Wednesday, February 29, 2012

BOOK GIVEAWAY: The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini

Awesome Book Giveaway

Author, Peter Johnson, has generously offered to give one of my lucky readers an autographed copy of his new middle grade novel, The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini.

Check out my post below for the book review for this great middle grade book. A poignant and funny book, great for the middle school boy.

Contest Details:  Contest starts 2/29/2011 and ends 3/11/2012 at 12:01 a.m. EST. Please use Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering the contest, you agree to the terms on the entry form.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini: Book Review

After a school visit from an author, John Smith, Jr. (nickname Houdini), decides to write his own book. At first, he wants to write to make money and because Houdini thinks his life is more interesting than the kid in the author's book. He develops a list of rules to guide him in his writing endeavor which include: Rule #9. Put in a few comic scenes. (Yes, kids to like to laugh and there are some hilarious moments in this book.) Rule #7: Include a moral dilemma for your characters (Houdini definitely creates some poignant moments with this rule.)

While Houdini writes about his life with his friends starting a leaf raking business, befriending a war vet and trying to get even with the school bully, Angel, he realizes some things are hard write about, much less think about. How do you write about the pain of your brother, Franklin, missing in Iraq or the possibility of your father losing his job?

When Houdini has to think about his friends and family, he gets to know them in deep and touching ways. Author, Peter Johnson, effectively captures the authentic male middle school voice in a stirring story mixed with just the right amount of humor.

If you don't believe in magic, you will after reading The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini. Highly Recommended ages 8 and up, but will especially appeal to the upper middle grade ages of 10-14.

Publishing information
  • Publisher: Harper Collins (January 24, 2012)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0061988901, ISBN-13: 978-0061988905
To purchase this book, visit the following retailers.

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**Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher at no charge for review purposes only. This in no way influenced my opinion about the book.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman: Book Review

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman

   By Marc Tyler Nobleman
   Illustrated by Ross MacDonald

"It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Siegel and Shuster!"

When two depression-era teenagers, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, weren't  reading about heroes like Tarzan and Flash Gordon, they were dreaming of creating their own superheroes. Too shy to interact with those in the real world, the two friends immersed themselves into their writing and drawing.

 While everybody else ignored him, Jerry imagined he had something special going for him. Jerry imagined a hero with the combined strength of all of the strongman he had ever heard of. One with superhuman abilities and an alter ego much like himself.  He shared his idea with Joe who drew the pictures Jerry imagined. Thus the Man of Steel, Superman, was born in Cleveland, not Krypton.

In Boys of Steel, Marc Nobleman brilliantly weaves in dialogue from interviews with Jerry and Joe, the real life creators of Superman. Ross MacDonald captures the spirit of Clark Kent and Superman by ingeniously switching from full page illustrations showing nerdy creators, Joe and Jerry, timid by day to comic style illustration of the cool friends full of confidence by night. A great tribute to the young creators. The illustrations bring the reader back to the stylized look of the 1930's depression era comic books. I loved this. It was like seeing the cover of the coveted first edition of Superman.  The afterword by Nobleman fill in the sad details of how the Superman creators were cheated out of fame and fortune by D.C. Comics and at the same time retraces Superman's role through the next several decades. This afterword will be of interest to the grown up comic book fan as well as the child reader. The boys in my house love comics and anything to do with them. This book reaffirms my conviction of the importance of comics in children's literature. I highly recommend Boys of Steel to the adoring fans of Superman and the comic lover child at heart. Age 7-10

Publishing Information
  • Publisher: Alfred A Knopf (July 22, 2008)
  • Pages: 40 Hardcover
  • Ages: 7-10
  • ISBN: 978-0-375-83802-6
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**I received a copy of the book at no charge from the author for review purposes only. This in no way influenced by opinion of the book. I

Friday, February 17, 2012

Author Interview: Derek the Ghost & Derek Kent with Scary School eBook Giveaway

I was lucky enough to have the chance to pin down Derek the Ghost, Author of Scary School, for an interview. Though I couldn't quite look him in the eye, I found him to be quite charming. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Q. What ended up being your favorite part of writing Scary School?

Derek: I love taking kids basic fears about school - making friends, dealing with bullies, having a mean teacher, etc., and heightening to the point that they became ridiculous and hilarious. Hopefully kids will read the Scary School series and be able to put their own problems into perspective and things won't seem so bad. Hey, you may have a mean teacher, but at least she probably won't eat you if you break a rule like Dr. Dragonbreath!
Q. On your acknowledgement page, you thank many of your teachers. Did you try to infuse those teacher's personalities into the monster teachers in Scary School?

Derek: Certainly many of the teachers were inspired by some real life scary teachers I had. While I didn't actually have any Dragon, Vampire, or Zombie teachers, I used elements of some of my teachers' personalities. Dr. Dragonbreath was inspired by an amazing Latin teacher I had who liked to wear bow ties every day. While he wasn't as scary as Dr. Dragonbreath, he was the best teacher in the school just like Dr. Dragonbreath (once you get past his appetite for rule-breakers). The students are mostly inspired by many of the classic horror characters. For instance, there's the 11-year-old version of Jason and Freddy... and in Book 2 you'll get to meet a young Stephen King and possibly even some familiar faces from Harry Potter! 
Q. Scary School reminds me of so many secret fears. Did you have a secret fear as a school aged child and if so, what was it?

Derek:  Haha. I lot a lot of fears but i don't think any of them were secret! I was often afraid that monsters, like Dracula, were hiding in my room at night. I remember the movie, The Last Unicorn, scared the you-know-what out of me and I was afraid of the Red Bull even when I was sitting on the toilet. I conquered that fear by drinking lots of Red Bull once it came out. 
Q. Do you always like to float around in life and what do you observe when floating around that inspires you to write?

I'm a really good listener. I love listening in on conversations to study how people talk and how conversations flow. If you actually write down real life conversations word-for-word and then read it back like a dialogue scene, it doesn't even seem realistic! 
Q. What do you do in your spare time when not writing about scary things?

I'm a huge foodie and love trying to places to eat and cooking up a storm. I'm even cooking my way through Mario Batali's (or as he's known in Scary School, Mario Bat-Ali's) cookbook right now like a Julie and Julia thing, but I'm not blogging about it. 

 Q. What is the hardest thing about writing?

I've been writing pretty feverishly since I was seven years old, so it all comes fairly easy to me at this point. I guess the hardest parts are in the later process when I'm editing and I have to cut out jokes or even whole chapters that I love for the sake of brevity.

Q. Do you have a favorite character in Scary School? Tell us who it is and what you love about them.

In Book One I think Petunia was my favorite character. I think I share a lot of traits with her in terms of our school experience - feeling lonely, feeling like an outcast, being lost in her own world, and carrying a sadness upon her shoulders because her classmates can't see past her peculiarities. Her chapter was also one of my favorites to write because it was so spooky and creepy, plus it teaches an important lesson about being careful what you wish for, and it gives her a really nice arc.

Q. Tell us a little about the next book in the series.

Scary School #2: Monsters on the March comes out June 26, 2012 online and in bookstores everywhere. After winning the Ghoul Games, Scary School gets to claim their prize of going on a field trip to meet the Monster King in Monster Kingdom. However, things do not go as planned and the students have to get very lucky to make it out of there alive. All of your favorite characters will be back for new adventures, and there will of course be lots of strange and spooky new characters and teachers.  After that, Book 3 will be out June 2013 and things get CRAZY!!
Q. My goal is to get boys to read more. If you could give one bit of advice to get boys to read and write more, what would it be?

Well, may I humbly say that having them read book series like Scary School is the perfect way to get them to read more. At that age, boys want to have fun and not have reading feel like doing homework. Once the connection is made that reading can be fun, it will trigger a love of reading that should carry on through adulthood. Generally, the more one reads, the more there is a temptation to write. Again, it's great to inspire boys by giving them something fun to write about. Have them write a story about what happens if all of their favorite basketball players turned into zombies. Kids who don't like to write will suddenly have a very different attitude. It's also great to have them pick out their own books so that they form a bond with it. They will be much more inclined to read a book they picked out themselves rather than having something forced upon them. 

Lastly, it's great to incorporate modern things they love into reading. Like video games! On the Scary School website - - there's a video game for kids to play, and if they win, they get the weirdest trophy ever. Plus you can tour the school, meet the faculty and students, and unlock a secret chapter after finishing book 1!
Derek Kent

Be sure to read my review of Scary School HERE. Also, Derek Kent, has agreed to give one lucky reader and eBook copy of Scary School. Use the Rafflecopter form to enter the giveaway. Winner will received an electronic version of the book.

Contest ends on February 27, 2012 at 10:01 MST. Winner will be notified through email and prize will be sent via email. ARV of prize is $8.99 (cost of Kindle edition).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Scary School by Derek the Ghost and Derek Taylor Kent: Book Review

From the moment you walk into Scary School, you know it may be the scariest year of your life. That is, if you make it through the first day without being eaten by your teacher, Mr. Dragonbreath, for not obeying all of his nearly impossible class rules. Even if you don't make it through alive, there's always the chance you might come back as a zombie or even a ghost. Being a ghost does have it's advantages, like being able to float around and write about all of the horrible things that go on in the school. For the first time, Derek the Ghost reveals just exactly what happens inside Scary School.

Brace yourself. You're about to meet the zaniest, I mean scariest administration and teachers ever. From Principal Headcrusher to Ms. Fang, a vampire teacher and then to detention supervisor, Mrs. T. a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a blue dress, each has a crazy fun spooky story. The mix of regular kids with monsters, makes Scary School a place so unique even the scary creatures who come from other schools for the first ever school Ghoul Games are stricken.

In Scary School, Derek the Ghost, with the help of Derek Taylor Kent, creates a hilarious and imaginative first installment in what promises to be a wildly popular series, especially appealing to boys. The vivid illustrations by Scott M. Fischer add to the zany fun. You don't need to be a boy to love this book, but you do have to have a macabre sense of humor. Highly Recommended ages 8 and up for a screaming good laugh. Watch for the second installment, due out in late spring.

Purchase this book from the following retailers.

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 Publishing Info.
  • Publisher: Harper Collins (6/21/2011)
  • Reading Level: 8 and up
  • Pages: 256 Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 0061960926 ISBN-13: 978-0061960925
**Disclosure: I received an electronic version of this book at no charge from the author for review purposes only. This in no way influenced my review.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Won the Liebster Award

I am honored to have two very special authors and bloggers award me the Liebster Blog Award. What is the Liebster Blog Award? It is awarded by fellow bloggers for recognition of a job well done. The first blogger who nominated me for the blog is:

Ilima Todd of  Ilima Writes: I met this talented author at a writer's conference where we had a chance to critique each others work. I look forward to seeing her become a published author. If she ever writes a book for boys, I hope I'm the first to review it.

The second is C.K. Volnek, author of Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island and A Horse Called Trouble. I have had a chance to work with this lovely author for book reviews. I am always amazed at how grateful and gracious the authors are to me for taking the time to review their books. Please visit her website.

Here are the rules for the Liebster award. 

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all-have bloggity-blog fun! is my list of five bloggers to whom I present the Liebster Award:

Kalina Clegg at Run Like a Girl  Besides being my daughter, Kalina inspires me everyday at how hard she works in every aspect of her life. Her blog inspires me to keep running even when I don't want to. Because she never quits, she inspires me to keep trying to get my book published even when I feel like quitting.

Chris Singer of Book Dads - Though I don't personally know Chris, I admire him deeply for reminding us how important father's are in their children's life. Dedicated to being a good example of reading, he has my deepest gratitude. Not to mention, he has been a huge supporter of my blog.

Margot Finke of Whine Without the Hangover - Margot is an children's book author I met online through my association with the Mom's Blogger Club and I admire her deeply for taking on tough issues for children. I can't wait to review some of her titles.

Ella Johnson of Memorable Children's Books and Gifts - Also a fellow blogger from the Mom's Blogger Club who is dedicated to children's literature.

Jessie Oberg of Jessie Oberg Photography - Jessie is a beautiful photographer and has a beautiful blog. I wish I could make mine look that beautiful, but hey, I'm a writer, not a photographer.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Emerald Casket by Richard Newsome: Book Review

It the month since his great-aunt Geraldine died and left Gerald with more money than he could ever imagine, he has had to try to solve a murder mystery and dodge death. When Sir Mason Green makes off the diamond casket, Gerald is left to wonder when the villain will show up again.

In book two of the Archer Legacy, THE EMERALD CASKET by Richard Newsome, Gerald learns of a family secret kept hidden for centuries. With the help of his friends, Sam and Ruby, they embark on a trip to India to find the hidden secrets. He will not only discover an underwater city, but also exactly who are his friends and who are foes.

Despite the heavy handed clues Gerald receives at the most convenient moments and the disappearance of the adults at the most inconvenient times, The Emerald Casket is a grand adventure with action that never seems to stop. It is easy to overlook the obvious set ups when the excitement builds with every page. Definitely a fun book I would gladly recommend for the action-adventure lover, reminiscent of Indiana Jones. Great for boys 8-12, but a book girls will love as well. The ending leaves a good set up for the final chapter of the Archer Legacy which I look forward to reading.

Publishing Information
  • Publisher: Waldon Pond Press
  • Pages 368
  • Ages 8-12
  • ISBN: 978-0-06-194492-5

To purchase this book click on any of the following retailers.

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** Disclosure: I received the book at no charge from the publisher for review purposes only. This in no way affected my opinion of the book. All opinions are honest and my own.