Monday, December 7, 2015

Alistair Grim's Odditorium by Gregory Funaro

Date Published: January 6, 2015
ISBN: 1484708997
Genre: Middle grade, fantasy
Publisher:  Disney Hyperion
Themes: Adventure, mystery, humor, magic

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes And Noble

About the Book: Grubb, age twelve (or thereabouts), has never known anything beyond his miserable existence as a chimney sweep, paid only in insults and abuse by his cruel master. All of that changes the day he stows away in the coach belonging to a mysterious guest at the inn that he is tasked with cleaning. Grubb emerges from Alistair Grim's trunk and into the wondrous world of the Odditorium. Fueled by a glowing blue energy that Grubb can only begin to understand, the Odditorium is home to countless enchanted objects and an eccentric crew that embraces Grubb as one of their own. There's no time for Grubb to settle into his new role as apprentice to the strange, secretive Mr. Grim. When the Odditorium comes under attack, Grubb is whisked off on a perilous adventure. Only he can prevent the Odditorium's magic from falling into evil hands—and his new family from suffering a terrible fate. Grubb knows he's no hero. He's just a chimney sweep. But armed with only his courage and wits, Grubb will confront the life-or-death battle he alone is destined to fight.
First Line: "The odd was the ordinary at Alistair Grim's."

What Others Are Saying: "Told in the engaging brogue of an apprentice chimney sweeper, this novel seems to have all the ingredients for a fun middle grade read, blending fantasy with Dickensian-esque fiction. Although the initial ideas and characters have strong promise, the execution of the story is rather ordinary." —School Library Journal

"Funaro's world building and characters are fascinating, and the fast pace and overstuffed plot-from war in the air to a daring escape from sea sirens-make for an exciting story. Funaro's first book for young readers has all the playfulness of classic adventures like The Phantom Tollbooth and the intrigue of newer steampunk novels, making it a clever mash-up of mystery and merriment, ideal for kids who loved Percy Jackson and Harry Potter." —Booklist

Bloggers Weigh In:

What I Thought: When Grub, the protagonist finds himself at the Odditorium, he begins a nonstop adventure. The pace throttles high and doesn't stop while adding strange magical characters, powerful power sources and legends and myths all rolled into fast moving world. Amazingly, Funaro eases out new information at just the right concentration of eccentric and detail to make this a fun ride. Grub is a great character, but I was hungry for more character development which I hope to see in the next in the series. 

About The Author: Gregory Funaro
Gregory Funaro grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island, and wrote his first story, The Ghost in the Window, in the fourth grade. He considers this to be his finest work, but unfortunately it has been lost to time. Following high school Greg majored in theatre at the University of New Hampshire, and after various acting gigs, received his AM in Theatre Arts from Brown University and an MFA in Acting from the FSU/Asolo Conservatory. Greg teaches drama at East Carolina University, and is busy working on the next book in the Odditorium series.

Add on Goodreads

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Choice by Cindy Cipriano

Date Published: June 9, 2015 
ISBN: 9781922200181
Genre: Middle grade, fantasy
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Themes: friendship, family, home, loyalty
Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes And Noble

The is the second book in The Sidhe series, see my review of the first, The Circle, here.

About The Book: For Calum Ranson, seventh grade brings changes in his relationship with his parents and his friends, and a confrontation with his bully. Calum’s talents have also developed to a level unheard of in the Sidhe world, and he surprises everyone when he cleverly catches the person responsible for casting Finley out from the Otherworld.
When Calum goes against everything he knows is right, he makes a choice that may cost him his friendship with Laurel. An old friend steps in, but her mysterious ways leave Calum questioning her motivation.
In the second book of the Sidhe Series, Calum, Laurel, and Hagen reunite in their search for Finley. And while many things have changed, Calum remains steadfast in his belief that Finley is still alive and that Calum will bring him home. —Goodreads

First Line: " Are you sure you saw it?" Calum asked, running his hand through his light brown hair. "You saw the glowing?"

What Others Are Saying: 
"The Choice is filled with lessons about friendship, morals, love, and loyalty. And written in such a deep and profound way that I find lacking among most YA authors today. With this book, itself, I already wanted to know about what will happen to Finley. The Choice is an engaging read and the description of the Sidhe’s world was vivid in my mind. And I wanted to be part of it." —Plethoric Thoughts

"...rarely will you find a story so involved, so deep and mysterious. Cipriano didn't "dumb down" anything, as some YA authors are known to. She assumed that teens would understand or strive to understand every emotion, every name and every element of the story." —Kelly Smith Reviews

What I Thought: Again, Cipriano doesn't disappoint as she weaves her fantasy involving the Gaelic myth of the Sidhe, a fae population living among humans. I love the characters and their seeming normalcy even with their extraordinary powers they are struggling to balance. The estrangement that the knowledge of their difference creates between Callum and Laurel due to Laurel's parents inability to accept Callum and his family is palpable. I'm sure any tween or teen that has experienced that kind of prejudice when a parent has difficulty trusting and at the same time protecting their child can relate to Callum and Laurels experience. This is a great read and I highly recommend it!

About The Author: Cindy Cipriano
The Sidhe Series
Interview on Writer And Authors
Who: Cindy Cipriano lives in North Carolina and has taught middle school science since 2001. She was named a North Carolina Outstanding Science Teacher in 2009 by the North Carolina Science Teachers Association. In 2012, Cindy received the Burroughs Wellcome Fund PRISM award for innovative teaching. Cindy has a M.Ed. and is a National Board Certified Teacher. She is also a North Carolina Certified Environmental Educator. Cindy is a member of the Drawbridge Writers Group, and the Triad Writers Group. Cindy enjoys speaking at conferences and is available for conference presentations, book club meetings, or other author visits.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What's For Dinner?

About The Book: Feed your family the foods they love—with a healthy twist.
Everyone knows slow cookers are a busy mom’s best friend, but it can be a struggle to find healthy Crock Pot recipes your kids will actually eat. Not anymore.

These delicious family-sized meals are perfect for parents and kids alike. —Goodreads

Slow Cooker Memories: When my children were small I used the slow cooker often, especially on Sunday's. There wasn't much variety in what I used the cooker for, usually  a roast with vegetables. I have to say that there is nothing better than ending a long day with a walk through the door, the wafting rich smell of a hot meal stimulating your senses, your mouth bursting in anticipation. 

What's New:So why another slow cooker cookbook? Many of us are trying to change to healthier lifestyles that include better, cleaner diets. Most of the slow cooker recipes I have are calorie packed meals with more sugar and fat than fit into my new focus on health. Dymock's book is the answer...using a slow cooker doesn't mean you have to sacrifice health.

Why I Love This: Dymock's book is a visual feast of color and dimension. I love that these aren't quinoa, chia seed, laden meals, but real food that kids would eat, (husbands, too). These dishes are for real people that are in a hurry and want to eat healthy. Even the desserts are low sugar. 

Check this out, you'll love it! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Grams Pick of The Month!

About The Book:   As a popular blogger, a college professor, and a frequent parenting guest expert on TV, you might suspect Julie K. Nelson is immune to the realities of actual parenting. But in fact, she’s been there—through all the late nights, huge messes, and tough moments.
Now she combines her expertise with her experience as a mom of five in this entertaining and pragmatic book. Learn how to overcome your natural manipulative, authoritarian tendencies and foster your child’s self-discipline, respect, and emotional maturity.

Humorous, insightful, and authentic, this book will get you through the sticky stuff with grace so you can enjoy those parenting moments that make it all worth it.

First Line: I wake up at 7:00am and take a shower.

Great Passage: "A discouraged child languishes in the unclean room. If he or she finally cleans the seemingly insurmountable mess, a parent's impulse is to remark, "You got it done. Good work." That response acknowledges the clean room, but it does not validate the child's valiant effort. An encouraging parent knows that the marathon of cleaning requires that he or she appear in the bedroom to cheer on the child from time to time." (9)

What Others Are Saying:
"The book covers a range of concerns that basically all parents face, and offers some clear advice in an easy-to-read format, that I found helpful, informative, and encouraging as well."—Utahtopia

"A couple things that stuck out to me were when she shared the quote, “Right is right, even if no one is doing it. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it.” Amen, sister! Love that. And this quote I felt was basically the premise of her book. “In the long run, the only thing of lasting value you can give your child is your time and the memories of the time you shared together.”  —Literary Time Out

"Julie Nelson is a master at “keeping it real” as she gives sound advice amidst terrific stories of her own failures as well as successes as a parent. Her topics include the crucial importance of family rituals and teaching values while kids are young as well as how to stay positive amidst the chaos of raising a family, how to lift family members who make mistakes, and even how to successfully co-parent after divorce. Every parent can benefit from Julie’s extraordinary wisdom."  —Richard and Linda Eyre

What I Thought: Since my mothering days are over, I'm always looking for ways to cheer on the mothers of my grandchildren. This book is the ticket. Instead of the usual guilt ridden prose of many parenting books, Nelson takes realistic view of the parenting role. She speaks with authenticity and from experience. A perfect gift for that mother that is in the trenches, day in and day out.  
Gram Approved!

About The Author:
Julie K. Nelson is a wife and mother of five children, raising them in Illinois and now Utah. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree from Utah State University in marriage, family and human development. Her scholarly research and creative writing have been published in journals and anthologies, and she has won numerous state and national awards for her writing. Julie has enjoyed teaching children in public and private schools and currently teaches at Utah Valley University.

Website: A Spoonful Of Parenting

The Far End Of Happy Blog Tour and Give-Away

Kathryn Craft:

Kathryn Craft, a former dance critic who wrote for The Morning Call daily newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for nineteen years. Craft wrote exclusively nonfiction until she was plunged in the kind of real-life drama that demands attention. In 1997, after fifteen years of marriage, her husband committed suicide in a police standoff, leaving her and their two young sons.

The Far End of Happy was born from Craft’s need to make sense of what her husband had done. Kathryn has been a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene for more than a decade and is also the author ofThe Art of Falling. She lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Advance Praise for The Far End of Happy

“A complex and gripping story of broken hearts, lives, and marriages that will tear you apart from beginning to end.” —Steena Holmes, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Memory Child and Finding Emma

“Kathryn Craft keeps the tension edge-of-your-seat suspenseful in The Far End of Happy… unflinchingly honest and hard-hitting.” —Kate Moretti, author of the New York Times bestselling Thought I Knew You, andBinds That Tie

“Compellingly written, the tension builds throughout the book and the reader comes out the other side with more insight, and more compassion, for those who may find themselves on the far end of happy.” —Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author of Hidden

“Kathryn Craft is a masterful storyteller who weaves a heartbreaking story packed with tension andbrimming with humanity.” —Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List

“An incredibly honest and courageous exploration of a marriage torn apart by neglect and threats of suicide. Craft’s ability to tell a tale as beautiful as it is haunting left me in awe. Not one to miss!” —Mary Kubica, author of The Good Girl

“Captivated from page one…Craft expertly weaves a gripping tale that hits the reader hard and keeps moving briskly to its heartbreaking but hopeful conclusion.” —Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times and USA Todaybestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden
Amazon | B&N | BAM |!ndigo| IndieBound| Kindle | Kobo | Nook

Excerpt from The Far End of Happy:

Ronnie already wanted to rewrite this story. To edit the cop’s words. To distance herself, change “husband” to “the man.” The man now staggering around the property with a gun; the man who may already have taken a shot; the man whose angst was seeping into her own nerves. Her husband—the gentle soul she’d married—would never have acted like the man she’d engaged with earlier today.

“Call him Jeff, please,” she said quietly.

“I’m going to need you to recount all that transpired this morning with your—” He caught himself. “With Jeff. Leave nothing out. You never know what will be important.”

The recitation she gave was devoid of animation. She felt empty and prickly, like an October cornfield in need of nutrients and a long, restorative winter. An evacuation from her home, beneath the cover of a helicopter dispatched from the state capitol, to protect her from her own husband? Ronnie felt as if her family had suddenly been thrust into an unwanted audition for a high-stakes reality show. Every few moments, as she delivered facts, she looked over at her mother, who was speaking quietly to Janet. She wondered if Beverly’s version differed. If her mother, or Jeff’s, blamed her. Because to them, and the rest of the world, it must look as if Jeff had been knocked off balance because Ronnie had decided to leave him.

It even looked that way to her.

The officer told Ronnie their primary goal was to locate Jeff, since he was armed and dangerous.

“Please don’t say that in front of his mother,” she said. “Or the boys. Jeff isn’t a dangerous person. He’s sweet. Everyone would tell you how nice he is. Very laid back.” Too laid back. He never cared enough. “It’s just that we’re getting a divorce, and today was the day he promised to move out. He’s...” Drunk off his ass. “Agitated.”

Ronnie rubbed her arms—the room suddenly chilled her. She hadn’t thought to grab a jacket. The room’s narrow, high-set windows, made of glass bricks, were meant to obscure natural light. This was a room designed to allow sparkles from a mirror ball, gropes in the shadows.

And so what? She was cold. She felt selfish thinking about it, with Jeff frozen all the way to the center of his soul.

“Could you give me a physical description of your husband so we can identify him by sight?”

All that she and Jeff had meant to each other, all the intricacies of their marriage, boiled down to the same physical attributes that had first attracted her to him. “Five foot ten. Dark brown hair, thick, trimmed over ears some might call large.” Soft ears that lay flat against his head beneath her kisses. “Blue eyes.” Eyes that used to pierce her through with their naked honesty. “Broad hands.” Strong hands that always needed a project, now wrapped around a gun.

Here is the link to enter the Give Away:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Author To Author: Vicky Shecter

Hello Everybody!
Yes, I'm back! Whew, it's been a wild several months, tons of changes, growth and new beginnings. But, today it's all about Vicky. I am falling in love with her books and want you to know all about her and her amazing writing. As a historical fiction writer she's incredible and her treatment of myth for middle grade and young adult is edgy and full of facts that compliment any educator's unit on ancient history. 

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer.

I always wrote for a living--marketing and public relations in the business world--but I didn't start writing for kids until I reconnected with my childhood passion for ancient history. My first book, Alexander the Great Rocks the World, came out in 2006.

Today, I channel that love into books about mythology for middle-graders and historical fiction about the ancient world for young adults. I'm also a docent at the Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University which keeps me connected personally and professionally to sources for my research.

2) What was the inspiration for the series Secrets of the Ancient Gods?

I had written a book about Egyptian mythology and could not sell it. However, the editor fell in love with the voice of Anubis, who narrated the anthology of stories. Twice he came back to me asking me to find some way to use that snarky voice in a book for him and I finally hit on making Anubis into a tour guide of the afterworld. Hades followed. Having gods tell their own myths turned into a fun way to impart a whole lot of history and legend.

3) Tell us about your process.

I have two very different processes for the books I write. For non-fiction/mythology, I read as many sources as possible and then develop a voice for the narrating "god" based on the details I discovered. For my young adult novels, I also do a lot of research, but have to create scenes out of the blue, which leaves me staring out the window quite often!

4) What does a typical writing day look like?

I don't really have a typical writing day because some days are more consumed with research and others are driven by getting thoughts and ideas down. It really depends on what deadline is coming up!

5) Where is your favorite place to write?

I usually sit on the couch with one of my cats leaning on me.

6) What did or do you find most challenging in creating the story and getting it published? What do you wish you would have known?
The most challenging thing is to not give up. If you love what you are writing about, that's going to shine through eventually. I do wish someone had told me just how sllllloooowwww everything moves in publishing. So much of it is, "Hurry up and wait."

7) What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

I have a sticky note above my desk with this Ernest Gaines quote: "Write with fire. Edit with ice." So true!

8) Are you working on a new project? Can you tell us about it?

Right now we are putting the finishing touches on THOR SPEAKS! which comes out this fall. I'm also working on another young adult novel set in the ancient Rome.

9) What advice would you give others that write for children?

Find what fires your passion and pour that into your writing. And, more importantly, do not give up! It's a long process and you've got to keep submitting.

10) Tell us about the most interesting job you've ever had. The hardest?

Interesting: I once worked as a cocktail waitress at a bowling alley bar (!). The hardest: Being a mom. No contest!

Thanks so much for stopping by Vicky! Watch for my review of Cleopatra's Moon. Just finished it and let's just say coming back to the modern world is difficult. I loved it! 

Book Blurb: Selene grew up in a palace on the Nile under parents Cleopatra and Mark Antony - the most brilliant, powerful rulers on earth. But when a cruel Roman Emperor takes the country and whisks the princess to Rome against her will. She finds herself torn between two young men and two possible destinies - until she reaches out to claim her own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Guest Post: Kathryn Craft's Newest Book


The Far End of Happy is a powerful new novel based on author Kathryn Craft’s personal experience with a stand-off involving her husband. Here Craft delivers “real, raw emotion” (Library Journal) exploring a marriage unraveled by mental illness; and one man’s spiral towards a violent conclusion that tests the courage, love, and hope of the three women he leaves behind.

When the emotionally troubled Jeff engages police in a deadly stand-off, his wife, mother-in-law, and mother struggle to understand why the man they love has turned his back on the life they have given him, the one they all believe is still worth living.

“Framing the novel within a 12-hour period keeps the pages turning (Library Journal).” Narrating from the alternating perspectives of three women, whose lives will be forever altered by Jeff Farnham, gives an intimate look at the steps a woman will take to get the help her husband so urgently needs while desperately trying to keep her children safe.


A former dance critic who wrote for The Morning Call daily newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for nineteen years. Craft wrote exclusively nonfiction until she was plunged in the kind of real-life drama that demands attention. In 1997, after fifteen years of marriage, her husband committed suicide in a police standoff, leaving her and their two young sons.

The Far End of Happy was born from Craft’s need to make sense of what her husband had done. Kathryn has been a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene for more than a decade and is also the author ofThe Art of Falling. She lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. 


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