Review: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

The Deets: 
Audience: Middle grades
Pages: 299
Publisher:  September 9th 2014 by Scholastic Press
ISBN: 9780545522250
Genre: magic, fantasy
Source: eARC from Netgalley


The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .





















Move over Harry and Percy, Callum is in the house! 

This series is going to be the next big thing. I guarantee it. How could it not with Holly Block and Cassandra Clare as the authors? 

I'm almost scared to admit that I almost gave up on this one. Eek. I know. I came so close to putting it aside, but I'm glad I did not. If you feel like this one starts slow, you're not alone. But don't give up. The ending is worth it all. 

I can't say much without giving away everything, but the setting of this book is awesome. Okay, I'm a bit biased since I know where the setting gets its inspiration from. I visited the Luray Caverns last summer. So when I read that the Magisterium is in Luray, VA I knew what I was reading! I was able to visualize everything, which sold me on this book. The Luray Caverns are spectacular; they fit perfectly with the mystery and vastness of the Magisterium. (Go ahead and look it up. You'll want a visual.) 

For a middle grades book, The Iron Trial is packing a serious punch on the deep themes. Callum has issues. He's not hero material. He's weak, disfigured, and not at all what you would imagine a hero should be. He doesn't even think he's a hero. In fact, he has some major baggage to sort through. This book is certainly setting the stage for a kick butt series that is going to poke around at the meaning of nature vs nurture. 

I will definitely be on the look out for book 2! 


Review: Frozen: Heart of Dread #1 (Melissa de la Cruz)

The Deets: 

Audience: YA
Pages: 336
Publisher: September 17th 2013 by Putnam Juvenile
Genre: fantasy, dystopian-ish, magic
Source: eARC from Netgalley


Frozen (Heart of Dread, #1)Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.



























I'll be honest, the name "Melissa De La Cruz" and the golden dragon grabbed my attention. I thought the cover was pretty stunning, and I'm a complete cover snob. I do judge a book by its cover.  

Frozen is a bit tricky to categorize. It has sci-fi elements, but magic is certainly at the heart of this story. Nat has magic, and she lives in a world with mysterious magical creatures. They may not be out in the open, but they are there.  I thought there was great potential in this story, but it fell flat for me. 

A lot of time went in to developing the setting. It was different, but it never clicked with me. It was obvious that this new world is not kind to those with magic, but I never got a clear sense of the danger they were in until the end. Even then it was a little cloudy. 

Nat and Wes are okay. Honestly, the way they are written and the way they interact with one another (and others) made me think they were much older. I was shocked to discover (towards the end) how young they were. That really messed this book up for me. All the talk about love and whatever crap you can throw into a book to make teenage girls get all swoony really lost its value when I discovered these characters are barely legal driving age. 

Then there is the ending. Bah. That's all I'm going to say. I know it will be a series; the ending left that wide open. But I can promise you I won't be reading it.


Review: Stitching Snow (R.C. Lewis)

Deets:

Audience: YA
Pages: 338
Publisher: October 14th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion

Genre: fairytale retelling, sci-fi
Source: eARC from Netgalley



Stitching SnowPrincess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.






















I love a good retelling of a fairytale. In fact, this is one of my genres of choice. I wasn't overly thrilled with the idea of a sci-fi twist on a fairytale, but I figured I would give it a try. After all, I loved A Long, Long Sleep and Cinder is super popular.  

Unfortunately, that's where my excitement ends. I really couldn't get into Stitching Snow. It was just lacking something, and I can't put my finger on it. The book starts with Essie (Snow) kicking some major butt in a cage fight. It's obvious she is a strong female character. She's clever, hard working, tough as nails, and completely self-sufficient. That should have been enough for me to like her, but we never connected. Dane wasn't much better. I had a few more surprises and glimpses into his complicated past, but not enough for me to grab a t-shirt and declare "Team Dane". I didn't think the interactions between these two were much better. There were clever moments of witty dialogue that kept me reading, but I never bought the slowly building romance. 

I guess the biggest plus for Stitching Snow is that the setting is unique; it takes place on several planets in a new solar system. That's pretty cool if you like that sort of thing. I don't. It was also a pleasant twist that Snow's father is a tyrant. Not your typical dead father that was worth his weight in gold story. 

To be very honest, I stopped reading this book at about 70%. It just wasn't for me. I do love the cover though. I think it was perfect for the type of character Snow/Essie is, and the title clicked once I figured out what stitching was. 


Picture Book Saturday: Edie's Ensembles


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 Edie is known for her great outfits and stylish flair. She and her best friend Andrew spend a lot of time playing dress-up. The school hall is their runway. Edie loves the compliments and whispers of admiration, so much so that she begins dressing in increasingly outrageous outfits to get even more attention. No outfit is too bizarre, no costume too flamboyant for Edie.









Edie's Ensembles was cute. I really enjoyed the illustrations, but I'm not completely sold on the message. The book is aiming at expressing uniqueness and acceptance, but yet Edie goes a bit overboard. She's an attention hog that takes being different to a whole new level. In the end, she tones it down and finds her way back to her friend. But that bothered me. In the middle of her struggles, even her dearest friend abandoned her. I doubt that was the message intended, but it certainly made my mom feathers prickle.

Author Visit with James Ponti

I always complain that there are not enough bookish events where I live in Florida. We never have anything!

I happened to be in Barnes and Noble looking for a specific book for the youngest reader in my house when I came across an advertisement for James Ponti. I nearly caused a massive pileup as I pointed and screeched about how awesome this was. I made sure anyone within hearing distance knew, I can assure you.

Of course, I had to take a picture (so I wouldn't forget) and grab up a few copies of Dead City to be signed when I returned. Now, if you are not familiar with Dead City, you need to check it out on Goodreads. It is a Sunshine State Reader for Florida this year. But most importantly, it's a book that my tween son could not put down.

Actually, he would not put it down. We drove from Florida to Virginia this summer while he read this book. It was the most peaceful car ride in history. There was no fighting between the 12 year-old and 7 year-old. I was able to read a book and finish it along the way too! Win-win for everyone.

While he read Dead City, I could hear him laughing. I just knew we had a hit by the speed in which he devoured this quirky teenage zombie fighter novel. He finished the book just outside of our destination, and I knew I had to find the sequel for the way home!

So imagine my excitement when I saw that the author of a book that got my son to voluntarily READ over SUMMER VACATION was coming to my town. I could hardly contain myself. I always talk about taking my kids to book events when they are older (they keep begging for ComicCon tickets). I've even contemplated arranging vacations around certain regional book festivals (Decatur Book Festival, YALLFest, etc). But this opportunity was divine intervention. A sign... A gift!

And it was more than I could have ever hoped for.

His inner geek shined for all to see. I was one proud mama at that moment.


James Ponti was amazing. We might have been slightly overzealous (we were there way before the start time), but the author was patient. It was a small turn out (my town stinks at advertising amazing book events but will broadcast a losing football team for months in advance) that allowed for a cozy setting. The author read from his book for us, and took the time to talk--actually carry on conversations-- with his fans. There was one point where he stopped and asked the kids, "What do you want to know?" Of course I had to speak up and tell my child to speak at this "once in a life time opportunity".

And he did take advantage! He was engaged in speaking with an author. Proud mama moment #2.

His question actually spawned a great conversation about the sister's role in future books. We learned so much from listening to James Ponti. I appreciated his attention to his fans, and my son was fascinated by his story telling. It was simply amazing to see the connections being made and the love of reading that is developing.



As a Facebook friend said on my status update: "You are raising that kid right!" Yes, yes I am. I will turn him into a reader. The force is strong with this one.


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Picture Book Saturday: An Armadillo in Paris

20691399A winsome armadillo from Brazil takes a trip to Paris in this delightful new picture book from Julie Kraulis. Arlo is an armadillo who is always up for adventure. His grandfather, Augustin, loved adventure too. When Arlo was born, Augustin wrote travel journals about his favorite places for Arlo to use when he was hold enough to go exploring on his own. When Arlo reads about Paris and the one the French call La Dame de Fer, or Iron Lady, he decides it's time to strike out on his first adventure. He travels to France and, guided by Augustin's journal, discovers the joys of Paris: eating a flakey croissant at a café, visiting the Louvre, walking along the Seine and, of course, meeting the Iron Lady... But who is she? Each spread has a clue about her identity, and kids will see hints of her scattered throughout the book. This book is like a gorgeous stroll through Paris with an adorable new friend--a stroll you'll want to take again and again.



Minute review: The illustrations are superb. They were so detailed and had an airy quality that I loved. The formatting for the Kindle left something to be desired, however. I would not recommend this one as an e-book until the kinks are fixed. The writing is a bit wordy and challenging for younger readers, but it would make a fun read-aloud.Young readers will also learn a lot about Paris, and parents will appreciate the culture kids will be exposed to.



Enter to win a copy on Goodreads until December 1, 2014. 

book tour for Writing Great Books for Young Adults

 Writing Great Books for Young Adults

By Regina L. Brooks
ISBN: 9781402293528 ● Trade Paperback/$14.99
With an 87 percent increase in the number of young adult titles published in the last two years, the young adult market is one of the healthiest segments in the industry. Despite this fact, surprisingly little has been written to help authors hone their craft and truly connect with the young adult audience.
Writing Great Books for Young Adults gives writers all the advice they need to tap into this incredible and innovative market. Literary agent Regina L. Brooks shows writers how listening to young adults will help them create characters their audience can identify with.
Topics covered include meeting your protagonist, engaging your readers,, trying on points of view, and many more.
About the Author: Regina L. Brooks is the founder of Serendipity Literary Agency and has been developing award-winning authors and books for over a decade. She has been highlighted in several national and international magazines and periodicals, including Poets and Writers, Essence, Writer’s Digest, and Sister2Sister, Forbes, Media Bistro, Ebony, and Jet. She lives in New York City.




When I take the time to read nonfiction, I want to feel like I've spent my time wisely. I want to learn something new and be able to apply that information in a practical way. With Writing Great Books for Young Adults I accomplished both tasks! 

I really took my time reading this book because there was SO much valuable information on each page. I teach middle school language arts, so I really did not expect to learn much in this area. Yes, I was full of hubris. I admit it. I spend entire units teaching plot, characterization, conflict, etc. I can truly spit off a wealth of knowledge without hesitation. But I really did learn something from this book! 

I'm very excited about that fact too. I'm giddy with anticipation of new knowledge I can share with my students. The history alone is worth reading. The author really spent some time digging up information to show how concepts have changed over time. (She was speaking to my inner nerd for sure.) 

If you are a writing teacher, this book would make a great teaching resource for you. The depth it goes into would really make some fantastic lessons and talking points with your students. I would also recommend this book to anyone currently writing a book or planning to write. It simplifies the process and helps you gain an understanding of what is needed to be clear and concise when writing to keep a teen reader's attention.  

First Contact Blog Tour






FIRST CONTACT
Book One of the Sloane Osborne: Haunts for Sale Series

 Sloane Osborne is a paranormal realtor in the business of selling haunted houses but, in truth, she’s only searching for one ghost. And her time is running out. It’s the 366th day after her fiancĂ©’s death. Michael used to like putting things off for “a year and a day”—so tonight’s the night. Sloane will do anything to make contact with him before the clock strikes midnight. When she gets a call to check out a home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it’s the last place she thinks Michael would contact her. Sloane is dead wrong. Michael appears…and tells her to get out of the house. Immediately.  


AVAILABLE NOW:












Excerpt: 

“Hello?” Sloane’s voice was tentative, even to her own ears. It was one thing to talk to Michael, but he was a ghost she known in life. It was another to start a conversation with a dead stranger. “Can you hear me?”
The woman didn’t turn, her whole body focused on the next drop of water until it had floated through her hand again.
The woman sighed, sitting back on her heels as she watched the wall.
“Water,” she rasped. “Do you have any water?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t have anything.” Sloane said. “I tried to give you water last night, but no one drank it.”
“What are you doing here? You aren’t supposed to be here!” The woman’s voice was so raspy Sloane could barely hear her. She turned her head slowly as though removing her gaze from the little bit of water seeping through the stone was painful. When her gaze finally rested on Sloane, her eyes were dark black pits, swirling with tiny dancing lights. 
Sloane stepped back involuntarily, then gathered her courage to approach the apparition. She could sense the poor girl wasn’t dangerous. She was trapped here as much as Sloane was herself.
“I found the secret door and got pushed in.” Sloane said. “Then the door shut behind me and I couldn’t get out.”
“Ah, you must have been at Alvin’s house,” the woman rose to her feet. “Not a safe place to be. Though nothing about this area is safe.”






AUTHOR BIO:


Kat de Falla
Author Kat de Falla was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she learned to roller-skate, ride a banana seat bike, and love Shakespeare thanks to her high school English teacher. Four years at the UW-Madison wasn’t enough, so she returned to her beloved college town for her Doctor of Pharmacy degree and is happily employed as a retail pharmacist where she fills prescriptions and chats with her patients. She is married to her soulmate, classical guitarist, Lee de Falla and raising four kids together ala the Brady Bunch.

Kat de Falla is also the author of The Seer’s Lover, a dark fantasy released by The Wild Rose Press.
AuthorWebsite            Blog 

Twitter        Facebook        Newsletter Sign Up          



R.A. Green
Born in St. Charles, Illinois, R.A. Green has wanted to be an author since sixth grade when her English teacher told her she should consider writing as a career. After many years of trying, she is finally making that dream come true. She attended Carroll University where she majored in English and History, with a minor in French. She went on to become an in-home daycare provider where she spends her days singing, dancing, and doing projects that cover her house in glitter. For years, she’s frantically written as much as she can during nap time. She is a breast cancer survivor, a Brewers fan and a “Disney Dork” who can’t wait to start planning her next Disney vacation. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her wrestling coach husband and two children, and all three are the greatest blessings in her life. First Contact is her debut novel.

Author Website             Kat Green's Website           Romance Flash

Twitter            Facebook               Goodreads


 
TOUR GIVEAWAY DETAILS: GRAND PRIZE: $25 Amazon Gift Card RUNNERS UP: 2 runners up each receive an electronic copy of The Seer’s Lover E-Book by Kat de Falla and the soundtrack for the book (international, pdf/mobi/epub) RAFFLECOPTER CODE: a Rafflecopter giveaway





SCHEDULE - Kat Green's FIRST CONTACT Blog Tour  10/06 - 10/19 
10/06     Book Monster Reviews      Book Spotlight

10/07     Josie Cara Blog        Book Spotlight            

10/08     Dark Side of Romance    Book Spotlight  

10/08     Cherry Mischievous        Book Spotlight  

10/09     Wicked Women Book Blog           Book Spotlight  

10/09     Proserpine Craving Books            Book Spotlight  

10/09     United By Books               Book Spotlight  

10/10     The flashlight reader         Book Spotlight               

10/10     Book and Fandom           Book Spotlight  

10/11     3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!      Book Spotlight

10/12     Two Sassy Chicks              Book Spotlight  

10/12     The Snarkology                 Guest Post         

10/12     Bibliophile Mystery         Book Spotlight  

10/13     Book Bliss            Book Spotlight

10/16     Crazy Four Books             Interview           

10/17     Nicky Peacock Author      Book Spotlight               

10/17     In Shadows         Interview           

10/17     I Smell Sheep         Book Spotlight              

10/17     A Little Slice of Romance               Book Spotlight  

10/18     Book Liaison           Book Spotlight              
 

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