Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blog Tour: The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff - Guest Post!



Title: The Matchstick Castle
Author: Keir Graff
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 10, 2016
Source: Publisher



Hi Everyone!

I am super pleased to be able to bring you a guest post from Keir Graff!  Keir Graff is the author of the newly released middle grade novel entitled The Matchstick Castle!  He has been kind enough to tell us about 7 authors that have inspired him and his writing.  I hope you enjoy!


Seven Authors and How They Inspire Me
By Keir Graff
Seven is an impossibly reductive number, but I had to stop somewhere or I would have, months from now, ended up with a list of everyone I’ve ever read—because I do learn from everything, good and bad. Still, these seven authors are first in my mind as I talk to readers about my new middle-grade adventure novel, The Matchstick Castle, while finishing a draft of my next one.
Beverly Cleary
One word: family. Well, three words: The Quimby family. Books about Ramona and her clan were some of my first middle-grade reading, and it was a formative experience to read about a fictional family that acted like a real one, with bad behavior and everything. I eventually would move on to swords, sorcery, and science fiction, but realistic fiction should form part of every kid’s reading diet—or at least books that don’t discard every last shred of family dynamics in favor of adventure. Yes, most good kidlit lets young readers imagine some degree of autonomy, but not all heroines and heroes need to be orphans.
Roald Dahl
My friend Ilene Cooper once wrote about Dahl, paraphrasing Longfellow: “When his writing is good, it’s very very good; and when it is bad, it’s horrid.” This is certainly true—for every Danny the Champion of the World (my personal favorite), there’s a George’s Marvelous Medicine. Still, I’ll always treasure him for his monstrously large imagination and for being the first children’s author to feed my appetite for stories about bizarre and sometimes disgusting things, with grown-ups portrayed as capricious, mean, and horrible. We may not like it as adults, but it’s important to remember that sometimes that’s exactly how kids see us.
Madeleine L’Engle
I realize I’m not exactly being original here, but as I was rereading A Wrinkle in Time the other day, I was struck by how forthright her young characters are about their emotions (and emotional breakthroughs) even before the action starts in earnest. I think editors today would tell their authors to be subtler about this, to string readers along, but L’Engle’s matter-of-factness about having characters wear their hearts on their sleeves and say what they mean is just utterly refreshing—especially because kids are more like that than adults, something grown-up authors and editors sometimes forget.
Lloyd Alexander
I loved Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, too, but the fantasy series that really hooked me as a kid was Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain. For me, Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran was simply more relatable than Bilbo or Frodo because I recognized my aspirations and frustrations more clearly in him. Or maybe I liked the fact that Alexander didn’t fill his pages with endless odes and songs, as did Tolkien—for whatever reason, I read these books to tatters*. Incidentally, The Book of Three was the first book I remember giving as a gift, to a fourth-grade friend, with the inscription I hope you enjoy this much as I do.
Russell Hoban
Hoban was responsible for the droll narrative voice of the beloved Frances the Badger series; his wife Lillian drew the pictures. Many people labor under the misapprehension that picture books are easy, but they couldn’t be more wrong—picture-book text is hard though few made it look as effortless as Hoban, with a voice that was dry, witty, warm, and wise in a few deft strokes. I do my best to emulate his economy of words even though I’m not yet good enough to write picture books. Hoban also wrote for grown-ups (including the seminal post-apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker)—which, because I do likewise, inspires me, too.
Daniel Pinkwater
There are a precious few artists I classify as True Creatives (capitalized because I’m thinking about trademarking the term and giving a TED talk**); they seem able to tap some deeper wellspring of creativity and tell stories authentically, without concern for commercial or critical reception. In film, I think of David Lynch and Hayao Miyazaki. In middle-grade fiction, I think of Daniel Pinkwater. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t read Lizard Music, which strikes me as a cross between Flannery O’Connor and Salvador Dali—which is to say, awesome.
James Kennedy
Yes, yes, I could be listing James here as a shameless way to plug our collaboration on the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival (which may be coming to your town in the next few months), but BE THAT AS IT MAY, I find James a creative inspiration. Not just for his seemingly inexhaustible ability to make up weird and wondrous things in The Order of Odd-Fish and some still-to-be-published works I’ve read, but for his intense focus on what makes a story great. Too many authors want to talk about money and contracts, but James is a writer whose favorite topic is storytelling, and I’ve learned a great deal from him.
*Figuratively speaking: I still own them.
**Just kidding.

Bio:
Keir Graff is the author of two middle-grade novels, including the The Matchstick Castle, published in January by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers and Listening Library. Since 2011, he has been cohost of Publishing Cocktails, an occasional literary gathering in Chicago. By day, he is the executive editor of Booklist. You can find him on Twitter (@KeirGraff), Facebook (Keir.Graff.Author), and at www.keirgraff.com.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Warren the 13th and The All Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle


Title: Warren the 13th and The All Seeing Eye
Series: Warren the 13th #1
Author: Tania Del Rio
Illustrator: Will Staehle
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Source: Publisher

So this book was so much fun!  I realize the cover kind of promises this to you, but I am please to report that the cover is not lying to you!

Warren the 13th and the All Seeing Eye is about Warren the 13th (can I tell you anything more obvious? Probably not).  Warren the 13th lives with his Uncle Rupert, Aunt Annaconda, and a few others in an pretty run down hotel.  However, the hotel wasn't always run down.  When Warren's father was alive it was a beautiful place and business was thriving.  Unfortunately, he died when Warren the 13th was still too young to take over so his Uncle Rupert moved in to help him out.

And Uncle Rupert is lazy.... so things started falling apart, employees quit, and guests stopped visiting.

But that is really only the back story of how we get to the actual story that this book contains.  What happened is this - Uncle Rupert ended up marrying Annaconda and Annaconda is determined to find the mythical all seeing eye that is rumored to be hidden somewhere within the hotel!

One thing leads to another and everyone, including Warren the 13th, end up on a search for this All Seeing Eye.  This leads us to meeting quite a few fun and interesting people and takes us on quite the adventure!

Really, it is quite fun!

So, this book is meant to be a middle grade novel, but I think maybe some of the younger in that group might be a little turned off because the cover and the illustrations within (YES ILLUSTRATIONS) seem to have a darker Tim Burtonesque style to them and they might take it to mean this story will be scary.  And it isn't!  Not really!

Also, in regards to the illustrations....they are quite interesting to look at.  I know I enjoyed them all.  The ones in this book are done mostly in blacks/grays/reds/whites.  Pretty much like how you see them on the cover.  I think it really adds something to this story.  I don't think it would have been the same without them.

Also, random side note, my two year old kept taking the book from me so she could flip through and look at all the pictures.  She did this on multiple occasions.  My little book thief.

All in all, I found the story super fun.  It had a lot of puzzles you found yourself trying to figure out along with the characters - some of which were depicted in the illustrations.  And it was over all a great middle grade level mystery and I look forward to reading more of Warren's adventures.

My Rating
4 Stars


This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.


Fun Things!

Did you think I was done with only giving you my review?!  Well I'm not!  Today actually happens to be a very special day!  It is FRIDAY THE 13th!  And the wonderful people over at Quirk Books have given me something super special to share with you!

First - there is a special short story featuring Warren that you can check out!  Just click the link and go enjoy all the awesomeness they have in store for you!



And the final thing I have for you today in celebration of Warren the 13th is the cover for book 2!  I can't wait for it to come out so I can see what happens to Warren next!



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Middle Grade Madness 2017 is Here!



Hi Everyone!

I am so excited to tell you all about Middle Grade Madness!

This is the second year of Middle Grade Madness.  Last year it was hosted by Lilybloombooks and it was a lot of fun!  And I am so thrilled to let you all know that I am going to be co-hosting this fun reading challenge with you for the year 2017!

If this is the first you have heard of this fun reading challenge you are probably wondering what we are talking about.  Middle Grade Madness is a reading challenge for the year for Middle Grade books!  You read as many as you want and then you come to our monthly post and link up your review(s) for the Middle Grade novels that you read!  Super simple!  You don't even have to make a post for it, you can just link your blog/Goodreads/Amazon to the sign up linky and you are good to go!

And just for some additional fun to this challenge, there will be giveaways!

Super fun and super easy.  And a great way to share the love for Middle Grade books!

Here is the really important information in bullet format for you!
  • Join the Madness until December 31st 2017 at 11:59 p.m EST
  • Link up!  You do NOT have to create a specific sign up post - your blog link is fine.  You don't even have to have a book blog to join!  If you don't have a book blog, you can link up Amazon or Goodreads profiles, for example
  • The 1st of every month a new link post will go live to link up to.
  • Monthly Links close on the 10th of the FOLLOWING month.  If you miss a post, no worries!  Link it up on the following month!
  • There will be giveaways on each month's post.  Unless otherwise noted.  Each link submitted counts as an entry, so be sure to link up those reviews!
  • If you want you can email your links to lilybloombooks(at)hotmail(dot)com
  • We will promote ti too!  Use the hashtag #MadforMG2017 
  • Us it as a challenge or just for fun! It's completely up to you!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or to contact myself or Lilybloombooks!

Here is the linky!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Blog Tour: Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos - Excerpt and Giveaway!



Title: Life in a Fishbowl
Author: Len Vlahos
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: Januaary 3, 2017
Source: Publisher



Hi everyone!

I am super pleased that I get to share with you an excerpt from the book Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos!

Don't worry, I wont bore you with my talk today!  We all know you are really here because you want to read an excerpt of this book and then enter the giveaway...and maybe even then go order your own beautiful gorgeous copy!

So here you go!

EXCERPT:

Jared kept the news of his brain tumor to himself for four days, spending most of that time lying on his office floor, trying to think. He came out just often enough to make sure his family wouldn’t suspect anything was amiss, going right back in once he was convinced they were thrown off the scent of trouble.
Jared tried hard to think of a way out of what he saw as his financial predicament. There was college to pay for soon. And cars and spring break vacations and whatever else kids needed money for. But mostly he was just trying to think. When he was bored with lying in the dark, he would turn on his computer and click from once cancer website to the next. The grim news he read about high-grade glioblastoma multiformes made his head hurt, and he found himself linking instead to news and entertainment sites.
That was how he happened on a strange article from a few months earlier:
Divorced Man Auctions His Life Online
March 14—Worldwide News Now
When Jens Schmidt realized he needed a fresh start, he auctioned his material possessions online. From an unused tube of toothpaste to a 2002 Toyota Camry, Schmidt put his entire life up for sale to the highest bidder.
The thirty-four-year-old Dutchman, a successful attorney who likes to hang glide and ski, seemed to have it all. But then his wife of seven years, an Italian woman named Anna Mazzucchi, filed for divorce, and Schmidt deided it was time to move on.
“I just didn’t want any reminder of my life before,” he said.
Schmidt’s listing includes his house, his hot tub, his clothes, his television, his cat, and his car. He also notes: “My friends are included in the package. If you win the auction, they promise they’ll be nice to you.”
Jared looked up from the article on his computer screen, and the world froze for a moment.
An idea started to percolate in Jared’s brain. A crazy idea. An idea only a man with a high-grade glioblastoma multiforme could possibly have. He would auction his life—not his things, but his actual life—on eBay. The euthanasia lobby was pressuring him to take a position on a proposed expansion to Oregon’s right-to-die laws; he would become their post boy. Jared Stone, for sale to the highest bidder—do with him as you please.   

This excerpt from Life in a Fishbowl was provided by the publisher.


GIVEAWAY:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

THE TOUR:

Jan 3—Swoony Boys Podcast
Jan 4—Ex Libris
Jan 5—Peace Love Books
Jan 6—Reading is Better with Cupcakes
Jan 9—Here’s to Happy Endings
Jan 10—WhoRU Blog
Jan. 11—Dazzled By Books
Jan. 12—It Starts at Midnight
Jan. 13—The Story Sanctuary

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reading is Better With Cupcakes Year End Wrap Up *2016*

Oh geez!  The year is finally over!  FINALLY!

Personally, this year wasn't too eventful, which is a good thing I guess.  I mean things happened...I lost some friends, I gained some friends.  I lost myself a little, I found myself a little...  Really it was probably a fairly middle ground sort of year, which I guess is okay.  I mean...it could have been worse, but it also could have been better...

In regards to blogging, I actually think I had a good calendar year!  My blog is right around 1.5 years old and I think it is going strong.  I have started to build some relationships with publishers and authors - which I am super thankful for.  I mean, as you know, I really like spreading the love of books to those around me, and these relationships are definitely helping me to accomplish this.  I don't think I posted as often as I did originally every month, but I am still posting multiple times a month...the child likes to make me not be on the computer as often now so I get things done when I can.

And then, when it comes to spreading book love in my more immediate community, I have been trying to be more active there as well.  Obviously this was easier when I had been a bookseller, but I have found a way.  A small way, but still a way.  There is a subgroup of people in my town that have been pushing for Little Free Libraries, and while I cannot have one myself (association and hubby are my roadblocks) I have been donating my books to the ones that do exist.  I have managed to donate to two different libraries so far...very very large boxes of books!  Hopefully I can get two more of these nice sizable book donations done in this coming year to 2 more LFLs!  I am always accepting donations to give to these libraries...please feel free to contact me if you would like to donate to them.  Our community really needs young adult and middle grade books!  The libraries go through the ones they do get super quick!

Finally...my last years goals...yeah...I sucked at most of them.  But I tried!

Here is what they were:

  1. 150 books - Well I managed to reach 135...which is not bad at all really.  I almost got there!  
  2. Do atleast 1 reread a month - I got through 9 (thanks to audiobooks) which is actually a lot better than I have done in the past with rereads, but it is still 3 books short :(
  3. Read at least 1 indy/self published book a month - This one I did pretty bad with.  I think I only read about 5 or 6 of these...definitely no where near the 12 that were my goal.
  4. Read 1 back list title a month - This one I surprisingly didn't do that poorly on (depending on your definition of what makes a backlist title!) and read about 15ish or so of these!
  5. Read 1 classic - I think I got one of these in.  I am counting The Hatchet as a classic dangit!
  6. Read 1 biography/memoir - I kind of sort of read 1 of these.  It was technically a fictional story based off of his real life.  They played fast and loose with some bits for reasons explained after the story ended.
  7. Up my Netgalley percentage to at least 50% - HAHAHAHAHAHAHA I don't know if it went up at all.  It might have gone down!
  8. To keep up the love of reading and to share my book love with others. - This one is a constant work in progress.  Hopefully in this next year I can think up a few more ways to spread the love.  Maybe I just need to randomly give books to more people than I did this year!  But please, if you have ideas on how I can do more of this please let me know them!

So I guess that leads me to what my bookish goals for 2017 are going to be....  So here they are:
  1. 75 books read
  2. At least 1 reread a month (audio or actual reading)
  3. 1 classic
  4. 1 biography/memoir
  5. 1 discussiony post at least on the blog a month
  6. To read more diversely - more books by POC, books with POC main characters, more Own Voices titles, more books with LGBTQIA main characters, etc etc etc
  7. Post more bookish photos onto IG more regularly
  8. To continue to spread the bookish love with people around me and people far away
I am sure over time I will come up with more specific things I want to accomplish as far as reading and spreading the love of books goes.  Maybe I will try to do more specific challenges as they pop up - for example, I know I will be participating in ARCAugust if it happens again next year.


And now that we have gotten my goals out of the way I want to share with you some of my favorite books that I read from this past year!  And some how I didn't really read any romance this past year, and what I did read was just okay...so that is why there is no YA romance category!


Picture Book




Middle Grade




Young Adult Science Fiction



Young Adult Fantasy




Young Adult Fiction



Adult




Cookbook/Craft/Hobby



Adult Coloring Book





Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Release Day Blitz: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher


Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: December 27, 2016


When I was given the opportunity to participate in the release day blitz for Thirteen Reasons Why, I knew I couldn't pass up on the chance to help showcase this amazing book.  It has been a while since I read it and I really do need to revisit it.  However, when I did originally read it, I DEVOURED it.  I couldn't put it down until it was done.

It was that good.

Thirteen Reasons Why isn't an easy read by any means though.  It is on a very very tough topic, but a topic that really needs more discussion than it gets.  Suicide.  Teen suicide.

And what I loved the most about this book is that it talked about teen suicide and showed us how it is important to be aware.  And even though the premise of the book is that the girl who committed suicide has sent the "13 reasons why" some tapes that "explain" why she committed suicide, it still does not make suicide sound like it is okay.

This book will teach those who read it a lot as long as they are willing to listen.

And here it is 10 years later!  It is still as important, if not more so, than when it was released and they have given it such a beautiful cover to commemorate it and they have given us a bit more content than it had originally.  

Really, if you haven't read it yet, you need to.  If it's been awhile, I suggest considering rereading.  Share this story with others in your life, especially teens.

Just read and listen to what this story has to tell you!  You will be happy and that much better for doing so!

The new content includes:

  • An introduction from its award-winning author, Jay Asher;
  • The until-now-secret alternate ending for Hannah and Clay that almost was;
  • Early notes and ideas of how the story came to be
  • Deleted scenes
  • And more!
Enter to win a copy!


Enter for a chance to win one of five (5) hardcover copies of the 10th Anniversary Edition of 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (ARV: $18.99).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on December 27, 2016 and 12:00 AM on December 28, 2016.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about January 2, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson


Title: The Kiss of Deception
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Series: The Remnant Chronicles
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source: Trade

I had been holding onto this book for a good while before I finally managed to pick it up and get it read.  So what made me finally get to the point that I was ready to pick it up and read it?  Mostly it was because this was someone else's unicorn of an ARC and I wanted to get it to her (I had gotten it in a trade myself), but also it was because I had kept hearing about this book.

I kept hearing about it on Twitter.  I kept seeing it make an appearance on Instagram.

It just kept popping up all over the place.

So, naturally, I had to pick it up and see for myself why this book kept being talked about and mentioned and photographed and all that jazz.

Like normal, I had no idea really what it was about.  I just knew that people liked it a lot.

The book, it turns out, is about a princess who doesn't want to be forced into marriage by her father.  So what does she do?  She runs away right before her marriage.  She doesn't go alone though.  Her best friend (who also just happens to be a servant girl in her castle like home!) goes with her.  They run to a port side town where they hope they will be able to go unnoticed by those around them and live the rest of their days all happy like and free from the pressures of what others want of them.

Too bad our princess was followed.  Not by one, but by 2 men.  One wants to do her harm, the other wants to take her back.

The fun part is...which one is which?  The author doesn't tell us!  We are left guessing and wondering throughout the majority of the book which guy is actually which!

So clever.  So evil.

I mean, seriously, what if I choose the wrong guy?  The pressure of it all!  But it is pretty cool and I wasn't expecting to be in the middle of a giant guessing game of who is who, so mad props for that.

What I wanted more of though?  I wanted more magic.  The magic that is in this book felt more like it was only a hint of it.  Just barely there.  Not really touched or used and I wanted to see more.  Lots more.  I like magic.  If the world has magic in it, I want to see it.  I don't want it to be under done and disappointing...but maybe in book 2 we will get more of the magic?

I did appreciate that we were given a strong heroine that doesn't want to be pushed around by those around her.  I hate when we have female characters that just do what everyone around them tells them to do or just sit in a corner freaking out because without the guidance of others they have no idea what they should do in any given situation.  Do I use a fork or a spoon?!?!?!  Someone please tell me!!!  Ugh.  Thankfully, The Kiss of Deception did not fall prey to that issue.  That was nice and refreshing.

All in all, I liked The Kiss of Deception.  However, to me, it did not reach the hype that was built up for it... But when can a book ever truly reach the hype?  I was at least not horribly disappointed and still enjoyed it quite a bit, which also means the hype didn't ruin it for me either.  That is always good.

Now to find time to get to book 2.  That one is also sitting on myself waiting.

My Rating
4 Stars


This review is based on an ARC I received by trading with another book blogger.  All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.