Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: Victory on the Home Front by D. S. Grier

As if the fighting going in during World War II wasn't enough, the tumultuous life at the MacGregor makes eleven-year-old Les want to run away. It doesn't help that the school bully has made sure nobody wants to be around him.

When his family sees his older brother James off at the train station as he heads off to join the war effort, Les uses the opportunity to escape to the one place he feels loved. His other two brothers later join him as his alcoholic parents try to pick up the pieces of their troubled life.

While the story explores the problems of a dysfunctional family and brings attention to attention deficit order in a beautiful, sensitive way, the constant shifts in points of view, sometimes several times in a chapter, can jar and confuse the reader. The young adult reader may see some of his own family in the novel but may struggle to stay fully connected to the characters.

Rating: Good to Recommended ★★★1/2

Publishing Information: 
Publisher: Windy City Publishing (March 2012)
ISBN: 9781935766148
Pages 276
Ages: 11 and up

Book can be purchased from the following retailers:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Claude at the Beach by Alex T. Smith

Book received from the publisher at no charge to facilitate review

Claude the dog with the red beret needs a vacation. What better person to spend it with than his best friend, Sir Bobblysock. After packing all sorts of useful things like tambourines, whipped cream, and sticky tape, the two head off on and adventure to the beach.

Claude's relaxing day at the beach winds up filled with excitement as he rescues a swimmer from a shark, enters sand castle building contest and has a surprise waiting in his hunt for pirate treasure.

Who knew strutting around in red underwear held up by tape could be so fun?
Kids will never get enough of Claude and his hilarious antics. Quirky illustrations endear the reader to already loveable characters. Claude will leave his fans hardly able to contain their excitement for his next adventure.

Rating: Highly Recommended ★★★★★

Publishing Information: 
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (April 2014)
ISBN: 978-1-56145-703-8
Ages 7-9

This book can be purchased from the following retailers:

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Contest Details:  

To celebrate the April release of Claude at the Beach, I am giving away a hard copy to one of my lucky readers in April. Please use the Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the form and agree to them. Contest ends 4/20/2014 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Author Interview: Michelle Edwards

I am proud to introduce Michelle Edwards, author of Max Makes a Cake

 What made you decide to become a children's book  book author? 

In graduate school I started making letterpress books, like Dora Skale in my picture book, Dora’s Book. I like being able to add text and story to my images. After I finished my MFA in printmaking, I started to think about more about stories and images. That led me right to picture books.

 Many young readers don't realize the illustrations to a picture book aren't added until an author has already written the story. Tell us what it is like to finally see the illustrations added to your work.

I have illustrated many of my own picture books, so it’s always a surprise for me to see how someone else illustrates my characters and stories. Sometimes it shakes my vision. Sometimes, like in Max Makes a Cake, it thrills me. I love the way Charles Santosos captured Max’s spirit and personality.

 Have you ever made an unusual cake like Max and what was it like?

I do like to experiment in the kitchen. And like Max, I am a major fan of frosting. The most unusual cake I ever made was one I had to rescue with frosting. The cake was birthday cake for my husband. I was impatient and took it out of the pan before it had cooled. The cake fell apart, so I glued it back together with frosting. Because it had a very rough and crumbly look, I used M and M’s to decorate it.

 Did you pattern any of the characters in Max Makes a Cake after anyone you know?

Tell us a little bit about how your characters are formed.Max is a spunky, confident can-do kid. He and my three daughters are very much a kindred spirits. My characters are usually what drives my stories. I spend a lot of time thinking about them.

What is the hardest part of being a children's book author?

For me, I think the hardest part of being a children’s book author and illustrator  the waiting. Waiting for a publisher  to buy my story. Waiting for a an editor to respond to my revision. Waiting for the book to be published, available and reviewed.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

Creating. I love being in my studio and playing with ideas. The early stages when all that matters is that I show up, ready to play.

How often do you write and how long did it take to get your first book published?

I work every day. That means that almost every day, I am in my studio, doing something – writing, sketching, reading. It took me many years to be published

Who are some of your favorite children's book authors? Do you get inspiration from any of them?

There are so many authors and illustrators I admire. I’ll name just a few of my favorites: Vera B.Williams, Maira Kalman, E.B. White and Katherine Applegate. They inspire me everyday. I study their books. Sometimes I even type them up – that way I get close to how the books works word by word.

Michelle Edwards is the author and illustrator of many books for children, one book for adults, and nearly one hundred essays and cards for knitters. Her picture book titles include Chicken Man, winner of the National Jewish Book Award. Michelle lives in Iowa City, Iowa, with her husband, a house full of books, yarn, and the artifacts of their three daughter's childhoods. Her next picture book, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman will be published in 2016 by Schwartz and Wade and illustrated by Brian Karas. 

Author Social Media Links:   Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest

Thank you to Michelle Edwards for taking the time to to an author interview with me. I love meeting the authors of the books I review. It makes me appreciate what goes into the writing process.

Check out my book review of Max Makes a Cake HERE.

Book Review: Max Makes a Cake by Michelle Edwards and Illustrated by Charles Santoso

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Max can't wait to make a special Passover surprise birthday cake for his mom. Only his baby sister, Trudy,  keeps getting in the way of his dad helping him. He tries to be patient while his dad gets Trudy to bed. He waits and waits but he wants to "hurry, hurry, hurry." When he realizes they had a mix for the cake but not for the frosting, he rushes to the refrigerator to see what he can find.

With all of the ingredients for a cake and frosting in hand, Max gets impatient waiting and takes matters into his own hands. What surprise will his dad find when he finally returns? While Max's resourcefulness and charm will warm the reader's heart, the abrupt change from the story of the Passover to Max making a cake may leave a feeling of confusion. A cute story intended for a large audience but may miss the mark for those not familiar with the Jewish traditions.

Rating: Good to Recommended ★★★✬☆

Publishing Information

Publisher: Random House Kids (Jan. 28, 2014)
Pages: 32
Ages: 3-7
ISBN: 978-0-449-81431-4

This book can be purchased from the following retailers:">Max Makes a Cake</a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;

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*I received the book at no charge from the publisher to facilitate my review.No monetary compensation was received.  As always, I retain the right to give a fair and honest review.**

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: Faery Swap by Susan Kaye Quinn

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Things get tough for fourteen-year-old Finn and his sister Erin when their father relocates them to England. With his father preoccupied, Finn tries to keep his sister from ending up with Child Protective Services. When the warrior faery prince Zaneyr attempts to flee from his father's plan to repair the Rift, he captures Finn's human body through trickery in a swap that sends Finn's bodiless soul into into the Faery Otherworld.

While Zaneyr fights off his father's seekers with Finn's body, Finn procures allies with faeries from the house of Anna who agree to help him get back to the human world in exchange for the prince.

Interesting characters drive the plot in a fantasy adventure with plenty of twists to keep the reader enthralled. Math and magic come together to create an almost realistic world of enchantment that will appeal to both boys and girls.

Rating:  Recommended ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Ages: 8-14

Book can be purchased from the following retailers:
Want to win a signed paperback copy and a $25 Amazon gift card? Be sure to enter the blog tour giveaway HERE.

**I received the book at no charge from the publisher to facilitate my review.No monetary compensation was received.  As always, I retain the right to give a fair and honest review.**

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Review: Dewi and the Seeds of Doom by Maggie Lyons

When Dewi, the Welsh dragon, is hit on the nose by a falling rat, his curiosity leads him to a more sinister discovery. After questioning the sick rat and the kestrel who dropped him, Dewi heads to the Castle of Gloomsgor for answers. With the help of his friends like Jones the Toad, he discovers an evil plot by Baron Doom to breed mutant corn and use it for harm.

Dewi's determined and humorous attempt to solve the mystery of the genetically modified corn will have the younger middle grade reader glued to the pages. Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger that make it easy to finish the book in one reading. Short chapters and a simple plot lend well to the eight to ten year old reader but may not challenge the older middle grade reader. The cover art aptly introduces the lovable dragon Dewi, and the reader will adore him just as much after finishing the book. A sweet message of friendship and clever jokes lighten the serious message of greed and the dangers of modified food.

Rating:  Recommended ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publsiher: Halo Publishing International (October 2012)
Pages: 69 paperback
ISBN 13: 9781612440941

This book can be purchased from the following retailers:

**I received the book at no charge from the publisher to facilitate my review.No monetary compensation was received.  As always, I retain the right to give a fair and honest review.**

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Faery Swap Blog Tour: $25 Amazon Gift Card Givewaway & Signed Paperback

March 3rd - March 21st

I am happy to be part of the Faery Swap blog tour. Please check back soon for my review of Faery Swap.

A little about Faery Swap...  KindleNookPrint
Warrior faery princes can be very stubborn. Especially when they possess your body. Fourteen-year-old Finn just wants to keep his little sister out of Child Protective Services--an epic challenge with their parentally-missing-in-action dad moving them to England, near the famous Stonehenge rocks. Warrior faery Prince Zaneyr just wants to escape his father's reckless plan to repair the Rift--a catastrophe that ripped the faery realm from Earth 4,000 years ago and set it adrift in an alternate, timeless dimension. When Zaneyr tricks Finn into swapping places, Finn becomes a bodiless soul stuck in the Otherworld, and Zaneyr uses Finn's body to fight off his father's seekers on Earth. Between them, they have two souls and only one body... and both worlds to save before the dimensional window between them slams shut.
NOTE TO TEACHERS: Check out the Virtual Author visit video and Common-Core-Aligned Teacher's Guide for Faery Swap here.
2 minute book trailer
Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card Signed Paperback of Faery Swap Two Faery Wands ENTER TO WIN

Susan Kaye Quinnis the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction. Faery Swap is her foray into middle grade, which is her first writing love. Her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and she always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she's up to.
Faery Swap
Kindle | Nook | Print
Fourteen-year-old Finn is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery prince and has to find his way back home before the dimensional window between their worlds slams shut.