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."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

MG Mystery, Adventure, Science Fiction: Masterminds by Gordon Korman


Published by:  Balzer & Bray on January 1st 2015
Genres:  Mystery, Adventure, Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library 

Eli, Amber, Tori, Malik, and Hector live in the small town of Serenity, New Mexico.  Their town at first glance is the perfect sort of town, one built on the principles of honesty, harmony and contentment.   They have a factory that builds those orange cones you see on the side of the road, and a police force consisting of men who the children refer to as the "Purple People Eaters," because of the hideous purple uniforms they wear.   Everything runs perfectly, or so Eli thought.  Eli's best friend is Randy, an adventure seeker and the one who is famous for his "challenges."  Eli isn't normally a do'er but Randy convinces him to take a short ride on their bikes out of town to check out this abandoned car.  As they leave the city, Eli becomes violently ill.   They then get  swarmed by Purple People Eaters in helicopters and are raced back to Serenity.  Shortly after regaining consciousness, Eli finds out that Randy will be leaving Serenity. The whole thing is mysterious and Randy's leaving really unnerves Eli.  When Randy leaves Eli a message, he becomes even more convinced that something is off in their town and enlists his friends to try and piece together what the adults in Serenity are hiding from them.    

One of the interesting aspects of Mastermind is that the story is told through the alternating voices of Eli, Amber, Tori, Malik and Hector, although Eli is probably the main character, as he receives quite a bit of the action.  I find sometimes this style makes it difficult to really get to know the characters, and at times I felt this way while reading Mastermind.  Like I said, Eli's voice stood out the most.  I really wanted to know more about Amber and Tori.   At the same time, I can see how each character added a piece to the overall mystery, which worked out well.  Boy is there also quite a bit of mystery and plot twists in Mastermind, because the children have been living under a false pretense for most of their lives, plus they make a horrible discovery.  A scientific one, that I can't go into to much detail about, well cause of spoilers, but it provides a lot of food for thought.  Makes me really wonder in what direction the next book is going to go.  Masterminds is the first in a series, and while it didn't end on a huge cliffhanger, there are still quite a few unresolved issues that I suspect will all come together in the next book.

So, what are your thoughts on chapters that alternate between characters?  Love em,' or hate em'?  What makes them really work for you?

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

Monday, October 19, 2015

MG Fantasy The Lost Track of Time by Paige Britte


Published by:  Scholastic Press on March 31st 2015
Genres:  Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library

It's the first day of summer vacation, Penelope dreams of spending the time filling her notebooks with fascinating words and stories.  To Penelope's mother, this means keeping Penelope on a tight schedule of chores, studying for the pre-SAT, cooking lessons and summer science camp.  Penelope would much rather spend the time with Miss Maddie, who has very different thoughts on time than her mother.  Miss Maddie would let Penelope sit and "do nothing," or just sit and let her mind wander.  But, mother feels that she is wasting her time and has forbidden her to visit with Miss Maddie.  After a hard day at summer camp, Penelope awakens thinking that her schedule will once again be jammed pack, but things are different today.  Today, her schedule is filled with nothing.  Penelope takes this as an opportunity to go visit Miss Maddie, who always has the best ideas.  As Miss Maddie goes to make tea, Penelope explains how she has a hole in her schedule and would love to write, but she has run out of ideas.  Penelope says her mother wants to fill the hole with chores like cleaning up her junk starting with throwing away her notebooks.    As Penelope is looking at the blank calendar page, she suddenly falls through a hole of nothingness and lands in the Realm of Possibilities.  Here she meets Dill, a man who is in search of the Great Moodler, a woman who comes up with the greatest moodles ("a daydreamer, mind wander, able to lose track of time, and, in the most severe nothing,") she is also the one who makes real possibilities.  That is until Chronus came into town and built a huge clock tower, he took all the possibilities away and the Great Moodler with it.  In her place, Chronus made Clockworkers to monitor the time and make sure that everyone wasn't wasting it.   Penelope decides that she will help Dill to find the Great Moodler, feeling she is the only one who can get her ideas flowing again and help her to get back home.  

When Penelope falls into The Realm of Possibility, I instantly thought of Alice falling into Wonderland, but The Lost Track of Time is much more like reading The Phantom Tollbooth.  It has a very classic feel, it's whimsical with strong messages, beautifully written, a kind of universal appeal.   Penelope is wandering through The Realm of Possibility with her guide Dill (who had me thinking of  Mr. Tumnus).  Along the way, she encounters fantastical places like the Naughty Woulds and Timely Manor, while battling a case of the Worry Warts and a Wild Bore.   Like the Phantom Tollbooth, there are many play on words, in this case dealing with time (killing time, own sweet time, and right time, to name a few ).    Penelope's desire to become a writer is so sweet and who hasn't had that moment when inspiration is lacking?  I'm also a big fan of the idea that "the only time you can spend is the time you have right now.  And the time you have right now is all the time in the world."  By the end of the story, Penelope develops the confidence she needs to discuss taking sometime for herself with her parents.  I would have really liked one more scene where she does just that and her parents agree, but I left feeling like it just wasn't in the realm of possibility for her.   Anyone else read this and have that feeling? Despite that feeling, I highly recommend this, especially if you've read and enjoyed The Phantom Tollbooth.  

The Lost Track of Time  has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

MG Fantasy: Grounded The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison


Published by:  Arthur A. Levine Books
on  April 28th 2015
Genres:  Fairy Tale Retelling
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library

In all of Tyme, from the Redlands to the Grey, no one is as lucky as Rapunzel. She lives in a magic tower that obeys her every wish; she reads wonderful books starring herself as the heroine; her hair is the longest, most glorious thing in the world. And she knows this because Witch tells her so---her beloved Witch, who protects her from evil princes, the dangerous ground under the tower, even unhappy thoughts. Rapunzel can't imagine any other life.

Then a thief named Jack climbs into her room to steal one of her enchanted roses. He's the first person Rapunzel's ever met who isn't completely charmed by her (well, the first person she's met at all, really), and he is infuriating-- especially when he hints that Witch isn't telling her the whole truth. Driven by anger at Jack and her own nameless fears, Rapunzel descends to the ground for the first time, and finds a world filled with more peril than Witch promised ... and more beauty, wonder, and adventure than she could have dreamed. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

I always enjoy reading fairy tale retelling's, it's an opportunity to revisit an old favorite or even to see it in a new light.  I am familiar with Rapunzel's tale, well mostly the line "Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair." That line quickly comes to mind, well and  the movie Tangled.  Grounded does have the feel of the original tale, yet highlights some of the details from the original better though.  Like how Rapunzel ended up with Witch and how Witch was able to keep her in the tower? Even why she never realized how alone she really was living in the tower?  Grounded gave more depth to Rapunzel's character and really had me see her in a new light.  Like one of the things that really stuck with me while reading Grounded is that Rapunzel never refers to Witch as her mother, it's always Witch.  Yet, she also loves Witch and would have been  perfectly happy living in her tower and completely trusting everything Witch said to her.  She always "believed Witches words, not her own senses."  Throughout the story Rapunzel is worried that Witch is going to be harmed, she has a tenderness and caring toward Witch that you really come to understand.  Which if you think about it makes sense, Witch is all she knew.   At the same time it was interesting to watch Rapunzel's conflict of emotions as she learns how Witch has been lying to her and see her change from this gullible, naive, innocent girl to ultimately outwitting Witch.  Grounded is the first book in the Tyme series,  and I will be interested to see where the next adventure leads.  

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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Guest Post: Otis Frampton author of Oddly Normal

I'm  trilled to have author Otis Frampton here today discussing how persistence and hardwork led to the the publishing of his comic book series Oddly Normal.  If you haven't read it yet, you should really check it out.  The artwork is amazing!  

The Walk, 2015 movie poster

“It is impossible. But I will do it.”

Those are the words of Philippe Petit, the most famous high-wire walker in history.

That might seem like a strange bit of notoriety. “Famous high-wire walker.” It’s not like actor, or politician or rock star. Being famous goes with the territory when it comes to those professions. But how does a wire walker become world famous? Well, in 1974 he and a handful of friends snuck into the two towers of the World Trade Center, strung a wire between the north and south towers and then Philippe walked on that wire for 45 minutes in an act of daring, bravado and artfulness.

He was inspired to do this when he saw a drawing of the towers in a French newspaper. They had not even been completed yet, but he saw the images of the 110 story buildings and knew that one day he would achieve his dream of walking on a wire in the void between them.

It was an impossible dream. But he knew that he would do it.

He was compelled to do it. His was a creative life, lived in the pursuit of his chosen art… wire walking. Nothing and no one would stop him from living his dream. His friends and family called him crazy for even thinking that he could do it. But in the end he proved them wrong and made his dream come true. And it was beautiful. No, really, it was.

When people approach me at comic book conventions or book signings and ask me for advice on becoming a comic book artist or graphic novelist, I always have a hard time answering that. They’re really asking me how they can make their dreams come true and no one can answer that question for someone else. These hopeful creators are often looking for a secret pathway to success. I can see it in their eyes; “Please tell me there is a shortcut, a back door or magic path that will make me a comic book creator.”

But there isn’t.

As with any career in the arts, you’ve got to love what you do so much that no amount of work will be a deterrence to making it. You’ve got to want it more than anything. You’ve got to be able to dismiss the naysayers who tell you that you can’t do it, that there are other, safer careers to embark upon (there are safer careers… they’re called All Of Them). You’ve got to be doggedly, even stubbornly persistent. And persistence is so much more important than talent, as Calvin Coolidge kinda sorta maybe said at one point or another.

And besides… shortcuts are boring when it comes to making your dreams come true, am I right (keep telling yourself that, it just might help).

My dream has always been to be a storyteller. Well, actually the dream was to earn a living as a storyteller. Sure, I’d do it even if I wasn’t paid, but being able to pay for things like room and board by using my imagination was definitely my goal.

And there was definitely no shortcut on my path to making that happen. Take my comic book series “Oddly Normal” for example.

“Oddly Normal” began as a webcomic in 2003. It was then published as a four-issue limited series by Viper Comics in 2005. I followed that up with another story in the series that was put out as a short graphic novel. A third book was produced, but due to financial troubles, it was never published and the series was canceled when Viper stopped putting out new material. I felt like it might be the end of the line for “Oddly Normal.”

But I didn’t quit.

I was never really satisfied with my work on that original version of the series and was disappointed that I had to simplify and shorten the story from the longer version I originally had in mind. I decided to view the end of my time at Viper as an opportunity to start again and do an even better job on a rebooted version of my comic book series. So I got got the rights to “Oddly Normal” back and secured the services of a literary agent to try and pitch it to book publishers as a series of longer graphic novels. I was desperate to start over and do the series right this time with all new artwork and an expanded storyline. The prospect of doing the work to redraw pages that I'd already drawn was never a deterrence... I wanted to get it right this time. But after two years of pitching to publishers and working with an editor at a major book publisher, the series failed to attract a buyer and my literary agent eventually stopped representing me and my series. Yeah, that was a bad day.

But I didn’t quit.

I spent the next couple of years working to improve as an artist, taking on paying work via commissions and work-for-hire. And during that time I created a successful Kickstarter campaign to help me reboot “Oddly Normal.” I didn’t have an agent or a publisher, but I was going to get Oddly back up on her feet no matter what. I would create the comic and worry about how I would get it into people’s hands later.

I had an embarrassing setback during the initial production of the new series when I lost a large number of finished pages to a hard drive failure. I was stupid and I had forgotten to backup my files for longer than I would care to admit (I am Mr. Backup now, trust me). It was devastating. I felt like I had been dealt a huge blow to my inertia.

But I didn’t quit.

Luckily, the files were recoverable and I was soon back on track creating the series. And when I had a couple of issues worth of material completed, I decided to print them up (using Ka-Blam comic book printing) and send them out as submissions to seven comic book publishers that I thought might be interested in my series. I had no contacts in the industry, no connections to people behind the scenes… my submissions were arrows in the dark.

And within two months I heard back with offers from my top two publishers.

One of them was Image Comics, the company I most wanted to work with. Image was my first choice, but it was also the biggest long-shot of any of the submissions that I sent out because “Oddly Normal” is an all-ages series and Image is not really known for that kind of comic series. It was a dream come true to have my comic book series published by Image Comics. But that dream was only realized through hard work and persistence, even in the face of what could only be considered galactically huge failures on my part.

So… you want to create comics for a living?

Start now. Write a story. Draw a page. Then another. And another. Until you have enough to make an issue.

And then do it again.

Never stop. Never quit. There will be setbacks. There always are in life. You’ll stumble, fall, split your lip and fall into open sewers. You’ll fail. I repeat… YOU WILL FAIL. Learn from those failures. Get up, brush off the dirt and start over. And never, ever let anyone (especially yourself) tell you that what you want to do is something not worth doing.

It is.

So find your buildings. Stretch out your wire. Make your walk.

It’s going to be beautiful. All dreams are when they are realized.

It’s impossible. But you will do it.

-Otis Frampton

P.S. You can see the story of Philip Petite in a documentary called “Man On Wire” which is streaming on Netflix or in the movie “The Walk” which is currently in theaters. “The Walk” is my favorite film of 2015 so far and well worth seeing if you plan to attempt the impossible task of living a creative life. 

    Philippe Petit walks between the World Trade Centre's
 Twin Towers, 7 August 1974. Photograph: Alan Welner/AP

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Oddly Normal Blog Tour Stops 

October 12th – Guest postLog Cabin Library
October 13th – Interview and review, Kdub's Geekspot
October 14th – Guest post and giveaway, A Library Mama
October 15th – Interview, review and giveaway, The Book Monsters
October 16th – Interview, Outright Geekery
October 17th – Review and giveaway, Charlotte's Library

 Meet Oddly Normal, a ten-year-old girl with pointed ears and green hair—a half-witch who will be the first to tell you that having a mother from a magical land called Fignation and a father from Earth doesn't make it easy to make friends at school! On her tenth birthday, she blows out her cake's candles and makes a disastrous wish. Now, Oddly must travel to Fignation to uncover the mystery of her parents' disappearance. Join Oddly as she navigates a strange new school, monstrous bullies, and Evil itself on an unforgettable fantasy adventure through the vibrant world of Fignation in     Oddly Normal 

                        Goodreads / Amazon B&N / Indiebound/ Image Comics

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."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

MG Fantasy/Adventure: The Fog Diver by Joel Ross


Published by:  Harper Collins

on May 26th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library

Back in the olden days there was a terrible Smog that covered the world.  To attempt to rid the air of the Smog, a group of nano-engineers created "Nanites." Their job was to cleanse the air, but the Nanites did their work to well and began to adapt and change, in the end they made themselves into a thick Fog. This Fog does not affect living plants and animals, but causes any human who enters it to get a terrible fogsickness.  Everyone so far but Chess, he is different, he has one eye that swims with the Fog in it. Chess is a part of a crew of "slumkids" traveling on aircrafts, scavenging through any wreckage that they find, anything of value that can be sold.  Each day they travel further in the hopes of finding one expensive item that can be traded for passage into Port Oro.  It's there that the crew hope to find a way to save their beloved Mrs. E from the fogsickness.  Mrs. E is the woman who came to Chess' rescue after his mother gave birth to him while hanging in a cage below the Fog.  She has been taking care of him, Hazel, Swedish and Bea since they were all little.  They make up a tight knit family and now they would like to return the favor by saving Mrs. E.  But the crew becomes stuck in a battle between the bosses, mutineers, and Lord Kodoc, a tyrant who rules all of the Rooftop.  And Lord Kodoc will stop at nothing to get Chess back, his prize experiment, the one who will help him to finally find the Compass that he desperately needs in order to control the Fog.  

The Fog Diver is a fairly fast paced adventure, but there was also a technological aspect that I really enjoyed with the introduction of the Nanites. Aside from the adventure, their is also lots of  humor and even some pop references in the stories that Chess tells from his fathers scrapbook.  Plus who doesn't like scenes of battling air vessels in the sky and Chess hurtling himself into the abyss of the Fog tethered by nothing but a rope?  Very reminiscent of Sky Jumpers by Peggy Edelman and a smidge of Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull.  The crew themselves were also appealing, Hazel with her confidence and ability to know just what to do under any circumstance, Bea the mechanic and youngest member, Swedish the pilot and Loretta, who manages to win everyone's trust and confidence in her fighting skills.  Lovely little crew, Bea would call it the "purplest."  

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

Thursday, October 8, 2015

MG Fantasy: Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins

Published by:  Scholastic Press
on  September 29th 2015
Genres: Fantasy/Magic
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library

Nory Horace is about to take a very big test, one that will determine whether she can attend the prestigious Sage Academy with her brother and sister.  The very same academy where her dad is the headmaster, so it is very important to her that she doesn't embarrass him.  Nory has been preparing really hard to transform into a cute black kitten, but sometimes her magic just seems to go "wonky," and instead she ends up as a mixture of two different animals.  The worst part is she also seems to loose a piece of her human self and there are usually terrible consequences when this happens.   Like the time that she became a Bitten (a beaver and a kitten), and she chewed up all the wood in her dad's office.  It's no surprise when Nory ends up failing her test,  but her dad deciding to send her to live with her Aunt Margo and attend public school in a special magic class for children who have "upside down magic," well that's a complete surprise.  Despite beginning to finally make some friends and understand her abilities a bit better, Nory tries to petition her principal to let her retake her test, so that she can transfer to Sage Academy.  With the help of a special book, she just might be able to pass this time.  

Nory experiences a lot of the same anxieties that a new student to school would face.  At the same time, she feels very badly for letting her father down, and hurt by the way that he reacts.  What I didn't understand is why her father rejected her so much.  He wouldn't take her calls and didn't even let her talk to her siblings, very confusing.  Nory herself is very sweet, she really wants to be normal, but in her world normal means having control over your magic.  Which she really doesn't.  Upside Down Magic has a very diverse group of characters each with a unique magical ability. Some that can fly, make fire, transform, those are the "normal" kids.  But, Nory and her classmates magic doesn't work that way.  They end up making ice, scaring animals or turn into a rock and can't turn back.  An interesting way for the authors to broach the topic of individuals with disabilities.   I really enjoyed Pepper, who seems to be really misunderstood and has this bad reputation that gets attached to her, just because she is unable to turn off her magical abilities around animals and they fear her.   I also really enjoyed their teacher Ms. Starr, who was teaching them to talk in positives and not to say that their magic was "wrong."  Overall, a magical book with a diverse group of characters and a message of accepting yourself the way that you are.  

Upside Down Magic  has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee. 

MG Fantasy: A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder

24885661Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
on  September 8th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages:  160
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library

A Nearer Moon is set in a world where magic and faerie's were once plentiful and the water was crystal clear.   Luna lives in a village perched high up on stilts, with a terrible murky cursed swamp below. A curse that if any of the swamp water enters your mouth leaves you suffering from a terrible wasting sickness, one that leaves you with only three weeks left to live.  Unfortunately, it is a fate that falls on Luna's younger sister Willow.  Determined to help her sister, Luna breaks mama's three rules (never go past the river bend, don't go below the dam and steer away from the slick) and sets off to try and find a way to cure her sister.  At the same time, its a story about how "as human's grew, the fairies begin to ebb".  Where two water sprite sister's,  Perdita (Perdy) and Pergia (Gia) become separated when Perdy doesn't make it through a magical door.  Separated from her sister, Perdy becomes wrapped up in her feelings of grief and remorse for not staying closer to her sister before the door closed.   Crowder blends the story of these two sets of siblings beautifully together through the alternating chapters of  Luna and Perdita.    I love the bond that the two sets of sister's share with one another and the way Luna describes Willow, "she was the sun that the rest of them orbited around.  Maybe because she was all giggles and mischief, dewey kisses and unkempt braids."  Doesn't she just sound adorable? I also really enjoyed the way that Crowder described the village and the distinctions that she made between the way that the village was prior to the swamp appearing, it gives the swamp this menacing feel.  Most of all, I loved that moment when I  finally realized the way in which the two stories intertwined. 

  A Nearer Moon has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.