Showing posts with label 2012 Debut Author Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2012 Debut Author Challenge. Show all posts

Friday, December 21, 2012

FANTASTIC FRIDAY INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt by Ilana Waters


THE ADVENTURES OF STANLEY DELACOURT
by Ilana Waters
2012
Middle Grade Fantasy
Grades 3-6
Review copy purchased.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Ten-year-old Stanley Delacourt loves his quiet life in the peaceful village of Meadowwood. At least, he does until his best friend is killed. Then the town library—where Stanley lives and works—is burned to the ground. The individuals responsible for both tragedies are a nasty group of soldiers. They work for the kingdom’s new leader, Christopher Siren. With the grown-ups too fearful to take action, Stanley vows to confront Siren. He plans to get answers and demand justice. Little does he know that his journey will involve sword-wielding knights, kidnapper fairies, and dark magic.

Stanley has only two allies back home: a witch named Meredith, and a young apothecary called Sophie. Can they help him discover the reason behind Siren’s crimes and end this terrible reign? Or is Stanley set to become the next victim in the tyrant’s evil plot?

If you enjoy the fantasy works of Rick Riordan, Lemony Snicket, or Philip Pullman, then explore the world of Stanley Delacourt today!


LINKS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I'm a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey. When not creating content for websites, I work on novels and short stories—as well as nibble string cheese. I once pet-sat an electric eel, and enjoy walking in circles around the park for no particular reason.

My first book—"The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt: Book I of Hartlandia"—is a middle-grade fantasy. It is available online NOW at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. I'm currently writing Book II of the Hartlandia trilogy, due out in 2013.


INTERVIEW 

What's the story behind the story of Stanley?

I know this sounds silly, but it came to me in a dream. Really--it did! I woke up and knew the basic plot and three of the main characters. The rest of it is loosely based on equal parts life experience and wish fulfillment.

What led you to become a writer?

I’ve wanted to be writer since I was six years old. My first grade teacher said I was good at writing, so I figured that’s what I should do (this really tells you something about the power of labels).

What is your favorite thing about writing? Least favorite?

I love so many things about being a writer, it’s hard to choose just one. I guess what I love most is living in a world of make-believe—at least until I finish the chapter! And to be honest, I don’t really have a “least favorite” thing about writing. I can’t think of anything bad about it.

Where's your favorite place to go to write?

Well, I only have one place to write at the moment. It’s at my bedroom desk, which faces a wall. Ideally, I’d love to have a separate office and a window with a nice view.

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?

I would absolutely get into a time machine and travel to the Renaissance, or perhaps the Victorian Era. Wait—maybe you meant regular travel? ;-) In that case, I’ve always wanted to see Venice. I also have a special place in my heart for New Orleans.

Favorite ice cream or desert?

All of them. J But I am partial to anything chocolaty, nutty, or minty. A combination of the three is also acceptable.

Favorite book character?

Oh dear—there are far too many to choose from! Lyra Bellacqua from The Golden Compass, Klaus Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Matilda from Matilda . . . don’t make me go on. I love characters that are brave, resourceful, smart, and don’t take “no” for an answer. Oh, and if they’re a little bit magical, that works too. 

Something most people don't know about you.

I’m addicted to Cheetos. I have to have a little every day, or the next morning I disappear in a puff of orange smoke. ;-)

REVIEW

This book is a fun coming-of-age adventure perfect for middle grade readers.  I fell in love with Stanley from the first page. Maybe it's because he's a librarian like me, or maybe it's because he's had to grow up so fast (doing a man's work at the age of 10). I also loved the library that he runs.  His friends are great, Sophie, who's doing a woman's work with a very feisty spirit and Will, the cheerful, reckless adventurer. It's the kind of place that I would love to spend hours, it about broke my heart when the place was burned to the ground.  But it was the death of one of Stanley's best friends, Will, that really got to me. I was with Stanley all the way as he struggled with anger and confusion.  Like most of us when faced with tragedy, Stanley wanted to do something about it.  So he sets off on a self-imposed mission to see the Ruler of the lands, Christopher Siren, and find out what was going on with all the new ridiculous and dangerous new rules that led to Will's death.  Of course, along the way, he finds more than he could have ever dreamed, including friends, enemies, and more adventure than he ever wanted. I found this to be a pleasantly page-turning read and had to keep reading until I finished it. I appreciated that while it is part of a trilogy, the book actually has a solid ending, so many series books these days don't, so I found that refreshing. I am definitely looking forward to reading more about Stanley and Sophie. I recommend this to readers who enjoy a good quest story with some depth to it.

GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the author, I have three 3-copies to give away. This is open internationally. All you need to do to enter is fill out the form below. You do need to be 13 or older to enter.  The winner will be notified and have 48 hours to respond.


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

MMGM: Storybound by Marissa Burt

STORYBOUND
by Marissa Burt
Harper, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-202052-9
MG Fantasy
Grades 4-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.

In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story.

But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself....

With the timeless appeal of books like A Wrinkle in Time and the breathtaking action of Inkheart, Storybound has all the makings of a new classic. Brimming with fantastical creatures, magical adventure, and heart-stopping twists, Storybound will leave readers wishing they too could jump through the pages into this enchanting fairy-tale world.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marissa Burt writes middle grade fantasy and is represented by Laura Langlie of the Laura Langlie Literary Agency. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, and drifted eastward, living in Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee, and South Carolina, before coming back home to the Pacific Northwest.

Along the way, she studied Sociology, Ancient Languages, and Theology and clocked hours as a social worker, barista, 5th grade teacher, bookseller, faculty assistant, and reference librarian. But not all at the same time.

Marissa now lives in the Seattle area with her husband and three sons where she enjoys time spent around family, friends, and good books.

REVIEW

I'll start off by saying that I loved this book.  I enjoyed the characters, Una, Peter, and Indy, especially, but I even connected a bit with Snow White despite her bullying tendencies.  I like the world that the author created around fairy tales, the land of Story, where people/creatures train to enter a story and then live out the story before returning home to their 'regular' lives.  The plot moved quickly and intricately through Una's unexpected arrival in the land of Story during Peter's 'practical' through the surprises and shocks of life in hiding.

I appreciated that the characters felt three dimensional to me, Peter and Una are great characters but they make mistakes along the way. I also appreciated how Snow White who tries to bully Una, is presented as more than a bully, but a girl who has experienced much heart-ache and rejection in her life.  This adds a nice twist to the story.

Plotwise, there were some expected revelations, but also some unexpected twists and turns which always makes for a more interesting read.  There were plenty of hints here and there leading up to the climax and some of the plot elements I was able to predict but others I did not, this makes for a fun read. I admired the creativity exhibited in this story.  Little things like classes such as Outdoor Experiential Questing, and testing of one's Villain's laugh and the whole concept of Talemasters who kept the books with the 'tales' from Story's past.  I'm a sucker for books about the value of books. :)  I also found the underlying theme about history and how the way we view our history depends a great deal on how it is presented to us and who is telling the story.  I found this a great read and can't wait to read the sequel, Story's End, coming out next year.

Be sure to check out the other great Middle Grade recommendations over at Shannon Messenger's website.



Saturday, September 22, 2012

MMGM: Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage



THREE TIMES LUCKY
by Sheila Turnage
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3670-2
Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.


A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.


Another great book and definite Newbery candidate, Three Times Lucky sends the reader on the hunt for a murderer with sixth grader Mo LoBeau and her best friend, Dale.   Mo is delighted for summer vacation to start, hoping to spend time with Dale, and her crush, Dale's brother, Lavender as well as helping out at the cafe owned by her unusual adopted family.  If she can find her biological mother all the better.  But everything changes when a grumpy neighbor turns up dead, in the boat that Dale 'borrowed' for them to go fishing in and Dale turns out to be the last known person to see the man alive.  Determined to help her friend, Mo sets out to help solve the mystery regardless of whether Joe Starr, a lawman, wants her help or not.

Mo reminds me greatly of another great middle grade character, Jennifer Holm's May Amelia, with her spunk and determination. I found myself grinning more than once as I read about Mo's ability to insert herself into almost any situation with fervor and good intentions, although not always with good results.  Her efforts to find her unknown mother using notes in bottles was creative if ineffectual. Mo slowly comes to realize that perhaps she already has all the family she needs. 

The setting is beautifully presented with a map included, something I always appreciate as it helps me visualize places and how they are connected with each other.  A story like this requires a strong sense of place and Turnage pulls it off nicely. The cafe especially stands out as a place of great character, well worth visiting.  


Plotwise the story moves along at a nice clip with plenty of moments of tension mixed in with the humorous moments. I enjoyed the twists and turns and the subplots involving Mo's adopted family, Miss Lana and the Colonel, as well as the home situation of Dale. I think my favorite part though besides the part where Mo puts her karate skills to use, is the part where Mo sneaks down to the creek hoping to help search the crime scene for clues.

I highly recommend this book, not only as great historical fiction but as an amusing and entertaining look at life in a small community where everyone seems to know everything about everyone else, but where secrets still have room to breathe.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BLOG TOUR and GIVEAWAY: Heirs of Prophecy by Michael A. Rothman

HEIRS OF PROPHECY
by Michael A. Rothman
M & S Publishing, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-98516-97-0-1
Grades 4 and up
Reviewed from copy provided by TLC Blog Tours.
All opinions expressed are solely my own.

The Riverton family had been enjoying a simple summer vacation when, through a fluke of nature, they found themselves in a strange new land. 

The Riverton brothers quickly realize that in this world, they have gained unusual powers. Powers that their parents fear will attract the attention of Azazel himself - the merciless wizard who brutally controls this world. 

The two brothers soon learn that an ancient prophecy has finally been initiated by their arrival in Trimoria. As the heirs of this prophecy, they are destined to lead the armies of men, dwarves, elves, and even a misfit ogre against the prophesied demon horde.

Only one thing stands in their way.

The evil wizard who has learned of their presence, and has sent assassins to wipe them from existence.

Review:

Imagine that you woke up one morning to discover that you could shoot lightening out of your hands or could lift really heavy rocks.  This is basically what happens to the Riverton brothers after they survive an earthquake while on vacation in Arizona.  Ryan and Aaron aren't the only ones confused though when they wake up in a swamp instead of the desert caves the started in.  When they realize that they are in a different world named Trimoria, they are forced to adapt quickly or face an early death.

One thing I especially liked about this book was that the family experienced it together.  Most youth fantasy books have just the main character and his/her friends experience the 'new world.' It's refreshing to see the changes through the eyes of the parents as well as the children.  I also appreciated that the 'bad guy' isn't purely black, he has some depth to him. I also liked the change that the Riverton's cat, Silver, undergoes (I'll just say that the boys can't pick him up now).

The writing is more than adequate and while the plot (strangers come to fulfill prophecy) is not particularly new, I still enjoyed the book and definitely plan to read the sequel, Tools of Prophecy (currently available on Kindle, will be out in paperback/hardback on August 1).

Author:  Michael A. Rothman

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/MichaelARothman

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/MichaelARothman

Website:   http://michaelarothman.com/

Blog Tour Schedule:   http://tlcbooktours.com/2012/04/michael-a-rothman-author-of-heirs-of-prophecy-on-tour-junejuly-2012/

GIVEAWAY: Note this giveaway is only open to US/Canada residents 13 and older.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Middle Grade Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

THE AGE OF MIRACLES: A NOVEL
by Karen Thompson Walker
Random House, 2012
ISBN: 978-0812992977
Grades 4-7
Reviewed from copy provided by publisher through NetGalley.
Book Synopsis comes from Goodreads.

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

Luminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  There were things I liked and things I didn't.  I'll try to express these in as fair a manner as I can.  I prefer not to give negative reviews and there were things I found compelling about the story, so I'll start with the things that I liked.

Things I liked:   I found Julia a compelling character.  Having been a loner myself through much of my school career I found I could relate to some of her struggles with friendship and the lack thereof.  I found myself pleased when she found someone to connect with.  Her struggles with growing up were certainly realistic and easy to relate to, including her changing relationships with her parents.  The catastrophic changes taking place were certainly something I had never thought of before and found interesting.  I wanted to find out what happened as the earthly changes developed.  I didn't really mind that no real explanation for these changes was given.  After all should some such change occur, we might never know what caused it, so I had no problem with that.


Things I didn't like:  Realistic or not, I am not comfortable with so much swearing and profanity in a middle grade novel. It didn't seem at all necessary.  Also, her portrayal of Mormons was not accurate.  Luckily that proved to be a minor part of the story.  The situation regarding Julia's father and her former piano teacher I found uncomfortable but bearable.  Unfortunately, all too many children find themselves caught in the middle of a struggling marriage. The underage drinking and making out I found disturbing, it's bad enough with sixteen and seventeen-year-olds doing it, it's downright scary for twelve and thirteen-year-olds to be doing it.


I think the thing I struggled with the most however is the tone of the book.  The title, to me, conveys a feeling of hope, of something good happening, of hope overcoming despair.  I guess that does happen to some degree, Julia does find a friend. Her family survives. But then another devastating blow occurs.  The overall feel of the book is sad and depressing.  Despite a few things working out, most of the book chronicles increasing worsening conditions. The end of the book does not convey much if any hope.


As compelling as I found the book, it isn't one I would read again.  I prefer books that convey at least some sense of hope.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fantastic Friday: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

THE HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM
by Christopher Healy
Walden Pond Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-211743-4
Grades 4-8
Reviewed from personal copy.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Debut author Christopher Healy takes us on a journey with four imperfect princes and their four improbable princesses, all of whom are trying to become perfect heroes--a fast-paced, funny, and fresh introduction to a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

I really enjoyed the humor in this book.  I also appreciated the fact that each of the princes and princesses was unique, with their own strengths and weaknesses.  I enjoyed the way each character grew in confidence and ability, with possibly the exception of Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty). I also liked the fact that the princesses are doing more than just showing up at the right time and place to be rescued. Ella (Cinderella), for example, leaves Frederick in order to pursue a more adventurous life. The relationship between Prince Duncan and Snow White is an interesting one, far more realistic than most fairy tale relationships, especially considering Duncan's many idiosyncrasies. I found the characters to be fresh and delightfully entertaining.




Fairy tale re-tellings have really exploded in recent years.  The best-known stories have been the most commonly done, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc.  There are also been plenty of fractured fairy tale re-tellings.  I have enjoyed many of these as most authors take the time to make the story truly their own. And I will be reviewing more of these in coming weeks.  But I can honestly say I've never read a fairy tale book like this one.  It's interesting how the stories of the four Princes Charming come together and they end up each playing a role in trying to defeat the witch.  The introduction of the villains even provides plenty of humor. I thought it was appropriate however that while the princes/princesses do heroic things, they don't all of a sudden become popular and perfect. They  remain their own unique selves.  I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy fairy tales turned on their heads, with plenty of humor and heart.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: We've Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March
written by Cynthia Levinson
Peachtree, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-56145-627-7
176 p.
Grades 3 and up
Reviewed from purchased copy.

BLURB: We ve Got a Job tells the little-known story of the 4,000 black elementary-, middle-, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail in Birmingham, Alalama, between May 2 and May 11, 1963. Fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi s and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. s precept to fill the jails, they succeeded where adults had failed in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America. Focusing on four of the original participants who have participated in extensive interviews, We ve Got a Job recounts the astonishing events before, during, and after the Children's March.
Levinson has done an incredible job with this book.  Not only does she give an account of the events leading up to and including the Children's March but she merges comments from some of the participants.  This is how narrative nonfiction should be done. The book is beautifully organized with complementary photographs.  I almost felt like I was there while reading this book.Clearly, the author has done her research, but more than that, she has made it understandable for the young reader.

I think what makes this account so powerful is the sense of immediacy that Levinson has created.  It felt like it was happening as I was reading about it rather than almost fifty years ago.  It was amazing to read about the courage of the children who participate, ages 9 to 18 with a few adults mixed in. The story in the prologue starts the book off with a bang.  The idea of a nine-year-old child telling her parents that she wants to go to jail hit me hard.  The descriptions of hundreds of children crammed into jail cells meant to hold many fewer occupants was also full of impact.  I think the part though that really got me was when fire hoses were turned on the marchers.


I highly, highly recommend this book for any reader who wants to see the power of unity or the power of children to make a difference.  This would be a great book to use in teaching about civil rights or just plain courage.
Head on over to 100 Scope Notes for today's Nonfiction Monday and some more great nonfiction recommendations.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 Debut Author Challenge: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

SCARLET
written by A.C. Gaughen
Walker Children's, 2012
ISBN13: 9780802723468
292 p.
Grades 9 and up
Reviewed from personal copy.
BLURB: Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.
One of the things I find interesting about the book world is the fact that there are books for every sort of taste and temperament.  There are books that others connect to that I don't like and books I like that other readers do not.  This book falls into that category. For example, one of my favorite bloggers, Charlotte at Charlotte's Library didn't particularly like this book, but I find myself unable to stop thinking about it, something that only occurs with books I connect with in a strong way. 

I'm not sure why I connected with Scarlet and Robin so much.  Maybe because I've always loved stories about Robin Hood.  Maybe because Scarlet and Robin seem so real, flaws and all.  Maybe because I love stories about courageous people trying to help others.  Whatever the reason, I did find this book compelling.  I stayed up way too late to finish the book, something I try not to do these days.  

In any case, I found Scarlet a character I could really root for.  She's far from perfect but she's got a good heart which she does her best to hide.  After suffering a devastating loss just before meeting Robin, she tries not to get too attached to the band, unwilling to admit for the longest time that she would die for them, especially Robin.  She and Robin are kindred spirits who suffer from great feelings of inadequacy, unwilling to forgive themselves for past sins, but who have dedicated themselves to helping others hoping to atone for their mistakes.  John provides some of the lighter moments in the book (of which there are only a few) with his boisterous ways and Much is the gentle caregiver who wants to become a fighter like the others. As in the original stories, Gisbourne is a strong villain, the kind who deserves to die. 

Plotwise the book moves along quickly yet provides thoughtful moments also.  I am impressed with the way Gaughen kept the story moving while still providing for character development.  There are several twists near the end that are gut-wrenching in their intensity.  I am hoping there will be a sequel because the ending leaves several plot threads untied.  Scarlet is left in an uncomfortable situation that I want to see her out of before I will be completely satisfied with the story.

NOTE:  Some of the content makes this book more appropriate for older students.  There is a moderate amount of swearing and profanity that I wish hadn't been included the story would have been just as strong without it.  This language made the book seem not quite medieval.  Also there is sexual innuendo, no graphic encounters, but the implications are definitely there.  There is also a good amount of violence, which while realistic, gets graphic at times.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fantastic Friday: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder
written by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, 2012
ISBN: 9780312641894
390 p.
$17.99
Grades 7 and up
Reviewed from purchased ebook.

BLURB: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


I don't read a lot of young adult books, I guess I just prefer middle grade and younger.  However, when I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it.  The premise was so unique that I was intrigued. I was delighted to discover that the book lived up to its hype.  Not only  is the story well told, but the characters are interesting and easy to relate to, despite the fact that Cinder is part machine, I found it easy to care about her and her struggles.  I liked how Meyer made Prince Kai very human with flaws and emotions and struggles.  I appreciated how Meyer made it clear that being a ruler is not fun and games and carries very real burdens with it.  He seemed very much like a normal young man placed in very extraordinary circumstances.

There were a couple of things that weren't as well done as they could have been. For example, Meyer foreshadows a major plot point fairly early in the book, but I enjoyed reading about Cinder and her struggles with her identity so much that it didn't bother me very much.  Also, Queen Levana and her entourage (all evil, all the time) as well as Kai's advisor seemed a bit one dimensional, I didn't have a problem with Levana's desire to conquer Earth.  Our real world has after all seen many with the same desire.  It would have been nice to get more detailed glimpses of the culture that Cinder lives in and just why cyborgs are so despised.  The story is supposed to take place in a future Asia, but there isn't really a strong Asian flavor to the book.

However, despite the few flaws, I did really enjoy reading this and highly recommend it to those who enjoy a little science fiction with their retold fairy tales.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2012 Debut Author Challenge

 I've decided to participate in this year's 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.  I'm excited to get to read at least 12 middle grade or young adult books by author's new to these genres. 

Here is a list of some of the books I'm interested in reading for this challenge.  This is of course just a preliminary list, it will undoubtedly change as the year progresses. I will undoubtedly discover other great debut books to read. Book descriptions and covers are from Goodreads.com.

 Storybound by Marissa Burt

In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.

In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story.

But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself.... 


The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbit

All Maya really wants is for her mother to be well again. But when her baby brother James goes missing, 12-year-old Maya has to take on the magical underworld of Paris, in which houses have bronze salamanders for door handles, the most beautiful people are all hooked on the sweet-smelling “anbar,” and a shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths has chosen Maya to be its next keeper. With the Cabinet’s help, Maya may be able to do for her mother what doctors cannot: save her from death, once and for all. But now that the clock is ticking for James, the price the Cabinet demands may be too high.

The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards

Magic, Djinn, Ogres, and Sorcerers. Thirteen-year-old Zardi loves to hear stories about fantastical beings, long banned from the kingdom of Arribitha. But anyone caught whispering of their powers will feel the rage of the sultan—a terrifying usurper who, even with his eyes closed, can see all.
When her own beloved sister is captured by the evil ruler, Zardi knows that she must go to any lengths to rescue her. Along with her best friend, Ridhan—a silver-haired, violet-eyed boy of mysterious origins—and an unlikely crew of sailors led by the infamous Captain Sinbad, Zardi ventures forth into strange and wondrous territory with a seemingly impossible mission: to bring magic back to Arribitha and defeat the sultan once and for all.


May B by Caroline Starr Rose

May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again.
The Vanishing Game by Kate Kae Myers

Jocelyn's twin brother Jack was the only family she had growing up in a world of foster homes-and now he's dead, and she has nothing. Then she gets a cryptic letter from "Jason December"-the code name her brother used to use when they were children at Seale House, a terrifying foster home that they believed had dark powers. Only one other person knows about Jason December: Noah, Jocelyn's childhood crush and their only real friend among the troubled children at Seale House.

But when Jocelyn returns to Seale House and the city where she last saw Noah, she gets more than she bargained for. Turns out the house's powers weren't just a figment of a childish imagination. And someone is following Jocelyn. Is Jack still alive? And if he is, what kind of trouble is he in? The answer is revealed in a shocking twist that turns this story on its head and will send readers straight back to page 1 to read the book in a whole new light.


The Mapmaker and the Ghost by Sarvenaz Tash

Goldenrod Moram loves nothing better than a good quest. Intrepid, curious, and full of a well-honed sense of adventure, she decides to start her own exploring team fashioned after her idols, the explorers Lewis and Clark, and to map the forest right behind her home. This task is complicated, however, by a series of unique events—a chance encounter with a mysterious old lady has her searching for a legendary blue rose. Another encounter lands her in the middle of a ragtag gang of brilliant troublemakers. And when she stumbles upon none other than the ghost of Meriwether Lewis himself, Goldenrod knows this will be anything but an ordinary summer . . . or an ordinary quest.
 

If Only by Carole Geithner

Corinna's world is crushed after her mother dies of cancer. How does she get through the funeral, trays of ziti, a father who can't comminicate, the first day of school, Mother's Day, people who don't know what to say, and the entire eighth-grade year? Despite her alienation from many of her peers, including her best friend, she succeeds in finding support. She dares to bare her innermost fears, hurts, and wishes, and even allows herself to have a flowering crush on a boy in the school band. She also finds out deep secrets about her mother which she never knew. It's a year that will change Corinna's life forever.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

A Mississippi town in 1964 gets riled when tempers flare at the segregated public pool. As much as Gloriana June Hemphill, or Glory as everyone knows her, wants to turn twelve, there are times when Glory wishes she could turn back the clock a year. Jesslyn, her sister and former confidante, no longer has the time of day for her now that she’ll be entering high school.  Then there’s her best friend, Frankie. Things have always been so easy with Frankie, and now suddenly they aren’t. Maybe it’s the new girl from the North that’s got everyone out of sorts. Or maybe it’s the debate about whether or not the town should keep the segregated public pool open.

Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank

Growing up poor in 1953 in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia doesn't bother Lydia Hawkins. She treasures her tight-knit family. There's her loving mama, now widowed; her whip-smart younger brother, BJ, who has cystic fibrosis; and wise old Gran. But everything falls apart after Gran and BJ die and mama is jailed unjustly. Suddenly Lydia has lost all those dearest to her.

Moving to a coal camp to live with her uncle William and aunt Ethel Mae only makes Lydia feel more alone. She is ridiculed at her new school for her outgrown homemade clothes and the way she talks, and for what the kids believe her mama did. And to make matters worse, she discovers that her uncle has been keeping a family secret—about her.

If only Lydia, with her resilient spirit and determination, could find a way to clear her mother's name. 


Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Twelve-year-old Sophie has always been different -- she's years ahead of the other kids in school and can read minds. She's always assumed there's some kind of logical explanation for her talents, but when she meets an adorable and mysterious boy, she finds out the shocking truth. She's never felt at home because she, well, ... isn't.

There are secrets buried deep in her memory, secrets about her true identity and why she was hidden among humans, that others desperately want and would even kill for. And she must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.


Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

Remarkable by Elizabeth Foley

10-year-old named Jane Doe, the only "normal" person living in a town called Remarkable that is otherwise full of gifted people, stumbles on a long-buried town secret that leaves her in a position to decide just how remarkable she wants to be.

Lots of fun books to look forward to!

 
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