Friday, June 28, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Mindy Hardwick (author of Stained Glass Summer)

I am very excited to welcome Mindy Hardwick, author of Stained Glass Summer, to the blog for this week's All About Middle Grade Interview. I Hope that y'all will give her a very warm welcome.

About the Author:
Mindy Hardwick is the author of EPIC Ebook Award Finalist in Children's, STAINED GLASS SUMMER, contemporary young adult romance, WEAVING MAGIC, and contemporary sweet romance novellas, VINTAGE VALENTINE, LOVE'S STORMS, LOVE'S BID and LOVE'S CHRISTMAS GIFT. She facilitates poetry workshops with teens at Denney Youth Juvenile Justice Center, and is the co-editor of four of the youth's anthologies. Mindy is included on the Washington State Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster and worked with the youth of the Tulalip Tribe in the 2011 New Directions Music and Art Prevention Program. She is one of the teaching artists included in the Reclaiming Futures Program at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. Mindy holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and is a member of Seattle SCBWI.

You can haunt Mindy Hardwick at-
Website | Blog | FB | Goodreads | Twitter |
Interview:
1       1. Could you tell us why you chose to set Stained Glass Summer on an island in the Pacific Northwest? 

Glass art is a large part of the Pacific Northwest and very prevalent on many of the San Juan Islands.  The San Juan Islands are small communities, in which the only way off the island is by a ferry, boat or plane. This sense of “being apart” was needed to both mirror how Jasmine felt after her Dad left as well as provide the small, supportive, artist community Jasmine needed in her journey to let go of her Dad.

22.       While Jasmine's living with her uncle for the summer, what will be the biggest help for her as she tries to heal after her beloved father leaves her and her family? 

The biggest help to Jasmine is five-year-old Sammy. Sammy is a lot like Jasmine. Her father has recently died in a fishing accident and she is trying to process that grief.  Jasmine and Sammy spend a lot of time together in Opal’s glass shop. Jasmine learns a lot about herself by helping Sammy.

33.       So, Mindy, why do you think readers will like Jasmine and her story of finding who she is without her dad around?

I think Jasmine is a survivor. She takes a situation which is devastating and learns how to find her own identity as an artist by helping others. I think readers will resonate  with Jasmine’s strength. 

44.       If Jasmine, the main character in Stained Glass Summer, could visit any art museum in the world which one do you think she'd love to visit? 
The Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington

55.       Mindy, I hear that you facilitate a poetry workshop at a juvenile justice center, would you mind sharing with us  your thoughts on working there? How did you get into giving workshops at the Juvenile Justice Center?

I started facilitating the poetry workshop at the detention center seven years ago. I had just left a career in teaching and I was looking for a way to continue to work with teens, but not in my teaching role. A friend was volunteering in the Pongo Publishing Program in Seattle. She suggested I contact my local area detention center.

I really enjoy working with the kids. Many of them have a strength and spirit like Jasmine which is fighting through great challenges—(Drug use, parents in prison,). Their stories come out in the poetry.  I always feel it is a privilege to be allowed to share in that process.

We keep at blog at: www.denneypoetry.com and you can read some of the poems.

66.       It's always nice to find out who inspires someone, so, I was wondering if you would like to share with my readers who inspires you? Why?

So many people inspire me! One of my writing inspirations was young adult author, Norma Fox Mazer. I met Norma at the National Book Foundation Summer Writing Camp about ten years ago. I was just starting my writing journey and going to visit my Dad for the first time after ten years apart. I had a lot of emotions about that upcoming visit to Dad and they all came out in Norma’s writing workshop. Norma sat with me as I cried and she handed me tissues. When I was done, she suggested I apply for the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program where she was on the faculty. She said it sounded like I had a story to tell. Stained Glass Summer is my thesis novel from that program.

7.       This is perhaps the hardest question of all: Three books that have made the biggest impact on you? Why?

1.       Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt—I loved reading this book in middle school and it stayed with me for many years. After I wrote Stained Glass Summer, I realized Jasmine and Dicey had a lot in common. They are both characters who had a parent abandon them, they both went to live with extended family, and they both are characters who learned how to reshape their lives without that parent.

2.       The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler—This book really opened my eyes to the journey of the hero and how to incorporate the hero’s journey into writing a story. I have always had a hard time plotting. I am more a character writer, and when I found this book, I learned how to incorporate my character writing into a plot.

3.       A Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron. I am a big Julia Cameron fan and worked through all her books. I love anything which has to do with the creative process, but this book opened my eyes to the idea that we all have a “vein of gold” and if we will tap it, the well will overflow.  I can see this when I’m writing.

8.     8.  The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose? 
Great question! I would send Sandra Bullock out to save the day! She seems to be able to save a lot of days!

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

 I work in multiple places. I tend to do most of my drafting either sitting on my couch with my computer or sitting at my dining room table that overlooks Lake Stevens. When I am editing or in the “business” side of writing, I work in an upstairs  loft.

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

I just finished drafting a memoir, Kids In Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention Poetry Workshop which is about my experience working with the teens in juvenile detention.  I did a post-graduate semester at Vermont College with this project and it was intense! It’s a story told in multiple formats (poetry, vignette, and flash) and it was like working on a large mosaic project pulling all the pieces together.


This summer, I am working on a short, tween novella called, Celtic Dreams, which is a mystery with a little bit of romance. 

Mindy, thank you so much for stopping by and answering some questions. I agree, Dicey and Jasmine would probably be able to relate well with each other.

Stained Glass Summer by Mindy Hardwick, June, 2012. Published by Musa Publishing.
Twelve-year-old Jasmine adores her photographer Father and wants to be an artist just like him. But when Dad abandons the family, Jasmine is sent to spend the summer with her Uncle on a Pacific Northwest Island. Soon, Jasmine is learning stained glass from island glass artist, Opal, and thinking she might just be developing a crush on Island boy, Cole. But, it’s not until Jasmine finds herself mentoring another young artist that she can truly let go of her Father and call herself an artist by her own terms.

You can buy Stained Glass Summer or learn more about it at-
Stained Glass Summer Reading Guide | Amazon | B&N | Musa Publishing |

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Poison by Molly Cochran Excerpt and Teaser (Blog Tour)

About the author:
Molly Cochran, author of the teen paranormal romances LEGACY and POISON, has written 26 published novels and four nonfiction books under her own name and various pseudonyms. Her books include New York Times bestselling novels GRANDMASTER and THE FOREVER KING, coauthored with Warren Murphy, and the nonfiction DRESSING THIN, also a NY Times bestseller. She has won awards from the Mystery Writers of America (Best Novel of the Year), the Romance Writers of America (Best Thriller), and the New York Public Library (Outstanding Books for the Teen Age).

She lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

You can haunt Molly Cochran at-
Website | Blog | FB | Twitter | Goodreads |
 Excerpt: Poison 

Oh, no you di-n’t!
Then, in a moment of abandon—maybe—Fabienne lifted her head, gave Peter her finest imitation of a French deer, and kissed him on the mouth.
Oh God, yes. That really happened.
While my world crumbled, the guys around him cheered. Someone yelled “Score!”
I couldn’t believe it. I felt my fingernails cutting half moons into the palms of my hands while my knees shook like leaves in the wind beneath my torn Albert Nippon dress.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Verity pull away from Cheswick and move toward me. She looked as if she wanted to ask me something, but by then it was already too late. I was no longer seeing anything except a fiery red vista that enveloped everything. Hot air rushed out of my nose. My tongue felt parched. My throat constricted.
And my ring began to glow.

Every second it grew brighter until it was too bright to look at directly. All the other lights in the place flickered and went out. The music wound down into silence. Then, with a flash that was like a white-hot sun, it was over.

Poison (Legacy, 2) by Molly Cochran, December 4, 2012. Published by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.
Arthurian legend mixes with modern-day witchcraft in this haunting sequel to Legacy, which Publishers Weekly said “should please the legions of paranormal fans looking for a sophisticated supernatural thriller.” After the riveting—and romantic—events of Legacy, Katy has won Peter’s heart and is now claiming her place in the magical world. Though half the students at her boarding school come from witching lines, the use of magic is expressly forbidden at Ainsworth, so as to keep the witching world hidden from the blue-blooded preppies, aka Muffies, who also walk the halls.

     But the Muffies have at least a notion of magic, because Katy catches them staging a made-up ritual—and to her astonishment, the girls collapse at Katy’s feet and fall into comas. When Katy is blamed, she becomes desperate to clear her name and finds herself battling all odds to harness her growing magical powers in order to save the Muffies and dispel the Darkness once more.

You can buy a copy of Molly Cochran's Poison at-
Amazon | Indie Bound | B&N | Book Depository |
Giveaway:
This is a TOUR WIDE giveaway.
There will be ONE winner – SIGNED copies of Legacy AND Poison + Outtakes from the photo shoot for Selection!
Giveaway is open: US Mailing Addresses only.
Ends: July 6th, 2013 (12:00am EST)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wish List Wednesday

Searching for Dragons (Enchanted Forests Chronicles, 2) by Patricia C. Wrede. Published by Sandpiper.
Cimorene, the princess who refuses to be proper, meets her match in the not-quite-kingly Mendanbar. With the aid of a broken-down magic carpet and a leaky magical sword, the two tackle a series of dragon-nappings.




Why: I know, I'm a little late to game on Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forests Chronicles, but I am now hooked and need to know what is going to happen to Cimorene in the next installment.

Tuesday, June 25, 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, June 24, 2013

A Vintage Reads review: Dealing with Dragons

Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forests Chronicles, 1) by Patricia C. Wrede, 2002. 212 pages. Published by Sandpiper Books. Source: Bought.
Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart. . . .
And bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon . . . and finds the family and excitement she's been looking for.
First Sentence:
Linderwall was a large kingdom, just east of the Mountains of Morning, where philosophers were highly respected and the number five was fashionable. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Top 5 with Shaunta Grimes (Author of Viral Nation): Blog Tour

Alright, today I am very excited to have Shaunta Grimes, author of Viral Nation, stopping by the blog to share five of her favorite quotes from her book. Hope y'all will give her a warm welcome.

About the author:
Shaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada. Viral Nation is her debut traditionally-published novel.

You can haunt Shaunta Grimes at-
Blog | Twitter | FB | Newsletter |
Top 5

It's hard to pick my favorite five quotes, but here are five that I really love.

As far as Clover could tell in the dim light, it was as if the Dinosaur was just waiting for someone to send it some juice and let the players stream in.

The Dinosaur is an abandoned casino—huge, hulking, and full of silent machines. This is Clover's first glimpse inside, and the reader's, too.

There were two things he could count on every Wednesday morning. An unpleasant twinge of resentment when he traded a backbreaking week of hard labor for barely enough food and energy to take care of his sister. And passing by the Kingston Estate on his way to the Bazaar, where he knew Bridget Kingston would be somewhere near the gate.

I feel like this quote sets up West's personality perfectly. He works hard. He does what he has to do, even though he gets very little reward for his efforts. He pines for something he can't have while he's on his way to do the right thing.

James heard, six weeks after Jane died, that crews were picking through Reno, removing dead bodies, sanitizing houses, making a place for the surviving Nevadans who'd stayed in the state.

When I was writing Viral Nation, I thought hard about how I thought people would react to an apocalypse. I think the survivors would band together. This quote shows how quickly, in my made up world, that happened.

He stepped forward and slid one hand along the side of her face and into her hair. He wrapped his other arm around her waist to pull her to him, then kissed her on the mouth. She was so shocked by the gesture, by being touched, that she couldn't get herself together in time to pull away. He had already moved away by the time her nervous system kicked in with the message that he was too close. And kissing her. She jerked back away.

There isn't a lot of romance in this book, but this kiss between Jude and Clover is one of my favorite scenes.

“Phire!” Emmy screeched again when her brother didn't come for her.
“Where? Where's the fire?” Isaiah indicated with his head for the other guard to check inside the gate.
“I don't see nothing,” he called.


I think any dystopian book needs a few funny scenes to give the reader a little relief. I love this scene where Isaiah is confused by Phire's name and by finding a little girl outside the city walls.

Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes, July 2, 2013. Published by Berkley Trade.
After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined… and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.

Viral Nation: Blog Tour Review


Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes, July 2, 2013. 320 pages. Published by Berkley Trade. Source: Publisher for Blog Tour.
After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined… and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever.
First Sentence:
“Keep her away from me.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wish List Wednesday

Story's End (Storybound, 2) by Marissa Burt, April 2, 2013. Published by Harper Collins Children's.
Long ago, a King ruled the land of Story. . . .

During his reign, Heroes, Villains, and characters of all kinds lived out new Tales filled with daring quests and epic struggles.

Then the King disappeared, and over the years, nearly everyone forgot that he had ever existed. Now an evil Enemy has emerged, determined to write a new future for Story that he will control. And an ordinary girl named Una Fairchild is inextricably tangled up in his deadly plan.

Una and her friends Peter and Indy are desperate to find a way to defeat the Enemy. But Una soon discovers that the real key may lie in her own mysterious ties to Story's past--and to the long-forgotten King, who could be Story's only hope for survival.
Why: I really, really enjoyed reading Storybound and need to know what is going to happen to Una and the rest of Story. Especially since things were still up in the air after the end of book one. 

Tuesday, June 18, 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, June 17, 2013

All About Middle Grade Review: Storybound

Storybound (Storybound, 1) by Marissa Burt, April 3, 2012. 416 pages. Published by Harper Collins Children's. Source: Library.
In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.

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

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

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

Friday, June 14, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Barry Wolverton (author of Neversink)

This week I am very excited to welcome Barry Wolverton, author of Neversink, to my blog. I hope that y'all will give him a warm welcome to the blog...and go out and read his fantastic book.

About the author:
I have been writing for intelligent children of all ages for almost 20 years, helping create educational books, documentaries, and online content for Discovery Networks, National Geographic, the Library of Congress, Scholastic, and Time-Life Books. Ever since seeing puffins at the Baltimore Aquarium, I have wondered why penguins are so much more celebrated than their equally adorable northern counterparts.

For NEVERSINK, my first book, I conducted extensive research at the legendary walrus library at Ocean's End. I currently live with a walrus-sized cat named Charlie in Memphis, Tenn.

You can haunt Barry wolverton at-
Goodreads | Twitter | Website | FB | Tumblr |
Interview

1.  In eleven words, tell readers why they should run and grab a copy of Neversink (right this minute)?

Imagine the Hobbit as a Pixar creation with amazing, adventurous animals. 

2.  Okay, ever since I read Neversink last year I have been dying to know....why auks? What was the appeal for using those cute little guys?

Because penguins have had their day, that’s why! Seriously, I remember seeing an auk exhibit at the Baltimore aquarium and being enchanted by these crazy adorable birds that fly underwater. So I looked into it and was horrified to find that while penguins colonize children’s entertainment in great numbers, auks (puffins in particular), were sorely underrepresented. I consider myself the personal champion of the puffin. 

3.  Lockley, was definitely an interesting character and one which I enjoyed watching change throughout the book. What did you enjoy most when it came to writing about Lockley and the rest of the characters? Any favorites?

It was fun and challenging to create personalities that matched the way these animals look and the strange names they have, sort of like in a Dickens novel. We know walruses eat a lot, but it also seemed fitting that they would have a great appetite for other things as well — knowledge, attention, adoration. And it’s hard to look at a puffin without imagining a sort of diffident, awkward (aukward?) bird that would be reluctant to assume the role of hero. It’s hard to pick favorites, but I really love Astra, the snowy owl who undergoes a sort of redemption herself. 


4.  If you were to be transported into the world of Neversink, which of the creatures from the book would you be? What would be the first place you'd visit there?

There’s probably a smidgen of me in all the main characters — even Rozbell! I would love for Egbert to take me to the Library at Ocean’s End, though. It would be like going to the Library of Congress of the ancient animal world.


5.   If you could only save three books from destruction, which three would you save and why?

How much can I cheat on this question? Okay, first and foremost, I would save a comprehensive book of world myths and folklore. I don’t even know if the book I’m imagining exists, but these patterning stories are essential to the human record. Second, a gigantic poetry anthology. Poetry is like the physics of literature — the essential matter and energy of all creative writing. With such an anthology, the survivors of your book-destroying apocalypse would have the inspiration they need to create a new body of imaginative literature. And finally, NEVERSINK, because by being one of only three books in the world, its sales would improve dramatically.


6.  Fiction and reality have collided and you have been chosen to set forth on the adventure of a lifetime, do you accept the challenge and upcoming danger or run away? If you accept, which literary character would you strike out for adventure with?

My favorite protagonists are the kids (or adults) not born from gods or with hidden superpowers, but mere mortals who are clever, curious, resourceful, and likely fun to talk to. (There is a lot of down time between battles and on long quests.) I would love to have Lyra Belacqua, aka “Silvertongue,” on my team (hoping she would have access to Iorek Byrnison and Serafina Pekkala, of course), or Ulysses, or Huckleberry Finn. Or how about Bugs Bunny? That dude always has the last laugh.

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

Hmm, if it’s robots I should choose someone from the sci fi universe, perhaps with a working knowledge of robotics. I think Dr. Who or Jean-Luc Picard might be useful here, especially since Picard can class up the action with some dramatic Shakespearean dialogue.

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

My “cave” is an 8 x 10 sun-filled room at the back of my house, with nothing but a clean desk, a vintage Danish love seat, a bookshelf, and my cat’s favorite chair, often occupied by the aforementioned cat. It looks out onto my backyard, which I’ve spent a few years slowly landscaping into something worth looking at, full of plants native to my part of west Tennessee.

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


I am working on book one of an adventure trilogy for the same folks at Walden Pond Press, which is about the best place a writer can work. We even have a Walden Pond Press fantasy baseball league! The working title of the series is The Vanishing Island. It’s about a boy growing up in a fictional Seafaring Age who longs for adventure and gets more than he bargained for when he comes into possession of an incendiary artifact. I think of it as Moby-Dick meets Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

Thank so much for stopping by Barry and for answering all of my questions...minus the one the got cut-off in my email. Love your answer for question #7 (it might be my favorite one yet).

Neversink by Barry Wolverton, March 27, 2012. Published by Walden Pond Press.
Barry Wolverton's masterful middle-grade debut, Neversink, is an epic tale of some very un-epic birds, a fast-paced and funny story of survival, friendship, and fish, in the vein of Watership Down and Kathi Appelt's The Underneath.

Along the Arctic Circle lies a small island called Neversink, home to a colony of odd-looking seabirds called auks, including one Lockley J. Puffin. With their oceanfront views and plentiful supply of fish, the auks have few concerns—few, save for Lockley's two best friends, Egbert and Ruby, a know-it-all walrus and a sharp-tongued hummingbird.

But all of this is about to change. Rozbell, the newly crowned king of the Owl Parliament, has long had his scheming eyes on the small colony to the north. Now Neversink's independence hangs in the balance. An insurgence of owls will inevitably destroy life as the auks know it—unless Lockley can do something about it.

Jack Templar, Monster Hunter: Blog Tour Review

Jack Templar, Monster Hunter (The Templar Chronicles, 1) by Jeff Gunhas, October 17, 2012. 197 pages. Published by Seven Guns Press. Source: Author/Orange Berry Book Tours.
Orphan Jack Templar has no memory of his parents and only the smallest details from his Aunt Sophie about how they died. The day before Jack's fourteenth birthday, things start to change for him. At first it's great: A sudden new strength helps him defend his nose-picking friend "T-Rex" from the school bully, and even his crush, Cindy Adams, takes notice. But then a mysterious girl named Eva arrives and tells him two facts that will change his life forever. First, that he's the descendent of a long line of monster hunters and he's destined to be in the family business. Second, that there's a truce between man and monster that children are off-limits...until their fourteenth birthday! Jack has only one day before hundreds of monsters will descend on his little town of Sunnyvale and try to kill him.

As if that weren't enough, things get even more complicated when Jack discovers that the Lord of the Creach (as the monsters are collectively known) holds a personal grudge against him and will do anything to see that Jack has a slow and painful death. To stay alive and save his friends, Jack will have to battle werewolves, vampires, harpies, trolls, zombies and more. But perhaps the most dangerous thing he must face is the truth about his past. Why do the other hunters call him the last Templar? Why do they whisper that he may be the "One?" Why do the monsters want him dead so badly? Even as these questions plague him, he quickly discovers survival is his new full-time job and that in the world of monster hunters, nothing is really what it seems.
First Sentence:
Although I was born to be a monster hunter, for most of my life I didn't know any more about it than you do right now. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wish List Wednesday

Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, May 8, 2012. Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's.
In Abby’s world, magic isn't anything special: it’s a part of everyday life. So when Abby learns that she has zero magical abilities, she’s branded an “Ord”—ordinary, bad luck, and quite possibly a danger to society.

The outlook for kids like Abby isn’t bright. Many are cast out by their families, while others are sold to treasure hunters (ordinary kids are impervious to spells and enchantments). Luckily for Abby, her family enrolls her in a school that teaches ordinary kids how to get around in a magical world. But with treasure-hunting kidnappers and carnivorous goblins lurking around every corner, Abby’s biggest problem may not be learning how to be ordinary—it’s whether or not she’s going to survive the school year!
Why: I really wish I had heard of Ordinary Magic sooner, because it sounds like an interesting read. I think what has me most intrigued about this one is that the MC, Abby, is ordinary in a magical setting. 

Tuesday, June 11, 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, June 10, 2013

All About Middle Grade Review: This Journal Belongs to Ratchet


This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavenaugh, April, 2013. 320 pages. Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Source: author for honest review.
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.
First Sentence:
If only getting a new life
Were as easy as getting
A new notebook.

Friday, June 7, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Kristen Kittscher (author of Wig in the Window)

Today, I am very, very excited to have debut author Kristen Kittscher, author of The Wig in the Window, stopping by to answer a couple of questions.

About the author:
Kristen Kittscher grew up in over 13 cities, including San Francisco, Dallas, and London but she feels most at home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, Kai, and their hopelessly spoiled cat and dog. A graduate of Brown University and former English teacher, she now writes funny mysteries for the precocious middle-schoolers she once enjoyed teaching so much. Her debut novel, THE WIG IN THE WINDOW, comes out in June 2013 with Harper Children’s.
You can haunt Kristen Kittscher at-
Goodreads | Twitter | Website |


Mind telling us a little about your debut, The Wig in the Window?

I’d love to! Sophie Young & Grace Yang are best friends and seventh graders whose game of spying on their neighbors turns real when they stake out the home of notoriously phony middle school counselor Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward) and stumble across a terrifying scene.

But do they really? Dr. Agford manages to explain everything away, but the girls are convinced that her sugary sweet façade hides a dark secret. As the Sophie and Grace get closer to the truth about Agford, the strain of the investigation pushes the two farther apart. They might crack their case, but it’s not clear whether their friendship will survive.

I’m a big fan of Hitchcock, and I originally set out to write a REAR WINDOW for kids, with a good dose of comedy mixed in. Though it’s a mystery, the girls’ perceptions, doubts, and friendship struggles are at the heart of it.

I am an absolute fan of MG mysteries because they are just so much fun to read. What inspired you to write The Wig in the Window? Did you always plan on writing a middle grade mystery?

I’m so glad to hear you are a fan!

Writing a middle grade mystery came as a bit of a surprise, actually. Many years ago, while doing some writing exercises at a conference I attended as an English teacher, I reminisced about some pretend spy games I’d played with a childhood friend. Years later, I stumbled across my notes and thought it might be fun to turn it into a story that funny, precocious kids like my seventh grade English students might enjoy.

Sophie and Grace both sound like interesting characters, can you tell us what makes them special? Why do you think readers will like Sophie and Grace?

Sophie Young & Grace Yang are of course special in their own rights, but I think it’s the way they play off of each other that is the most interesting. Like their yin/yang last names suggest, the two are opposites who nonetheless rely on each other. In Sophie’s eyes, Grace is far cooler and bolder than she – so much so that, much to Grace’s annoyance, Irish-American Sophie even goes so far as to appropriate elements of Grace’s Chinese heritage – arranging her room according to feng shui principles, taking up tai chi, studying ancient Chinese philosophy. Grace is impatient with Sophie’s self-doubt; she doesn’t understand why Sophie doesn’t see her own strengths and boldness.

I hope readers will admire their spunk and sharp wits, and feel for them through the ups and downs of their friendship.

Let's talk mysteries. What are a couple of your favorite mystery books and authors? Why?

I could go on for hours! I’ll stick with my favorite authors of mysteries for kids to narrow down the list a bitJ

Top Five Classics: Ellen Raskin (THE WESTING GAME), E.L. Konigsberg (FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES), John Bellairs (THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS), Louise Fitzhugh (HARRIET THE SPY)

Top Five Modern: Kirsten Miller (KIKI STRIKE), Elise Broach (SHAKESPEARE’S SECRET, MASTERPIECE), Trenton Lee Stewart (MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY)

While these authors represent quite a range, they do share some essential characteristics: they never condescend to their young audiences and give their stories very high stakes. Quite a few of them infuse their books with a good bit of humor, too.

I admire these qualities – and always try to do the same in my own writing, even if I fall short.

If you had to pick a song to describe The Wig in the Window, which would it be? Why?

Hmmm. Let’s say Chubby Chucker’s “The Twist.” WIG might have one or two of those…

The a mystery going on in your neighborhood and you have to go into deep cover behind enemy lines, describe your legend and how you would keep your enemies from recognizing you?

I’m afraid I can’t reveal such sensitive information… What makes you think I’m not under deep cover in my neighborhood right now?:-)

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

Percy Jackson is the clear choice here. Given his ability to control water, a rusty fate would be in store for our potential robot overlords! (Aquaman’s a close second, but I think all he can do is talk to dolphins and swim fast?)

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

Welcome to my neurotic world: I constantly change writing locations. If the going was tough one day, the next I’ll pick a different chair or view or entirely new location.

I do have a detached office in my backyard where I write (picture attached – right now it had a collage of pics I use for inspiration on my current book), but I also go to libraries, coffee shops, and – I hate to admit it – write in bed, too. There is one constant, though. I always bring my “writing knight” with me. A dear friend’s father -- a writer and scholar I looked up to --used to keep it on his desk when he was still alive.  My friend passed it along to me when I sold The Wig in the Window. I like to think it brings me luck.

Any upcoming projects that you can share with us?

Sure! Thanks for asking. I’m under contract for a sequel, THE TIARA ON THE TERRACE. This time Young & Yang go undercover Miss Congeniality-style as “pages” in their town festival’s Royal Court in order to stop a murderer. It’s loosely based on the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, where I live. Lots of hijinks in this one – and I’m having fun playing around with such a rich setting!

Kristen, thank you so much for stopping by. I haven't even read The Wong in the Window, yet, but am already excited over the premise of book two.

The Wig in the Window (Young & Yang, 1) by Kristen Kittscher, June 18, 2013. Published by HarperCollin's Childrens.
Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game of spying on their neighbors, but when they stake out the home of notoriously phony middle school counselor Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward), they stumble across a terrifying scene.
Or do they? The girls are convinced that Dr. Agford’s sugary sweet façade hides a dark secret. But as they get closer to the truth about Agford, the strain of the investigation pushes Sophie and Grace farther apart. Even if they crack their case, will their friendship survive?
Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a Rear Window twist.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Audiobook Review: Palace of Stone (DNF)

Palace of Stone (Princess Academy, 2) by Shannon Hale read by Laura Credidio, January 8, 2013. 7 hours.  Published by AudioGo. Source: Audiobook Jukebox.
Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city is a thrill to Miri. She and her princess academy friends have been brought to Asland to help the future princess Britta prepare for her wedding. There, Miri also has a chance to attend school—at the Queen's Castle. But as Miri befriends students who seem sophisticated and exciting she also learns that they have some frightening plans. Torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city, Miri looks to find her own way in this new place. Picking up where Princess Academy left off, and celebrating the joys of friendship, romance and the fate of fairy tale kingdoms, this new book delivers the completely delightful new story that fans have been waiting for.
First Sentence:
Miri woke to the insistent bleat of a goat.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wish List Wednesday

A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeleine, 1) by Jaclyn Moriarty, April 1, 2013. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books.

The first in a rousing, funny, genre-busting trilogy from bestseller Jaclyn Moriarty!

This is a tale of missing persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life, under mysterious circumstances, and settled in a rainy corner of Cambridge (in our world).

Elliot, on the other hand, is in search of his father, who disappeared on the night his uncle was found dead. The talk in the town of Bonfire (in the Kingdom of Cello) is that Elliot's dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. And he is determined to find both his dad and the truth.

As Madeleine and Elliot move closer to unraveling their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across worlds -- through an accidental gap that hasn't appeared in centuries. But even greater mysteries are unfolding on both sides of the gap: dangerous weather phenomena called "color storms;" a strange fascination with Isaac Newton; the myth of the "Butterfly Child," whose appearance could end the droughts of Cello; and some unexpected kisses...
Why: The main reason I want to read A Corner of White is that I have enjoyed every other book of Jaclyn Moriarty's that I have read...and because it sounds like an interesting read.


Tuesday, June 4, 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, June 3, 2013

Queen of the Dead

Queen of the Dead (The Ghost and the Goth, 2) by Stacey Kade, May 31, 2011. 266 pages. Published by Hyperion Book CH. Source: Library.

After being sent back from the light, Alona Dare - former homecoming queen, current Queen of the Dead - finds herself doing something she never expected: working. Instead of spending days perfecting her tan by the pool (her typical summer routine when she was, you know, alive), Alona must now cater to the needs of other lost spirits. By her side for all of this - ugh - “helping of others” is Will Killian: social outcast, seer of the dead, and someone Alona cares about more than she’d like.

Before Alona can make a final ruling on Will’s “friend” or “more” status, though, she discovers trouble at home. Her mom is tossing out Alona’s most valuable possessions, and her dad is expecting a new daughter with his wicked wife. Is it possible her family is already moving on? Hello! She’s only been dead for two months! Thankfully, Alona knows just the guy who can put a stop to this mess.

Unfortunately for Alona, Will has other stuff on his mind, and Mina, a young (and beautiful) seer, is at the top of the list. She’s the first ghost-talker Will’s ever met—aside from his father—and she may hold answers to Will’s troubled past. But can she be trusted? Alona immediately puts a check mark in the “clearly not” column. But Will is - ahem - willing to find out, even if it means leaving a hurt and angry Alona to her own devices, which is never a good idea. 
First Sentence:

On television, ghost-talkers run antique stores, solve crimes, or stand on a stage in a nice suit giving the teary-eyed audience a toothy, yet sympathetic grin.

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