Friday, March 29, 2013

BLOG TOUR/GIVEAWAY: Blue Hearts of Mars by Nicole Grotepas

Tour Schedule
First, I must apologize, I was supposed to have a review up today and I just didn't get the book read. I will be reading and posting a review in the next week though. So today I've included an excerpt for your enjoyment.

Blue Hearts of Mars by Nicole Grotepas


Retta Heikkinen knows the unspoken rule of society: love between androids and humans is forbidden. A simple enough edict until Hemingway Koskinen spends an evening charming her with his intense gaze, bewitching smile, and sparkling conversation that hints at so much more than the usual obsessions of high school boys. Rules were meant to be cast aside, especially when love beckons.

If only it were as simple as being in love.

Trouble is brewing, not just for Hemingway--for all androids. Secrets have been kept, lies propagated, and Retta soon discovers that a frightening future awaits thousands of androids if she doesn’t do something to stop it. Worse yet, she will lose the one love she’s ever endangered herself for: Hemingway.


Praise

"Nothing like I've read before. A true original story! Everything is so well described. Now if they could make a follow up book and movie, that would be great!" ~Mrs. Z (Amazon)

"I was addicted to this book from the beginning. Life on Mars was very real and not at all a sci fi world I didn't understand . . . I found myself rooting for Retta and Hemingway from the very beginning. Easy reading, couldn't put it down and had it read in a weekend. Waiting for a sequel!" ~TNielsen (Amazon)

"The ending of this book is exceptional. While it was different from what I imagined, the way the author brought in a shocking revelation was amazing. I probably reread the last chapter 3 times letting it sink in and the meaning behind it. It was truly beautiful . . . I would love to see more of Retta and Hemingway!" ~Kat Meyer, (Goodreads)

"I love how the author populated Mars . . . so descriptive and comprehensive . . . I could clearly picture everything as if I was seeing the movie &/or was along for the ride. . . . Retta, the main character, is strong, opinionated, and a great champion for her cause." ~Megan (Amazon)

"I had been in the worst reading slump ever and came across this on Goodreads and thought I'd give it a try. Well, I was pleasantly surprised on how funny and exciting and mysterious it was . . . Mei, Retta's bff, had me laughing out loud quite a bit as well as Retta herself. I'd definitely hang out with those two." ~Deanneluvbooks (Goodreads)


Blue Hearts of Mars has made it to the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Readers are invited to download the excerpts (here) and rate and comment on the entries. So please, if you want to contribute, download and rate Blue Hearts! Your support is incredibly appreciated!


Or purchase the full version of the book here: Amazon


Author Nicole Grotepas

Nicole wrote her first fantasy novel in 7th grade on her mother's old Brother typewriter. It was never finished but it strongly resembled a Dragonlance plot and she's forever wondered what happened to the manuscript and Tonathan--the handsome elven protagonist. After living in Nashville where she worked as an editor, she returned to the Utah desert where she was raised. Nicole now lives near the Wasatch mountains with her husband. She writes and raises her son and three cats full time.



EXCERPT



“Are you going to run away from me, now?” he asked, pulling me along. We began walking. He let me lead and I took us back toward my apartment.

“Why would I run away?”

“Fear?” He raised an eyebrow and I shook my head.

“I’m not like that,” I said.

“I didn’t think you were. So then, what now, Retta?” He sounded so sincere that I stopped and stared at him. He turned to face me. Around us people parted like a dusty wind as they went past, ignoring us, and some made noises of irritation that we were in the way. Streetlights illuminated the pavement of the narrow road. The buildings rising around us like ever-vigilant sentries glowed beneath their windows. I was hyper-aware of how I was able to see people in their apartments, seeing into slices of their private lives. A little boy—who should have been in bed, really, if you thought about what time it was—knelt on the back of a couch, gliding his finger across the Gate as though browsing for toys or a show to watch.  

I found myself saying, as all these things went on around us, as though everything in the universe—my universe—hinged on what I said next, “We keep going, I guess. Unless you change your mind.” A door slammed near us, voices rose above the street, a man walked down the stairs from an apartment building to the street, his small dog on a leash.

“You mean, just keep doing what we’re doing? Without a plan?” Hemingway asked, a hopeful tone entering his voice.

“That’s right. No plans. Just us.”

“And if someone challenges you?”

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”


Tour Schedule

Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash (Internationally)
Signed Copy of Cinder & Blue Hearts of Mars (US only)
Ends 4/19/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

EARLY CHAPTER BOOK REVIEW: Zeke Meeks vs. The Big Blah-rific Birthday by D.L. Green

ZEKE MEEKS VS. THE BIG BLAH-RIFIC BIRTHDAY
by D.L. Green, illustrations by Josh Alves
Picture Window Books, 2013
ISBN13: 9781404876378
Grades 1-3
Primary Humor (Early Chapter Book)
Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher through NetGalley.

ABOUT THE BOOK

When Zeke's birthday party falls near Grace Chang's and Owen Leech's big bashes, he decides to cancel his party. After all, even he would rather go to their over-the-top parties than his simple celebration. But Zeke and his classmates are in for a surprise. Bigger doesn't always mean better.

REVIEW

As an elementary librarian I am always on the lookout for fun books to recommend to my students who are still learning to read (K-2).  There are a ton of books available but some have more kid appeal than others.  The series I'm talking about today has a ton of kid appeal, especially for boys who are reluctant readers. 

Zeke Meeks hates bugs, loves bloody, gory video games, and is terrified of Grace Chang and her fingernails.  Luckily for him he has some great friends, Hector and Charlie, and a quick mind. In this particular book Zeke has a birthday coming up and he wants a big party at a local amusement park.  When his mother puts a stop to that and he discovers that Owen and Grace are having much bigger parties he decides to cancel his own.  But when things go wrong at Grace's party, can Zeke save the day?  I have to admit Zeke's solution of taking the kids to his house for a impromptu party I felt sympathy for his mother, but the way he turns it around really made me laugh.  The humor throughout the book was delightful, if gross at times (seriously eating snails and caviar together?!) and bound to appeal to kids.  I am definitely planning on sharing this series with my students and listening to them laugh.  One of my favorite laugh out loud moments came when Zeke is outside lying in a hammock while his mother rakes leaves and says, "My life is so hard."  I laughed so hard I snorted.  The part where Zeke runs away from a fly just as he is about to set a personal record of 7 basketball shots made in a row is pretty funny as well.  I highly recommend this series for reluctant readers or any reader who enjoys a quick funny read.


 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

BLOG TOUR and GIVEAWAY: Parenting with Spiritual Power by Julie K. Nelson


ABOUT THE BOOK

"I wish children came with an instruction manual!"

How many times have we heard this lament by a frustrated or overwhelmed parent? Perhaps we have said these words ourselves.  There are "how-to" manuals for practically anything: installing a new faucet, building a remote control car, baking an apple pie, refinishing an antique chair, or assembling a bicycle.  Is there a formula or a perfect manual for raising children? Yes! The scriptures.

In Parenting With Spiritual Power, Julie Nelson examines the lives of mothers and fathers in the scriptures (the best instruction manual) and the parenting principles we can learn from them.  Discover powerful parenting examples from Adam and Eve, Moses, the brother of Jared, and Captain Moroni, along with suggestions for personal application in this essential book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie K. Nelson is a wife and mother of five children, raising them in Illinois and now Utah. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree from Utah State University in marriage, family and human development. Her scholarly research and creative writing have been published in journals and anthologies, and she has won numerous state and national awards for her writing. Julie has enjoyed teaching children in public and private schools and currently teaches at Utah Valley University.  To learn more about the author, visit Julie’s website here: nelsonjuliek.com.




REVIEW

First off I will admit that I am not a parent.  But I am a teacher and the principles that Julie Nelson highlights in this book apply just as much to me as to any parent.  The importance of focusing on the positive rather than the negative, giving warnings, offering doctrine to help children make better choices, and nourishing and encouraging them rather than trying to force them are all very important when working with people, not just with children.  I loved the way she used the scriptures (the LDS scriptures include the King James version of the Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price) and stories from the scriptures to highlight the points she was trying to make.  She also uses quotes from former and current leaders of the church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormon/LDS church) to highlight especially important points.

The chapter on developing and exercising faith in both the child and the Lord's growth process I found especially comforting.  When it comes to children, results are not always immediate, it can take months or years to see the fruit of one's labors, but one must never give up and continue to exercise patience, long-suffering, and diligence. The author points out that when a child is born there is a great deal of potential there, but the parent doesn't know yet what that potential might be or the best way to bring it to fruition, the parent and child must learn and grow together.

For those who are parents or who work with children on a regular basis this book provides many principles and reminders about what is most important to remember and practice.  I can highly recommend this book to those who are frustrated or confused or exhausted.  The book is not only inspiring but a powerful reminder of just how much our Heavenly Father loves us and our children.


GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the publisher I have one copy of the book to give away.
One print copy of Parenting with Spiritual Power.
US/Canada only
Ends 4/10/2013

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PICTURE BOOK REVIEW: Mosey's Field by Barbara Lockhart

MOSEY'S FIELD
by Barbara Lockhart, illustrated by Heather Crow
Schiffer Publishing, 2013
ISBN: 9780764343889
Grades K-5
Picture Book Animal
Reviewed from e-copy provided by publisher through NetGalley.

ABOUT THE BOOK


Mosey, a long-legged, lumbering kind of dog, has a napping place in the middle of a corn field, but when the plow comes through, followed later by the planter, Mosey can no longer find his spot. As the corn grows, Mosey's adventures in the field include exploring tunnels in the corn rows, chasing rabbits, finding relief from the summers heat, and, at the end of the season, experiencing the terrifying (to him) appearance of a combine. Mosey's Field illuminates the beauty of the rural landscape, the change in seasons, and the progression of agricultural methods. While Mosey continues the search for his special place, children are not only connected to the environment, but the important concept of where food comes from. 

REVIEW

Mosey the dog is an appealing character and it's fun to follow him throughout the planting and harvesting of a field of corn.  Mosey has his particular spot in a field and while the field remains barren he has no trouble finding it, but once the corn grows it becomes harder and harder to find until one day Mosey gets lost.  But Mosey isn't the kind to give up and with persistence manages to once again find his spot.  Not only is this a cute story but it does a nice job of explaining planting and harvesting.  I also appreciated the note at the end where the author explains the two different types of corn.  Recommended.


PICTURE BOOK REVIEW: Isabella, Star of the Story by Jennifer Fosberry

ISABELLA, STAR OF THE STORY
by Jennifer Fosberry, pictures by Mike Litwin
Sourcebooks, 2013
ISBN: 9781402279362
Picture Book Contemporary
Grades K-5
Reviewed from copy provided by publisher through NetGalley.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Every day's an adventure with Isabella!

Isabella checks out the library, and steals the spotlight from some of the most memorable children's book characters. She's Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole. No, now she's Peter Pan, flying off to Never Never Land. And when it's finally time to follow the yellow brick road home, she decides she's happy just being Isabella, the little purple-haired girl with a lot of books and even more imagination.


REVIEW


There were a lot of things that I loved about this book.  I loved Isabella and her love of books and the library (natural since I'm a librarian).  I loved her eagerness to use her imagination in enjoying the books she chose.  The illustrations are delightful and imaginative and match the story to a tee. I loved the references to classic children's literature, including Peter Pan, Goldilocks, Dorothy, and Alice.  I really appreciated the information about the authors of these classic works that the author included at the back of the book.  There is some interesting information there that would be fun to share.  For example, I did not know that the L. in L. Frank Baum stood for Lyman or that Dorothy's shoes were originally silver.  This is a great book to use in encouraging students to read and imagine their way through some great children's literature. Highly recommended. 


 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

NetGalley Challenge 2013

For numerous reasons, I've decided not to participate in many challenges this year. I prefer to just read what I feel like reading. But since I have so many NetGalley books to read I thought I might as well participate in this one.

I'm going to go for the Gold Star--30+ NetGalley Books this year.  I currently have four that I have read.

MIDDLE GRADE BOOK REVIEW: Starring Jules (as herself) by Beth Ain

STARRING JULES (AS HERSELF)
by Beth Ain, illustrated by Anne Keenan Higgins
Scholastic Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-545-44352-4
Grades 2-5
Middle Grade Contemporary
Reviewed from purchased copy.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Lights! Camera! Action! A hilarious chapter book debut from a fabulous new talent!

Things to Know About Me

by Jules Bloom


1. I am a scrambled-eggs-and-chocolate-milk type person.

2. I have an audition for a TV commercial (which would be great if I were a tall-icy-drink type person.)

3. I am in between best friends right now.

4. I am worried that the audition will be a disaster. (See #1 and #3!)

Jules doesn't want to ruin THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME, and she's willing to turn to anyone for help--even her know-it-all ex-best friend! If only that lovely new girl in class would turn out to be the new best friend of her dreams, maybe, just maybe, Jules will be ready for her close-up....


REVIEW



I'm always on the lookout for fun early chapter books that I can recommend to readers.  Starring Jules is just such a book. Delightful characters? Check. Interesting plot? Check.  Appealing setting? Check.  Jules reminds me a great deal of some other great early chapter book characters: Clementine, Judy Moody, Junie B., etc. Yet she is also unique in her love of making up and singing jingles. I like the fact that despite her entrance into the acting world, she is still very much a kid with a kid's worries and interests.  Her conflict with her former best friend Charlotte rang true for me, maybe because I experienced something similar with my best friend, simply growing into different interests.  I liked that a good chunk of the problem revolves around miscommunication (does that sound like real life or what?!). I also had to laugh at Jules family life, her creative mother and supportive father. I appreciate books that show positive examples of family life and the ups and downs of friendship.  Jules interest in becoming friends with the new girl, Elinor is balanced by her fear of being hurt again and it leads her to do things she ends up regretting.  Overall, I'd say this is a great new series and I very much look forward to reading more about Jules and her family and friends.



Monday, March 25, 2013

MIDDLE GRADE BOOK REVIEW: Hashbrown Winters and the Phantom of Pordunce by Frank L. Cole


E-ARC provided by author for blog tour.
All opinions expressed are solely my own.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Life at Pordunce is back to normal - well, as normal as ever in the three-ring circus that passes for Hashbrown's elementary school. But everything changes when a ghostly presence starts roaming the halls. And even worse, Hashbrown's club may be about to lose one of its founding members. Can Hashbrown save the day? This snort-worthy, fun-filled roller-coaster ride of a book is guaranteed to get you giggling - assuming you can pry it away from your kids long enough to read it yourself.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 

Frank L. Cole has lived in such exotic places as the Philippines and Kentucky, and currently lives with his wife and three children out west. While he strived for years to earn his publishing credits, Frank considers sharing his message of “Exercising Your Imagination” to over 30,000 kids across the country as his greatest accomplishment. The Guardians of Elijah’s Fire is Frank’s 5th published book and will release this June, 2012. You can learn more about his writing at franklewiscole.blogspot.com.

REVIEW

Hashbrown has done it again. He's gotten himself involved in strange events this time thanks to the blackmail of Twinkles the strange man who lives in the basement of Pordunce Elementary.  With six stinkbombs set to go off if he doesn't rescue Twinkles pet hamsters, Hashbrown must discover what happened to the hamsters and why there seems to suddenly be a ghost running around the school scaring people.  At the same time he must deal with losing his marble championchip to a new girl and her strange little brother. Like the other books in the series this one is just as wacky and just as entertaining.  This series has really started to grow on me now that I'm adjusting to the weirdness that is Pordunce Elementary.  Hashbrown seems like a pretty normal kid with a few extra issues thrown in just for fun. ;) Recommended for those who enjoy wacky humor and adventure.  These stories move along quickly and would make good reads for reluctant readers.


 

NONFICTION MONDAY: Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough


ABOUT THE BOOK

Once upon a time, American children couldn’t borrow library books. Reading wasn’t all that important for children, many thought. Luckily Miss Anne Carroll Moore thought otherwise! This is the true story of how Miss Moore created the first children’s room at the New York Public Library, a bright, warm room filled with artwork, window seats, and most important of all, borrowing privileges to the world’s best children’s books in many different languages.

REVIEW


Being an elementary school librarian, I have a special appreciation for those who've paved the way for me to share books with children.  Anne Carroll Moore was one of those people.  I really enjoyed reading about her efforts to help open public libraries to children.  She worked hard to create spaces that were child-friendly and full of great books for them to read.  I can understand where the libraries were coming from in terms of children returning books damaged or forgetting to return them at all because those things do happen regularly, but on the other hand, of what value is a book just sitting on a shelf? 

I found myself cheering Moore on as she helped design the Children's Room in what would become the New York Public Library and as she urged publishers to make more stories available that were especially for children. Reading is such a valuable life-long skill and the sooner it can be instilled in children the better. I've seen that personally on many occasions. Our information rich society is dependent on the ability to read and one's reading ability is dependent on the availability of a variety of interesting informative materials.  Thanks be to those like Anne Carroll Moore who saw this early and helped bring it to pass!  While there is still much to be done, we have come a long ways from those libraries that refused to even let children inside. Highly recommended.


Check out more great Nonfiction Monday recommendations at Booktalking.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

KID LIT BLOG HOP #12

Welcome to the 12th Kid Lit Blog Hop. We did it! We hit 100 links once again! Thanks to all of YOU, we are developing a thriving community of bloggers and authors who love to share their favorite kids books. Last time, there were so many links to fantastic posts about children's books, literacy, and favorites lists. Lots of variety!  Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!
Kid Lit Blog Hop
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Suggestions For How to Participate:

1. Although not mandatory, we ask that you kindly follow your hostesses and co-hostesses. You can follow us any way you choose (Email, GFC, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.), but we've added our preferences below. If you could just give us a quick "follow" or "like" that would be much appreciated! Make sure to leave us a message if you are following us (i.e., on Twitter or Facebook or on our websites) and will be sure to follow you back. Thanks! :-)

Hostesses:


Our Co-Hostess for This Week:


2. Link up any Kid Lit related post. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.

* Don't link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post*
* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one *
* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*
* Feel free to link more than one post.*

3. Check out some other books. Don't be a stranger, go see what books other families are checking out, and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you!

4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you're linking up. If you'd prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links!

5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!
Interested in co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop? Please email renee @ motherdaughterbookreviews (dot) com and put Co-Hosting Blog Hop in the subject line.

Happy Hopping!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

WISDOM TALES PRESS GIVEAWAY: The Conference of the Birds by Alexis York Lumbard

THE CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS
Retold by Alexis York Lumbard, illustrated by Demi
Wisdom Tales Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-937786-02-1
Picture Book Folktale
K and up
Reviewed from copy provided by publisher for review.
All opinions expressed are my own.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Late one moonless night in a far corner of the world there gathered a large flock of birds.  They gathered in sorrow, since they had been, for so very long, deprived of a king.

Thus beings the magical adventure of these wayfaring birds.  With encouragement from their wise guide, the hoopoe bird, they overcome fears, physical hardships, and their own inner weakness in order to reach the hieghts of the mountain to meet their King.

Children and adults alike will relate to this inspiring tale about conquering one's faults and practicing the virtues of humility, patience, detachment from worldly goods, and courage.

Lavishly illustrated and based on an 800 year old classical tale, this fascinating and beautiful book will delight children and provide parents with a wonderful tool for teaching children about moral development.

REVIEW

The minute I realized this book was illustrated by Demi, I knew it would be beautiful. And it is, very much so. I loved looking at the beautiful drawings/paintings, the rich colors with the intricate borders are typical Demi.  What amazed me about this was the detail.  On the borders of drawing Demi shows the movements of a particular kind of bird.  The time and effort this must have taken in learning how birds move and fly.  Her illustrations are always so delicate looking, yet stunning, I almost wished the birds would hop from the page onto my hand so I could get a better look at them.

I loved the story as well.  As the synopsis describes there are many themes shared in the story, like many folktales, and this one has a strong Christian feel to it, although God is referred to mostly as the King.  I liked the fact that the birds had a leader, someone to follow.  This reminded me that all of us need role models, young and old alike.  I also appreciated the theme of sacrifice and how some of the birds had to sacrifice something in order to make the journey, whether it was a possession, an attitude, a bad habit, they had to go in order for the birds to make it to their destination safely. A beautiful story, beautifully told about the journey of life, especially appropriate for Christians, parents or children.

GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the publisher for generously offering TWO print copies for my readers.

Open to U.S./Canada only
Must be at least 13 to enter.
Fill out the form below.
Winners must respond within 48 hours of notifying email.
Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 18, 2013

NONFICTION MONDAY: Women Explorers by Julie Cummins

WOMEN EXPLORERS
by Julie Cummins, illustrated by Cheryl Harness
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3713-6
Collective biography
Grades 2-5
Reviewed from purchased copy.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Meet ten inspiring women whose passions for exploration made them push the boundaries

Though most people have heard of explorers like Henry Hudson and Christopher Columbus, few have heard names like Nellie Cashman and Annie Smith Peck. Unfortunately, most of the brave women explorers have never made it into history books because they lived in times when it was taboo for women to go off on their own. Luckily, the daring women in this book didn't let those taboos slow them down as they climbed treacherous mountains, studied Aboriginal cultures, and lived with Pygmy tribes!

With engaging text and bold illustrations, Women Explorers will finally properly introduce these adventurous women to the world.


REVIEW

I found it rather telling that I had never heard of any of these women before reading this book.  As the author points out in the introduction:
Why haven't we heard their names? The answer is: It's a sign of their times. The daring men who ventured into the great unknown are celebrated, but the many intrepid and brave women who faced the same kinds of challenges were saddled with gender barriers, societal disapproval, and second-class status: Females belonged at home!
I appreciate the author taking the time to share the stories of these ten women who found the courage and determination to step out of society's limitations and follow their dreams, despite the many challenges that awaited them. I also was impressed that several of these women, including Ynes Mexia and Lucy Evelyn Cheesman, set out on their explorations in their middle age years.  It reminded me that it is never too late to follow our dreams and passions.  And some of the adventures they had made me shudder, like Lucy Evelyn Cheesman getting stuck in massive spider webs and having to spend hours cutting herself free with a nail file. I am definitely not an explorer myself, but I really admire those who are. Another of my favorite stories was about Nellie Cashman, who went out of her way to help the poor, even after finding gold and striking it rich, she never forgot where she came from.  Other stories include living with cannibals, climbing mountain peaks, collecting thousands of plant samples, interviewing Mao Tse-tung and many other stories. Fascinating.


The only problem I had with the book was one factual error I found (Zaire hasn't existed for more than ten years), but other than that the book is superb and I highly recommend it.

Be sure to check out some more great nonfiction reads at Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Perogies & Gyoza.

Friday, March 15, 2013

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: The Invisible Tower by Nils Johnson-Shelton


ABOUT THE BOOK


Part of the spell has already been broken.

The first stones have begun to crumble.

In Artie Kingfisher'’s world, wizards named Merlin, fire-breathing dragons, and swords called Excalibur exist only in legends and lore—until the day his video game Otherworld springs to life.

You are special, Arthur,

Says the mysterious message in his game.

In one week’s time you will come to me at the it.

Cryptic clues lead Artie to a strange place called the Invisible Tower, where he discovers that nothing in his life is as it seems. Artie is none other than King Arthur, brought to life in the twenty-first century. Artie has won the battle in the virtual Otherworld—now the key to saving the real Otherworld lies in his hands as well.

Green dragons, hungry wolves, powerful sorcerers—suddenly Artie must battle them all as he wields Excalibur and embarks on a quest worthy of the Knights of the Round Table. With his sister, Kay, by his side, Artie steps into the Otherworld —straight toward his destiny.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Goodreads)

While a shocking number of future New York Times bestselling writers were born in log cabins on dirt floors to unwed mothers, I was born in a hospital, though my mom and dad weren't married—which is why I have two last names. I have to say that even though it may sound nice and literary, having two last names is a pain in the butt, so if you're thinking of doubling the surnames of your offspring, may I humbly suggest no.

Now you're probably wondering why my parents weren't married, and I'll tell you. They were more or less hippies, and I was born in San Francisco in the early 1970s. I can assure you that those two factors went into making a lot of kids like me.

Anyway, I lived in a nice home in San Francisco with both my folks until the age of four, at which point we moved to New York City. That's right, my parents decided to move to New York City in the mid-1970s, which means they were either super-cool or super-dumb or super-shrewd about real estate investing (I can assure you it was not the latter). My mom worked at The New Museum, and my dad was a painter, and we lived in a loft, and I grew up around artists and their kids,...

Hobbies, Interests, and Enthusiasms:

I am enthusiastic about internet cat videos, long walks in the woods, my kids, and rock climbing (one of those is a fib). I also like video games way more than a grown man should, and I think Tokyo is the coolest place I've ever been. Oh, and deep-fried gator poppers. Those are pretty swell, too.


REVIEW


I confess, I didn't enjoy this as much as I had hoped. I mean, the story was fine, the plot was action-packed and moved quickly.  The characters were interesting and easy to follow, although they felt rather two-dimensional to me, not much depth to them.  Artie and his sister seemed to adapt rather too easily to the shocking revelations presented to them. The settings were great, I liked the idea of two worlds hooked together that effected each other and being able to move between them.  The fantasy elements were fun, man-wolves, a tree-person and his minions, and of course, the sword Excaliber.  I wasn't particularly happy about one thing the author did regarding the sword at the end of the book, but I can't say more than that because I will spoil the book, but it didn't seem to make any sense to me and even in fantasy stories, I like things to make some sense at least.

Still, the book is a fun one with plenty of magic and adventure and middle graders will undoubtedly enjoy it.  I just prefer more character development in the books I read.  


 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

BLOG TOUR; Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud by Jon Thomason

Tour Schedule

Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud

Max has anger management issues. But she has a secret, too. She can make things happen. Like magic. She almost killed a loser skate punk and nearly used it on her stuck up older sister. The question is, can she do anything other than blow things up? Can she learn to control it? And is it really possible that an obscure teenage girl is the key to keeping all of humanity safe?

Philip just got his ring back. He got it taken away for messing with his teacher’s mind so he can cheat on a test. Now that he has his ring, he thinks he should be able to use his power to make his life better. A lot better. The problem is that people want him to be responsible. But if you could do magic, wouldn’t you use it to escape work in any way possible?

Aaron wants to be a soldier. He knows there are lots of people who would try to take over, and he’s determined to stop them. The problem is that there’s this new girl. And she might not be on the right side of things. She’s really talented and pretty, but she might be able to destroy everything he believes in. Whatever the case, he knows he needs to learn to be world class with the magic sword while he figures out what to do.

Brynn never gets out. Her grandfather won’t permit it. Her only access to the outside world are high fashion magazines, so she has an unusual idea what she should wear. She’s dying to get out and travel. And adopt animals. Any kind of animal. Is she a lonely future granny with cats or are her ridiculous clothes actually the next fashion craze? What possible role could she play in the destiny of the world?

Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud is a fast-paced fantasy adventure for all ages (10 and up) and is the first of a planned trilogy. Fans of magic, swordplay, secret agents, and conspiracies set in a modern everyday world will not be able to put the book down. Jon Thomason is a debut author and paints a vivid world of magic right under our noses and delivers rapid-fire action that keeps the pages turning.

Purchase

REVIEW

An exciting fantasy with an interesting premise, the book provides a roller coaster ride of a story about a girl who gains the ability to do magic but must learn to control it. I liked the underlying theme about the importance of rules and how following rules really gives us more freedom than life without them. Max isn't the most likable character at first, she is so focused on freedom that she overlooks the dangers of doing whatever you want. Aaron on the other hand is at the other end of the spectrum, he knows the importance of following rules and has little tolerance for those who don't. As for Philip, he is an example of what Max will become if she doesn't learn to choose to follow the rules. But considering both kids are 13-years-old, it is not surprising that they are a bit unstable and questioning things. But Max unfortunately, like many of us in the real world, chooses to learn the hard way that choices have consequences, not only for oneself, but for all those around us. A creative fantasy involving magic and friendship and a fascinating place called the island of Zumuruud. Recommended.

Praise

"Impressively inventive and enjoyable...vivid storytelling and exceptional characterization...Max's personality is layered and complex...conveyed flawlessly...keeping readers intrigued and engaged...writing style is smooth, and a subtle sense of humor comes through...narrative tension builds at a good pace and easily flows toward a satisfying and exciting conclusion...parents are likely to both approve of the story and enjoy reading it themselves...talented writer...sure to find an appreciative audience that will eagerly anticipate the next book in the series." -- ForeWord Clarion Review

"Thomason shines in his heroine's characterization...magical" --blueink Review

Author Jon Thomason

Jon Thomason lives with his family in San Diego, after many years living in the beautiful Seattle area. He has a successful career in high tech where he's been fortunate enough to participate in many big-name industry releases.

Storytelling permeates everything he does. In the moments when Jon is not helping build the story of the tech world, he can almost always be found working on a project: writing, photography, videography, graphics design, or 3D art.

And he's always careful to conceal his jinni magic abilities, though perhaps might slip one day and be discovered...


Links

Blog Tour Giveaway
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash plus a copy of Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud
Print copy to US only, Ebook Internationally
Ends 3/31/13

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MORE GREAT PICTURE BOOKS!

I haven't been reviewing picture books as much as I used to, but I'm going to try to change that.  So here are a couple of fun picture books perfect for sharing with preschoolers and kindergartners.

UP! TALL! and HIGH! (BUT NOT NECESSARILY IN THAT ORDER)
by Ethan Long
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-25611-0
Picture Book
PreK-K
Reviewed from purchased copy.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Three side-splitting stories in one great picture book!

In three laugh-out-loud situations, an irresistible cast of colorful birds illustrate the concepts of "up," "tall" and "high." First, a short peacock proves that he may not be tall, but he definitely isn't small. Then, a resourceful bird helps his penguin friend find a way to fly. Finally, two birds want to live in the same tree, but what goes up must come down! Each short story features a flap that reveals a surprise twist.

With fun fold-outs, easy-to-read text, and a hilarious cast of characters, these stories beg preschoolers and emerging readers to act them out again and again.


REVIEW

I'm always amazed when authors create stories out of only a handful of words, which is exactly what Ethan Long does in this book.  Not only does he present three different concepts (up, tall, and high), but he also creates stories that are funny and appealing to preschoolers.  In the first story, we learn the concept of tall, but when the supposedly, "tall" bird turns out not to be "tall" at all, he proves that just because one is not tall, does not make one small.  I love the way the illustrations clearly show what the words state in such delightful ways. And the flaps are a nice touch. The second story involves a bird helping his friend penguin fly.  I love the problem-solving aspect of this story, how the bird uses a creative solution to do the seemingly impossible. A remarkably complex theme told very simply.  The third story involves a bird pridefully stating that he is up. When the bird that is 'down' joins him and the tree collapses it beautifully demonstrates the theme of 'pride goeth before a fall' but also the value of having friends to help us up when we fall.  Definitely worthy of the 2013 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award.

MAX & MILO GO TO SLEEP
by Heather & Ethan Long
Aladdin, 2013
ISBN: 9781442451438
Picture Book
PreK-1
Reviewed from purchased book.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Meet Max and Milo, two hilarious beaver brothers who make going to sleep an up-all-night adventure.
 
Milo can’t get to sleep: He tosses and turns; he turns and he tosses. And then finally he calls on his older brother: “MAX! WAKE UP!”


But no matter what helpful sleeping tip Max suggests, Milo turns it riotously on its head and is as far from rest as ever. Will Milo finally get to sleep? Will he ever stop driving Max crazy? Will the beaver brothers be up half the night in search of forty winks?


Insomniacs everywhere, take comfort! Max and Milo are here to solve your sleepless nights in the most hilarious of ways!


REVIEW

Max and Milo are very different, despite being brothers. While Max drifts off to sleep, Milo is wide-awake.  He seeks out his brother's help and tries to find ways to sleep, unsuccessfully. Finally, Max is wide-awake too and scolds his brother, who finally goes to sleep, leaving Max wide-awake.  Full of humor and amusingly creative solutions to Milo's problem this book is perfect for sharing at bedtime or storytime. Recommended.


 
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