Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

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Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Crenshaw is 9 year old Jackson’s imaginary friend. Jackson is too old for imaginary friends, and yet, Crenshaw is there to help him through the possibility of becoming homeless again. Reality is difficult which is why Crenshaw the cat is with Jackson to help him through these troubling times.  This book does a phenomenal job of being engaging and fun despite material that could so-easily delve into dark and disturbing.  Uncertainties frighten and anger Jackson. He prides himself on his scientist-like thinking, and that’s what he wants to be when he grows up–a scientist. But, like most kids in a family with some serious problems, he has limited time to think about his future. His dad was once a successful construction worker who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and could only take part-time jobs after that time. His mother was once a middle-school music teacher, until her job was eliminated, and she then started working up to three part-time jobs at a time. Unfortunately, all that part-time work never seemed to add up to full-time wages, and, once again, Jackson’s family was looking at the possibility of having to live in their van. Narrated in first person by Jackson, “Crenshaw” is an extremely personal and very realistic story. Chapters are short and easy to read. Language is appropriate for the target age group – 8 to 12-years old – and some of the situations involving Jackson’s family may be relatable to those children. The aspects of this novel that may be personally unfamiliar to many of those young readers involve the situations involving homelessness, job loss, and chronic, debilitating illness.  Wonderful writing with a powerful message!

Featured Author of the Month….Emily Schultz & New Release Announcement!

Emily Schultz

Story was important in our household and grammar was under constant scrutiny. My father was a high school English teacher and my mother had achieved her MA in English too. The result is that I’m an English language addict. I’m an editor for the online fiction magazine Joyland, which I co-founded, and I work as a freelance book editor. Even when I’m not writing, I am combing through fiction and nonfiction, inserting commas and flipping sentences.

Emily’s Upcoming Release, THE BLONDS!  Pre-Order Here: http://emilyschultz.com/preorder

The Blondes

Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your book?

Emily:
I wrote The Blondes very quickly—in just a few weeks camped out in a cabin in the Mojave Desert. I had never written anything so quickly before, but the idea of a plague affecting women just consumed and propelled me. I rewrote the novel for a couple years and worked on restructuring that first draft with my editor.  The time it took was really on the back end, polishing, developing the themes, deepening the characters and the details.

Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your book.

Emily: The Blondes is about a rabies-like virus that only affects blonde women—natural or bleached. One of the symptoms of the disease is “raging out.” While my lead character Hazel Hayes witnesses the rise of the epidemic she is also dealing with an unplanned pregnancy from an affair with her married thesis advisor.
Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

Emily:  I write in many genres, but this novel seemed to emerge as a bit of a mash-up. It’s a social satire but it definitely has a thriller element. I researched diseases and how they spread and are treated by the media, but I was also watching plenty of horror movies and plague movies. Between that input and the way I saw women’s rights constantly under threat, The Blondes emerged.
Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

Emily: I think my favorite part to write was when Hazel is placed in quarantine and tries to escape. Not to give too many spoilers, but she is running across a rutted, thistly field barefoot. She is four months pregnant, has a bad knee, and has broken her glasses, and is being chased by a soldier, but she keeps going for as long as she can. I wanted a character who seemed ordinary and maybe even a little helpless at first but who could show enormous independence and resiliency as events progressed.

Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Emily: Most of it is imaginary, but there are real moments. At the time of writing I was contemplating parenthood, and Hazel winds up narrating the whole story of the blonde virus to her unborn child. She calls the fetus funny names, like “my little grub,” and “my remora.” I think writing the book helped me come to terms with my anxiety about entering motherhood—it is something I chose later in life. My son is now three.

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Emily: So many! As an adolescent I loved Ursula Le Guin and Katherine Paterson, and also YA author Richard Peck. He and I engaged in a correspondence for about three years and having that encouragement early on deeply affected me. As an adult, I have always loved works that push the limits: Woolf, O’Connor, Nabokov, DeLillo, and more recently writers like Aimee Bender and Roxane Gay.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Emily: I switch to short story or poetry if I’m having trouble with my longer work. Lately I’m enjoying screenwriting too because it is collaborative, and I think having someone else to knock ideas around with is important. I keep writing, even if it is another project, because it opens up my mind to new ideas and new ways of looking at character and scene, or (as with poetry) metaphor. When I’m really stuck, I watch TV—that’s a form of storytelling too and I can learn from it.
Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Emily: Keep showing people your writing. You need feedback. If you listen and take criticism well, your writing will be better for it.

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Emily: I’m thrilled you picked up my book and thanks for reading! If you liked The Blondes, you can come follow me on Twitter at @manualofstyle.

Author, Anne Rice Announces Next Book

Have any of you read Anne Rice’s book, The Wolf Gift? It is her newest book and I absolutely loved it! Check out her status update from Facebook, she will be announcing information about the next book in the Wolf Gift Chronicles today! If you haven’t read “The Wolf Gift”, check out my review here: https://simpletasteforreading.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/the-wolf-gift-by-anne-rice/

Stay tuned, People of the Page! An announcement about MY NEXT BOOK — the next book in the Wolf Gift Chronicles — will be coming today, 12 noon Pacific Time!
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