits to US schools, and her Manuscript Critique Service helps budding authors tighten and polish their writing.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: The Woofy Doggy by Antony Pawlett

The Woofy Doggy is a cute tale to share with the young ones at home. Woofy Doggy has a hard time being nice to others. He barks at people and pets and no one wants to be friends with him. Until one day, a smart girl gives him an advise that will change the way he relates to others.
I think little ones will enjoy the lesson they'll learn from the little pup. Parents will also find, maybe, a conversation starter in this book, about having a good attitude toward friends. But, lessons apart, I really liked the author's writing style: simple, clean, pleasant. The story itself was good, engaging and sweet.
If I have to point at something though, would be the illustrations. I liked the concept of the book, clean, digital looking, but I still think that some illustrations needed more work. This, though, doesn't take away from the story. The Woofy Doggy is a book I recommend to anyone who wants to hear a good story.

Mariana Llanos

I received a PDF copy in exchange for  a honest review.
Available on Kindle and paperback.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Serendipity, maybe

Mariana Llanos

It is funny how things happen at times. Have you ever felt like someone from above is sending you a sign? Or maybe that an ancestor is sending vibes from beyond? Or pure lucky coincidence that plainly and undoubtedly speaks to you? Serendipity, maybe, knocking at your door.

So, I don’t know how to explain it. But I have a feeling I shouldn’t try.  Some things are better to leave unexplained.

See, I sent my first book, Tristan Wolf, to a contest organized by a local group of writers. I really wasn’t expecting to win, honestly. Not because I don’t think my book is good enough, but because I’m well aware that it doesn’t fit some industry standards about audience. But I was drawn to the contest anyway because of their low entry fee and the promise of feedback by a “real writer”.

So, “what’s a real writer?” you might ask. I also call them ‘erudite writers’, the kind of writer that knows a lot. The ones that know the rules and thrive by them. The ones that teach others how to write and can smell the lack of a comma from miles far. The ones that have published several books and have sold more than my modest two-hundred-some copies.

I’m always trying to improve my craft and learn from the advice of others, so an opportunity to hear what the judge would have to say seemed priceless.

When I received my score sheet/feedback form, I, of course, had not won. I already knew that, so I wasn’t disappointed.

The score wasn't too bad. She must've liked (somewhat) my book because she gave it mostly G’s, which stand for Good. I didn't get a single N (Needs work). She gave it an F for Fair when it came to the ‘well defined audience’ question, but I already knew that. She rated it E for Excellent in the art, design and overall look of the book. But it bummed me when she gave it an  F in the 'plot resolution' area and she explained that she was slightly disappointed by the ending.

I can’t lie. My heart felt crushed by that 'F'. I always thought the ending was the best part. At that moment I considered making a new edition of the book, and I thought I should call my editor to have her take another look, accommodating the suggestions of this judge. I was doubting my work, my writing and the choices I’ve made as a writer. What do I know, after all?

That’s when, just like in the movies, fate came to my door. Well, it was fate in the shape of the postman. And now it is when it gets interesting…

I was in my front porch with a large white envelope in my hands. The sender was a school I had visited a week before. How did they have my home address, though? It’s not in my business cards or website, of course. Sure I had sent them a letter once, so probably the teachers saved my address, I thought. But still, I was surprised.

When I opened the envelope, I found several letters written by third, fourth and fifth grades children, telling me how much they had enjoyed my book, how they appreciated my visit and how Tristan had inspired them to write and read. Some of them even mentioned how the twist ending was their favorite part of the book.

I smiled as my eyes filled with tears, reading one by one those notes that had a touch of love, candor and wisdom. Would those kids ever know how much their letters mean to me? Would those children ever realize that they have also inspired me and encouraged me to keep on writing?

Who do I write for then?  I write for children, and when you write for children, there are some things that grownups don’t understand. Just like The Little Prince’s drawing of a boa constrictor eating an elephant. But children get it, and that’s alright.

I’ll keep on writing for children and feeding from their advice, imagination and sincerity. I certainly don’t write for judges, although I would like to earn their respect. I’ll continue to listen to advice from grownups, though, sometimes they—we—make sense, but I won’t let it crush my heart.

So, what strange universe force made that letter appear on my front porch when I needed it the most? I don’t know. But I’m listening.

If everything around is whist and serene, and the lights are dim, I can hear its quiet voice whisper in the distance… go on, it tells me… write from your heart…I believe in you… carry on…


PS. I was only able to fit some of the letters on this post. I loved them ALL!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tristan Wolf Trailer

I loved the process of making this trailer, and I hope you liked it as well! Please leave me your feedback!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Twinkle, the Real Story of the Tooth Fairy by John Moher

Twinkle the fairy didn’t have a lot of friends. Twinkle the fairy didn’t think much of himself. Twinkle the fairy was often teased because of his two big front teeth and his strange habit to collect other fairies’ baby teeth. But one day, Twinkle found his opportunity to blossom and find his gift. Twinkle found out that he was a Tooth Fairy!

Twinkle, the Real Story of the Tooth Fairy, is a cute little tale that will not disappoint. John Moher's storytelling style feels fresh and simple. His book offers us a  new version of what the tooth fairy does with all the teeth he collects while we learn a lesson of self-belief and confidence. My seven year old enjoyed reading it by himself and he also liked the fun and lively illustrations by Richard Svensson. I loved reading it, as well, and I recommended it to parents and their children alike.
Mariana Llanos

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Little Treasure by Jiana J. Z.

Little Treasure is a sweet and lovely short tale about a generous king, Leon, who has every treasure in the world but lacks something essential: happiness. One day, while he’s taking a stroll through his forest, he hears laughter coming from a little shabby shack. He wonders how someone could sound so happy living in such a poor house. He wonders why he can’t be as happy, even though he has everything there is to have. Will King Leon find the source of joy? You will have to read it to find out, but I’m sure the answer will please both parents and children alike.

I like the author’s simple and uncomplicated story telling; it just makes it easy for beginner readers to read by themselves or perfect for those kids who still enjoy being read to. And don’t get me wrong, the prose might seem simple but the message is deep: it doesn’t matter how many material things we have, because the joy they bring will be short-lived. Little Treasure will remind us of what is really important in life.

The illustrations are beautifully done; they complement the story in a way that makes it feel like a fairy tale. Jiana J.Z., who authored and illustrated this book, is a talented artist, and I can’t wait to see more of her work!

Mariana Llanos

Friday, January 3, 2014

5 Authors to Look Out for in 2014

Last year was a great one for the self-publishing industry. While numbers are not out yet (at least not that I know), there's a notable increase on self-published and "Indie" books and authors all across the Amazon Universe.  This is great news, of course, as it put us, indie writers, right under the spotlight. We don't HAVE to publish the traditional way anymore. We can have control over the whole process, and with lots of effort and tons of luck, be successful.
But with so many books out and so many hopeful authors, 2014 will also be a competitive and challenging year for most of us, and, just like anything in life, only the strongest will survive. Only a handful of books will get to the top, and it is our human nature to try even if the odds aren't in our favor.

I am a believer that, if we work in community, we'll be better at our attempts to get to the top. Building a network with other authors is just as important as having a well-written, presentable book. I have interacted with several authors in this past year and I've met truly wonderful people, but today I'm going to reveal the ones I think we should keep an eye out for in 2014.

Now, I didn't call for a contest; this is just an arbitrary list: my opinion. These authors are not really aware that I'm writing a blog post about them. I have been reading their work and learning from them. In some cases we have forged friendships through our social media sites, in some others I've been just watching from the sidelines. Some have helped me, reviewed me and shared their gift with me. With some others I have just worked through blogs, but whatever our contact was, they left a positive impact in me as a writer. I consider them determined, creative, generous and self-motivated souls.

1. Aviva Gittle of Aviva Gittle eBooks: I've had the honor to "meet" her and help with some of her projects. She has helped me lots, as well. I like to tease that she has a plan to dominate the world by eBook. She is publishing quality children's eBooks in English and Spanish ... she published six titles in 2013!  Not only she writes and produces everything, she also co-writes with other authors to create fun and creative stories like Bagel Boy, The Boy Who Bounced to the Moon (English) (Aviva Gittle "My First Chapter Book"),  Mort the Fly,  among others. On her dynamic website, www.gotogittle.com she runs contests, features authors and shares her own experience in the self-publishing industry.

2. Sealove: I met Sealove, through Goodreads and was immediately drawn to their kind and sincere spirit. Sealove is a couple, soul mates, who live, create and compose from Hawaii. They are producing digital books with integrity and a strong commitment with the environment. There is a good vibe about these guys, and what I find most remarkable is the consistency of their message. Their children's series "Ayla Speak"  is a wonderful way to connect us with the mysticism of Hawaii and appreciate the natural beauty of our world.

3. Paul G. Day of PIA: Paul is an Australian teacher and writer with a vast experience in the field of publising. He has recruited a group of authors to create an awesome site called PIA (Published Independent Authors), a community for writers where they can share resources, promote their works and read articles on writing and publishing.  Paul selflessly gives his time and effort to this project, all while working on his own children's and YA books, like The Black Fairy and the Dragonfly and The Girl Who Kept Secrets . On this site, he is candid and honest about his own personal struggles and to me that just makes him a better person and a great communicator.

4. Tammi Booth: Tammi is an elementary teacher and author of the book The Time Travel Storm. She has an amazing blog, The Balanced Classroom, with tons of articles about writing and activities for elementary children. She also has a virtual store with creative resources for teachers. You can breath her love for children, writing and reading through her blog. I don't "know" her that well, other than she interviewed me a few months back, but I've been following her posts. She's the kind of person you want to get inspired by her entrepreneurial drive and passion for education.

5. Jo Ann V. Glim: The author of "Begotten with love" is a veteran freelance writer with an accomplished career of 40 years. Just last year she launched her first book, a memoir that tells the story of five generations of family. In the personal, she's kind and generous, I can tell from experience. What I admire the most about Jo Ann is her drive to keep on learning and taking on new challenges. She's releasing the eBook version of "Begotten" and working on her second book; she's blogging, active in social media and just building a network of friends and fans all across the web. To me, Jo Ann is an example that it doesn't matter at what point in life you start chasing your dream: starting is what matters.

And now, my honorable mention will go ... to
This is me, and my
"I own the new year"
me! Take these as my resolutions for 2014 ... and once you make them public, you just have to honor them. Keep an eye out for me because:
-I'm going to publish the second book on my series  Tristan Wolf , "A Planet for Tristan Wolf", which is already in the works.
-I'm going to publish two children's eBooks (not part of Tristan's series).
-I'm going to keep on writing and improving the craft.
-I'm going to keep this blog, network with authors, do review and interviews. I will be as helpful as others have been to me and I will always pay it forward.
-I'm going to keep on inspiring children with books that touch the heart, instill values and are true to the world I want my children to live in.
-I'm going to have fun while doing all that!

I surely hope you will go out and look up the authors listed above and their work. Please, keep up your  encouragement to self-published authors and artists. We depend on your support (on each other's support) to survive in the jungle!

Mariana Llanos