Spelled by Betsy Schow + Giveaway

Spelled
Spelled By Betsy Schow
Sourcebooks Fire
June 2, 2015

Advance Praise for Spelled

“A cute adventure with romance set in a world full of fairy-tale mash-ups. Readers will love Dorthea’s evolution from spoiled princess to strong, confident heroine… For Oz fans, this work is a great clean-read alternative to Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die.” -School Library Journal

“This wickedly funny, fast-paced adventure has it all: brains, courage, and heart. (Plus a kickin’ pair of heels.) .” --Jen Calonita, author of The Secrets of My Hollywood Life and Fairy Tale Reform School series

“Fairy tale survival rule #1, do NOT read this book late at night. You will wake up your entire family with loud laughter. Fairy tale survival rule #2, if you love the Wizard of Oz, clever fairy tale mash-ups, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what will happen until the very end, you MUST read Spelled.” --J Scott Savage, award winning author of Farworld, Case File 13, and the Mysteries of Cove series.

A hilarious and snarky reimagining of the world of Oz, along with many other fairy tales injected throughout, "Spelled" is one fabulous read…Kick off those silver slippers and tuck in with this wonderful tale!” —Senator Sipes, Lil Book Bug (Palmdale, CA)

Book Info:
Talk about unhappily ever after. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the not-so-charming prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving Dorthea with hair made up of emerald flames and the kingdom in chaos. Her parents and everyone she loves are stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed-off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.


Betsy Schow:
Betsy Schow is the author of the memoir Finished Being Fat, and has been featured on The Today Show and in The Wall Street Journal. She lives in Utah, but travels the country with Color Me Rad 5k, and partners with nonprofits to teach kids creative thinking and how to reach their goals.

Excerpt from Spelled:


Most of the crowd had dispersed. The final few stragglers looked at me with the all­too-common look of fear mixed with trepidation. Pix ’em. They were just servants. It wasn’t like their opinion mattered.
Only one remained, watching me with open curiosity. He looked to be in his late teens or was magically enhanced to appear so. He could have been a hundred for all I knew. I’d never seen him before in my life. He was handsome enough, for a commoner, even in his worn leather pants and cracked work boots. A foreigner, his hair was unruly and dark auburn, which complemented his tanned but dirt-smudged complexion, though the tall, dark stranger vibe was ruined by his piercing pale blue eyes.
Well, I’d had enough of being a sideshow for the day. “If you’re the new gardener, the hedges are overgrown and in need of a trim.” I pointed in the direction of my father. “While you’re there, you can help the king with the wisps.”
The young man’s expression clouded over, but he didn’t move.
I stamped my foot and pointed more forcefully. “Off with you. Courtyard’s that way. Be sure to clean those awful boots before coming back in.”
“Someone told me I’d find a princess of great worth here. One with the strength to be the hero this realm needs.” He stared at me with those unsettling blue eyes. They were cold, like ice water—made me shiver from head to toe. Then his gaze seemed to search even deeper. Finally, he looked through me, like I was nothing.
In brisk steps, he strode across the marble to the courtyard. But before crossing the threshold, he turned back to glare at me with his lip curled ever so slightly. “It seems she was mistaken.”
Just like that, I had been sifted, weighed, and found wanting.
I felt my own lip curl in response. How rude! Who the Grimm was this peasant to judge me? I was wearing a Glenda original. Original! Not some fairy-godmother knockoff worn by those servant girls turned royal. I was a crown princess, for the love of fairy, and no one dismissed me.
Before I could put the boy in his place—down in the dirt, where he belonged—a clatter came from behind, making me nearly jump out of my shoes. I checked and was relieved that Sterling had simply dropped his sword. By the time I looked back, the gardener was gone.
After stowing his blade, Sterling held up his shield, not in defense of the entrance but so he could look at his reflection. “Clearly he’s blind and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
I didn’t ask for Sterling’s opinion, but it made me feel better.
Until he opened his mouth again.
“Worth, pffft. I mean, look around at all the jewels. Your palace has everything you could ever want. Honestly, I don’t know what you’re fussing about. Why would anyone want to leave?”
Because a cage is still a cage, no matter how big or glittering the bars are.
And I would find a way free, no matter the cost.




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Cover Update: Gabe Johnon Takes Over by Geoff Herbach

Personally, I still like the old book and cover for this one. For whatever reason, it speaks to me. Fatboy vs The Cheerleaders has been renamed Gabe Johnson Takes Over, and with that renaming comes a new identity. What do you think of the new cover?


Praise for Gabe Johnson Takes Over
“Told in the first-person voice that Geoff Herbach does so well, Gabe Johnson’s account of his development of the ‘leadership bone’ is grand, touching, and hilarious.” —Star Tribune

[A] funny, honest, and an utterly likable narrator; his character growth and the decisions he makes are believable and his refusal to be a victim is refreshing. Give to anyone who has felt like an outsider or just wants a fun, fast-paced book with depth.” —School Library Journal

The funny, profane text embraces the idea that nobody is perfect…Gabe’s character growth will satisfy any appetite…a funny popcorn read.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Herbach’s funny/insightful new novel…there’s poignancy in this story…Gabe stands up for the dignity of all the kids who feel like outsiders.” —Pioneer Press, Pick of the Week

“Herbach deftly walks the tightrope between stereotypes and real people painted in broad strokes, and manages to work in a few surprises…[he]delivers another funny, poignant novel about an unlikely hero determined to save his high school’s marching band.” —Shelf Awareness

Book Info:

From “one of the most real, honest, and still funny male voices to come around in a while” (YALSA) comes a brand-new cast of quirky characters.

25263960Gabe Johnson is having a rough week. In spite of the popular kids and some teachers calling him names because of his weight, and even his own friends calling him “Chunk,” Gabe is normally the funny kid at school. But he’s on edge from trying to kick his soda addiction. So when news breaks that his beloved marching band camp has been canceled due to lack of funding, he’s furious. What makes him even madder? The school’s vending machine money, which had previously been collected by the band, is now sponsoring the new cheer squad.

The war is ON. And Gabe is the high school underdogs’ champion. No one will be safe from the Geeker’s odd brand of wrath—not the principal, the band teacher, the local newspaper, and certainly not the cheerleaders and their jock boyfriends.

GABE JOHNSON TAKES OVER is the story of Gabe’s fight against injustice, but also his fight to reclaim himself. For years he has played along while the popular kids bully him, but no more. With the help of friends and unexpected allies, Gable learns about power, politics, and himself. A funny, touching, and insightful story, GABE JOHNSON TAKES OVER will appeal to any kids who feel like they just don’t fit in.


Author info:

Geoff Herbach’s books have been listed in the year’s best by YALSA, the American Booksellers Association, and many state library associations. They’ve won the Cybil and the Minnesota Book Award. Geoff grew up a very nerdy jock in southern Wisconsin and now teaches creative writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato.


Gabe Johnson Takes Over Excerpt:

That stupid pop machine. Stupid pop. It all started with that stupid—

Yeah, I hate that machine. For so many reasons.

First things first! That machine made me a junky! A pop junky! I’m not the only one in school either.

Back in May, me, Justin Cornell, and Camille Gardener did this pop study for health class. It was Camille’s idea because she turned into a health nut when her dad started organic farming last year. (Her dad grew like two tomatoes and one giant zucchini. Mr. Gardener’s not the greatest farmer in the world.) Anyway, out of Camille’s concern for health, she got us to study usage of the pop machine, her theory being that unhealthy kids would be the heaviest users.

Big, bad study, sir.

Mr. Luken, our health teacher, gave us passes to hang out in the cafeteria all day. We made a chart of jocks, brains, music geeks, gamers, burners, and others (sad sacks who are hard to categorize because they have no social connections to anyone) and we took note of who purchased a product from the pop machine and what specific product they purchased.

Almost nobody paid attention to us while we took notes. Only a couple said stuff like, “What are you staring at, dorks?” Seth Sellers, a jock, made fart sounds when he saw me.

This pop project was eye opening, sir.

After school that day, me, Camille, and Justin went to Bitterroot Coffee Shop down on Main Street to tally things up.

“Nick, Gamer, purchased three Pepsis in four hours,” Justin said.

“Kendra, Burner, four different pops in five hours,” Camille said.

“She’s pretty overweight,” Justin said.

“Not as big as Tiff, Other, who bought four bottles of Sierra Mist,” Camille said.

“Oh, Lord Mother of all Balls,” I said.

Camille plugged the data into a spreadsheet, squinting.

Justin shook his head, sucked his latte, and was all like, “Whoa.”

Then Camille sat back, sipped her green tea, and was all like, “Just as I suspected.”

I smiled and said, “Holy Mother of all Balls, right?” I drank a mocha with whipped cream, which has a million calories by the way.

Here’s the scoop, sir: Purchasers of pop at Minnekota Lake Area High School are fat asses, trailer park kids, addicted gamers, and burner chicks who eat cigarettes for breakfast. Dozens and dozens of these kids. Most of them went for seconds later in the day. Some for thirds. A couple fourths (me, for instance). Very few jocks purchased pop from the machine. (Seth Sellers bought one bottle of Pepsi late in the afternoon, so he was able to greet me with the aforementioned fart sounds.) Two cheerleaders purchased from the machine, but they both bought diet. That diet stuff will kill you but not make you fat on the calories.

What does that tell you, Mr. Rodriguez?

I tried not to show my concern, but Justin and Camille were clearly concerned.

“You drink a lot of pop, Chunk,” Justin said. “Could be part of the problem,”

“Oh, is there a problem?” I said. “I wasn’t aware of a problem!” I smiled big and raised my fat mocha like I was making a toast.

 “There’s a problem, Chunk,” Camille said. “A big problem.” She didn’t smile. She didn’t toast me.
“I’m just sayin’,” Justin said.

Yeah. Really. A problem. I drank a hell--ton of Code Red Mountain Dew every day—four bottles, five bottles—and the only pants that fit me were stretchy pants (elastic waistband, sir).

I knew it too, knew pop was part of my issue. But see, I also thought it was part of my success. I was winning by buying all that pop! All the vending machine money went to fund the band! I’m a trombone player, you know? That’s one badass, hilarious instrument, right? Trombone! Awesome instrument. I love band so much, so I figured I was paying myself by drinking all that pop. Winning it huge.

No. Stupid.

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If you missed my review the first time around, you can read it HERE. This book has a lot of voice and sarcastic wit to appeal to many readers.


One Minute Rundown: Captive (Aimee Carter)

Captive (The Blackcoat Rebellion, #2)For the past two months, Kitty Doe's life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate the Prime Minister's niece, her frustration grows as her trust in her fake fiancé cracks, her real boyfriend is forbidden and the Blackcoats keep her in the dark more than ever.

But in the midst of discovering that her role in the Hart family may not be as coincidental as she thought, she's accused of treason and is forced to face her greatest fear: Elsewhere. A prison where no one can escape.

As one shocking revelation leads to the next, Kitty learns the hard way that she can trust no one, not even the people she thought were on her side. With her back against the wall, Kitty wants to believe she'll do whatever it takes to support the rebellion she believes in—but is she prepared to pay the ultimate price?




















I absolutely loved Pawn. I thought it was highly original and a fresh take on a dystopian society. Not to mention that it incorporates one of the most chilling stories ever: "The Most Dangerous Game". But there is something I've come to realize about Aimee Carter's series: they suffer from sophmore slump. 

Now, don't go thinking that is a write off for a death sentence. It's not. Captive is still worth reading. In fact, it adds a new layer to this story. I just don't know if it was as fresh as Pawn. A few things felt more forced, and I really didn't love Kitty the way I did when we first met. Knox continues to be a mystery, and Benjy is pretty boring. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to root for Benjy and Kitty, but honestly, I'm kind of hoping he moves along. 

One thing I can be certain of is that the finale will roll around in a blaze of glory, which is classic Carter style. At least I'm counting on that. There were so many questions left unanswered from both Pawn and Captive, that I need the third book to blow this plot out of Elsewhere.  

I continue to recommend Pawn and Captive. Just don't expect to have the same feels the second time around.  


Blog Tour for FAIRY TALE REFORM SCHOOL: FLUNKED (Jen Calonita)

The Deets:
Audience: Middle Grades
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781492601562
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (March 2, 2015)
Genre: Fairy tale retelling




Advance Praise for Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School
“Charming fairy-tale fun.” –Sarah Mlynowski, author of the Whatever After series.
Flunked is spellbinding and wickedly clever. Gilly is smart, spunky, and a hilarious narrator!” –Leslie Margolis, author of the Annabelle Unleashed and the Maggie Brooklyn mysteries.
Flunked is a fresh and funny take on the enchanted world. (And who hasn’t always wanted to know what happened to Cinderella’s stepmother?”)”  -Julie DeVillers, author of the Trading Faces identical twin series and Emma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker.
“A reform school where all the teachers are former villains.  Kinda writes itself, right?” -Betsy Bird’s Librarian Preview




Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked
OUR MISSION:
To turn WICKED DELINQUENTS
and FORMER VILLAINS
into FUTURE HEROES

Gilly wouldn’t call herself wicked exactly…but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run- down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).
Until she gets caught.
Gilly’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School- where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its heroic mission. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: can a villain really change?








Jen Calonita is the author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series and other books like Sleepaway Girls and Summer State of Mind, but Fairy Tale Reform School is her first middle grade series. She rules Long Island, New York with husband Mike, princes Tyler and Dylan, and Chihuahua Captain Jack Sparrow, but the only castle she’d ever want to live in is Cinderella’s at Disney World. She’d love for you to drop her a line at jencalonitaonline.com or keep the fairy tale going at http://books.sourcebooks.com/enchantasia/





Excerpt from Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School: 
There’s a boy up there, standing on the crystal chandelier! He has slightly curly blond hair and is wearing a uniform—­a navy sweater vest over a white shirt with khaki pants—­but his boots are muddy. He’s stepping on priceless crystals with cruddy boots? Is he insane?
“Jax! What are you doing up there?” Kayla whispers heatedly.
“I’m cleaning the crystal for Flora,” Jax says and rolls his eyes. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m making
a break for it.”
Kayla applauds. “Yay! This time I know you can do it.”
I shade my eyes from the light bursting through the stained-­glass window next to the chandelier Jax is perched on. “Busting out? Why?” I ask Kayla. “I thought you said this place was cool.”
Jax laughs loudly and looks at me. I feel slightly stunned. I’ve never seen violet eyes before. “FTRS was fun for a while, but strange things have started happening and I don’t want to be here when something bad goes down.”
Strange things? What kind of strange things? Why does Kayla suddenly look pale?
“He’s exaggerating,” Kayla tells me, but she doesn’t sound convincing.
Drip. Whatever Jax is holding is leaking. Kayla and I move out of the way so we don’t get wet. “Grease,” Jax explains to me. “It lubes the window.” He swings the chandelier, and as it nears the window, he uses a fork to try to pry the window open. “A few more tries and I’ll have it.”
“Then what are you going to do, genius?” I ask. “You’re two stories up.”
Jax’s eyes gleam. “I’ve jumped from higher spots before.”
“It’s true,” Kayla says to me. “Jax once jumped from the gym to the dining hall turret. That was three stories up. We call him the Escape Artist. One time he even managed to break into Azalea and Dahlia’s rooms and borrowed their keys to the indoor pool so the whole dorm could take a midnight swim.”
“Impressive,” I tell him. “And I thought I was good at tricking obnoxious royals.”
“She stole a dragon’s tooth clip from one this morning,” Kayla fills him in.
“Nice,” Jax says. “Your first pull?”
“No, I’ve been doing it for a while,” I brag.
“Me too,” Jax says. “My father is a farmer. You can only get so far trading vegetables. I needed to kick things up a notch.”
For some reason, I don’t think any of us are going to make the transformation Headmistress Flora is looking for. “Why do you want to break out so bad?”
“I’ve got places to see, and Enchantasia isn’t one of them.” Jax swings the chandelier so hard the crystals clang together. The window latch pops open, and I watch Jax leap from the chandelier to the tiny window ledge. I’m in awe. Jax looks down at us smugly before pushing open the window. “Are you sure you two don’t want to join me?”
“There’s no time for us,” Kayla says. “Get out of here. Wait!” Her eyes widen. “You deactivated the alarm on the window, right?”
“There isn’t one,” Jax insists. “If there was, I wouldn’t be able to do this.” But when Jax lifts the window, we hear:
EEEEEE! EEEE! EEEE! Unauthorized exit! Unauthorized exit!
The shrieking sound is so intense that Kayla and I cover our ears. Within seconds, Flora is out of her office and running toward us.
Swoosh!
I feel something brush past me and I whirl around. When I look up at Jax again, a large, muscular man with a long mane of hair is hanging on to the window ledge, his furry hands pulling Jax back by his shirt. How did the man get up there without a ladder?
“Mr. Jax,” the man says in a low growl, “we really must stop meeting like this.”

Fairy Tale Reform School Quiz Link: Fairy Tale Reform School Quiz
If you get sentenced to Fairy Tale Reform School, it will help to have an ally. Take the quiz and find out who your mentor would be.
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My thoughts: 

This is such a fun book to read! Gilly is not exactly what you would expect to find in a fairy tale heroine. She's not as vile as a villain, but she's far from princess perfect. Unfortunately for her, that makes her a prime candidate for Fairy Tale Reform School. She quickly finds herself booted from her shoe and plopped right into the middle of a school for misfits. But the school isn't what it seems; something is amiss.

Younger readers will appreciate this book the most. It's quirky and fast paced. With only 256 pages, there isn't a lot of room for deep character development, but that's ok. You can still connect with Gilly and her plight. The supporting characters add a nice touch of humor and warmth to the story. It's not just about getting back to her family or stopping a diabolical plan; Gilly also has to learn to look beyond stereotypes and discover who she truly is.

The writing was easy to follow, and I really enjoyed seeing the villain reimagined. The plot was quickly moving; no lulls here! Towards the end I began to think it was wrapping up too quickly, but then I realized it's the beginning of a series. I will anxiously await to see how Gilly's adventures continue.

One Minute Rundown: Fathomless (Jackson Pearce)

Fathomless (Fairytale Retellings, #3)Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant -- until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn't know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea -- a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid -- all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she's becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she's tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude's affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there's only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul.



























Let me start off by saying: mermaids. That's why I picked this up. I didn't even bother to read the summary because I'll read just about anything that whispers mermaids. 

Imagine my surprise to find that this was a retelling of The Little Mermaid. I vaguely knew of the other books in this "series" but I never read them. I think starting with the beginning and moving through the books would give this one something extra. There were times I found myself wondering about certain back stories (the triplets) that were never fully answered in this book. 

But, all that aside, you can still read Fathomless as a stand alone and be fine. It was actually an original spin on The Little Mermaid. It kept all the dark, creepy undertones you would expect. I even found a little pearl of a surprise. I didn't think the characters had all that much depth, but you can survive it. The alternating points of view also got a bit annoying, especially when dealing with Lo because it was just too dang cryptic. The end does wrap up a few of those loose ends, but I'm assuming we will learn more with the next installment? I hope at least.   

Feature Follow Friday

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Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee’s View & Alison Can Read.    


The goal is to increase blog followers and make friends. Basically how it works is you follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. So looking forward to making new blogging friends & following blogs!
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This week's question: Do you have any furry friends? 



These are my fur babies: 


This is what it often looks like while I'm busy working. As you can tell, productivity is high. 


 

This is Lilly waiting for her boys to come home. She'll spend the entire day just like this if she's not sleeping next to me in my office. 

 

This is Roscoe. AKA The Boss. He runs the show around here. And yes, he has a sweater AND a coat for cold weather. 

Review: I'll Meet You There (Heather Demetrios)

The Deets: 

Audience: YA
Pages: 400
Publisher: February 3rd 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
ISBN: 9780805097955
Genre: contemporary
Source: eARC




I'll Meet You ThereIf seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.


























You will either love or hate this book, but I'm pretty sure you're going to love it. It's really hard not to.I mean really, really, really hard not to.

At first I figured I was getting myself into a typical contemporary fiction read. The opening scene was a bit ho-hum and felt cliche to me. You know the scene: good girl at a party full of underaged drinking with her loose best friend and the best guy friend that is a social outcast. I will admit that I almost gave up on the book right then because I was afraid it was not going to be original (and I'm not a huge contemporary fan anyway). But then Josh appeared. I still wasn't sold, but I decided to give the book one more chapter to see what might happen.

This story is told in alternating points of view. You get a bit of Skylar, then a glimpse of Josh. Josh's story is really complicated since the majority of it deals with flashfacks to his tour in Afghanistan. I do not know the author's experience with PTSD, but Josh's story was so raw that at times I could hardly breathe. My eyes tear up just writing about it.

Do not give up on this book. Do not try to box it into a category you think you know. Do not make my original hasty assumptions. I'll Take You There really surprised me. I can now saw I love everything about this book. The characters are deeply flawed and layered. I found surprises on every page. I truly think Heather Demetrios did a fantastic job of showing characters at their best and worst. The struggles they each went through are real. So real, in fact, that your heart will ache for them.

I'll Take You There is far more than a contemporary read or a book about finding romance in an unexpected place. It's a story about forgiving yourself and taking chances.It's a book worth reading.

One Minute Rundown : Ghosts of Heaven (Marcus Sedgwick)

The Deets: 
Audience: older readers, YA
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9781626721258
Publisher: January 6th 2015 by Roaring Brook Press
Genre: short stories
Source: e-ARC from Netgalley









The Ghosts of HeavenA bold, genre-bending epic that chronicles madness, obsession, and creation, from the Paleolithic era through the Witch Hunts and into the space-bound future.

Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet's obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book's final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick's gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession. 




 



Sometimes there are books that go beyond words. The Ghosts of Heaven is certainly one of those books.  

I honestly cannot even tell you what I thought of this book. It was both bizarre and poetic at the same time. I wanted to love and hate it instantaneously. So many emotions were stirred within these pages. 

I don't think I would consider this a light read. It's not fluffy by any means. I found myself reading one story at a time and pondering the events at each ending. When you read this book, don't come looking for happy endings either. You won't find them. Instead, you'll find humanity's darkest corners lurking. 

There is a lot to discuss in each story, and I could easily see this being a book club pick. Or, the stories could be used to spark a very interesting discussion on human nature. (I'm thinking in line with Lord of the Flies, here.)

Blog Tour for COUNTDOWN ZERO (The Codename Conspiracy #2) by Chris Rylander

The Deets: 

Audience: middle grades
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9780062120113
Publisher:  February 3rd 2015 by Walden Pond Press
Genre: action/adventure
Source: publisher provided ARC in exchange for honest review





Countdown Zero (The Codename Conspiracy #2)From Chris Rylander, author of the breakout hit Fourth Stall saga, comes the second book in the Codename Conspiracy series, an incredibly funny and clever mash-up of middle grade school story and spy adventure.

Ever since Carson Fender was let go by the secret agency that had enlisted his services to help foil a nefarious plot perpetrated by one of their former agents, he's been back to hanging with his friends, pulling pranks, and not having to lie to everyone about how he's spending his days. And that's for the best, isn't it?

Of course, this was all before a note showed up in his school lunch, informing him that Agent Nineteen had three days left to live, and that there might still be someone inside the Agency working against them. Carson has always been able to rely on his friends--but what happens when there's no one left to trust?















In a nutshell The Codename Conspiracy series is James Bond for kids. It is packed with secret agents and double agents; plot twists and miscues; narrow escapes and plenty of peril. It is the perfect book for a reader that adores action and adventure.

Countdown Zero continues Carson's story from the first book in the series, Codename Zero. This time, however, he has to save on of his former partners. Danger lurks at every corner, and Carson has plenty of tough choices to make.

My biggest take away from the book was Carson himself. He was maturing at a rate that might have been a bit faster than his friends. Pranks were becoming childish, but yet he's still a kid. His double life creates many situations that he wishes to share with his friends. Unfortunately, he cannot do that because he doesn't want to endanger their lives. That leaves him a bit lonely and frustrated at times. I could appreciate his struggle. It's not easy carrying a secret that you want to share with those closest to you but can't. Anyone that has found themselves in that situation-- or one similar to it-- will be able to relate. You'll also be able to relate to Carson's voice. He is super witty and observant. I do not know what it's like to be a young boy, but I'd imagine his thoughts are spot on. The way he describes the people he encounters and the situations he finds himself in are hysterical. Of course, that could be because I have the sense of humor of a middle school student.

There is plenty to find in the books that will intrigue younger readers. If you have a fan of adventure stories that enjoys a likeable and believable (albeit a child spy) main character, definitely check out Countdown Zero.



Author Bio: 




Chris Rylander is the author of the Fourth Stall Saga and the Codename Conspiracy series.  A fan of brown shipping boxes turned on their sides, dance-offs to win a girl's heart, and rice, he lives in Chicago.  You can visit him online at www.chrisrylander.com and on Twitter






Oh, there is a giveaway too! I'll make it super easy to enter this one. :)
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Guest Post and Blog Tour: One Witch at a Time ( Stacy DeKeyser)


The Deets: 
Audience: middle grades
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781481413510
Publisher: February 10th 2015 by Simon & Schuster
Genre: fantasy; fairy tale
Source: copy in exchange for honest review by publisher





One Witch at a Time 
Misplaced magic is trouble.

The day had started so well. But now here was Rudi, racing home to intercept a thief. All because of a foolish bargain made by a nine-year-old girl.

Trouble has returned to Brixen, and once again, Rudi is the one who must make things right. Can he undo the disaster caused when an unsuspecting stranger brings a foreign witch's magic into the Brixen Witch's province?






Displaying Stacy DeKeyser photo_credit Michaela Ristaino_new.jpg
Stacy DeKeyser is the author of The Brixen Witch, which received two starred reviews and was a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Pick, and its sequel, One Witch at a Time, as well as the young adult novel, Jump the Cracks and two nonfiction books for young readers. She lives in Connecticut with her family. To learn more and to download a free, CCSS-aligned discussion guide, visit StacyDeKeyser.com. 
Find out more about the author on her website and Twitter





Today is a pretty special day because the author has stopped by to share her thoughts on writing!





A Secret about Writing Advice: I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Does.





There’s a ton of writing advice out there, and I’ve tried it all. Some of it is helpful. A lot of it misses the mark, despite good intentions. Lots of advice about writing makes me think of a quote from William Goldman’s book, The Princess Bride: “I don’t think it means what you think it does.” Here are 5 of the most commonly misunderstood pieces of writing advice, and what they really mean:





1. Keep a journal.



So you can jot down ideas, or scraps of dialog, or an interesting name, before you forget them. (A corollary to this is “keep a notepad and pen next to your bed.”) I’ve tried all this. Failed badly, because (a) I am usually too lazy or sleepy to bother and (b) when I do bother, I lose the journal, or can’t read my notes the next morning.



What it Really Means: Pay attention. To everything. And put your observations into words, even if it’s just in your head. How the blossoms of a mountain laurel look like tiny peppermint candies. How a full moon on a snowy night is so bright, you have to peek out the window to see if someone left the yard light on. With practice, the really intriguing ideas will stay with you, even if you don’t write them down.



2. Let your characters “speak to you.”



Whenever I hear an author say this, I want to ask her if she’s feeling OK. Do her characters literally whisper in her ear, like little fairies sitting on her shoulder? And if they do, shouldn’t she be worried? Of course, I'm only half-kidding; I know that writers who say this are speaking metaphorically. But I don't think they need to.



What it Really Means: I have no idea what this means, actually. You’re the one writing the book. And it’s hard work! Go ahead and take the credit.



3. Interview your characters.



And write it all down in dialogue form. Or make lists: What your characters are carrying in their pockets; favorite foods; most traumatizing childhood experience, etc. etc. etc.



This kind of thing sounds so boring and Not Fun that it makes me shudder. Don’t get me wrong: I write pages and pages of background information and research notes. But it’s a pretty loose and follow-your-nose kind of process. If I ever had to sit down and write out detailed character sketches, I think I’d give up writing for good.



What it Really Means: Know your characters, absolutely. But just like real people, you might have to get to know them a little at a time.



4. Write every day.



I wish! But life gets in the way sometimes. If it does, I try not to beat myself up over it. I take a step back and let the story simmer a bit. Do a little of that paying attention to the world around me. Or I think about my characters, and how they’ve interacted so far, and I ask myself why, and I learn a little more about them. Even when I don’t actually write a word.



What it Really Means: Writing is not always about putting words on the page. Let your story and characters roam around in your head even when you’re away from your keyboard.





5. Read widely in the genre you want to write.



Well, yes and no. I read as much middle grade fiction as I can, including the type of real-world-based fantasy that I like to write. But to be honest, I haven’t read many fairy tale adaptations, and I never read fantasy when I’m in the middle of writing it. I don’t want to be influenced by other books. I want to give my own ideas room to grow.



What it Really Means: Read widely. That’s it. The more you read, the better a writer you’ll be. I totally believe in learning by osmosis.



Many of my writer friends might disagree with me—and that’s OK. We all have to discover what writing advice really means. 
















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