Monday, April 21, 2014

Now In Paperpack: Wonder Light by R. R. Russell

About The Book: Twig is used to feeling unwanted. Sent to live on a pony ranch for "troubled" girls on a misty, haunted island, Twig is about to discover the impossible — someone who needs her.
Jolted awake from a bad dream, Twig follows the desperate whinny of a terrified horse out to the stables. There in the straw is a bleating little scrap of moonbeam. A silver-white filly with cloven hooves and a tiny, spiraling horn.

A baby unicorn.

Now Twig knows what secret is hiding in the island's mist: the last free unicorn herd. And a mysterious boy named Ben who insists that this impossible creature is now Twig's to care for. That she needs Twig's love and protection. Because there's something out there in the deep, dense shadows that's hunting for them... — Goodreads

First Line: Keely turned off the ignition and pointed at the haunted island.

Great Passage: "Mrs. Murley hadn't expected Twig to say anything back. Not like her teachers. She'd stopped talking to them when Daddy got deployed. She'd gotten so full of stuff on the inside that she made herself blank on the the outside"(53).

What Others Are Saying: "In this atmospheric debut, the unassuming and subtle fantasy elements take a backseat to Twig's growing faith in herself and trust in others.The combination of horses, unicorns, and an offbeat girl is a winning one." -Booklist

"There are far too many tales where a girl is made special because the cool boy chooses her; this is a tale about a girl who regains her sense of being a worthwhile person by her own actions and growth. We need more books like this for girls." Robin Hobb, International Bestselling author of the Farseer Trilogy, the Liveship Traders Trilogy, the Tawny Man Trilogy, the Soldier Son trilogy, the Rain Wilds Chronic

Bloggers Weigh In:

What I Thought: I loved Twig as a character. When she arrived at the island she felt empty and numb, it wasn't until she moved out of her comfort zone and risked following her instincts that she began to grow. Everyone can relate to that kind of  struggle and Russell does a good job of conveying Twig's fears and doubts. The chapters are short and always ended with a question about what was going to happen. This fantasy will keep a middle grader wanting more, but not overwhelmed.

About The Author: R. R. Russel

Who: R.R. Russell lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. She grew up traveling the world as an army brat and now travels the country as a coach with a nonprofit judo club. She loves to read and draw, and like Twig, once spent a lot of time sketching unicorns.

Join me on May 9th for an interview with R.R. Russell and the sequel, The Unicorn Thief.

Monday, April 14, 2014

MMGM: Tesla's Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman

About The Book: Tesla's Attic is the first book in a brilliantly imagined and hilariously written trilogy that combines science, magic, intrigue, and just plain weirdness, about four kids who are caught up in a dangerous plan concocted by the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla.
After their home burns down, fourteen-year-old Nick, his younger brother, and their father move into a ramshackle Victorian house they've inherited. When Nick opens the door to his attic room, he's hit in the head by a toaster. That's just the beginning of his weird experiences with the old junk stored up there. After getting rid of the odd antiques in a garage sale, Nick befriends some local kids-Mitch, Caitlin, and Vincent-and they discover that all of the objects have extraordinary properties. What's more, Nick figures out that the attic is a strange magnetic vortex, which attracts all sorts of trouble. It's as if the attic itself has an intelligence . . . and a purpose.

Ultimately Nick learns that the genius Nikola Tesla placed the items-his last inventions-in the attic as part of a larger plan that he mathematically predicted. Nick and his new friends must retrieve everything that was sold at the garage sale and keep it safe. But the task is fraught with peril-in addition to the dangers inherent in Tesla's mysterious and powerful creations, a secret society of physicists, the Accelerati, is determined to stop Nick and alter destiny to achieve its own devious ends. It's a lot for a guy to handle, especially when he'd much rather fly under the radar as the new kid in town.

Fans of intrigue, action, humor, and nonstop surprises are guaranteed a read unlike any other in Tesla's Attic, Book One of the Accelerati Trilogy.

What Other's Are Saying: "The first entry in a planned trilogy, this collaboration between Shusterman and Elfman tempers the scarier elements of Nick’s quest with deft, humorous writing and plenty of the ordinary adventures of a new kid in school finding his niche. Hand this one to fans of Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles or Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn (2004)." —Booklist

Blogger Weigh In: 

What I Thought: I have an unhealthy interest in all the things Tesla so I was immediately intrigued with this book. Add to that junk found in an old attic and I'm in heaven. The book didn't let me down. I loved the adventure, the characters were quirky and there was plenty of wacky inventions to keep me interested. I'm looking forward to the next book. 

About The Authors:
Neal Shusterman

Who: "Wherever Neal goes, he quickly earns a reputation as a storyteller and dynamic speaker. Much of his fiction is traceable back to stories he tells to large audiences of children and teenagers -- such as his novel The Eyes of Kid Midas. As a speaker, Neal is in constant demand at schools and conferences. Degrees in both psychology and drama give Neal a unique approach to writing. Neal's novels always deal with topics that appeal to adults as well as teens, weaving true-to-life characters into sensitive and riveting issues, and binding it all together with a unique and entertaining sense of humor." —Author's website

Eric Elfman

Who: Eric is the author of 10 books for children and young adults, including The Very Scary Almanac and The Almanac of the Gross, Disgusting & Totally Repulsive (both published by Random House, the latter named an ALA Recommended Book for Reluctant Readers); three X-Files novels (HarperCollins); two books of scary short stories, Three Minute Thrillers and More Three Minute Thrillers (Lowell House). He is currently working on a new YA thriller, The Devil You Know. —Interview on Lia Keyes Website

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Author To Author: Margo Sorenson

Today for our Author to Author interview, all the way from Hawaii we have Margo Sorenson. 

Author of twenty-eight books, Margo Sorenson was born in Washington, DC, and spent the first seven years of her life in Spain and Italy, living where there were few children her age, so books became her friends. She finished her school years in California, graduating from the University of California at Los Angeles. After teaching high school and middle school and raising a family of two daughters, Margo is now a full-time writer, writing primarily for young people of all ages, toddlers through high schoolers. Margo enjoys writing for young readers since she believes they are ready for new ideas and experiences, and they really have fun "living" the lives of the characters in books. A National Milken Educator Award recipient, Margo always has a good time meeting with her readers in school and library settings from Minnesota to California and Hawaii.

1) Why do you write for children? I believe children deserve hope and to enjoy life.  Besides, I don't know any adults. 

2) Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer. I grew up in Europe as small child, which left me to become the perennial observer of other people, watching from the "outside," so to speak.  Reading was my favorite occupation and being able to live different lives through the characters was pure joy.  When I became a teacher and taught my English students creative and nonfiction writing, my students' parents encouraged me to write myself, so I gave it a try!

3) What were the inspirations for Island Danger and Time of Honor We lived in Hawaii for ten years, and the conflicts that newcomers often felt before they appreciated the culture were a source of fascination for me, so I wrote Todd's story in ISLAND DANGER, in which he tries to find weapons hidden by a terrorist group.  For TIME OF HONOR, as a medieval history major, I always wished I could have lived during those times, so I wrote a time-travel adventure with a feisty heroine who has to adapt to life in 1272 and prevent the murders of her new friends, as well as of herself.

4) Tell us about your process.  As William Faulkner wrote, "It all begins with a character, really, and once he gets up and starts moving around, all you have to do is follow behind him with a pencil and paper and write down everything he says and does."  Once a character appears and I keep working on him/her, playwright David Mamet's wise words guide my next steps in working on the plot: "Who wants what and why? Why now? What happens if her [sic] don't [sic] get it?"

5) What does a typical writing day look like? Coffee, coffee, coffee!  I'm an early riser, so I answer emails and tweets, review and tweak any upcoming Skype visits, and read the publishing news of the day.  Then I settle down to write.  Either I am revising manuscripts or I am starting new ones, and I may also be researching editors to whom to send manuscripts.

6) Where is your favorite place to write?  In the beginning stages, I have a chaise lounge that I like to use; I can scatter papers and notes everywhere.  Once I transfer the work to the computer, I work in my office, where I can look at my inspiration – some of my favorite childhood books right next to my laptop.

7) What did or do you find most challenging in creating the story and/or getting it published? What do you wish you would have known? The most challenging thing about writing and publishing is the revision process.  That is always the hardest, because, as you well know, being an author yourself, we writers tend to fall in love with our own words!

8) What is the best writing advice you have ever received? "Put it away in a drawer and don't look at it for a while!"

9) Are you working on a new project? Can you tell us about it? I have a new picture book coming out in the fall of 2014, SPAGHETTI SMILES (Pelican Publishing), and I'm working on publicity for it.  Besides that, I am working on some new picture books and revising older manuscripts – the never-ending story!

10) What advice would you give others that write for children? Stay in touch with children and listen to them and observe them.  I volunteer for homework help every week during the school year at our local Boys and Girls Club, and I know I couldn't be effective in writing for children if I didn't stay immersed in their world. Things have changed so much!

Margo would love to hear from you. You can find her in many places online.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Why Do We Like Dragons So Much?

Almost every group of people can find a dragon somewhere in their ancient myths, legends or folktales. In fact, dragons are often one of the first magical animals children associate with stories they enjoy. Here are a few dragon's and books with dragons I remember from my own childhood:

Puff the Magic Dragon
A Chinese Dragon
King Arthur
My Father's Drago
Voyage of The Dawn Treader
Smaug in The Hobbit
Earthsea Cycle Series by Ursula K. Le Guin's 
Falkor in The Never Ending Story
Norbert, Hungarian Horntail, Welsh Green, Swedish Short-snout and Chinese Fireball in The Harry Potter Series

Here are some great websites that have awesome, never ending lists of books with dragon's in them. 

Pragmatic Mom
From The Mixed Up Files...
Goodreads List
The Saffron Tree

So why dragons? Why do they fascinate us so much? Lucinda Hare in her article on the blog We Love This Book said, "Authors love dragons for the very same reasons as their readers – because they open up our imaginations. And perhaps that is the key to why dragons are such an enduring feature of children’s literature. Dragons let us hold on to the magic of childhood when other dreams are left behind. Dragons allow our imaginations to take flight. Dragons give us all wings." —See complete article here.

Here are two new middle grade books I thought you might also enjoy.

Diego's Dragon by Kevin Gerard
About The Book: An eleven-year-old Latino boy wins a district-wide writing contest for sixth graders. When an author visits his school to award his prize, Diego Ramirez has no idea how much his life is about to change.Nathan Sullivan hands Diego his statue, a handsome, glistening black dragon. He shakes his hand and leaves him to his friends. The students crowd around Diego, asking for permission to hold it.After hearing the name Magnifico spoken aloud by family and friends, Diego awards it to his new dragon. If he only knew how fitting the name was, he might have known what lay ahead. Magnifico is the leader of the Sol Dragones, dragons that live within the magical fires of the sun. Nathan Sullivan is the earth's connection to the mysterious creatures. It is his task to find Magnifico's guide.As Magnifico comes to life he becomes quite mischievous, playing tricks on Diego to embarrass him. As he discovers his bloodline, however, Diego assumes greater control over his dragon and his destiny. In the climactic journey, he frees his people and suffers a terrible loss by guiding Magnifico to their goal.

Fury of the Storm Wizard by Shauna E. Black
About The Book:  A storm is brewing in Silver Valley, where an unusual string of mining accidents has locals whispering of dark magic. When the marshal sent to investigate goes missing, his young assistant Boone turns to Jesse and Eliza for help. But Jesse is a new mage with raw magic, and Eliza is hiding a secret. The three must learn to trust each other before the valley is destroyed and they are ripped away from everything they hold dear.

What's your favorite book about dragons?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Who Says Listening To An Audio Book is Cheating?

Scenario 1: It's the morning of an important day, the schedule is going to be tight and everyone in the family is going to need to do their part. You carefully explained to your tween daughter that today, she would need to remember to do her homework right when she got home. Then it would be her job to clean out the dishwasher and pick up her room. Simple enough, right? Later that night you arrive home and none of the things have been completed.

Scenario 2: You remind your tween son that he needs to remember to pack his books and his lunch in his backpack. After everyone has gone out the door, you see that his lunch and books on the table weren't packed and left behind. 

What's the problem? While there could be numerous reasons, one of the main ones is a lack of listening skills. Remember Charlie Brown? Whenever he heard an adult talk all he would hear is Waaa,Wa,Wa,Wa Waaa. Ever feel like that? I have and it can be very frustrating. 

We have become a visual society and our listening skills are taking a back seat, especially in our children. Add to that the fog that descends around the time tween hormones begin to bounce out of control. How important are listening skills? Let's just say that relationships, jobs and pretty much anything that an adult is going to participate in will require good listening skills. I don't know about you, but I know plenty of adults who lack listening skills.

What can we do? Like any other skill it takes practice and listening to audiobooks is a great way to improve listening skills! 

Gram's Audiobook Pick of the Week: Flora and Ulysses by Kate Dicamillo

"Listeners will need to hold on to their headphones as author DiCamillo and narrator Tara Sands treat them to a madcap adventure that bounces between quirky human characters and a squirrel with superhero dreams who also writes poetry. Sands's narration is lively and fast paced. She takes on variety of personalities with gusto: among them, the determined Flora and her flappable mother, dramatic Tootie and her unexpected friend William Spiver, and the dreamy-voiced squirrel, Ulysses. AudioFile, Earphones Award Winner, Winner of ALSC's 2014 Notable Children's Recordings" — Website

Click HERE for a sample.
About The Book: Holy unanticipated occurrences! A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in a genre-breaking new novel by master storyteller Kate DiCamillo. It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry—and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart. From #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format—a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K.G. Campbell.

About The Narrator: Tara Sands
Simply Audio Books- other books narrated by Tara.

Who: Tara Sands (also known as Tara Jayne or Tara Jane) is an American voice actor and actress. She is probably best known as the voice of Anna Kyoyama in Shaman King, Mokuba Kaiba in the English adaptation of the second series Yu-Gi-Oh! anime (known as Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters in Japan, up until episode 183, or the start of Season 5) as well as Chase on Fighting Foodons. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in New Jersey, Sands studied theatre at Hofstra University, and has had a steady stream of voice acting work since high school. Much of her work is in anime dubbing, with multiple roles in such franchises as Slayers and Pok√©mon. —Celebs Bio

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spotlight: The Ruby Pendant by Dorine

About The Book: Welcome to New Orleans- home of Mardi Gras, jazz music and voodoo. Eighth grader Melanie Belaforte is home for Spring break and itching for excitement. Late one night she discovers a hidden chamber and a secret journal in her deceased Aunt Florence’s bedroom.
The diary contains the writings of a mad woman, along with vague clues to the whereabouts of a ruby necklace that once belonged to Cleopatra. The ruby bestows upon the wearer the power to hear other people’s thoughts- even the thoughts of the dead!
And so the hunt begins. Melanie, her best friend Sybil, and a haunting specter unravel clues that take them from crumbling graveyards, to the busy streets of the French Quarter, and then into murky swamps, all to find the prize. But they need to watch out, because a murderous cult is matching them step for step, and they won’t give up, ever.

What Others Are Saying: "Rich with atmosphere, and full of delightful shivers, The Ruby Pendant pulled me right in. Part mystery, part ghost story, it is completely enjoyable."      - BRADEN BELL, author of the Middle School Magic series

“The Ruby Pendant is a non-stop thrill ride through the heart of New Orleans and beyond. A great read for adventurers of all ages.”
- JENNIFER SHAW WOLF, author of Breaking Beautiful and Dead Girls Don’t Lie
“Secret rooms! A missing necklace! Ghosts! The Ruby Pendant is a thrill-ride through New Orleans, a creative blend of suspense, mystery, and historical tidbits sure to tantalize readers of all ages. A worthy sequel.”   - LAURISA REYES, Editor-in-Chief of Middle Shelf Magazine
About The Author:

Who: My name is Dorine White. I am a children's author and a book reviewer. I grew up back East in Maryland and attended BYU in Utah. I have a BA in Humanities with an interest in Art History and French. Currently I live in the beautiful, yet rainy Northwest with my husband and 6 children.

My first book in The Cleopatra's Legacy series, The Emerald Ring, was published on May 14, 2013. It is a middle grade fantasy novel that involves Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra, and a magic emerald ring. The Ruby Pendant (Cleopatra's Legacy 2) is due out March 2014 and takes place in the vibrant New Orleans.
See my interview with Dorine here.
If you haven't had a chance to check out any of her books here's the first in the Cleopatra's Legacy books.

About The Book: Ordinary tween life turns upside down when Ancient Egypt intrudes on modern middle school life. Twelve year old Sara Guadalupe Bogus reads about adventures, but unexpectedly is drawn into one when a mystical emerald ring that once belonged to Cleopatra becomes stuck on her finger.A series of burglaries spook Sara’s small Ohio hometown. Concluding that the root of all the crimes is the emerald ring, Sara realizes it’s up to her and her friends, Heidi and African exchange student Kainu, to save the town and protect Cleopatra’s legacy. Filled with magic, the ring thrusts Sara into a world filled with nightmares, allows her to shape shift into an Egyptian cat and battle assassins. —Goodreads

Monday, March 24, 2014

Meet May The K-9 Spy: A Perfect Read For Canine Lovers!

About The Book: Sometimes I start with a well-thought out plan, and sometimes, me being me, things just happen. In my imagination I'm on my way, heading anywhere. Because anywhere's better than here.
Which is why I'm staring at this latch. I'm going to escape today. I've been watching closely to see how they work it, though no one's noticed.
Humans... So unaware...  —Goodreads

What Others Are Saying: "This scrappy-but-sweet Schnauzer shows readers that dogs, too, get hurt, have fears, and want a place to belong. By persevering, remaining hopeful in dismal times, and keeping your nose to the wind for adventure, kids and dogs alike find a wonderful plan and hope for their lives. Engaging, energetic, endearing and highly recommended for kids of all ages." ~ Sandra Byrd, best-selling author of London Confidential and other books for teens and tweens.

Bloggers Weigh In:
The Seekers
Best Reads
The Borrowed Word

What I Thought: This canine spy is daring, funny and smart. Once I started May's adventure, I realized I had to read the rest of the books in the series. May's attitude is what characterizes her adventures and you can't help but fall in love with her. This is one book that Madison, the main character in my novels would highly recommend. 

About The Author: K.C. Frantzen

Who: "Mom has spoken “critter” since she was a little girl. Her Dad is a veterinarian in Houston, TX. (We have a lot of veterinarians in our extended family.) Mom started watching surgery when she was three years old and by the time she was a teen, she helped at the clinic during summers: cleaning cages & mopping floors, bathing critters, bookkeeping, running laboratory tests, helping clients. But her favorite thing was talking to my fellow four footers (mostly dogs and cats in Granddad’s animal hospital). That’s where she became fluent in speaking “critter”!

One of her favorite memories was when her Dad would come home with a patient who needed watching during the night. (They didn’t have emergency clinics for us back then. A veterinarian would have to go to the clinic to see about his patients, unless he brought them home.) He’d put the pet carrier on the dryer and Mom would get up on her tippy toes to peer in and see who was in there and to make them feel welcome and comfort them as best she could. You’ll have to get her to tell you about the ocelot!" —May the K-9 Spy

"Until April 14th you can win a mini-May on my Facebook Page! Don't miss out!" 
May The K-9 Spy

You can find all the details by going to May and K.C.'s Facebook Page

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