Monday, February 20, 2017

Horizon by Scott Westerfeld

Monday means Middle Grade! and today I'm reviewing Horizon by Scott Westerfeld. I picked this book up through my kid's Scholastic book club flyer, drawn to it just because of the author, Westerfeld. I've read several of his YA books and wanted to see where he'd go with middle grade.

The Story-
Our story begins with four youth on a trip to Japan to compete in a robotics tournament. Halfway through their flight, while above the Arctic, a strange force seizes the plane and rips the roof off. As blue lightning zips around, people are sucked out into nowhere and the plane then crashes into a jungle.

Only eight people survive the crash, the rest of the 400 people have mysteriously disappeared. Besides our four robotics students are two Japanese sisters, a half Japanese/half American boy with a samurai sword, and the oldest kid, Caleb.

As the kids struggle to survive, they encounter bizarre plants, animals and red vegetation. Most believe they are on a spaceship or another planet, somehow transported mid flight, but Caleb believes they are still on Earth. The one solid clue they have is a strange cylinder with codes that makes gravity change. Could it be alien technology?

My Thoughts-
A fast paced middle-grade read that will have readers ripping through the pages to figure out what the heck is going on. At first I thought it was just a typical crash survival story, but that notion soon changed when the kids discovered two moons, one red and one green, hanging in the sky. Now that got my attention.

Soon the kids are using the gravity device to hop/fly about the place and discover killer plants and scavenger birds. Their task to survive grows harder and one of them doesn't make it. Yikes! By this point I was fully vested in the story and really wanted to unravel the mystery. But, this is a series. Something I didn't realize when I picked up the book. So, the ending came and I was ready to keep going. Now I have to wait for the next book.

In regards to our characters, each is well developed and full of specific personality. I enjoyed watching as the robotic students took to everything with thought and planning, while the other kids just went big and bold. There is a great dynamic amongst them, and I enjoyed that they all fit somewhat well together and there wasn't an evil tyrant (Lord of the Flies esque).

Looks like this is going to be an action packed series for Scholastic and will eventually filter into Internet connections and reader involvement. 5 stars!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Timekeeper by Tara Sim

It's YA Friday! Shout Hooray! Today I am reviewing the YA fantasy Timekeeper by Tara Sim.

The Story-
Danny is a clock mechanic in an alternative London where time is an actual entity that can be manipulated or halted. The world is kept moving by the clock towers in each town. If one breaks, time within the town and all its residents freeze.

Three years ago Danny's father, also a clock mechanic, was frozen in a time bubble when a clock tower fell. The art of clock tower building is lost, but mechanics are still trying to build a new one in hopes of restarting time for that town. But, people are protesting and three months ago, Danny barely survived the bombing of a tower. He was left with a physical scar and anxiety attacks. Slowly getting back into the groove of things, he is sent to the small town of Enfield where the town's clock keeps having accidents.

Danny meets Colton, the spirit of the clock tower and something not supposed to exist. The more time they spend together, the closer the two grow, and though being in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, it is too late for Danny.

As more bombings begin to happen, Danny needs to find out what is going on so that he can unfreeze his father and stop the boy he loves from being destroyed if his tower is bombed.

My Thoughts-
I love original stories and this one reached out and grabbed me. The concept that clocks control time and affect the world around them is a brilliant idea. Danny can literally feel the threads of time and when he fixes clocks, he pulls on the threads and resets time for those towns. The novel starts out with a clock that loses its number 2, thus skipping straight from 1 to 3 o'clock. The townspeople lose the hour like it never existed.

 To help readers understand this alternative world, the author weaves a back story of folklore into the plot to explain how time was allowed loose. Though the folklore was interesting, I did not find that it needed separate chapters of its own. Maybe an afterlogue?

Now, onto relationships. The two that are central to the story both involve clock spirits and when compared, show the difference between love and obsession. Danny and Colton's  relationship is the one detailed in the story. It is very innocent and grows as both boys figure out their feelings. So warning ** same sex relationship** notice. The other relationship probably started out the same way, though man and woman, but it warped and grew dark.

The entire bombing theme is the mystery of the novel and the thread that ties everything together. As Danny puts together the pieces, the relationship story grows and finally explodes into a dramatic ending where only one will win.

Excellent material, interesting concept, and strong characters. I'm giving this one 5 stars!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Guest Post- How to Reach Out to Readers After You Self-Publish from Diamond Grant

Self-publishing is becoming more popular with every passing day for new and even some established authors. Why is this the case? Authors are catching onto the fact that certain agencies and publishing companies aren't pushing their work enough, which is resulting in little to no growth in their audience. It can be disheartening learning to write professionally and pouring your heart into your content, to have nobody ever read it.

It's possible to have great success by publishing your material yourself, success which you may not have received through using a well-known publisher. If you can do it yourself and keep everything in-house (and retain full creative control), why wouldn't you? All you need is the willingness to learn and channels that market your content; the self-publishing part is easy.

Reaching Out

Communicating with your existing reader base is going to be essential for you in order to boost initial sales and awareness for your newly self-published work. There are multiple channels you can use to do this, but it's important that you set them up as soon as possible to capture any existing following you have and to begin building on it.

If you're a technophobe, don’t panic. There are many services and webmasters who will be more than willing to help you out with the following ideas and platforms you can create to get in touch with your audience.

Email Marketing

Through building an email list, you can keep in contact with your readers by sending out regular emails as often as you deem necessary. That being said, common courteous practice shows that once per day should be your absolute maximum. Most authors send out their newsletter once per week at most.

You can announce your upcoming self-published work to your email list prior to it going live for sale. This is a great way to utilize the pre-order model. Then you can continue to send your list interesting content and material that will keep them engaged with you and your personal brand, increasing interest and your audience over time.

Email marketing is still the most effective means of keeping in contact with your following online, as statistics show that compared to social media it's still sitting firmly on top with internet marketers, believing it to be 60 percent better than alternate methods. This is a must-have tool in any serious author’s marketing arsenal. Since you'll be working with people's contact details, however, it's important to protect your activity from hackers by using a Virtual Private Network.


Since the creation of the first blog in 1994, they have been growing in popularity and show no sign of slowing down. Blogs are personal to the owner, and each one radiates its own unique feel and energy. You should view them as a central hub for your online branding, as you will have complete control over how they look, navigate and display your work as an author.

You can link out to all your social media channels from your blog, and build your newsletter email list from any page. Blogging is a great way to capture interest and gain a serious following, which will cling onto your every word, and consume any material you publish.

Know of any more influential methods through which an author can contact their readers? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

About the Author: 

Diamond is a keen blogger who enjoys helping writers and publishers market their authors in the most effective of manners. She also likes to keep up to date with cybersecurity and tech-related information, which helps protect authors and their content from being leaked.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel by Natasha Lowe

It's MMGM or Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday! Today I am reviewing The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel by Natasha Lowe. Don't forget to head over to MMGM central at Shannon Messenger.

The Story-
One morning Nora Ratcliff finds a baby in the flower pot on her front porch. Always having wanted a child, Nora keeps her and raises her as her own. Mabel has no idea that she was adopted and grows up wonderfully happy and creative. Well, happy until her mom hires a strict nanny.

At a very young age Mabel shows an inclination for magic, and when she is old enough she enters Ruthersfield Academy, a school for witches. Mabel tries to fit it, but as always, her creative tenancies get in the way. She just can't understand why the rules have never changed with the times. Add that to pretentious bullies whom announce Mabel's flower pot arrival, something she didn't even know about, Mabel is miserable.

Desperate to express her true self, Mabel enters a contest for progressive thinking witches. Her invention, an outdoor wind clothes dryer will put her ahead of the game, unless a bitter rival witch has her way and keeps Mabel out of the running.

My Thoughts-
This is a delightfully funny middle grade story that will leave readers wanting more wacky witchcraft. Mabel is a great heroine, a child that perseveres despite the odds because she is rooted in family love, Nora's love. She learns that she is her very own person, and sometimes the people you call family are not the one's who birthed you, but the one's who love and grow with you.

I don't normally mention cover art, but this book's cover is perfect. I love the green and gold patterns with a picture of little Mabel sitting somewhat mischievously on her broom with a scared cat on back.

Readers will cheer for Mabel as she overcomes all the brambles put in her path. They will learn bravery and compassion too. I really enjoyed this story with all its quirks- 5 stars!

Friday, February 10, 2017

My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris

Welcome to YA Friday! Today I am reviewing a "super" cool book, My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris.

The Story-
Cat Crawford is heading to Italy with her father and his very bubbly fiancĂ©e. Cat is a lover of art and has an unbridled passion for Michelangelo's David. What she doesn't love are the plans her step-mom-to-be is planning for a super sweet sixteen gala. While taking some time apart to tour Florence, Cat is drawn to the tent of a gypsy, and wonders of wonders, Cat is thrust back into the Sixteenth Century to learn a lesson that will help her in her present life.

In the past, she finds herself taking the place of a distant relative on her mom's side. As an orphan, she has been sent to live with her aunt and uncle and her two cousins, Alessandra and Cipriano. As she adjusts to the new setting, she meets super cute Lorenzo, and he steals her heart.

However, Lorenzo is just becoming a man, and to Cat's aunt and uncle, he is unsuitable for marriage. Instead, they want her to marry a much older man, Niccolo, and inherit his name and prestige. Suddenly Cat realizes that the drama of having a sweet sixteen party is nothing compared to what she would have faced if she had lived during the Renaissance and had been forced into an arranged marriage. Now, she only has to figure out how to keep Lorenzo's love and return to her own time.

My Thoughts-

Friday, February 3, 2017

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Welcome to YA Friday! Today I am reviewing Scythe by Neal Shusterman.

The Book-
Citra and Rowan live in a world without death. Sickness and old age have been cured and people are able to "turn the corner" and reset their body back to age 25. In order to keep the population in check the creation of Scythes came into being, people who can end a life without the body being revived.

Scythe Faraday chooses both Citra and Rowan to be his apprentices. As they begin to learn about the ways of killing, they are pulled into the Scythe political world of old school versus new school beliefs. Much to their dismay, Scythe Faraday is told to choose only one apprentice and then allow the chosen to kill the non chosen. Suddenly their rivalry takes on a new tone, and when Scythe Faraday is mysteriously killed, Citra and Rowan are separated and sent to tutor with two different Scythe's, one an old school follower and the other a new school believer.

They have less than a year to train before their final trial begins.

My Thoughts-

Monday, January 30, 2017

Author Interview with Eric Kahn Gale- THE WIZARD'S DOG

Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am interviewing Eric Kahn Gale, the author of The Wizard's Dog, a recent release from Random House Children's Books.

The Interview:

1. Why did you write this book?

I was raised in a dog-centric household and it really stuck. When I was bullied in school as a nine-year old, I cried to my dog about it. So I was very into dogs right from the start.
As my career as a novelist developed, I always knew a dog book was my ultimate goal, I just couldn’t find a way to get there. Where it began was a joke my wife and I had.
We were living in an apartment with our current pooch, Bowser, and he was obsessed with this door that connected our apartment to the hallway outside. I would speak as him using this little British boy voice. (Everyone talks as their dog, right?) He would speak in hushed tones about the Magic Door and the world beyond and saw me as a sort of wizard who could open the door and produce food whenever I wanted.
I just loved this silly look into a dog’s mind and wanted to play around with it. Years later, I saw the story potential of a dog who actually belonged to a wizard. Dogs see us as magical already, so how would they view fantasy-style magic?

2. Can you tell me about it in your own words?