Monday, December 18, 2017

Return of the Vinetropes by Sherry L. Ross- Review and GIVEAWAY!


Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am reviewing a fun children's release, Return of the Vinetropes by Sherry Ross. I have my review copy to give away to one lucky follower. To enter the contest fill out the rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it click, 'read more'.

The Story-
Lucinda, a Vinetrope, is born in Sara's backyard. She holds the memories of her people, and yet no other Vinetrope's are born around her. Alone and lost, she meets Sara, and the two strike up a friendship. Vinetropes have magical properties, and soon Lucinda's presence allows animals nearby to talk and communicate, not just with each other, but with other species and humans. Quickly Lucinda makes friends with Owletta and two squirrel brothers.

Lucinda is like a fairy, but doesn't fly. Her people were on Earth many Ice Ages ago and wherever they live, their energy cleans and renews the Earth. The two squirrel brothers have heard of another Vinetrope, but far away from their current location. Owletta takes on the job of flying South and finding the other Vinetropes.

At Sara's home, Lucinda is warmly welcomed and soon Sara's entire family and close friends know about her and her quest to find her people. Working together, they hope to get Lucinda to her people and avoid discovery by the Vinetropes enemies, the fungus grown Chargons and the Vinkali.

My Thoughts-
This is a fantastical story full of original ideas and an entire new species of characters. I love the idea of Vinetropes that the author has created. They are plants, not animals, yet they appear human, though 12 inches tall. Because they are plants, they are able to produce clean energy and also heal the world with their Vinetrope waters. Lucinda is special. She is a Glower and because of her plant make-up, she is able to hold the memory of her people stored in all the different parts of her body, like a computer.

Vinetropes are born fully grown and clothed, but as we find out when Lucinda has a baby grow from a bulb on her head, during special circumstances they can be born as babies. Their presence also has an affect on animals around them, gifting them with speech and reading abilities.

I found this whole concept unique and original. The story is fun and you really get into Lucinda and her quest to find others of her kind. Before I forget, there are also amazing illustrations throughout which I found a nice addition.

I do have a couple critiques. The first is that this is a really long book for middle graders, over 450 pages. I would have loved to see it broken into several books, however, this is book one is a series, so I have no idea how many books that would have made the entire series. Still, young readers might have a hard time if they don't break up their reading.

Next, there are several Point of View switches. Entire chapters told suddenly from Owletta's perspective, or mid chapter changes flashing into the minds of one of Sara's friends or family. Also, I had a hard time with size and spacial relationships. Vinetropes are only 12 inches tall, and yet Sara, a 12 year old girl, is able to fit inside Lucinda's home in a rock wall comfortably. Just how big and wide is this wall? How is Sara able to sit on Lucinda's bed and how big must the final village of Vinetropes be for Sara to be able to walk within their underground town? Also, some of the dialogue just doesn't fit the characters.

I have to give the author kudos for her original take on fairies and the up and coming bad guys she has created. We get a peek at the Chargons and Vinkali in the last chapter and their coming means trouble. Also, I see the clean energy that the Vinetropes' possess leading to great things. Kids looking for something new and creative will enjoy this book. I am giving it 3.5 stars!

The Giveaway-


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 15, 2017

Academy of Assassins by Stacey Brutger

*Current Giveaway*

Welcome to YA Friday! Today I am checking out a book I found on Amazon Kindle- Academy of Assassins, book 1 by Stacey Brutger.

The Book- (blurb)
ONLY ONE THING STANDS BETWEEN HUMANS AND THE DEADLY SUPERNATURAL WORLD…THE ACADEMY OF ASSASSINS.

Abandoned as a child and unable to remember her past, Morgan was raised as a hunter, one of an elite group of fighters sworn to protect humans from the dangerous paranormal creatures who invade our world…creatures such as herself. Her life changes the day she’s summoned to the Academy of Assassins, a school that trains witches and hunters to eradicate paranormals who prey on humans. Her first assignment—find and eliminate the killer who is using the Academy as their own personal hunting ground.

As Morgan delves deeper into the investigation, she will need to dodge assassination attempts, avoid the distraction of romantic entanglements with the devilishly handsome security expert, Kincade, and his maddeningly overprotective teammates, while keeping the volatile magic in her blood concealed from those who would use it for their own purposes. When the danger increases and the school is threatened, Morgan must unearth her missing memories before someone finishes the job they started so long ago—killing her and unleashing a plague that will consume the world.

My thoughts-
I really enjoyed the book and all the supernatural high jinks. Morgan is a cool character who kicks butt and takes no prisoners. Then there are the handsome guys at the academy who she seems to get involved with, and so I recommend this book for older teens. Morgan herself has no memories of herself as a child and seems to hold some sort of amazing powers that are being kept in check by a necklace. She's been raised by a hateful coven of witches and has trained to be a hunter. She's darn good too. When she gets sent to the academy we get to see just how good.

The guys in the story are all hot and drool worthy. They are from different supernatural lines and are the elite hunters of the school. All of the guys have back stories and you get to know each one of them. There is also a hell hound that is Morgan's guardian and super cool.

 Truly, I just enjoyed the story. I can't say it is perfect, but I had so much fun reading it, learning about this world, and getting behind Morgan, that I'm going to give it 4 stars!

There is a GIVEAWAY going on at GOODREADS, but only for the next THREE DAYS! So enter now- https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/265477-academy-of-assassins


Monday, December 11, 2017

MMGM- Wormwood Mire by Judith Rossell


Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am reviewing Wormwood Mire by Judith Rossell. It is the sequel to Withering-by-the Sea. To  check out all the other stops that do Middle Grade Monday check out our new hub at Always in the Middle... by Greg Pattridge.

The Story-
Stella Montgomery lives with her three aunts in the Hotel Majestic. They are raising her to be a proper young lady, not someone who wishes for and participates in adventures.  When a letter arrives from their cousin Frederick in which he tells them that he is sending his own children to the family estate, Wormwood Mire, and would love for Stella to attend with her cousins, they bundle her off with a suitcase and a book, A Garden of Lilies: Improving Tales for young Minds.

Stella is thrilled to get away, not just to leave the Aunts, but because she has hidden in her possession a picture of her mother at Wormwood Mire pushing a perambulator with two twin babies in it. Could it be Stella? and does she have a twin?

Living at the Mire are her cousins, Strideforth and Hortenese, and their Governess. The place is a wreck, not lived in for many years. The land is overgrown with strange plants and animals, for it seems their great-great-great grandfather, Wilbur Montgomery, was an adventurer and collector of oddities.

Dark things are a foot around Wormwood Mire. Strange events have occurred and animals and people have gone missing. There are village rumors about a monster lurking in the woods. As Stella tries to gather clues about her mother and maybe twin sister, a scary creature in the lake makes its presence known.

When Jem, the grounds keeper's son, goes missing, only Stella, Strideforth and Hortenese find the clues that lead to his whereabouts and maybe a monster!

My Thoughts-
Bravo! This book is full of wonder and adventure. Middle graders are sure to love Stella and her cousins as they explore the strange Wormwood Mire and take on monsters in the forest. I had not read the first book in the series, so it was sort of a shock, when around thirty pages in, Stella suddenly mentions that she has fairy blood and can make herself disappear. Whoa! But really glad the author popped that in there because it makes the rest of the book make sense.

One thing I LOVED was the presence of A Garden of  Lilies. Throughout the story Stella mentions this horrible book that her Aunt's gave her and the terrible tales it tells with rhyming morals, such as, "Modesty should be your aim, or you will surely come to shame," or "Greedy children always tend, To meet with a disastrous end." There are tons of them, and all of them are ideas that Stella eventually goes against. They are so funny, I loved it every time they showed up.

Another fun thing about the book is the Governess. Her character is wonderful. Strideforth describes her as the only Governess in the land willing to come to the dilapidated, old Wormwood Mire. She is a true treat. She loves biology and plants and thinks it great when the children go off exploring. She creates poultices from herbs and wants to find killer plants to study.

There is one thing I need to critique and it involves a *****SPOILER***** So, fair warning. At the end of the book, Stella finally finds her twin and they discover their mother has been turned to stone and is a statue in the woods. They both don't seemed overly bothered by this fact, and Stella, who has been on a quest for her Mother the whole time, let's it roll of her shoulder's very easily. I expected some despair or major morning, but nope. Plus, then after only seeing her sister for a couple pages, her sister gets whisked away. What? Why can't they be together? The sister's guardian is fearful, but if Stella is out in the open, why can't her sister be with her?

Oh well, overall I enjoyed this book. It has a mystery, a monster and several fantastical twists. I'm giving this book 4 stars! I hope there is another book, because I really want to know who her mother was fleeing to meet in the woods when she got stopped. A fairy husband perhaps?


Friday, December 8, 2017

BY A CHARM AND A CURSE- Author Interview and Book Spotlight with Jaime Questell

Welcome to YA Friday! Today I have an exciting interview with YA author Jaime Questell about her new release, By a Charm and a Curse. She is offering one book up to a lucky reader. To enter, fill out the rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it, click 'read more'.

The Book- (blurb)
Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.



The Interview-


1. Please tell me about your book in your own words (different than the blurb)
CHARM started life as a short story and was quite possibly one of the easiest things I've ever written. In my mind, it's a warped version of Beauty and the Beast, with its curse and slow-blooming love story. Writing Emma and Ben and their crew were so fun to write. When else could I write about a foul-mouthed teen equestrian and a girl whose body has been petrified and turned into a puppet? But more than that, at its heart, CHARM is about a girl who has to learn to love herself and the boy who falls for her in the process.

2. What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or pantser?
I am such a plotter. I love a good outline, and sometimes, when I'm stuck on a scene, I'll do what I call micro-plotting, where I write something that's meatier than an outline but not quite actual prose and dialogue. Having what I need to do next laid out like that usually helps me get unstuck.

3. Did you always want to be a writer?
I was always a voracious reader, but I didn't know I wanted to write until I was in my late twenties. I wrote my first novel (which was horrible), then my second (slightly less horrible), and it stuck. I've been writing for ten years now and I can't imagine not.

4. What were your favorite books as a child?
 Pretty much anything I could get my hands on! I loved the Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High series, and the classics like Anne of Green Gables and the Little House books.

5. For fun- favorite ice cream? favorite TV show? favorite candy bar? 
For ice cream I have to go with Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy. It's heaven in a cardboard tub. And I watch waaaay too much TV! Favorite show currently on the air is How to Get Away with Murder, and my favorite show of all time is Parks & Rec. And I have to say dark chocolate KitKats are my favorite candy bar.

Thank you Jaime!

The Excerpt-

Emma-
Apologies to the people who love it here, but Claremore, Oklahoma, might actually be a circle of hell. Not one of the horrible ones, for the people who do unspeakable things to cats, but definitely one of the places where people who cheat on their taxes go to live out their monotonous afterlives. The thing that sucks is Claremore is exactly where my mom has ditched my brothers and me for a year, leaving us to live with our dad while she’s off in Guatemala, investigating this teeny tiny isolated village for a grant.
The only good thing about our abandonment is that Mom dropped us off just as Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic was ending its engagement on the outskirts of the city.
“Have you ever experienced the life-altering joygasm of the deep-fried Snickers bar?” Juliet bounds along beside me, same as she did when we were younger, her golden curls springing in time to her steps as we cross the dusty parking lot toward the carnival entrance.
It’s a struggle to keep up, her long legs and general giddiness propelling her forward far better than any jet fuel could. The carnival sits in the middle of a field next to an abandoned mall. Graffiti cartoon animals run laps around the dilapidated building. Someone had written eat me in four-foot-tall letters near one of the entrances, only to have someone add an M at the beginning later. In another color, someone else had scrawled meat is murder, to which another artiste contributed, and it’s delicious u dirty hippy. Charming.
“Jules, I can say with some certainty that never have I ever experienced a candy-induced joygasm.”
“Then I can say with some certainty that you aren’t living your best life.”
Shame that once Le Grande’s Carnival Fantastic blows town, there will pretty much be absolutely zero to do here that doesn’t involve late-night visits to Walmart or football.
We follow the gathering crowds toward the ticket booth, funneling into the entrance beneath pennants made of sun-bleached calico, the patterns mere ghosts of their old selves. We’re not even through the ticket gate and already I can smell sawdust and burned sugar. Shrieks of terror and joy stutter through the wind, mixing with the excited chatter of those waiting in line. Handpainted boards taller than I am lead up to the ticket booth, each one featuring a different performer. A knife thrower done in stark black, white, and orange. Two golden girls standing atop a spotted horse, no saddle or reins to hold them. A boy and girl, near mirror reflections of the other, hovering over a crystal ball, dark shadows creeping in
around them. The biggest belongs to a trio of tumblers who tangle their limbs together until they’re one muscled mass of human impossibility. The sign is a boast, a dare, a promise—come and see these men and be amazed.

And I want to be amazed.

The Giveaway-

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Do You Know Mighty Media Press?

Welcome to Inside the Publishing World Wednesday! Today I am looking at a publisher you might not have heard about before, Mighty Media Press, a publishing house focused on children's publishing.

Who are they?
A children's publishing house based in Minneapolis, MN. Their mission is "to deliver captivating books and media that ignite a child’s curiosity, imagination, social awareness, and sense of adventure."  They not only sell books, but also e-books, audiobooks, animation, and graphic novels.

What do they want?
"We seek out stories that leap off the page. We challenge our readers to think differently, be adventurous, build forts, find shapes in the clouds, explore new perspectives, be compassionate, and grow up to be mighty adults."

From what I can tell, they focus mostly on picture books, early readers and middle grade in both fiction and nonfiction. Their most common genres appear to be adventure, mystery, real life issues, and humor. In nonfiction they lean towards food and nutrition.

A book MUST have all four of their core mission parts-  curiosity, imagination, social awareness, and sense of adventure.

According to their website, they want authors who will work in a partnership with them to produce these amazing books for kids.

Want to submit?
You'll need to go to their submissions page and submit your email and then they will send you a link with all their submission information.

Find them on twitter at @mightypress and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mightymediapress

Monday, December 4, 2017

MMGM- The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang

Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am reviewing The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang. To  check out all the other stops that do Middle Grade Monday check out our new hub at Always in the Middle... by Greg Pattridge.
The Story-
Mia, her mom, brother Jake and her Aunt Lin have gone to China to visit their relatives. At first, Mia is not excited and upset to be away from her friends, but then she gets involved in a mystery. Her Aunt Lin tells her about a hidden treasure from 600 years ago and the map that leads to its hiding place. One night, Aunt Lin goes missing, and Mia thinks that Ying, an old friend of her aunt's is to blame. No one else believes her.

Mia decides that if she solves the riddles that lead to the hidden treasure she will be able to stop Ying and save her aunt. With help from her brother, Jake, the two of them search for the missing clues and journey around the countryside to piece together the puzzle.

Ying is on their trail and he is dangerous. Will they beat him to the treasure and save their aunt?


My Thoughts-
I love books that have riddles to solve and involve some sort of quest. This one fits the bill. I enjoyed following Mia and Jake as they solved the riddles, toured the Chinese countryside and then put together a map that lead to what might be the treasure. Throughout the book there are images of the map that the author fills in as Mia solves the clues.

I enjoyed learning about the Chinese culture and parts of their emperorial history. Mia is a great character who feels jealous that her brother no longer wants to hang out with her and is angry with her uncle for no good reason. She is a typical teenager, however, she is also someone whose head is filled with adventure and mystery, just like her globe trotting Aunt Lin. They are two peas in a pod. Which makes Mia's quest to find her aunt even more important.

Could it really happen? Who knows? But this is a great adventure book for middle graders that adds a cultural twist. 4 stars!


Friday, December 1, 2017

New Release! Brush with Love- Spotlight, Author Interview with Lisa McKendrick and GIVEAWAY!

*Other Giveaways*





Welcome to YA Friday! Today though, I have a new adult (twenty somethings) release to share with everyone, Brush with Love by Lisa McKendrick. She was awesome and gave me an interview :) Plus, there is a giveaway to win a $30 gift card. To enter fill out the rafflecopter form below. So let's begin!

The Book-

 Lana, a talented Ivy League artist, and Walt, a small-town farmer, couldn't be more different. She arrives in Bluegill, Idaho, ready to spend the summer painting, excited to study under Walt's grandpa, a brilliant but aging artist. The more she is thrown together with Walt though--and the more she spends time with him--the more she realizes her heart may be drawing up its own plans. As the weeks pass, Lana realizes she'll have to choose between following her dreams or following her heart.






The Author- 

Lisa McKendrick is the author of several books, including, most recently, Letters To My Future Husband. She received her master's degree in English from BYU, and is the mother of seven children. She enjoys traveling, yoga, garage sales, and getting feedback from her readers.

The Interview-
1. What inspired you to write this book?
The idea for this book started with learning about the life of artist Minerva Teichert.  She was an artist, well-trained and with a bright future, who fell in love with a farmer.  I liked the idea of these two very different people falling in love.

2. Tell me about the book in your own words.
Brush With Love, at its center, is about the parable of the pearl of great price, which reminds us to seek after what is important and be willing to sacrifice all we have if necessary to keep it. Lana, the main character, is a gifted artist who was abandoned by her mother as a child. Even though she is later adopted, this traumatic event makes her guarded, especially when it comes to guys.  But when Lana finds herself painting for the summer in a small Idaho town, the walls she's built inside herself begin to crumble when she meets Walt Hitchpost.  Theirs is a complicated romance involving a giant secret that Lana is forced to keep though she knows doing so will hurt Walt.  But, in the end, Lana learns to seek after pearls, what really matters, and by doing so, is able to find love.

3. How long was the process?
This book was kind of tough for me.  It took a year and a half.  I think the subdued side of Lana made it harder to crank out the pages.  She had had this traumatic experience, and so I had to treat that with care.  My favorite thing to write is humor, but this book kept pulling me toward harder things, so it was exhausting and I was glad when it finally came to a proper ending.

4. How did you go about finding a publisher?
I sent my manuscript to Cedar Fort and they got back to me, letting me know they were interested in publishing it.

5. Do you have advice for up and coming authors?
Yes, first of all, give yourself permission to be a writer.  Take the time out of your day to devote to your craft, attend writing conferences like LDStorymakers and ANWA, join a critique group, and read as much as you can.  One day, someone will come up to you and say, I loved your book, it meant so much to me!  So don't give up!  Write what's in your heart!  Budding writers can reach me at lkmckendrick@gmail.com and I'll try to answer any additional questions they might have.

6. For fun- favorite tv show? favorite ice cream? favorite children's book when you were growing up?   
My favorite TV show is Flea Market Flip.  I love to see how they can take something old and turn it into something cool.  I was a big Parks and Rec fan, and have been known to quote a little too much the character John Ralphio.  I earned my money the old fashioned way; I got run over by Lexus!  Favorite movie of late is Hunt For The Wilderpeople.  If you haven't seen it, you should!  My favorite children's book growing up was Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.  It was about Swedish triplets whose lives were filled with fresh cookies, mugs of milk, and kind neighbors.

Excerpt-

"You have to get me his number!" she declared.
"I'm not your fairy godmother," I said.
"Come on, Lana, it's not like I'm asking you to turn a pumpkin into a carriage. Wait!"she cried. "That's it!"
"That's what?"
"The kind of wedding you want."Ugh. What was the use of your best friend spilling a drink on a fairly handsome stranger if it didn't make her forget your previous conversation? I scowled, telling  words, Let's not do this, and with a glare she shouted back, Oh, we're doing this!
"Fine," I said, throwing my hands up. "What kind of wedding do I want?"
"You want to be a Disney bride! Bejeweled ball gown, Cinderella's carriage, and his and hers mouse ears for the cake topper!"
"Not even close," I said.

Giveaway-


a Rafflecopter giveaway