Friday, April 13, 2018

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter, plus GIVEAWAY

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Once Upon A Princess

YA Time! Today I am reviewing This Heart of Mine by C. C. Hunter, a new YA contemporary romance.

The Story-
 Leah MacKenzie carries her heart around in her backpack, literally. Waiting for a donor, her pump machine is the only thing keeping her alive. Stuck at home, she gets schooling via tutors, and one lucky day Matt (her long time crush) subs. With a goodbye kiss on her lips, she hopes he'll call her back. However, the next time she sees him is after she has received a heart transplant, and it was his twin brother's heart!

Now Leah and Matt are drawn together not only by chemistry, but by a desire to prove Matt's brother did not commit suicide. Matt just knows he didn't, because they were twins and he felt it happen, and Leah knows he didn't because after receiving the heart she's been having visions.

When nobody will believe either of them, they seek out the proof for themselves, but it could leave them just as dead as Matt's brother.

My Thoughts-
I can't say it's that original of a story. Transplant patients that either have visions of the donor or become possessed by the donor are common, but adding the double visions that the twin brother sees is a step toward uniqueness.

However, about half way through the story you figure out who did it. As soon as the character appears in the story it is an obvious plot twist.The tension went down after knowing who the killer was, and I wish it had been something less obvious  After that, I just wanted to see how the author was going to get the proof to convict the guy.

It's a very well written story that tugs at your heartstrings. The very beginning, Leah with her backpack, is done perfectly. Leah's feeling of despair, but acceptance are brave.  I especially like that the author had personal reasons to write the story. The romance between Leah and Matt is the best part. It is a sweet story that builds despite the pressure placed upon the couple. I liked seeing the two of them together, but the best part is that they both secretly liked each other long before the heart issues. Plus, when Matt first kisses her when done tutoring, you really feel just how special that one moment in her life is. I'm giving this book 3.5 stars! And can I just say- love the cover! They don't even use the word heart. They just have an image of a stitched up red heart.



Giveaway-

Monday, April 9, 2018

Spy on History- Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti and Scott Wegener



I have a fun book to share with you for middle grade Monday- Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti and Scott Wegener.

The Book-
This is a hands-on book that includes the story of the real Ghost Army that helped the Allies win World War II and a spy kit that allows the reader to solve clues as to where Victor Dowd hid his sketchbook. You will need a physical copy to use this spy book.

My Thoughts-
The book is all tell, tell, tell. Almost like a travel dialogue. There is a narrator that goes over what Victor Dowd and his troops went through during the war, and while the facts are very interesting (I didn't even know about the Ghost Army) the story is bland. There is no showing, no getting into the character of Victor, no emotions. I don't think a typical middle grade reader will get past the first several pages of details. It's a non-fiction book trying to read like a fictional story.

Now, the code cracking. The book ends with a letter the reader is supposed to decode. It is a fun task, however it is very confusing. The logistics are simple, use the cryptowheel, but because several letters for each word are left out, you end up filling things in that make sense. My problem was when it didn't make sense. You uncover a clue about the (blank - blank) church. I searched the entire book through several times to find the name of any church or location that was mentioned that used a hyphenated word like in the clue. I found none.

However, I had enough of the clue figured out that I could solve the major question, but then what? I thought I had solved it and opened up the sealed part at the end. Nope! Big fail that the book doesn't tell you what to do after you decipher the letter. A hint would be nice, like use the other objects in the spy kit and pages from the book to figure out what city Victor left his sketchbook in? Solving the letter was just the beginning. That would have been nice to know. I thought opening the sealed part would lead to more puzzles that told me to use the spy kit, not the complete answers to everything.

So, I backtracked and started using the tools from the spy kit. Several things are obvious, others not so much. The kid figuring this thing out is going to have to be smart. Morse code and pictures aside, some stuff I couldn't figure out what to do with. It reminded me of the escape room game where you use clues to get a code to escape. For me, I had to read the first several page examples before I even knew what I was supposed to do and then go from there. So, I'm going to recommend this book to the history loving, analytical thinking middle grader (or even older). 3 stars!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cover Love + Cover Reveal- Jaclyn and the Beanstalk by Mary Ting

This cover reveal popped up in my in box and I totally had to share it with everyone. So, the book is Jaclyn and the Beanstalk by Mary Ting, coming 9/2018. I just love this cover! It is simple, and you know what the story will probably be about, but Jaclyn is wearing a ragged red cloak and holding a glowing spear. Hmm? I want to know more!


Cover Artist- Sam Shearon

Here is the blurb that came with it:
What fate awaits a girl who hears monsters at night…

Sixteen-year-old Jaclyn looks up to her father. An honest man who once fought for the king, he now teachesJaclyn how to use her wits—and her sword.

But he has a secret. And his secret may have a connection to the one thing Jaclyn is hiding from him.

Upon hearing “monsters” are terrorizing the small villages around Black Mountain, Jaclyn’s father and his friends head out to hunt them … but they don’t return.

Armed only with her sword and three magic beans—a gift from a mysterious old woman—Jaclyn sets out for Black Mountain to save her father.

On her climb, one bean drops and grows into a beanstalk, catching her when she falls.

She isn’t the only one that takes the ride. Jack, her childhood friend and secret crush, is following her.

Together, Jaclyn and Jack must battle to save not only their fathers, but the townspeople the beasts plan to lay waste to before it’s too late.

What do you think of the cover?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Once Upon A Princess blog tour, author interview, book review and GIVEAWAY!



Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am taking part in the blog tour for an adorable middle grade, Once Upon a Princess by Christine Marciniak.

Blurb-
On the evening of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the small European kingdom of Colsteinburg, violence erupts outside the royal palace, throwing one family’s life into chaos. After a coup in her country, Her Royal Highness, Fredericka Elisabetta Teresa von Boden don Morh (or Fritzi to her friends), wakes up one day no longer a princess. Stuck hiding in a suburban American middle school dealing with mean girls, cafeteria lunches, and teachers who don’t understand (or know about) her unique situation, Fritzi just wants to go home to her kingdom and be a princess again. She turns to social media for help, but will her efforts work or make everything worse? With opposition forces trying to force her father’s abdication from the throne, Fritzi discovers that being a true princess doesn’t come from a title.

The Author-
Christine Marciniak
My first career goal was to be Batgirl, but somehow that didn’t pan out. When I was six I thought being a nurse would be good, until I found out that blood would almost definitely be involved. 

So I decided instead to be a famous actress.

In high school I decided to be practical and become a lawyer. Then in college, when it came time to think about law school, I realized that what I really wanted to do was write fiction. 


The Interview-
What was your favorite book as a child and what is the book you most frequently find yourself recommending to others?

I’d have to say one of my favorite books as a child was MANDY by Julie Andrews Edwards. It’s a charming book about an orphaned girl who finds a place for herself. When I first read it I did not realize that the author was the same woman who starred in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, As an adult I found the book again to re-read it, hoping it would stand the test of time, and it did. I found it as charming as I had when I was nine. Other books I read voraciously as a child were the Bobbsey Twin books. Those do not stand up quite as well to adult scrutiny.

What book do I frequently recommend to others? 

I have very eclectic reading tastes, so what I recommend is going to partly have to do with the interests of the person I’m talking to, and what I’ve recently read. For younger readers I would probably recommend The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. I discovered that book when my daughter was young, and it quickly became one of her favorites. I think it is often overlooked when people discuss great books for children. For older readers I’ve found myself recommending Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford and The Secret Ministry of Ag and Fish by Noreen Roils. Like I said, I have eclectic tastes.


What were the main challenges you faced with setting a present day princess story that included technology?

I think the main challenge for any present day story – princess or not – is that the ubiquitous use of cell phones ruins a lot of plot points. Lost? Look it up on your GPS. Running late? Call the person to let them know. Need someone to come to your rescue, you’ve got help right at your fingertips. Sometimes author’s solve that by letting the character lose their phone, or being out of cell service, or the battery dying. I decided to let Fritzi use the internet in a way that would complicate things for her, not solve all her problems. The biggest problem there is keeping up with what is the latest social media forum that tweens are using these days.

Where did the idea for Once Upon a Princess originally come from?

It seemed to me that it is a fairly common to see stories about someone who is leading a rather ordinary life and suddenly they either find out they are royalty or they marry into royalty and it turns their life upside down. I thought, what if someone was royalty, and then wasn’t – kind of turning the convention on it’s head.

Going off that question, what's the strangest thing you've ever had to research for a book?
Horse Diving. I was setting a book in Atlantic City during the twenties and discovered that one of the main attractions at the time was a horse diving show where a woman would ride a horse as it dove from a platform into a tank of water. I actually bought and read a book by the premier horse diver of the time. A Girl and Five Brave Horses by Sonora Carver. The title is a bit hokey, but the story was fascinating. Other things I’ve found myself researching have been undergarments of the 19th century, the lay out of a scallop boat, the occupation of Bruges during World War I and when toilet paper was invented.

Can you tell us what you're working on next?

This summer I have an adult romance coming out, Emily’s Song, which is a time travel romance set at the beginning of the Civil War. Works in progress include a middle grade book set in Atlantic City during the twenties and another adult romance, also set in the twenties in New Jersey.

Did you have a playlist of music you listened to when you wrote OUAP? Mind sharing a few of those titles?

I really don’t. If I listened to music when I was writing it was most likely going to be Jazz or Classical, because lyrics tend to get in the way of my thought process (harder to write when singing along)

Who is your biggest literary crush? And literary villain?

Biggest literary crush would probably have to be Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. And villain? Does Ebeneezer Scrooge count as a villain, even though he’s the hero? I might pick him. Or perhaps Acheron Hades in The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. He is delightfully dastardly.

If Once Upon a Princess were to be made into a movie who would be your first choice to play Fritzi? 

I think Millie Bobby Brown would be a good choice, though she’d probably have to dye her hair red.

Was Colsteinburg based on a real country? 

Imaginary Colsteinburg is small country nestled between Switzerland and France in the Alps, the closest thing to real-life counterpart would be Liechtenstein, which is a small country nestled between Austria and Switzerland in the Alps, but other than the Alpine location and general size, I didn’t take anything else from Liechtenstein.

If you weren't a writer what profession would you have chosen? 

After college I worked as an editor for a travel publication, so perhaps I would still be doing editorial work. Other than that, when I was in high school and the first couple of years of college I assumed I would go on to law school. But I changed my mind before taking the LSATs. Maybe, in an alternate world I would have gone on to become a lawyer instead of a writer.

Book Review-
My Thoughts- This book is a great princess adventure, but I can honestly say that when I got to the end of the story I didn't know if I was satisfied or not. It comes to a logical conclusion for this day and age, but at the same time I wanted the happy ending. Hmm, I'm mixed, but this is definitely a good read.

Fritzi is a great character. She is spunky, fierce, loyal and true. Acting as a typical twelve year-old, she thinks she has to take matters into her own hands to solve a HUGE problem, saving her country. She tries to do it the only way she knows how, through social media. She begins sending out Instragram videos that show a human side to herself and the royal family. I think this is a great idea. She is a real princess, so it trends immediately. In fact, I thought it was enough of a boost to bring the people of her country to the side of the royals. I never felt that the King gave any reason to be forced from the throne, he was new, but it was obvious his people were treated well and were loved by the royal family. So, the ending surprised me.

The actual story of Fritzi and how she handles being in America and attending school is priceless. She determines she will act noble even if no one knows who she really is. She stands up for herself and makes the best of a bad situation. I enjoyed her reactions and her heartfelt feelings. I was a little surprised the the school bully turns out to be the one to understand Fritzi while the first friend she makes at school turns against her. Wow! I'm not sure that the bully's character changes in any way, but the writer does a great job of suddenly turning the readers in her favor. 

This is a well written story full of tension, adventure and heart. The danger to Fritzi and her family is palatable and at the end there is a feeling of desperation. The author creates an air of mistrust among the characters and several times she flips things around. I'm giving it 4 stars!

Buy it Now-


Giveaway-

Friday, March 30, 2018

Grounded (The Grounded Trilogy #1) by G.P. Ching

Ya Friday brings us to another awesome book, this one is Grounded by GP Ching. Let's take a look:

The Story-
Lydia lives in Hemlock Hollow, a world hidden behind a wall and forgotten about by the surrounding world. Inside they live an Amish type life with no electricity and strict rules. Outside the wall, the world is dissolving. People fight for electricity and control of other people. Lydia is content in her life, happy to spend time with her beau Jeremiah and do her chores. But when her father falls ill and needs to be taken outside the wall to receive medical treatment, Jeremiah convinces Lydia to take rumspringa, a year of time when you can join the outsiders and live among them before deciding for yourself what lifestyle you wish for your future. With a fake name and papers they head out, hoping to visit her father in the hospital.

Things don't go smoothly. At the half point house, Lydia is shocked by a jolt of electricity from a lamp. When the authorities come to investigate, she is arrested by the Green Republic, the ruling government in the new world. Turns out she has the ability to harness and control electricity, a rare ability she inherited from her parents, who were experimented upon. The Green Republic will do anything to possess her and replicate her powers. While escaping prison she frees another inmate, Korwin, who turns out to be just like her.

Now, they are on the run, wanted for the powers they possess and not knowing who to trust.

My Thoughts-
What drew me to pick up this book was the idea of an Amish teenager with the ability to control electricity, two at odd topics. I wasn't disappointed. The book starts in Hemlock Hollow and the reader is able to see how the people live their lives, follow their rules and find joy in simplicity. Then, we go outside the wall into a semi post apocalyptic world. Now we see the exact opposite. Society run amok with people who will do anything for power and control of the electric grid. It is a great juxtaposition.

Lydia does not disappoint as a character. She does what needs to be done. In prison she is taught to fight, both hand combat and weapons. She learns to assert herself and take control of a situation while still trying to keep her core values intact.

There is also a love triangle, and I have to say, I felt really bad for Jeremiah. He loves Lydia and has her back the entire time, but because of chemistry with Korman, Lydia pulls away from him and towards her fellow electricity sparker. Both relationship are understandable and make sense, I just felt bad for good ole Jeremiah.

Overall this is a fun adventure and a look at a different type of dystopian world. I thought the ending wrapped things up nicely and I was content. The fact that this is book one in a trilogy surprised me because it seems to already tie things up so well. I am giving it 4 stars!



Monday, March 26, 2018

Embers of Destruction (Mysteries of Cove #3) by J. Scott Savage


Middle Grade Time! Today I am reviewing the third and final book in the Mysteries of Cove series, Embers of Destruction, by J. Scott Savage.

The Story-
Trenton, Kallista and their friends, Plucky, Simoni, Angus, and Clyde are now flying about destroying real dragons using their mechanical dragons. They track and plan. However, when one mission goes wrong, they find themselves lost in the fog and facing an all new threat.

They have discovered the remains of San Francisco, and a new breed of dragon. The city is filled with humans happily serving their dragon overlords, and the kids can't understand why? They set out to free the people, only to end up trapped. Even Kallista's father seems to now love dragons.

The friends are sent to work, learning their ways about the city and secretly trying to figure out what is going on, how to stop the dragons, and the mystery behind this city that still exists in a world that is virtually destroyed.

My Thoughts-
I wondered how the author was going to wrap this series up and do so while remaining true to the first two books. He does a wonderful job. The first book explains the mystery of Cove, the city within a mountain where Trenton and Kallista live. Clues are left for Kallista, by her father, to help her learn about the truth of their city's past.

The second book starts out again as a puzzle, with Kallista and Trenton following clues to find Kallista's father in the ruins of Seattle and later using more clues to build a machine to fight against the dragons.

So, how did the third book compare? Great. Though not the same type of clue solving mystery as within the first two books, this third book takes the reader on a more intellectual journey. The reader must follow as the friends learn the secrets of San Francisco and unearth the true reason dragons came into existence. Then, with that information they must defeat the new breed of dragon who rules the city. The question of course was how this series could end things leaving the reader feeling that issues were resolved and our heroes could move on with their lives. I believe the author takes the only route possible. From the get go, I couldn't figure out how these six kids would be able to destroy all of dragon kind. Well, turns out they can't. Yep, just what I thought. Instead the author brings it all to a logical ending with potential for further development in this cool post-apocalyptic world. Great job!

I love all the characters. They each have their own stories with full development taking place over all three books. Readers will invest in the future and root for their success. There is also a great importance placed on family, which I really enjoyed. I recommend this entire series, and I'm giving this book 4.5 stars!


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cover Love Thursday! The Hazelwood by Melissa Albert

Cover Love time! Today's cover is a new YA that reminded me of the cover I picked last week, The Wicked Deep. Let's look at the cover of The Hazelwood by Melissa Albert.



I could not find the artist information from Amazon

What I like- the simplicity, plus the several details that are scattered throughout the image, sort of like a hidden picture. There are so many hints to what could be an amazing story, bloody dagger, dropped cup, castles, forests, and of course, an inviting gate with the image of a fantastical tree. It reminded me of last weeks cover just based on the solid background and simple graphic design. Could there be a new cover trend? Hmm? What do you think of the cover?

Last week's cover-