Category Archives: Robin Helm

They’re watching us.

In the Spotlight

I’m a natural born nerdy geek, which is why my profession chose me. I’m a teacher. I’ve always been one, even when I was in school. Few other things give me the amount of satisfaction I receive when I see a student’s eyes light up with understanding. To see my students implement what I’ve taught them is a joy to me.

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Important elements of teaching include encouraging the students not to give up, impressing on them not to settle for less than what they can achieve, and showing them that they can do far more than they think they can. I tell about my failures in order to show them how the failures contribute to the successes.

Author Spotlight

One of my goals in teaching is to produce more effective teachers, though not necessarily in classrooms. Parents, friends, and co-workers are teachers, too, though some do more harm than good. In fact, I am not everyone’s favorite person. Ha! I’m not usually their favorite teacher, either. I can be a hard taskmaster.

Imagine my surprise Monday when I walked into school and was met by excited students and teachers directing me to the “Authors in the Spotlight” wall put up by the fourth graders. I was truly amazed that two of the eighteen students in that class had chosen me and featured my books. I was in exalted company: Dahl, Riordan, O’Connor, Morgan, Park, and others.

I’ve taught these children for five years. They know I’ve published seven books because I’ve donated my books to school auctions, and I’ve shown the students my Amazon page. I wanted them to know they could publish and control their own work.

I was very happy to be featured, and I was truly glad that I have always written clean fiction. There is nothing there I would be embarrassed about my students reading, though my books aren’t children’s books. Just another reason to keep my material PG and PG-13.

The children are always watching.

Eclipse Sisters? That’s us.

Today we have a sunrise–a real one–after a week of soaking rain. And oh, the difference sunshine makes for the Pacific Northwest. Spring at last!

And spring brings hope for summer.

Tell you what, this summer I’m looking forward to the Great American Eclipse. August 21st has been on my calendar for a while, although it doesn’t need to be. If our skies are cloud-free that morning, we won’t be able to miss what happens.

Map courtesy of GreatAmericanEclipse.com

It’s also cool for us here at Jane Started It because of its path. The total eclipse lies just south of Susan Kaye and me here in Oregon. It also lies just south of Robin Helm and Gayle Mills in South Carolina.

We met on-line, we share a blog. And now we will share the path of the sun’s shadow.

All of North America will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse, according to the Great American Eclipse website. Do have a look around. There’s fascinating stuff there.

How about you? Are you in the path of the eclipse?

Laura Hile (1)

With a little help from my friends

From friend to friend Image: Eliza C3 (Creative Commons Flickr)

This is how we discover the best stuff. Friend to friend.
Image: Eliza C3 (Creative Commons Flickr)

Isn’t this how we discover the best restaurants and movies and reads?

From our friends.

Around here we’re smiling at the success of Robin Helm’s new Pride and Prejudice romance. Understanding Elizabeth has really taken off.

My Kindle Select numbers are smiling too.

All because of Cross Promotion.

See, now that I’m an indie author, I can participate in that. Placing a link or two at the back of my e-book that says I think you would enjoy …

Mr Darcy recommends

“Mr. Darcy Recommends”

It’s a simple concept. Robin has placed an image link to Darcy By Any Other Name at the end of her book, and I have done the same. And readers must be having a look at Darcy, because my Kindle Select numbers are way up.

While Robin and I share a blog, it appears that we don’t always share the same readers.  Who knew?

Hey, Robin has a two-book giveaway going on this week at Of Pens and Pages. Stop by, read Nissa’s review of Understanding Elizabeth, and post a comment.

logo-4-1The USA winner has the option to choose a print book prize. Love that!

Really proud of Robin. Elizabeth has held on to her #4 spot against two best-sellers (with over a hundred Amazon reviews apiece), and has even won out against a 99 cent erotica.

Laura Hile (1)

Unravel Me, Shatter Me series, Book 2

Robin’s Reviews

I have enjoyed reading the Shatter Me books, but reading to review is a different animal altogether than is reading for enjoyment. I’ve already told you that I don’t really notice little bad words. Only the big, bad ones make an impression on me. However, since I’m recommending the books to you, I am looking at it in a new way.

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In other words, these books have language that I consider to be level 2: I don’t use the words myself, and if they were spoken in my presence, I would definitely notice. The worst profanity in our language is not used in this series. With that said, it is realistic language for soldiers and others in a post-apocalyptic world. In fact, the language would be much worse.

The physical aspect of a relationship goes a bit farther in this book than it did in the first, but there is less of it. Again, body parts are not named. There is not the constant internal dialog of Juliette emoting about being touched, and there is no indication of a completion of any sexual act.

Oddly enough, the abundant violence doesn’t bother me. I expect it in this type of novel. To be truthful, even in movies, violence doesn’t offend me in the same way as explicit sex does. That’s not to say that I like violence. I can handle people being shot, but I can’t watch them being mutilated.

Warner is more fully developed in Unravel Me, and I began to understand why he does the things he does. When I realized the why, I began to like him. The author does a very good job of changing the reader’s mind, of making a despicable character more human.

I am enjoying the second reading of the series much more than I did the first time through.

5 stars

 

 

Robin’s Reviews

Shatter Me Series, Book 1

shatter-me-new-eye-co1a459Having told JSI readers last week that I was reading the Shatter Me series by author Tahereh Mafi, I felt compelled to review the books for you. I may even make reviewing a regular part of my blogging. With that in mind, my reviews will reflect the way I like to be reviewed myself, knowing what the reviewer liked and what she could have done without. In addition, I will avoid reviewing books in the JAFF genre unless I can comfortably give the author 5 stars.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting when I began reading the series, but this wasn’t it. Consequently, my first thoughts of Shatter Me, Book 1, were rather negative. The writing is sometimes difficult to read, because it’s nearly all stream of consciousness from the heroine’s point of view, and she’s a mess. But she’s a really hot mess, according to every man who looks at her. She wouldn’t know since she hasn’t looked in a mirror in three years.

Our protagonists, Juliette and Adam, are not normal. I expected that, knowing that the books were Dystopian Young Adult.

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Tris, Peeta, and Gail (The Hunger Games)  are the most pedestrian of all the DYA heroes I’ve read. Their abnormalities lie in their strength of character, physical abilities, and compassion. In short, they are very believable. I read the books around four times.

Edward and Bella are both supernatural. Edward is a vampire. (I hope I didn’t spoil The Twilight Saga for you. Is there anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard that Edward is a vampire?) He can read minds. Bella is a shield. I read the series at least ten times. (The books are YA, but not Dystopian.)

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Divergent features Tris, who is divergent – a mixture of all the factions, and Four, who appears to be the same, but really isn’t. I never quite grasped why, for he embodied all of them, but for the plot to work, Tris had to be the only true divergent one on the planet. Hence, poor Four, who has already suffered enough, loses his divergent status. I read the books three or four times. Are you sensing a trend? divergent-series

Shatter Me opens with Juliette in an asylum.  She has a supernatural gift (think Rogue in X Men), and she is traumatized beyond endurance. Adam (Bella in The Twilight Saga) is placed in the cell with her. She has had no human contact in more than three years. She can’t touch anyone without killing them, so she’s reverted to a nearly feral state. The books are all from her point of view. Once I understood her difficulties, I was more impressed with the author’s writing. It works for Juliette, though it grated on my English teacher’s nerves. Another thing I didn’t care for, Juliette whined constantly. I began to lose all sympathy for her.

Also, I need to say that there is a good bit of touching and sensuality in Shatter Me, though body parts aren’t named, and they are constantly interrupted before they can do very much physically. They never get past touching, much to Juliette’s frustration. Her inner dialog is quite loud about what she’s experiencing, but not specific. To me, that isn’t erotica, and it didn’t offend me, but it might offend you. I can understand how a person who could never touch anyone in her entire seventeen years without killing them could be carried away if she finally finds an unusually handsome, well-built, kind young man (eighteen years old) who can touch her and not die. Juliette is starving for physical contact.

All of the main good guy characters have supernatural gifts, and I could identify nearly all of them from X Men, The Fantastic Four, and The Avengers.

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The first book in the series, Shatter Me, deals with Juliette’s discovery of more ways to use her gift and revelations about the other supernatural characters. Mafi sets up the next two books, setting the stage for us to hate the antagonist, Warner (another aspect of Rogue in X Men), and The Reestablishment. Every good DYA features an evil government which must be battled. The Reestablishment serves quite nicely.

If you think I didn’t like Shatter Me, think again. I’m rereading the series. If I weren’t caught up in the story, I wouldn’t reread it. Now that I’m reading it with a better understanding of the characters, I’m enjoying it more.

Any book that gets a reread from me deserves 5 stars.

Come back next week for a review of Unravel Me, the second book in the series.

 

What are you reading now?

I’ve posted about the books of my childhood, the books of my teen years, and the books which influenced me. Obviously, I love books!

You do, too, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

So tell me: What are you reading right now?

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My daughter Melanie gave me a set of books for Mother’s Day last year, but real life was keeping me too busy to read anything not on my phone. I read while I wait in doctors’ offices or lines, and I don’t want to carry around paperbacks.

I saw them on a side table yesterday and decided that I’d like to know why these books had captivated her enough that she would spend the money to buy them (in paperback!) and mail them to me.

So far, I have to agree with her. They’re attention-grabbing time sinks. The writing style is different, but I like it. The characters are interesting – not just rewrites of Katniss and Peeta, Bella and Edward, or Tris and Four. Great covers, too!

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It’s Dystopian Young Adult, so if that isn’t your “thing,” skip on by. Remember, I’m the reader who loved the Divergent series, The Hunger Games, and The Twilight Saga. Like those books, this is a series. She gave me the next two as well: Unravel Me and Ignite Me.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if these grab my attention and hold it or not. I’m not worried about whether or not there are erotic scenes, because my daughter would not read or recommend books that portray graphic sex. Romance? Yes, she would like that.

So, what are you reading now? We at Jane Started It want to know.

 

Understanding Elizabeth

Book Release!

understanding-elizabeth-3dMore and more, I understand Anne Bradstreet’s poem, “The Author to Her Book,” written nearly 350 years ago. The first line, “Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,” just about sums up how I felt when I touched the publish button Tuesday night.

A good writer always reveals a part of herself when she writes, and that’s a bit intimidating. In the case of Understanding Elizabeth, there are clues about my childhood and teen years.

I have never been very good at sports or physical games. I should clarify that I was actually hit in the forehead by a fly ball while holding my glove over my face trying to catch it. I was a teenager playing in a church softball game, and I had the attention of our entire small town at the time. Embarrassing? Yes. It knocked me flat on my back, and I think I passed out for a minute or two. Or maybe I just didn’t want to get up and face the crowd.

A similar incident, in which I was hit in my jaw by a ball straight off the bat, happened in elementary school. I was so humiliated that I stuck my finger down my throat so I could pretend to be sick and go home. It worked. I was a tricky little person.

However, I never had any problems with the three R’s, and I loved that aspect of school. I shared in a previous post that my sister Gayle (a natural-born teacher if there ever was one) taught me to read when I was four. She also taught me to play chess. Since I don’t remember when I couldn’t play, I have no idea how old I was.

I was lousy at basketball, softball, or anything else with “ball” in it, but I loved word games and games of strategy. Playing musical instruments came fairly easily as well, because I enjoyed practicing. My entire family was musical. Gayle and I played piano and flute, Layne played clarinet, and all of us (six children!) sang along with Mama and Daddy.

I incorporated that feeling of joy at being good at something into Understanding Elizabeth. My Elizabeth doesn’t ride a horse, though there’s a lovely scene in which Darcy teaches her (le sigh!), but she’s a chess master. She isn’t shy about it, either. They fall in love over books and chess.

Darcy is socially awkward, but he excels in academic and physical pursuits. He’s a man who can discuss favorite books with the heroine. (My husband read all of Jane Austen’s works so he could understand what my daughters and I were talking about. He’s watched the film versions several times, too. Yes, ladies, there really are men like that.)

These are two capable, intelligent people who recognize their strengths and their weaknesses.

I have no problem with knowing your strong points as long as you also know your limitations. To me, that isn’t being proud; it’s giving yourself realistic goals. It’s okay to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s fine to be happy with yourself, as long as you don’t settle for less that what you can do.

I hope you enjoy reading Understanding Elizabeth as much as I enjoyed writing it. This book is very different from my six previous books. I will be very interested in your feedback.