Category Archives: Middle Grade

Author Interviews
June 27, 2016 posted by Nichole

2016 Debut Authors Bash: Author Interview with Cheryl Blackford

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Hi, everyone! Welcome back!

Today, I am very excited to introduce you to a new MG author, Cheryl Blackford.  I feel that there are a ton of MG authors this year. Is it just me? I mean, we always have SOME MG authors for the Bash, but I feel like we have a ton more this year! Maybe I’m just blocking out past years. Anyways, I’m super excited for all of the new MG books because these are the types of books that I’ll be including in my curriculum and classroom since I’ll be teaching in an elementary school setting next year. I mean, I’ll definitely have SOME YA books in my classroom, especially for the higher level readers, but (and this depends on the grade level that I’ll be teaching) I’ll most likely have mostly MG books in my classroom. So, I’m very excited for all of these new MG books! That being said, take a look at the interview below! As always, be sure to leave a comment in the comments section below!


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Cheryl Blackford was born in Yorkshire, England but now lives in a house in the woods in Minnesota where she is entertained by a wide assortment of wildlife, including coyotes. LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY is Cheryl’s first middle-grade novel. She has written three non-fiction books for young readers and her picture book HUNGRY COYOTE (inspired by a coyote she saw crossing a frozen lake near her home) won a 2015 Moonbeam Award.


 

 

Why did you write this story?

Setting is often the starting point for my stories and I wanted to write something set in Yorkshire where I grew up. Swainedale is loosely based on Rosedale, a beautiful valley in the North York Moors where my parents owned a cottage for many years. I had the idea that Lizzie would be an evacuee and the story grew from that. And not only did I have a story but I discovered a piece of family history I hadn’t known before I wrote this book — both my father and uncle were World War II evacuees. Neither of them had ever thought it important enough to speak about! Can you believe that?

 

Why is Historical Fiction important?

Current events often mirror past events and story is a safe way for young readers to explore difficult topics. War has disrupted Lizzie’s life: for her own safety the British Government has mandated that she leave her home and parents and live with strangers. Over 3 million people (most of them children) were evacuated in Britain during World War II to escape German bombs. Sadly war still causes mass migrations and this type of dislocation is familiar to many modern children. Placing a fictional child in this situation gives readers insight into the feelings of loss and uncertainty suffered by those who have had to flee their homes and their countries. And for those readers who are in this situation, perhaps they can watch Lizzie overcome her fears and sadness and feel some hope for themselves.

 

Prejudice and bigotry in its extreme form can lead to genocide. Elijah is a Gypsy: he and his people are objects of scorn and suspicion in Swainedale and are subjected to discrimination and harassment because their customs and nomadic life are not the norm in England. Prejudice against the Gypsy/Roma/Traveler community persists to this day. Lizzie befriending Elijah can be a model for children to acknowledge and celebrate difference rather than scorning it. In Europe the Nazi regime took its prejudice to extremes by murdering tens of thousands of Roma in a genocidal effort to exterminate them as a people. Narrative fiction can help us find a way to discuss such an ugly subject as genocide.

 

Why are “windows” and “mirrors” important in middle-grade and YA fiction?

Books offer readers “windows” where they can peek into lives very different from their own — helping them to understand unfamiliar situations and develop empathy. If you don’t have empathy with someone, it’s easy to dismiss or even harass that person. We must show our children that “different” doesn’t mean “inferior” or “dangerous.” Story can do that. A “window” for one reader will be a “mirror” for another who sees her own life reflected in the story. And that story can offer hope as the reader sees a character coping with, and often overcoming, problems similar to her own.

 

Does Lizzie encounter problems that modern middle-grade kids would understand?

Friendship. Sibling rivalry. Injustice. Lizzie grapples with all of those as she adjusts to her new life in the dale. And powerlessness in the face of intractable adults — kids know that one well!

 

How Can I incorporate LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY into my curriculum?

I’m glad you asked. I’m in the middle of creating a teachers’ guide that I’ll post on my web site (www.cherylblackford.com). It will have suggested topics for research and discussion, and language arts activities that will be correlated to Common Core standards. But here’s a fun activity: Some food, such as sugar and meat, was rationed in Britain during World War II which meant that cooks had to be very creative when planning meals. (Carrot “fudge” anyone?). Research a typical British diet of the time and compare it with foods kids like to eat now. Do they see any wartime meals they think they’d enjoy? What would they miss the most?

 

More great MG and YA fiction and non-fiction about World War II.

  • THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Dial Books, 2015.
  • A FROST IN THE NIGHT by Edith Baer, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.
  • NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, reissued 2011.
  • THE KLIPFISH CODE by Mary Casanova, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2007.
  • SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN by Margi Preus, Harry N. Abrams, 2014.
  • BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD-AND STEAL—THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON, by Steve Sheinken, Flash Point, 2012. (Non-fiction)
  • SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD: DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH AND THE SIEGE OF LENINGRAD by M.T. Anderson, Candlewick, 2015. (Non-fiction)
  • ANNE FRANK: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank and B.M. Mooyaart. (Non-fiction)
  • SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys, Philomel Books, 2016. (Also, BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY.)
  • GIRL IN THE BLUE COAT, by Monica Hesse, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016.
  • BOY AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN by John Boyne, Henry Holt and Co., 2016. (Also, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS.)

The last three books and their authors are described in this New York Times article:


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In LIZZIE AND THE LOST BABY, ten-year-old Lizzie Dewhurst grapples with an important question: Is it ever right to keep something that doesn’t belong to you? The question haunts Lizzie as she adjusts to life as a World War II evacuee and sees the intolerance and prejudice exhibited by her hosts. Lizzie and her younger brother Peter have been sent from their city home to Swainedale, a remote Yorkshire valley, to live with strangers. On her first day in the dale Lizzie finds an abandoned baby in a field. When she befriends Elijah, a local Gypsy boy, and discovers the truth about the baby she is faced with a terrible choice. How will she answer the question?

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Blog Tour
May 9, 2016 posted by Nichole

Blog Tour: The Lonely Ones by Kelsey Sutton Book Review + Giveaway

the lonely ones kelsey sutton

The Lonely OnesThe Lonely Ones by Kelsey Sutton
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Published by Philomel
Published on April 26th, 2016
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26025987-the-lonely-ones

Purchase Links:

Penguin Random House

Indiebound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

With parents too busy to pay her attention, an older brother and sister who would rather spend their time with friends, and peers who oscillate between picking on her and simply ignoring her, it’s no wonder that Fain spends most of her time in a world of her own making. During the day, Fain takes solace in crafting her own fantastical adventures in writing, but in the darkness of night, these adventures come to life as Fain lives and breathes alongside a legion of imaginary creatures. Whether floating through space or under the sea, climbing mountains or traipsing through forests, Fain becomes queen beyond – and in spite of – the walls of her bedroom.

In time, Fain begins to see possibilities and friendships emerge in her day-to-day reality. . . yet when she is let down by the one relationship she thought she could trust, Fain must decide: remain queen of the imaginary creatures, or risk the pain that comes with opening herself up to the fragile connections that exist only in the real world? Told in breathless and visual verse, THE LONELY ONES takes readers through the intricate inner workings of a girl who struggles to navigate isolation and finds friendship where she least expects it.

About the Author:

kelsey

Kelsey Sutton is the author of teen novels SOME QUIET PLACE and GARDENIA. She is also the author of two novels for middle grade readers, THE LONELY ONES and BENJAMIN. She lives in Minnesota, where she received a dual bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from Bemidji State University. She is currently working on a master’s degree from Hamline University. Her work has received an Independent Publisher Book Award, an IndieFab Award, and was selected as a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2013. When not writing, Kelsey can be found watching too much Netflix, ordering a mocha at the nearest coffee shop, or browsing a bookstore. You can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KelseyJSutton.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6425045.Kelsey_Sutton

Twitter: @KelseyJSutton

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kelsey-Sutton-139415419471775/

Website: http://www.kelseysuttonbooks.com/

Read below for an excerpt from The Lonely Ones

THE CALL

 

Claws scrape

against my window sill.

 

Then, a voice,

raspy, childlike, familiar.

 

It calls my name

and becomes a symphony.

 

“Fain, are you coming?”

“Come with us, Fain!”

“Wake up!”

“Open your eyes, Fain!”

 

I try to be firm,

I try to say no.

 

There’s a voice in my head

that whispers I’m getting too old

for these games and adventures.

 

The ground is so thick with mud

that someone could notice

my tracks.

 

But my little friends persist

again and again.

 

Their pleas batter

against my resolve,

until debris crashes down

and I am too weak to resist.

 

The unbearable truth is

no one will notice my tracks

 

because no one notices anything.

 

I take one of their scaly hands,

a feather tickles against my cheek.

 

Then I climb outside

and disappear into the night.

The Giveaway:

2 signed copies of The Lonely Ones by Kelsey Sutton, open to US and Canada

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My Review:

I don’t read very many middle grade books. At almost 30 (yes, I just cringed a little bit on the inside….and the outside!) I just don’t find that middle grade books and I are very relatable. I do, however, have a thing for poetry writing, such as Ellen Hopkins’ style. That is what essentially got me started on The Lonely Ones by Kelsey Sutton, and I do not regret a second of it.

The Lonely Ones was a hauntingly beautiful book full of so much emotion that my heart literally felt like it was breaking in half. Sutton’s writing was so on point and so powerful….I’m honestly just surprised that I didn’t turn into a blubbering mess. This book was SO GOOD.

I absolutely loved the fact that The Lonely Ones is written in poetry/verse sentences. First of all, that made the book go by pretty quickly. Secondly, it created that much more of an impact for what was being read. I also really enjoyed how it switched to different scenes and a fairly rapid pace. That way I wasn’t stuck in one scene for too long. Instead, I was being shown to several different parts of Fain’s world. I really enjoyed that!

As an elementary school teacher, I highly recommend The Lonely Ones for every classroom, child, and household. This is a book that I can see myself implementing into my own curriculum. Not only does it help teach children about poetry (especially the fact that not all poetry rhymes,) but it also focuses on real life issues that  a lot of kids are facing today. That’s just it…this book was SO REAL. That’s probably why my heart broke in several different scenes……this wasn’t an unrealistic book. The Lonely Ones focuses on the real and the now and it tears you up into little bitty pieces. I loved it.

 

Absolutely 100% recommend this book!

 

Rating: : ★★★★★

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Book Reviews
January 4, 2016 posted by Nichole

Book Review: The Urban Boys by K.N. Smith

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the urban boysThe Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith

Genre/ Age Group: Young Adult Fiction (Action-Adventure w/ elements of Paranormal), 12+

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Urban-Boys-Discovery-Five-Senses/dp/0989474755/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-urban-boys-kn-smith/1122739135?ean=9780989474757

Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/urban-boys-discovery-five/id1045819157?mt=11

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26850355-the-urban-boys

 

“Author K.N. Smith uses her mastery of the written word to weave an entrancing, yet powerful tale of adventure that keeps you turning pages in an unquenchable desire to find out what happens next. The author’s matchless prose details cinematic fight sequences and fully developed characterizations especially in a final, stupendous scene that will take your breath away and leave you limp with spent emotions. Five stars for this imaginative and inspiring story, sure to be as appealing to general audiences as it will be to the YA crowd!”

Publishers Daily Reviews

 

“K.N. Smith has at her disposal a lyrical prose that describes the environment and the characters in such fine (and magical) detail that you can’t help but fall in love with the world she has created. ‘The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses’ is a great start to this new series and the premise holds much promise for more entertaining episodes.”

Midwest Book Review

 

“The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses” is both a rollicking ride filled with mystery, suspense and literary drama; as well as a sensitive portrayal of individuals and families called by an unknown force to fight evil. It grips the imagination and engages the senses from the very first words of the Prologue through the whole frenetically evolving story. It’s an amazing work for a new fiction writer and one that will keep the book in your hands as you relax, ride in airplanes or stop for coffee. I couldn’t put it down; and felt I was wasting time whenever I wasn’t going from one colorful chapter to another. It’s a great ride and highly recommended! You will want to get to know “The Urban Boys” and experience their “Discovery of the Five Senses.”

M. Assagai, Sacramento, CA

 

“An energetic YA adventure debut with stellar action sequences. Smith’s writing is intelligent and often lyrical. Her exuberant prose never fails to dazzle.”- Kirkus Media

 

About the Author:

kn smith

K.N. Smith is an American author and passionate advocate of childhood and family literacy programs throughout the world. She continues to inspire students of all ages to reach their highest potential in their literary and educational pursuits. An established non-fiction writer, Smith chose the teen fiction genre as a way to enhance her daughters’ (then) high school literary experience, and to engage other youth in literacy development. Her creative literary flair offers young and mature readers central themes of loyalty, responsibility, honesty, fear, and triumph. As a result, scenes become artfully integrated with cinematic-level action and high drama. Her stories twist, turn, and grind through elements of science-fiction and action-adventure in diverse, exciting, edge-of-your-seat narratives. As an ardent supporter of youth and family literacy programs across the globe, she states, “My hope is that The Urban Boys will spark imagination in a wide variety of readers while elevating global literacy efforts. It’s important that we have diverse families of readers for generations to come.” K.N. Smith has over twenty years experience in writing, communications, and creative design. She lives with her family in California.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorknsmith?_rdr=p

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14431555.K_N_Smith

Twitter: @knsmith_author

 

My Book Review:

What I Liked:

The Writing Style: K.N Smith’s writing style was absolutely beautiful. There was something so relaxing and soothing about her writing. They were the kind of words that immersed themselves in your body and mind and teleported you into the world that had been created. I could read her writing style all day long!

The Diversity: I loved, loved, LOVED the diversity that was included in this book. I don’t read a lot of books that include diverse characters, simply because they are hard to find! I’m so excited that there is another book out in the booksphere that young kids and teens (and, heck, even adults) can relate to! LOVED this!

The Male Leads: In all the years that I have been heavily blogging/reading (it’s been like 6 or 7 now,) I can think of exactly ONE book (Beautiful Creatures) that hosts a male lead. I LOVED that The Urban Boys centered around male characters! I also think that this especially important for young male readers, because it’s very popular to have female main characters. If you have a teenage/young boy at home, be sure to get him this book! Girls, you’ll love it, too! Don’t feel excluded!

What I Didn’t Like:

So Many Characters: There were a LOT of main and supporting characters in this book. It was hard to keep track of who was who and what was going on at all times. Not shocking for me, I always get confused when there are a lot of characters in a story. I don’t necessarily know that it will take away from anyone else’s reading. I just wish that there hadn’t been SO MANY characters.

A lot of Descriptions: There were also a lot of descriptions in this book, down to the exact height of all of the characters. For my personal taste, I need a healthy balance between descriptions, thoughts, and interactions. There was just too much description going on for me.

 

Overall:

I really enjoyed The Urban Boys! I thought that it was a good, solid read with beautiful writing! The Urban Boys was a creative, diverse read that I recommend for all young readers!

 

Rating: : ★★★☆☆

 

Read below for an excerpt from The Urban Boys:

Chapter Fourteen

Out at Night

A BLANKET OF DEEP CHARCOAL MOVED ABOUT LIKE A SPRAWLING, SMOGGY MASS high above Sandry Lake bringing with it gloom and despair for all to see. As a town that had fallen into a desperate state of disrepair, it was still amazingly contained, and unfortunately not as far from Danville Heights as one would prefer. The approximate eight mile span between the two towns was actually very close.

Sandry Lake was contained in the sense that it now had as few citizens as when it was first established, considering that most of its residents had abandoned ship in the name of self-preservation and fear of evil. Its small police force and body of elected officials had all but disappeared. Crime and corruption expressed itself in dark and evil ways.

Coming up from beneath the shadows in unexpected moments of terror, something or someone had assumed control of the entire town and twisted the meaning of what it was to be a community. There were two factions at hand: the last of the committed citizens who would hang-on to the end, and a cruel, dark, malicious force. Fighting what they largely could not see made for a very unpleasant battle, but these faithful citizens were not giving up. Their hearts were embedded in memories of better times when Sandry Lake served as a model community within the region. The citizens had used their very own hands to build the city, and to have what was rightfully theirs stolen from them was an atrocity none could fathom. The problem was that their manpower had waned. So what began as a counterattack became a waiting game, and they struggled to survive.

Living in squalid, makeshift quarters, a dirty band of goons who were all given free range as connivers, thieves, and thugs, roamed around at all hours looking for whatever they wanted to steal. If they encountered a citizen, they simply took what they wanted and beat them to the ground. The goons had been uncaged and even a trace of any rule had simply vanished into thin air.

He orchestrated their moves, lavishing upon them promises of riches and power if they would only align with his grand scheme. By dispensing such promises to the lost, his following had amassed, and they were ready to strike at any given time.

The goons referred to him as “he,” likely not even knowing his name. In fact, the mind washing was so elaborate that they had even forgotten their own names. So far away from the truth were their lives that it would be impossible to salvage any one of them. Intent to rule, this boisterous atrocity displayed itself as the lowest band of hooligans on a totem pole built entirely out of filth and lies. Unlikely to have been an overnight foray, he obviously had been present for some time. He often dreamed of his long-range plans to dominate this once beautiful and established town.

As a loud altercation between a citizen and a wild ruffian unfolded in the background, the depth of a shadow revealed a nasty episode in an otherwise unfortunate, yet common day. With its desperate hunger aired out in the open, a meandering chicken ruffled its brown and green feathers. It walked and pecked for any scrap that would kindly spare itself.

In a place unfriendly to a lonely bird, it would take mountains of hope for a meal to be realized. Unfortunately, he had the same on his mind and wildly snatched the chicken, which sent feathers flying up and about. And with a quick snap of its neck, he brought it all to an end. Void of hesitation, he bit into the chicken spitting out blood and feathers in a most expressionless manner. In his mind, dinner was what it was, and if another bird approached, it would most certainly meet the same fate. Chewing and grinding away, his eyes glazed over, he cared less how this came to be and continued to spit in all directions while wiping his bloody chin with his filthy rags.

Like a fallen angel, he wanted power. He worked for evil and fought against good. Only he could orchestrate the details of these crimes so expertly executed as a way to run folks out so he could command the stage. Tall, slender, and disheveled looking, he’d been surviving in the depths for quite some time. The comfort associated with his brand of chaos led him to the loneliest of places, and there he reveled.

Not understanding his own emotional insecurities, he chose evil as a basis from which to operate. He had settled into a routine of madness, which was now in the director’s chair of Sandry Lake.

And from where did this emerge?

As his eyes revealed a sliver of perceived childhood trauma, feeling lonely and unloved, second and not first, feeling left out perhaps, his internal emptiness spilled over, and he hung his head momentarily. Once happy, he somehow became willing to trade his hand for the dark side, surely to gain attention and a sense of power that would fill an enormous void. Perceived or imagined, his hurt was real. But it would not slow him down on his journey to destruction.

Compared to Sandry Lake, nightfall in Danville Heights had quite the opposite effect. Children’s eyes fluttered as they winked themselves to sleep, quieted down, and settled-in for the night. For these were the common routines of the peaceful valley.

There was only one thing aside its normal during this particular twilight: five boys lay wide awake sensing each other. They responded to instincts that they did not question, but also did not understand. The day had been long and rest would normally be embraced, but this evening had a tale to be told.

Jordan found himself ruffling through his black sweat clothes, and he got dressed, opened his window, and jumped outside. Every single one of the boys followed suit, all dressed in black athletic gear, and three in hoodies. They briskly walked toward the preserve deep into the night. They were transfixed on the north and not speaking to each other, but occasionally traded glances as their respective senses burned away.

By way of mystery, the incident with the floating light balls had caused a hypersensitive reaction with their senses, and Jordan could literally hear the altercation between the citizen and the goon unfolding. Alex licked his lips, his tongue protruded, and then it went back in and out again. Kinsu’s vision sharpened like a razor’s edge, and he led the way. And as they picked up the pace, they gained incredible speed. From calm to chaotic, their worlds would change in a flash.

As if to run off to save our very own lives, the boys charged ahead and never looked back, although uncertain of the path they were on. Enveloped by the night, they felt strangely at home moving into dark shadows. They felt a certain power as allies on this journey, which was now quite a ways from home.

The boys’ actions brought an anticipated interruption to the Dark Stranger who was resting, knowing fully that this day would come. Aware of the infancy of the situation, he quickly sprung to his feet, but decided to use reservation in measuring the boys. He could sense them, feel them, even being able to see them running toward Sandry Lake.

He shared similar instincts and sensations to the boys, but these connections had yet to be made. Sensing their urgency, he followed them to this dark place, his black hood wrapped tightly while his cape-like covering embraced the wind and advanced his commanding presence.

Akin to an alarm clock from hell, these new, powerful instincts coupled with nightfall would prove to be bolder than ever in the history of Danville Heights. The boys could have ignored this calling, fought its beckon, but this would prove to be out of alignment with fate. As they tore into Sandry Lake, whipped air encircled a crooked, dangling sign that ironically read: Welcome to Sandry Lake. It swung left to right in a squeaky and unwelcoming manner.

They stopped in their tracks taking view of this evil domain, which loomed large above them. Underfoot, filthy trash served as their greeter, while broken glass and coarse rubble served as their guide. Moving forward slowly, they surveyed the area leading to the altercation. Rhee could smell the goon while pinpointing his exact location.

Filthy or not, Chase stooped down and put his hands on the ground to feel for human vibrations that may have been surrounding them. Kinsu remained laser focused on his target, leading the way with Jordan next to him taking in every harsh word spit out by the goon, who then slapped the citizen causing him to crash to the ground. He grabbed at the citizen’s back pocket, ripping his pants in an effort to steal his wallet because he had refused to hand it over. With his makeshift weapon knocked away, the citizen had become defenseless. He flipped over on his back to use his legs as a last, self-protective resort.

Now upon the scene, Alex rushed toward the goon, and out of nowhere, handled him with finesse in a style of martial arts for which he had never been trained. Every single one of the boys had the same skill. Coupled with their newfound instincts, they made for serious human weapons against which the thug could not prevail.

Taking him down was one thing, but when three more came out of the shadows armed with sharp, spiked weapons, the brewing battle took a turn. The boys quickly and strategically synchronized to whip and outsmart these thuggish creatures. A furious fight ensued with two-on-one, one-on-one, one-on-three, and all in between. The boys realized they were pitted against a vicious band of cruelty accustomed to roaming in dark places and causing mayhem at will.

Mean and muscular, the goons fought back with precision, punching and slapping into eternity. But the boys’ sudden martial arts mastery was unleashed upon these dreadful hooligans, and their detailed, accurate moves dazzled in the twilight.

“Two more, left,” said Chase as two more thugs joined the fracas. Their uninvited presence agitated the boys.

With the Dark Stranger witnessing it all, he allowed the boys to handle themselves, and he remained reserved. The night wind moved in and out of his black hood and framed his handsome face and his long hair.

Spinning, punching, kicking, and calculating every move, the boys ripped into the thugs with fury knocking each one unconscious, sprawled out for all to see. Like a mound of sorry, soggy laundry, the goons were piled high and left for their maker, whoever that might be hiding in the shadows.

And with the same laser sharp vision afforded to Kinsu, he saw what happened and could not believe his eyes. Members of his own army defeated, representative of weakness and a pathetic emptiness? He stood up boldly with the dead chicken dangling in his hand, blood dripping to the ground, realizing he had no conceivable idea of who these boys were. Their prowess struck him, for he knew he would need to assemble quickly in order to defend his perch.

With that blanket of deep charcoal hanging over his head, he could do nothing besides keep his feet planted right where they were. Somehow, he too could sense them, and he knew he would need to go deep in order to prevail. But the night sky offered zero comfort to anyone involved, and a new chapter had emerged. But how it would unfold remained as cloaked in darkness as he himself.

The Book Trailer:

The Giveaway:

(20) ecopies of The Urban Boys by K.N. Smith

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Blog Tour
October 31, 2015 posted by Nichole

Book Review: Darkest Dawn by Katlyn Duncan

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Darkest DawnDarkest Dawn by Katlyn Duncan
Genre: YA Paranormal
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Published on September 17th, 2015
One desperate journey for the truth
Returning to Willows Lake eleven years after her mother’s tragic death, Sloane Baker knows she will finally get the answers she needs! She always suspected that there was something more sinister at the heart of the accident that claimed her mother’s life, but a cryptic note could be the key to her past…
Two lives changed forever
The small town has always seemed safe to Brianna Taylor – until a mysterious new girl arrives who looks exactly like Bri! Now everything Bri knew has been thrown into question and Sloane’s arrival has changed the world of Willows Lake forever.
Strange things are happening in Willows Lake. But when they turn deadly, Bri and Sloane must find a way to save each other or risk losing everything they hold dear…
 
About the Author:
katlyn
 
Katlyn Duncan was born and raised in a small town in western Massachusetts. Her overactive imagination involved invisible friends, wanting to be a Disney Princess and making up her own stories. Her bibliophile mom always encouraged her love of reading and that stayed with her since. Even though she works full time in the medical field Katlyn has always made time for books, whether she is reading or writing them.
Katlyn now lives in southern Connecticut with her husband and adorable Wheaten Terrier and she is thrilled to finally share her stories with the world.
Twitter: @katlyn_duncan
My Review:
I have to say that I really enjoyed Darkest Dawn! It started out fast paced and exciting! The story is full of action, murder, mystery, romance, and paranormal goodness! It was just a really refreshing read!
I did think that Darkest Dawn had it’s more slower moments. Nothing that really took away from the book, but I thought that a lot more could have happened and that certain moments were stretched a little too far. For example, I thought that we could have seen more between Bri and her love interest…especially since I adored them. I was a little put off by the fact that I’m not going to get to see that until probably the next book.
Bri and Sloane were amazing main characters because they had such different personalities. Bri is more soft and sweet, while Sloane is more rough and in charge. That was an essential component to the story since the girls were essentially the same. I’ll be honest, though, sometimes Bri got on my nerves…
Unfortunately, for me, I did think that Darkest Dawn had a few middle grade moments…especially at the end. I don’t overly enjoy MG books. Now, this isn’t an MG book. Don’t go thinking that!  But it did have its moments. The last 15-20% of the book was geared a little younger, which made me drop my rating to 3 stars.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It didn’t take me long at all to finish it. I fully anticipate reading the second one when it releases. Darkest Dawn is a quick, refreshing read that I highly encourage YA/MG paranormal fans to read!
: ★★★☆☆
 
The Giveaway:
 
5 ecopies (mobi or pdf only) of Darkest Dawn by Katlyn Duncan

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Book Reviews
August 1, 2014 posted by Nichole

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel: Volume 1 (The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel #1) by P. Craig Russell (Adapter), Neil Gaiman

the graveyard bookIt Takes a Graveyard to Raise a Child.

Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completelynormal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead.

There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family.

Each chapter in this adaptation by P. Craig Russell is illustrated by a different luminary from the comic book world, showcasing a variety of styles from a breadth of talent. Together, they bring Neil Gaiman’s award-winning, nationally bestselling novel The Graveyard Book to new life in this gorgeously illustrated two-volume graphic novel adaptation.

Volume One contains Chapter One through the Interlude, while Volume Two includes Chapter Six to the end.

 

My Review:

First of all, I have to start out this review by mentioning that I read this book in a single setting. It maybe took me three hours to read the whole thing start to finish. That’s partly because it’s a graphic novel and there’s not a whole lot of text, but it was also, obviously, a really good book.

I really enjoyed all of the pictures in this book. Usually I have a tough time getting into graphic novels, but I was captivated from the very first page. I really felt a connection with the main character and enjoyed witnessing his life in the graveyard progress from infancy to age ten. The pictures were so amazing and they captured every single detail from the text. It was really amazing!

My one big complaint with this book is that it’s very hard to read. The text was awful on my eyes. Sometimes it slanted at weird angles and I often had to go back and reread pages because I read it wrong the first time. It was made even worse by the fact that sometimes the characters showed misspelled  words in their bubbles to indicate their lack of education or that they were from a different time period. It was really difficult and annoying for me to have to squint to read the text. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t walk away from the book with a killer headache. So if you are a person who has a tough time reading weird or small print, then I don’t think this is the book for you.

Another thing I found slightly confusing was how we started out with Bod being like 2 and then he was 10 by the end of the book. I expected all of the stories to be more linked together and follow a time line. It was sort of confusing to me how some stories really didn’t relate to others and jumped around a big. That’s not to say they didn’t work together, though! It was just like a progression of Bod’s childhood throughout the years. I would have liked to see more of Jack, though, and not just a few snippets here and there. However, I think that’s going to be a bigger plotline in the second book.

Overall, I thought that the writing and the images were superb. This is a book that I would  recommend for younger readers, especially for younger boys (or girls) who tend to dislike reading. I think that the images will really draw them into the story.

Pages: 192

Publication Date: July 29th, 2014

Publisher: HarperCollins

Rating: : ★★★½☆

Book Reviews
July 11, 2014 posted by Nichole

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

17566814Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. 
But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

 

My Review:

Here’s the thing: I really wanted to like Midnight Thief. I honestly did. High fantasy is one of my favorite genres and when high fantasy is done right the books came be downright genius. My problem with Midnight Thief is that while it was high fantasy, it almost seemed more like a middle grade fantasy book. It didn’t scream YA or adult or anything in between. No, it read as MG, and I had a big problem with that.

Another problem with Midnight Thief was that it just lacked almost all of the components that you can find in excellent high fantasy books. There weren’t a lot of details and scenery and there was nothing that drew me into the book. Also, there really wasn’t anything that special about any of the characters. It was just kind of flat.

I don’t want you to read this review and leave thinking that Midnight Thief is a bad book, because it’s not. The writing itself is good. However, it just screams middle grade and I think that’s going to be damaging when it’s being labeled as high fantasy. Let’s face it, middle grade doesn’t really have high fantasy. When I think of high fantasy, I think of the Hobbit, the Throne of Glass series, The Wheel of Time series, etc. Midnight Thief isn’t even comparable to those titles.

Fans of the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas might experience the same confusion that I did while reading Midnight Thief. While they are obviously two different books with two different plots, I kept finding myself confused about this teenage girl who was working for assassins and kept going to a palace. Not to mention that both of the books are labeled as high fantasy. In my personal opinion, Midnight Thief got a little too close and personal with the Throne of Glass series. They were just a little too similar. I don’t know if everyone is going to have this issue while reading it, but I definitely did.

Overall, Midnight Thief is probably a book that I would recommend to my 4th and 5th graders and recommend that adult high fantasy lovers maybe avoid. That being said, I didn’t finish this whole book. Everyone needs to know that before they take my review to heart. I only got about 90 pages into it (I know, I know, I broke my 100 page high fantasy rule!) It just wasn’t working out for me.

 

Pages: 368

Publication Date: July 8th, 2014

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Rating: DNF

Book Reviews
April 16, 2014 posted by Nichole

House of Ivy & Sorrow – Natalie Whipple

15728807Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

 

I am really sad that I didn’t end up liking House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple. Books about witches can be really hard to find, especially in the YA genre, so I was really excited to give this one a shot. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me.

The first problem I had with this book was the main character, Josephine. I was not a fan of hers. I decided at the very beginning of the book that I didn’t like her. She was very childish for her age, and she just had this uber hyper quality to her that I didn’t care for.

Discounting Josephine, I also didn’t care for any of the supporting characters. No one really blew my mind or made me fall in love. Everyone seemed very childish and annoying. That being said, it was hard to distinguish between all the characters, because they all just had a very similar vibe.

Another thing that I really couldn’t stand in House of Ivy and Sorrow was the romance between Jo and Winn. First, I hated Winn, not helped by the fact that I couldn’t stand Jo. Second, their childish romance was wayyyy too focused on. I would have preferred that the book focused more on witchcraft than that. Also, I found the relationships between Winn’s friends and Jo’s friends very unappealing. Too much cheesy romance was in the air.

Regarding the witchcraft itself, I thought that it could have been better executed. It seemed very childish and more geared for middle grade readers. I would have preferred more danger and suspense. I wanted the witchcraft to be more dangerous and powerful, and instead it seemed like something that I could watch on the Disney Channel. I definitely think that this book will have it’s followers, but I think that it is more geared for the younger crowd.

Overall, I didn’t really care for House of Ivy and Sorrow. I made it 50% through it before I finally gave up. I’m not rating it, because I really think that this was more about preference than dislike. Honestly, I’m shocked that it’s considered a YA book. It’s definitely an MG. So, if you’re a big fan of MG books, maybe this one is for you.

Pages: 352

Publication Date: April 15th, 2014

Publisher: Harper Teen

Rating: DNF