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!   

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

MG Fantasy Review: The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

22694936The Girl Who Could Not Dream  by Sarah Beth Durst
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Clarion Books
Number of Pages:  384
Published:  November 3rd, 2015

Source:  Library

Sophie and her  parents live inside a bookstore where they sell books and bottled dreams.  Dreams and nightmares that Sophie and her family collect in dreamcatchers they make.  Sophie shares her dreamcatchers with Madison, Lucy, and new boy Nathan, to collect their nightmares.   The dreamcatchers then are converted into a liquid dream or nightmare which people in the store can buy.  Sophie is unique because she is unable to have a dream or nightmare, but she has always been curious.  So curious that when she was little,  she stole one of the bottles off the shelf and by drinking it found herself inside someone else's nightmare.  While exploring,  Sophie found Monster, not the creepy under the bed kind, but one who was just as lonely as she was.  Inadvertently, she brought him back into the world with her.  Sophie didn't know she had the ability to bring dreams to life, and Monster was just the friend that she had been looking for.  The two are inseparable.  Yet, Sophie and Monster have also received the attention of the Night Watchmen, a set of people who want to get rid of Monster and end their families dream trade.  The mysterious Mr. Nightmare has also turned up at the family store requesting bottled nightmares and he even steals the dreamcatchers that Sophie has been giving to Madison, Lucy, and Nathan.   Then someone breaks into the store and Sophie's parents disappear  causing her and Ethan to go on a reconnaissance mission to Mr. Nightmare's house to try and find them.  What they uncover is just as disturbing as Mr. Nightmare.  

I really enjoyed reading The Girl Who Could Not Dream.  The plot of bottled dreams and nightmare's and the way that they can be distilled into a liquid that you can drink.  Kinda reminds me of the Pensieve in Harry Potter.  Though in this case, Sophie has the ability to physically go inside and take things out of her dreams and bring them to life.  Makes for some amusing (pink ninja bunnies and a unicorn) and creepy things (big spider woman and a monster without a face).  I was also surprised by how much I liked Sophie's parents.  The way they interacted was refreshing and how honest they were with her. So different from the usual uninvolved/absent parents that I normally read.  It really added to the tension when Sophie discovers them missing later on.  This passage was one of my favorites, "You can't send me away when you're going to talk about important things that have to do with me, Sophie protested."  "Sure we can," Dad said.  "That's what parents do all the time."  Mom patted her shoulder.  "We were just more subtle about it when you were younger."  I can't go forgetting Monster, who really seems more like an overgrown housecat than a Monster, and his protectiveness over Sophie is adorable.  I do wish that we could give some of these characters a name, instead of just calling him Monster.  I also wished that Monster didn't seem so cartoonish on the cover when he really comes off as sweet, lovable and humorous in the story.   I can easily see this being made into a series that children between the ages of 10 and 12 would enjoy. 

*The Girl Who could Not Dream  has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.*

Monday, October 10, 2016

MG: Humor/Fairy-tale Retelling: Of Mice and Magic (Hamster Princess #2) by Ursula Vernon

25776235Of Mice and Magic (Hamster Princess #2)  by Ursula Vernon
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Dial Books
Number of Pages: 225
Published:  March 15th, 2016 

Source:  Library

I had the pleasure of reading the first installment of the Hamster Princess series,  Harriet the Invincible last year. Princess Harriet turned out not to be your typical princess.  In the first book, Harriet found out that an evil fairy had placed a curse on her so that on her twelveth birthday she would prick her finger causing everyone in the castle to fall hopelessly asleep.  Instead of being distraught, Harriet found this news exciting, because until she pricks her finger, she would also be invincible and she was determined to use this invincibility to her advantage by having grand adventures.   In of Mice and Magic, the second book in the Hamster Princess series, Princess Harriet no longer has her invincibility and life has become very dull and boring, that is until she meets a shrew on the side of the road who tells her about a curse on twelve mice princesses who are forced to dance their nights away wearing down their shoes and angering their father the king.  Eager for some more adventure, Harriet rides off on her trusty quail to help break the curse.   I've really been enjoying Ursula Vernon's fairy-tale retellings with Harriet and the clever twists that she brings to them.  In this particular book, the mice king offers half his kingdom and one of his daughter's in marriage, which isn't exactly what Harriet is after, instead she plans to teach the king a little lesson by showing him just what girls/heroes can do.   Vernon's books are always nicely illustrated with just the right mix of text to illustrations and I like that you can pick up and read any of the books in this series in any order you want.  Plus they're darn funny.  I'm looking forward to the next installment, Ratpunzel. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Cybils Nomination are open

Cybils 2016

Each Fall I look forward to cooler temperatures and my reading for The Cybils.  Book nominations opened on Saturday and already I'm busy making library holds.   This year I'm once again a first-round panelist in Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction. 

Here's the category description from the wonderful chair Charlotte Taylor, Along with the expected spells and space rockets and aliens, this is the category for books with talking animals, time-travel, ghosts, and paranormal abilities, and all the other books that might not have obvious magic on every page, and which are set here on Earth, but which push past the boundaries of daily life into what is almost certainly impossible."

So if you know of books that have great kid appeal, for that Elementary/Middle-Grade reader between the ages of eight to twelve, published in the U.S. or Canada between Oct 16, 2015, and Oct 15th, 2016 , please nominate here.  

Oh, and here are a few suggestions of books that I've read, ones that I would really like to, or one's that just haven't been nominated yet either. 

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