Monday, April 22, 2019

Rising Water: The Story of the Thai Cave Rescue by Marc Aronson- Middle Grade Book Review

I love Middle-Grade Mondays! Today I am reviewing the true story of the Thai cave rescue, Rising Water by Marc Aronson.

The Story-
On June 23, 2018 , twelve young members of the Wild Boars soccer team in Thailand, along with their assistant coach, went cave exploring. Inside the Tham Luang cave system they advanced down well worn paths heading toward adventure. Unknown to them, during the few hours they were inside, an early storm hit and flooded the entrance and several of the interior chambers. When they tried to leave, they were trapped. Stuck in a far chamber of the caves, there was no way to get through the tight spots that were now completely submerged.

No one knew they were missing until that evening, when parents began to wonder why the boys weren't back from their day trip. Soon a nation was on alert and a rescue mission began. Only, even professional Scuba divers and SEALS, could not force their way through the narrow passageways to find the team.

This is the story of the journey to rescue these boys. An International endeavour to save the team from death. It wasn't until July 2, that they were even reached, and then it was several more days until a plan to get them out could proceed. Day by Day, attempt by attempt, this real life drama unfolds.

My Thoughts-
Amazing! The author, Aronson, does an amazing job digging through information from all the rescue crews and political press releases. He produces a timeline that sheds light on who did what, when, and without bias. The story of the rescue is incredible and the real life photos and maps allow the reader to follow along and see the real people involved.

I was obsessed as I read. The rescue path seemed impossible, and as more and more rescue crews from all over the world came to the same conclusion, I was sure this book would end in tragedy. That's right. I did not know the facts in advance! This book opened it up to my mind.

As a reader I learned about the individual scuba divers and what they went through to even enter the main cave system. Next, finding where the boys were, and if they were even still alive was a whole nother task. Then, how do you get twelve boys and a coach out when there are several miles of underwater passages? This is an incredible story that is a testament to international love. It ends with the author's plea to realize that we need one another. 4 stars!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Inside The Writing Trenches and Critique Groups

Hi everyone! Today I'm looking at being Inside My Writing World. Any other writers out there think they have a nice, completed manuscript? One you've edited over and over and think is ready to send out? Only to find, nope, not the case.

That has been my situation these last two months. I really thought I was ready. My last step is to always get some critiques, and since I've joined a new online critique group, I was really looking forward to some good info. The group meets only once a month, so I wait many weeks to see what people will think.

Last month, the critiques that came back had me re working my first chapter. Some great comments had come my way about my character's goals and about bringing the fantasy aspect into the story within the first two pages, instead of on page four. I was reading the comments and thinking, how did I miss that? I reworked the beginning of the book and thought, yep, now I'm ready. Ready to query, nope, ready to send to a beta reader for more critique.

 I sent out the beginning of the book to a trusted writing professional. During the time she was looking at my work, I ran across two agents that were suddenly open to submissions, but only for a brief time. One was a three day contest to submit a query and sample and the other was an agent who suddenly posted on twitter that she would be closed to submissions at midnight THAT night. Yikes! I wanted to wait to hear back from my writer friend, but I didn't want to miss these opportunities. So, I did it. I sent in both queries. I'd had the critiques from my writing group and thought that even if not perfect, the manuscript was in a condition to garner interest from an agent.

When will I learn? Just a few days after submitting, I heard back from my friend. Her comments blew up my book and had me rethinking everything. I read through her comments and realized she had looked at things from a more editorial perspective, and wanted me to rewrite several chapters and change some POV's. My book has alternating points of views from the two main characters. Her notes set my brain on fire, and last night I spent hours remolding my work. I needed shorter chapters and some more details to further explain elements in the story. Things that I had thought obvious were not. I have many more changes to make.

The whole time I was rewriting I couldn't help kicking myself for sending those two queries. The book was so much better now and though the version the two agents have shows great potential, they are not what the opening chapters look like now. All is not lost, this is only the beginning and I'm hoping those two agents will like the hook of the story and suggest a rewrite. Plus, I have several book conferences coming up, and by then I will have things worked out and ready. Well, ready as can be. There is always tweaking and if you wait till it's absolutely perfect in your own eyes, you'll never send it out.

So, those were my writing experiences these last couple months. I hope by sharing them it will help other writers out there in the trenches.

Monday, April 15, 2019

A Good Night For Shooting Zombies by Jaco Jacobs

Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am reviewing a new release, A Good Night for Shooting Zombies by Jaco Jacobs. Don't forget to head over to MMGM central when you're finished for more great reviews and activities

The Story-

Martin lives life on a plot of land with his mom, Uncle Hendrik and sister Cindy. Martin is a numbers guy, and finds joy by working out number problems in his head. He spends the rest of his time raising the chickens his father left behind when he died in a car accident. When his neighbor's dog eats one of his prize chickens, Martin heads over to confront them with video proof. He meets Vusi, a boy his own age, whom he punches in the nose when Vusi makes a comment about his mother. Unknown to Martin, Vusi is actually a cancer patient. The punch causes an uproar, and soon Martin is back to apologize. This time, he and Vusi become friends and Martin discovers that Vusi has a secret dream to make a movie about zombies.

Together the boys concoct plans to film the movie whenever Vusi is feeling well. Soon they add another actor, Chris, a young girl who lives a few plots away and who's brother owns an old shed perfect for the movie. However, unknown to them, the shed is filled with stolen goods, and soon the bad guys show up to retrieve them. Suddenly, life turns deadly and their dreams of making a movie are brought to an abrupt halt.

My Thoughts-
Okay, first thoughts from the title was that this was going to be a book about zombies, but then I started reading it and realized it is only the type of movie Vusi wants to film. The fun thing is watching the two boys try to make a film with zombie masks, fake blood and no script. Life moves on around them as their movie progresses. Martin and Chris go to school while Vusi lives at home taking his cancer treatments. The way the author writes allows the reader to get a good feel of what their lives are like and the way they live in semi-poverty.

The one thing that makes Martin unique, his math skills, is also kind of annoying. I didn't mind that he liked numbers, but many times in the book he goes into these mathematical funks to find out if a number is a happy number. It was a bit over the top for me.

The ending of this story is so good. There is a logical conclusion that involves everyone in the story and brings things full circle. It was heartwarming and leaves a happy feeling with the reader. I think this book is worth the read and I'm giving it 4 stars!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Girl of Glass by Megan O'Russell

Welcome to YA Friday! Today I'm reviewing a YA fantasy that I picked up as a daily deal. I love when books are free. Let's check out Girl of Glass by Megan O'Russell.

The Story-
Nola lives behind a glass dome, one of several across the country. The domes protect the people from the toxic air of the land beyond. Too bad the plan never meant building domes for everyone. The people that have been left to live outside the dome live with acid rain, poisoned air and contaminated soil.

Nola grew up with a close group of friends, one that was broken up when her best friend and potential boyfriend, Keiran, was exiled with his father from the dome. She hasn't seen him in two years. During a charity trip to "help" people outside the dome, Nola runs into Keiran, who begs her for medicine to save a young child.

Now that Nola knows Keiran is alive, she risks her life to sneak out of the dome and find him. What she discovers is an underground world run by Vampers. People who have taken the Vamp virus to help their bodies survive in a toxic world. On the streets above, along with dying humans, are Lupers, people who have taken a distorted type of the virus that makes them more werewolf than human, and then of course, there are the zombies, people the virus completely messed up.

Nola gets to know the Vampers, understanding why they have chosen to risk taking a virus in order to stay alive. Keiran's father is a doctor, and he is re-engineering the Vamp virus so that it doesn't have so many side effects. Keiran was the first person he had to save, and now he is a blood drinker too, but one that kept his humanity.

A battle between the outsiders and the Domers is building, and Nola is stuck in the middle. Will Nola choose her old boyfriend Keiran or the Dome?

My Thoughts-
Great book that introduces a new way to look at vampires, werewolves and zombies. The dome concept is not new, but what the people have done to survive in the outside world is. The virus that was created changed humankind genetically, actually making blood drinking vampires and pack hunting wolves.  This is a great twist on an old tale. Keiran's dad is now changing the original virus so that it can save people, but leave them their humanity, their old selves. This is how Nola and Kerian now have a new chance. And, SPOILER, while Nola is with the Vampers she gets injured, and the doctor is forced to give her his new Vamp virus to save her. He doesn't turn her, but she heals super fast. I really hope this leads to her being somehow super human in the second book.

There is also a great love triangle that keeps things interesting. Back in the dome, one of the boys Nola has grown up with, Jeremy, is in love with her. While Keiran was thought lost, she has let a bit of relationship bud between herself and Jeremy. He is a great young man who is clearly devoted to Nola. So, when Nola gets together with Keiran again, she is pulled in two different ways, and there is no easy way to choose. Both guys are good guys. And that's what I love about it. I hate when authors make one love interest have so many flaws that it is obvious who the main character needs to be with. Here, the reader is going to go on an adventure as Nola picks.

I enjoyed the ride and loved the new Vampire history. I'm giving this one 4 stars!

Buy it now-

Monday, April 8, 2019

Author Interview with Lamar Giles -THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER

*Don't forget to enter the giveaway for the Hello There Trilogy*

Let's check out The Last Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles. Don't forget to check out MMGM central at

The Book-
Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town—and each other—before time stops for good.

The Author- 

Lamar Giles is a well-published author and a founding member of We Need Diverse Books. Lamar has two novels forthcoming in 2019: his debut middle grade fantasy THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER (Versify / HMH) and his fourth YA thriller SPIN (Scholastic).

Lamar Giles is a two-time Edgar Award finalist in the YA category, for his debut YA thriller FAKE ID (HarperCollins, 2014), and his second YA thriller, ENDANGERED (HarperCollins, 2015). His third YA thriller was OVERTURNED (Scholastic, 2017).

Find him-

The Interview-

1. Tell me about your book in your own words.
LG: THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER stars The Legendary Alston Boys of the supernaturally weird Logan County, Virginia. There’s Otto, a loving know-it-all, and Sheed, who’s sometimes cranky, but always cool. When they’re tricked into freezing time on the last day of summer by the mysterious Mr. Flux, they unleash a bunch of weird creatures they either have to align with, or battle, to save the day. It’s like the Hardy Boys crashed into THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH.

2. How do you think your book will relate to kids in today’s world?
LG: The novel is about the universal desire to make fun times last, and how that’s something that can never really happen. Every child who has felt that first day of school rushing toward them as summer ends will understand Otto’s desire, but they will also see that ‘making summer last’ is really a ‘be careful what you wish for’ scenario.

3. Is there a message you wish to convey with this book? 
LG: Enjoy the time you have, because none of us get more of it.

4. Tell me about your writing process. 
LG: Overall, I tend to imagine a general concept (“what if a pair of boys somehow froze time?”), then figure a loose conclusion that would wrap that scenario up. Once I have those two things—the beginning and end—I tend to fill in the middle on the fly. Then, the way that looks on a daily basis is I’m up by 6 AM every morning when I try to write anywhere from 4 to 6 pages daily until I have a full, rough draft.

5. What were your favorite books to read as a child or teen?
LG: Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe, any of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. In my teens there was Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz, The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson, My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due, and IT by Stephen King.

6. What advice would you give to up and coming authors?
LG: Practice finishing. This doesn’t mean that you won’t ever abandon a project, but dumping an idea should be the exception, not the rule. Practicing writing and completing projects when they start to drag will be one of your most useful skills when you’re on deadline for your publisher one day.

7. What was your path to publication like?
LG: I’d been writing since I was a kid, but got serious during my last year of college. It was easy reasoning for me—a day job sounded hard, and publishing sounded hard. I HAD to get a day job, but I should at least put some energy into the hard thing I actually WANTED to do. So I spent the years between age 22 to age 30 writing, submitting, getting mostly rejected, but improving the whole time. At 30 I’d completed a draft of a novel called WHISPERTOWN that got me an agent, and that book later sold to Harper Collins and was published as FAKE ID in 2014. I’ve been lucky enough to have published four novels and an anthology I edited since then, with a lot of upcoming work on the horizon that I’m extremely grateful for.

Buy it Now-

Monday, April 1, 2019

Hello There Trilogy by Laurie B Arnold- Book Spotlight and Giveaway!

Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am spotlighting the latest MG title in the Hello There trilogy, Hello There, I'm Coming Home by Laurie B Arnold. The publisher is giving away all 3 books in the series to one lucky winner. Please fill out the rafflecopter form to enter. Don't forget to visit MMGM central at

Hello There, We've Been Waiting For You
When Madison McGee is orphaned and forced to live with her wacky grandmother in boring old Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, she’s pretty sure nothing will ever be right again. Her grandmother is addicted to TV shopping shows. Her only neighbors are a crazy lady and a vicious junkyard mutt. And she misses her old life something fierce. Could it get any worse?

A jeans and T-shirt kind of girl, Madison refuses to be seen in the “cupcake dresses” her grandmother tries to get her to wear. Everything changes when a MegaPix 6000 TV mysteriously shows up on her doorstep. With the accidental push of a button on the remote control, Madison teleports into a dizzying world of lights, cameras, action, and peril. But with the help of a little magic, she discovers that things aren’t always what they appear to be, and that life can actually get better in a brand new way.

Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?
It’s summertime and Madison McGee’s best friends, Violet and Noah, join her in Costa Rica, where
she’s staying with Rosalie Claire. Their dreams of lazy sunny beach days come to a screeching halt when Madison’s grandmother, Florida Brown, unexpectedly shows up on their doorstep. Dangerously ill with a mysterious ailment, Florida needs help. But the magic in Rosalie Claire’s fanny pack has stopped working. Only one person knows how to revive it - Grandma Daisy. The only problem? She’s been dead for five years.

Enter the MegaPix 6000. Together, Madison and her friends have to figure out a way to turn the magic TV into a time machine so they can visit Grandma Daisy and save Florida. Once the intrepid trio hurtles into the past, a dizzying adventure unfolds, filled with heart-filled, unexpected consequences.

Hello There, I'm Coming Home
Due out April 2nd!
Madison is on a fateful trip back to Bainbridge Island, where she grew up, to spend the summer with her best friends, Noah and Violet.

It’s an emotional journey, shadowed with memories of her mother, and questions about her father’s disappearance. As she and her dog Leroy travel from New Mexico to the west coast, she opens her fanny pack and discovers a photo of a black-haired boy. Even though she’s sure he’s a stranger, she intuitively knows that he needs her help. Again, it’s the MegaPix6000 to the rescue, and the “Mighty Trio” enters a weird and frightening world of magicians, shapeshifters, and evil doers.

The biggest mystery for Madison to solve is a personal one. Her search for answers leads her to discover that sometimes life changes in unimaginable ways, and that the unexpected can finally lead her home.

The Author-

Laurie B. Arnold fell in love with middle grade fiction because she’s a sucker for a happy ending. Hello There, We’ve Been Waiting for You! – Book 1 in the Hello There middle grade trilogy – was a finalist in the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards for Juvenile Fiction and both that book and the sequel, Hello There, Do You Still Know Me?, were featured novels in New Mexico Battle of the Books. Laurie has two grown sons, and lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington, with her amazing husband and perfect fuzzy dog, but also spends time in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In addition to novels, she’s written countless interactive computer games for kids featuring beloved characters such as Putt-Putt, Madeline, and Harry Potter; a trio of picture books; and scripts for animated kids’ TV shows, including Dragon Tales.


Sunday, March 31, 2019

And the Winner is...

Congrats to Christa Bengtsson! you won the ebook Breed by Niki Cluff.