Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Winter Reading 2016 Give Me Wings


Imagine being born a slave, being told to spy on your own mother, living with the knowledge that you could be sold away at any time. We can't, because we are fortunate enough to have been born in a time and place of freedom. But Ella Sheppard was born in 1851, in the state of Tennessee, and she was asked by her mistress to report anything suspicious her mother said or did. Now, imagine going from that start in life to leading a choir that sang for Queen Victoria herself. A true rags to riches story, right?

Give Me Wings is not just Ella's story, although she features in it prominently. Using her as a central figure, the story traces the Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. In the aftermath of the war, schools for blacks (as they were often referred to at that time), either former slaves or others, were established across the South by the American Missionary Association. Fisk Free Colored School in Nashville was one of the schools. But financial woes plagued the school and in an effort to raise funds, it was decided to form a singing group to give concerts. The result was the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The details of their rocky beginning and the road that eventually took them to London and a European tour are covered in a narrative supported with primary sources such as photos, maps, song lyrics, and paintings. The story also draws in other prominent figures of the period, including: Mark Twain, Lyman Beecher, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass.

Altogether a well-told and informative look at a piece of American and Tennessee history that deserves our attention. This would be an excellent addition to any school library or history classroom collection.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Winter Reading Sweet Home Alaska


Terpsichore, or "Trip," lives with her family in Wisconsin in 1934. Her father had been a bookkeeper at the lumber mill before the mill closed, and the family had to survive on what her mother earned giving piano lessons and what they could grow in their garden. Trip has been doing all the cooking while her mother was busy with the lessons and taking care of baby Matthew and the twins, Cally and Polly. The cooking is actually a challenge, since she has only had pumpkin to work with lately. When the family moves to Alaska as part of a New Deal program, Trip carefully packs seeds from their garden to take with her. The family is in for culture shock as they arrive in a tent city that doesn't even have enough tents to go around, and we won't discuss the outhouse situation (although it is a two-seater). Plagued with equipment shortages and outbreaks of measles and other diseases, the new colonists are feeling very frustrated. But despite the hardships, Trip and her new friends Gloria and Mendel manage to organize a lending library, and begin learning how to survive the Alaskan wilderness.

Many readers have probably never heard of this program, although it is a part of American history. The story weaves in many other touches from the time period - the Fireside Chats, Little Orphan Annie, Will Rogers, Wiley Post, Shirley Temple, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Trip is especially fond of Laura's stories and even receives a copy of Little House on the Prairie for Christmas. She consults Farmer Boy for tips on growing a prize-winning pumpkin when she decides to enter a contest at the fair. Even readers who are not usually attracted to historical fiction will find Trip's experiences fascinating to read, and the personalities of her family and friends will draw you in, too. 

This would make an excellent novel study to accompany a unit on the 1930s, or simply a great read for anyone who enjoys adventure, humor, and strong female characters. I especially enjoyed the part about establishing a library (personal bias, I know). Recommended for middle grades and up.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Winter Reading VIP: I'm with the Band


For anyone who has ever had a crush on a star - music star, movie star, sports star - this story will recapture some of the swooning and hysteria of being a fangirl. Mackenzie and her two best friends, Scarlet and Iris, are crazy about the band Perfect Storm. They flip out when they get tickets and backstage passes to the concert. But what Mac doesn't know is that her mom has been chosen as the band's new tour manager and she is taking Mackenzie along on tour with the band. Squee! Traveling for weeks on the road and even sharing a tutor with the boys helps Mac to realize that they are talented, but they are also just teenage boys. They make messes, have food fights, and play pranks just like everyone else their age.

This book has a lot going for it. The whole boy band and fangirl scene is very topical. Showing an inside glimpse of a band on tour is also entertaining; having to do homework even though you are a pop star, being on the road at all hours, having to plan your life around performances and appearances - it's not all as much fun as people think. And the relationships in the book have very realistic touches, whether it is a family like Mac and her mom, the "brotherhood" of the band members, or the friendships Mac develops with other characters. Calonita's writing is amusing and the illustrations capture memorable moments. The comic panels of Mac's imaginary alter ego, Mac Attack, are very amusing - especially the fact that she fights villains with a nail file.

For middle grade and tween readers who would like to see what the life of a pop star is like, or for those who simply enjoy books about friends and relationships, I'm with the Band is an enjoyable read that will have you laughing out loud or shaking your head at some of the antics.

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Reading 2015 Far Out Fairy Tales


Do you enjoy fairy tales? Are you a reader who also thinks that updated versions and fractured fairy tales are cool? Then jump right into this collection, and you will have 5 of the most nontraditional retellings you may ever come across. Ninjarella doesn't lose a glass slipper; she leaves her special glass katana behind. Red Riding Hood doesn't have a poor sick granny; her grandma is President of the United States. The three billy goats Gruff wind up inside a video game trying to win the boss fight. Snow White crash lands on an asteroid run by seven mining robots while she is trying to escape the evil regent. And Hansel and Gretel are zombies living in an abandoned graveyard with their zombie parents.

One of the great features of this book is the comparison/contrast of each story to its original version. There is also a description of when the original story was first published, including the author (or collector), the date, and the main components of the story. This would make it handy to use in language arts classes that are studying fairy tales and how the themes are presented over time. The illustrations capture the popular graphic novel style and make use of the conventions such as showing action in sequential panels and using sound effects. (I especially liked the POOF when the godninja gave Ninjarella her clothes, then the DOUBLE POOF when the katana appears.)

For graphic novel and comic lovers, all the elements of the genre are there. For those who are looking for new variations of fairy tales to enjoy or add to their collections, these will certainly fit the bill. Either way, you are in for a pleasant time.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fall reading 2015 Camp Midnight


As a former camp counselor I can honestly say that the most excitement my cabin ever had was chasing a mouse in the middle of the night because someone had carried candy back to the cabin from the canteen. What Skye Sullivan experiences at Camp Midnight is a far different kind of summer camp. 

It all starts off normally enough. Skye's mother is off to Rwanda to work with Doctors without Borders, and Skye is off to stay with her father for a few weeks. There are the typical protests because Skye doesn't like her step-monster, Gayle, but her mom insists that she can't come along because they are not running a Teenagers without Boundaries program in Africa. And then her father drops the bomb - he and Gayle have decided to send Skye to summer camp. The morning of camp departure, Gayle takes too long fixing her hair and they are running late to meet the bus, so it's an understandable mix-up that Skye winds up on the wrong bus. But no one realizes just how wrong...Dunh dunh dunh

So Skye is stuck at Camp Midnight for the summer, and it just gets weirder from there. Even though the campers themselves seem a bit odd, the usual camp antics still ensue. There are arguments over bunk assignments, cheating on the obstacle course, a crush on a cute boy, and Skye might even make a friend. But will camp be the transformative experience that Counselor Cobb hopes it will be? Is it possible for someone who is so angry, and so good at keeping everyone at arm's length, to actually relax and let her true self show?

Fans of Goosebumps, American Chillers, and other slightly creepy tales might enjoy this refreshing twist on traditional camp stories. Readers of graphic novels will appreciate the use of shadows and colors to enhance the spooky atmosphere of the camp, or to convey Skye's emotions.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2015 Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle


No matter which of Nick and Tesla's adventures you read, it is always a good time. Their friends Silas and DeMarco always find some sort of crazy stunt to attempt, and this time it is riding a bike down a slide and then jumping it over a mud pit that they have dug in the backyard. Uncle Newt is busy trying to perfect his latest invention, which is a vacuum cleaner powered by rotten fruit. Newt's neighbor Julie is busy trying to replace the garden gnomes that the kids and Uncle Newt's inventions keep destroying. And they still miss their parents, who are off on an agricultural trip studying soybeans. Or are they?

The kids receive a cryptic phone message from their mother warning them that they are not safe and not to trust... Okay, the message was cut off and they don't know who it is that they shouldn't trust. And when they try to play the message back for Uncle Newt, it has mysteriously vanished from the voice mail. So it seems that the kids will have to look out for themselves and figure out who the bad guys are. They don't have a lack of suspects. Could it be their uncle's new girlfriend? What about the intern that has just arrived to study with their uncle through the M.A.D. Scientists union? Or the two cleaning ladies who just happened to show up and offer the first day's service for free? Maybe it's Skip the exterminator, who also just happens to be in the neighborhood making sales calls?

To find the spy, retrieve the pendants from their parents that have been stolen, and discover what everyone is up to, Nick and Tesla will have to create more of their awesome gadgets. Within the book you will find the instructions for how to make Nick's Fingerprint-Finder Powder and Evildoer Identification System, Tesla's Ring-a-Ding-Ding Spy Exposure System, Nick and Tesla's Spybusting InvisiCam, Nick and Tesla's Code Wheels, and Nick and Tesla's Booby-Trap Balloon Drop. Young scientists and inventors will have a blast constructing the gadgets, as well as cheering on Nick and Tesla as they outwit the bad guy(s), whomever that might be.

The action is fast paced, there is plenty of humor, and true friendship to make the stories entertaining and enjoyable. The added bonus of instructions for all the gadgets used in the story makes this a perfect book to include in any library or classroom where kids enjoy MakerSpace activities.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Hilda and the Troll


Hilda is a curious blue-haired girl who decides to go out into the countryside and sketch pictures of rocks. Just looking through the first few panels of the story, one would think there are much more exciting things to draw that are closer to home. She might have chosen to draw her furry little companion, Twig, a fox with small antlers and a bushy tail. She could have done an artistic study of the sea spirit that seems to have wandered up the fjord. But she spends the day hiking around and drawing different rock formations. Then she comes across one that she is sure is actually a troll turned to stone in the sunlight. Could she be right? And if she is, how will the troll feel about the bell she and Twig have tied around its nose? Anyone who has ever had a prank played on them while they slept can imagine the troll's reaction when it wakes up.

Luke Pearson's illustrations capture the wide-eyed inquisitive nature of Hilda. Her artistic tendencies come through in her chic clothing (skirt, tights, boots, beret), as well as in her choice of leisure-time fun. The world Hilda lives in contains normal things like a home and a mother, but also odd creatures like giants, a wooden men, and trolls. She seems to take all her adventures in stride rather well. As she says, "What a noteworthy day." The color palette used for the book contrasts warm golden tones for the daylight and indoor scenes with blues and grays to capture the dreariness of rainy nights. The difference in the two settings emphasizes the cosyness one can bask in at such times. 

Readers will enjoy the results of Hilda's adventuresome ways, her collection of odd companions, and her deadpan delivery of lines such as, "We knew the risks. Now we must answer to cruel inevitability." How could anyone not be fond of such an intrepid adventurer? 

I read a review copy supplied by the publisher for review purposes.

The book was originally published in 2010 under the title Hildafolk.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Court of Fives


But that's not fair! Ever heard someone say that, or said it yourself? All of us have at least thought it at one time or another, but in Jessamy's world, it is all too true. Her father is from the ruling class, while her mother is from the indigenous people of their country. Although forbidden to marry, they have lived and raised a family together for 20 years. But when a scheming nobleman decides to capitalize on the battleground heroics of her father, Jessamy's family is torn apart. Without the protection of her father's social position, how will they ever survive all the plotting that surrounds them?

This is a richly imagined new fantasy world, filled with the mix of the two cultures - Saroese (her father's people) and Efean (her mother's people). The layers of class and gender restrictions seem suffocating and impossible to navigate. Each side of her heritage comes with its own beliefs and customs, for example: the Efean culture values women and seems matriarchal in its respect for all females, but the Saroese believe that men must be in control and unmarried women aren't even able to handle their own finances. And the degree of intrigue, bribery, and corruption is appalling. By the end of the book, readers may find themselves yearning for a revolution or palace coup.

If you enjoy fantasy worlds that are clearly depicted down to the details of the superstitions and even the common sayings or proverbs, then you should pick up a copy of Court of Fives. You will find a courageous heroine, a sinister villain, and some surprising allies on both sides of the conflict. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Blog Tour Monsterland

Monsterland Blog Tour Header Image

Book Review: Monsterland, by Award-Winning Author Michael Phillip Cash

Warning! This book is not for the faint of heart, or those hoping that the monster will turn out to be Old Man Withers in a creepy mask and Scooby-Doo will thwart his plans. No, this is a tale of real monsters and what happens when you mix them together in a theme park with a crowd of excited teenagers, celebrities, and politicians. As it asks on the back of the book, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Have you ever debated with your friends about which monster is the biggest and meanest? You know how it is; you're all sitting around and someone asks, "Who would win in a faceoff - King Kong or Godzilla?" Wyatt Baldwin (no relation to Alec), and his friends Howard and Melvin often spend their time at work debating just such deep questions. Then again, working at the Instaburger isn't exactly a demanding job. But when they win behind-the-scenes passes to the new theme park Monsterland, it looks like they will finally get to see some of the creatures they have only read about or watched as CGI and special effects in movies. So the guys, along with Wyatt's younger brother Josh, are there for the big opening night. Jade, the girl of Wyatt's dreams is also there, along with her bully of a date and her friend Keisha, who has a crush on Howard.

But wait, you say, where do the monsters come from? Well ... vampires have been around all along, living on the fringes of society. Werewolves were discovered by accident in the Everglades. And the "vitality challenged" zombies are the victims of an incurable virus and have been quarantined into detention camps to protect the rest of the world’s population. It turns out that fear of contagion from the virus has pretty much thrown the world into a steep economic decline. So the world's leaders are overjoyed that Dr. Vincent Conrad has offered to take all the infected off government hands and confine them to the multiple parks he has built around the world, and he will even use profits from the parks to research a cure.

There are those who think it sounds too good to be true, like Wyatt's parents, but his stepfather is at the park on opening night, too. He is part of the local law enforcement contingent there to help protect the VIPs. It seems like the perfect time for the kids to experience the park - heightened security from park employees, the Secret Service, and local police - special passes to see how the park is run, and the chance to finally satisfy their curiosity about the creatures they have debated about for so long. Once the park opens at sunset, the crowd rushes in to experience all the thrills and chills. And it is an experience they will never forget.

The descriptions of the various areas of the park are creepy enough to give us goose bumps. As readers, we can only imagine how spooky they would be in person. Here's a taste of the main entrance square: "The village was a parody of any Main Street ... a maze of rutted paths, buildings squeezed together from different centuries ... a bizarre assortment that jarred the nerves." The enclave for each type of monster is decorated differently. For the werewolves there are bayou-like dense vegetation, bird calls, and banjo music. The vampires have a "techno paradise" with rubber streets that muffle any sound and gleaming chrome buildings that "grew out of the black depths." Perhaps the most macabre are the pastel suburban homes set aside for the zombies, with attendants washing the blood and guts off the streets.

Author Michael Phillip Cash takes on several heavy themes in his latest story. Among them are the threat of pandemics and how governments deal with the diseases and the victims, corporate and political greed, the difficulties of divorce and blended families, bullies, and more. Whether you enjoy stories with action or mental stimulation, Monsterland has it all covered, along with the creation of a sinister atmosphere that has you glancing over your shoulder as you turn the pages. If you enjoy horror, suspense, and thrillers, then grab a copy, but take my advice - read with the lights on.

About the Book

Monsterland Michael Phillip CashMonsterland

Written by Michael Phillip Cash Welcome to Monsterland – the scariest place on Earth. All guests can interact with real vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by an actual werewolf on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville. Wyatt Baldwin, a high school student and life-long movie buff is staring bleakly at a future of flipping burgers. Due to a fortuitous circumstance, Wyatt and his friends are invited to the star-studded opening of Monsterland. In a theme park full of real vampires, werewolves and zombies, what could possibly go wrong?
Monsterland contains solid ingredients for a horror feast: stupid teens, smart teens, a little challenged romance, family dynamics, action, blood and gore. Will civilization ever be normal again? You’ll have to read it to find out. We dare you!”—The Children’s Book Review
Ages 14+ | CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform | 2015 | 978-1517180676 Add this book to your collection: Monsterland Available Here: Amazon-Icon

About Michael Phillip Cash

Michael Phillip CashMichael Phillip Cash is an award-winning screenwriter and novelist. He’s written eleven books including the best-selling Brood X, Stillwell, The Flip, The After House, The Hanging Tree, Witches Protection Program, Pokergeist, and Battle for Darracia series. Michael resides on the North Shore of Long Island. He writes full-time with his screaming monsters in the background. Website | Facebook | Twitter

Monsterland Tour Giveaway

Monsterland, by Michael Phillip Cash | Giveaway
Would you rather be a werewolf, a zombie or a vampire? Enter to win an autographed copy of Monsterland, by Michael Phillip Cash; plus a living dead themed travel mug and a $50 Amazon gift card!
Giveaway begins November 14, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 16, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST. US addresses only.

Monsterland Tour Dates

Thursday November 12 2015 The Children’s Book Review Tour Kick-Off & Giveaway Tuesday November 17 2015 The Review Wire Book Excerpt from Monsterland Tuesday November 24 2015 Guest Post written by Michael Phillip Cash Tuesday November 17 2015 Suz ReviewsAuthor Interview with Michael Phillip Cash Sunday November 29 2015 The Cover Contessa Guest Post written by Michael Phillip Cash Tuesday December 1 2015 DCC Mealy Author Interview with Michael Phillip Cash Wednesday December 2 2015 Once Upon a Twilight Book Excerpt from MonsterlandSaturday December 5 2015 The Fairview Review Monsterland Book Review Tuesday December 8 2015 Just Another Mom Monsterland Book Review Monday December 14 2015 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers Monsterland Book Review Tuesday December 15 2015 Inspired by SavannahAuthor Interview with Michael Phillip Cash

Friday, December 4, 2015

Blog Tour Wishapick, Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk

Wishapick Blog Tour Header Image

Book and Soundtrack Review: Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk

In the time-honored tradition of great stories like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland, or the more recent Coraline, the journey to Wishapick begins with a trip through a portal. Our protagonist, Jack, seems stuck in the anger phase of grief over his father's death. He feels that his mother is treating him as a child. One source of contention is his father's black trunk. Jack and his father had planned to open it together, but now his mother has hidden the key and won't let Jack see what is inside. He is also irritated by his little sister Lilly, whom he considers bothersome. When Lilly shows Jack the key to the trunk, he takes it from her and opens it alone, finding the entrance to Wishapick. In a fall similar to Alice's tumble down the rabbit hole, Jack's impetuous leap into the trunk causes him to go falling down a tunnel in the dark until he lands on soggy ground.

Jack discovers he has entered the land of Wishapick, a place that has been trapped in darkness. The inhabitants have even forgotten how to call upon "the Breath of All Good Things" because they have been in the dark so long. King O'Sirus has become so caught up in anger over his father's death that he has plunged his entire kingdom into darkness, even forbidding his wife, Queen Sanctuary, to share the light she generates with those outside the royal gardens. Can Jack overcome his own negativity and help restore light to Wishapick and find a way home for himself and Lilly (who has followed him into the trunk as any younger sibling would)?

Although it is a land trapped in a seemingly endless night, the author uses many sensory images to help readers visualize the setting and action. We can easily imagine reaching out and touching a muddy tunnel wall, or the terror we would feel if we heard the sound of rattlesnakes approaching us in the dark. Against the darkness, the light of the small torches the animals use to light the pathways and the blazing fireplace in the Possums' home shine more brightly by contrast. The bright and cozy colors of everything from running shoes and tea cozies to the paint on doors and shutters offer a homey comfort. And there are the smells that evoke a sense of belonging and contentment: fresh baked peach pie, warm chocolate pudding, and nice hot tea.

The king's anger and the resulting darkness are mirrored in Jack's grief and anger about his own father, but there is still hope that Jack will give up his dark thoughts and move on in life. Despite this deep theme, there is plenty of humor to offset it. How can anyone resist laughing at the Possum Family roll call? (It somehow reminded me of the Brady Bunch or perhaps the Partridge Family, especially when they all call out, "We're the possum fam-a-lee.") The scene with Winston the wolf being admonished to remember that he is on a soft food diet will also cause some giggles. Overall, Wishapick is a story of life and how we all must continue on and not give in to negativity, or we will snuff out the light of all those around us.

Many books recently have begun to use a multi-platform style, packaging the story as a book plus online experiences such as clue hunts and video clips to appeal to the digital natives in the audience. Author M.M. Allen and collaborator Deborah Wynne have chosen instead to rely on the storytelling power of music and lyrics to enhance the tale. The companion CD weaves its own spell, bringing the characters to life by using the perfect vocals and accompaniment to suit the personality and actions of the Possum Family, the King and Queen, the Victory Eagles, and other key players. Lines from the songs are quoted at the beginning of many chapters and after listening to the songs, you may find yourself humming the tunes as you read.

Once you give yourself over to the experience of Wishapick and the story of Jack and Lilly's time there, you will be transported through your own portal into a magical place where grief can be overcome and new friends are there to help you succeed. As Jack's father would advise: "Wait and be patient...The landscape will change." All dark times eventually come to an end, and that is what makes the sunshine even sweeter.

About Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk

Wishapick Tickety Boo and the Black TrunkDarkness. Utter blackness. Was this why his mother had refused to let Jack unlock his father’s old trunk? It had been two years since his dad had died, and all Jack could think about was examining whatever treasures were stored inside the beloved trunk. But when he finally lifted the lid, he didn’t just fall in—he fell through it into a pit of rattlesnakes! Trying to recall his mother’s stories about “the Breath of All Good Things”—anything to shed light on his current situation—Jack wishes he’d paid better attention rather than mock the tales as childish myths…and that he’d waited to enter the trunk with his sister, Lilly, so they could at least face this together. Like L. Frank Baum’s Oz and C. S. Lewis’s Narnia, M. M. Allen brings to life the fantastical world of Wishapick—a land of courageous animals ruled by a cruel rattlesnake king who has condemned the villagers to live without light. Chosen as the reluctant hero to save the villagers, Jack must face terrifying creatures and overwhelming odds if he wants to help his new friends—and return home himself.
"... a breathy and fantastical storytelling style, imaginations will flourish and the tale will be enjoyed by kids ages 8-12 who enjoy the genre of fantasy.”—The Children's Book Review
Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk is available on Amazon.

Fun Stuff

wishapick_albumart_deborahwynne2_200x200 Wishapick Soundtrack Be sure to check out the companion music CD, Wishapick, for purchase or download from Book Club Questions Get to the heart of Wishapick by downloading this set of book club questions: Wishapick by M. M. Allen: Book Club Questions

About M. M. Allen

M. M. Allen, author of the acclaimed children’s picture book Let’s Play Ball, is the mother of two adult children and aunt to twenty-three nieces and nephews, including ten great-nieces and great-nephews. MM is a former teacher and university lecturer. She has also worked extensively in marketing and communications with varied businesses and non-profits. MM lives in a picturesque northern California town where she enjoys writing, tending to her rose garden, and caring for her West Highland terrier, Pip. | Facebook

About Deborah Wynne

Composer and lyricist Deborah Wynne created a companion CD of songs to accompany Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk. Wynne’s primary talents lie in choral singing, stage musicals, and composing. Her musical projects include the 2013 album Strands of Gold and 2007 musical Moment of Truth. She is an active singer and composer in Santa Barbara, California, where she lives with her husband and their two shelties, Sparkle and Gracie.

Wishapick and iPod Nano Giveaway

Win Wishapick_ Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk and an iPod Nano Enter to win an autographed copy of Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk written by acclaimed author M. M. Allen; plus an Apple iPod Nano to listen to your downloaded copy of the Wishapick: Tickety Boo and the Black Trunk soundtrack composed by the talented Deborah Wynne! Giveaway begins November 5, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends December 31, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wishapick Tour Dates

Thursday November 5 2015 The Children's Book Review Tour Kick-Off & Giveaway Friday November 6 2015 The Review Wire Book Excerpt & Soundtrack Clip Monday November 23 2015 On Starships & Dragonwings Book Excerpt & Soundtrack Clip Tuesday November 24 2015 Valerie's Reviews Book Excerpt & Soundtrack Clip Tuesday November 27 2015 Batch of Books Author Interview with M. M. Allen Saturday December 5 2015 The Fairview Review Wishapick Book Review Thursday December 10 2015 Inspired by Savannah Wishapick Book Review Tuesday December 15 2015 Just Another Mom Wishapick Book Review Wednesday December 23 2015 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers Author Interview with M. M. Allen Sunday December 27 2015 Little Miss History Author Interview with M. M. Allen

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pippa Morgan's Diary Spotlight/Giveaway

Pippa Morgan’s Diary
By Annie Kelsey
December 1, 2015; Hardcover ISBN 9781492623281

Book Info:
Title: Pippa Morgan’s Diary
Author: Annie Kelsey
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Praise for Pippa Morgan’s Dairy
“With its approachable style and friendly language, this is sure to please both older fans of Rebecca Elliott’s “Owl Diaries” (Scholastic) and reluctant readers alike.” –School Library Journal
“Likable characters in humorous situations make for a promising series opener.”  –Kirkus
“A charming story about the lengths you can go to win someone over, this is a great addition to the perennially popular illustrated-journal trend in middle-grade fiction. Although the character-created sketches can draw Wimpy Kid comparisons, the tone more closely matches Marissa Moss’ Amelia’s Notebook (1995)… the perfect quick read for any student with starry-eyed aspirations and a big imagination.”- Booklist

Sometimes a little white lie can land you in a whole lot of trouble…

Pippa’s new BFF Catie Brown is perfect. So perfect, that Pippa tells her a teeny tiny lie—that she once auditioned for Voice Factor—to impress her. And it works.  It works so well, in fact, that Catie enters Pippa into the school talent show.

The only problem? Pippa can’t sing. Not at all.  In fact, her singing is so bad it scares the neighbors. But if she doesn’t participate in the talent show, Catie will know she lied. But if she does participate, the whole school will find out what a horrible singer she is...including Catie!

It’s up to Pippa to put an end to this pesky problem!

Goodreads Link:

Buy Links:

Books A Million-

About the Author:

Annie Kelsey is a pseudonym for a well-known children’s book author.

Excerpt from Pippa Morgan’s Diary

I can still smell the stink of the moving van. Rachel and I just hugged and cried as they loaded her stuff on. Then I watched like a big-eyed kid who’d just lost her puppy while Rachel waved out of the window of her parents’ car.
Scotland is, like, a gazillion miles away.
Rachel said Nothing Would Change Really. *rolls eyes* She said, We’ll still be best friends even though I’m so far away. I love Rachel but sometimes she can be one fry short of a Happy Meal.
Of course we’ll be best friends. But it’s not the same. I can only talk to her on the phone. I don’t get to see her every day.
We can NEVER AGAIN dress up in my dad’s extra-high-visibility cycling gear and go and stand under the fluorescent lights in the supermarket and see how many shoppers we can dazzle. The frozen-food section was best because the freezers had this cold blue glow that turned us practically luminous. We’d offer to help shoppers reach for fish sticks or ice cream and try not to giggle when they’d half-close their eyes like they were staring into the sun.
We loved dressing up. Last summer, we pretended we were characters from The Lady of Morpeth Abbey—which was our favorite TV show EVER. It was soooo romantic and all the characters wore beautiful old-fashioned clothes. Rachel and I raided every thrift store in town until we’d made the BEST costumes. Rachel dressed as Mr. Hunderbentleman (buckle-y shoes and a frilly shirt and a big hat and everything) and I wore ten big skirts on top of each other and put my hair in a bun so I looked like Lady Monteith, and we spent the whole day talking like our characters.
RACHEL: Lady Monteith, may I bring you something from my morning stroll as a token of my admiration?
ME: I would be eternally grateful if you brought me a dozen roses, Mr. Hunderbentleman, for my pretty nose needs something delicate to smell.
RACHEL: (giggling) My dear lady! Why don’t you stroll with me and we may smell the roses together?
ME: Oh, Mr. Hunderbentleman! I am so lucky to know such a kind gentleman as you.
And we did it ALL day. Mom and Dad thought it was really funny (Mom and Dad were still married then) and it was the best day ever. Then Mom told us to go and get changed because my big skirts kept sweeping things off her knickknack shelf and Rachel had to go home for dinner.
I wonder what Rachel’s having for dinner tonight? I could have the same thing and it’d be like we were having dinner together like we used to when Rachel’s mom went to yoga.
But I can’t even text her to ask because she’s living on the side of a mountain in the middle of NOWHERE.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Material Girls


What if the country's economy was turned around by having teenagers running everything? What if kids were chosen in middle school to become fashion designers, movie producers, media stars and then the rest of the population followed whatever trends they set, no matter how extreme? Doesn't that seem a little drastic? But that is just what has happened in the society that Ivy and Marla live in. We're not given a specific date, but it seems to be fairly near to our time, though still a bit futuristic. Ivy Wilde is a top pop star with a carefully created and maintained persona; her manager and publicist choose her songs, her clothing, even her boyfriend. Marla Klein is a superior court judge at one of the top five fashion houses, choosing which clothing will be endorsed and produced by the company and what the newest trends will be. But their paths cross at just the right time and they collaborate on a project that all the "Silents" (adults working behind the scenes in the big corporations), don't like at all. Will they stand their ground or cave in to the pressure and conform?

This story takes a lot of current issues and shows what happens when they become accepted as the norm. For instance, Ivy's publicist arranges her entire schedule, including how often she should be drunk and disorderly in public to keep up her "wild girl" image. Torro-LeBlanc, the design house where Marla works, cautions her that she is showing too many individual opinions during the court sessions. They say she needs to be more cohesive with the other judges. And in the background of all this glitz and glamour are sweat shops with underage workers where all the beautiful new trends are manufactured and all the "adequates" who receive a normal education and work in offices or as doctors or other necessary professions, feel envious of those "tapped" to leave school early for one of the elite positions. Who wouldn't want to shake things up in an environment like that?

Told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of Ivy and Marla, the book moves at a fast pace and keeps the reader guessing about what will happen next. Will this person actually rebel against expectations? Will that one turn out to be an ally or a foe? Who will win, the corporations or the individuals? And there is also a smidgen of romance mixed in, but I can't tell you who winds up with whom.

If you like stories about underdogs taking on the big shots of the world, about individuals trying to find their place and a career that actually fulfills them creatively and individually, and about finding out how far you are willing to go to pursue your dreams, then you should give Material Girls a try. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fall Reading 2015 Me and Miranda Mullaly


Miranda Mullaly has everything going for her - she's a cheerleader, on the student council, is liked by teachers and students, makes good grades, has a loyal best friend, and has a wonderful boyfriend. But in a turn of events that quickly turns her life into something from a romcom movie, there are suddenly 3 boys in her class who all decide that they are in love with Miranda and need to win her affection.

Let's play The Dating Game. Bachelor number 1 is Sam Dolan. Sam's hobbies include pulling practical jokes, avoiding his homework, and trying to ignore his sisters. Bachelor 2 is Duke Samagura. Duke enjoys criticizing the education available at Penn Valley Middle School, making straight As, and starring in school musicals. Bachelor number 3 is Chollie Muller. (Chollie's name is actually Charlie, but he couldn't say his r sounds when he first started school and the nickname has stuck with him ever since.) Chollie likes all types of sports, hanging out with his older brother Billy, and is a generally easygoing guy.

So, what will each of the bachelors do to convince Miranda that he is the man of her dreams? Well, I can't say too much without ruining all the fun, but I can give you a few hints. Their efforts involve school musical auditions, vandalism (of sorts), snow shovels, reading Twilight, researching global warming, asking siblings for advice, and the Valentine's Dance. In a way it reminds me of a middle school version of "There's Something About Mary."

If you enjoy stories in school settings with lot of humor, pranks, and a bit of romantic interest (requited or not), then give it a try. You may just fall for Miranda Mullaly, too.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek

Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed
Author: Jen Calonita
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publishers: Sourcebook Jabberwocky

About Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed:
Charmed is the exciting sequel to the wildly popular Flunked -- second in the brand new Fairy Tale Reform School series where the teachers are (former) villains.
It takes a (mostly) reformed thief to catch a spy. Which is why Gilly Cobbler, Enchantasia’s most notorious pickpocket, volunteers to stay locked up at Fairy Tale Reform School…indefinitely. Gilly and her friends may have defeated the Evil Queen and become reluctant heroes, but the battle for Enchantasia has just begun.

Alva, aka The Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty, has declared war on the Princesses, and she wants the students of Fairy Tale Reform School to join her.  As her criminal classmates give in to temptation, Gilly goes undercover as a Royal Lady in Waiting (don’t laugh) to unmask a spy…before the mole can hand Alva the keys to the kingdom.

Her parents think Gilly the Hero is completely reformed, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Sometimes it’s good to be bad…

About Jen Calonita:
Jen Calonita has published more than a dozen novels, has seen her works translated into nine languages, and is the recipient of the Louisiana Young Readers Award. When Jen isn't plotting, she lives in New York with her husband, two sons, and their feisty Chihuahua, Captain Jack Sparrow. Visit Jen at
Excerpt from Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed:
Miri’s voice crackles through the magic mirrors in Fairy Tale Reform School. “Let the first annual Wand What You Want hour begin!”
Wands begin popping up in kids’ hands as we walk through the halls, and we all cheer. Pop! My wand arrives in my hand—long, dark-gray, and nicked like it’s seen a few battles. Hmm…what to try first… I’m just about to test the wand out, when I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Instinct tells me to dive out of the way. When I look up, I see a classmate spelling the troll next to her. The girl turns into an ice sculpture. Geez, that was close. I better stay alert.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Kids begin casting all around me. The crowded hallway is suddenly full of talking woodland creatures, toads, fireworks, and a pretty impressive cloud raining licorice. Kids are cheering and fighting, and the sound of all those wands working is enough to give me a headache. I hurry away from the spell zapping, looking for somewhere to practice alone.
The chaotic hallway disappears behind me, and a new empty hall arrives in its place. I happen to know this hall leads to the school courtyard so I hurry down it and head outside. Ahhh…this is more like it. The warm sun is shining bright high above the castle walls, making me wistful for adventure. I can never sit still for long.
“Pardon the interruption! We hope you are enjoying your wand experience, but remember, all wands disappear at the hour mark so choose your magic wisely,” Miri says. I’m relieved to find no mirror in the courtyard, which means she can’t see what I’m up to. That magic mirror is forever tattling on students for bad behavior. “As a reminder, flying is not advised.”
“Not advised, but she didn’t say it was against the rules,” I say to myself. I flick the wand over my stuffy, uncomfortable pale-blue uniform and turn it into a comfy peasant shirt and pants. I swap out my ugly school shoes for my beloved lace-up boots. Now that I’m comfortable, I get to the task at hand. I’m sure an actual spell would work better, but since I don’t know one, I just imagine myself flying, and Bam! I’m slowly floating up, up, up in the air. Score!
A Pegasus flies by me pulling a coach with four students in it.
Hi, Gilly!” they shout and wave.
When you save your school from a wicked fairy, people tend to remember your name. Even if you don’t remember theirs.
“Hi!” I say, lying back like I’m floating on a cloud. Wow, this is relaxing. I stretch my arms wide and—oops!
My wand falls from my grasp. Uh-oh. I begin to plummet, spinning faster and faster with no sign of stopping. Before I can even think of a way to break my fall, whoosh! I feel my body hit a blanket and bounce up, then land again on a magic carpet.
“Ten minutes into Wand What You Want, and you’re already having a near-death experience?” my friend Jax asks. His curly blond hair looks white in the bright sunlight. He casually
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