Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

About the Book

Doll Bones by Holly Black
Published on May 7, 2013 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

GoodReads Description

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice.

But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .

My Thoughts

Lately, it seems that I have been reading books with the intention of bulking up my classroom library instead of bringing attention to books that have been more recently published.  Doll Bones is another book that I read in the interest of student enjoyment.  Luckily, this book did not disappoint me.

Zach was most definitely my favorite character.  I loved that he was not only conflicted, but conflicted about things that many of my students deal with.  This also made me chuckle a bit because the things that he considers the most important to him are definitely not the supernatural events happening around him.  It's so typical for a middle school kid to have his head cemented in his own world while the real world goes on around him.

Although I liked the realism of Zach's character, I didn't feel like the romance between him and another character made sense.  It just didn't seem necessary or planned out.  The novel did not need this after thought of an idea to progress.

The supernatural aspect of this novel was very well-written.  Another reviewer (sorry, I don't remember where I read this and I can't seem to find the quote) mentioned that they liked that the focus was on the kids and not on the supernatural things happening to them.  I can't agree with this more.  Black does a phenomenal job creating a world that happened to have magic in it.  Her focus is in the exact right place in this book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It definitely seems like something my middle school students will enjoy and has entered my classroom library.

My Rating






Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

About the Book

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Published by Speak on December 28, 2006

GoodReads Description

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same.

My Thoughts

I read this book because I knew that one of my students read it several times a year and loved it.  I wanted to know what drew her to this book so much that at one point she stole it from the school library and refused to let it go.  I did not read this book as a way to understand something that had happened in my own life.  I did not read this book to help myself grieve and work through some of the emotional parts of losing a student in a tragic car accident only four months ago.  I'm grateful for the ways that this novel, particular the ending, helped me to do so.  The situation was definitely very different, but the healing was much the same.

Green's characters are absolutely exquisite.  I was enraptured by how realistic all of them are.  In fact, I pictured several of my own students acting just the way that Pudge, the Colonel, Alaska, Takumi, and Lara would.  This intricate characterization held me so close to the book that I loathed having to set it down to go to bed.  I grabbed this novel at every moment I possibly could.  

Of all the characters, Pudge was my favorite.  Instead of having a main character who is forced to feel a certain way because the novel needs him/her to, Pudge's emotions are real and raw.  At no time did I sense that he was simply written into the part.  My favorite ting about Pudge is the way that he is constantly seeking more.  He would have been able to happily stay in Florida and could have escaped both the love and pain that were Alaska Young.  I think, however, that he truly came to life because of her.

The relationship between Alaska and Pudge bothered me just a little bit, but I'm sure that it was meant to.  It seems that Alaska has no real shame about leading Pudge on, whether she's drunk or not.  However, I hated this as much as I loved it.  After all, no person and no relationship are perfect.  There are several Alaska's in the world.  This layer of their relationship and Alaska's character lent another level of reality to the novel.

Despite desperately trying not to include spoilers, I must add that my absolute favorite part of this novel was the end.  Not because it was finally over, but because this is where Pudge really matured emotionally.  This is where he brings up the answers to a lot of questions that anyone who has ever dealt with a death needs to hear.  It is the most natural and most poetic conclusion possible.

I will be reading this book again and again, but have not yet decided if I will put a copy in my classroom.  While I believe that this book can and will help students through difficult times in their lives, I'm not sure that I want to have 6th and 7th graders easily reach this book. I'm not sure what our community standards have to say about a book including underage sex, drinking, and delinquent behavior.  If any teachers are reading this, please leave a comment with your suggestions! I would love to hear how you have handled this in your classroom.

My Rating


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Review: Pax by Sara Pennypacker

About the Book

Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 2, 2016

GoodReads Description

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

My Thoughts

I found Pax on a Wal-Mart shelf and found myself drawn to the cover.  Both the art style and the simple title made me curious about what I discovered inside. Would the story be as simple as the cover? Would this small book hold deep thoughts about the world we live in? Luckily, the answer to both questions was yes. 

Pennypacker creates beautiful, life-like characters.  What is unusual, however, is that she characterizes animals with much more detail and emotion than she does humans.  I liked both Pax and Peter as characters.  But I loved seeing the experiences and emotions through Pax's eyes.  He was the one who captured my attention.  His big heart and eagerness to care for the beings around him truly made him come to life.  Despite Peter being the human this novel centers around, Pax was truly the one who came into himself in a very Call of the Wild kind of way.

It was obvious to me that Pennypacker put a lot of thought and effort into several themes. Of these, the most important were unconditional love and the effects of war.  Because the importance of unconditional love in this novel will become readily apparent to anyone who reads the synopsis, I'd like to spend my time discussing the latter.  Pennypacker does not present war as an evil that should be completely done away with.  In fact, she speaks to its necessity in specific cases and dire straits.  She uses Pax to encourage us, as human beings, to be more aware of our actions and their responses during war times.  She demands that people take an extra moment to think about what their decisions are costing the world around them.  These costs are often more than the already devastating losses of lives and countless injuries.  They include the damage done to nature of both wildlife and mankind itself. This is quite a powerful statement for a Middle Grade book and I was impressed not only by its inclusion but by its elegance.

I was frustrated by the fact that there doesn't seem to be any specific time mentioned for the setting of this novel. Simply mentioning cars, baseball, and prosthetic legs does not help one to narrow down the time period in which this story was written.  I think this was done, in part, to emphasize the theme about the effects of war.  These effects are not specific to one time period or to one war.  They affect all wars in all countries between all people.  I am yet to decide if this adds to or takes away from my enjoyment of the novel.  I tend to like very specific world building, but I may be comfortable with letting this vague aspect go by.

What I am certain about is that I would one day love to teach this book.  Pax will engage several Middle Grade students because it is an engaging novel that includes an animal that most students are already familiar with.  I can think of several of my students that would be fascinated by the sections written from Pax's point of view.  Additionally, this book lends to several conversations about theme, tone, mood, and characterization. I am excited to say that my copy of this novel will join my classroom library tomorrow.

Overall, I felt this was a very well-written novel that has a lot to offer its readers.  I think that this is the kind of book a person takes something new from each time that they read it.

My Rating



Wednesday, November 20, 2019

MJ Markovski on Being a Writer

I would like to begin by thanking you for your invite to your blog.

Am I a writer? I’d like to think so. I’ve been quite busy this year, if I take a breath and think about it. But that’s what I like to do is keep my mind busy. Besides promoting my debut novel, I like to read but most often I spend my time writing. If I'm not writing. I'm spending my time with my daughter, Siena, which we will, according to her words chillaxing for the afternoon. We might read together or watch a movie together or our favorite activity is, write, (she’s taking a creative writing course in school). My debut novel released earlier this year, part of the Take Series, titled Whatever It Takes, a romantic suspense/thriller. And something I don’t really talk about is it was a challenge to write. Writing in itself is challenging but for me it became a struggle.

To begin. I’ve always been a writer and it goes back to when I was in elementary school. I was told later on that the school had wanted to skip a grade three times, but my mom wouldn’t have it, which is a good thing because I would’ve been extremely young graduating high school. You’re looking at the age of fifteen, if my mom let me skip a grade. Crazy right? As it turned out, always seventeen entering college.

As I was saying, writing is a challenge and I have the extra challenge of a disease. The disease doesn’t discriminate on its choice of victim, it’s blind to its choice. Which I could have ended up being blind among other things, because MS can do that. Fortunately, it’s been stabilized but wasn’t caught before and it up in a wheelchair. But I look at that as my mind is strong and solid, and that’s God’s way of giving me time…to write. And I take every moment that I can to do exactly that.

And as of now my plans are to have the second novel in the Take Series, titled, All That It Takes completed by the end of next month in the NaNoWriMo challenge. I know I can do it because I’ve participated in the challenge before.

I set a goal, I completed. That’s just why am, tenacious. I also, like to dabble in other genres. Those other genres include YA paranormal romance and YA futuristic urban fantasy. Over those two genres I’ve written and completed two other novels just this year. Although of course I will be promoting my debut Take Series, while I am editing thoroughly while I am editing my completed novels. Such is the life of an author/writer. For me it seems the work is never done.

Oh, and I won’t even go into the other stories that keep popping up in my mind. It’s the unfortunate and fortunate thing of how my crazy brain tends to function. He is a little secret. I’ll share with my fellow audience; I actually have to meditate at night the wind down my thoughts so I can actually sleep. Otherwise, I will never sleep peacefully. Such is the life of my creative imagination.

Thanks again for allowing me to be a guest here.

MJ



Marija Carpenter, writing as M.J. Markovski, was born in Detroit, Michigan to Macedonian immigrant parents. She led a sheltered life, then moved to Arizona for college and ended up staying in Tucson.

This first novel came out of her experiences, particularly when she became disabled. She had a very bad exacerbation from MS. The doctors thought she would die from that attack but she’s far from dead. She does use an electric wheelchair for mobility. For now, she looks at it as God’s way for her to have more time to write. She says, “I don’t let my illness define who I am.”

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

About the Book

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves
Published March 28, 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

GoodReads Description

In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

My Thoughts

I received an ARC of this novel when it first came out.  Although I was very excited to read this, it took me FOREVER and a day to get to it.  Now that I've read it, I'm rather angry with myself that I did not immediately open the dang thing and begin! What the heck was I thinking?!?!

The world building in this novel absolutely blew me away.  Two separate countries and two very different forms of magic are vividly described.  Despite the large amount of effort that this requires, Eves makes it seem as real as life.  I could feel the exact same confusion and bewilderment that Anna experiences at the same time as she does.  It takes a good author to build a world, but this great author shoves you right into the middle of the one she creates.

In addition to fabulous world building, Eves creates beautiful characters.  Of these, my favorite is Gabor. This gentleman is the perfect image of chivalry and grace.  I loved seeing the way that he cared for Anna from afar and how he was more willing to put her needs and her future ahead of the things that he wanted for himself.  Matyas was written just as wonderfully.  Which, in retrospect, is funny because I hated his stupid butt at the very beginning of the novel. Who just randomly kisses their cousin like they are on a fifth or sixth date? That was disgusting.  But the sacrifices that he chooses to make at the end of the novel are truly his redemption.  Although I'm desperately trying not to give any spoilers, I will say that I cried with the way that the novel ends for Matyas.  Like a freaking baby.  

Unfortunately, the entire book cannot be seen through rose colored glasses.  Anna's character seemed so unrealistic at various times in this book.  I know that a human being has moments of strength and of weakness, but Anna seems to flip through these too quickly.  What is she? A frail little flower or a strong heroine?  Even after finishing the novel, I don't know how to answer this question and that is a problem.

Another weak point of this novel is the falling action.  It took far too long to fall.  I found myself white knuckling my way through the beginning and then later on wishing that it would finally come to an end.  Soon, the end was in sight and the story began to pick up once more.  I absolutely adored the fast paced portion of the novel, but then found myself wanting to quit when things slowed down.  Eves definitely needs to work on pacing to maintain her audience's attention.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this novel and am excited to read the second and third books in the series.

My Rating


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Review: The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

About the Book

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis 
Published on October 1, 2019 by Tor Teen

GoodReads Description

Westworld meets The Handmaid's Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls--they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a "welcome house" as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta's most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It's going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

My Thoughts

What an exciting novel!  It was a combination of Joss Whedon's Firefly, The Handmaid's Tale, and Maze Runner.  This piece is difficult to review because I liked a lot, but I also didn't like some of the same things that I liked.  My opinions and preferences definitely made my job as a reviewer more challenging. I am really hoping that Davis comes out with a sequel soon.

What I Liked

  • The characterization amazed me.  I loved getting to know each character, especially Aster.  This strong heroine and her gang were described more wonderfully than several of the other characters I've read about this year.  Davis has a talent for only releasing information when it's important to the tale.  Her skills of "showing not telling" are especially evident when we learn about Mallow's relationship.  What a skilled author!
  • I truly appreciate that the characterization in this piece extends even to the minor characters.  So many authors will write their minor characters as both flat and static.  It was interesting to see more dynamic minor characters.

What I Didn't Like As Much

  • Arketta fascinates me.  I would have liked to learn more about it, however.  As a place where the history is so vital to the story, the world building is absolutely lacking.  I think this would have been a more engaging novel if the world building was more complete.
  • I flew through the sections about Zee and Clem because I didn't feel like they were very realistic.  This is one romance that felt rushed and forced.  I would be interested to see more development in this relationship in a sequel.

My Rating





Monday, September 9, 2019

Review: Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison

About the Book

Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison
Published on August 3, 2006 by Speak

GoodReads Description

Abandoned by her parents, and then apprenticed to a witch, Mira is captivated by the other young apprentice, who adopts her as a sister. Mira would do anything for this beautiful girl- and that's just what her sister bargains for. With the utterance of a simple spell, Mira's body is turned to wood, her face to glass. Her only power is the magic her sister gives her, the power to make her sister a queen. 

But the sister disappears, and where one fairy tale ends, another begins. Mira is left to gather dust until a new hope arrives-a peasant girl with troubles of her own. Soon the two are on their way to find a new kind of magic, a magic that gives life instead of taking it.

My Thoughts

I definitely enjoy alternate versions of fairy tales and was excited to come across this one!  As with all books, there were definitely things that I liked about it and things that I did not enjoy. Because of time constraints, today's review will be rather condensed. I am excited to share that this book has been added to my classroom library!

What I Liked

  • I felt like the relationships between characters in this novel were rather believable.  I never felt that one character overshadowed the others.  Even though Mira was definitely the main character, she felt just as important and just as richly written as the other characters.
  • I loved the theme of sisterly love.  I know that many fairy tales focus on romantic love, but it was wonderful to see a piece that spoke about a different kind of love and selflessness.  
  • The ending was beautifully written.  I felt like it was the perfect way to end this novel and both the suffering and happiness therein.

What I Didn't Like As Much

  • While I liked Harrison's style, sometimes the style took away from the meaning.  I found myself reading the same passages over and over again trying to figure out what was happening and who was talking.  
  • The relationship between the two girls was rather puzzling at first.  After all, if someone stole my face I'd be TICKED!

My Rating




Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Review: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

About the Book

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Published by Harcourt Graphia on October 18, 2010

GoodReads Description

“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

My Thoughts

This was a fast and meaningful read.  I think it is a piece that many high school students should read, albeit a little difficult due to the content that is discussed.  This book will be on my classroom shelves.  Someday soon, I hope to read Kessler's story about another rider, War.

What I Liked

  • I love this cover!  It's simple yet elegant and meaningful!  It's a wonderful reflection of the writing within.
  • I appreciated the honest inside look at both anorexia and bulimia.  I felt it was especially poignant coming from an author who had struggled with bulimia.
  • The character development in this novel is phenomenal! Lisabeth goes from being a weak little mouse to a warrior queen.  She shows strength in many different ways.  Many people need the reminder that sometimes admitting you have a problem and asking for help is the strongest thing you can possibly do.

What I Didn't Like As Much

  • The world building in this novel was very weak.  Several of the hows and whys of the Horsemen are left unanswered.
  • This book felt incredibly rushed.  There was a lot of ground to be covered and a strong story should be allowed to fill the space it needs.
  • I dislike the uncertainty at the end.  Does she deal with both problems or only one of them?  This piece needed a lot more closure.

My Rating



Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Review: Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June

About the Book

Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June
Published by Blink on May 1, 2018

GoodReads Description

From author Christina June comes Everywhere You Want to Be, a modern tale inspired by the classic Red Riding Hood.

Matilda Castillo has always done what she was told, but when she gets injured senior years, she watches her dreams of becoming a contemporary dancer slip away. So when Tilly gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend the summer with a New York dance troupe, nothing can stop her from saying yes--not her mother, not her fears of the big city, and not the commitment she made to Georgetown. Tilly's mother allows her to go on two conditions: one, Tilly will regularly visit her abuela in New Jersey, and two, after the summer, she'll give up dancing and go off to college.

Armed with her red vintage sunglasses and her pros and cons lists, Tilly strikes out, determined to turn a summer job into a career. Along the way she meets new friends ... and new enemies. Tilly isn't the only one desperate to dance, and fellow troupe member Sabrina Wolfrik intends to succeed at any cost. But despite dodging sabotage and blackmail attempts from Sabrina, Tilly can't help but fall in love with the city, especially since Paolo, a handsome musician from her past, is also calling New York home for the summer.

As the weeks wind down and the competition with Sabrina heats up, Tilly's future is on the line. She must decide whether to follow her mother's path to Georgetown or leap into the unknown to pursue her own dreams.

My Thoughts

Once again, Christina June inspires delight and fuzzy lovey feelings in her audience.  I thought that this was a light and entertaining piece that encourages the audience to take a good look at both their choices and their dreams.

What I Liked

  • Tilly is a very lovable character.  She definitely fills the role of the heroine in this novel because of her need for both confidence in herself and the ability to be much easier on herself.  She is a truly relatable character who struggles with very universal issues.
  • I loved the instant friendship with Charlotte who really brought Tilly out of her shell.  My best friends in college were just as instant and just as meaningful.  They are still very important to me.  Once again, June did a terrific job giving breath to a universal topic.  This is one of my favorite things about her writing.  No matter who or where you are, you should be able to relate on some level.
  • I've never been to New York. And yet, June was able to take me sightseeing through this novel. This required terrific world building skills and I was not disappointed in the slightest.

What I Didn't Like As Much

  • The relationship between Paolo and Tilly felt very forced and overly cute. No person I have ever met would forgive so easy or fall as hard as Paolo does after what Tilly did to him.
  • Throughout the novel, the mom is described as a strong-minded and opinionated woman.  At the end, she falls to mush.  It felt like June simply gave up on her characterization at this point.
  • What was the main conflict of this novel meant to be? Was it resolved? I'm not entirely certain.

My Rating



Friday, July 19, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: The Sin Soldiers by Tracy Auerbach


The Sin Soldiers
Tracy Auerbach
(Fragments, #1)
Publication date: July 23rd 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Red compound makes them angry. Yellow exhausts them. Blue drives them into a state of ravenous addiction. The thief Kai knows about the chemically controlled soldiers of the Eastern forces and their savage, deadly nature. When a robbery attempt at Club Seven goes wrong, Kai is captured by a handler and his bestial soldier-boy. She wakes up inside the military base with no idea what happened to her twin brother, Dex.
Things go from bad to worse when Kai is started on a drug and training regimen, and forced to take injections of blue compound. The scientists in charge plan to make her into a working soldier who will mine the mysterious power crystals beneath the desert. Kai becomes a victim of the bully Finn, a handsome but nasty soldier whose years on red compound seem to have erased his humanity. Still, she begins to pity the Seven Soldiers, including the monstrous boy who tried to rip her to shreds at the club. They appear to be nothing more than genetically enhanced, drug-controlled teenagers.
On the outside, Dex and his tech-savvy boyfriend try to crack the soldiers’ chemical code to find a weakness that will break the system. But Kai has already been drawn deep into her new world. Strong feelings for the soldiers she’s come to know have started to cloud her judgment. Can she escape and find Dex without becoming a monster herself?
EXCERPT:
The strobe lights and blaring music made Kai’s pulse beat along to their frantic rhythms. She and Dex had worked for Leo before, but never on a hit this big. To steal the night’s earnings from Club Seven took more than the kind of finesse that she and her brother were famous for; it took balls. She looked over at Dex, who squatted in a small patch of shadow by the three steps leading up to the club’s first marble floor. Only he could make squatting look graceful. She strained to see him clearly while the blue-white lights flashed like a detonated bomb with a pause button. The strobes were replaced by a dim red glow, and she held up two fingers to signal the all-clear.
Dex responded instantly, their timing down to an art form. He hoisted himself onto the cold marble and did a quick military crawl to where she was lying flat on her stomach beside the liquor bar, propped on her elbows. His long, spiky hair brushed against her. He smelled like hair gel, but his closeness brought her comfort. No matter what sort of situation Kai found herself in, Dex made her feel safe. He looked up and smiled broadly, showing off teeth so bleached, they nearly glowed in the dark. She narrowed her eyes in warning, and he quickly closed his mouth. He could always tell what she was thinking. Twin power or something like that.
It was important to stay out of sight until they had scoped out the whole scene and gotten a lay of the land. The small service entrance they had used to access the club was situated directly across from the longer of two bars, which ran the length of the club on one side. This bar wrapped neatly along the perimeter, hugging the large entryway’s shiny black walls. It slunk down two steps and kept going all the way across the dance floor. With its white, rounded stone finish and polished glass casings to hold bottles upon bottles of alcohol, it looked pristine. But where Kai was lying at floor level, its façade was shattered by thick patches of dust and some unpleasant-looking stains.
The crystals that powered the club, bringing it to life in all its pulsing, deafening glory, were housed in a nest of wires under the polished stone. They glowed through a transparent square in the bar’s surface with a soft, pale light that somehow stood out even in the midst of the chaotic strobes. Those crystals were the reason this club existed. The ongoing campaign for power over those precious fragments had made Seven Soldiers necessary. Sevens were the front line of the Eastern Forces; the heavy hand that held the public in place and kept all opposition at bay. At Club Seven they were paraded around as spectacles for citizens to gawk at. Kai glanced up toward the enormous body of a soldier walking by the bar, held tightly by his handler as they shoved through the raucous crowd of inebriated revelers. He was so large, he obscured the light from reaching down to where she lay in wait.
Kai shoved herself closer to the bar as a group of giggling women approached the protruding marble above her hiding spot. They surrounded the soldier and his handler, and she squinted up to see them running their hands all over the Seven’s body before leaning close to the bartender to shout for drinks. Kai pulled her hands out of the way of their high heels as they swayed and stepped in rhythm to the hypnotic movement, gyrating against the zombie-like Seven.
Dex reached a hand into his pocket and brought out the tiny camera he treasured. The crystal shard within it was no larger than a pebble, but it had worked for years. He edged his body along the floor away from the people around them and waited for the strobes to give way to red darkness again. When they did, he launched himself from the ground to his feet, fired off a round of pictures, and sunk back down. His movements were so quick, and so well-timed with the lights, that unless one of the clubgoers or bartenders who stood mere feet away were staring straight at him, they would miss his presence completely. Kai knew that from his vantage point, the arc of his leap gave him a clear shot of the club’s raised central stage. On the dance floor, a mass of writhing bodies clamored for a better view of the soldiers above them.
Kai glanced around to make sure nobody had noticed. In the clear, she gave him a thumbs-up to take another round, this time to the left of the club stage where a smaller bar wrapped around a mirrored pole. Lastly, he took some quick shots of the right side’s wooden buffet tables and then crawled back to the shadows of the entryway steps. Kai joined him, and they opened the heavy stone door just a crack before slipping back out into the night.
“I think you got some good ones,” Kai whispered when they were safely outside the club and leaning against the exterior wall. She could feel the vibrations of the music through the stone, and her hearing seemed to have taken a beating as her ears throbbed. But her pulse relaxed as the cool night air and sky of the desert took the place of the stifling sights and smells of the club’s interior.
“Let me have a look first.”
She studied the open plains before them while she waited for him to check out the shots he had taken. The halo of light that surrounded the throbbing stone edifice grew dimmer and dimmer until it faded into total darkness. The silhouettes of desert plants near the light’s border looked like shadowy sentries guarding the empty expanse of sand. Huge saguaros and short, thickly clumped agave cast a parade of midnight black shadows onto the scarcely-lit areas of sand beyond. Further in the distance, Kai could just make out the dimly twinkling lights of Eastern Pless. It was a few miles away, and night lights were a luxury that most couldn’t afford, but being the only other light for miles gave it the illusion of closeness. Above them, millions of stars blinked in and out of existence; only the small red moon and large orange moon remained constant. She shivered—a mixture of the cold air drying the sweat on her skin, and the thought of what could be lurking in all that darkness.
“Hold on a second,” said Dex, keeping the camera out of her reach as she tried to take it. Only a few inches taller, he was still skilled at taunting her by holding things just out of grabbing distance. He continued casually going through the pictures, one by one.
“I’m serious,” she said with a frown. “Give it to me.”
“Not yet,” he snapped. “I’m in man-candy heaven.”
She rolled her eyes.
“You disapprove, sister?”
“They’re Seven Soldiers, Dex. Barely even human.”
“That doesn’t mean they’re not fun to look at,” he protested. “I’m not going to date one. Just having a nice, long stare.”
She tried to glare disapprovingly at him, but he gave her the innocent grin that had always managed to keep him out of trouble. His big, dark eyes seemed to glow in the reflection of the moonlight, and the spikes of his hair cast a funny-looking shadow over his brow. Although they both bore the darker coloring of Northerners, their hair and eyes were so close to true black that their skin paled in comparison. Dex finally relinquished the camera, and she peeked. He wasn’t joking that the soldiers were hot. He nudged her, seeing her expression, and wiggled his eyebrows. She laughed. The two of them very rarely had the same taste in men, thank the Lord, but this was one of those times that it was hard to argue.
“Yeah, well I think the really attractive part of the scene is all the money being thrown at said man-candy,” she retorted. “It looks like the timing will work out in about five minutes. The collection crew should come through to get most of the crystal money out of the way of the dance floor. Clear enough path, right? And dark, so we should be able to blend.”
“Sure,” he agreed.
It was ladies’ night, and the whole thing was super creepy. Kai had known about the club scene forever, but she preferred to stay away. Not that poor-looking thieves like her were allowed in by the bouncers anyway, but it would’ve been easy to pass as a wealthy citizen and have a night out. Dex had done it often, and offered to give her a ‘Club Seven makeover,’ but the whole concept gave her the shivers. Her experience tonight served to confirm her instincts. There was a disturbing aspect to the pictures that sent chills up her spine. She couldn’t decide if it was the predatory, animalistic glare on the faces of the soldiers themselves, or the indifferent smirks of their handlers that unnerved her more.
“Let’s just get this over with,” she sighed. “I don’t like it here.”
“Alright,” agreed Dex, getting serious. He was a great thief because, in the end, he easily shed his usual air of arrogance and got down to business. “Just like we planned with Leo. I’ll go around the side of the smaller liquor bar, and you sneak around to the other wall by the food. That’s likely where a lot of the swept crystals will accumulate since the collection crew hovers around there.”
“Got it,” she said as they slid back through the side door and into the awaiting sensory overload.
This time, Dex walked casually across the stone floor and down the two steps to the dance area. Upon reaching the back of the dance floor, he waited for the strobe lights to give way to dim redness, and ducked into a crouch. He skittered across the last few feet of polished wood, situating himself between the club’s back wall and the smaller, circular bar. Kai watched him disappear behind the smooth rock before she ducked and ran along the nearest wall, cutting close to the guarded front entryway on the right. She slithered through the undulating crowd of eager ladies, and toward the stage.
She paused for a second to look at the young men being held there like circus animals. She had never seen actual Seven Soldiers this close before, and her curiosity got the best of her. Yes, they were attractive; perfectly built and handsome as hell. But they were dauntingly huge, and their eyes were empty; unseeing and unfeeling. Each one had a thick collar around his neck, buzzing with pale blue electrical energy. They were powered by a different sort of crystal, she assumed. Those collars were supposedly the only thing that could keep them docile. She shivered again.
Their handlers, who ranged in appearance from mildly attractive to downright ugly, had a wider range of facial expressions; some attentive and at-the-ready while others were apathetic and bored. The huge throng of screaming women threw small, flat crystals at the performing soldiers on stage, doling out more money than Kai had ever seen just for the chance to interact with a monster. The money they spent allowed them to climb up and pour a glass of liquor down a soldier’s throat or feed him food from the long table to the right of the stage. They could also have a dance with a chained, brain-dampened soldier, or do even less savory things in private rooms upstairs.
Supposedly the young men couldn’t resist the offerings. They were Seven Soldiers, which meant they were sinners, and this was a place to witness their unleashed gluttony. They opened their mouths each time, indifferent but accepting of the food and drink that gorged them through the course of the evening. Their rage, too dangerous to be put on display, was kept in check by the handlers, so supposedly they were as complacent as puppies in this state only. No sex, though. That was too much of a liability. That was the club’s cover story at least, but Kai knew that handlers could be paid off. She had even heard of women scoring tickets for backstage passes to the Eastern Fortress where the soldiers were kept.
She shimmied along the perimeter of the club beside the stage, shaking her hips to the music’s frantic beat, trying to blend in. She darted under the long, beautifully decorated food table once the strobe lights started up again. With quick, fluid movements, she settled herself centrally under the table, where a hanging silvery cloth obscured her from view. She saw Dex across the way, sweeping up handfuls of the crystals that had fallen to the floor, putting them into his cloth sack. Perfect timing was critical, because there had to be enough money to be worth Leo’s while, but not so much that the club collectors noticed something wrong when they came through to bag it up. She pulled out her own sack and started brushing in money that had fallen or been swept under the table by the collectors. Simple.
As she was shoveling the crystals into her take-away bag, the smell of the food on the table above hit her nostrils and her mouth began to water. The soldiers really did get the good stuff. What a waste. There was fresh fruit, cakes and chocolates, and platters of meat and cheese. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten something besides dry bread, and even that had been scarce lately. She continued to absentmindedly shovel money into the sack, but now her eyes were focused on a spot where the tablecloth had accidentally gotten tucked up in the corner, affording her a crooked view of the tabletop. There sat a huge piece of cake that hung precariously over the side, shaking as dancing women jostled by. Her breath caught in her throat as it slid off and landed on the floor about a foot to her left.
As her hand seemed to instinctively reach out and grab for the fallen treasure, she saw Dex shaking his head frantically out of the corner of her eye. She felt a boot-clad foot slam down hard on her hand seconds later, and a wave of pain shot through her body. Her head hit the underside of the table and food spilled all around her. Terror gripped her insides like a live wire, and she froze. Quickly, she shook herself out of it and tried to reclaim her hand, but it was too late. The black boot held tight, and she saw a hand reach under the tablecloth, getting ready to lift it and expose her completely. She had to think fast.
Kai shoved herself sideways, toward whoever was standing on her left hand, and bit into the person’s calf, right above where the boot ended. Her teeth sunk easily through the thin cotton uniform into skin and flesh. She didn’t hear any scream over the blasting music, but the booted foot slid sideways just enough as a hand clasped it defensively. That was all she needed. She saw the face of the person who had caught her for only a second. He was young and gaunt, with pasty skin and pointy features. A handler. He must’ve been in the process of escorting his soldier past the front of the stage when he had spotted her fool attempt to grab the damn cake. She could beat herself up later. Now, she had to run.
She darted past the table and away from the stage, choosing the back door across the dance floor as an exit point. She shoved around several club-goers, knocking a few to the floor as she fled through the crowd. She didn’t dare to glance at Dex as she practically jumped over him on her way out. The last thing she needed was the guilt of getting him busted, too. They could reunite back at the rendezvous point. She slammed into the door in her panic, frantically felt around, grabbed the exit bar and pushed, then bolted out into the night.
She was at least twenty yards from the building, sand rising to resist in slow, messy heaps with each crunch of her shoes, when she stole a glance behind herself. Her heart jumped into her throat. Not only was the handler chasing her; he had brought his soldier, too. The man-beast couldn’t have been more than seventeen or eighteen years old, but he was huge. He had to be at least seven feet tall and almost as wide, with muscles popping out everywhere as he bounded soundlessly after her. Taut muscles rippled over his entire body, highlighting the contrast of his distended stomach, and making him appear even more savage as he darted across the sand in his bare feet. He was clothed only in the gold loincloth that was his club outfit, but the blankness in his eyes had given way to something far more primal, his snarling face letting her know that the party was definitely over. Whatever the mental switch was that kept him calm—it had been flipped.
“Get back here, you biting little bitch!” yelled the handler.
She froze for a second, hoping his limping from her bite would slow both him and his monstrous soldier-boy down, but to her horror, the glowing chain slipped out of his hand. He cursed and made a grab for it as Kai screamed. She picked up speed as she headed across the desert sand in the direction of the outer wall of the city. Eastern Pless would hide her in its cesspool of overcrowded streets. She could go back to Leo’s place. The soldier might get his hands on a citizen or two, but he would be stopped. They were always taken down if they got loose inside the city’s walls.
Kai still had her heart and eyes set on the safety of the city’s distant lights when the snarling soldier dove and grabbed her around the legs. She screamed as she fell, and tried to claw at his arms, but he didn’t seem to notice. His fingernails ripped her skin as he flipped her over and dragged her toward his waiting mouth.
He’s going to eat me alive.
His face was very close to her now, and even in this dim light, she could see that he had the pale skin of a southerner, and ear-length blond hair. She was surprised again by how very young he looked. Then she saw his eyes. There was no humanity in the heavily dilated pupils; only death. His open-mouthed roar exposed a straight line of teeth, with four unnaturally sharp, piercing incisors. Now face to face, she saw that the tiny rings of iris around his pupils were light brown, but the pupils themselves weren’t black the way they were supposed to be. The spot in the middle of the brown glowed with an odd blue tinge that lit his face.
Flinching, she prepared to be ripped apart. Instead, a huge jolt that rattled through her body, from the base of her spine to the top of her head, making her teeth clamp down on a shriek. Her eyes flew open, and she saw that the handler had regained control. He grabbed the chain leash around his charge’s neck and pressed a button. Waves of electricity rocked the giant, sending his body into spasms. Kai breathed a sigh of relief, even as she felt the power surge pass through him and into her own body. The last thing she thought before she lost consciousness was that it was far better to be electrocuted than to be torn to shreds by that monster.


Author Bio:
Tracy Auerbach is an author of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. As an avid reader with a vivid imagination, she chose to study film, English, and education, and went on to teach and write STEM curriculum for the New York Department of Education. This helped to polish her writing skills and ignite her passion for science fiction and fantasy.
Her first scholarly article, published in Language Magazine, was about the value of active, creative learning in science.
On the fiction side, Tracy’s work has been featured in the online literary journal Micro-horror, The Writing Disorder fiction anthology, and the “(Dis)ability” short story anthology, in addition to her novels.
When she is not teaching or writing, Tracy is usually reading or spending time with her family. She lives in New York with her husband and sons.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Life Update!

Hey guys!

I just wanted to put out a short post explaining where I've been.  In the last couple of months I have accepted a new position in a new city and have been getting ready for a big move.  On top of that, my boyfriend spent a couple days in the hospital and one of my students passed away in a tragic car accident.

With everything that has been going on, I have been trying really hard to stay on top of things.  While things are looking up now, I am still not caught up on my reading/posting.  I am working hard to get back up to snuff as reading is what keeps my head on straight.

Thank you so much for your support and understanding while I work to put some pieces together.  I am doing well and am excited for the new change.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Skin Hunter by Tania Hutley


Skin Hunter
Tania Hutley
Publication date: June 18th 2019
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
She didn’t want to do it… But she was desperate.
Trying to escape the dangerous streets of Old Triton, the buried city, Milla takes the ultimate risk
Could a dead girl’s identity be her way out? A ticket to a richer, brighter world high above the muck and gloom of her old life?
Now she’s part of a high tech contest, with a prize beyond money, fame and everything she has ever known. A chance to become something… new.
But if anyone finds out who Milla really is, she’s dead.
The other competitors come from privilege, their faces and bodies tweaked to perfection. Rich and handsome Cale could be the most dangerous of all. Why is he so interested in a scarred, ugly “sinker” like Milla?
To survive, she needs to be brave.
To win, she needs to evolve.
Just try and stop her.
Skin Hunter is an upper YA science fiction novel – a futuristic, dystopian thrill-ride with a spark of romance.


Author Bio:
Tania Hutley is a USA Today bestselling author who loves sci fi movies and wishes she lived in the Whedon-verse.
Tania also writes sexy contemporary romance using a top-secret pen name. She could tell you what that pen name is, but then she'd have to turn you into a chicken.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Top Three Reasons I Love The Little Prince

About the Book

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
First published in April 1943

GoodReads Description

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

The Top Three Reasons I Love The Little Prince

  1. The Little Prince provides its audience with several important moral lessons.  The strongest of these discuss love, loss, and the imagination.  Each of these things are too easily neglected in our adult lives. We look more toward money and daily problems than to the strength of love.  I know that this sounds rather cliche, but these are the small things that turn out to be BIG things.  These are the things that we need to hold onto in order to improve our world. 
  2. Death is handled not as a horrifying thing but as a passage to a new part of life.  I think that this is one of the most beautiful and most peaceful ways to explain death.  I truly think that if we taught our children about death the way that this book teaches it, death would sound less terrifying to our children.  Death is final and it is sad for those left behind, but it is a permanent transition and a part of life.
  3. I am so in love with the illustrations in this book.  I know that most people look for more realistic art or more advanced art skills, but the child-like illustrations truly bring the moral lessons of this novel to life.  I think this book would lose a lot of its charm and meaning if the illustrations were changed at all.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races


Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races
K.D. Halbrook
(Water Dragon Races, #1)
Published by: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: June 4th 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Middle-Grade
Set in a vivid, Arab-inspired world filled with friendly and fearsome water dragons, K.D. Halbrook’s Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races is a middle-grade fantasy adventure, with illustrations by Ilse Gort, that’s perfect for fans of Tui T. Sutherland, Sayantani DasGupta, and Roshani Chokshi.
Silver’s dreams of becoming a legendary water dragon racer come true when she befriends a rare dragon that can swim and fly.

Thirteen-year-old Silver Batal calls the desert home, but her heart belongs to the waters. Although she’s expected to become a jeweler like her father, Silver harbors a secret and forbidden wish to race water dragons. Destiny comes calling when her friendship with a mysterious old woman leads her to Hiyyan, a baby dragon that can swim and fly.
Risking everything, Silver, Hiyyan, and her resourceful cousin Brajon set off across the desert to join the legendary races in the royal city. But the road to Calidia is filled with danger, and the trio must band together as they encounter ferocious cave beasts, clever desert foxes, and cutthroat competition.
EXCERPT:
Nebekker whistled. “Come on out, pretty one. My turn to be your mama for a little while.”
Silver waited, pretending not to be watching. Who in the desert was Nebekker talking to? Surely there couldn’t be children down in the cavern.
Nebekker whistled again. Her teeth flashed as she grinned. Silver followed her gaze across the river. There was something moving among the stalactites. Crouched…or even slithering. Something that matched the blue light and pale silver of the cavern.
The thing across the river purred.
Purred?
The sound touched Silver to her very core. She got to her feet and moved toward the river without thinking, as though a string tied to her middle pulled her. There was no staying away if she’d wanted to. The need to meet the creature on the other side of the river was far too great. She stepped into the river.
The ice-cold water over her boots slowed her down for only a moment. But that was long enough for Nebekker to grab her arm and hold her in place.
“Of course this would happen.” Nebekker sighed wearily.
“Let me go!” Silver had to get to the other side of the river.
“Stay right here. He’ll come to you. The stars know it’ll affect the both of you.”
In the back of her mind, Silver wondered what the old woman meant, but she didn’t ask because the pull to cross the river was still so powerful.
“I have to…”
She struggled to free herself, but Nebekker was incredibly strong. Just then a shadow slipped into the river with a splash and made its way to Silver and Nebekker. Silver knelt into the water, waiting. She didn’t know what for or if she was in danger. She only knew that she had to open her arms and greet it.
When the creature finally burst from the water, it bowled Silver over. She landed on her back hard, rocks digging into her spine. Her arms and chest became even colder than before, soaking in the river water. But she didn’t care. She was awash with euphoria. Within seconds, the warmth of the creature bled into her skin. Its happy heartbeat thudded in time with Silver’s. It purred again and licked her face until the smell of fish and river weeds overwhelmed her nostrils.
Silver laughed and opened her eyes. A pair of obsidian-dark eyes looked back down at her from a sky-blue face ringed with white.
“Another Aquinder,” Silver marveled. “A little one!”
“If your definition of little means the size of a house.” Nebekker stood over them. Her hands were on her hips and she didn’t seem particularly happy. “Kirja’s son. Another troublemaker, if you ask me.”
“No, he’s perfect.” Silver’s heart swelled nearly to bursting. “And I won’t have you calling him names or else.”
Nebekker snorted. “Or else what?”
“I don’t know what. But I’ll think of something. I’d do anything for…for…what’s his name?”
The water dragon licked Silver some more, then rolled over and let his tongue loll out to the side, just like Kirja had. Silver rubbed his belly.


Author Bio:
K.D. Halbrook is an author of Middle Grade and Young Adult novels (as Kristin Halbrook). Her debut Middle Grade book, SMOKE AND MIRRORS (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books) was called "captivating," "enchanting," and "artful" in trade reviews and, in a starred review, the BCCB said, "The novel's wistful prose and a relatable search for the Light will be rewarding for readers who can see in the Smoke any number of metaphors for the things that haunt us."
K.D.'s next Middle Grade is the first in an exciting series: SILVER BATAL AND THE WATER DRAGON RACES, releasing in June, 2019 from Macmillan/Henry Holt BFYR.
K.D. is a graduate of the University of Washington and lives with her family and floofy goldendoodle in Seattle. When not writing and sharing her love of books with readers, she enjoys cooking and baking, running and triathlon training, yoga, gardening, painting, hiking, and travel. She would love a dragon that swims AND flies.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Review: The Mosaic by Chris Keaton and Rick Taubold

About the Book

The Mosaic by Chris Keaton and Rick Taubold
Published on July 12, 2017

GoodReads Description

Twin girls discover a mystical world contained within a crumbling mosaic, and they must restore it before an evil witch seizes its power, even if doing so could tear their family apart. 

Secrets. It all started while looking for secret passages. Chloe Tozier’s impulsive twin, Zoe, insisted that all old mansions had them. Grandma denied the existence of any here. Except for the boarded-up service elevator that she conveniently forgot to mention before the girls discovered it, the elevator that didn’t seem to go anywhere. They had been living in this private museum with their grandparents since the death of their parents during an archaeology trip to Egypt.

Mysteries. Why have a museum in a tiny town in the middle of Kansas when what’s on display is nothing unusual? Sometimes packages arrived wrapped in plain brown paper that the girls never saw again. Grandpa disappeared overnight and they haven’t heard from him since. And before going to Egypt their parents had mentioned something about a mysterious mosaic. Maybe Zoe was right about family secrets. Maybe it was time to dig further.

My Thoughts

I really liked this book!  I had it on my TBR for a long time, but I just hadn't gotten to it.  Now that I have, I'm pretty excited that I did!  

Chloe Tozier was a phenomenal character.  She was someone that I could easily relate to as a curious bookworm.  Although she has a twin, she's just more believable.  I can't think of anyone as fearless or as reckless as Zoe Tozier, but I can think of several people who are as reserved and cautious as Chloe.  Together, they make a fabulous team because they balance each other out.

The world-building in this book was done excellently as well.  I loved that I could picture each place that the girls visited to retrieve pieces of the mosaic.  The descriptions of each of the mythical creatures came to life in very vivid ways.  

Unfortunately, I felt like a lot of the action was rushed through.  A lot of time is spent bringing Dahwen to the mosaic.  Once she arrives, however, the battle ends rather quickly.  I think that it would have been a huge improvement if the authors would have brought some more description to the battle.  The audience is so invested in the characters that it would have kept us on the edge of our seats were there more details.

Overall, I thought this was a really good book!  There were parts that made me want to cry and others that I thought were absolutely beautifully written.  I look forward to seeing what Keaton and Taubold give us next.

My Rating


Monday, May 27, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Kingdom of Sand and Wishes


Kingdom of Sand & Wishes: A Limited Edition Collection of Aladdin Retellings
Publication date: May 24th 2019
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Aladdin, but not as you remember it….
On the dusty streets, around the bustling bazaars, being overlooked by a Sultan’s Palace was a land. A land of magic, secrets and treasures buried deep beneath the desert.
Through Arabian nights, dark forces are at work. Dark forces that can threaten the peace of everyone in the Kingdom. Watch our authors as they answer the question, can three wishes save the day?
Join our award winning and USA Today best selling authors for nine action packed fantasy and contemporary retellings with Sultans, sorcerers, romance and more magic than a genie’s lamp can hold.
One click now for your happily ever after….
SNEAK PEEKS:
Three Wishes by J.A.Armitage
Her future was mapped out…
She would one day be queen…
When a curse was cast, trapping Jini in an old lamp, her life ended along with everyone she had ever known and loved. Centuries of darkness passed and then a young man made a wish.
He wanted to be the Sultan.
So did she.
The only problem? There already was a Sultan and his mysterious son had already laid claim to the throne
Read this powerful new rendition of the age old classic, Aladdin, where things are not as they seem and magic might not be enough to save them all.
The Djinn Curse By Margo Ryerkerk
How far will you go to reclaim your freedom?
My name is Roxelana, and my human life was stolen from me.
Turned by force into a djinn, I’ve waited for 100 years for a shot at freedom.
My current assignment in Istanbul presents an opportunity to break the connection to my lamp and escape my eternal slavery. There’s just one problem. Doing so means sacrificing the sultan prince to the king of djinns. I shouldn’t care about the prince, but I can’t stop myself. He has a pull on me I can’t explain. Coupled with his kindness and the care he shows his people, I’m in deep trouble.
When push comes to shove, who will I choose? Him or myself?
Filled with adventure, love, magic, and a strong heroine, this clean YA Fairy Tale is the perfect read!
If you like K.M Shea, Melanie Cellier, and Kiera Cass, you’ll love this!
Granting Wishes (A Once Upon a Curse Prequel) by Kaitlyn Davis
She’s about to discover a whole new world…
“His words come back to me—magic is the law. I guess I’m making my own set of rules.”
Alanna thought rock climbing in Yosemite National Park would be the trip of a lifetime. Until an earthquake strikes and she finds herself plummeting to her death. But instead of slamming into the forest floor, Alanna drops into a secret underground cave where she’s confronted by the impossible—magic.
A mysterious man named Erick uses incredible powers to save her life, then tells her that his magical world has collided with earth, merging the two together. Alanna writes it off as crazy, until he shows her a vision of her brother being dragged down a sandy cobblestone street in chains. Crazy or not, she’ll do anything to save him.
As Alanna and Erick team up to rescue her brother from the clutches of a decrepit sorcerer king, fate intervenes in the form of a handsome prince. Alanna doesn’t know who to trust, but in this foreign land, flying solo just might get her killed…
Don’t miss GRANTING WISHES, a fantasy romance from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis that reimagines the classic fairy tale of Aladdin.
Sultana of Amethyst Sands by Emma Savant
A beautiful genie craves her freedom. A handsome prince longs to heal his kingdom. And a con artist named Aladdah has big plans for them all.
Between theft, sleight of hand, and her indentured servitude to a powerful magician, Aladdah has always managed to survive the brutal streets of Citron. But survival isn’t enough for a woman of Aladdah’s ambition. She craves more—more food, more power, and more magic than her master has seen fit to teach her.
When she demands a greater challenge, her master sends her on a mission into an enchanted cavern beneath the desert sands. There, in an abandoned garden glittering with the lights of precious jewels, Aladdah discovers a genie whose power and beauty are matched only by her determination to escape the bonds of her servitude.
But the genie is bound by her magic lamp, subject to Aladdah’s every wish, and it’s an opportunity no self-respecting street rat could resist. Aladdah forms a plan to use the genie to destroy the sultan and establish herself as a new ruler who will turn the savage inequality of Citron on its head.
But the sultan has many protectors, from his court magicians to the beautiful, idealistic son who infuriates and enchants Aladdah in equal measure. Her genie fights her at every turn. And her old master will not be dismissed so easily, not when he has a plan to gain power the likes of which the kingdoms have never seen.
Sultana of Amethyst Sands is a romantic, fast-paced adventure through the sands of a faraway kingdom of magic, genies, and wishes come true.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

About the Book

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Published by Feiwel & Friends on August 21, 2007

GoodReads Description

Kek comes from Africa. In America he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He's never walked on ice, and he falls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter – cold and unkind.

In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she's missing. Kek is on his own. Slowly, he makes friends: a girl who is in foster care; an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and a cow whose name means "family" in Kek's native language. As Kek awaits word of his mother's fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.

Bestselling author Katherine Applegate presents a beautifully wrought novel about an immigrant's journey from hardship to hope.

Home of the Brave is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

My Thoughts

I am definitely becoming a big fan of Applegate's writing!  I love that she finds ways to address important issues in ways that can be easily understood by younger students.  She not only teaches children about these issues, but finds ways to encourage empathy.  I think this is a phenomenal way to encourage our youth to become caring members of society.

I loved that Kek is such a complex character.  He wants to learn and he is so grateful for his new place in Minnesota.  In fact, he is so truly thankful for most things that are generally taken for granted.  Although he is overwhelmed by all that is new and exciting, he strives to hang on to the ways of Sudan.  He wants so badly to be considered a man by his people.  He wants to care for cows and be kind to people.  He is a strong little guy going through challenges that would be hard for most adults.  The fact that he takes it all in stride and does his best with every situation is absolutely inspiring.

I can't say that I had a least favorite character in this book.  However, I would have loved to have heard more from Ganwar.  He was definitely the strong and silent type, but something was eating away at his insides.  I would have loved to see him get a little more resolution as well.  I know that sometimes in life, that resolution just isn't coming.  Perhaps that was the point Applegate wanted to make here as well.

Overall, I absolutely devoured this book.  As a verse novel, it was a quick read.  It was a very meaningful read, however.  I definitely think that a lot of the substance and poignancy would have been lost if it had been in prose form.  I look forward to reading more from Applegate!

My Rating