Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Boxcar Children - Original & Graphic Novel - Books That Made Me Love Reading

The Boxcar Children 
by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, four orphaned brothers and sisters, suddenly appear in a small town. No one knows who these young wanderers are or where they have come from. Frightened to live with a grandfather they have never met, the children make a home for themselves in an abandoned red boxcar they discover in the woods. Henry, the oldest, goes to town to earn money and buy food and supplies.

Ambitious and resourceful, the plucky children make a happy life themselves--until Violet gets too sick for her brothers and sister to care for her.

This story will delight any child who has fantasized about being on his or her own and overcoming every obstacle.

My review:
Once again, when I signed up for the Books That Made Me Love Reading Challenge, I knew I would be reading The Boxcar Children. I remember reading and re-reading this book many times when I was a child. I loved the whole dangerous, adventurous aspect of the children being on their own, and I thought it would be amazing to live in a boxcar like they did! Now when I read it, I think how sad it is that they were on their own in the first place and were barely getting enough food to survive. I still enjoyed reading it now as an adult, even though I most certainly didn't experience the same emotions while reading. After all these years, it still remains an excellent book for young children.

While in the library, my son was looking through their section of graphic novels for kids. I happened to see the graphic novel copy of this book. Since I had planned on reading it for the challenge anyway, I decided now would be a good time, and I also picked up the graphic novel. Now, I should point out here that before now I haven't been the biggest fan of graphic novels. (But that's a story for another day.) Upon reading this graphic novel, I was pleasantly surprised by how true it is to the original. Obviously, the story is somewhat condensed, with parts being combined or left out, but the main point of the original story still comes through in the graphic novel. Plus, it is beautifully illustrated, much like a comic book, to help bring the imaginations of young kids alive. The Boxcar Children graphic novel would be a perfect book to give to a young, reluctant reader.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lexie World by Kimberly Kinrade - Review

Lexie World by Kimberly Kinrade
The Three Lost Kids Trilogy
Published: December 20, 2011
Publisher: Evolved Publishing

5-year-old Lexie is tired of getting in trouble for leaving her stuff and trash outside. She doesn’t mean to litter or ruin her shoes, but it’s just so hard to remember sometimes.

When she, her two big sisters and their dog TayTay find a portal to Lexie World, Lexie discovers the consequence littering has had on her special world. Garbage Goblins have taken over and are destroying the Earth!

To save Lexie World, the girls (and TayTay) must travel with their new Unicorn friend through the Waters of Waste and over the Mountain of Lost Clothes to retrieve a piece of the Mirror of Ice in order to remind the Garbage Goblins of their true form and break their curse.

On this journey, Lexie learns about courage, love and the importance of taking care of her world.

With full color illustrations, Lexie World bridges the gap between picture books and chapter books, offering children 4-9 years old a new, exciting reading journey.

Darian's Review:
Lexie World is about 5 year old Lexie, her sisters, Bella, Maddie, and their dog TayTay.  Lexie is like most 5 year olds, she’s in limbo between being a little and a big girl, a little unsure, sometimes forgetful and leaves her belongings strewn about the backyard and house.  Until one day while venturing in the woods with her sisters, they enter a magical world, Lexie World.  But Lexie World is in danger, the Garbage Goblins are running a muck and ruining the beautiful world with trash that others have left on earth.  And it’s up to Lexie to break the curse, and save Lexie World.  With her sisters and dog by her side, Lexie learns that she’s much braver than she thought she was, and just maybe she can save her world.

Lexie World is written from Lexie’s perspective, through the eyes of a five year old girl, who is like most 5 year olds.  She adores her big sisters, thinks her parents are the best in the world, but doesn’t quite get the big deal about forgetting to put her things away sometimes.  I think the author did a wonderful job keeping the dialogue and thoughts at an appropriate level, staying true to the average youngster of Lexie’s age range, yet not keeping it so simple that kids a few years older would be bored by it.

One of the things I liked about this book was how Lexie had to eat gluten free food. For different health reasons, a few people I know are now in the position of having to eat only gluten free foods (including the son of the "KrazyBookLady"). I liked how it was added nonchalantly, yet in a way that it could help other kids who need to eat gluten-free feel more normal and secure about it. Even Lexie the hero has to deal with it too! This was not a huge aspect of the story, a mere mention here and there, but it was a nice touch I thought for the growing numbers of kids who need to eat gluten-free foods.

The descriptive writing was worded beautifully. Kinrade paints magical, clear pictures in an easy to understand way – which really helped bring the story to life. But it didn’t bog down the story by being too much; kids like dialogue, action, and this book has plenty of it.

The lessons weaved throughout the story are great for kids of any age, Kinrade did a great job working it into the story, instead of a blunt ‘lesson’ being plopped right into it. Kinrade made it fun, an adventure, made it seem exciting to be more responsible and take care of your things and your world. Through the journey to save Lexie World, Lexie learns about bravery, self-confidence, and of course, the importance of picking up after herself. Because, as she discovers, leaving messes ruins many worlds, ours, and Lexie World, and both are too beautiful for that.

Overall this was a good read, and I’ll be passing it along to my daughter. Not only does Lexie World send the message of believing in yourself, but it teaches responsibility, all wrapped up inside an amazing adventure. I think writing children’s books can be one of the most difficult genres to write, but Kinrade has nailed it with true talent. The story is fun, thrilling, written at a child’s level – but written well enough for a variety of ages. Two thumbs up from this Mom, and bravo to Kinrade!

A copy was provided by the author for review.

About the author:
Kimberly Kinrade was born with ink in her veins and magic in her heart. As a child, where others saw shapes in clouds, she saw words. But she was also an entrepreneur at heart. So when her business arrangement with the Tooth Fairy ended, she went pro with her writing. Her stories sold better than any lemonade stand and even beat out her museum of fossilized rocks in revenue.

Fast years and many college degrees later...and she is now an award winning author and reformed journalist. 

You can find out more about Kimberly Kinrade and how to connect with her on her website and the ThreeLostKids site.

Charity Hop Giveaway - Celiac Disease & Gluten Intolerance - Lexie World by Kimberly Kinrade

This giveaway is part of Charity Hopping Around the World hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, Reading Away the Days and Reading a Little Bit of Everything. There are a lot of great blogs participating in this hop. After you enter here, hop over and enter their giveaways too.

While you are here, please check out my other giveaways. They can be located in the right sidebar. 

The charities I am focusing on raise awareness of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance. They also promote better labeling on foods.

What is Celiac disease? Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which your body cannot tolerate gluten. It is not a food allergy. You can potentially outgrow a food allergy, but you will have Celiac disease for the rest of your life. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats. When these foods are consumed, the body of someone with Celiac disease thinks there is poison and works to attack it. This damages the small intestine and can lead to malnutrition (because you are not absorbing nutrients correctly) and many other problems, including cancer. Some of the symptons of Celiac disease or even just a gluten intolerance include migraine headaches, joint pain, distended abdomen or bloating, chronic fatigue, diarrhea or constipation. Children may also exhibit behavioral problems, irritability, growth failure, and learning problems, among other things. It is estimated that Celiac disease affects 1 in every 133 people.

Here are a couple of sites where you can find out more information or donate to support the awareness of gluten intolerance and promote better labeling on foods.

Why I chose this cause: When I first signed up to do Charity Hopping Around the World, I was planning to focus on an entirely different charity. However, my young son was diagnosed with Celiac disease just last week. He was not feeling well for a long time before being diagnosed and was missing a lot of school. We are thankful to now know the reason, but it has been a challenge for us to figure out what he can and can't eat. Many labels do not state if the product is gluten-free and gluten can be hidden in the ingredients in things like "natural flavors." Many food manufacturers and especially restaurants (and their staff in general) do not understand how important it is to not get ANY gluten in your food or don't even know what gluten is. Many foods that would not normally contain gluten become contaminated during the manufacturing process or during cooking at restaurants.

Thank you for taking time to learn more about Celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Please visit the links above to learn more.

My Giveaway:

2 winners will receive an eBook of Lexie World by Kimberly Kinrade.

While it is not the focus of the story, Lexie is unable to eat anything with gluten and the unicorn in Lexie World gives her gluten-free food. Kimberly and her young daughter, Lexie, both have a gluten intolerance.

Lexie World by Kimberly Kinrade
Published: December 20, 2011 by Evolved Publishing

5-year-old Lexie is tired of getting in trouble for leaving her stuff and trash outside. She doesn’t mean to litter or ruin her shoes, but it’s just so hard to remember sometimes.

When she, her two big sisters and their dog TayTay find a portal to Lexie World, Lexie discovers the consequence littering has had on her special world. Garbage Goblins have taken over and are destroying the Earth!

To save Lexie World, the girls (and TayTay) must travel with their new Unicorn friend through the Waters of Waste and over the Mountain of Lost Clothes to retrieve a piece of the Mirror of Ice in order to remind the Garbage Goblins of their true form and break their curse.

On this journey, Lexie learns about courage, love and the importance of taking care of her world.

With full color illustrations, Lexie World bridges the gap between picture books and chapter books, offering children 4-9 years old a new, exciting reading journey.

How to Enter:
There are many ways to enter. Choose one or choose all for 4 total entries.
+1 Be a follower of Krazy Book Lady in any way you choose.
+1 Follow Kimberly Kinrade on Twitter or like on Facebook.
+2 Tweet about this giveaway. Here's the tweet to use:
I want to win Lexie World by @KimberlyKinrade from @KrazyBookLady in her Charity Hop #giveaway for Celiac disease.
Giveaway details:
Giveaway is open internationally. This giveaway will run until midnight EST on April 4. Must be 13 or older to enter. Winners will be chosen using Winners will be emailed and this blog post will be updated to include the name of the winners. Winners have 3 days to contact me or a new winner will be selected.

Sorry! This giveaway is now over.

Winners: Tami H. and Sarah S.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Play Hooky With

Top Ten Books I’d Play Hooky With
by Kayla

Since I am not in school, I have decided to list the books that I would want to throw down my review books to pick up again or for the first time. The top row (#1-5) are the ones that I would like to reread, and the bottom row (#6-10) are the ones that I wish I had the time to get my hands on immediately. The list is much longer than these, but it is the top ten after all. Do you want to know a secret? I got a great idea from Cassi the Galavanting Girl Scout – I’m taking a month off to read nothing but what I want to read. No, I’m not saying that I don’t want to read my review books – I’m saying that I want to read just random crap that I see and pick up. I haven’t had that luxury in a LONG time because of college and then reading for my library. It’ll be my Mother’s Day gift to myself in May. Anywho, you’re here for the list, right?

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I’m not sure if you have heard, but some weird place called Hollywood decided to turn this into a small, independent film. I should probably reread this barely-known book that is yet to manage to really take off, popularity-wise.

2. Hounded by Kevin Hearne

This is one of my favorite books in one of my favorite series that I never gush about. Tricked, the fourth installment in the Iron Druid Chronicles, is being released in April, and I should reread the series to get ready for it. *squee*

3. The Magic of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

This is the first book in one of the best epic fantasy series out right now. There is not a lot of violence, and the characters are all so very endearing. I have probably read this book at least ten times, and I’m good for at least three dozen more rereads. I probably won’t get to TMoR this spring because it would cause me to reread the entire series, too. I wish I had the time, but I’ve already given up television, and I’m not quitting my job.

4. The Gunslinger by Stephen King

I haven’t read the first book in The Dark Tower series in at least nine years. I finished The Dark Tower when it came out in 2004. I still think of Roland all the time. It’s time for Mama to go back and visit her literary crush.

5. A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony

The Hobbit may have inspired my love of reading, but Piers Anthony made me obsessed with it. It was his books that would make the class pet/goody-two-shoes skip school to be at the bookstore on release day. This is the first book in his beloved Xanth series, and I’d like to go back home sometime and revisit the scenery. Yes, kittens, Xanth will always be home to me.

6. A Touch Morbid by Leah Clifford

I have had the sequel to A Touch Mortal sitting in my house FOR OVER A MONTH, and I have not read it yet because of obligations. It is making me bitter, but it’s my own fault for allowing myself get behind. I just really really really really really want to read this. Yesterday.

7. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I tried to listen to the audiobook of this, but I find thick British accents distracting when it’s one actor voicing several characters. I need to read the actual book because I won’t let myself watch the television series until I do. And, hello?! It’s epic fantasy! My. Favorite. Genre.

8. Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

I want to read a stand-alone book so bad, it’s disgusting. Plus, the synopsis for this is absolutely fascinating. I have the book sitting on the back of my couch, waiting for me to be naughty and pick it up. *stares at it*

9. Scholar by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

This installment in Modesitt’s Imager series somehow managed to evade me. I have been peeved ever since I noticed that this happened, and I will be annoyed with myself until this book is in my brain. Plus, the fifth one is coming out in May! è Cue massive freakout.

10. Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

Before all else, whether I like it or not, I am a historian wannabe. I study history, I devour history. I live history. If I say otherwise, I’m lying. This has been the last twelve or so years of my life. So when I tell you that a non-fiction book excites me, you had better hope that you’re not standing in front of it when I decide to make the mad dash to grab it. And friends, I’ve been wanting this book for quite some time. Catherine the Great has always made me giggle because she is so AWESOME, and I hope this biography does her justice.

Forbidden Deals - FREE - One Day Only!

She reads minds.
He controls minds.
Together, they might get out alive.

Everyone loves to dabble in the forbidden, which is why Evolved Publishing is giving you a free teaser into the award-winning Forbidden Trilogy by author Kimberly Kinrade.

On Tuesday, March 27th, Forbidden Mind, a YA paranormal thriller/romance and winner of the Forward National Literature Award, will be FREE on Amazon, on the same day the sequel, Forbidden Fire, launches!

Read a free sample of Forbidden Mind and get it FREE here>>

Check out some of these reviews:

"...a thrilling, dark and deeply romantic read that had me sitting on the edge of my seat and eagerly awaiting the next installment." - Refracted Light Young Adult Book Reviews

"Do not make any plans on the day you begin, as once you start, you will not be able to put it down." - L.M. Stull

"...hooked me in from the beginning." - L.E. Manning

"Forbidden Mind is beautifully written and worth your reading time." - BookWormSans

Sam thinks she's months away from freedom. After spending her life in a secret school, rented out to the rich and powerful as a paranormal spy, she is ready to head to college like any normal eighteen-year-old.

Only Sam isn't normal. She reads minds. And just before her big going-away party, she links to the mind of a young man who changes everything.

Drake wasn't raised as a 'Rent-A-Kid.' He was kidnapped and taken there by force. But his exceptional physical strength and powers of mind control make him very dangerous, especially to Sam.

When they meet, Sam is forced to face the truth of her situation, and to acknowledge that not all is as it seems in her picture-perfect world. For what awaits her on her eighteenth birthday isn't a trip to college, but an unexpected nightmare from which she may not be able to escape.

To survive, they must work together.

But will their powers be enough to save them before it's too late?

Get it FREE here>

More Forbidden?

Do you like to have the next book in a series ready to go before you read the first? Have you already read Forbidden Mind and are chomping at the bit to find out what happens next?

 The sequel, Forbidden Fire, officially launches on Tuesday as well. Twice the length as Forbidden Mind, with more of the characters we love: Sam, Drake, Lucy and Luke! So get Forbidden Mind for free and pick up the sequel at the same time.

Read a sample and get Forbidden Fire here>>

About Forbidden Fire

She escaped, but she'll never be free.

"Time held no meaning as my mind darted in and out of memories. Past and present collided to create a full-sensory collage out of my life: playing hide-n-seek with my best friends Luke—who always cheated by walking through walls when he was about to be caught—and Lucy; Mr. Caldrin critiquing my sketches and offering ideas to make them more realistic; targets changing faces, blending into the same person, their thoughts rippling through my mind like waves. Through it all, a demon stalked me from the shadows of my memories, never quite showing its face, but crouching, waiting.

And then I dreamed...."

Sam and Drake may have escaped, but they aren't free—not with a powerful Seeker after them. As Sam struggles with the ethics of her new powers and embraces a blossoming physical relationship with Drake, Lucy and Luke face challenges of their own.

With forces coalescing inside and outside the Rent-A-Kid dorms, it's only a matter of time before the fire they started forces each of them to make choices they can't undo. But will it be enough to save them?

Read a sample of Forbidden Fire and get it here>>

More FREE books?

Yup! It's not over yet! Evolved is offering 8 more free books on Tuesday, in addition to Forbidden Mind, including Kimberly Kinrade's children's illustrated fantasy chapter book, Lexie World.

Written for 4-9 year olds, but great for all ages, Lexie discovers the consequences of her littering. Lexie World is overrun by Garbage Goblins and she and her sisters must cross the Waters of Waste, climb the Mountain of Lost Clothes, and retrieve a piece of the Mirror of Ice, in order to break the curse and save the world.

With the help of her new Unicorn friends, Lexie must find the courage to face her fears and find her true self in this wonderful adventure book for children.

Read a sample of Lexie World and get it FREE here>>

And if you like this book, check out the next in the series, Bella World. Bella learns important lessons about sharing and anger from a misunderstood Dragon in Bella World.

Read a sample of Bella World here>>

Want another YA paranormal fantasy, a zombie western, an epic fantasy, a psychological thriller, an inspirational memoir, a Native American historical fiction and an anthology for FREE as well? Check them out here>>

Wow! What a day. Fill up your kindle for FREE and enjoy 9 great books, plus pick up 2 sequels.

No Kindle? No problem! Amazon offers free apps for your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad or smart phone right under the BUY button on the product page. Just download and enjoy a ton of FREE books.

Enjoy all these great books and come back and tell us what you thought. We'd love to hear about your favorites.

Forbidden deals never looked so good!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kindles for Kids

Guest Post by author Danyelle Leafty

What exactly is Kindles for Kids?

Kindles for Kids is my way of paying it forward. My goal is to raise enough funds to purchase 10 Kindle Fires for the pediatric unit of a local hospital in UT.

How does Kindles for Kids work?

From March 12th-31st of 2012, I will be donating the *royalties I make on THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA: CATSPELL--both in paper and e-book form--toward the purchase of the Kindle Fires.

Royalties are paid a month to two months after the fact. Factoring in that as well as putting in the order, receiving them, and getting them ready, I will be delivering the Kindle Fires to the hospital in June of 2012.

How can you participate?

If you are an author (published) or a writer (unpublished), this link will explain it more. A more detailed link can be found here. In short, I'm hosting an open call for donating **books you have the rights to for the hospital. One book per Kindle Fire. You can also participate by writing a ***short story for a fairy tale anthology I'm putting together for the hospital. If you're a reader, this link will give you a few ideas on how to help spread the word.

How can you help?

The greatest help of all is to help me get the word out. You can do this by talking to people--online and in real life, posting about Kindles for Kids on forums, groups, on your blog, and by printing out and posting fliers. More detailed link here, as well as details for a photo contest. Link for the flyer here.

I can't do this without you, so thank you to all who participate in any way they can!

*Royalties up to 249,000 copies. After that, I have to buy an extended license for the photographs I use for the cover.

**All books will be vetted by me personally for both formatting and content. Since the Kindle Fires are going to the pediatric unit, I would ask that any donations are formatted and edited well, and that they go no higher than a PG rating.

***As with the books, please keep the short stories at a PG or G rating. Again, all stories that are chosen for inclusion in the anthology will be vetted by me personally. Also, because digital copies of the anthology will be donated to the hospitals, and there will be no money made off of them, neither the editor (me) nor the authors will receive payment or money for them. However, everyone who is included will receive a digital copy as either a PDF, a kindle file, or epub.

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton - Cover Reveal & ARC Giveaway

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
Expected publication: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Poppy (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)
YA Contemporary

How can you talk about something you can't remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy "Sid" Murphy was a cheerleader, a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she's thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid - including a lock of her perfect red curls - and she can't remember any of it.

Back home and alienated by her friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey "The Living Stoner" Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect... or so she thinks.

Humorous and thoughtful, Colleen Clayton's stunning debut is a moving exploration of one girl's triumph over tragedy.

Pre-order at Barnes & Noble or Amazon and add it on Goodreads. 

About the author:
Like the main character of her novel WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, Colleen Clayton grew up in a suburban town just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating from Kent State University she worked as a social worker at a residential treatment center for troubled teens and then as Program Supervisor for Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Mahoning Valley.  Later on, she discovered a passion for writing so went back to school to earn an MFA in fiction writing from the Northeast Ohio Consortium at Youngstown State University.

Colleen lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, teenage daughter, and son.

You can find out more about Colleen Clayton and how to connect with her on her website.

1 winner will receive an ARC of What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton.

How to enter:
+1 Follow Krazy Book Lady in any way you choose.
+1 Follow Colleen Clayton on Twitter.
+1 Like Colleen Clayton on Facebook.

Giveaway Details:
Giveaway is open internationally. This giveaway will run until midnight EST on April 30. Must be 13 or older to enter. Winner will be chosen using Winner will be emailed and this blog post will be updated to include the name of the winner. Winner has 3 days to contact me or a new winner will be selected.

Sorry! This giveaway is now over. 

Winner: Kimberly S.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: Emerald City by Alicia K. Leppert

Emerald City by Alicia K. Leppert
Expected publication: April 10, 2012 by Sweetwater Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort

Olivia Tate is a broken shell of a girl haunted by the tragic events that fill her past. She has closed herself off from the world, each day grasping at something—anything—to live for. Convinced there will never be a way out, she seeks solace in the depths of her medicine cabinet. When she wakes up days later in the hospital she is introduced to Jude, the quiet stranger responsible for saving her life. She never could have guessed then that her mysterious rescuer would end up saving her life a second time, while simultaneously turning her world upside down. A modern-day romance with a twist, Emerald City has a little bit of something for everyone!

Kayla's Review:
Emerald City by Alicia Leppert is a young adult romance that could easily be classified as contemporary, with just a hint of paranormal romance. It is Leppert’s debut novel, published by Cedar Fort Books.

Olivia Tate found herself in a very dark place. She had numbed any emotions that she may have had since the death of her mother. Her father was long gone, having left her and her mother fifteen years prior. She was able to go through the motions of life until finally everything becomes too much. A bottle of Valium later, she finds her life has changed (and been saved) due to the concern of her mysterious neighbor, Jude West.

When I started reading this book, I wanted to put it down. I do not usually enjoy reading about others floundering at the bottom of the deep void of depression, but I am so glad that I stayed with it. This is a story of survival, hope, sacrifice, and how just the little things can turn someone’s life around completely. The characters were very sweet, and it was easy to become attached to them. I am not usually a fan of romance, but this one was palatable. The book had a bit of a twist, but I had picked up on it almost immediately. (It’s been done before.) However, it did not detract from the story or my enjoyment of it at all.

The book only had a few minor issues, with the main one being Olivia (and the only one really worth mentioning). I know how realistic it is for teenagers to feel so very hopeless, but I was irritated by what instigated her Valium consumption. (This is not a spoiler – it happens very early in the book.) She does not mourn the death of her mother or her loss of other personal relationships in her life. However, when she is called a freak at work after someone wanting a different waitress than her, she is driven to suicide. Olivia spent the first pages of the novel describing how numb she feels, but she gives up so quickly. It galled me a bit, even though I am aware that sometimes the burden can just become too heavy. Also, she was a very ill individual. I just wish she would have gotten stronger for herself. I will grant that she did see a mental health professional, but Jude was the driving force.

All in all, Emerald City is a lovely debut novel for Leppert. I finished it in two days and did not want to put it down. Due to the suicide attempt at the beginning of the story, I would only recommend it for the older young adult audience. That being said, maybe reading this would inspire someone in pain to seek help. Not everyone gets a Jude, and it is just important for someone to learn to stand on his or her own two feet. I think anyone who enjoys romance and contemporary books with a hint of the supernatural would be happy to get their hands on this book.

If you, or someone you know, is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

A copy was provided by the publisher for review.

About the author:
Alicia K. Leppert always knew she wanted to be a writer, ever since Career Day in first grade when she walked around carrying a notebook and pencil. Twenty-some odd years later, after a short stint in high school where she dreamed of being an actress, a whirlwind Internet romance including a blind proposal that led to a fairytale wedding and two pretty-near perfect kids, her lifelong dream came to fruition with her first novel, Emerald City. She lives with her small brood in her beloved hometown of Pasco, which is located in the only part of Washington state that isn't green. When she is not writing, she can be found decorating novelty cakes and taking naps--her other two passions. 

You can find out more about Alicia K. Leppert and how to connect with her on her website.

I am running a giveaway of Emerald City until April 1, 2012. Please see this previous post to enter.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Homeschoolers in Fiction - Guest Post by Beth Balmanno

Be honest: what's the first thing you think of when you hear the word homeschooler? I know, I know—probably the Duggars. But how about in books? How often do you see homeschool kids in the books you read? And, if you do see them, how are they portrayed?

As a homeschool parent, my biggest beef with fictional homeschool characters is that, quite simply, they don't feel believable to me. Most fall into three categories: the love child of some hippie, commune-living family; the troubled loner who can't handle the pressures of school and socialization; or the uber-smart child prodigy who needs more than what traditional school can offer. None of those descriptions fit my kids, or the oodles of homeschool kids my family knows. Like a regular school environment, we are a blend of all kinds of people.

We are religious, secular, rich, poor, liberal, conservative. Just like school kids. We are artists, athletes, musicians, poets, gamers, and more. Just like school kids. We have field trips, tests, gym days, extracurriculars, and dances. Just like school kids. We have crushes and fights. Just like school kids. We listen to Nicki Minaj and play on Facebook and—heaven forbid—watch Dance Moms. Just like school kids.

Like other stereotypes, ideas about homeschoolers persist, both in real life and in fiction. The real-world beliefs are disappearing, mostly because homeschooling is becoming more prevalent in mainstream society. But in books? The trend has been slower to change. There are some books out there, especially middle grade offerings. But I'm hungry for more.

Now, just so you know, I didn't set out to create and include homeschool characters in Set in Stone. I knew Valerie would go to school—one of the main settings is her very elite private school—so it wasn't like I thought, “Hey, I need to figure out a way to get a homeschool kid in this book!” But, as the story unfolded and Valerie sought help and Geoff appeared, I just knew he was going to be different. He needed a lifestyle to support being able to help her—in unusual ways. And because his personality was so strong, he needed someone else to balance him. Someone not quite so logical, someone passionate and warm and altogether different from Geoff. Fanchon, his pixie-ish homeschool friend, who knows more about auras and magic than science and SATs.

And, like a lot of her real-life counterparts, Valerie is quick to judge. Quick to dismiss them as different. A little weird.

But as the story progresses and she gets to know Geoff and Fanchon, she realizes what homeschoolers around the world have known all along.

We're just like everyone else. :)

As a homeschool mom—and author—I'm curious: do you buy into the homeschool stereotypes? Do you have homeschoolers in your life whom you call friends?

About the author:
Beth Balmanno is the author of Set in Stone. She has a BA in English from San Diego State University but freely admits she has learned more in the years after college than she ever did in school. When she isn't writing, traveling or serving as her children's chauffeur, she spends her time molding the youth of America -- as an alternative-learning educator and as a leader in scouting and 4-H. World, look out.

You can find out more about Beth Balmanno and how to connect with her on her website.

Set in Stone by Beth Balmanno
Published: February 4, 2012

Fifteen year-old Valerie is used to losing things–she lost her dad to his job ages ago and her best friend moved with no warning...and hasn't been heard from since. During a weekend camping trip with her emotionally distant parents, she stumbles upon a hidden, mysterious stone and she finds herself desperate to keep it, to possess it. Two strange and beautiful boys have other plans, however. They follow her home–Leo, warm and seductive, who covets the stone and will stop at nothing to get it; and Noel, dark-haired and wise, who pledges to protect her and keep her safe.

As she delves deeper into the magic of the stone and the Celtic lore that surrounds it, Valerie realizes that she's losing. Again. But this loss might involve more than a magical stone – this time, she just might lose her heart.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: The Beacon Singer by Catherine E. Chapman & Guest Post

The Beacon Singer by Catherine E. Chapman
Published: November 2011
Purchase: Smashwords / Amazon

Jane Lake, disillusioned with her career as a jazz singer and frustrated in love, returns home from London to a small town in the English Lake District. Reacquainting herself with her circle of women-friends: Ruth, Sarah and Margaret, it becomes apparent that their lives of rural isolation are not as tranquil as they first appear: Sarah's long-term partner, Philip, is in amorous pursuit of Margaret's adolescent daughter, Stella.

Jane intends her stay in the family home to be short. Her rehabilitation, however, becomes protracted and she discovers that those around her -including her mother- are embroiled in the town's romantic bohemian scene. Her sense of dejection intensifying as she realises that most of the men she's interested in prefer her younger brother, Jane increasingly relies upon the bottle in order to maintain a rational view of things.

Long-standing friendships cannot be maintained without rivalry and resentment playing their part. As the plot thickens involving the various key players in Jane's life, she herself teeters between personal jeopardy and a burgeoning self-knowledge that might just permit the prospect of love…

Darian's Review:
The Beacon Singer is about Jane Lake, a feisty jazz singer who finds herself home again to mend the pieces of her life, and figure out exactly what the heck she’s going to do with it. Mingled throughout this book are the stories of those around her, Philip and his strange connection with young Stella, Ruth and her awkward longing for Simon, to Margaret and her here-then gone husband, Jane’s parents, and Jane’s love/hate relationship with her brother, David.

By the synopsis I had expected the book to mostly be about Jane, but it’s far more than that. There’s an abundance of plot here, much like watching a mini-series; you were slipped into not only Jane’s life, but also of all the ones around her in the English Lake District. You’re not very far into the book before you’re met with the scandalicious ways of small town life. Chapman nailed that aspect, how life in these towns can be smiles up front, yet burning your ears with the buzz of gossip.

Chapman did a very nice job describing London and the peaceful life of Jane’s quaint hometown, so much so that I felt as if she plucked me right out of America and set me down in this beautiful, exquisite land I have never seen with my own eye. She’s left me with the urge to take a vacation I cannot afford to indulge in the beauty of that land.

I did however have a hard time really connecting with the characters. Their struggles and emotions were on the tips of my fingers, but I just couldn’t quite feel them for a good portion of the book. But that’s not to say others would have this problem. Connections felt with characters can vary greatly from reader to reader. Where I felt this slight barrier between me and the characters, another reader may relate with them on the deepest of levels. That being said, I did end up bridging the gap with them better toward the middle of the book, and felt I knew them well by the end.

The ending for me was tied up nicely, Chapman did well in addressing any loose ends. And I would have to say the ending seemed fitting for the characters and their journey, I probably would have been disappointed had it ended any other way.

Overall this was a decent read! Chapman is a very fine writer, she has wonderful talent with description, a keen eye for plot twists and pace, and I also loved that she kept her chapters short. This makes reading for busy people like me so much easier. I could dive into the story, yet always had a decent place to stop and not feel as if I was leaving in the middle of a great scene. I hate when I have to do that. Chapman, clearly, put a lot of thought and heart into this book, and I applaud her for that. I do wish that I could have connected on a deeper level with the characters earlier on, but a connection was established, leaving my inner reader satisfied in the end! 

A copy was provided by the author for review.

Guest post by Catherine E. Chapman
The Acceptable Face of Romance?

Over Christmas I watched a documentary about a recently-discovered portrait that's reputedly of Jane Austen ( Its owner is convinced it's a genuine image of the author and scientific analysis supports the view that it dates from her lifetime. However, a revered Austen scholar is unwilling to entertain the notion that it's a portrait of Jane. She favours the established image of the writer (shown here), which was commissioned by Austen's family half a century after her death. This image presents Austen as a pretty, doting maiden aunt, given to the occasional bit of scribbling. The new image, in stark contrast, depicts a singular, determined-looking woman, with a strikingly long nose and the demeanour of a professional writer. This new face, it would seem, is not considered acceptable to head the global Austen industry - it's not frivolous enough.

As an indie writer of fiction that is -or is possibly not- best described as romance, I'm interested in the debate surrounding the portrait; not just because I'm a fan of Jane Austen but also because it relates to dilemmas I face myself about the use of the term 'romance' to describe and promote my writing. Jane Austen was a great writer -a great social observer- but the fact that her books are essentially viewed as romances -and are marketed as such in these days of the reign of chick lit- means that her face has to fit this genre - it has to be pretty and it can't be too serious. And, in the same way that our image of Jane Austen is constrained by her identity as a romantic writer, I believe our perception of novels is limited by their being described as romances. This is why my use of the label in relation to my own writing is rather tentative, although in the end I seem to revert to it for want of a better one.

I've written some short fiction in the genre of historical romance. My longer fiction, however, is contemporary and, whilst undeniably romantic in many respects, seems to fly in the face of the conventions of the romance genre to an extent that leaves me uncertain as to whether I should describe it as romance at all.

I took part in a workshop with a celebrated British romance writer, during which she told of her early attempts to adhere to the submission guidelines for Harlequin Mills and Boon (she gave up in the end, did her own thing and became successful). She explained that HMB's need for an intense relationship between the hero and heroine excludes any other meaningful relationships within the plot. She felt that this absence of family and friends was contrary to the way real women behave and that her fiction couldn't be realistic without the heroine having other significant -non-romantic- relationships in her life. I have problems with the requirements of the romance genre along similar lines and I shy away from the label because generic romance seems to have so many limitations. One of the conditions I've seen in the guidelines for HMB is that once the hero and heroine meet, they shouldn't have sex with anybody else. I can see why 'romantically' this is a necessary condition, but in my writing I can't resist a 'realist' urge to create complications such as this within plots. Furthermore, some of my characters have different sexual orientations -as in real life- and I fear this may be outside of the comfort zone of the archetypal romance reader. So, for these and other reasons, if I present my books as Romance, I feel wary that I may be misleading readers.

The romance writer whose workshop I attended maintained that if a book is principally about relationships it is probably best described as romance. My books do centre upon relationships between characters and love seems to be a key motivation for much of the action. So maybe they are romances … but I still come back to the problem of the stereotyping that goes with the territory of romance…

I'm eager to know the views of readers and other writers on this issue. As a reader, does the label of 'Romance' on a book attract or repel you? I suspect that labelling a book as romance draws the attention of many female readers but there's a risk that, if it doesn't adhere to the established norms of the genre, they may feel deceived. A male readership may also be excluded from a book by its being promoted as romance - not to mention female readers who avoid the genre. Do other writers grapple with this problem? (Is it just me?)

About the author:
Catherine E. Chapman is an indie writer of fiction that is possibly (and possibly not!) best described as romance. She writes longer-length fiction that is realist and contemporary. Whilst principally concerned with relationships that are often amorous, it also has strong elements of social observation and humor. She also writes short fiction that adheres to some of the conventions of historical romance – although some readers have complained there is not enough snogging!

Find out more about Catherine E. Chapman and how to connect with her on her website.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Croak by Gina Damico - Review

Croak by Gina Damico
Published: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business.

Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her Targets like a natural born Killer.

Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in?

My Review:
Lexington "Lex" Bartleby is getting into a lot of trouble at school for hitting other students. She has turned into the complete opposite of her twin sister, Concord ("Cordy"), and no one understands why her behavior has changed so much. Her parents decide to send her to spend the summer with her Uncle Mort because they think working on a farm will be good for her attitude. But Uncle Mort doesn't really have a farm. He has suggested her parents send her to live with him because he thinks she will make an excellent grim reaper, and he wants her to come to Croak for training. Soon after Lex begins her training, they start finding people who weren't supposed to die, and they soon suspect that another grim reaper is breaking the rules.

You just have to enjoy a book where Edgar Allen Poe provides a big clue for them to solve the mystery during one of their visits to the afterlife. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked Croak. Gina Damico has created a fresh spin on grim reapers and the afterlife, and big events come at appropriate intervals to maintain just the right amount of suspense. Lex is a strong female main character, and there was no "instant love" between Lex and her teenage housemate and work partner, Driggs. However, when the love connection did begin to develop, I really wasn't too fond of it or the references to it, such as how they wanted to "make wild, passionate, messy adolescent love under the radiant glow of the full moon."

Thankfully, even though this is the first book in the series, it has an ending for the main plot of this book while still leaving some of the story line open for the next book. Overall, I think Gina Damico has an engaging writing style and has created an intriguing world that I am interested in learning more about in the upcoming books.

A copy was provided by the publisher for review.

About the author:
Gina Damico grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. She received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, where she was active with the Committee for Creative Enactments, a murder mystery improv comedy troupe that may or may not have sparked her interest in wildly improbably bloodshed. She has since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker, and breadmonger. She lives in Boston with her husband, two cats, and a closet full of black hoodies.   

You can find out more about Gina Damico and how to connect with her on her website. 

Top Ten Books on My Spring To-Be-Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR

Kayla and I are both going to honor you with our top to-be-read lists. Therefore, to keep this post from being way too long, I am going to forgo including the blurbs and simply provide you with a link to Goodreads in case you would like to read more about any of our choices.

Kayla's Top TBR:
You say “My Spring TBR”, I say “THESE BOOKS HAVE TO BE READ ASAP”. Yes, I meant for that to be completely in caps because it is just that pressing. Most of these books are from NetGalley and one is from Galley Grab, so there are expiration dates. That are looming. Upon my head. *flails*

1. Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel - June 26, 2012

2. The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose - March 13, 2012

3. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - July 10, 2012

4. The Prince Who Fell from the Sky by Jean Claude Bemis - May 22, 2012

5. Captain Awesome to the Rescue by Stan Kirby, George O’Connor (Illustrator) - April 3, 2012

6. Shadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriott - April 24, 2012
Yes, I know the cover I featured isn’t the one being used by Candlewick in the US, but I like this one.

7. Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge, Andrea Dezso (Illustrator) - July 10, 2012

8. The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman - April 10, 2012

9. Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin - April 24, 2012

10. The Selection by Kiera Cass - April 24, 2012

Tami's Top TBR:
There are many more that I could have added to my list, but it had to stop somewhere. These are just a few of the ones that I have to finish soon for one reason or other. I hope you enjoy my list!

1. Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis - April 17, 2012

2. Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown - June 12, 2012

3. Revived by Cat Patrick - May 8, 2012

4. Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein - May 15, 2012

5. Whisper by Alyson Noel - April 24, 2012

6. Nate Rocks the Boat by Karen Pokras Toz - May 1, 2012
You can get to know Nate in the first Nate Rocks book (Nate Rocks the World).

7. Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin - April 24, 2012 - I will be borrowing this one from Kayla!

8. Witch Hunt by Patti Larsen - Released November 19, 2012
I read the first one in this series (Family Magic), and I am ready to continue it to find out what happens next.

9. Veiled Virtues by Jan Fischer Wade - Released February 1, 2012

10. Perigee Moon by Tara A. Fuller - Released January 12, 2012

We would love to hear what you think about these books. Have you read any of these. What is on your TBR list?


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