Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Reading Updates

I'm a Cybils Judge


Just a quick update to let you know that I'm busy as a bee reading elementary/middle-grade speculative fiction for the Cybils Awards.  There were a little over 90 books nominated thus far.  The author and publisher submission period is currently open and then my reading will really be kicking into high gear.  I'll try to get some updates on the blog as soon as I get a minute and will link which books I'm currently reading via Twitter.  

Happy Reading!!

Monday, October 8, 2018

New cover reveals for The Lightning Road series by Donna Galanti!

Today I'm thrilled to have Donna Galanti revealing the awesome new covers for her Lightning Road series! Plus enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card and get the first e-book in Donna’s series, Joshua and the Lightning Road, on sale now through October 15th for just $0.99cents. Donna shares how she harnessed her imagination to write the series plus an excerpt from Joshua and the Lightning Road. 



 




Harnessing the Power of Lightning with Imagination by Donna Galanti 

Storms have always fascinated me, and I vividly remember being nine years old when my intrigue with lightning began. We lived in rural New Hampshire at the time where the sky was vast and covered me in darkness. I felt so small in the world under that giant black sky – until it lit up with white fire power and sucked me into its energy.

I would sleep out on the screened-in porch to watch the big show, intoxicated by the smell of rain and electricity in the air – and I’ve never forgotten that smell. Smells can hold powerful memory triggers, and I wanted readers to see Joshua’s world as he experiences it with all his senses in Joshua and the Lightning Road. When you first smell a new scent, you link it to a person or event, right? Like how the scent of fresh cut grass can remind you of a summer day, even if it’s the end of autumn. And when you happen upon that smell again, the link is there, ready to pop that memory open.

When I got older the movie War of the Worlds fascinated (and terrified me!) with how the aliens rode blasts of lightning. I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to travel a lightning road to another place?” And the idea for Joshua and the Lightning Road was born.
I imagined a road of lightning that didn’t burn you but a road you could surf on to another world – a road that connected worlds. In the book, Joshua calls the Lightning Road a ribbon of cold fire, and in this scene, he encounters it for the first time when he’s stolen away:

“Yellow and white ribbons of fire snaked before us in a black tunnel, and I froze in absolute terror. Lights ricocheted through the darkness on either side of me like shooting stars. We moved faster and faster. Wind roared everywhere.”

I’ve always been a science fiction fan eating up shows and movies like The Twilight Zone, Star Trek the Next Generation, Stargate, and Star Wars, so the idea of a portal for transport between worlds was already rich in my imagination. This is where the Lightning Gate came into play as a doorway connecting the Lightning Road between worlds and realms.

And to make it more fun, I created a gate key that had to be used to activate travels through the gate. I envisioned the gate key like a jeweled Rubix cube that fit into the gate using specific combinations to travel to a desired destination.  In this scene, Joshua encounters a gate key for the first time.

“Leandro pulled his satchel from under his cloak and lifted out a flat square that gleamed bronze. He set it on a slab nearby and pushed at its flat surface. In an instant, the paper-thin sheet popped up into a wooden cube the size of a tissue box. Gold sparkles moved through it. In the gold flickered colored squares of rubies and emeralds like a sun in the dark cave.”


So, I didn’t base any of the lightning powers in Joshua and the Lightning Road on science but rather all on my own vision. Lightning is big and scary and full of power – and this fuels my imagination to harness its power in my stories.


EXCERPT FROM JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD 

       The trees crowded around us, the deafening quiet of the woods pounding in my ears. Sweat broke out on my lip and I wiped it away. The one beast licked its lips in return, then curled its mouth in an awful grin, exposing vampire dagger teeth. 
      The beasts inched toward us. “We don’t want to hurt you.” Bluffing still seemed the best idea. 
     “And you won’t, my tasty morsels.” The leader panted hungrily. 
     The lightning orb. I had to trust in Bo Chez’s story and believe all its stormy, electric power could help us. But Sam had said the Greek gods lost their powers. Let it do something! And if it breaks, I’m sorry, Bo Chez! 
     Charlie clung to my arm so tight it cramped. Fire flashed out of the leader’s mouth, and a long flame roared toward us, cutting through the mist like a fire sword. All three of us stumbled back. 
     The beast pack leapt toward us like hairy dragons. The moss beneath our feet snapped with fire and heat roasted my face and arms. Fire raced up the wizard trees, and their wood shrieked in splitting agony. 
     “Run!” Sam dragged Charlie and me back.
      Red eyes glared at me. 
     “Hi-yahh!” I flung the orb hard. 
     Blue light exploded into the space before us and knocked us all off our feet. I slammed sideways into a tree and slid down to the ground. The beasts were sprawled motionless before us on the blackened, smoldering moss. Trees smoked as flames flickered up them. Charlie and Sam lay a few feet away. 


                  

ABOUT JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD: Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. Armed with only luck and his grandfather’s mysterious crystal, Joshua must save his friend by traveling the Lightning Road to a dark world that steals children for energy. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life. 

PRAISE FOR JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD: "Vividly imagined characters in a gripping action fantasy that never lets you go until the very last page." —Jenny Nimmo, New York Times bestselling author of the Charlie Bone series

 Joshua and the Lightning Road is available now through October 15th for just $0.99cents on e-book from these booksellers:     Amazon      Barnes &Noble      Kobo      Apple iBooks 

ABOUT JOSHUA AND THE ARROW REALM: Joshua never thought he’d be called back to the world of Nostos so soon. But when his friend King Apollo needs his help in the Arrow Realm, Joshua braves this dark world once more in order to save him. With Joshua’s loyalties divided between Nostos and Earth, he must rely on his courage and powers to restore magic to this desperate world and to free its people. Abandoned by his friends in his quest, unarmed, and facing great odds, can he survive on instincts alone and not only save those imprisoned—but himself? 

PRAISE FOR JOSHUA AND THE ARROW REALM: “Fast-paced and endlessly inventive, this is a high-stakes romp through a wild world where descendants of the Greek gods walk beside you, beasts abound, and not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.” –Michael Northrop, New York Times bestselling author of the TombQuest series 

Joshua and the Arrow Realm is available through these booksellers: Amazon  Barnes & Noble      Kobo      Apple iBooks

ABOUT DONNA: Donna Galanti is the author of the bestselling paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine, a writing contest judge at nycmidnight.com, and regularly presents as a guest author at schools and teaches at writing conferences. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna also loves teaching writers about building author brand and platform through her free training series at yourawesomeauthorlife.com. Visit her at donnagalanti.com.

 CONNECT WITH DONNA: 
Website   Facebook     Twitter        Goodreads  





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Monday, October 1, 2018

Category Description and A Few Possible Suggestions for Elem/MG Spec. Fiction Nominations for Cybils 2018


It must be Fall because our temperatures are a cold 35 degrees today.   Fall also means that Cybils book nominations opened and I love seeing all the books that get nominated.   I hope you'll consider nominating your favorites in children and YA published in the U.S. or Canada between October 16, 2017, to October 15th, 2018 (one book nomination per Category per person).  Nominations will only stay open until October 15th, so don't delay.     

 There are lots of different categories to choose from and you can get more information here.    I've got my coffee and am quickly getting my holds in for the books nominated thus far. 

I'd especially love to see more nominations in the elementary/mg speculative fiction category!  Here's the category description from Charlotte Taylor:



This past year has seen another excellent crop of wonderfully inventive speculative fiction books for kids! Along with the expected spells and space rockets and aliens, this is the category for books with talking animals, time-travel, ghosts, and paranormal abilities, and all the other books that might not have obvious magic on every page, and which are set here on Earth, but which push past the boundaries of daily life into what is almost certainly impossible. The two main criteria of the Cybils are excellent writing and kid appeal, and these come first and foremost when we assemble our shortlist. These books will be ones whose creativity, world-building, and characters fly off the rapidly turning pages and into our hearts and minds.
This category is for both Elementary and Middle-Grade books; that is, books written for eight- to twelve-year-olds. Some will be just a small step up from easy chapter books, perfect for the younger end, and others will fall into the “tween” category of books perfect for middle school kids not yet interested in full-blown YA books.


The two main criteria of the Cybils are excellent writing and kid appeal

With that in mind, might I make a few suggestions of books that haven't been nominated yet.  Some I've read and others I would like to read, or better yet, nominate your favorite!



35609868             37570452                 37827086


37811512             38595903                     35183477


37912471               37702173                   13612970



37811021              38256488                37584981


37564158                39951025                 36356692


                           
                         36301028                                36686072

Monday, September 24, 2018

MG Fantasy Review of The Collectors by Jacqueline West


34614114The Collectors by Jacqueline West
Format:  E ARC 
Publisher: Greenwillow Books 
Number of Pages: 304
Publishing:  October 9th, 2018 
Source:  E ARC from Edelweiss Plus 

Opening Line: "The spider dangled above the table."

 I'm a huge fan of West's Books of Elsewhere series and am always excited to hear when there is a new book coming.  West is one of my auto-buy authors.  Then I saw The Collectors pop up on Edelweiss, so I quickly requested it.  I can't wait to receive my hard copy when it comes out in October and read it all over again.  

One of the things that I absolutely adored about The Collectors was the first chapter.  The wonderful image of the spider dangling from the ceiling and our first glimpse at the premise.  Such lovely descriptive passages that really capture your interest.  The way the story has you questioning wishes.  Whether all wishes should come true.  Sure it's wonderful to wish for ice cream with dinner and have it come true, but what if a wish could be dangerous and needed to be stopped?

Coming from a background in speech-language pathology, I also really appreciated the inclusion of Van, a young boy who is hard of hearing and who wears hearing aids.  West accurately describes Van's difficulties in communicating with people when they, for example, don't face him as they're speaking or when they speak too rapidly making it difficult for him to read their lips.  There are many examples in the text of Van using the context of a conversation to decipher what the speaker is saying, thus giving the reader a better understanding of what it's like to have a hearing impairment.  

Eleven-year-old Van (short for Giovanni) currently lives in New York City with his mother, the famous opera singer, following their many travels all over the world.  Van's gotten pretty good at being the new kid at school and spending time on his own, but he still would very much like a friend.   Van loves to collect things that he finds, a blue glass marble, discarded toys, little things that go unnoticed by most.  Van's also really observant.  Like the day in the park where he was watching a man flip a coin into the fountain and a squirrel came flying out of the bushes followed closely by a girl.  Drawn to the girl, Van tries to strike up a conversation, only to have the girl and squirrel disappear when his mother comes calling after him.   Later Van sees the mysterious girl (Pebble) and squirrel (Barnavelt) from the park again and this time he follows them to an odd building belonging to the mysterious group called The Collectors.   After being caught trespassing, Van is tasked with finding out information about another collector, Mr. Falborg and reporting back his finding to Pebble. 

 Here's where the story gets really interesting.  Mr. Falborg invites Van to his home to view his many collections.  Once inside, Mr. Falborg shares one of his prized collections, his Wish Eaters, little creatures who have the power to make wishes come true by eating them.  Mr. Falborg gives Van his very own Wish Eater and cautions him about the Collectors wanting to imprison all of the Wish Eaters.  Now Van becomes very confused.  On the one hand, there are the Collectors who maintain that Wish Eaters are dangerous whereas Mr. Falborg insists he only wants to protect them.  There is lots of ambiguity regarding who's the good versus the bad guys, and whether all Wish Eaters are dangerous or not, which will hopefully be answered in the sequel.  Now if only I could figure out the wording to safely make my wish for news about its release date.  Guess I'll just have to be patient.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

MG Review of The Snow Witch by Rosie Boyes

41842568The Snow Witch by Rosie Boyes
Format:  E ARC  
Publisher:  Amazon Digital Services 
Number of pages:  183
Publishing:  October 1st, 2018
Source:  Author in exchange for an honest review
Opening Line: "Ding! Ding! Next stop Bleak Street."


From Goodreads:  "A GRANDFATHER CLOCK. A GLASS LOCKET. A POWERFUL CURSE UNLEASHED ON CHRISTMAS EVE.

Twelve-year-old Kitty Wigeon can't wait for Christmas at St Flurries, a grand old manor house in the countryside until one chilly night she vanishes without a trace.

One hundred years later… Still grieving over the death of their mother, Kes Bunting, and his younger sister Star, are sent to live at St Flurries. They find a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets.

Who, or what is making footprints in the snow?

And what evil force is taking a cold grip on Star?

Wrap up warm as you join Kes, and a cast of eccentric snow creatures, in a race against time, to solve a hundred-year-old curse. Will he succeed? Or will the fate of his sister be decided by a shivery kiss from… the Snow Witch?"

The Snow Witch is the second book that I've read by Rosie Boyes, Clemmie's War being the first.  I've always enjoyed old houses filled with nooks and crannies, expansive libraries brimming with books, a ballroom, and parlor.  While I'm not quite ready for winter yet, I do love stories that give you that magical wintery feeling of swirling snowflakes,  ice skating on a frozen lake, and breath visible in the crisp air.  I was also really drawn to the premise of The Snow Witch, wanting to learn more about how the different components, grandfather clock, locket, and the curse were going to be linked together.  I mean mystery and an old manor, sounds right up my alley.   

I think the story touched on everything that I was looking for and then some.  I enjoyed getting to know the various characters that inhabited St. Flurries, everyone from Goldie the 7-foot tall handyman to Chat the Cat.  St. Flurries sounds absolutely adorable, despite it being rumored to be haunted, or maybe because of.  Even Lady Bunting sounds wonderfully generous and kind, having spent most of her money trying to find the siblings.  There's the mysterious disappearance of Kitty, the hundred-year-old curse, gypsies, and a riddle for Kes to solve.  Oh, this was such a delightful read.  I enjoyed how both sides of the story were reflected by splitting it into different parts, beginning in 2018  with Kes and Star, reflecting back to 1918 to tell Kitty's story and then coming back to the present.  And Kitty, she's such a sweet girl and I was so saddened by the events that led to her to be bound to the grounds of St. Flurries.  Overall, The Snow Witch was a delightful story of family, the bonds between brother and sister, and that "family always sticks together." Thank you very much to Rosie Boyes for the E ARC.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Judges for the Cybils announced today!!



Today's the day, judges for the Cybils were announced and  I'm very pleased to have been selected for the first round of Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction.   This will be my 5th year as a judge and I couldn't be more excited!!
 Our work starts on October 1st and runs until October 15th.  
Here's a link to information about the Cybils Awards and get your nominations ready for the opening on October 1st!   Rules for nominating are here. 

2018 ElementaryMiddle-Grade 
 Speculative Fiction Judges: 


First Round

Sherry Early
@Semicolonblog

Kristen Harvey
@TheBookMonsters

Katy Kramp
@Alibrarymama

Jenni Frencham
From the Biblio Files
@Jennifrencham

Beth Mitcham 
 Library Chicken
@Mitchambeth

Charlotte Taylor
@Charlotteslib

Dr. Cheryl Vanatti
@Tasses

Brenda Tjaden
@logcabinlibrary


Round Two Judges

Stacy Mozer
@Smozer

Rosemary Kiladitis
@Roselo

Mark Buxton

Jennifer Naughton
@Jennie_Naughton

Jenna Grose
@FallingLetters


Congratulations to all the judges!! 
 Looking forward to our discussions on the nominated books!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

MG Historical Fiction Review of Swallow's Dance by Wendy Orr

9781760297879.jpgSwallow's Dance by Wendy Orr
Format:  ARC Paperback 
Publisher:  Pajama Press
Number of pages:  360
Publishing:  October 1st, 2018
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Opening Line:  "Nunu says that when the goddess belches, it means change is coming."  

One of the last books that I've read by Wendy Orr was Dragonfly Song, which is a lovely historical fantasy set in Crete during the Bronze Age and centers on a young girl who's only chance to be free is to become a bull-dancer.  Swallow's Dance takes place some 200 years before the events of Dragonfly Song and according to Orr's website, she was inspired to write Swallow's Dance after an archeological dig in Crete.   

At the beginning of Swallow's Dance, Leira and the other maidens of her village are participating in a ritual that will commence their journey to become women when a powerful earthquake strikes the village, destroying their homes and injures Leira's mother.  To search out a new place to live and healer for Leira's mother, the family flees to Crete.  Leira is from a noble-born family and her father is a renowned captain who travels around the world.  Initially, the plan is for Leira to take over her brother's duties watching over their trade deals on the island while her father continues to sail in search of goods to trade.  Shortly after their arrival, Leira is awakened by the loud sounds of a tsunami hitting the island.  Following the earthquake and resulting tsunami, food begins to dwindle and there's an increased fear of an uprising within the city.  Concerned for her safety, Leira takes her mother and Nunu (an elderly servant woman who tends to their family) and runs for the hillside.   In order to survive, Leira alters her appearance and tries to become a servant girl,  but will she be able to blend in with the rest of the refugees on the island?   

Swallow's Dance is the fictionalized story inspired by the real events of a hurricane that occurred in 1625 BCE on the island of  Thera (now known as Santorini) that resulted in a huge tsunami on Crete and the speculation of whether the people of Thera were able to flee to Crete before the city was buried.   Like Dragonfly Song, Swallow's Dance is told through a combination of prose and free verse.  It's a wonderful mix of survival and a coming of age story. 

Leira is a resilient young girl who endures so many hardships once she arrives in Crete.  One of her early concerns is that she will never be able to complete her learning to become a woman.  An idea that resurfaces throughout the story.  She's a maiden trying to trade among the sharks.  At the same time, she is trying desperately to care for a mother who has sustained a horrible head injury that has resulted in Aphasia.  At one point,  she's even forced to give up her identity and turn her back on her people.  Despite everything that she endures, she is still strong, fierce and strives to improve her living situation, to one day be free.  You can't help rooting for Leira as she vows to honor her people and claim who she is.  

One of my favorite lines from the story is when Leira takes her mother to a wise woman for healing.  It's a sad moment because Leira has just started to realize the gravity of her mother's injuries and that she doesn't know who Leira is.  The wise woman believes that an evil ghost has taken her mother's spirit away and in order to return her to who she was, they must surround her with their own memories through song to lead her spirit back to her body so she tells Leira to " Sing her life.  Sing of the life and love that only you know, the secrets that tell her spirit that she is its home."