Monday, September 25, 2017

Judges announced today for the Cybils

The Cybils are coming October 1st: 

I'm a Round 2 Judge!

Cybils 2017

Today's the day, judges for the Cybils were announced and  I'm very pleased to have been selected for the second round of Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction.  This is my first time being a second round judge, and I couldn't be more excited. 
 Our work starts on January 1st and runs up until February 12th when we will select the winner.    
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. 

2017 ElementaryMiddle-Grade  Speculative Fiction Judges: 

First Round

Sherry Early

Melissa Fox 
@Book Nut

Katherine Kramp

Debbie Tanner

Charlotte Taylor

Second Round

Mark Buxton

Halli Gomez

Jenna Grose

Rosemary Kaladitis

Brenda Tjaden

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co., #5) by Jonathan Stroud

33785205The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co., #5) by Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format:  Hardcover
Number of Pages: 437
Published:  September 12th,  2017
Source: Purchased
Why I wanted to read this:  Stroud has been one of my favorite authors ever since reading The Amulet of Samarkand and meeting the character of Bartimaeus

Opening Lines:  "Want to hear a ghost story?  That's good,  I know a few.  How about the one of the sightless blue face, pressed against the cellar window?  Or the apparition of the blind man holding a cane made of children's bones?"

So, I ventured into my last book in the series, a little uneasy with what to expect for the characters that I've loved reading, and despite a huge part of me wanting to race through the book to see if any of my predictions would come true,  I'm happy that I instead read it really slowly savoring every word.  

The Empty Grave begins with Lockwood & Company breaking into the Fittes Mausoleum, trying to prove or disprove revelations Skull made at the end of The Creeping Shadow, or whether or not Marissa Fittes remains really are within the tomb.  Meanwhile, Penelope Fittes has been building up the Fittes Agency by absorbing all of the smaller agencies,  changing rules and closely monitoring Lockwood and Company in hopes of catching them doing something wrong.  George continues researching their various cases and is instrumental in identifying a revenant they encountered in the mausoleum.   The gang also takes on a particularly dangerous mission to remove an evil spirit at the Tufnell Theater putting everyone in danger.  There's an unsettling trip to the graveyard, an eerie message for Lucy from a mechanical fortune teller machine and many, many precarious situations for our ghosthunters.   Not to mention, they begin to have suspicions regarding the real source of the Problem that has been causing all of the ghosts in London, and it ain't pretty.  

 Stroud has once again given me a book filled with suspense, the witty bantering of Skull and Lucy, a spooky atmosphere, creepy, eerie ghosts, the thrilling action, and this nerve-wracking feeling of impending doom that I couldn't seem to shake.  It was so engrossing that I  put everything else on hold just to read.  Only stopping for a brief moment over a particular scene that gave me goosebumps.  So many of the questions that I previously had were answered, albeit I was a tad disappointed by a few things that I would've loved more clarity on, or even had resolved completely regarding my beloved Skull, but at least there were touching moments between Skull and Lucy, Lucy and Lockwood and I'm very delighted with the way the story geared everything toward one final amazing battle.  

 My favorite lines were when Skull is trying to convince Lucy to let him out of the jar

"Say I let you out.  What would you do?"  "I'd flit about.  Stretch my plasm.  Might strangle Cubbins.  Carry out a spot of casual ghost-touch, now and again.  Just simple hobbies.  It would be a darn sight more enjoyable than sitting here."  I grinned at it.  "You make your case so well..."  

Just love how he's all nonchalant about killing poor George.  And this one when Lucy confides in Skull about her concerns for Lockwood

"Skull,"  I said suddenly, "I'm worried about Lockwood."  The ghost seemed taken aback.,  "Lockwood?"  "Yes."  "Hey, you know me.  I love him like a brother."  

How Skull is all insincere with his concern for Lockwood, and then other times almost jealous, even the scene where he's kinda psychoanalyzing Lockwood to help Lucy understand why Lockwood's elusive.   Such amazing wonderful characters that I worried over,  watched grow and become closer across the series and who I really would've loved having cake and tea with.   This will be a series that I will continue to revisit and hold out hope that Stroud will one day return to writing books set in this world.   I'd even love something entirely different as long as there's a sassy character like Bartimaeus or Skull.  Until then, I'm thrilled by the news that the Lockwood and Company series is being adapted for television!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cover Reveal Tour: Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library with synopsis, chapter excerpt & GIVEAWAY

I'm so excited today to be included in the cover reveal tour for Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson's newest book, Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library!  I love the cover and illustrations by David SanAngelo, doesn't it scream Fall, Halloween, and Spookiness?   And please don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway too.   

Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow had no clue that moving from Manhattan to the small town of Ashpot, Connecticut, would lead to an unsolved mystery. Her parents’ dream of renovating a crumbling Victorian, called the Begonia House, into a bed and breakfast had seemed like treachery at the time. But Fairday found out that her new house kept secrets, and once inside its twisted front gates, anything was possible.

When mysterious notes start showing up warning that a librarian is in trouble and a bookworm is eating words, Fairday thinks the Begonia House has more skeletons in its closets. She notices a passage in her favorite book has been changed, and she’s certain something is dreadfully wrong. What happens to stories when their words get eaten?

The Detective Mystery Squad is ready to investigate! Fairday, Lizzy, and Marcus take off on a sticky trail and tumble into Nowhere. Like Alice in Wonderland, Fairday finds herself in a world where nothing makes sense and the lines of reality are blurred.

The three sleuths discover amazing things about themselves as they unravel more secrets within the walls of the Begonia House. Follow along with Fairday and friends as they open the next case in the DMS files to unlock the mystery of the Talking Library.

~ ONE ~
Strange Notes

Fairday Morrow woke to a loud crack of thunder. As she bolted upright in bed, her gray eyes flew open. Rain pelted against the window. Electricity charged the air. Lightning flashed, and she saw the old willow tree in her backyard lurching wildly. A whip-like branch smashed the glass and the storm raged into her room. BOOM! The sky lit up. The wind blew in like a tornado, tossing wet leaves and sticks around. Fairday shrieked and ducked under the covers.
“Fairday! Are you okay?” her dad shouted from the hallway.
Auntie Em, the family pug, was barking her head off.
“Yeah, I’m alright,” Fairday answered in a shaky voice. She peeked out from the blankets as a burst of light split the dark. For an instant, glass shards twinkled like stars across the tattered lion-and-unicorn carpet; the heavy drapes flapped, twisting in the wind. On the next lightning strike, Fairday saw a paper blow in through the broken window. But the second she glimpsed it, thunder boomed, the house shook, and everything blacked out.

Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library

Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson, Co-authors 
Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson have been friends since they met freshman year of high school. After discovering they both loved the same books, their friendship grew, and they went on to co-author The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow. The first mystery in the Fairday Morrow series, released with Delacorte Press in December 2015. Stephanie and Jess are excited to present the next case in the DMS files. Having the brilliant illustrations created by their close high school friend, David SanAngelo, has made bringing the story to life magical. To contact Stephanie and Jess or learn more about their journey, please visit:

David SanAngelo, Illustrator
David SanAngelo is an award winning illustrator, and a two-time Emmy nominated director of animated shows for children and he won a kite flying contest in the fourth grade. Dave attended high school with Jessica and Stephanie, and they've all been friends for a billion years. Some of Dave's favorite things are: old monster movies, superheros and shred-a-licious rock music. Although he grew up in New England, Dave currently lives with his wife and sons in Decatur, GA. To learn more about Dave's illustrations, please visit:

Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library 
Book 2: Fairday Morrow series
Release date: October 2017
Age Range: 8 years old and up
Grade Level: 3-9
Publisher: Willow Press


Catch the first mystery before the next case in the DMS files opens on October 23rd!

The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow
Publish date: December 2015
Age Range: 8 years old and up
Grade Level: 3-9
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish  This week's Top Ten is Books on My Fall TBR List.  September was a really busy release month for book purchases for me,  with the first four being pre-purchases and  Under the Bottle Bridge one that I'm planning on purchasing for my birthday.  Now I just need more hours in the day to be able to read all of them.   

1.  Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

23264671Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.  Published:  September 5th, 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books


2.  The Great Hibernation by Tara Dairman

The most important tradition in tiny St. Polonius-on-the-Fjord is the annual Tasting of the Sacred Bear Liver. Each citizen over twelve must eat one bite of liver to prevent the recurrence of the Great Hibernation when the town founders fell asleep for months.

This year is Jean Huddy's first time to taste the liver. It doesn't go well. A few hours later, all the adults fall asleep. And no one can wake them.

The kids are left to run things, and they're having a blast. That is, until the town bullies take over the mayor's office and the police force.

Jean suspects that this "hibernation" was actually engineered by someone in town. She starts to investigate, and inspires other kids to join her in a secret plan to save St. Polonius. Published:  September 12th, 2017 by Wendy Lamb Books

3.  The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie

27395333A girl unravels a centuries-old mystery after moving into a haunted house in this deliciously suspenseful mystery.

Tessa Woodward isn’t exactly thrilled to move to rainy, cold Chicago from her home in sunny Florida. But homesickness turns to icy fear when unexplainable things start happening in her new house. Things like flickering lights, mysterious drawings appearing out of nowhere, and a crackling noise she can feel in her bones.

When her little brother’s doll starts crying real tears, Tessa realizes that someone—or something—is trying to communicate with her. A secret that’s been shrouded in mystery for more than one hundred years.
With the help of three new friends, Tessa begins unraveling the mystery of what happened in the house on Shady Street—and more importantly, what it has to do with her! Publishing:  October 10th 2017 by Aladdin

4.  All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

30025336Here is a thing everyone wants: 
A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place, you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.
They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.  Publishing:  October 10th 2017 by Scholastic Press

5.   Under The Bottle Bridge by Jessica Lawson

In the tradition of Rooftoppers and Three Times Lucky, critically acclaimed author Jessica Lawson returns with her fourth whimsical, lyrical, and heartfelt middle-grade novel about a girl who’s desperately trying to keep her life together, when everything seems to be falling apart.

In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York’s annual AutumnFest, twelve-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village’s 300-year-old bridges, she can’t help but wonder who’s leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly…could the messages be for her?

Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she’s been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions.
   Published:  September 5th, 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

6.  Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

33158525Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.  Publishing:  
September 26th, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends

7.  The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

34076952Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price.  Publishing:  September 26th, 2017 by Macmillan/Imprint

8.   Embers of Destruction by J. Scott Savage

34525573It's time to take the battle to the dragons.

In the third and final volume of the bestselling Mysteries of Cove series, Trenton and Kallista--along with their friends, Plucky, Simoni, Angus, and Clyde--fly their mechanical dragons south toward San Francisco, looking to rescue any survivors from the battle of Seattle.

Arriving in San Francisco and investigating the area in secret, the young riders are reunited with Kallista's father, Leo Babbage, who reveals that the humans in the city are working as slaves to the dragons, but that they don't want to be rescued--himself included. He says they are being protected by their new master: a huge, powerful white dragon who lives in an impenetrable tower fortress overlooking the city. Kallista is stunned by the news. Why would her father ever willingly want to work for dragons?

Trenton and his friends are confronted by the guards and their mechanical dragons are seized. Evading capture, the young riders escape and begin looking for a way to break the white dragon's hold over the city--and over Leo. Working with the kids from the city, the young riders track down the source of the dragon's power to an underground chamber that is accessible only through an underwater passageway below the tower fortress.

With the white dragon watching their every move, Trenton and Kallista will need every bit of creativity and ingenuity they can manage to find a way to retrieve their stolen dragons, enter the tower fortress, and take down the dragons once and for all.  Publishing:  September 26th, 2017 by Shadow Mountain

9.  Keeper of the Lost Cities:  Nightfall by Shannon Messenger

Sophie Foster is struggling. Grieving. Scrambling. But she knows one thing: she will not be defeated.

The Neverseen have had their victories—but the battle is far from over. It’s time to change tactics. Make sacrifices. Reexamine everything. Maybe even time for Sophie to trust her enemies.

All paths lead to Nightfall—an ominous door to an even more ominous place—and Sophie and her friends strike a dangerous bargain to get there. But nothing can prepare them for what they discover. The problems they’re facing stretch deep into their history. And with time running out, and mistakes catching up with them, Sophie and her allies must join forces in ways they never have before.
   Publishing:  November 7th 2017 by Aladdin

10.   The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on. 

After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded kids. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they'll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso's villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series.  Publishing:  November 21st, 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

What books made it on your Fall TBR list? Or are you looking forward to any of the books that I've picked?  Feel free to leave a comment or link to your TTT.   

Friday, September 15, 2017

MG Historical Fiction Review: My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson

34427289My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Format:  ARC Paperback

Number of Pages: 196 
Publishing:  October 10th 2017
SourceIn exchange for an honest review, a review copy was received from the publisher.
Why I wanted to read this:  A historical-fiction novel from the author of Bridge to Terabithia.  

My Brigadista Year, tells the story of 13-year old Lora who volunteers to join a governmental army of literacy teachers tasked with teaching its citizens to read and write in Havana Cuba during the 1960's.  Before Lora could enlist, she had to get her parents to sign a permission slip, which they were very hesitant to do.   As the eldest of three siblings, Lora was partially responsible for watching over the younger children and her parents were concerned for her safety.  As the only girl in the family, Lora's mother also wanted her daughter to be more "ladylike," a role that Lora wasn't eager to take.   Lora's Abuela was the only one who seemed to understand her desire to want to feel useful and more like an adult, so she was instrumental in getting her father to agree to sign Lora's permission form.   The story chronicles Lora's initial training as a Brigadista or literacy teacher at the Varadero Training Camp, transfer to her host family in the mountains, and subsequent tasks of educating them to be able to read and write so they can pass a competency exam.   At the same time, it highlighted the dangerous counter-revolutionaries that were going on across the country and the fighters that were hiding within the same mountains as Lora and who were promising to kill any Brigadista's that they found.   

From the author's note, Paterson relates how My Brigadista is a fictional memoir but based on her own extensive research into the history of a major literacy campaign in Havana Cuba which ran from January 28th, 1961 through December 22nd.   This was a very interesting look at a time period of which I knew very little about and having the author note and time line for Cuba's history at the back of the book came in handy.   Having never taught before, Lora received training and I found the details about the textbooks they used and the manner in which they were to address their students very interesting.  Specifically, that they used a book called "We Shall Overcome" and how it featured pictures matched with the words that were relevant to their students daily life or ones that were felt to be important for rebuilding their nation.   According to the authors note,  many of these volunteer teachers were young girls, between the age of ten to nineteen who volunteered to leave the city and live in the mountains, working side by side with their host families in the field or doing housework, so that they could develop a rapport to be able to teach them to read and write.  And they were successful in raising the national literacy rate in only a years time.  Overall, this was a fascinating, uplifting memoir and a very nice coming of age story.  I'm hoping there will also be a teachers guide for My Brigadista Year because it would make for an interesting historical fiction companion novel to a unit on Cuba, specifically the lesser known literacy campaign that Fidel Castro instituted.  Students could also further explore the Cuban revolution and discuss differing views of Fidel Castro's leadership of Cuba.     

Monday, September 11, 2017

MG Fantasy/Adventure: Jorie and the River of Fire by A.H. Richardson

Jorie and the River of Fire by A.H. Richardson
Publisher: Serano Press
Format:  Paperback
Number of Pages: 286
Published:  August 1st, 2017
SourceIn exchange for an honest review, a review copy was received from the author.
Why I wanted to read this:   Continuation of Jorie and Rufus' adventures.  

Opening Line:  "Manoona, The Pale White Lady, stood alone high atop the tall green mountain which overlooked the blue sparkling waters of the Panaia River, extending her arms in front of her and closing her eyes. " 

In book two of the series, the evil Lord Fodomalk took possession of the three magical stones plotting to use their power to unite Cabrnthius and Shyloxia under his rule.  Jorie and Rufus, with newcomer Nigel, returned to Cabrynthius, despite their initial reservations about bringing Nigel along.  Shortly after arriving in Cabrnthius,  Nigel was kidnapped by Lord Fodomalk, who tried to extract information on Jorie's plans.  Things escalated into a rescue and retrieval mission of the magical stones from Shyloxia. 

 In the third installment of the series, nearly a year has passed since our two friends have been together.  Jorie has been traveling in France with her Aunt Lettitia, while the Colonel and Rufus were abroad in Germany.  Upon their return to Mortimor Manor, Jorie and her Aunt receive an invitation to visit the Colonel's home for tea, while Jorie also has word from Snowka (Manoona in her cat form) that the Great Wizard from Cabrynthius has disappeared, Chook is missing, potentially both having been captured by Lord Fodomalk. Once Jorie and Rufus reunite, they once again venture into the Tarn and are whisked to Cabrynthius where they make plans to find the Great Wizard.   They soon learn that he is being held in a prison set high into a mountain in the land of Shyloxia.   It will take wit, bravery and the power of the three magical Stones if they hope to succeed in rescuing their friends.  

 Jorie and Rufus have now turned thirteen and I've become fond of these two characters because of their strong bond and friendship that rings through every page.  I enjoy how their relationship is developing into signs of a deeper affection, purely middle-grade mind you with a kiss shared on the cheek, but sweet nonetheless.  They deeply care and worry about one another, while bravely trying to rescue their friends despite facing all these new dangers.  The Great Wizard for one is being held in a prison cell set in a harsh volcano riddled land with the only access an impassable, terrifying River of Fire.  The prison is also in a part of Shyloxia where the air quality is so poor making it nearly impossible for the Great Wizard to breathe, causing him to weaken the longer that he stays.  They're also deeply concerned because of their dragon friend,  Chook being missing.  The duo also need to avoid being detected by Lord Fodomalk's patrolling poisonous butterflies or risk being captured or seriously hurt themselves.  Definitely more obstacles than in previous books, but the pacing and action made for an exciting read.  Plus all those budding romantic feelings between our two main characters and even stern Aunt Lettitia and Colonel Hercules, make this my new favorite in the series.   Can't wait to see where future adventures for Jorie and Rufus lead us.