April 29, 2014

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

Very very excited today to welcome Jonathan Auxier! He has a new book coming out - The Night Gardener, on May 20th. He's best known for Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes - a book I've got kids reading and loving. 
 He decided  that while promoting his new book he'd talk about what happens AFTER you get a book deal - where does an author go then.

Welcome Jonathan

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I've decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!


Day Seven: Cinderella at the Ball
After the years of toil and waiting, the day has finally arrived—your book is coming out! For many authors, this will be one of the happiest days of their lives (it was for me). I don’t have too many tips for new authors other than to be present to the moment and actually let yourself enjoy the day. (You can resume being miserable tomorrow.)

A Tale of Two Launches
When discussing what it takes to plan a “successful” book launch, I think it’s important to know who your guests will be. In my case, I actually had two separate launch events, and that ended up being a very good thing. Each party represented a different, important aspect of my career:

Launch #1 - Personal Book Party
Your first book is more than just a story sold—it represents years of struggle and work in the face of adversity and rejection. For that reason, a book launch is not just a celebration of your book, but a chance to recognize the people who supported you along the way. When Peter Nimble came out, my in-laws hosted a small party at their house for friends and family. Books were signed and stories were told, but more than that, the event was an opportunity for me to thank specific people who had supported my career back when it was just a dream. Another benefit of doing an event like this is that it allowed me to practice reading and discussing my book in front of a sympathetic audience—and as it turned out, I needed the practice!

Launch #2 - Professional Book Party
Ideally, you want this party to be at an established independent bookstore—the sort of place that can report back to your publisher about what a wonderful event it was. (I was lucky enough to have mine at the legendary Books of Wonder in Manhattan.) Unlike a personal party, this is a work event. Your job is to make sure as many people as possible show up (and buy books!). Invite every person you can think of. Beg friends to bring friends. Drag people off the street. I reached out to people I barely knew and was shocked when most of them showed up. So long as you can guarantee a minimum number of attendees (20+), your publisher should be willing to cover the cost of food and drinks. 

So what do you do for the actual event? It’s appropriate and probably expected that you will read aloud an excerpt from your book. Reading aloud can be tricky, and I would recommend keeping it under 10 minutes (5 minutes is even better). I would also recommend picking an excerpt that doesn't require a great deal of backstory/context ... something from the first 2-3 chapters is probably best. Finally, you should absolutely practice reading aloud beforehand. The goal is to memorize the passage enough that you can comfortably look up from the book at the people who have come to hear you. As for the rest of your event, this is the moment where all your preparation over the last few months pays off. You share about your superhero origin story. You talk about the books that inspired you and the tribe of readers who now support you. You prepare with the five things every author should know before their first signing. And maybe even do a giveaway for people who ask questions.

Of course, you should never miss an opportunity to spread the word about the upcoming event! Make sure to mention it in every blog post and interview leading up to the launch. In that spirit, I should probably announce that I’ll be having a book release party for The Night Gardener on May 31 at the CC Mellor Memorial Library in Pittsburgh from 2-4pm (with bookseller support from Mystery Lovers Bookshop). If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you!

That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEAL! Tomorrow I’ll be at Mundie Kids talking about how to navigate the crazy world of book festivals and trade shows. Swing by, and please-oh-please spread the word!

JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores this May. You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children's books old and new.

April 25, 2014

Book Reviews: The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse

The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan


But when you're the son of a Greek god, it happens. And now my friend Annabeth is missing, a goddess is in chains and only five half-blood heroes can join the quest to defeat the doomsday monster.

Oh and guess what. The Oracle has predicted that not all of us will survive...

The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan's amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a "half blood" whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan's series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book's drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.
I'm going to keep this quick and combine my thoughts on both book. I'm afraid to give too much away if I do it any other way.  Really enjoyed them both.  My daughter has decided I need to read all of the books in this series - including The Lost Hero series BEFORE the next book comes out in the fall! She has read and loved them all.  So now I'm three books in.  I love the Percy Jackson books.  They've got action, great characters, tension and some humor.  As a teacher I also recommend them to my reluctant readers because of all of that.  What I also like is that, for me at least, they are quick reads.  The stories keep moving along with little down time, so I find I can zip right through them.  I also like that each story has definite action and a problem that needs to be solved, but it's not dragged on and on.  I'm the type of person that likes the action of solving the problem but when they keep getting close to solving it, then don't, then close, then don't - etc - I get super annoyed.  These books do NOT do that, and I appreciate it!

As the series is going along I can see how it's building to a big conclusion.  Each book is adding to the pieces that will fall in place during the last book in the Percy Jackson series.  This is making me excited to see how it will all play out!

In short - love the series.  Everything is solid about it from the characters to the Greek stories to the way the plot unfolds!

April 24, 2014

Review: World War 1 for Kids: A History with 21 Activities

One hundred years after the start of the “Great War,” World War I for Kids provides an intriguing and comprehensive look at this defining conflict that involved all of the world’s superpowers. Why and how did the war come about? What was daily life like for soldiers in the trenches? What roles did zeppelins, barbed wire, and the passenger ship Lusitania play in the war? Who were Kaiser Wilhelm, the Red Baron, and Edith Cavell? Young history buffs will learn the answers these questions and many others, including why the western front bogged down into a long stalemate; how the war ushered in an era of rapid military, technological, and societal advances; and how the United States’ entry helped end the war. Far from a dry catalog of names, dates, and battles, this richly illustrated book goes in depth into such fascinating topics as turn-of-the-20th-century weaponry and the important roles animals played in the war, and explains connections among events and how the war changed the course of history. Hands-on activities illuminate both the war and the times.Kids can:

·         Make a periscope
·         Teach a dog to carry messages
·         Make a parachute
·         Learn a popular World War I song
·         Cook Maconochie Stew
·         And much more

Thoughts From a Teacher and Student:

I'm not a history teacher (I teach English), so I had one of our history teachers take a look at the book. Here's what she had to say:

haven't read the entire book but the parts I did read are historically accurate and include engaging details. The projects are creative and seem like fun, I could see offering some of them as extra credit. The sad part is that we don't have that much time to go into detail on WW I.

So she did like it but she did have a concern using it in class:

The book is not bad but I can't figure out who is the audience for it. The title says that it is for kids but I would put the reading level at middle or even high school. The projects are neat and cute but many are not practical for a class of 30. (One of them involves training a dog to carry a message.) I feel like it is made for homeschooled kids, small classes with lots of time to spend on WW I. 

So in short she liked it but see's some limitations using it in class.  BUT definitely sees how kids themselves would be interested in it!

Now coming from my daughter who is a HUGE history fan - she grabbed the book right away and was completely absorbed in in for awhile! :) so I think it's perfect for individual kids even if you don't use it in your classroom - maybe even it have it out for kids to pick up and look at/read when they have time in class. 

Praise for World War I for Kids for Kids:

WWI for Kids Cover_low-res.jpg“A solid exploration of a horrific war.” –Kirkus Reviews

World War I for Kids makes a useful addition to many collections, and a particularly interesting feature in the back matter is a list of WWI films, from Charlie Chaplin’s silent Shoulder Arms to the recent War Horse.” –Booklist

World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities
By R. Kent Rasmussen
Chicago Review Press from IPG
ISBN: 9781613745564
176 pages; 11 x 8 ½
Ages 9 and Up
Price: $17.95 (CAN $21.95)
50 B/W Photos

About the Author:
R. Kent Rasmussen is a former reference book editor and the author or editor of a number of books on Mark Twain, including Mark Twain for Kids, Mark Twain A to Z, and Dear Mark Twain. He has contributed articles, essays, and reviews to the Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and many others. He lives in Thousand Oaks, California.

Disclaimer: Book provided by publisher for an honest review

April 23, 2014

I Am Grateful For: Downsiders by Neal Shusterman

Downsiders by Neal Shusterman

Love this book! I read it many years ago but I still really remember it.  It was one of the first real YA books I read and it was fantastic.  What always bummed me out was that there wasn't a sequel.  I was lucky enough to meet Neal Shusterman, and I asked him about it.  He said, no there would be no sequel.  So sad! Check it out if you want to see a story that came before books like Gregor the Overlander or The Maze Runner.  It's not identical to them, but it has the same feel.  

Fear the Topside, or be crushed by its embrace

Beneath the sewer grates and manholes of the city lies a strange and secret world called the Downside. Every Downsider knows that it's forbidden to go Topside, and most fear a collision of the two worlds. But fourteen-year-old Talon is curious about what goes on above ground, and one day he ventures out in search of medicine for his ailing sister. There he meets Lindsay, who is as curious about Talon's world as he is about hers.

When Lindsay visits the Downside for the first time, she marvels at the spirit of the Downsiders, and the way they create works of art from topside "trash," like old subway tokens and forgotten earrings. As awed as she is by the Downside, however, she also questions its origins, and when she finds out that this fantastic world is not all it appears to be, she is determined to tell Talon the truth. Then a construction accident threatens to crush Talon's world, and his loyalty is put to the test. Can the truth save the Downside, or will it destroy an entire civilization?

April 22, 2014

Summer On the Short Bus Book Blast!!! +GIVEAWAY

Very excited to help out promoting Summer On the Short Bus.  
This book looks great! 
Check out the details about it!


Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Running Press Kids

Spoiled, Versace-clad Cricket Montgomery has seventeen years of pampering under her belt. So when her father decides to ship her off to a summer camp for disabled teens to help her learn some accountability, Cricket resigns herself to three weeks of handicapped hell. 

Her sentence takes a bearable turn as she discovers the humor and likeability of the campers and grows close to fellow counselors. Now, if she can just convince a certain Zac Efron look-alike with amazing blue eyes that she finally realizes there's life after Gucci, this summer could turn out to be the best she's ever had.

Summer on the Short Bus is a very non-P.C., contemporary YA with a lot of attitude, tons of laughs, and a little life lesson along the way.

"Crandell creates a wonderful and relatable protagonist with Cricket but even better than that, she surrounds her with equally relatable, flawed, and real characters...This book is an absolute winner!" – Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“A novel oozing with heart and humanity.” - Ken Baker, E! News correspondent and author of Fangirl and How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love

“A hilarious and heartwarming ride.” – Jennifer Salvato Doktorski, author of How My Summer Went Up in Flames and Famous Last Words

Get the Book:


Bethany lives in San Diego with her husband, two kiddos (one of whom is differently-abled), and a chocolate lab who has no regard for personal space. She believes that prayer solves problems and that Jake Ryan is going to show up at her door any minute now…. She is represented by Rachael Dugas of Talcott Notch Literary Services.

One Winner will get: a Signed Copy of SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS
One Winner will get a $25 Gift Card to Amazon or B&N – winners choice!
Open Internationally for the Gift Card. Book Ships in US only. Must be 13 + To enter

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April 21, 2014

I Am Grateful For: Life as We Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Ok so it might be kind of weird that I'm grateful for a book that's all about the destruction of the world but I am! It's a great book that really makes you question.  I've read a bunch on dystopia, but this is the first one that got me really thinking about what I'd do how we'd handle it.  After reading this book I'd think about when doing mundane things like washing dishes because I'd realize that if I lived in the book having water to do dishes would be rare! It had that much of an impact!

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all--hope--in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

April 18, 2014

Book Trailer for Holly Schindler's New YA Book - FERAL

I'm excited to be able to share the book trailer for Feral by Holly Schindler.  
This book looks awesome, and the trailer is great!

Check it out!

About the Book
Release: August 26
The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened. 

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

April 16, 2014

Book Review: Unremembered by Jessica Brody

When Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find survivors. Which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating among the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe.

Even more strange is that her body is miraculously unharmed and she has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories period. No one knows how she survived. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest. And no one can explain why her DNA and fingerprints can’t be found in a single database in the world.

Crippled by a world she doesn’t know, plagued by abilities she doesn’t understand, and haunted by a looming threat she can’t remember, Seraphina struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is. But with every clue only comes more questions. And she’s running out of time to answer them.

Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her from before the crash. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget?

Just finished this one.  With the second book in the series, Unforgotten, just coming out this book has been all over for blog tours etc.  It was enough to catch my attention and make me want to read it.  It ended up being pretty good.  The whole not remembering her past bit was great! But it was great because it wasn't a typical amnesia story.  This girl didn't remember ANYTHING.  One of my favorite scenes in the novel is when she eats a grilled cheese sandwich for the first time and finds it the best thing she has ever eat.  Honestly I'll never look at a grilled cheese the same again.   

The book had just enough mystery, action and suspense to keep me entertained wanting to read.  The more clues that are uncovered about what happened to Seraphina, the more questions that seem to come up.  I like when that happens because it always keeps me guessing.  And the full story unraveled in a wonderful way was both a surprise and yet not. Definitely well done.  

I do plan on reading the second book in the series because I'm curious to know what happens after the ending (it has kinda a cliff hanger!).

One last note - there is a romance in the book, and it is very sweet and genuine.  I haven't seen that in a book in awhile so I doubly enjoyed it!

April 14, 2014

I Am Grateful For: Midnighters Series by Scott Westerfeld

The Secret Hour (Midnighters #1) by Scott Westerfeld

OMGosh if you haven't looked at this series you NEED too! I'm so grateful for it because it got me super hooked on a series that I tore through and didn't give up on! It's by Scott Westerfeld that you might know from the Uglies series.  (those are great too) This was a series that came before those, and I wish more people read them because they are just great.  So full of action, so well constructed, great characters and a unique concept!  Please look into this series!!

Nobody is safe in the secret hour.

Strange things happen at midnight in the town of Bixby, Oklahoma.

Time freezes.

Nobody moves.

For one secret hour each night, the town belongs to the dark creatures that haunt the shadows. Only a small group of people know about the secret hour -- only they are free to move about the midnight time.

These people call themselves Midnighters. Each one has a different power that is strongest at midnight: Seer, Mindcaster, Acrobat, Polymath. For years the Midnighters and the dark creatures have shared the secret hour, uneasily avoiding one another. All that changes when the new girl with an unmistakable midnight aura appears at Bixby High School.

Jessica Day is not an outsider like the other Midnighters. She acts perfectly normal in every way. But it soon becomes clear that the dark creatures sense a hidden power in Jessica . . . and they're determined to stop her before she can use it.

A story of courage, shadowy perils, and unexpected destiny, the secret hour is the first volume of the mesmerizing Midnighters trilogy by acclaimed author Scott Westerfeld.

April 13, 2014

Blog Tour: Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley - Guest Post

Today I'm very excited to host a stop on the blog tour for Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley.  
You can catch my review of the book HERE.  

She is here with a guest post on The Heat in Florida.  Ask Me takes place in Florida, and I remember the heat being a big part of the main characters thoughts.

About Kimberly Pauley
Kimberly Pauley is the award-winning author of Sucks to Be Me, which was honored on the YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list, and a paranormal mystery starring an oracle, called Ask Me. Born in California, she has lived everywhere from Florida to Chicago and has now gone international to live in London with her husband and son. She is also the founder of YA Books Central, one of the first and largest teen book websites in the world. 

Welcome Kimberly!

The Heat of Florida
I lived in Florida from the ages of 6 to 16, then came back for college at 18 and stayed until I was mumble-something-mumble years old. So I feel like Florida is part of me. I’ve lived in the complete boondocks of the Ocala National Forest, in the hot mess that is Miami, and in the sleepy retirement communities of St. Petersburg. But, I live in London now (the UK one, not the Canadian one) and Florida feels like it is a long, long way away.

It felt very strange to be writing about the heat of almost-summer in Florida while sitting in front of a fireplace in a pub in London. Surreal, even. But there’s definitely something about the memories you make when you are growing up that stay with you throughout your whole life.

Like Aria, the main character in ASK ME, my family was pretty darn poor. We lived in a hunting cabin that had been converted (sort of) into a house. There was no such thing as central air or heat; just one ancient wheezing window unit that only cooled about a square foot of the living room. The sound of oscillating fans was the background music of my life.

Like Aria, I wandered the woods alone for hours. I practiced my silent walk over crunchy dead leaves and followed deer trails. I got caught in the sudden thunderstorms and would come home drenched to the skin.

Here’s a secret -- my original impulse was to set the book in Maine or somewhere cold. Northern. The image that was stuck in my head was of a lonely girl with long hair blowing in the wind, hiding behind it. I liked the idea of the cold, how it can inhabit your body until you feel frozen inside and out. But then someone (a writer friend) asked me if that’s really where I saw Aria and as I came to understand her better, I knew she lived where I had lived. Old Florida. Arguably, real Florida. Not the postcard Florida, but the inside of the state...the places the tourists pass through only briefly. And I’m so glad that’s where Aria wound up. Because writing ASK ME felt a little bit like coming home.

If you want to know more about Kimberly Pauley or Ask Me, check out the links below.

About Ask ME
Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone. 

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.

April 11, 2014

Book Review: Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

On odd days, Tripp Broody uses a school practice room to let loose on a borrowed guitar. Eyes closed, strumming that beat-up instrument, Tripp escapes to a world where only the music matters.

On even days, Lyla Marks uses the same practice room. To Tripp, she’s trying to become even more perfect—she’s already a straight-A student and an award-winning cellist. But when Lyla begins leaving notes for him in between the strings of the guitar, his life intersects with hers in a way he never expected.

What starts as a series of snippy notes quickly blossoms into the sharing of interests and secrets and dreams, and the forging of a very unlikely friendship.

Challenging each other to write songs, they begin to connect, even though circumstances threaten to tear them apart.

What  a sweet book! Absolutely loved it.  Loved it.  It's been a while since I've read a contemporary fiction book and a really long while since a book has been this sweet.  You can clearly read romance into the whole thing, but that's not really what it's about a friendship that develops over a period of time AND about doing what matters to you.  The way it was written, the characters and the plot were just not something I've read in awhile, and it was a breath of fresh air!

The main characters: Lyla was great.  Funny and real and determined and sweet.  I liked her a lot.  She wasn't perfect, although everyone at school thinks she is.  Her struggle was so believable.  I felt for her.  She wants to make everyone happy, but is finding that in doing so she's not happy herself.  But like most teenagers, she doesn't know how to change anything.  No Tripp - he's great too.  Super funny and if he was a girl I'd call him a spitfire! What he does to get back at his mom is great! But what I really liked was the depth to his character.  I gained an understanding about why he behaved how he did, and it was wonderful to have that depth build into him. 

The two of them together were a perfect match (and not really in the romantic way!).  It was so great to watch their friendship grow and see how they pushed each other.  Wonderful.  I was actually sad at the end of the book, because I wanted to experience them more.  Their story was just a great place to be.  

And if that isn't enough to get you to read the book - I read it in one evening.  That RARELY happens with me!

April 9, 2014

I Am Grateful For: Wendy Mass

Again a post about an author I'm grateful for! Wendy Mass is one of the best middle grade authors out there - especially if you look at the number of kids that read her books and love them.  So many of my students love everyone of her books.  I think they can really relate to them.  In one a girl has to move and she hates it - something they can all relate to (Every Soul a Star).  In another the main characters were best friends for years and have a huge fight (11 Birthdays).  They are just all solid good stories.  She's my go-to author for most of my girls!

Here's a great one.  We use it in lit circles.

In one month Jeremy Fink will turn thirteen. But does he have what it takes to be a teenager? He collects mutant candy, he won't venture more than four blocks from his apartment if he can help it, and he definitelydoesn't like surprises. On the other hand, his best friend, Lizzy, isn't afraid of anything, even if that might get her into trouble now and then.

Jeremy's summer takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious wooden box arrives in the mail. According to the writing on the box, it holds the meaning of life! Jeremy is supposed to open it on his thirteenth birthday. The problem is, the keys are missing, and the box is made so that only the keys will open it without destroying what's inside. Jeremy and Lizzy set off to find the keys, but when one of their efforts goes very wrong, Jeremy starts to lose hope that he'll ever be able to open the box. But he soon discovers that when you're meeting people named Oswald Oswald and using a private limo to deliver unusual objects to strangers all over the city, there might be other ways of finding out the meaning of life.
Lively characters, surprising twists, and thought-provoking ideas make Wendy Mass's latest novel an unforgettable read.

April 8, 2014

Blog Tour Book Review: Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley

Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot
decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone.

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.

So I read this book in one evening so that should tell you something! I did really enjoy it.  I'm in a mystery-suspense-who-done-it kind of reading mood lately, and it completely fit that.  All throughout the book I didn't know how it would end up - I was kept guessing until the end.  I would think "Oh it has to be him!", but then something would happen and I wasn't sure.  Then I'd be like "Wait! Wait! Wait how do I even know that - maybe I'm just assuming" and that would send my guesses off into another direction.  Well done. There is nothing I hate more than a mystery that has no mystery.  

Now about Aria being an Oracle.  Love it! The fact that she HAD to answer every question she heard (even ones on TV) really added to the story.  And it really made me feel for her because I started thinking about all the questions I hear all day and how horrible it would be if I had no control and answers just came out.  I teach, so my days are full of questions.  This really made me feel for her! Funny too because later my husband asked me something that I jokingly avoided asking, but it made me think about her situation and how she would have had to answer.  For something that wasn't realistic - it felt real and possible.  See how this worked for her also made me like her more, so that made me care about the story more as well.  Not only did I just want an answer to who the murderer was - I wanted to see her be happy and safe.  

Over all great book.  Fast tense read that I really enjoyed.  

April 4, 2014

Divergent Movie Review and GIVEAWAY

This will be quick - I really really enjoyed the movie.  I thought it stuck with the book quite well! You need to understand something though - I'm not a read that mays attention and remembers all these little details and that serves me well when I see movies adapted from books.  I don't tend to notice minor changes! So if you feel it changed a lot from the book - sorry but because of how I read I didn't see it!

Love the image of what Chicago and the areas for each faction looked like.  The place where Dauntless live fit my picture of it best.  And Tris's house actually fit my picture the least! For some reason I kept thinking they lived further out even though it's clear they don't!

Best part - the Dauntless group period! Watching how they ran everywhere - yelled and cheered a lot and just seemed to live like fully made me so want to be Dauntless.  I ignored the punching and danger stuff when thinking that :)

As for the actors chosen to play everyone - well done.  Didn't disagree with any casting.

That's it really.  Liked it - a lot! Even my husband who had never read the book really liked it!

Now a quick giveaway for those who haven't taken the plunge in to Divergent yet.  I have an extra copy of the book.  
Enter using the Rafflecopter.  
Must be a US resident and at least 13!

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April 2, 2014

Skype Visit with Holly Schindler and Review of The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

Awhile back Holly Schindler put out an email looking for help promoting her new middle grade book The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky.  I jumped at the chance because the book sounded awesome and I'm always looking for new books for my middle schoolers.  Well then Holly took it one step further - she offered to Skype with my students! So after getting the book and getting into reading it aloud to my 5th graders, we set up a date to Skype.

It was fantastic! I had my students come up with questions ahead of time, and they had some great ones.

 Lots and lots of questions about the names in the book.  The main character and her grandfather share the same name! And wonderful questions about the rich language - we've talked a lot about the figurative language in the book.  Plus they wanted to know about the art that Auggie create with her grandfather - how did Holly come up with those ideas AND the whole process of writing a book.  Holly was so gracious and answered each question so fully that my students really got an understanding of the novel and writing.  It was a great experience, and I'm so glad my students were given the opportunity!

Now about the book The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time. Auggie’s talent for creating found art will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.

I just did a guest post on the "magic" of middle grade books - how they can touch the lives of middle grade readers.  This is one of those middle grade books.  It is wonderful. Auggie is such a great girl.  I loved her! She was sweet and smart and easily frustrated (like me!) and so determined to do what needs to be done to help her neighborhood.  I could only wish to have her level of determination! As an adult, I see the uphill battle that Auggie is going to have to wage against this committee.  It's a battle that many adult would debate whether to fight at all.  Not Auggie - she digs her teeth into solving it and refuses to give up! It's the kind of tenacity that we adult envy in kids.  

But the story is more than Auggie's fight with the beautification committee.  It's also the story of her relationship with her grandfather and her absent mother.  I found that part of the story very real and very touching.  It added a level of depth that took the book from a good middle school book to a GREAT middle school book.

If you're looking for a story with heart, hope and love - then check this one out! 

April 1, 2014

STORM by D.J. MacHale Book Trailer Blast +GIVEAWAY

Very excited today to be able to be part of the Book Blast for STORM! I've had several students read SYLO and love it, and I know they can't wait for storm.  


From #1 New York Times bestselling author D.J. MacHale comes STORM —the exhilarating, action-packed sequel to SYLO :

“Absolutely un-put-downable, more exciting than an X-box and roller coaster combined.”—Kirkus, starred review

“With this extremely high-octane story that’s the equivalent to a summer movie blockbuster, MacHale kicks off an apocalyptic trilogy sure to leave readers demanding the next installment.”—Booklist

“An entertaining and creepy tale.”—Publishers Weekly


Okay here's the trailer for SYLO the first book!

I've also got the cover for the 3rd book - STRIKE


D.J. MacHale is a writer, director, executive producer and creator of several popular television series and movies. As an author, his ten-volume book series: PENDRAGON – JOURNAL OF AN ADVENTURE THROUGH TIME AND SPACE became a New York Times #1 bestseller.

He was raised in Greenwich, CT and graduated from Greenwich High School. While in school, he had several jobs including collecting eggs at a poultry farm, engraving trophies and washing dishes in a steakhouse…in between playing football and running track. D.J. attended New York University where he received a BFA in film production.
His filmmaking career began in New York where he worked as a freelance writer/director making corporate videos and television commercials. He also taught photography and film production.

D.J. broke into the entertainment business by writing several ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIALS. As co-creator of the popular Nickelodeon series: ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?, he produced all 91 episodes over 8 years. D.J. also wrote and directed the movieTOWER OF TERROR for ABC’s WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY which starred Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg. The Showtime series CHRIS CROSS was co-created, written and produced by D.J. It received the CableAce award for Best Youth Series.

D.J. co-created and produced the Discovery Kids/NBC television series FLIGHT 29 DOWN. He wrote every episode and directed several. His work on FLIGHT 29 DOWN earned him the Writers Guild of America award for “Outstanding Children’s Script” and a Directors Guild of America award nomination.

Other notable writing credits include the ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL titled SEASONAL DIFFERENCES; the pilot for the long-running PBS/CBS series GHOSTWRITER; and the HBO series ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN, BOY DETECTIVE for which he received a CableAce nomination for writing.

In print, D.J. has co-written the book THE TALE OF THE NIGHTLY NEIGHBORS, based on his own teleplay and penned the poetic adaptation of the classic Norwegian folk tale EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON. His most current work is the spooky MORPHEUS ROAD trilogy; and a whimsical picture book THE MONSTER PRINCESS.

D.J. lives in Southern California with his wife Evangeline and daughter Keaton. They are avid backpackers, scuba divers and skiers. Rounding out the household are two elderly goldfish and a Kitten, Kaboodle.


Now for the GIVEAWAY
Want a chance to Skype with D.J. MacHale??? 
Others will also win a copy of Storm with a signed bookplate. 
Giveaway is open Internationally. | Must be 13+ to Enter

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