Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To participate, simply do the following: Grab your current read Open to a random page Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, April 29, 2013

172 Hours on the Moon

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad, 2012. 355 pages. Published by Little, Brown Books. Source: Publisher for review.
It's been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA's unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space--and change their lives forever.

Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune.

Midori believes it's her way out of her restrained life in Japan.

Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.

It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space... no one is coming to save them.

In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true.
First Sentence:
"Gentlemen, it's time," Dr. blankityblank said, eying the seven men in suits seated around the large conference table. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Kit Grindstaff (author of The Flame in the Mist)


This week I am very excited to welcome debut author Kit Grindstaff to talk about her book The Flame in the Mist. I hope y'all will give her a very warm welcome.

About the Author:

I'm Kit, I'm English, and I live in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., with my husband. I've written songs for a living for most of my adult life, and made some records along the way. I wrote my first book when I was 9. It was bad. This new one is a lot better. And there will be more!

You can haunt Kit Grindstaff at-
Twitter | Goodreads | Website | FB |




Interview


Interview:
1. Jemma sounds like a great fantasy heroine, what three qualities does she posses that will help her in her quest?

Thanks, Orchid! I think she is too J She’s brave, has a strong sense of justice, and is determined—the flip side of which is that she’s stubborn, which helps her too in a way.

2. So, Kit, do you think Jemma is ready for the truth concerning her past and future? 

LOL….Ready or not, it’s out to get her, so it’s unavoidable! She’s definitely a truth-seeker, so at heart always wants to know what’s really what. But she’s been a dreamer, feeling that something is wrong but never quite facing it until she has no option. For Jemma, finding the truth means facing a series of life-or-death situations which she has to take head-on—something she is definitely not ready for. That’s where those heroine qualities kick in.

3. What was your favorite thing about the world you created for The Flame in the Mist? Were any parts of the setting and world of your book inspired by other books you've read?

I love its similarity to England, where I’m from—a deliberate choice, of course! It was fun to imagine what my homeland would be like if it were permanently shrouded in mist and to create a mood that permeates throughout the book, like the Mist itself does across the land. I also loved creating Agromond Castle with its hulking stones, and the town of Blackwater with its dark recklessness, both of which to me are living entities—characters, not just sinister places.

Several books definitely inspired the setting and world. I first read Dickens’s Great Expectations when I was about 8 (an abridged version); the misty marshes where Pip meets Magwitch and the cobwebbed creepiness of Miss Haversham’s house both made a deep impression, and probably sowed the seeds of my being drawn to spooky settings. Then, later on in my teens, I read a classic post-war British series, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy. Gormenghast Castle is a seething sprawl whose atmosphere stayed with me for years and lent some of its creepiness to (the much smaller) Agromond Castle. There are others that inspired me along the way, too, but those two are probably the most influential, setting-wise.

4. What are three of your favorite middle grade fantasy reads that you think everyone should read?

Oh, a tough choice…it’s so personal! There are books that others rave over and whose merit I totally get, but that just don’t gel with me. But three that I love and would thoroughly recommend…Well, His Dark Materials is YA, so I can’t include that.  Most people by now have read the Harry Potter books, but if they hadn’t, they’d be a definite must-read! The layering of Rowling’s story telling is amazing. (The later books, though, I think of more as YA.) Then there’s one of my fav debuts from 2012, Stefan Bachmann’s beautifully told, funny and heart-wrenching The Peculiar. An older one that I still adore—not high fantasy, and slightly different, for variety—is Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting. Lovely.  

5. I totally agree that Lyra and Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials is amazing. Are there any other authors that inspired you to get back into writing?

Well, when I realized I wanted to write for kids, I took a course in children’s lit at the New School University to get to know the landscape. That’s how I came across The Golden Compass (Northern Lights in the UK)—it was one of the books we studied. Other books on that course were also influential. I loved the soft eeriness of Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, for example. Tuck Everlasting was another. That prologue! So beautifully written and inspiring. The other on that course that influenced me was Roald Dahl’s Matilda—a warm and funny read, but it was Matilda’s psychokinetic abilities that really sparked my imagination.

6. In my opinion, song writing and storytelling go together pretty well, so, which came easier; writing songs or building the world for your debut book?

That’s tough to compare, as they’re such different formats. But let me try. Well, you’d think songs would be easier, as they’re shorter; but for me, coming up with inspiration for songs is often the hardest thing. Occasionally they do pour out in a 10 minute rush of inspiration (often the best ones, IMO). There’s others I’ve sweated over and eventually wrestled into a shape I’m proud of, and others still where the wrestling hasn’t yielded anything.

Though writing a book is obviously a much longer process, and over all a lot more laborious—no comparison!—the world building in The Flame in the Mist came fairly easily. I got lost in it, and loved expressing it. So I’d say that songs, for me, is probably the harder of the two.

7. Since you have lived both in England and (now) the US, what would you say are the two biggest differences between both countries?  Anything you like more about one over the other?

One: The weather! I’m a sun addict, and sunshine is something you can never depend on in England. You might wake to blue sky and by mid-morning, nine times out of ten, the clouds have completely obliterated it. In the U.S. there are far more sunny days. Even in winter, we have crisp, clear, beautiful days, compared to a much higher incidence of gray, drizzle and low clouds over there. And not forgetting mist…
Two: Well, I can’t say “food” anymore! England has come up in the culinary department a lot since I left. And where the U.S. used to feel more like the Land of Opportunity compared to the Brit tendency to say “no” before “yes”, that too has changed in recent years. But one thing that really does strike me is that the Brits—and Europeans as a whole—have access to far better, less biased news media. Of course, anything is available on the web, but it’s not the same as its being more prevalent in the culture and at people’s fingertips.

8. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose? 

Ouch! Can I in good conscience nominate Jemma? She’s good with evil Entities, but is she equipped, being from a historical setting, to take on mechanical baddies? I don’t think so. Each hero/ine to his/her own. I don’t reckon Harry could handle such robo-invaders, either. And certainly not Katniss, nor even kick-ass Jenna Strong from Emma Pass’s upcoming Acid. Um, for this, then, it might have to be Superman. He could hurl them into space.

9. Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?

My writing cave is a comfy chair upstairs, with French windows overlooking our yard. To my left are two mandala-style paintings that inspire me—the bottom one being a watercolor by an elderly French mentor who died years ago, so it’s particularly precious. She also crocheted the beautiful cushion you can see in the photo. Then there’s a side table that doubles as a bookshelf, with a row of books on top of it (part of my very patient tbr pile), with reference books below. The rest is an eclectic array of objects: a huge faux hydrangea, candles, a Tibetan bowl, a few crystals, a photo of my niece. But it’s the simplicity of the space I love. It’s airy, with a ton of natural light, and when evening comes the Ikea lighting sheds a warmth that feels really cozy. I love it. (pic attached) 

10. Any upcoming projects that you can share with us? 

No. Yes….No. A bit. That pile on the chair may be pages from a sequel…Then there’s my head, which is storing a couple of ideas, one of which has been scratching around for years, slowly forming. It’s in 2 POVs, and flips between current time and Tudor England. Other than that, I’ll say no more!

 Kit, thanks so much for stopping by and chatting about your book, The Flame in the Mist. I don't think I could ever live in England, I love my sunshine too much.

The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff, April 9, 2013. Published by Delacorte Press. 
Set in an imagined past, this dark fantasy-adventure is for fans of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. Features  Jemma, a fiery-headed heroine held captive in Agromond Castle, yet destined to save mist-shrouded Anglavia.
Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma's past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blog Tour Review: Eliza's Forever Trees


Eliza's Forever Trees by Stephanie Lisa Tara, November 20, 2012. 290 pages. Published by Brown Books.  Source: CBB Book Promotions.
Suddenly Mother jumped to her feet and ran to one of the trees, a three-hundred-foot-tall redwood. "Forever tree! Forever tree!" she cried, smiling. She swept the skinny girl up into her arms. The child's pale skin shimmered in the golden forest light. "Forever trees, forever trees," they sang, spinning in circles. The memory melted into the fog, and Eliza felt very tired. The question came again to her. It appeared out of the gray, out of the damp, out of the cold corners of this new house. The question whispered it always did the kind of whisper that sounded very loud indeed: Where had Mother gone? Shadows appeared and disappeared in Eliza's mind. Still, she couldn't remember. She simply could not remember anything after that last story in the forest. For some reason, she wasn't terribly worried. She was a little worried, for sure, but not terribly worried, because a strange calm held the shadows and the question. It held Eliza, too. Because love is forever.
First Sentence:
Where had mother gone?

Emerald Ring Tour: Pre-Tour Teaser



Coming May 14, 2013- Cleopatra’s Legacy Book 1- The Emerald Ring. A new action packed middle grade fantasy series from debut author, Dorine White. Read below for an excerpt not found in the published book!

"Egypt- 30 BC
The velvet pouch hurtled across the room. Its cords whipped behind it and tangled in the servant's outstretched hands.
Cleopatra's tense voice rent the atmosphere. "Hurry, there's not much time." The horrified servant looked down at the lumpy sack resting in his palms. The queen continued, "I'm placing all my trust in you. Don't let it fall into Roman hands."
The servant's legs trembled. He knew his own life was worth nothing compared to the precious objects imparted to him.
"I will not fail you." The words fell from his lips in reverence. "Your legacy will be safe."
The queen paced the floor in determined strides. Her short black hair bobbed against a tan face. Her eyes met his. "On your life, see that it is! I'll not allow Egypt conquered so easily."
He stuffed the precious bag into his linen tunic and left the royal bed chamber. Halfway down the hallway he abruptly stopped mid stride and quickly ducked down a narrow side passage. His timing was perfect as he avoided two Roman Centurions lurking in the torch lit corridor, but he collided with one of the queen's maid servants. The wicker basket she held awkwardly in her arms wobbled and an angry hiss emanated from within its dark confines. The maid cast him a nasty look before hurrying on to the queen. He knew the queen's plan was now in motion and rushed to leave the building before the chaos began.
Just as his bare feet touched the hot desert sand the sound of running soldiers filled his ears. The deadly asp had done its job. He paused to catch his breath, pressing his back against the palace walls. The last ruler of Egypt felled by a snake. His head shook in frustration, and then he hurried on to find the royal historian and give him the first piece of the royal treasure."
The adventure of The Emerald Ring begins...
Exclusive sneak peek at chapter 1 for readers! ClickHere.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wish List Wednesday

A Tale Dark & Grimm (A Tale Dark & Grimm, 1) by Adam Gidwitz, October 28, 2010. Published by Dutton Juvenile.

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.
Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.
Why: There are really only two reasons that I want to get my hands on a copy of A Tale Dark & Grimm.  The first being that I absolutely love the Grimm Brothers fairy tales, seriously, they are some of my favorites because they're so dark; the second reason is that I read the companion book recently and would like to see what happened in the first installment.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Teaser Tuesday


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To participate, simply do the following: Grab your current read Open to a random page Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour (Kate and Cecelia, 2) by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, April 1, 2006. 469 pages. Published by Magic Carpet Books. Source: Bought.
Kate and Cecy and their new husbands, Thomas and James, are off on a leisurely tour of the Continent. But once they arrive in France, strange things start to happen. Cecy receives a mysterious package, Thomas's valet is assaulted, and Kate loses a glove. Soon it becomes clear that the newlyweds have stumbled upon a magical plot to take over Europe, and they must embark on a daring chase to thwart the evil conspiracy. There's likely more trouble ahead--for when you mix Kate and Cecy "and "magic, who knows what's going to happen next!
First Sentence:
I suppose that if I were going to blame our involvement on anyone (which I see no reason to do), I would be compelled to say that it was all Aunt Charlotte’s fault.

Friday, April 19, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Liesl Shurtliff (author of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin)


Guys, I am very excited to welcome debut author Liesl Shurtliff to the blog today to talk about her book Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. I hope that y'all will give her a very warm welcome.

About the author:

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah the fifth of eight children. My seven siblings tortured me but I really like them now. I loved dancing, singing, playing the piano and reading books by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Roald Dahl. I also read Grimm’s Fairy Tales so often I wore through the binding.

Every summer my parents piled all the kids in a 12-passenger van, complete with a license plate that said 8SGREAT, and drove to California where we did NOT go to Disney Land. We spent our summers on mountains and lakes and beaches, which is far more magical than Disney Land if you really think about it. (Also our van broke down a lot, which was not so magical.) Some of my favorite memories include hiking, water-skiing, and collecting seashells, sand dollars, crabs, clams and giant starfish.

You can haunt Liesl Shurtliff at-
Goodreads | Twitter | Website | FB |
Interview 


1. In twelve words can you tell readers a little about your MC, Rump, and why they should read his story?

Rump is a quirky, unlikely hero searching for his name and destiny.

2. The premise and world of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin sounds intriguing, but I'm most curious as to why you chose to have Rump's new found gift pull him into a curse.

I think magic is sometimes a little too easy. I didn’t want to have magic for magic’s sake in this story; I feel it should always have a price or consequence, and the greater the cost the better. Rump’s magic doesn’t just come from him. It’s tied to his family and the events that preceded him. So his gift is a little like the things we inherit from our parents, grandparents, etc. We don’t have any say in what happened before we were born, but those things still get passed down and affect us, and not always in a good way. A blessing or a curse. Or perhaps both. Rump’s magic is that way.

3. Which of your characters did you have the most fun writing about? Were there any characters that ended up being cut from the final draft?

I think I had the most fun writing the trolls. I’ll say no more. Don’t want to spoil it! Yes, Some characters I simply combined because they were performing the same function. I vaguely remember a teacher character in a very early draft that I cut.

4. So, Liesl, I'm curious to know...what made you want to do a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin? What about the original tale sparked your interests the most?

The thing about the original tale that sparked my interest, and ultimately lead me to writing my own version, was the unanswered questions and mysteries in the tale, particularly those surrounding Rumpelstiltskin. The tale is called Rumpeltstiltskin, and yet we know next to nothing about him, where he comes from, how he learned to spin straw into gold, or why he wants a baby. Folklorists have some speculations and I’ve read some retellings that are interesting and well done, but none that completely satisfied me in the case of Rumpelstiltskin. I personally feel he’s treated somewhat unfairly in the original version, so I decided to make my own and give the guy a chance.

5. It is always cool to find another fan of the Brothers Grimm. Compared to some of the sugar-coated fairy tale versions, which of the Grimm tales did you find the most shocking? If you had to pick one, and I mean just one, which Grimm Brothers tale would you say is your personal favorite?

The Grimm’s versions are actually pretty mild compared to some others I’ve heard. Some of the most shocking/disturbing ones for me are the earliest versions of the princess tales, such as Sleeping Beauty, where she is raped in her cursed sleep, bares twins, and is then woken by one of the babies sucking on her finger and draws out the flax seed that cursed her. !!! Horrific, nevertheless I think it’s symbolic of how females were largely out of control over their own fates.

Personal favorite Grimm’s tale? This tale is more obscure, but when I was younger I was fascinated by One Eye, Two Eyes, and Three Eyes. I love those freakish elements in fairy tales!

6. I hear that you used to go hiking during summer family vacations, so, have you ever had any dangerous encounters with nature?

Mostly the usual scrapes and brushes with poison ivy, skunks and porcupines. Once I witnessed a seriously awesome moose fight and once my family and I thought it would be a good idea to hike our way into Lake Powell. It was a fifteen-mile hike and we got stranded at the mouth of a canyon. Eventually we were rescued, but I was grumpy.  

7. There are quite a few excellent fairy tale adaptations, any that you would recommend readers check out?

Oh, many. I particularly love Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, A Tale Dark and Grimm and Through a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz, A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce (A loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin) and The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.

8. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose? 

Dumbledore. Those robots are gonna fry.

9. Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?

It’s more of a pig sty. I’ll spare the visuals.

10. Any upcoming projects that you can sure with us? 

I am working on two new projects, another MG fairy tale and a YA that I’m not sure how to categorize. I’m not ready to share details on either one quite yet, but hopefully soon!
http://presence.mail.aol.com/mailsig/?sn=hauntingorchid 

Thanks so much for stopping by Liesl and for answering some questions. Cannot wait to read Rump (very excited). Through a Glass Grimmly is an excellent read that everyone should get their hands on, I know because I just read it). 



Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff, April 9, 2013. Published by  Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.
To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wish List Wednesday

The Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years After by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, November 1, 2006. Published by Harcourt.
Ten years have passed since Kate and Cecy married Thomas and James, and England is now being transformed by the first railways. When James is asked to look into the sudden disappearance of a German railway engineer, he and Cecy make a shocking discovery: The railway lines are wreaking havoc with ancient underground magic, which could endanger the very unity of England. Written in letters between Kate and Cecy--and between their husbands--this installment of the cousins' adventures is another satisfying blend of magic, mystery, adventure, humor, and romance.
Why: I need The Mislaid Magician because all I can think about at the moment is what is going to happen next and how this series end. I cannot even properly enjoy any other book until I know what is going to happen in the third installment in the Kate and Cecelia series. Seriously, this has been one of the most enjoyable series I have come across.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To participate, simply do the following: Grab your current read Open to a random page Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Vintage Reads Review: Sorcery & Cecelia

Sorcery & Cecelia: or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Kate and Cecelia, 1) by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, 2004 (originally published in 1988). 326 pages. Published by Harcourt. Source: bought.
A great deal is happening in London this season.
For starters, there's the witch who tried to poison Kate at Sir Hilary's induction into the Royal College of Wizards. (Since when does hot chocolate burn a hole straight through one's dress?!)
Then there's Dorothea. Is it a spell that's made her the toast of the town--or could it possibly have something to do with the charm-bag under Oliver's bed?
And speaking of Oliver, just how long can Cecelia and Kate make excuses for him? Ever since he was turned into a tree, he hasn't bothered to tell anyone where he is!
The girls might think it all a magical nightmare . . . if only they weren't having so much fun.
First Sentence:
Dearest Kate,
It is dreadfully flat here since you have been gone, and it only makes it worse to imagine all the things I shall be missing. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blog Tour/All About Middle Grade Interview: Claire M. Caterer (author of The Key and the Flame)




Today, I am excited to host Claire M. Caterer, debut author of The Key and the Flame, as one of the stops for her blog tour and as a guest for the All About Middle Grade Challenge. Hope y'all will enjoy her awesome answers.

About the author:

Claire M. Caterer was born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in the suburbs of Kansas City. A writer from the age of five, Claire has published fiction in Woman’s World magazine as well as in Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines. She holds a degree in French from the University of Kansas and spent several years working in New York publishing. Today she is back in the Kansas City metro area, where she writes full time and shares her home with her husband, daughter, two dogs, and a host of imaginary friends. The Key & the Flame is her first novel.

You can haunt Claire M. Caterer at-
website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads





Interview


1. To start things off, Claire, in fourteen words could you tell potential readers a little about The Key & the Flame?

Holly Shepard unlocks a fantastical mythical kingdom as well as the magic within herself.

2. I've always loved books where the main character is given something that opens up a “door” to adventure. What made you want to use that method to introduce Holly to the kingdom of Anglielle?

Those are my favorite kinds of stories. Even in our everyday world, doors are magical. Think about your first day of school, when you opened the door to your classroom. Or when you opened the door to greet your first date. Holly opens the door not only to Anglielle but to greater possibilities within herself, and there’s nothing more breathtaking than that.

3. Adventure-seeking characters are always fun to read about, but do you think Holly has what it takes to be an adventuress? Why?

Holly certainly wants adventure, and that’s the first step. But it doesn’t come as easily to her as she expects. Still, she is courageous, smart, and persistent—three qualities that are essential for an adventuress.

http://presence.mail.aol.com/mailsig/?sn=hauntingorchid4. Claire, I hear that you're a fan of the show Buffy, so, my question to you is what makes this show so good that people are still talking about long after it ended?

First of all, Buffy is incredibly well written. The dialogue is snappy, and the show balances well between action and character development. But more than that, the story touches on universal themes: growing up; learning your strengths; learning who to trust, and finding out that you can’t go it alone, even if you’re in charge. Include complex characters that the viewer cares deeply about, and people will talk about it forever.

5. If you could walk through a door that opened straight into any fictional world, which would you choose to explore? Why?

I would go to Narnia in a heartbeat. The Chronicles were my favorite books as a kid, and I longed to go there.

6. Sometimes, I just cannot resist asking one of the most dreaded questions (at least one that book lovers hate). Two books that have shaped you as a reader? Why?

It’s going to sound weird, but one is the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller. When I read it in high school, my teacher made me dig deeper into the text and think longer about it than anyone else ever had. He changed the way I read books.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien also influenced my reading. It led me to The Lord of the Rings and acted as a bridge to the world of the adult novel. I was happy to learn that I could read grown-up books that still had magic in them.

7. If you could choose any movie soundtrack to be the soundtrack of your life, which would you choose? Why?

The other day I watched You’ve Got Mail for the hundredth time and I thought, Yeah, that’s my life’s soundtrack—tripping around New York City, going to bookstores, and having Harry Connick Jr. singing to me. Okay, that’s not exactly my life’s soundtrack, but I always like to think of it that way.

8. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day. Who do you choose? 

I’d have to go with Buffy. Not only would she defeat the robots, she could give me hair and fashion advice when it was all over.

9. Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?

It’s a little back bedroom crowded with books and files. I love it because it’s above the main story of our house and it has two windows that let in a lot of sun. Windows are essential if you need to daydream.

10. Any upcoming projects that you can share with us? 

Right now my editor and I are working on revisions to the second book in The Key & the Flame series, tentatively scheduled to be published in summer 2014. I’m also just getting started on the third book. There are five installments altogether, so I’ll be at this awhile.

Thank you so much for stopping by Claire. Very excited to read The Key and the Flame and to share it with one lucky winner. I've only made it through The Fellowship of the Ring so far, but cannot what to read the rest of LoTR and the Hobbit one day.

The Key and the Flame (The Key and the Flame, 1) by Claire M. Caterer, April 1, 2013. Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard wants nothing more than to seek adventure outside of her humdrum American life. She gets her chance at last when her family travels to England and Holly receives an unusual gift: an iron key that unlocks a passage to the dangerous kingdom of Anglielle, where magic is outlawed and those who practice magic are hunted. When her friend Everett and brother Ben are captured by Anglielle’s ruthless king, Holly must rescue them. But that means finding—and using—the magic within herself and learning which magical allies she can trust. The Key & the Flame is the first in a brand-new fantasy adventure series for ages 8 and up.






Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wish List Wednesday

The Diviners (Diviners, 1) by Libba Bray, September 18, 2012. Published by Little, Brown Book for Young Readers.

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."
When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.
Why: The Diviners has actually been on my radar since I first of it last year, but I still haven't had a chance to read it. One of the reasons I'm excited about this one is that it sounds similar to her Gemma Doyle books, which I loved.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Teaser Tuesday


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To participate, simply do the following: Grab your current read Open to a random page Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Vintage Reads Review: Winter of Fire

Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan, January 28, 1992. 321 pages. Published by Scholastic. Source: Bought.
Elsha is one of the Quelled: a branded people, doomed always to mine coal to warm the ruling class, the Chosen. But Elsha has strange visions that set her apart - and a strong spirit that condemns her to death. Her life is saved when she is called to be Handmaiden to the Firelord, the most powerful being on the planet. Elsha is the first of her kind ever to be so honored - and both the Chosen and her fellow Quelled are stunned. But her powers and visions grow ever stronger, even in the face of extreme prejudice. Yet Elsha must learn the hard way that you can't play with fire without getting burned.
First Sentence:
Always at the heart of my life there had been fire.

Friday, April 5, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Nancy J. Cavanaugh (author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet)


Today, I am very, very excited to welcome Nancy J. Cavanaugh, author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, to the blog. Her debut book has been one of my favorite middle grade reads this year and one that y'all need to read.

About the author:

Nancy J. Cavanaugh lives in Florida with her husband and her daughter. This Journal Belongs to Ratchet is her first book, but she has been writing for almost twenty years.

Like her main character, Nancy is pretty handy with a ratchet and is able to take apart a small engine and put it back together.

In addition to her mechanic's hat, Nancy has been an elementary and middle school teacher as well as a library media specialist. One of her favorite parts of writing for children is being able to say "I'm working" when reading middle grade novels.

You can haunt Nancy Cavanaugh at-
Twitter | Website | FB | Goodreads |

Interview


This Journal Belongs to Ratchet sounds like a fascinating read.  Could you tell us a little about Ratchet and her story?
Eleven-year-old Ratchet determines to make a friend, save a park, and find her own definition of normal. She tells her story through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.

Living in a world of spark plugs, pistons, and crankshafts, Ratchet spends her days fixing cars with her dad in the garage – not exactly normal for a girl. Even with the odds stacked against her, Ratchet endeavors to change her life and realizes her skill as a mechanic might just be the path to her first friend. But in the process, she alienates her father and discovers a secret she wishes she never knew. She finds a way to, not only accept the truth she discovers, but also accept herself and her dad in a whole new way.

Ratchet is definitely a unique name.  How did you choose your MC’s name?
Ratchet is actually my character’s nickname.  Her real name is Rachel.  Her nickname was actually one of the first things that came to me when I began thinking about this story.  My story ideas usually start out with a character – their names, their situations, their problems.  These tiny seeds of ideas begin to grow in my imagination.  I let them grow a little in my mind.  Then I jot down in a spiral notebook a few thoughts about my character and what her story might be.  It’s usually only a few pages of very scattered thoughts.  After that, I put the notebook away for a while and let the ideas simmer.  I let my subconscious work on the story and somehow I know when it’s time to get the spiral notebook back out again and begin to work on the story. 
Since I myself was homeschooled, I am beyond excited to read This Journal Belongs to Ratchet because there are not many books with homeschooled protagonists.  What made you want to write a book with a homeschooled protagonist?  What was the easiest and hardest things about doing so?
I knew one of Ratchet’s biggest problems was her need for a friend.  Having her homeschooled in the particular family situation she was in was the perfect way to isolate her from her peers.  I don’t see Ratchet’s homeschool experience as being very typical, but I hope there are still ways in which readers who are homeschooled will be able to identify with her. 
Why do you think that readers will enjoy reading about Ratchet and her quest to change her life?  In your opinion, why do you think Ratchet will stand out from the crowd for readers?
This Journal Belongs to Ratchet is a book with heart and soul and guts, and Ratchet is the kind of character readers will want to root for.  I also think middle grade readers enjoy alternative formats, and my book is definitely unique in that Ratchet tells her entire story through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.
So, Nancy, do you have anything in common with your MC, Ratchet?  I hear that you like to take apart and rebuild certain things?
Surprising as it may seem, I actually am able to take apart and put back together a small engine –the kind of engine that would be on a lawn mower.  I learned this from my husband who is an industrial arts teacher.  Together he and I developed and wrote curriculum for a small engines class we taught to middle grade student. 
Nancy, a little bird mentioned that you enjoy baking.  Anything in particular that you really enjoy baking for friends and family?  Why?
I really love to bake any dessert – cookies, pies, cakes.  If I had to pick a favorite it would be Christmas cookies.  Each Christmas I make lots of different kinds of cookies, and I enjoy giving them away to family, friends, and neighbors.
The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who would you choose?
This is a tough one.  I think I’d choose Aslan the lion from the Chronicles of Narnia.  I’d love to be rescued by him.
Care to tell us about your writing cave?
Well, I wouldn’t really call it a cave.  I’m more of a writing nomad.  I work in different places in my house, and often in the summer, I am travelling so I write whenever and wherever I can.  In the new year, I vowed to get more organized with all my “stuff,” so I just bought this super cool organizer-crate-catch-all type thing, and it’s been great!  It holds all the stuff I’m working on at the moment, and it has handles so I can carry it to any room in the house.
(Link to work space photo - NancyJCavanaughWorkspacePhoto)

Any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
I love experimenting with alternative formats – it’s fun and creative.  I have other works-in-progress that are written in unique ways, so I hope to make one of those becomes my next book.


Thank you so much for stopping by, Nancy, it has been awesome to have you here on the blog to talk about your incredible debut. Cannot wait to read of your work.

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanugh, April, 2013. Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Eleven-year-old Ratchet determines to make a friend, save a park, and find her own definition of normal. She tells her story through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.
Living in a world of spark plugs, pistons, and crankshafts, Ratchet spends her days fixing cars with her dad in the garage – not exactly normal for a girl. Even with the odds stacked against her, Ratchet endeavors to change her life and realizes her skill as a mechanic might just be the path to her first friend. But in the process, she alienates her father and discovers a secret she wishes she never knew. She finds a way to, not only accept the truth she discovers, but also accept herself and her dad in a whole new way.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wish List Wednesday

Dragons in the Water (O'Keefe Family, 2) by Madeleine L'Engle, 1982. Published by Laurel Leaf.

A stolen heirloom painting...a shipboard murder...Can Simon and the O'Keefe clan unravel the mystery?
Thirteen-year-old Simon Renier has no idea when he boards the M.S. Orion with his cousin Forsyth Phair that the journey will take him not only to Venezuela, but into his past as well. His original plan to return a family heirloom, portrait of Simon Bolivar, to its rightful place is sidetracked when cousin Forsyth is found murdered. Then, when the portrait is stolen, all passengers and crew become suspect.
Simon's newfound friends, Poly and Charles O'Keefe, and their scientist father help Simon to confront the danger that threaten him. But Simon alone must face up to his fears. What has happened to the treasured portrait? And who among them is responsible for the theft and the murder?
Why: Because I just so happen to love both the book and the author...and I don't have a copy of my own.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Teaser Tuesday


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. To participate, simply do the following: Grab your current read Open to a random page Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


Monday, April 1, 2013

The Loved and the Lost Blog Tour/Review

The Loved and the Lost (Verona, 3) by Lory S. Kaufman, February 5, 2013. 313 pages. Published by Fiction Studio. Source: Pump Up Your Books.
They are three time travelers desperate to return to 14th-century Verona to reclaim their medieval family s shattered lives. It is a mission fraught with danger and the risk of unexpected consequences for themselves and for their worlds. For all three, it is a matter of the heart. For one, though, it is truly the only thing that matters, as the fate of his eternal love and the life of their unborn child is the prize to be won or lost forever. In this, the final book of THE VERONA TRILOGY, Hansum, Shamira and Lincoln go on the boldest adventure of their lives. They will face hardship, tragedy, and threats from sources they couldn t have imagined all in an effort to wrestle a future from the steely grip of an unforgiving past.
First Sentence:
Hansum had been watching his younger self for about an hour when Arimus said,
                        “See, my boy, it’s not so hard, and after a while it doesn’t seem so odd.”
Are you a middle grade author, want your book to be spotlighted this year during the challenge on my blog? Than this post is just for you. All about Middle Grade Challenge

Sign up for the 2014 All about Middle Grade Reading Challenge.

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