Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Few Mini Reviews

  It's been a busy month of reading, shoveling snow, shopping and now preparing for the upcoming holidays.  Where did the month of December go?  Hope your holidays are delightful and wishing you a very Happy New Year!  These are some
 shorter thoughts on two books that I've read recently.

Bounce  by Megan Shull
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books

Number of Pages:  384
Published:  September 6th, 2016

Source:  Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review for the purposes of the Cybils

Shortly before Christmas break, Frannie's parents tell her that they are going on a vacation, the kicker is that they aren't taking Frannie or her older brother and sister.  Instead, this year the Hudson family will have to fend for themselves.  Frustrated, Frannie wishes that she had a different family and when her wish is granted, she finds herself bouncing into other people's lives. 

Bounce has an interesting take on the body-swap storyline, with it taking place over Christmas, and Frannie bouncing into various girls lives.  She also gets placed into all these novel situations, like riding a horse, when you've never been on one before.  In many ways, Frannie gets to see things from a whole new perspective and has the most transformative changes.  In the beginning of the story, I wasn't very fond of Frannie, she whines quite a bit.  Which is very understandable given her family does treat her pretty terribly, but it took a bit for me to get into her character.  She reads much younger than she really is.  But, Frannie does seem to have a good heart and just needed some courage to stand up for herself.  My favorite parts are the girl's lives that Frannie bounces into.  Especially when she meets parents who make her feel loved and important.  Overall, a fun story with lovely messaging about developing your own inner strength. 

25688980The Rat Prince  by Bridget Hodder
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Number of Pages:  272
Published:  August 23rd, 2016

Source:  Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review for the purposes of the Cybils

I'm a fan of fairy tale retellings and The Rat Prince had quite an entertaining take on the story of Cinderella.  The story is told from Prince Char, the ruler of the Northern Kingdom of rats and Cinderella's perspectives.  Yep, a rat.  At first glance, that might seem a bit of a stretch, but Hodder makes the story unique and adds some fun new details, for which I don't want to give too much away.  Cinderella (Lady Rose) has been protecting her father from her evil step-mother and step-sister, now that his mind seems to be slipping.  While our Prince is making plans to get Lady Rose to a royal ball where the next ruler of the kingdom will be selecting his wife.  The story is complicated by the fact that Prince Char has fallen in love with Lady Rose, and the Royal Prince is prone to temper tantrums making him an unsuitable match for Lady Rose.  With plenty of twists and humor, The Rat Prince will surely delight middle-grade readers who enjoy fairy tale retellings.       

Monday, December 5, 2016

MG Review: Fortune Falls by Jenny Goebel

Fortune Falls  by Jenny Goebel
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Number of Pages:  208
Published:  January 5th, 2016

Source:  Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review for the purposes of the Cybils

Fortune Falls is one of those "what if" stories.  What if all of those expressions or superstitions that we use were really true?  So, if you stepped on a crack it really does break your mom's back and eating an apple a day does keep the doctor away.  To Sadie, this is just life in Fortune Falls.  At the moment Sadie is considered to be an undetermined, meaning she hasn't reached her twelfth birthday yet, so her fate to determine whether she is an Unlucky or Lucky hasn't been tested yet. Sadie is really hoping that she will be a Lucky.  Otherwise, she will be sent away to school, for the protection of everyone else.  But, Sadie has also been having an inclination that she might be headed for being chosen Unlucky, bad things have been happening around her once too often.  Going away to school would also mean that she would lose her best friend Cooper, so she will have to do something drastic to change her luck.  

This was such a fun read.  I really enjoyed looking for all of the superstitions that I read growing up and watching the humorous ways they were incorporated into the story.  The friendship between Cooper and Sadie was really sweet, especially how he tries to help her improve her luck.  I'm not sure how I felt about the luck test and the idea that if you happened to be lucky then you stayed at Flourish Academy, but if you were unlucky, then you had to go to Bane School for the Unluckies.  I really didn't want Cooper and Sadie to get separated, and was rooting for Sadie to pass her test.  Overall, a wonderful story of the hardships of being unlucky, friendship and perseverance to try to change what you feel is your destiny.    

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

MG Review of The Charming Life of Izzy Malone by Jenny Lundquist

29155169The Charming Life of Izzy Malone by Jenny Lundquist
Format: EARC
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Number of Pages:  288
Published:  November 29, 2016

Source:  Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.  

Opening Lines:  "The bracelet and the first charm appeared the day I punched Austin Jackson in the nose.  I didn't mean to slug him.  His face just got in my way."

Izzy Malone is having a rocky start to middle-school, she and the guidance counselor are already on a first name basis.  Where Izzy see's herself as outspoken and just speaking her mind, other's see her as mouthy.  Probably part of the reason that she has difficulty making friends and eats her school lunches under a tree.  Izzy is also not the kind of girl to get caught up in the latest fashion styles, preferring her combat boots and long colorful skirts.  Forget dreaming about boys, she's more concerned about getting accepted on the Dandelion Paddlers, a local rowing team.  She's already tried out once, but the team captain seems to have it out for her.  Izzy's home life has also been complicated by having a musical prodigy sister,  the fact her mother is running for mayor and her dad is even the town's chief of police.  When Izzy punches a boy at school, her parents take drastic measures and enroll her in Mrs. Whippie's home study charm school.  Either Izzy passes charm school or she won't be participating in Dandelion Hollow's Pumpkin Palooza, a race where pumpkins are hollowed out and used as boats across the pond.  If she can't participate in the race, how will she ever convince Lauren and the Paddlers that she is good enough for the team?  

I read The Charming Life of Izzy Malone over the Thanksgiving long weekend and this was such a fun entertaining story.  Izzy really isn't a typical middle schooler, but that was what I really loved about her.  She has this attitude of not caring and a style and interests uniquely her own (rowing and stargazing). Yeah, she is mouthy and outspoken, which gets her in trouble, but she is also brutally honest.  

"I have certainly heard of the Subtle Art of Shutting Up, but I can't say I've practiced it all that much. I greatly prefer the underappreciated genius of Speaking My Mind. I figure if someone doesn't like what I have to say, they shouldn't put their ears in close proximity to my mouth."

Izzy struck me as a somewhat lonely girl at first, but her affectionate wit and well charm land her friends that help her complete each task for her charm bracelet.  Lunquist really has a knack for capturing that middle-grade voice and it so reminded me of my own awkward moments growing up, truthfully I'm a bit of tomboy too. I really liked the idea of the letters going back and forth between Mrs. Whippie and Izzy and the activities were simple enough that I could see this as a fun book to read with a child and have them do some of the activities to create their own charm bracelet (write a letter to brightens someone's day, do something nice for someone, etc.).  Overall, a humorous story with lovely messages of friendship, and being yourself.  I hope to see more stories from Lundquist featuring Izzy and her friends.

You can read an excerpt from Jenny Lundquist's website.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wisdom of the Centaurs' Reason (Andy Smithson #6) by L.R.W. Lee

31681260Wisdom of the Centaurs' Reason (Andy Smithson #6) by L.R.W. Lee
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Woodgate Publishing
Number of Pages:  250
Published:  November 23, 2016

Source:  Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.  

Opening line:  

"Six weeks had shuffled by like a hunched old man, and the ache in Andy's chest over losing Yara hadn't dulled in the slightest."

Andy has been taking the loss of Yara pretty hard, often questioning what he should've done differently or just "if only".  His father has his own regrets and wants very much to set things right too.  Since Andy has been back in our world, Abaddon has intensified his creation of his army made of zolts, citizens who've been turned into these winged beasts.  Abaddon is also holding Andy's father in Castle Avalon and is making the King and his citizens suffer.  Meanwhile, Andy has been tasked with a new quest, a treasure hunt of sorts to gather three peices or gears, and a letter needed to fix the center or heart of his land's power.  In so doing, he will protect the land from Abaddon.  It wont be so easy though, the items were scattered by Merlin in Andy's world and he must complete a task before he can recover each item.  Andy must also rescue his father from Abaddon's control, and then take each of the items he's collected to Mount Mur Eyah, home of the Centaurs, in order to break the curse.    

Wisdom of the Centaurs Reason includes memories from past books in the series, or highlights moments where Andy struggled and how he prevailed.  In many ways, it had the feeling that the series is coming toward its conclusion.  Which made me very sad.  I've thoroughly enjoyed reading the Andy Smithson books and watching the events unfold for Andy.  Breaking the curse has always been a bittersweet moment for Andy, and well for me too.  Once the curse is broken, so too will the magic that has been keeping the three closest people to him immortal and Andy risks loosing them forever.  It's what the series has been building toward, but still it's also why like Andy it's been a struggle of emotions. I'm just happy that we have our little moments of Andy's inneru (inside voice that talks to him), MiniMe, who brings in some humorous lines like,I feel amazing!  I spent the last seven months vacationing in the Principal Islands off the coast of Compunction and Scruples.  Their morel mushrooms are To. Die. For."  

As I've said before, I love how Andy has aged and matured across the series through the many "life values" or principles that Lee encorporates into the story. Andy reflects on how he has demonstrated diligence, loyalty, honor and dignity. Skills that he will use to be a successful King and he also acquires the knowledge that sometimes we have to put the needs of others above our own. There was a scene in which Andy is inside of a burial crypt with past kings and queens of Avalon, and it felt very much like the movie Mulan where she is with Mushu in her ancestors crypt.   There is just so much creativity in these stories and I particularly enjoyed how this time Lee tied in the lore of  Merlin and King Arthur's knights in this book.  Stories centering on Sir Lancelot and the Copper Knight, Sir Kay and the Sword in the Stone, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. How Andy needed to prove his worth in order to gain each item, with riddles that he needed to unravel.  How there were Centaur's guarding the location of each item, which took Andy to places like University of Texas, Stanford, and to the Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina.  There's even refrences to  DaVinci and his Codex Leicester.  Like the other books in Lee's series, Wisdom of the Centaurs' Reason includes layers of symbolism, where daisies represent "new beginnings and true love" (Lee even includes a handy guide at the end of the book).   Despite Andy's path having been set out for him long ago, and the difficulties in reconciling the eventual loss of those important to him, I still will be eagerly awaiting the release of Book Seven.    

Favorite lines: 

"We cherish the moments we have with others.  Each and every day.  Rather than focusing on her loss and the meaninglessness of her death, treasure the gift of knowing and loving her.  Yara will never completely leave you."

"We all fail from time to time, but it's the lessons we learn in the process that truly matter."  

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Few Cybils Mini Reviews

I've been pretty busy lately with my Cybils reading, but I wanted to pop in for a few mini reviews. 

Roz is stranded on an island after a terrible storm crashes the boat she was traveling on.  Some helpful otters engage her power button and soon she is exploring the island.  Roz not only needs to learn to communicate with the animals, soon she finds herself in the position of playing mom to a newly hatched gosling.  Once Roz finally gets settled and manages to fit in with the animals, she risks being taken from the only home that she has ever known by her creators.  

"Can a robot survive in the wilderness?"  In Roz's case, yes they can with a little help from the animals on the island.  I'm not quite sure why Brown chose Roz to be a robot, but I like to think that it was so that she could learn to communicate with the animals and learn a way for them all to get along.  

28110143There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.
  (From Goodreads)

This is my first introduction to Tahereh Mafi's writing and Furthermore  has this rich tapestry of sights, sounds, and colors, I'm not exactly sure how to explain it, except it is a lot like the cover, very colorful.  Here's an example of the writing, The sun had begun its descent, and the sky had turned a dusty, smoky blue; ambers and golds and violets melted along the horizon and kaleidoscoped through the branches, snowflaking spectacular shapes of light across the land." The story itself kinda made me think of a mix of Alice in Wonderland, with The Lost Track of Time and The Phantom Tollbooth.  Alice wanders across Furthermore, encounters danger and needs to navigate through different cities.   I did like the premise of both Alice and Oliver having quests of their own. 

23288252Opening line:  "The first time I knew for sure I was a Monday, I was sitting in one of Mrs. Flannagan's boring English Lessons last year in fourth grade."

Poppy Mayberry lives in Nova where everyone has special abilities that are based on the day of the week that you were born on.  Poppy's ability is telekinesis, but she isn't very good at it and her rival Ellie can read minds, except she can't stop reading minds when she isn't supposed to in class.  When the two girls cause a disruption at school, they get sent to Power Academy, a summer school that will teach them to control their abilities.  While at the Academy, the Headmistress splits them into groups of four and gives Poppy's group an extra challenge, locate each of their precious items that she has stolen.  If they are successful, then they can leave the Academy early. 
Poppy Mayberry was a pretty quick read, for  which  I would have liked a bit more.  I enjoyed how everyone had different abilities (telekinesis, teleportation, mind reading), well except for those Saturday and Sundays, who don't seem to have a talent.  Though, Brown does include that not everyone can necessarily control their abilities right away.
Cooperation and working together seems to be a big theme, as it is the only way that Poppy's group is going to be able to find their precious items.  This first book had a nice mix of boys and girls, and I hope Brown sticks with these characters in book two, cause there were some hints of romantic feelings between the characters.  Overall, a very fun read.       

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum by Gregory Funaro

25038983Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum by Gregory Funaro 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Number of Pages:  448
Published:  January 5th, 2015

Source:  Library

Opening line:  "Go ahead, Father said, and he passed me the Black Mirror."

Grubb's first apprenticeship was a chimney sweep for Mr. Smears.  That is until  Grubb chooses to stowaway in Alistair Grim's suitcase and ultimately finds himself on Alistair's Odditorium.   Being a mysterious twelve-year-old,  Grubb then takes one of the magical items he finds from the Odditorium outside, causing an evil necromancer named Prince Nightshade to become aware of their presence.  Prince Nightshade than attempts to steal the source of the Odditorium's power for himself.   The second book in the series begins shortly after the Odditorium has escaped the clutches of Prince Nightshade.  Alistair has taken Grubb on as his  apprentice and he's begun his training in how to control the mechanical aspects of the Odditorium, in hopes that one day he can take on the reins.  Prince Nightshade is still following their every move and since their last encounter, he has gone on to amass a large army of his own.  Yet, Alistair has also been makings plans that involve Merlin's map and a possible location for King Arthur's sword,  Excalibur. With it, he hopes to strike down Prince Nightshade for good.  

 Alistair's Odd Aquaticum has a bit of everything, adventure,  a magical house fueled by magical fairy dust and steered by a pipe organ, witches,  fierce warriors, a magical pocket watch, shades, sea dragons and even the legendary Excalibur.   I really enjoyed the way Funaro blended the steampunk, mechanical aspects of the Odditorium with the Arthurian legends  of Excalibur, Merlin, and the Lady of the Lake.   The Odditorium can even go underwater now, how cool is that?  I also felt like I was getting to know all of the other Odditoria's (living and inanimate objects) better than I did in the first book and it was lovely watching Grubb have some much needed bonding time with Alistair.  We learn some interesting facts about Mack, the Scottish pocket watch's past as well as some prophecies that are yet to come.  Perfect for someone looking for a bit of mystery and non-stop action.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Winner of Eden's Escape by Tara Crowl

The winner of a copy of Eden's Escape by Tara Crowl is:


JenRae, please send me an email (link in my profile) with contact details so I can get your prize out to you.  Congratulations and thank you to everyone who entered.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio and illustrations by Will Staehle

25241871Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio and illustrations by Will Staehle
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Quirk Books
Number of Pages:  224
Published:  November 24, 2015

Source:  Library

Warren is the 13th member in a long line of Warren's who have lived and worked in the Warren Hotel. He is the one who takes care of the grounds, is the bellhop, and all around handy man, while his Uncle Rupert and Aunt Annaconda have been running the place, practically into the ground.  All that will change on Warren's eighteenth birthday when the hotel will finally be his.  It's been five long years since a guest has stayed at the Warren Hotel, but now a mysterious guest has shown up requesting a room.   Aunt Annaconda suspects that he is looking for the All-Seeing Eye and she desperately wants to find it before the guest does.  Aunt Annaconda calls on her sisters Isosceles and Scalene to help her search the hotel, requesting  they keep the news secret, which of course means everyone finds out and the hotel is booming with greedy, noisy, destructive guests in search of the eye as well.     

I really enjoyed the way  the story and illustrations were laid out on the page, with both full page and smaller illustrations in black, white and red, similar to the cover.  Alternating with Aunt Annaconda's pages which were a black background  with white writing, giving  her pages a more spooky feel.  There are also Victorian cutouts on a few of the pages and interestingly the chapter titles for her pages were written in reverse.  While Warren is attending to the newly arrived guests, he begins to uncover some clues to the whereabouts of the All-Seeing Eye. Clues in the form of riddles and mirrored writings which I imagine would be fun for children to solve.  I'm rather fond of creepy old homes and Aunt Annaconda reminded quite a bit of the Grand High Witch in Roald Dahl's The Witches.  

*Warren The 13th and The All-Seeing Eye  has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.*

Thursday, October 27, 2016

MG Review: Disenchanted The Trials of Cinderella (Tyme #2) by Megan Morrison

27237703Disenchanted The Trials of Cinderella (Tyme #2)  by Megan Morrison
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Number of Pages:  416
Published:  October 11th, 2016

Source:  Library

Disenchanted is the second book in the Tyme series, the first being Grounded which was Rapunzel's tale. Each of Morrison's stories takes place in one of the cities in the world of Tyme.  In this case, we are in the Blue Kingdom and city of Quintessential, were King Clement Charming rules.  While there appears to be some overlap in the characters between book one and two in the series,  Disenchanted is Ella Coach, aka Cinderella, Dash Charming and a fairy godfather named Serge's tale.  The story is told from each of their alternating perspectives, and it didn't appear to me like you needed to have read the books in order to follow the story.   

Ella is preparing to return to Coterie Prep (C-Prep) for the return of Dash Charming.  I huge party is planned to welcome his return now that the curse on him has been broken.  Dash is pretty excited about being able to have control over what he says to people again and he really wants to improve the reputation of the Charming's.  Dash's first plan is to help his mother escape the kingdom while everyone is busy at his party, but someone also pulls a prank on Ella causing her bag to catch on fire.  Ella flees the school trying to catch the nearest coach back to her home in Eel Grass.  It's here that Ella encounters the Queen, who at first she thinks is one of the royal staff because of her disguise, but later puts two and two together when the Queen gives her an expensive piece of jewelry and news of her being missing surfaces.    When Ella is forced to return to C-Prep, she makes an effort to  return Dash's mother's ring and the two begin to talk and find they have more in common than their families wealth.  When they are then paired up for a project to design a business in their marketing class, they also unveil some shady deals and labor practices within the Garment District, they know that they have to work together to set things right.   Along the way,  Ella and Dash receive help from Serge, a godfather at the infamous Glass Slipper, where every fairies goal is the make mortal wishes come true.   For the longest time, Serge was the executive fairy for the rich and famous of Quintessential, next in line to take over the Glass Slipper, but lately, he's beginning to wonder if it's really the kind of work that he should be doing.  

 In Disenchanted, Dash is focused on protecting his mother and keeping her location hidden from his father.  Which causes a lot of friction between  he and King Clement.  The King  puts lots of demands on Dash throughout the story to try and pressure him to reveal her whereabouts, like throwing him lavish parties where he has to socialize and betrothing him to a spoiled rich girl.  But, Dash never gives in. Ella is  focused on her stepmother, and how she is responsible for the destruction of her family cottage and it being replaced by a Practical Elegance shop. This doesn't really follow the traditional evil stepmother/stepsister story, but Ella has a lot of hurt feelings about not being included in the planning.  Well, even Serge isn't your typical fairy godfather either, but I really liked the changes that Morrison made.  What I wasn't expecting in this fairy tale was the emphasis on child labor, fair trade practices, sick leave and workers rights, and while I wasn't expecting it, it was very interesting  and illustrated the corruption that was happening in the cities Garment District.  Overall a very enjoyable twist on the Cinderella fairytale.   

*Disenchanted The Trials of Cinderella  has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.*

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Author Interview and Giveaway for Eden's Escape by M. Tara Crowl

Eden’s Wish
(Eden of the Lamp #1)
By M. Tara Crowl
From Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Ages 9-12

All twelve years of Eden's life have been spent in an antique oil lamp. She lives like a princess inside her tiny, luxurious home; but to Eden, the lamp is nothing but a prison. She hates being a genie. All she wants, more than anything, is freedom. When Eden finds a gateway to Earth within the lamp, she takes her chance and enters the world she loves. And this time, she won't be sent back after three wishes. Posing as the new kid at a California middle school, Eden revels in all of Earth's pleasures--but quickly learns that this world isn't as perfect as she always thought it was. Eden soon finds herself in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between powerful immortals. A ruthless organization run by a former genie will stop at nothing to acquire the lamp and its power--even hurt Tyler and Sasha, the new mortal friends who have given Eden a home. To save her friends and protect the lamp's magic, Eden must decide once and for all where she belongs.

Eden’s Escape
(Eden of the Lamp #2)
By M. Tara Crowl
From Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Ages 9-12

Eden's new life on earth begins in New York City under the guidance of her new guardian: Pepper, a petite, bubbly genie alum who's also a Broadway actress. Before she has a chance to settle in, though, Eden is whisked away for a granting--only to find herself trapped in a laboratory. David Brightly, owner of the world's leading tech company, cares more about tapping into the lamp's power than making a wish and starts performing tests on Eden. With Brightly's plasma shield around the lamp, Eden has no way home. Left without a choice, she escapes the lab and goes on the run. After her daring exit, Eden finds herself on the streets of Paris--home to Electra's headquarters. Left in a strange city with a price on her head (courtesy of scheming Brightly), Eden has to keep her wits about her. She dons a chic disguise and flits around Paris incognito, investigating Brightly Tech. Assisted by Pepper and her old adversary Bola, as well as some new friends, Eden embarks on a quest to retrieve the lamp and protect the secrets of the genie legacy.

Today I’m very excited to be participating in an interview and giveaway for Eden's Escape, the sequel to Eden's Wish by M. Tara Crowl

Can you tell my readers a little bit about your first book, Eden's Wish and its sequel Eden's Escape.

Eden’s Wish was released by Disney-Hyperion in September 2015. It’s a middle-grade novel about a 12-year-old genie named Eden who escapes her lamp and tries to pose as a regular girl on Earth. Of course, she isn’t successful. While she’s in the midst of trying to make friends and fit in at school, she finds herself in the middle of a battle between dissenting groups of genie alumni who live on Earth.

Eden’s Escape is the second book in the series, and it came out this September. Eden now finds herself in New York City with a genie alum named Pepper who becomes her new guardian. Just as she’s getting comfortable, she’s whisked away for a granting that goes very wrong. She escapes the wisher, realizes she’s in Paris, and goes on the run. It’s the start of a whole new adventure.

I like how your story blends fantasy with real world settings like New York and Paris, was there any research that you needed to do?

Thank you! Yes, I did research by spending time there. I live in New York, so that part was easy—I just hopped on a subway if I wanted to check out a different part of town. I also spent some time in Paris. I went to Europe solo a few years ago and fell in love with Paris. It was right when the book was going out to publishers. I decided that if it sold, I wanted to write a sequel set there. To my surprise and amazement, it happened! So the following year, I went back to Paris for a few weeks to research and write.

Were there any particular MG books that have inspired you? Or a favorite book that you’re reading now?

Lots of them! A Wrinkle in Time has always been hugely inspirational for me. I read it for the first time in first grade when my teacher gave it to me, and a hundred times since then. I love all of Roald Dahl’s books. They’re so whimsical and unique, with a touch of darkness. Another one that made a massive impact on me is The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh.

What is it about writing for a middle-grade audience that you enjoy the most?

Middle-grade readers are curious and intelligent, but they also still have innocence. They’re eager to learn, explore, and imagine.

Were there any differences in your writing process when writing the sequel to Eden's Wish?  

Yes, it was very different. I started Eden’s Wish when I moved to Sydney, Australia for grad school—the first section of it was my thesis. Then, after that year in Sydney, I moved to New York and finished writing it. It was a long process because I was working lots of part-time and temporary jobs in the meantime, trying to support myself while I was pursuing my dream. And it was a dream. I hoped that people would read my book one day, but I couldn’t conceive of what that would actually be like.

Then, to my delight, Eden’s Wish sold to Disney-Hyperion as part of a two-book deal. That meant that I wrote Eden’s Escape under contract, and that was an entirely different experience. Since it was the second book in the series, I went in knowing the characters, the world, and the tone. That made it easier to write. But also, writing a book that I knew was going to be published raised the stakes. I wanted to make sure my characters were consistent, but also growing. And I wanted the story to be more thrilling, more engaging, and more meaningful all at the same time.

What was your favorite part of writing Eden's Escape?  Do you have a favorite scene or line from your novel that you would like to share?

I loved writing about Eden’s relationship with her new guardian, Pepper. Pepper is a vibrant, bubbly genie alum who lives on Earth. Through the course of her immortal life, she’s done a number of stints as a theater actress. She explains it to Eden in Chapter Three:

“In 1660, I was the first woman to act onstage in England. I was Margaret Hughes, playing Desdemona in Othello. What a night that was!” For a moment, Pepper seemed to have drifted right back there. 

“Margaret Hughes?” Eden prompted. 
“That was the name I used for those first twenty years—my first career. In a job where people see you onstage every night, that’s about the longest you can get away with before they start talking about why you never age.” She rubbed her nose. 
Eden had never thought much about the logistics of immortality on Earth. Perhaps, like most things, it wasn’t as simple as it seemed. 
“So what then?” 
“Then I changed my name to Emily Bankman. I moved between tiny towns in England, working as a governess and cleaning houses. When I could save up enough for it, I’d put on a big hat and a scarf to hide my face, and steal away to London to see a show.” She clasped a hand over her chest. “It broke my heart to be away from the theater. But I knew that eventually my time would come again.” 
“And did it?” 
“Fifty years later. I moved back to London as Emily, and did it all over again.” 
“Didn’t people remember you?” 
“No. I’d been away for fifty years, remember. I generally do fifteen to twenty years of work, then fifty years waiting to work again. The way I see it, I have to keep a cycle of approximately seventy years—a pretty average life span for a mortal. Mortals rarely pay attention to their parents’ icons. If I happen to look like another generation’s star, no one’s the wiser.” 
“And that works?” 
“So far, so good.” Pepper shrugged. She picked a piece of pepperoni off a pizza slice. “Of course, nowadays it’s tougher, with the Internet. I’ve got to be more careful this time around.” 
What are you working on now?

Something completely different that I’m really excited about. Stay tuned!

Praise For Eden's Wish and Eden's Escape

"Crowl's imaginative storyline rings with both perception and humor."

Kirkus Reviews

"Middle grade readers will enjoy the children's autonomy and Eden's humorous difficulties in grasping how school works...Hand this to readers who like their magical fantasy combined with middle school drama."

School Library Journal

"An imaginative romp with a smart, snarky protagonist and a humorous interpretation of the world as we know it...[Eden] is also just plain entertaining, with a sassy attitude and a clever wit that saves her on more than one occasion."

About the Author:

M. Tara Crowl grew up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. 
She studied Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, then received an MA in Creative Writing at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. She lives in New York City.

Tara has generously offered one (1) signed copy of Eden's Escape for a giveaway.  Giveaway open to US and Canadian mailing addresses only.   To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post by noon (PST) on Monday, October 31st  (with some way for me to get a hold of you).  I'll announce the winner on November 1st and the author will mail you Eden's Escape.  

Good Luck!