Wednesday, September 30, 2020

MG review of The Lost Wonderland Diaries by J. Scott Savage

The Lost Wonderland Diaries by J. Scott Savage
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Shadow Mountain
Number of pages:  352
Published:  September 8th, 2020
Source:  Purchased

Opening Lines:  "Is it time?  Is it time?  Is it time?  The question bounced about the Rabbit family warren like a well-hit croquet ball" 

From Goodreads:  "Celia and Tyrus discover the legendary Lost Diaries of Wonderland and fall into a portal that pulls them into the same fantasy world as the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. However, Wonderland has vastly changed. Some of the characters that Tyrus remembers from the book have been transformed into angry monsters.

Helped by the Cheshire Cat and a new character, Sylvan, a young rabbit, Celia and Tyrus desperately work to solve puzzles and riddles, looking for a way out of Wonderland. But the danger increases when the Queen of Hearts begins hunting them, believing the two young visitors hold the key to opening multiple portals to multiple worlds, and she will stop at nothing to capture them.

Will the crazed creatures of Wonderland escape into the real world? Can Celia and Tyrus stop them and save both worlds? Or will they be trapped in Wonderland forever?"

I've always been a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and was really excited when I first heard that J. Scott Savage was writing a new book based off the premise of Charles Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll's Lost Diaries.  It sounded like such a fun premise and I do enjoy reading portal fantasies,  whether it's taking a trip with Alice down the rabbit hole, or being sucked into an unknown place.  There's the hope of discovering a new world filled with magic and adventure.  With the Lost Wonderland Diaries I was expecting some similarities to Alice in Wonderland, you just have to include the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and defiantly the Cheshire Cat.  While there are these elements, Savage does add his own spin to the story by having Celia and Tyrus travel to places like the Arithma Sea and Sesquipedalian Swamp.  I found myself smiling and giggling far more times then I can count. 

I so thoroughly enjoyed my read of The Lost Wonderland Diaries, it was just fantastic!  It has this perfect blend of facts about Charles Dodgson's publications under the pen name Lewis Carroll and his life as a mathematician.  A kind of mix of language and math, that spoke to my quirky and logic side with all of its puzzles and math.   And the language, all these lovely big words like befuddlement and my new favorite, indubitably.   Even the creative word placement on the page,  how certain words were displayed on the page to convey the meaning of the word, like the staggering of one letter per line in the word "fell" to show it falling downward.  Savage took all the parts from Alice in Wonderland that I love,  tweaked it and added in two wonderful new main characters, Celia and Tyrus.  Oh my how I so enjoyed this pair.  Got to love Tyrus determination not to take no for an answer and how upbeat and positive he was that he and Celia were going to be friends.  If you enjoyed the nonsensical aspects of stories like Alice in Wonderland and the classic feel of maybe The Phantom Tollbo0th, you should defiantly give The Lost Wonderland Diaries a read.  

Favorite line:  "There are no mistakes, only opportunities waiting to be discovered."

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

MG review of Witch Wars by Alane Adams, illustrations by Jonathan Stroh

Witch Wars by Alane Adams, illustrations by Jonathan Stroh
Series:  Book Three of The Witches of Orkney 
Format:  Paperback
Number of Pages:  208
October 13th, 2020 
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line:  "Iduna gathered her apples, carefully plucking them from the sacred tree."

From Goodreads:  Abigail's second year at the Tarkana Academy has been an all-out disaster.  She's just unwittingly helped Vertulious, an ancient he-witch and powerful alchemist destroy Odin's Stone and restore his powers, and now all of Orkney is caught up in the threat of war as the witches prepare to destroy the helpless Orkadians.  Determined to set things right, Abigail and Hugo set off for Jotunheim, the land of the giants, to find a weapon to restore the balance.  All they have to do is track down the God of Thunder and convince Thor to turn his hammer over to them. 

As with her previous books, Adams begins each of her stories with a prologue, providing an introduction to previous events, some of the Norse mythology the stories are based on and this time she introduced the reader to Iduna, the caretaker of the magical apples that give the god's their immortality.  We also learned some of the backstory about Vertulious, his interest in alchemy and his connection to Rubicus.  There's even a quick glimpse of Thor.

I must say Witch Wars is my favorite book of the series thus far. The characters are interesting and I really enjoy Hugo and Abigail's friendship.  Hugo continues to be such a sweet boy.  I love his determination in stopping the war between the witches and Orkadians.  Hugo may be a scientist at heart and not so much of a fighter, but he still challenges the witches beliefs and really doesn't want either side to go into battle.   Abigail meanwhile is also in a tough position, struggling over her loyalty to her coven versus feeling responsible for everything that has happened so far.  Being blamed for Endera's mother's death, her part in Vertulious (Verty) regaining his powers, and not feeling strong enough to go up against him.  There's even a part of her that feels like she isn't living up to the witches code.  Shouldn't her witches heart be made of stone like all the rest of her coven? 

But then Verty threatens to hurt Hugo to get what he wants and Abigail realizes that she doesn't want to be Verty's puppet, so she agrees to go to Jutunheim with Hugo. I really loved reading about their adventures in the land of giants and even their unexpected trip at sea meeting Queen Capricorn of the mermaids.  And of course Thor was a delight.  He isn't easily swayed when it comes to helping out the witches,  their problem's don't concern him as they aren't problems for the god's.  It's amusing that in order to win him over Abigail and Hugo had to find something he was willing to bargain for in order to borrow his hammer. 

I really love the direction that the story seems to be taking.   The importance that's placed on finding a balance of power between the witches and Orkadians and the emphasis on the choices that we make defining our character.  Loyalty, revenge, forgiveness, and friendship were just a few of the topics intermingled into the plot.   It's not always easy to decide to do the right thing and while Hugo and Abigail may have averted a war for the time being, there's definitely a new battle brewing ahead.  I'm excited that there will be more books in the series and looking forward to reading the next one.  

Monday, September 28, 2020

Blog Tour for ELEANOR, ALICE, AND THE ROOSEVELT GHOSTS by Dianne K. Salerni with Excerpt + Giveaway


I am excited today to be hosting a spot on the ELEANOR, ALICE, AND THE ROOSEVELT GHOSTS  by Dianne K. Salerni Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. With our temperatures getting colder it's been feeling more like time to get out some Halloween stories, especially one's featuring ghosts.  I hope you'll check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About the Book:


Authors: Dianne K. Salerni

Pub. Date: September 1, 2020

Publisher: Holiday House

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 240

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, AudibleB&NiBooks, KoboTBD,

Murderous ghosts and buried family secrets threaten young Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt in this thrilling middle-grade novel that puts a supernatural spin on alternate history.

It's 1898 in New York City and ghosts exist among humans.

When an unusual spirit takes up residence at the Roosevelt house, thirteen-year-old Eleanor and fourteen-year-old Alice are suspicious. The cousins don't get along, but they know something is not right. This ghost is more than a pesky nuisance. The authorities claim he's safe to be around, even as his mischievous behavior grows stranger and more menacing. It's almost like he wants to scare the Roosevelts out of their home - and no one seems to care!

 Meanwhile, Eleanor and Alice discover a dangerous ghost in the house where Alice was born and her mother died. Is someone else haunting the family? Introverted Eleanor and unruly Alice develop an unlikely friendship as they explore the family's dark, complicated history. It's up to them to destroy both ghosts and come to terms with their family's losses.

 Told from alternating perspectives, thrills and chills abound in Dianne K. Salerni's imaginative novel about a legendary family and the ghosts that haunt their secrets.

 A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

"A spooky, fast-paced, and inventive tale. Salerni expertly blends fact and fiction, providing a glimpse of Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt's childhood that is so compelling, you almost wish the ghost parts were true."—Erin Bowman, Edgar Award–nominated author of Contagion and The Girl and the Witch's Garden

"This mix of history and fantasy creates a nifty setting for a middle-grade mystery" —Kirkus Reviews


Excerpt of Chapter 1 Eleanor, Alice and the Roosevelt Ghosts 

Eleanor Discontented

ALLENSWOOD. Linden. wadleigh.

I repeat the names silently, like a prayer, while I wait for Grandmother to finish reading a letter over her afternoon tea. Too nervous to eat a biscuit, I sip from my cup instead and rehearse my approach to a subject that Grandmother no doubt thinks was settled long ago.

Allenswood Academy in London, the school of my dreams.

Linden Hall in Pennsylvania, a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Wadleigh High School for Girls, the one she’ll have no reason to say no to.

Nibbling on her tea biscuit, Grandmother turns the sheet of stationery over to the other side, and her eyebrows climb above the rim of her spectacles. whatever is in this letter, she seems to be devouring it with relish. My grandmother corresponds regularly with elderly ladies up and down the Eastern Seaboard, passing along news of who has died or is likely to die, who is ill, and who has fallen on hard times.

My toe taps a staccato rhythm on the floor while I wait for the right moment to speak. Grandmother’s generation doesn’t believe in higher education for girls, and she thinks that in my thirteen years I’ve had all the “book learning” necessary for my station in life. I can argue that public opinion on girls’ education is changing, but she’ll counter by telling me there is no money for me to attend school, that what little she has is going toward the education of my little brother, Gracie. I have an answer for that.

Across the room, the mantel clock ticks. The wallpaper fades a little bit more. Mice in the walls are born and others die.

Finally, Grandmother lays down the letter and takes off her reading spectacles. “It seems your cousin Alice has been banished from Washington and sent here to New York.”

Your cousin Alice. The way someone else might say Billy the Kid.

I set down my tea, the last swallow sticking in my throat like a lump of sausage. Another subject of the old ladies’ letters is whose children are behaving badly, and my first cousin Alice Roosevelt’s name has appeared with frightful regularity. “What has she done now?”

“What hasn’t she done? Chewing gum in public. Breaking curfew. And she’s apparently taken up with a gang of boys, riding bicycles, lighting firecrackers under bushes, and I don’t know what else!”

“Why is she coming to New York?”

“Your uncle’s second wife can’t control her. with all the other children that woman has, I suppose she has no time for one that’s little more than a wild animal put into good clothes. They’re sending her to your aunt Bye in the hope that she can stop the girl from running riot.”

My shoulders sag. That is what I feared.

“Keep your distance, Eleanor,” Grandmother says. “I don’t want you picking up any of her unsavory habits.”

“I don’t think Alice will want to spend time with me.” When I last saw Alice, she called me an old stick in the mud because I wouldn’t spit off a bridge with her. “But Grandmother, Aunt Bye and I have been working on a quilt for the baby.”

Grandmother dismisses our quilt with a wave of her hand. “Let Alice learn to use a needle. Although, if you ask me, it tempts fate to quilt a blanket for a babe one doesn’t yet have in one’s arms. Especially at Bye’s age.”

This isn’t the first time my grandmother has predicted a tragic end for my aunt’s late-in-life marriage and impending motherhood. She revels in the troubles of other people the way a pig wallows in mud, which is an unkind comparison, but I don’t feel particularly sorry for it. Especially when she proves me right by taking up another of her favorite topics.

“Truth be told, I would prefer you spend less time in the deathtrap they’ve made of that house. Electric lights! what newfangled foolishness. Mark my words. Your aunt will be lucky if her entire family doesn’t burn up in an electrical fire!”

My shoulders hunch around my ears, even though this isn’t the first time she’s predicted that fate and probably won’t be the last. It’s a good time to change the direction of the conversation, and I plunge forward with my planned opening. “Grandmother, did you see the recent editorial in the Tribune written by the president of the New York City School Boar—”

The chime of the clock interrupts me, and Grandmother flinches. Shifting in her chair, she squints at the mantel. The dim February sun does little to light the parlor, but Grandmother won’t allow the gaslights on until seven, no matter how dark it gets. “Five o’clock already?” My heart sinks when she sets down her teacup, knowing my opportunity has come and gone. “I’m going upstairs to rest before supper, which will be cold meat, served at eight. Tell Rosie.”

“I will,” I promise, even though supper is always cold meat, served at eight.

Grandmother rises from her chair, as tall and sturdy as a mountain. “I’ll see you at supper, then, Eleanor. Return the tray to the kitchen and mind the teacups.”

And I always return the tray and mind the teacups.

Grandmother hustles from the room, moving faster than one expects from a woman of her age and girth. She wants to be shut in her room by the time her son—my uncle Valentine—climbs the stairs at precisely sixteen minutes past the hour carrying a shotgun and a bottle of Wild Turkey.

I gather dishes on the tray, and I don’t mind the cups as much as I usually do. I’m angry at myself for not addressing the question of my education before she opened her mail. The truth is, I dawdled on purpose because . . . until I ask, she cannot say no. If I ask at the wrong time or in the wrong way, I might lose any chance of making my case. Tonight at supper will not be a good time to try again. Grandmother enjoyed her criticism of my Roosevelt relatives far too much to be in the mood to change her mind about anything.

I blame Alice, who will apparently be moving into Aunt Bye’s house for the indeterminate future. I imagine her sitting in my favorite yellow chair, taking a needle to the fabric patches I cut, and, a few months from now, wrapping the finished quilt around the baby I want to cuddle. why couldn’t Alice behave and stay in her own home, where she has a half sister and four half brothers of her own, the youngest still a baby himself?

I don’t even have Gracie, now that Grandmother has sent him away to school.

It’s not that my aunt won’t want me visiting while she has Alice to keep her company. Aunt Bye loves a full house and would have hosted all my Roosevelt cousins last Christmas if she hadn’t been ill at the time. It’s that Alice won’t welcome me there. She’ll never say it directly, but a thou-sand little looks and gestures will make it obvious what she thinks of my outdated clothes, my old-fashioned manners, and every awkward word that comes from my mouth.

The haven I enjoy at my aunt’s house, the one place where I’m never treated like an orphan and a burden, will become Alice Roosevelt’s domain.

In the kitchen, I hand the tea tray over to Rosie, who assures me that she will slice chicken for our supper before she takes her evening off. Then, as the clock in the parlor chimes the quarter hour, I climb the front stairs to sit on the second-floor landing and wait for Uncle Valentine. It doesn’t matter to him, but it makes me sad to think of him without anyone to mark his presence.

A minute later, the temperature drops, as if someone has opened a giant icebox. The ghost of my uncle, Valentine Hall III, appears at the bottom of the staircase and mounts the first step.

He looks frayed around the edges, like one of our tea towels. I can no longer read the label on the bottle of whiskey, and the shotgun over his shoulder is little more than a shadow. when he reaches the landing, I tilt my head to look up at him, wondering if he’ll speak to me. Because Uncle Valentine died before I was born and his ghost is an Unaware, oblivious to his own death or anything since, he doesn’t know who I am. Sometimes he says, “Hello, Annie,” addressing me by my mother’s name.

“Hello, Uncle Val,” I whisper. “what are your thoughts on the education of girls?”

The ghost walks past me without acknowledging my presence or my words. He’s fading. Soon there will be nothing left of him but a ball of light making this trek upstairs, where Uncle Valentine planned, on his last day of life, to shoot pigeons from the attic window. After that, he’ll disappear completely.

I drop my head back against the wall. In Alice’s shadow, I feel the same way.  

About Dianne:

Dianne K. Salerni is a former elementary school teacher living in Chester County, Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.

Dianne's first novel, We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks 2010), recounts the true story of Maggie Fox, a teenaged girl credited with the invention of the séance in 1848. A short film based on We Hear the Dead and titled The Spirit Game premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Her second novel, The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH 2013), is inspired by a real historical mystery in the mountains of Pennsylvania and was named a Junior Library Guild Selection, a finalist in the Tome Society IT List, and a Best YA Historical Novel for 2013 by BookPage.

The Eighth Day, a middle grade fantasy about a secret day of the week, is the first in a series by HarperCollins, which also includes The Inquisitor's Mark (Book 2) and The Morrigan's Curse (Book 3). The Eighth Day has been featured on state reading lists in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maine, Minnesota, and Indiana.

Dianne's sixth novel, Eleanor, Alice, & the Roosevelt Ghosts, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, releases from Holiday House on September 1, 2020.

Photo taken at the grave of Sarah Ann Boone in Catawissa, Pennsylvania

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon


Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive a finished copy of ELEANOR, ALICE, AND THE ROOSEVELT GHOSTS, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:


What A Nerd Girl Says



Bookhounds YA



Log Cabin Library



Lifestyle of Me



Kait Plus Books






Oh Hey! Books



Miss Elizabeth



Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers



Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Instagram Stop


Girl Who Likes To Read




Instagram Stop


Pine Enshrined Reviews


Monday, September 21, 2020

MG Historical Fiction review of Zora & Me: The Summoner by Victoria Bond

51472397Zora & Me:  The Summoner by Victoria Bond
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Number of Pages:  256
Publishing:  October 13th, 2020
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line:  "Mama's employers, the Brays, had gone on Summer vacation to the South Carolina shore."

From Goodreads:  "For Carrie and her best friend, Zora, Eatonville--America's first incorporated Black township--has been an idyllic place to live out their childhoods. But when a lynch mob crosses the town's border to pursue a fugitive and a grave robbery resuscitates the ugly sins of the past, the safe ground beneath them seems to shift. Not only has Zora's own father--the showboating preacher John Hurston--decided to run against the town's trusted mayor, but there are other unsettling things afoot, including a heartbreaking family loss, a friend's sudden illness, and the suggestion of voodoo and zombie-ism in the air, which a curious and grieving Zora becomes all too willing to entertain."

Zora & Me:  The Summoner is the final book in the Zora & Me trilogy which is set in the summer of 1905 and is the historical fictionalized account of author Zora Neale Hurston's early childhood as narrated by her best friend Carrie.  The setting of Eatonville, Florida brings the historical significance of not only being the home of Zora Hurston, but was also the first black incorporated municipality in the U.S.  What I enjoyed about the setting was its community atmosphere,  where neighbors help neighbors, and day to day life revolved around work, chores, school work, visits to church, the post office, and how Joe Clarke's store was at the heart of the town.    

The story begins with an impactful moment, the tragic death of Terrace Side, and the resultant trauma of how his lynching affected the entire town.  From the moment that the town is invaded by a lynch mob in the middle of the night, to the pounding on doors, intimidation of the town people, to the instilling of fear in the residents of Eatonville.  It's a chilling moment that brings insight into a dark historical period from the past.   Moments that not even Mr. Chester Cools, one of the residents of Eatonville is able to escape from.  Moments that trigger memories of past events from Mr. Cools own life and contribute to his own subsequent death. 

Following Mr. Cools' death, Zora and Carrie try to visit his gravesite to pay their respects,  only to discover that graverobbers have stolen his body.  Zora begins to speculate whether Mr. Cools has become a zombie because just prior to his death, Zora and Carrie had a run-in with him where he proclaimed he was already dead.  Or was the body-snatching the work of Summonoer's, necromancy, Hoodoo, alchemy, or that of thieves who may have sold his body to a medical school for their anatomy dissections?   Either way, Carrie and Zora were determined to unravel the mystery and get at the truth.  I quite liked Zora, she's strong-minded, has no plans to marry, and be like the girls around her who don't get to fulfill their dreams.  At fourteen, soon to graduate at the end of eighth grade, she's forced to grow up so quickly.  It's hard to imagine any child at this age transitioning from childhood to adulthood.  I admire Zora's firm belief in making things happen for herself.  Carrie and Teddy are my next two favorite characters.  They both are level headed, have a calming demeanor, and possess this inner strength.  I so enjoy the relationship these friends share.  The Summoner rounds out the story of Zora Hurston's life and is a powerful story.  I especially love the idea from the story that the elderly are "caretakers of the past."    

**  Thank you to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for the E-ARC.  **     

Saturday, September 19, 2020

2020 Cybils Judges: Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

Judges for the Cybils were announced yesterday and  I'm very pleased to have been selected for the second round of Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction.   
 Cybils officially begins on October 1st and runs until October 15th.  
Here's a link to information about the Cybils Awards and get your nominations ready for the opening on October 1st!   Rules for nominating are here. 

2020 Elementary/Middle-Grade 
 Speculative Fiction Judges: 

First Round


Sherry Early
Twitter @semicolonblog

Heidi Grange 
Twitter @GeoLibrarian

Kristen Harvey 
The Book Monsters
Instagram  @bookgoil
Twitter @bookgoil

Nicole Hewitt
Feed Your Fiction Addiction
Instagram  @nicolefictionaddiction
Twitter @NicoleMHewitt

Katy Kramp 
Twitter @alibrarymama

Aeicha Matteson
Word Spelunking
Instagram @wordspelunker
Twitter  @wordspelunker

Charlotte Taylor
Charlotte’s Library
Twitter @charlotteslib

                                                                Second Round

Jolynn Asato
Instagram @literacyedprof

Mark Buxton
Say What?
Twitter @Markbxt
Instagram markbux614

Debbie Tanner 
The Book Search
Twitter @imtanner2

Brenda Tjaden 
Log Cabin Library
Twitter @logcabinlibrary

Astreia Yates
Twitter @ReadsYates
Instagram @mrs_y8s_reads

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