Friday, November 28, 2014

All About Middle Grade Interview with Michael Scott Miller (The Phony Farkleberry)

Today, I am excited to welcome Michael Scott Miller, author of The Phony Farkleberry. to the blog to discuss his middle grade book and his favorite book detectives (one of whom happens to be a favorite of mine as well-can you guess who).

 About the author:
Michael Scott Miller says there is no greater compliment than when his readers say they became emotionally invested in his characters.

Michael found the inspiration for his first novel, Ladies and Gentlemen...The Redeemers, from the talented but poor musicians that stake out territories and collect change from passersby in the subways of Philadelphia. This story of a band, cobbled together from down-and-out musicians, has been described as "a lesson in persistence, perseverance, salesmanship, and faith," and as "a fun, feel good story."

You can haunt Michael Scott Miller at-
Goodreads | Website | Twitter |

1. In five words describe The Phony Farkleberry.

Brainy fifth-graders investigate art theft

2. So, did you always plan on having their first case be that of an art heist? Other than trying to keep their parents in the dark, what's the hardest (non-spoiler) thing they'll face while trying to crack the case?

I did.  I wanted the kids to get pulled into their first mystery sort of by accident.  And to make the story appropriate for children, the crime committed needed to be non-violent.  Having one of the kids’ parents work in an art gallery where a painting is stolen and replaced with a copy seemed like the perfect solution.  As readers will learn (no spoiler, I think), this first case introduces them to Detective Michael Johansson, a recurring character in the series and a source of future cases.  

The hardest, non-spoiler thing the kids have to face is grown-ups who don’t take their findings seriously.  However, they learn to use their age to their advantage as they discover that there are benefits to being underestimated.

3. Can you share a two sentence teaser from your favorite chapter of The Phony Farkleberry with us?

Wow!  I thought condensing the storyline into a book jacket blurb was difficult!  LOL.

One of my favorite chapters is when the kids become suspicious of a well-to-do married couple in their town who happen to be big patrons of the art gallery.  In one of the scenes, the athletic Tubby (a nickname left over from his early childhood) and the reluctant Dontrelle attempt to spy into their house at night.  Tubby climbs a tree overlooking their yard while Dontrelle maintains a lookout on the ground, with instructions to give a bird whistle if he sees anyone coming.  The teaser here contains a nice mix of adventure and comedic mishap as Tubby eases his way out along a tree branch, only to have it snap off and deposit him into the yard:
Dontrelle peeked through a gap in the fence. “Are you okay?” he asked in a half whisper, half yell. An outdoor light came on. Dontrelle whistled.

“A little late for that,” Tubby said as he scrambled to his feet and rushed toward the fence.
4. Keeping with the mystery theme, who are three of your favorite mystery book detectives. What do you think makes them a great detective?

Hercule Poirot – I grew up reading a lot of Agatha Christie books.  What made Poirot so effective was his focus on the psychology of the criminal.  Rather than searching for clues and examining evidence, he focused on people, getting them to talk.  His philosophy:  the more people talked, the more opportunities they had to give themselves away.

The Three Investigators – I’m counting this trio as one since they operated as a team.  As a child, I could not get enough of these books with such wonderful titles as “The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints” or “The Mystery of the Talking Skull.”  Under a pile of junk in a family-owned scrapyard, the kids created a hideout where they worked on their cases.  Their leader, Jupiter Jones, approached the mysteries by adhering to a belief that no matter how supernatural the circumstances may appear, there must be a rational explanation.

Robert Langdon – I love puzzles, and what set of mysteries provides a better web than Dan Brown’s works featuring the Harvard professor of religious iconology and symbology turned amateur detective.  In complete contrast to Hercule Poirot, Langdon’s strength is his ability to examine evidence, interpret clues (often religious symbols tied to secret societies), and follow the threads where they lead.

5. Last book that kept you reading late into the night?

I read a wide variety of genres and the most recent book that gripped me was The Hunger Games (the first one in the series).  What made this one so great to me was its plausibility, not so much the concept of the kids fighting one another as spectator sport, but the idea of a capitol forcing labor upon segments of its population for the benefit of itself and its people.  The characters and the settings are so perfectly vivid, both in the downtrodden districts and in the flamboyant capitol.

6. If you could have tea with any author, dead or living, who would you choose? What would be the first question you asked them?

Louis Sachar, author of the Wayside School series.  The first thing I’d ask him is how long it took him to write Chapter 6 in Wayside School gets a Little Stranger where the kids all bring their unusually named pets to school.  It is sidesplittingly funny and exceptionally clever.

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

Will Smith in Independence Day, Men in Black, or I Robot.  Take your pick.  Calm, cool, and hilariously irreverent.

Thanks for having me visit!

Michael, thank you so much for stopping by! Hercule Poirot is one of my favorite detectives...EVER! So color me excited to see him mentioned in your answer! Loved the teaser from your book!! 

The Phony Farkleberry (Twisted Oak Amateur Detectives, 1) by Michael Scott Miller, September 22, 2014. 
When a painting by legendary artist Thomas Farkleberry is stolen from the art gallery where Tyler’s mother works, Tyler’s mind races to the whispered conversation he overheard on the night of the big gala. But when his mother dismisses Tyler’s suspicions, he and his friends, Melanie, Amanda, Tubby, and Dontrelle, decide to take the investigation into their own hands. Can they crack the case before their parents discover what they are up to?

Don't forget, you can add The Phony Farkleberry to your Goodreads shelves.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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, November 24, 2014

YA Review: Once Upon a Marigold

Once Upon a Marigold (Upon a Marigold, 1) by Jean Ferris, October 1, 2002. 272 pages. Published by Harcourt. Source: Library.
Who knew love could be so amazing--and stupefying? Not Christian. He was clueless when he started spying on the royal family through his telescope. He lives in a cave with a troll for a dad, after all. If his dad had only warned him about all that mind-boggling love stuff, maybe things wouldn't be such a mess. But then, maybe, Princess Marigold would be dead.
But Christian wasn't warned. And now that he's fallen for the princess, it's up to him to untwist an odd love triangle--er, rectangle--and foil a scheming queen who wants to take over the kingdom, even if it means bumping off her own daughter.
With echoes of William Goldman's modern classic The Princess Bride, Jean Ferris's hilarious parody of "Once upon a time . . ." overflows with oddball characters and sage observations--and ends with a slapstick happily-ever-after that's full of surprises.
First Sentence:
Edric knew he should head for home.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Knitting Book Review: Knockout Knits

Knockout Knits: New Tricks for Scarves, Hats, Jewelry, and Other Accessories by Laura Nelkin, September 2, 2014. 144 pages. Published by Potter Craft. Source: Blogging for Books.
An abundance of knitted luxuries--summery lace shawls, warm and wooly hats, a trio of cool knitted bracelets, and stunning beaded gloves--designed to grow your skills.

Who doesn't love to knit accessories? They're fast, often require only a skein or two of yarn, and make amazingly versatile gifts for friends and family. Small knits are also the perfect way to try something new--an unusual stitch pattern, wild multi-colored yarn, or even a touch of sparkle. Laura Nelkin is well-known for designing these fun-to-knit little projects introducing her students and fans to advanced techniques with her signature "You can do it!" enthusiasm. In her first book, she share her 3 favorite types of knitting using wrapped stitches, lacework, and beads. Each chapter begins with a quick knitted cuff to lay the foundations, then gradually ramps up to more complicated designs. The result is an all-new collection of wearable, feminine knits with a slightly rustic aesthetic. Give them as gifts, stockpile for a chilly day, or dress up a casual outfit--these are knockout projects to enjoy knitting again and again.

Friday, November 21, 2014

All About Middle Grade Interview with Kathleen Andrews Davis (Emerson's Attic)

I am excited to welcome Kathleen Andrews Davis, author of Emerson's Attic: The Blue Velvet, to the blog to discuss her book and to share her favorite time-travel books (here's a hint: I'm also a huge fan of one she mentions).

About the author:
It's never too late! That's my new motto! As a semi-retired grandmother I felt incomplete and wanted more. Amazing what becoming a grandparent does to you. I decided to leave our granddaughter a legacy of words and a simple idea turned into Emerson's Attic, The Blue Velvet.

I live with my husband in the mountains of central Pennsylvania where I have put all my other interests on hold so that I can write. It's taken a very long time, but I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow author.

You can haunt Kathleen Andrew Davis at-
Website | Goodreads |


1. In seven words tell us about Emerson's Attic.

Emerson is a time-traveling Nancy Drew.

2. What do you think will be the hardest thing for Emerson to cope with in the time period she's been sent back in time to?

Naming only one thing is really hard because there are so many things.  Not only does she have to adjust to time, place and culture, but she has to figure out why she is there and who she can trust.

3. So, Kathleen, what is it about time-travel that made you want to write about it in Emerson's Attic?

Time-travel is limitless.  Emerson can travel to any destination in any time period…although she does not chose the destinations…I do…she needs to use her intelligence and common sense to navigate through the mystery that will return her home.

4. Can you share with us a two sentence teaser from your favorite chapter of Emerson's Attic?

Wow, that’s a hard one.  That’s like choosing your favorite child because every book means so much to me.  Let’s go with this from The Blue Velvet:  

Turning in the direction of the voices, they could see a faint glow near the spiral staircase at the far end of the passage.  The glow was getting fainter and Emerson realized it was slowly moving down the stairs.

5. Carrying on with the theme of time-travel and books, can you tell us about three of your favorite books that feature time-travelling?

For children a great classic is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  This is where the quote, “It was a dark and stormy night,” came from.  This is the story of the Murry family and their friend Calvin O’Keefe who venture on an extraordinary and dangerous journey.

For adult and young adult readers, I absolutely loved The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley.  This is a beautiful love story that goes back to the early 1700’s in Scotland when the Jacobites struggled to return James Stewart to Scotland to reclaim his crown.  Kearsley writes beautifully and captures your heart in this and her other novels.

Also for adult and young readers is the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon.  Again, back to Scotland but this time in the 1740’s.  If you like history and sequels, you’ll love this story.  The books were made into a TV series this past year which can be found on STARZ.  The series is well done but I always think the books are better than the TV series or movies.

I guess you can tell I love Scottish and English history.

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

I would have to choose a heroine who has not yet been born.  She would be highly intelligent to deal with the technology of the future, compassionate to understands the needs of her people and those she faces as foes, brave and courageous to face the invaders, and above all honest and of high moral character to be a trustworthy leader.

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

Oh to have one!!!  My writing cave is anywhere I can get comfortable…which isn’t easy because I cannot type on anything but an ergonomic keyboard which is large (I so admire people who can type fast on a laptop); that plus my laptop and wireless mouse make for an interesting arrangement.  My dream is someday to have a secluded office or better yet treehouse, where I can shut out noise and interruptions… with a very large, comfy chair.

8. If you could have tea with any author, dead or living, who would you choose. What would be the first question you asked them?

Rosamund Pilcher is one of my favorite author.  If I ever had the opportunity to meet her I’m sure I would be struck dumb!  Once I got my brain and mouth working, I would ask her secret to writing such deep human emotions.

Kathleen, thank you so much for stopping by! I must say, that I am so pleased you mention A Wrinkle in Time as that is one of my all-time favorite books (also one of my most beloved authors). 

Emerson's Attic: Blue Velvet (Attic, 1) by Kathleen Andrews Davis, July 22, 2013. Published by Kathleen Andrews Davis.
Emerson McBride is a normal American teenager. She goes to school, plays soccer, and roams the mall with friends. Her life is just like that of any other 14 year old's until she is sent to clean the attic in the old Victorian as punishment for fighting with her younger brother. Suddenly she is thrown back in time to a totally foreign world. Frightened and armed only with dreams of her grandfather, Emerson ventures into the unknown. How did she get here? Who are these people? Who is she and why is she here? These questions and many more follow Emerson into a new life in a new land.

Don't forget, you can add Emerson's Attic: The Blue Velvet to your Goodreads shelves.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wish List Wednesday

Mark of the Thief (Mark of the Thief, 1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen, February 24, 2015. Published by Scholastic.
When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones: He discovers an ancient bulla, an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods -- magic some Romans would kill for.

Now, with the deadly power of the bulla pulsing through his veins, Nic is determined to become free. But instead, he finds himself at the center of a ruthless conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and spark the Praetor War, a battle to destroy Rome from within. Traitors and spies lurk at every turn, each more desperate than the next to use Nic's newfound powers for their own dark purposes.

In a quest to stop the rebellion, save Rome, and secure his own freedom, Nic must harness the magic within himself and defeat the empire's most powerful and savage leaders.

Why: I'll give you three reasons why I need Mark of the Thief:
  1. It's set in Rome
  2. It's by Jennifer A. Nielsen (yeah, the one who wrote the False Prince trilogy)
  3. It sounds like an incredible read

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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, November 17, 2014

YA Review: Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, 3) by Sarah J. Maas, September 2, 2014. 562 pages. Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's. Source: Library.
Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?
First Sentence:
Gods, it was boiling hot in this useless excuse for a kingdom.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wish List Wednesday

Wild Rover No More: Being the Last Recorded Account of the Life & Times of Jacky Faber (Bloody Jack, 12) by L.A. Meyer, November 4, 2014. Published by HMH Books for Young Readers.
Just when it looks like Jacky Faber and her beloved Jaimy will finally find their romance, Jacky is accused of treason and must flee Boston while her friends attempt to clear her name. Of course that means wild adventures for our fun-loving heroine, who manages to secure a job as a governess…and run away with the circus. The highly anticipated grand finale of the Bloody Jack Adventures.

Why: I cannot believe that the Bloody Jack series is ending! While I may be four books behind on this one, I need to see how things play out for Jacky and Jaimy....also, I'm dying to see this last bit of mischief that Jacky finds herself in.

Yeah, so, I really, really need Wild Rover No More in my life!!!!!! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

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, November 10, 2014

YA Review: Dark Triumph

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, 2) by Robin LaFevers, April 2, 2013. 385 pages. Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Source: library.
The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin's skills are little comfort when the convent returns her home to the life that nearly drove her mad. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of death himself, he must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?
First Sentence:
I did not arrive at the convent of Saint Mortain some green stripling.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ya Review: Jala's Mask [ARC]

Jala's Mask by Mike and Rachel Grinti, November 4, 2014. 300 pages. Published by PYR Books. Source: publisher.
For two hundred years the people of the Five-and-One Islands have survived by raiding the mainland. By shaping the reefs around their islands into magical ships, they can cross the great ocean, take what they want, and disappear where no normal ship can follow.

When Jala meets King Azi of the Five-and-One, she forgets everything her family told her to do. She was supposed to be meek and charming. She wasn't supposed to be herself. And she wasn't supposed to fall for him. When the king defies his family and proposes to her, Jala finds herself the islands' new queen. Now she's cut off from her family and despised by the king's advisers. Even her feelings for Azi, that seemed so clear when they were alone, are anything but clear amid the politics of the islands' ruling families.

On the second night after Jala's wedding, the islands are invaded by ships arriving on a tide of magical fog. One of the islands is left in ruin. Others haven't been heard from. And there might be more invaders on the way. If Jala can convince the noble families to work together, they might stand a chance, but she must choose between her family, her love for Azi, and saving her people.
First Sentence:
The king's grayships spread out down the length of the coastline, their red-streaked sails visible between the palm trees.

All About Middle Grade Review: Arcady's Goal

Arcady's Goal by Eugene Yelchin, October 14, 2014. 240 pages. Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR). Source: publisher.
From Newbery Honor–winning author Eugene Yelchin comes another glimpse into Soviet Russia. For twelve-year-old Arcady, soccer is more than just a game. Sent to live in a children’s home after his parents are declared enemies of the state, it is a means of survival, securing extra rations, respect, and protection. Ultimately, it proves to be his chance to leave. But in Soviet Russia, second chances are few and far between. Will Arcady seize his opportunity and achieve his goal? Or will he miss his shot?
First Sentence:
I'm a risk taker.

YA Review: Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, 2) by Sarah J. Maas, August 27, 2013. 420 pages. Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's . Source: Library.
From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie...and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.
First Sentence:
The shutters swinging in the storm winds were the only sign of her entry.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

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, November 3, 2014

YA Review: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, 1) by Sarah J. Maas, August 7, 2012. 404 pages. Published by Bloomsbury USA Children's. Source: Library.
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
First Sentence:
After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Catholic Review: The American Catholic Almanac

The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States by Brian Burch and Emily Stimpson, September 30, 2014. 416 pages. Published by Image. Source: Blogging for Books.

They’re all Catholics who have shaped America. In this page-a-day history, 365 inspiring stories celebrate the historic contributions of American men and women shaped by their Catholic faith. From famous figures to lesser-known saints and sinners, The American Catholic Almanac tells the fascinating, funny, uplifting, and unlikely tales of Catholics’ influence on American history, culture, and politics. Spanning the scope of the Revolutionary War to Notre Dame football, this unique collection of stories highlights the transformative role of the Catholic Church in American public life over the last 400 years.

Did you know…
• The first immigrant to arrive in America via Ellis Island was a 15-year-old Irish Catholic girl?
• Al Capone’s tombstone reads “MY JESUS MERCY”?
• Andrew Jackson credited America’s victory in the Battle of New Orleans to the prayers of the Virgin Mary and the Ursuline Sisters?
• Five Franciscans died in sixteenth-century Georgia defending the Church’s teachings on marriage?
• Jack Kerouac died wanting to be known as a Catholic and not only as a beat poet?
• Catholic missionaries lived in Virginia 36 years before the English settled Jamestown?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn, 1) by Mark Twain, October 28, 2014 (originally published in 1876). 272 pages. Published by Penguin Classics. Source: publisher.
The classic boyhood adventure tale, updated with a new introduction by noted Mark Twain scholar R. Kent Rasmussen

A consummate prankster with a quick wit, Tom Sawyer dreams of a bigger fate than simply being a “rich boy.” Yet through the novel’s humorous escapades—from the famous episode of the whitewashed fence to the trial of Injun Joe—Mark Twain explores the deeper themes of the adult world, one of dishonesty and superstition, murder and revenge, starvation and slavery.
First Sentence: