Monday, July 16, 2018

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt #1) by John Bellairs and GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to Middle-Grade Monday! So, my review today was actually brought about because I went to see a movie and during the trailers there was a new Jack Black film, The House with a Clock in its Walls and the narrator said it was based on the best selling children's book by John Bellairs. I thought, "What? A book I haven't heard of?" So I immediately ordered it to read and it turns out it is the first in a series, yeah! I am running a giveaway for a paper copy from Amazon, shipped to you. To enter, fill out the rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it click, 'read more'. Please see terms and conditions.

The Story-
Lewis's parents have died and he has been sent to live with his eccentric uncle Jonathan. As soon as he gets to his new home, things are a bit weird. Pictures seem to move within their frames and his uncle goes about at night banging on the walls. When Lewis tries to find out what his Uncle is about, he is introduced to a new world, one of magic and of good versus evil. His Uncle is a warlock and when he bought the house years ago he noticed something strange, a clock that was ticking within the walls that he could not find.

Their next door neighbor, Mrs. Zimmermann, is also a witch, and Lewis' Uncle and her have been trying to find out the location of the clock for many years. They know that is was built by an evil warlock and fear that when it finally stops ticking, something dreadful will happen.

Lewis, now introduced to magic, starts fiddling about, and on Halloween, while trying to impress a friend, he accidentally raises the spirit of the evil warlock's wife. Alive-ish again, she is determined to get to the clock and accomplish her husband's dastardly plan. Lewis, Uncle Jonathan, and Mrs. Zimmermann are all that stand in her way!

My Thoughts-
This book drew me in from just the title alone, A House with a Clock in its Walls. What? Constant ticking, impending doom, and they can't find the clock? So cool! I am a sucker for a good fantasy. Lewis is an interesting kid. He is a bit heavy and on the plain side. He is awkward and unable to play sports, so he is always picked last. His main motivation in the book is to keep a friend, which of course, leads to raising the evil witch from the dead. I totally understood his character. He is also scared of being sent to live somewhere else, so when he does raise the dead, he doesn't tell his Uncle about it, which makes perfect sense.

The magical world that the Uncle inhabits is actually downplayed, and the reader doesn't get much of a peek into what actually can or can not be done with magic. There's a strange eclipse and a magical fight between Mrs. Zimmerman and the evil spirit, but so much more is hinted at! I'm hoping this will develop in the follow-up books.

On a technical note, I was thrown off a few times when the author suddenly switched into Uncle Jonathan's point-of-view mid chapter and then back to Lewis. Other than that, it is well written and a great story. For younger readers, there is a high score on the creep-o-meter. This is not a funny, scary book, it is a good versus evil kind of story.

I can not wait to see what Hollywood makes of this book. The potential is HUGE and the fantasy and magic part might really blossom. Overall, I'm giving the book 4.5 stars!

The Giveaway-

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Manuscript Wishclist Roundup 7/4

Here are some recent #MSWL tweets from agents and editors. PLEASE Do NOT pitch your work using #MSWL it is a sure way to get a bad rep. Check out submission pages for each agent or editor.

Nivia Evans July 2
#MSWL, a space opera with a love story as epic as #Farscape's John and Aeryn's. It's literally one of the best I've ever seen.

P.S. Literary Agency July 2
"Action-packed sci-fi with powerful characters & motivations. Bonus: A big sprawling world." @kurestinarmada #MSWL

 Jul 1
You know what'd be cool to see more of in YA Fantasy? Mythologies no one has read before, like the hundreds of Native American tribes, or the 54 countries and thousands of tribes within Africa, or Haittian or Persian or Hittite. Something that can open our eyes and minds. #MSWL

 Jul 1
I have a secret weakness for sci-fi that's monster and tech heavy...and maybe even including aliens. My love for movies like Transformers and Pacific Rim have no bounds! If you can give me something like Pacific Rim technology and piloting in a book, I'd be so happy! #MSWL

P.S. Literary Agency
 Jul 1
"Thriller (legal, medical, political, etc.), Mystery (cozy, private eye, police procedural, etc.)" @CurtisPSLA #MSWL

Kaitlyn Johnson
 Jun 29
K, back to the query box. But ya, BEGGING YOU for my LGBTQ+ #HistoricalFiction (#HF) 😉 #MSWL

Kaitlyn Johnson
 Jun 29
I'd love to see India #HF. Caste systems. Occupation. Everyday life MG and YA dealt with (and maybe STILL deal with!). Also, #HF Australia, too, (though I'm looking for something lighter there rather than, say, the movie Australia). I'd love aboriginal #ownvoices #HF. #MSWL

Sarah McCabe
 Jun 26
I really would like dark and wicked fairy books to come back. #MSWL

Beth Campbell
 Jun 25
I was telling my roommate that I hope to get an influx of #ownvoices & #LGBTQ+ queries in my inbox after coming out on twitter the other day.

Julianna Haubner
 Jun 26
oh well look at that it's time for my periodic and unprompted scream into the twitterverse that what i really want more than anything is some GREAT HISTORICAL FICTION STARRING REAL WOMEN WHO MIGHT NOT BE AS WIDELY-REMEMBERED AS THEY SHOULD! #MSWL

Naomi Davis June 7
#MSWL high stakes, character driven fantasy w/intricately realized worlds, unique fantasy/magical systems&new creatures. Fun, original political systems, visually dynamic settings, characters with emotions that rip me from my life and plunge me into the pages.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Power Forward (Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream #1) by Hena Khan

*Enter to win a SIGNED copy of  the YA thriller- Surface Tension by Mike Mullin!*

Middle-Grade Monday! Today I have a great middle-grade read that focuses on family and basketball. It is Power Forward (Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream #1), by Hena Khan. It is a part of the Simon & Schuster children's imprint, Salaam Reads. An imprint that aims to introduce readers to a wide variety of Muslim children and families and offer Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in the media.

The Story-
Fourth grader Zayd Saleem wants to make the gold basketball team and play with his best friend Adam. His mother and father want him to keep playing the violin in the youth orchestra. He wants to be a star, a legend, the first Pakistani-American kid in the NBA. To achieve his goal, he begins skipping early morning violin practice and starts hitting the courts to practice.

When his mom finds out, watch out! He is not only grounded from playing basketball, but from watching it on TV or even speaking about it. Instead he has to double down on his violin. His grounding last through the try-outs, so he needs to somehow show his parents that his quest to play basketball is worthwhile, and gather the courage to stand up for his dreams.

My Thoughts-
This is a great, easy read for middle graders. It is the first part in a series of books about Zayd and his quest to become a famous basketball player. He lives a typical life, full of family and school. The reader gets a peek at the closeness of his Muslim family and how they love and work together.

I enjoyed reading the story and watching Zayd struggle with the typical problem of achieving  his dreams versus his parents ideas. Kids will relate to his struggles, his friendships and social problems. This book will be of interest to anyone who wants to learn about another culture, who loves basketball, or who is eight years old or older. 4 stars!

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Memory of Forgotten Things by Kat Zhang

I have a fantastic middle-grade read up for review today, The Memory of Forgotten Things by Kat Zhang. This is a good one folks, so sit back and enjoy. Don't forget to head over to MMGM central to see what other great middle-grade is out there-

The Story-
Sophia's mother died when she was six, but that's not what some of her memories tell her. Instead, Sophia has sudden memories that involve her mom baking a birthday cake when she turned ten, or encouraging Sophia to sing a solo in the school choir at twelve. Sophia keeps her Memories a secret, holding on to them as tightly as possible.

Then she gets put into a group project with DJ and finds out that she's not the only one who has memories of events that never happened. DJ has a sketchbook filled with drawings of the man who SHOULD have been his stepfather, but doesn't actually exist. As they work on their science project about solar eclipses they find out that they were both born on the same day, in the same hospital, during the last partial solar eclipse. Could their birth make them special? Could they perhaps be able to see into an alternative universe?

With the Totality eclipse coming up in just days, Sophia and DJ are both determined to find a way to cross into their alternate universes and live the lives they believe they were meant to have. But, what will happen to the world they leave behind? Will they simply switch roles with their other selves? What if everything is not as perfect as they think it will be? Will they be willing to pay the price for the switch?

My Thoughts- (SPOILERS)

This is a fabulous story with a slight fantasy/science twist. I found it heartwarming that Sophia had memories of her mother existing even after she died. How special would that be? The hole that was left by her mother's death has a way to heal. Sophia's character is great. She is brave and courageous and ready to believe in the what ifs of life. Her determination is what allows herself and DJ to piece together the mystery of their birth and find other people that might have clues about alternate dimensions.

The idea of alternate dimensions is easily written into the story in a way that seems natural and not all mumble jumble. The actual idea that there could be a thinning between worlds is plausible and as you read it makes sense to the plot. Though the fantasy/science aspect is there, I found the book really to be about heart and soul. You care about Sophia and her mother. You feel Sophia's desires and fears and when the unusual happens, you cheer for her and don't think of it as being unrealistic.

The truth is that everything comes down to what happens when Sophia actually crosses over. She finds out that life doesn't run in predictable patterns. The realization that she might have to trade something for getting her mother back becomes a stark reality. Which life is really better? I was so thankful that the author went ahead and fulfilled Sophia's desire, to cross over and spend time with her mom. At the same time, the author does a fantastic job of letting the reader see how that world is not the one Sophia belongs in and after several precious days, gives her a choice of whether to stay or go home.

I enjoyed this read so much. It was heartwarming, but with a slight mystery to engage the curious. I'm giving it 5 stars!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Surface Tension by Mike Mullin, Review and Book Giveaway!

UPDATE!! Mike Mullin is offering up a SIGNED copy of Surface Tension, so the giveaway just got even awesomer!

I've got an intense new release for everyone today. It is the YA thriller, Surface Tension by Mike Mullin. This is one I couldn't put down. To enter the giveaway fill out the rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it click 'read more'.

The Story-
Jake loves to race bikes. One day while training he witnesses a terrorist attack, and ends up in the hospital with no memory of the event. He thinks he was just in an accident until a young lady, claiming to be his girlfriend, shows up and tries to snuff him.

What the heck? Is his brain injury causing him to have delusions? That's what Jake's mom thinks. As his memories slowly return, the attempts on his life step up and soon he is running for his life, but without a full memory of why.  His real girlfriend, Laurissa, is the only one who believes that someone is out to get him. When he is taken into custody by the FBI, Jake finds himself in deeper trouble when an agent threatens to kill Laurissa unless Jake gives up evidence about the terrorist attack. With nobody to trust, Jake and Laurissa must unravel the terrorist plot while trying to stay alive.

My Thoughts-
This was an intense read full of tension building moments and jaw dropping scenes. The threats to Jake and Laurissa are enough to keep the plot building and building, but then the unreal attitude that people seem to have, that Jake is making things up, just gets so annoying that I wanted to scream at the characters to believe him. Talk about ratcheting up the reader's emotions! Wow!

Then we have Betsy, the fake girlfriend that tried to kill Jake in the hospital. The book is told through her alternating POV. She seems totally kick butt, trained to kill and smart enough to plot things, mislead of course, but as she tries to kill Jake, she actually begins to come to an understanding of what she is involved in. She explains things from the terrorist's side, describing an American organization that wants America to start a war with Muslims. At first I found this annoying, why is it always an American that is the bad guy killing Americans to start a war? Why not just actually have radical extreme Muslim terrorists be the terrorists? But then, as I got into the story, especially the final chapter, I realized that it had to be internal so that the story could continue on as a series. And let me tell you, that final Betsy chapter was a heck of a surprise!

Now, the author points out lots of conservative views, mixes them with prejudice, and then sets the stage for violence. Many of the views are common and probably held by many Americans, but the kicker is that the author throws in the "Pure" attitude, and that's where this group heads south. They want a pure America, thinking people are sheeple that need an awakening.  Anytime "pure" comes up I think, "Run Away! Danger! Bad things a comin'." That is true with this homegrown terrorist group, and they have people in every walk of life, which is why Jake has a hard time hiding.

I couldn't put this book down. And the romance between Jake and Laurissa is awesome. You just get a good feeling for  how much they care about each other.I'm giving it 5 stars!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

#Pubtip 6/20

Welcome to Inside the Publishing World Wednesday! I've found that when I haven't been able to attend conferences I don't have as much to put out on Wednesdays, but I've decided to continue with the Agent and Editor Manuscript Wishlists or #MSWL, but also add #Pubtips and #Querytips to the mix. Hopefully this will give me more fodder to find and help out aspiring authors too. Today I'm going to focus on Twitter Publication Tips #Pubtips.

 Kate Marope
 Jun 12
Short #pubtip you guys: if you are querying a book that has series potential (esp. if you have already planned/plotted the next few books in the series), please include a series outline just so the editor you submitted to can get a sense of where the series is going! #amwriting

Emily Rodmell
 Jun 14

Synopsis tips:
*Save editors' eyes. Double space.
*5-7 pages is ideal length. Avoid more than 10.
*Keep back story to a minimum & focus on what actually happens in the book.
*Make sure to give the entire story. Don't hold back on spoilers. We need to see all twists.

Mackenzie Walton
 Jun 10
Just a reminder that world-building is something you should pay attention to in all fiction, including contemporary. Everyone experiences life differently—give me an idea of characters' home, culture, inner world, etc. #pubtip #submissions

Penny Moore
 Jun 8
When an agent considers a manuscript, not only are they looking for a great story, but they’re also looking for great POTENTIAL in the writer. If an agent can’t get beyond line edits and see the bigger picture, then they probably aren’t the right fit for you. #pubtip

Kate McKean
 Jun 6
Five bucks says your first sentence has too many adjectives. You don't have to cram them all in there right away. #pubtip #writingtip

Mackenzie Walton
 May 29
When including a synopsis, don't end it on a cliffhanger, a will they/won't they question, etc. Editors and agents are looking for a straightforward summary of the book, including the ending. #pubtip

Lisa Rodgers 
 May 24
#pubtip General reminder: if you receive an offer of representation and other agents have partial pages or the full manuscript, please let them know about the offer. It's polite and helps agents prioritize reading time, and it may net you another offer. Options are good. :)

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Un-Friendship Bracelet (Craftily Ever After Book 1) by Martha Maker, Xindi Yan (Illustrator)

Welcome to Middle-Grade Monday! Today I am reviewing The Un-Friendship Bracelet by Martha Maker. This book was recommend to me by my 9 year-old son, so it already comes with high kudos.

The Story-
Emily and Maddie are best friends. They do everything together, even crafting. They each wear a friendship bracelet the other friend made as a sign of their true friendship, or Mad-ily, as they call it. One school day a new student arrives and is assigned to Maddie as a buddy. At first, Emily is okay with things, but as Maddie and Bella grow closer, Emily feels left out. Then, during soccer, Emily loses her friendship bracelet, and she thinks it is a sign of their new un-friendship.

Back at school, Emily begins spending time with Sam, a boy who loves to paint and draw. He tells her to tell Maddie how she feels about being left out. And she would too, but that day, Maddie stays home sick, and Emily ends up spending time with Bella. Turns out she's pretty neat. She has an old work shed behind her new house that she hopes her parents will let her turn into a clubhouse. Together, Emily, Maddie, Bella and Sam end up converting the shed into a craft club where they all have a space to do the special things they love.

My Thoughts-
Great, basic story about friendship at a middle grade level. There are no big surprises to the plot, but it is a good story that kids will enjoy. Both Emily and Maddie love crafts, and at the end of the book there are instructions, easy to follow, that kids can do to make their own friendship bracelets.

I particularly liked that Sam is a character. It is not only girls who love to craft, and by including Sam into the mix, the book is opened up to be a good read for both boys and girls. One critique about the story though, about halfway through the story the author switches for one chapter only, from Emily's POV to Bella's POV. In my opinion, that is a mistake that shouldn't be made.

Overall, a cute and readable story about friendship and personalities. I'm giving it 3.5 stars, Though my 9 year old gives it 5, lol.