Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book Tour Stop for The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow with Chapter Excerpt and a Giveaway

 Today it is my great pleasure to be featuring a chapter excerpt from The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow in celebration of its release on December 1st 2015. Be sure and enter the giveaway at the end of the post for a signed hardcover of the book! 

by Jessica Haight Stephanie Robinson
Release date: DECEMBER 1, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press/ Random House Kids Books 
                   MIDDLE GRADE/ ages 10 and up
Illustrator: Roman Muradov
Pages: 272

Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s absolutely certain she’ll die of boredom.
As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past.
Before she can even unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where an ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure. 

                            Goodreads / Amazon Random House/ Book Depository

The Morrow family is taking over the infamous Begonia House December 1st, but here's a glimpse into the mystery...

Fact or Fiction?

“Ding-dong! Witch is dead. Old witch? Wicked Witch! Ding-dong! Wicked Witch is dead!” Margo belted out the lyrics to The Wizard of Oz sound track that was playing in the Morrow family cruiser.

“Wow, she really gets into the music, doesn’t she?” Lizzy said.

“This is her favorite song,” Fairday replied, smiling, as the car pulled up in front of the library.

“How fitting,” Lizzy murmured, glancing at Fairday.

“She’s on her way to becoming the next pop sensation, aren’t you, my little snookykins?” Mrs. Morrow piped up proudly, looking back at Margo, who was still bopping to the beat. Her tone became more serious as she addressed Lizzy and Fairday. “Now, girls, here’s my old phone. Fairday, put it in your backpack. I have some errands to run, and then I’ll be at the town hall around noon. Lord knows I’ll probably be there forever, filling out paperwork for all the permits we’re going to need on the house.” She rolled her eyes and sighed as she added, “Just call or text me when you’re ready to leave.”

“Okay, mom,” said Fairday, taking the phone and securing it in a side pocket of her DMS pack. She and Lizzy climbed out of the car and onto the sidewalk. They waved goodbye to Mrs. Morrow as she pulled out into traffic, honked twice, and then disappeared through a green light.

Faiday glanced up at the wide, double-glass doors of the library. An old man, using a cane and sporting a golf cap was just opening the door. She pulled on the strap of Lizzy’s pack. “Hey, do you think that’s Larry Lovell?” she asked, nodding towards the doors.

“Could be,” Lizzy said as he disappeared into the building. The bell on the clock tower announced with its tenth chime that it was definitely ten o’ clock. 


The Begonia House keeps its secrets. Everyone knows that. Everyone, that is, except for clever eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow, whose family has just moved in. Being the Senior Investigator in the Detective Mystery Squad, more commonly known as the DMS, she’s ready to uncover the mysteries hidden within the strange manor. As the investigation gears up and the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, the three young sleuths enter into a world where anything is possible, and the danger is most definitely real. Can they piece together the puzzle before it's too late? Or will whatever's causing trouble find Fairday and her friends first?
Catch the Book Buzz...

"I really enjoyed this book. It was a marvelously done, debut, thriller novel. Ms. Robinson and Ms. Haight are great authors that really pull you into their story. I couldn’t get out until that final sentence. And, by then I wanted more. To say I want a second book is an understatement. The writing style is compelling, and makes me feel as if I was there with Fairday and her friends. I really like the illustrations in the book. They are like the ribbon on a present, or the icing on the cake. I give this book five out of five bookworms!"
~ Erik Weibel/ This Kid Reviews Books  

"Mixing realism and fantasy, Haight and Robinson’s debut opens with 11-year-old Fairday’s move from Manhattan to a small town in Connecticut, where her relentlessly cheerful parents plan to turn a dilapidated Victorian into a bed and breakfast. No sooner has the family arrived than eerie sights and sounds begin to haunt Fairday. The house turns out to hold dark secrets that everybody in town suspects but nobody can explain: a perfect mission for Fairday and her best friend Lizzy’s Detective Mystery Squad (DMS)."
~ Publishers Weekly

"Fifth-grader Fairday Morrow's new home lives up to its spooky reputation, but she and her companions in the Detective Mystery Squad find out why. At Begonia House, strains of bagpipe music issue from behind a padlocked door, grains of sand in an hourglass have stopped falling, and a malevolent weeping willow looms in the backyard. A magic mirror shows an invisible door; a wardrobe hides secrets and a portal. Ruby Begonia vanished more than 50 years ago. Is there also a ghost? Fairday has a new, helpful friend in classmate Marcus, and her best friend Lizzy can visit on weekends to help solve the mystery. What more could readers want?"
~ Kirkus Reviews

JessicaHaight is a true New Englander, with a deep desire to be near the ocean and a love of the four seasons. She enjoys drawing while standing up and cultivating magic in her garden. She easily floats away in the pages of a good story and is still waiting for her owl from Hogwarts.

StephanieRobinson lives with her husband in a quiet town, though not as quaint as Ashpot. After teaching fifth grade for almost fifteen years, she is now enjoying her role as a school media specialist. 

Giveaway code for 1 signed hardcover edition of THE SECRET FILES OF FAIRDAY MORROW

Open internationally

Contest runs from 11/29-12/24/15

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Mini updates from my Cybils reading

I've been busy as a bee reading for the Cybils, for which I'm a round one judge for Middle Grade Speculative Fiction.  Unfortunately, this means my poor old blog has been gathering dust while I've been catching up on all my book reading.  And how did it get to be 10 days til Christmas??  So, I thought a little update was in order.  

23507745Published by: Disney Hyperion July 14th 2015
Genres:  Fantasy
Pages: 240
Format: Hardcover 
Source:  Library
Series:  Book 1 in the series with the sequel, Serafina and the Twisted Staff coming August 2016

Blurb from Goodreads "Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.  But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one.  Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past." 

My Thoughts:  I enjoyed reading about Serafina and her father and their life living in the basement of Biltmore estate. There are quite a few historical aspects about the setting giving it a sort of Victorian feel, although the setting is Asheville, North Carolina.  The mystery surrounding the disappearing children and the means in which they disappeared certainly held my interest.   Serafina is an intriguing girl and I couldn't help feel for her in her desire to make friends and to be seen.  There is also a nice mystery surrounding Serafina's mother and how Serafina came to live with her father.  Nice blend of mystery, historical fiction and a little paranormal thrown in.  

23309533Published by: Aladdin June 9th 2015
Genres:  Fantasy
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover 
Source:  A review copy was received from the Publisher for the Cybils
Series:  Book 1 in the series with the sequel, The Circle of Lies to be released February 16th, 2016
Blurb from Goodreads:  "Four girls at a southwestern boarding school discover they have amazing feline powers and must unite to stop an ancient evil in this riveting adventure.  Ana's average, suburban life is turned upside down when she's offered a place at the exclusive boarding school in New Mexico that both of her late parents attended. As she struggles to navigate the wealthy cliques of her new school, mysterious things begin to occur: sudden power failures, terrible storms, and even an earthquake!  Ana soon learns that she and three other girls - with Chinese, Navajo, and Egyptian heritages - harbor connections to priceless objects in the school's museum, and the museum's curator, Ms.Benitez, is adamant that the girls understand their ancestry. It turns out that the school sits on top of a mysterious temple, the ancient meeting place of the dangerous Brotherhood of Chaos. And when one of the priceless museum objects is shattered, the girls find out exactly why their heritage is so important: they have the power to turn into wild cats! Now in their powerful forms of jaguar, tiger, puma, and lion they must work together to fight the chaos spirits unleashed in the ensuing battle... and uncover the terrifying plans of those who would reconvene the Brotherhood of Chaos."

My Thoughts:  I really liked the diversity in Hunters of Chaos with the introduction of the four girls coming from differing heritages,  Mayan , Anasazi (Navajo ancestors), Egyptian and Chinese.  Although, there isn't a lot of historical information given about each, there is some mention of artifacts and bits about excavating a site that appears after an earthquake.  The setting of a boarding school, was fun to read about.  I also enjoyed the shape shifting abilities that the girls had, even though there are a few gory instances of their "cat like skills" being used to tear up their opponents.  Nice mix of action and it includes the character of Anubis, which is always a bonus for me.  

Disclaimer Both of these books were nominated for the Cybils award and my reviews reflect my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

MG Review: I'm With Cupid by Anna Staniszewski

22400478Published by: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky July 7th 2015
Genres:  Fantasy
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Source:  Review copy received from publisher for the purposes of the Cybils
Series:  Book 1 in the series with the sequel, FINDERS REAPERS, due out in March 2016.

My first introduction to Anna Staniszewski's writing was The Dirt Diary, which was nominated last year in the Realistic Fiction Category of the Cybils.  I really enjoyed it and was looking forward to reading another book from her new series which was nominated this year.  

In this newest series,  I'm with Cupid, she has an interesting twist on the premise of switching up two characters.  I'm pretty familiar with the body swapping idea from movies like Thirteen Going on Thirty, Freaky Friday or It's a Boy Girl Thing.  You know the one where a thirteen year old girl becomes a thirty year old women, or a mother and daughter or boy and girl swap bodies.  I'm With Cupid isn't quite that kind of swap, instead the characters swap powers when they are dared to kiss at a party.   You see Marcus is a Cupid and Lena is a reaper.   As you can probably guess, this results in some pretty humorous consequences.   What I enjoyed most about the book was how they really were such opposites of one another and their swap really brought them face to face with the thing they've been avoiding themselves. Marcus was so adorably shy, awkward and hopelessly smitten with Lena (for which she has no clue), he's also been holding on to things because he can't let them go.  He's emotional, for which he took way to much flack from his father over.  Being a Cupid, he believes in love at first sight, romance and there is someone out there for everyone.   Whereas, Lena doesn't believe in love or such fairy tale things.  She feels she is practical, well adjusted and grounded over ideas like moving on and that death is just a part of life.  Her approach to things is very different then that of Marcus, which just makes things more interesting and  difficult for the two of them when they have to adjust to their new found powers.  Lena and Marcus have to really communicate with each other about having powers and teach each other how to use them correctly.  So you can imagine there are some mishaps when you put a reaper in charge of sparking attraction between two people and then also put Cupid in charge of collecting souls.  Overall a very quick read and sweet introduction to a new series.  

Disclaimer,   I'm With Cupid has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

MG Review: The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson


First Published by: Walden Pond Press January 1st 2015
Genres:  Fantasy
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library 
Series:  Book 1 in the series with second in May 2016

 Twelve-year-old Colm Candorly lives with his parents and eight sisters.  Sister's who torment him to no end, yet also are the ones that have unknowingly honed his skills in the "art of subterfuge and avoidance," because getting away from their pinches and constant giggles takes some skill.  At the same time,  Colm dearly loves his sisters, so when one sister takes ill, he tests out his skills by pick- pocketing from some of the wealthy town residents.  Medicine after all takes lots of coins.  When Colm's father finds out where the money came from, he can't abide having a thief in the family and plans to confess to the local magistrate and return the money.  He hopes they will be lenient on Colm.   Instead of going to jail or having his hand chopped off, the plan is for Colm to go with Finn Argos to see if he has the talent to become an apprentice within Master Thwodin's guild of Dungeoneers.  Master Thwodin runs a school to train rogues, barbarians, mages and druids in the art of entering dungeons to retrieve their treasures.

 Anderson wonderfully establishes Colm's family life very early on in the story.  Colm with all of his noble reasons for wanting to pickpocket, stemming from his desire to help his family. I really enjoyed Colm's younger sister, Celia and how she gives Colm her hairpin (most prize possession), because she knows he will bring it back.  Family is very important to the story, and given that his father doesn't make enough money as a cobbler, Colm see's it as his role to help out.  Colm also has a strong desire for adventure and to not end up like his father, struggling to make enough money to take care of the family.  It's easy to see why Colm see's Finn Argos as a means for adventure.   Finn Argos sees potential within Colm as a rogue and initially takes on an advisory role as they travel to Master Thwodin's castle.  Later, he is the one who puts forth Colm's first test of his skills when he pushes him down a hole into a dungeon.  Finn is the one who teaches him the ins and outs of what a rogue is, and explains his many rules to being a rogue, with all of his sub-corollaries.  Colm  isn't what you think of as a "rogue," he isn't really a scoundrel or unscrupulous, but he does end up getting to learn how to spot and disable traps, pick locks, and sneaking by attackers, which are all pretty cool.   Finn also teaches Colm the honor code or "only stealing what is rare and unique,"  and the rogues motto of "ready for everything, guilty of nothing." Throughout Dungeoneers there are many supporting characters that Colm meets, starting with the ones he meets when was pushed down that hole to begin his "real test" to be an apprentice.  There is Lena (a barbarian who's inclination is to "stab it" then ask questions), Serena (a druid who has the ability to talk to animals and insects), and Quinn (a mage who has a stutter when he is nervous and is still learning to control his magical abilities).  Each of these characters have some sort of flaw to their abilities that they will need to overcome to be an asset in the dungeon, which ends up being a challenge that they end up facing.   Some of the most amusing moments are getting to know Lena, Serena and Quinn and watching them interact as they try to escape the dungeon.  There are also many suspenseful moments as well as a nice twist at the very end of the book.  Plus, Thwodin's school was intriguing with classes in history of Dungeoneering, Basic Survival Skills, and Dungeon Ecology. Even the teachers were as interesting to me as the sub-characters and classes.  Overall a wonderful story about a party going on a quest into a dungeon, trying to solve whatever traps get in their way, battle any attackers and get out with whatever treasure that they can find. 

Disclaimer,  The Dungeoneers  has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Published by:  Scholastic Press September 1st 2015
Genres:  Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library 
Series:  Book 2 in the Magisterium 

Magisterium2_jktCallum has returned to his father for the summer and things between the two feel "strained." Callum feels his father is still upset at him for getting accepted into the Magisterium, despite Callum trying to fail.   Plus, entertaining and keeping Havoc hidden (Callum's Chaos wolf) at home has been challenging. When Havoc ends up missing, Callum goes to investigate and finds him muzzled and chained in the basement next to a bed with shackles.  Fearing that his fathers has horrible plans for him and Havoc, Callum flees to Tamara and eventually returns to the Magisterium to begin the next year.  But, Callum's problems only follow when he finds out that The Alkahest has been stolen by his father, and he plans to turn it over to the enemy.   Call and his friends sneak out of the Magisterium to try to recover the Alkahest, because in the wrong hands it can be used as a weapon to destroy the Makar, Aaron. 

Most of the action of The Copper Gauntlet takes place outside the Magisterium, which was both a good and bad thing for me.  I kinda like the school, with its deep underground caverns, and there really weren't any classes with Master Rufus this time around.  How are they so adept at using their abilities without a little training? Plus, there were less opportunities for getting to know more about Warren the lizard.  Yet, with all the action Aaron, Tamara and Callum began to draw closer, so I'll take that.  And with Jasper  joining them on their quest for the Alkahest,  there is the addition of some entertaining moments.  Mostly because Jasper doesn't trust Callum, but also because you can never truly tell whether Jasper is on their side or not. His character is really growing on me.   In the very beginning of the book Callum also kept an "Evil Overlord" list, or running tally of things that he felt put him in a"good" or "bad" category, so it was interesting to see how even Callum struggles with which side he falls on.   One thing that did get tiring was the number of lies, Callum lying to Aaron and Tamara, Tamara lying to Callum when she says she wont tell about his dad,  and Callum continuing to lie at the end to the Magisterium.   Callum spends a large part of the time worrying about how everyone will feel once they find out his secret, so I'm glad that at least he was able to finally reveal it to Aaron and Tamara.    Overall, I like how things are progressing in the series,  and hope we will see more within the Magisteium itself in the next book.  

Disclaimer, The Copper Gauntlet  has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cover Real: Stars So Sweet by Tara Dairman

Yesterday, Tara Dairman revealed the next book in her All Four Stars series on her blog, to help spread the word, here's  the brand new cover....

STARS SO SWEET by Tara Dairman

and description ......

Stars So Sweet

Summer is winding down, and Gladys Gatsby’s stomach is full of butterflies about starting middle school. But her concerns go beyond juggling schoolwork and losing touch with old friends; she also has to worry about looming deadlines from her undercover job as theNew York Standard’s youngest restaurant critic.
When her editor pushes for a face-to-face meeting, Gladys knows she must finally come clean to the grown-ups in her life about her job. Her perfectly planned reveal is put on hold, though, when her parents arrive home with a surprise: Gladys’s aunt Lydia—one of the only adults who knows her secret—fresh off a plane from Paris. Gladys and Aunt Lydia try one last ruse to fool her editor at the Standard, but for how long will Gladys be able to balance the drama of middle school with her secret life?
This third book in the delicious All Four Stars series sees Gladys facing her biggest challenge yet: being true to herself and honest with her friends and family, regardless of what those around her think.

Plus.......... there's also a giveaway going on at Tara Dairman's blog

About the Author:

Tara Dairman is the author of ALL FOUR STARS, which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a Mighty Girl Top Book of 2014 for Teens and Tweens. She is also a playwright and recovering world traveler. She grew up in New York and received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. After surviving the world's longest honeymoon (two years, seventy-four countries!), she now lives in Colorado with her husband and their trusty waffle iron.

Keep up with all of Tara's latest news on her:

  Isn't that cover gorgeous? Can't wait til July 19th 2016!  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

MG Humor/Fantasy Diary of A Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville

Published by:  Random House Books for Young Readers February 10th 2015
Genres: Humor/Fantasy
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library 

Angus is about to embark on a journey  from Scotland to America, as his beloved human, Sarah is leaving this world.  Angus and Sarah were bound together by the McGonagall curse, so Sarah chooses to pass Angus onto the next family member of age in  her family line,  or to Alex (short for Alexandra).  Angus travels to America will be difficult, it's not like he can hop on a plane or mail himself in a box, so to get there he enlists the help of other magical creatures to make the journey.   Did I forget to mention that Angus is a Brownie? A Brownie who is bound by an oath to keep the household he inhabits clean, to deliver a certain amount of mischief, avoid humans, and to never speak of  the Enchanted Realm.  But,  it turns out that Alex will  Angus' toughest challenge, she is messy, disorganized, and like him is prone to loose her temper.  She doesn't want her things touched, and least off all to have her room messed with.  Try as he might to do his duties in hiding, Angus is found out, turns out this human girl is also surprisingly sneaky.  Alex and Angus soon reach an understanding about what role he can play in keeping her room clean and things are going swimmingly, until it seems the curse has followed Angus to America.  When both Alex's father and brother seem to be suffering from the curses affects, Alex and Angus are determined to break the curse by returning what was lost.  Now they just need to figure out what that is.  

Diary of a Mad Brownie is told by Angus  in a diary format with illustrations intermingling here and there.  At first Angus uses each entry as a means of getting over his fears of traveling to America, but then he chronicles his journey and the events that unfold when he meets Alex.  I really like the way Coville expresses the importance of keeping a Diary (which is reinforced in Alex's homework assignment, in this case it is keeping a journal) and how it is a means of remembering things later in life.  Unfortunately, in my case, I had a tidy parent who threw  mine away.  It would have been fun to go back and see my thoughts from when I was twelve or thirteen.  I digress.  The story is not just a Diary though, there are letters from teachers to the parents, family text messages, maps that Angus draws to orient himself to the house, and even a note from the vet.  Not to mention there are some laugh out loud kind of moments, like when Alex finds her room clean and calls the police to report it (not that I condone her doing this, but the exchange in the 911 transcript is kinda funny).  Overall a pretty amusing book and nice beginning to a new series, although this can easily be read as a stand alone also.  

Favorite line: "What kind of mastermind of messiness was this child to whom I had been assigned?"

Disclaimer,  Diary of a Mad Brownie has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: Oddly Normal by Otis Frampton

So about two weeks ago,  Otis Frampton was here for a Guest Post, and now finally here's my review of Book One.  A big thank you to Otis for the images he provided for me to include with my review! 

It's Oddly Normal's Birthday and her parents have a special party planned, except Oddly's parents haven't clued into the fact that Oddly is seen as well, Oddly in school.  She gets teased about having pointed ears, green hair and being a half-witch, all the kind of things that don't help you to make friends that will show up to your birthday party.   Frustrated with her parents, Oddly blows out the candles on her birthday cake and makes a wish that her parents would disappear.  A wish that Oddlly instantly regrets, but  one that is already to late and poof they're gone.  When Oddly's aunt arrives late to the party, Oddly explains what happened, and her Aunt takes her back to Fignation.  Together they hope to figure out a way to get Oddly's parents back.  

  One of the first things that  made me love Oddly Normal's story is the lovely illustrations.  One's like this one from the very beginning, shortly after Oddly made her wish.   She looks so sad  sitting on the tree swing and the lack of bright colors, really sets the mood.  You can really relate to how she feels about not having any friends and how her parents don't seem to understand her. 

Then in this scene, where Oddly is running from a 
pack of werewolves, there is this added creepiness that I really enjoyed. 

Yet my favorite parts of the novel are when Oddly arrives in Fignation, a place where she thinks she will finally fit in.  I really like the vivid and bright colors Frampton uses to highlight Fignation and its various inhabitants.   

And there is just the right amount of humor too, like with this one of the bus Oddly takes to school.  Overall, this is a really cute story with a nice blend of illustrations and dialogue.  It's about 128 pages, so a fairly quick read, and Book 2  will be releasing on November 5th.  Plus there are plans for a third book after that.  I'll leave you with these two finally images.  If you're interested in the process of how Otis Frampton creates the artwork for Oddly Normal here's a great  Guest Post on the process. 

Disclaimer, I received a review copy of Oddly Normal from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Oddly Normal has also been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.  

Author Bio

"Otis Frampton is a comic book writer/artist and animator. He is the creator of Oddly Normal, published by Image Comics. He is one of the two artists on the popular animated web series How It Should Have Ended. He is also the creator of ABCDEFGeek, a geek-alphabet cartoon series that can bee seen at, the How It Should Have Ended YouTube channel and on TeeFury."