Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review: Dragon's Green by Scarlett Thomas



DRAGON'S GREEN
Worldquake Sequence, Book 1
by Scarlett Thomas
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Middle Grade Fantasy
ages 8+
384 pages

COMING. . .
MAY 30th, 2017!!!


The Neverending Story meets Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy in this first magical adventure in a new series from acclaimed novelist Scarlett Thomas.

Effie Truelove believes in magic, as does her grandfather Griffin (although he refuses to do any magic, let alone teach Effie how to use it). After a mysterious incident leaves Griffin close to death, Effie is given an unusual silver ring and told she must look after her grandfather’s library of rare and powerful books. But then the books fall into the hands of shady scholar Leonard Levar, and Effie is propelled into the most dangerous adventure of her life.

Now, Effie and her friends—nerdy Maximilian, rugby-mad Wolf, helpful Lexy, and eccentric Raven—must discover their true powers if they are to get the books back. And Effie alone will have to travel to the Otherworld, where she will uncover the true meaning of the strange old book called Dragon’s Green

Acclaimed novelist Scarlett Thomas invites you into the wondrous realm of the Worldquake Sequence, where magic most decidedly exists, a growing evil lurks, and a group of children is destined to save the world.




 MY TIDBITS

With the whimsical magic of Harry Potter and an other-feel of The Neverending Story, this is the beginning of an amazing, unforgettable journey.

The world has changed since the great Worldquake, one that has split the real world from the magical one. Not that most people in the real world will admit that a magical one even exists and many simply don't know it. Effie's grandfather seems to be magical, but she can't be sure since her father has forbidden him from ever speaking about or teaching her magic. When Effie's grandfather dies and leaves her several boons as well as an impressive library, her magical journey begins. Her first quest is to save her newly inherited and mysteriously magical library from evil hands.

This was one of the better middle grade fantasy novels I've read in a while. The world is so rich and alluring that it's impossible not dream that it might really be true. Packed full of wondrous, childlike fantasy, everything from princesses to dragons to hot buns and portals makes an appearance. The feeling of awe seeps in around every bend. Still, there's enough touch of the familiar to keep it all in place. The starting world is much like our own, only that the internet has disappeared, leaving people to run around with pagers.

Adventure is key as Effie heads out to discover not only a magical world she knows nothing about, but also the secret about her grandfather. The steady paced action holds many unexpected twists and is sprinkled with excitingly dangerous situations which take more than luck and muscle to work through. Thanks to Effie's fairly quick wit, a group of new found friends, and unexpected extended family along the way, the complex world unfolds bit by bit. Told in third person, the narration offers quirky little tidbits here and there, and sprinkles in the right amount of humor when needed.

An careful balance is held between the adventure and the unfolding of the complex world. It's clear that Effie's first quest (in this book) is only the beginning of a much bigger one. This curbs the action a bit, allowing the characters to develop and the rules of the magical world to start to lay a solid foundation.  The layers are deep, and many questions still need to be answered. But this is the great beginning to what promises to be an unforgettable magical journey in the rest of the series.


And here she is. . .

Scarlett Thomas was born in London. She is the author of nine books for adults, including The Seed Collectors, PopCo, The End of Mr. Y, which was longlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007, and Our Tragic Universe. Dragon's Green is her first novel for young readers. She teaches creative writing at the University of Kent.

You can find more about her at http://www.scarlettthomas.co.uk




Happy Book Bday, About Last Summer by Patricia B. Tighe with Giveaway!



About Last Summer

by Patricia B. Tighe
Swoon Romance
 YA Romance
342 pages




Pretend to be from Spain? Act like she can barely speak English? Sure, why not? It wouldn’t be the first time Gabby Vega had agreed to a challenge from her best friend, Kenzie. Besides, it’s only for a week of vacation with Kenzie’s cousins. Gabby will prove to Kenzie she can keep up the fake identity for the whole trip—that she’s not a quitter.
There’s just one major surprise. Noah Jernigan is also staying with Kenzie’s cousins. Noah, the boy she fell in love with at drama camp last summer and the boy she had to dump when it was over. The boy who knows who she really is.
Noah can’t believe it when Gabby appears at the Bryson’s vacation home in the New Mexico mountains. He hasn’t seen her in a year. It practically took that long just to get over her. And now she’s Gabriela from Spain? All he wants is to get as far away as he can. Or maybe the exact opposite. Stick as close to her as possible and find out what the heck happened last summer. And definitely get some payback.
Now Gabby has to keep Noah at arm’s length as she pretends to be Gabriela. She doesn’t want to answer his questions or rehash last summer. Because one thing is clear—the more time she spends with Noah, the more she’s in danger of falling for him all over again.

Buy on Amazon/Add on Goodreads


And here she is. . .

The mother of two grown sons, Patricia B. Tighe lives in West Texas with her husband and dog. She eats way too much pizza, drinks way too much coffee, and watches way too much NFL football. On the bright side, she also reads and writes teen fiction. She promises to include as much romance, angst, and adventure as possible in her books.

Website: www.patriciabtighe.com
Swoon Romance on Twitter: @SwoonRomance
Swoon Romance on Facebook
 

GIVEAWAY!!!

Win an eBook copy of ABOUT LAST SUMMER a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: Grandpa Hugs by Laura Neutzling


GRANDPA HUGS
by Laura Neutzling
Illustrated by Cee Biscoe
Published by Thomas Nelson
Board/Picture Book
ages 3+
20 pages




Grandmas are for kisses, and grandpas are for great big hugs! Grandpas are fun! They go on adventures, tell silly jokes, say funny things, and love to eat treats. This adorable board book celebrates how wonderful spending time with Grandpa can be!
Little ones and grandpas alike will love Grandpa Hugs, the charming, rhyming storybook about how special a grandpa can be to a child. This companion to the acclaimed Grandma Kisses celebrates grandfathers and all the love and fun they bring to the special grandkids in their lives.
Whether it is a gift from a grandfather to his grandchild, a grandchild to her grandpa, or as a sweet, creative birth announcement for a first-time grandpa, Grandpa Hugs is bound to warm the hearts of everyone who reads it.


 MY TIDBITS


This is a gentle journey, which celebrates grandpas and all the wonderful ways they nurture and influence a grandchild's life.

Grandpas do so many things: play, eat ice cream, offer support and even pray. Through rhyme, many of these touching moments are brought to light and reflected upon.

Sturdy and ready for small hands, this board book will hold up to many hours of gazing and reading. Four line rhymes accompany every full page spread with a cheerful and bright description of the different things a child can experience with their grandpa. Some flow smoother than others. Every now and then, a small phrase follows in whimsical, colorful text which repeats the event in a type of sing-songy play.

The illustrations are bright yet gentle, bringing across the desired loving emotions. The watercolors add an airiness which is great for the youngest listeners, while still holding enough details to draw slightly older kids in time and again. Various animals are used to depict the grandparent-grandchild relationship, and this is cleverly enough done that the grandchildren could be of either gender (which makes it easy for the youngest to relate to and imagine themselves in the situations). The words and illustrations harmonize, allowing the pictures to bring the scenes to life. This is a perfect read for those children who share a special relationship with the grandfathers.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sneak Peek: Rising by Sonya Weiss with Giveaway





RISING
by Sonya Weiss
YA Science Fiction Supernatural Romance
May 9th, 2017
When sparks fly between a human and a Supernatural, the entire planet could be at stake.
It’s been ten years since the Great Extinction, when Supernaturals threatened to destroy humanity. Now, in the sleepy town of Wayside, Nevada, seventeen-year-old Cassie Grant’s life couldn’t be more ordinary. Determined to get into an Ivy League college, her focus is squarely on her studies. But suddenly everything changes when she witnesses Jason Taylor, a cute and quiet loner, mysteriously save a young boy from falling to his death.
Although the Supernaturals ultimately retreated to their planet, three families were left behind—including Jason’s. So far, they’ve been successfully hiding in plain sight. But Jason knows that if Cassie exposes him, all their lives will be in peril—especially since Cassie’s father is the head of the Alien Eradication and Defense Department. At first, befriending Cassie is Jason’s survival tactic. But as they spend more time together, they begin to fall in love. With the authorities closing in and a hidden threat that could tear the very Earth apart, can Cassie and Jason keep each other safe—or will their star-crossed romance start another war?...





Sonya Weiss is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and author, including the Stealing the Heart series with Entangled Publishing. She's addicted to great books, good movies, and Italian chocolates. She's passionate about causes that support abused animals and children. Her parents always supported her bringing stray animals home, although the Great Dane rescue was a surprise.




EXCERPT

CASSIE
I wiped off the mess I’d made of my makeup for the second time, and stared at the pallor of my skin in the mirror. The scar high on my cheekbone wasn’t as bad as the ones on my back, but it was a visible reminder of the attack that gave me nightmares. Each time I’d jerk myself out of sleep, I’d fallen right back into the disturbing images again. No high IQ needed to guess why. At dinner Dad had talked in detail about the destructive nature of aliens. As if I needed to be told.
His stories and warnings alone weren’t the reason I didn’t like aliens. I knew firsthand that they killed, that they left humans scarred. I didn’t blame my father for my injuries, but my mother did. I pushed away the memory of what happened during that awful camping trip in New Mexico. That night had forever changed all of us and made me look at aliens differently.
Aliens were mysterious, powerful beings who were hunted by the government but more often than not, we humans were the prey. While there were a lot of pro-alien groups around that spouted on websites and to anyone who’d listen that we had nothing to fear from these “visiting creatures,” the scars on my body were living proof that was a lie.
A strange premonition swept over me and I shivered, then tried again to reapply my makeup fast so I wouldn’t be late for school. One more year, and then I was through.
I couldn’t wait to get out of Wayside, Nevada, far away from my father, and his job as lead agent at the Alien Eradication and Defense Department. I didn’t want to live with the reminder of aliens at every conversation. I needed a clean slate, a place where I could build good memories. I wished we could go back to our lives before the Great Extinction.
That war between the humans and aliens sucked the laughter out of our family like a tornado had spun through. Aliens had killed my uncle during one of the battles. My father hadn’t been the same since his brother’s death but he’d tried hard to keep himself together. But then after me nearly dying during that camping trip because of an alien attack, my father had unraveled in ways that baffled and sometimes even scared me.
I finished applying my makeup, checked my arms and back in the mirror to make sure my scars were hidden, and gave my face one final glance. Good enough. Grabbing my backpack, I made my way down the stairs to the living room where Mom lay curled on the sofa beneath a blanket. She had the same shoulder-length black hair and brown eyes I did, but where she was cover-model confident, not even photoshopping could erase my self-consciousness. I was a little on the nerdy side so I’d never been that confident, but after I was scarred, it had only gotten worse. I didn’t wear sleeveless shirts anymore and I wouldn’t dream of ever wearing a bikini again.
With a frustrated sigh, Mom sat up and muted the television, silencing the anchor mid-report on the frequent earthquakes striking our area. I stood behind the sofa and lip-read the closed captioning for a few seconds.
“Anything new, or are they rehashing yesterday’s news?”
“Not much new other than the United States Geological Survey is monitoring the area. Nevada is the twenty-first state hit with a wave of them.”
“That’s a lot of earthquakes.”
“There’s nothing to worry about, Cassie. If there were, the USGS would inform the right people who would then inform the public.”
I didn’t believe that. Because of Dad’s job, I had insight into how the government hid things. The rash of unexplained earthquakes made me edgy. “Where’s Dad?”
To my surprise her lips tightened, and I wondered if there was trouble again in Alienville. “He slept at the office last night.”
“Chasing little green men wore him out?” I pushed my hands through my out of control hair to corral it into a ponytail.
She tried to hide it, but a ghost of a smile flitted across her lips, and for a second we were unified in the knowledge Dad was acting weirder than usual. “You know your father.”
My stomach dropped. They’d been fighting more lately and the fights were getting uglier. “Did he sleep at the office because of his work or…”
“You should eat. I’ll make you something.” She got up and went into the kitchen. Mom was a great cook, but she never took the time anymore because she always had to leave the house before I did. I didn’t know what she was still doing home.
After taking the milk out of the refrigerator, she poured a glass, and then reached for the box of pancake mix. When she pulled the eggs out and set them on the counter, I said, “Mom? What’s going on?” Different what-ifs flitted through my mind while I waited for her to answer. Dad was having an affair. Mom was sick. Or Dad’s grouchy, could-never-be pleased mother was coming to visit. That last one made me feel sick. “Is Grandma coming for a visit?”
She glanced over her shoulder, shook her head, and laughed as we shared a look of mutual thank-God relief. “Speaking of aliens,” she muttered.
I laughed again. “Seriously, Mom. What is it?” I covered her hand with mine to get her to stop trying to make breakfast.
She hesitated, as if trying to decide how to answer. “Your dad thinks there’s a connection between aliens and these earthquakes.”
I rolled my eyes. Their power wasn’t something to be underestimated, but I wasn’t stupid enough to think they could control the Earth. “He thinks there’s a connection between global warming and aliens, power
outages and aliens, rising taxes and aliens. When doesn’t he think things are related to aliens?”
She shook her head as if trying to shake off the sudden heaviness blanketing both of us. “You don’t want breakfast?”
I moved to the pantry and scored the last chocolate chip granola bar from the box. “I don’t have time. The class hike is today. I have to rush, or I’ll be late.”
“You’re wearing that?”
I glanced down at my jeans with the myriad of artful cuts. “These are retro. Everyone’s wearing them.”
“I meant the T-shirt.”
I put a hand over the image of ET. I’d unearthed the shirt at the secondhand store. “It’s a joke.”
“Make sure you change before your father sees it. No use throwing gas on the fire.”
Dad was exactly the reason I’d bought the shirt, and I didn’t care if he saw it. Yes, I was afraid of aliens, but I was tired of my fear holding me hostage and I was trying to find my way back to the me I’d once been. There were so many things I didn’t do anymore since that camping trip because I was too afraid.
“Cassie?” Mom said.
“Fine, I’ll change before he sees it.”
“Are you riding in with Mark?” She sounded hopeful, not yet knowing my status as the alien hunter’s daughter wiped out my dating life once again.
  “Um…no. Gotta run.”




Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!






Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Tick Tock Man by R.M. Clark


THE TICK TOCK MAN
by R.M Clark
Month9Books LLC
Upper Middle Grade
Fantasy
237 pages





When the clocks in town stop, thirteen-year-old CJ discovers an unusual "clock world" where most of the citizens are clock parts, tasked with keeping the big clocks running. But soon the seemingly peaceful world is divided between warring factions with CJ instructed to find the only person who can help: the elusive Tick Tock Man. 
With the aid of Fuzee, a partly-human girl, he battles gear-headed extremists and razor-sharp pendulums in order to restore order before this world of chimes, springs, and clock people dissolves into a massive time warp, taking CJ's quiet New England town with it.



MY TIDBITS

It's Thanksgiving for CJ and his clock-loving family, but when he's the only one who notices that the clocks are all stuck on two, the adventure begins.

The author has created a fantastic world where clocks are so much more than they seem. It's an intriguing world and surprisingly easy to envision and learn about in the process. Although the beginning of the tale starts at a slower pace and allows the reader to sink in first, these first details fall into place around a steady  adventure the rest of the way through. The world is vivid and grows without slowing down the plot. There's so much for CJ to discover and all the things which seem unfamiliar at first, grow until they are hard to let go.

CJ is a thirteen-year-old boy who has some things to learn, but this 'growing up' message slides nicely into the adventure. It's no problem to feel for him, especially when faced up with his not understanding relatives. Fuzee, a part human girl, helps CJ mold into the world. But it's actually her who brings the tale to life. She's strong and adds so much zest to the story, making her a real treat. This mixture makes a great book girls and boys are sure to fall in love with. And this is a tale to enjoy. Before one knows it, the story captures and doesn't let go until the very last page.



And here he is. . . 

R. M. Clark is a children's book writer who lives in a small New England town with his wife, two sons, one dog and one cat. He is currently at work on his latest middle grade project. Clark is represented by Mel Stinnett of the Starlight Literary Agency. 






Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: The Case of the Stinky Stench by Josh Funk


THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH
by Josh Funk
Illustrated by Brendan Kearney
Sterlings Children's Books
Picture Book
ages 3+
40 pages




"Uncle,” Crossaint said, “the fridge is in trouble! 

A mystery stench turned a whole shelf to rubble! 
I’m the last hope or the fridge will be lost! 
Help me or else we’ll be cooked, served, and sauced.” 
 
There’s a stinky stench in the fridge—and our favorite foodie friends must solve a smelly mystery! Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, begs him and Lady Pancake for help in finding the source of the foul odor. Could it be the devious Baron Von Waffle? A fetid fish lurking in the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake? Featuring the same delectable wordplay and delicious art that won critical raves for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast—there’s even an actual red herring—his fun follow-up is an absolutely tasty treat for kids!



MY TIDBITS

With a fantastically delicious dive into the world hidden in the depths of a fridge, Inspector Croissant teams up with Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast to embark on a delightful, somewhat quirky but always mysterious adventure.

Something stinks, and Inspector Croissant is determined to figure out what it is. With the help of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, he heads across Marshmallow Coast and over Mount Everbean to seek out the potential culprit and not-so-trustworthy Baron Von Waffle. And it's only the beginning of the jaunt through cuisine.

This is one packed adventure and that in only 40 pages and without intimidating amounts of text. Through silly rhymes, which flow smoother than Applesauce River, the three characters travel over a world delicious enough to make any reader's eyes sparkle and stomach tingle for glee. The wording is clever and every word sits. Even the occasional sprinkle of tougher vocabulary lands like droplets of sugar on the tongue. 

The illustrations overflow with color and fantasy, luring in and guaranteeing hours of visits to search out details and discover overlooked surprises again and again. The characters remind a bit of Sponge Bob and invite with their easy mannerisms to join in through even more dangerous places such as Corn Chowder Lake as the real culprit is sought out.

Among the mystery and whimsical travels through donuts and cheese, there's also a warm-hearted good deed to make the ending close with a guaranteed smile and promise of sweet dreams. And for little explores whose curiosity knows no bounds, there's an explores map at the end to help guide any visitors ages three and up through the wonders of this bright and scrumptious land.


And here they are. . .

Josh Funk is from MA where he spends his days writing computer language and his free time writing picture book rhymes. His first published picture book was Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (Sterling) and he is the author of Pirasaurs (Scholastic), Dear Dragon (Viking), and the upcoming Albie Newton (Sterling, 2018).Josh is a board member of The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conference. You can find Josh at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on twitter at @joshfunkbooks.



Brendan Kearney specializes in illustrating children's books. He currently lives in the UK. Visit
him at BrendanKearneyIllustration.co.uk and follow him on twitter at @BrendanDraws.






Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: Mystery at Manatee Key by Nancy Stewart



MYSTERY AT MANATEE KEY

by Nancy Stewart
Guardian Angel Publishing
Children’s Picture Book
36 pages
ages 7 to 10



Bella and Britt love to explore along the beach and at more remote places like Manatee Key as well.  It is there that they discover a manatee smuggling ring. 

The manatees have already been netted, so the girls must act fast!  But a kidnapper snatches Bella, hustling her into their hideout.  When Britt sneaks a look in the window, she discovers that the ranger is being held, too.  Now it’s up to Britt.  But what can a single girl do?

Mystery at Manatee Key is available at Amazon


MY TIDBITS

This is the fourth book in the Bella and Britt Beach Series but can be read without a problem as a stand-alone.

Bella and Britt discover a baby manatee swimming near shore all by itself. When they fetch the rangers to help search for its mother, they discover that a ranger has gone missing. Soon, the two girls are involved not only in a mystery but discover unexpected danger.

I have a soft spot for books with lesser known animals, and these manatees don't only fit that bill but are super cute as well. The illustrations are done in water colors, and although rough in some ways, this form proves to be lovely in presenting the manatees. The colorful illustrations cover each page spread and help bring the scenes to life.

This is quite the adventurous book and holds pace the entire way through. Although it's a short picture book at only thirty some pages, the plot, vocabulary and writing level is fitting for ages seven and up. A couple of less known terms could have been defined a bit better, but the dialogue and word choice comes across very natural for the age group. The read, in general, passes over quickly, making it great for more reluctant readers. The stakes are fairly high, but the author makes sure that the characters act with responsibility. The layers of the mystery are fairly thin as the plot is kept simple and quick, and may not hold the attention of true bookworms. However, especially manatee fans will enjoy the jaunt into this world and enjoy the illustrations.







EXCERPT

A dark animal circled slowly in the shallow water of Manatee Key. Walking closer, Bella whispered. “A baby manatee. And it has a patch of white near its snout.” Britt frowned. “But where’s the mother? It must be hungry. We should tell the ranger.”
“Yeah,” Bella said. “This one’s too young to be without her mom. Let’s go.”
The friends worked their way through the jungle-like brush back to their bicycles. Britt took the lead. “It’s really hot, but we gotta make time.” 
After a twenty minute ride down dusty paths leading to the main road in their coastal town, they reached the ranger station. “It’s quiet in here today,” Bella said.
 The ranger’s assistant glanced up from his reading. “Hi, girls. Can I help you?”
“We need to see the ranger and report an orphaned manatee,” Bella said.
He frowned. “She hasn’t come in today, and that’s not like her. I’ve called her phones. Nobody answered. And no one’s seen her. Have you by any chance?”
“No,” they answered at the same time.
 “Well, it’s a mystery,” he said. “I won’t call the police yet. But I’m getting worried. Now, about that manatee. Can you take me to it?”
 “Sure,” Britt said. “If you can bring us back to town. We rode our bikes here.” He nodded. “Of course.”




And here she is . . .


Nancy Stewart has been an elementary school teacher and a professor of education.  Having lived in London for ten years, she was a consultant to the University of Cambridge. She is the author of the Bella and Britt series picture books and the authorized biography of Katrina Simpkins, a young girl whose life was forever changed by Winter, the dolphin (Guardian Angel Publishing.)  Her writing of One Pelican at a Time was featured on the PBS special, GulfWatch in 2011.  Nancy’s YA-LGBT novel will be published by Interlude Press autumn of 2017.  She is a member of the Rate Your Story organization as a critique judge.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK