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Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1558 Blogs, since 4/24/2008 [Help]
Results 20,676 - 20,700 of 508,214
20676. How It Went Down: Review Haiku

Raises tons of questions,
answers almost none -- and
does so beautifully.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. Holt, 2014, 352 pages.

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20677. Picture Book Roundup - new or coming soon!

This edition of the Picture Book Roundup features "jampires" (!), two Stanleys (one dog, one hamster), and a new Kadir Nelson book for which I can't find enough superlatives.  Enjoy!

If you can't see the slideshow, I've included my reviews below.


If You Plant a Seed is a brilliantly written and exquisitely illustrated book about kindness. Sparse but meaningful text, combined with joyfully detailed illustrations of plants, birds, and animals. I love it!

  • MacIntyre, Sarah and David O'Connell. 2015. Jampires. New York: David Fickling (Scholastic)

Who could be sucking all the jamminess out of the doughnuts?  Jampires!  Will Sam find jam?  Will the Jampires find their nest?  If you like funny, this is the best!

  • Bee, William. 2015. Stanley the Farmer. New York: Peachtree.

Stanley is a hardworking hamster. Illustrations and text  are bright and simple, making Stanley a perfect choice for very young listeners. Along the lines of Maisy, but with a crisper, cleaner interface.  Nice size, sturdy construction.

The Wimbledons can't sleep.  What IS all that noise?  It's only Stanley, the dog.  He's howling at the moon, fixing the oil tank, making catfish stew, ...?  Hey, something's fishy here! Classic Jon Agee - droll humor at its best.

Review copies of Jampires, Stanley the Farmer, and It's Only Stanley were provided by the publisher.

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20678. How much do you know about Wuthering Heights? [quiz]

Centuries after its 1847 publication, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë's breathtaking literary classic, remains a seminal text to scholars, students, and readers around the world. Though best known for its depiction of romance between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, it is also largely multidimensional, grappling with themes such as religious hypocrisy, the precariousness of social class, and the collision of nature and culture. But how much do you know about this famous work of English literature?

The post How much do you know about Wuthering Heights? [quiz] appeared first on OUPblog.

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20679. 2015 Illustrators' Day Wrap-up

This past Friday, I attended the SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day - for the first time as simply an attendee. I stepped down from the position of Illustrator Coordinator this past summer, handing the reigns over to the extremely capable Prescott Hill. He took on an enormous task and I have to say he did an amazing job.
     I was able to sit back and enjoy the fabulous speakers - Neal Porter of Neal Porter Books (Roaring Brook/Macmillan), Giuseppe Castellano (Art Director for Penguin Random House), Bill Mayer (illustrator), and Loraine Joyner (Art Director, Peachtree Publishing). They all gave fantastic and informative talks about their expectations and industry practices. Prescott enlisted the help of two volunteers for the Quickfire Portfolio Reviews and I have to admit, it ran better than ever.
     In fact, Prescott called me up on stage at the beginning of the day to thank me for creating Illustrators' Day and being a friend and mentor - so sweet. And truly - I found myself quite emotional over the fact that I had created this valuable resource for budding illustrators (some who were attending for the first time and had no idea who I was), that will now grow with new direction and live on without me. Isn't that the highest tribute of all?
      Do you volunteer for the SCBWI? Can I give you an insider secret to improving your career goals as a children's book author and/or illustrator? Volunteer! My years of service put me in an elite position to get to know our visiting speakers in a more casual and intimate way than simply being in their faces during the conferences. In fact, I picked up Neal and Giuseppe from the airport and took them to lunch, so had lots of time to get to know them as people - which was a treat. They're both great guys and I so enjoyed their company. So, VOLUNTEER and get so much more out of your own SCBWI!

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20680. Spotlight and Giveaway: Cowboy Heaven by Cheryl Brooks

Howdy! In honor of the launch of Cheryl Brooks’ new erotic western series here’s a little intro to a few of the sexy cowboys – and one cowgirl – that appear in the first book in the series, COWBOY HEAVEN.

Angela McClure

Born and raised on a Wyoming cattle ranch, Angela Kincaid McClure had to grow up fast following the death of her mother at a young age. An only child, she has been the lone woman on the Circle Bar K for most of her life, and her father has always discouraged fraternization with the cowboys employed on the ranch. Angela married her high school sweetheart, Cody McClure, and enjoyed a very happy marriage, raising two sons who have no interest in ranching. With her father aging rapidly, Angela and Cody took over the running of the ranch until Cody was killed in a fall from his horse. Recovering from his loss has taken some time, but after two years, Angela’s interest is once again focused on male companionship. Unfortunately, no one seems the slightest bit interested in taking on her forty-two-year-old self or the ranch. Her father believes she should marry the ranch foreman, Rufus Bentley, but though Angela had a crush on him in her youth and the sixty-year-old foreman is still attractive, his total lack of personality and stern attitude leaves her cold. She’s had her eye on Dusty Jackson, a handsome cowboy employed on the ranch, but she has never received the slightest hint that he might see her as a love interest. Love-starved and lonely, Angela finally finds solace when she picks up stranded rodeo cowboy Troy Whitmore and makes him an offer he can’t refuse.

Dusty Jackson

Born Dustin David Jackson on a ranch in eastern Wyoming, Dusty has never been anything but a cowboy. Something of a loner, after graduating high school, he drifted from ranch to ranch, eventually ending up on the Circle Bar K. He likes the people he works with but there are other reasons for staying on, and just as many reasons to leave. Blessed with good looks and a ready wit, he’s more than a match for the men he works alongside, but when he’s around Angela McClure, words fail him. He knows exactly what he wants, but he also knows that once he takes that first step, there will be no turning back.

Troy Whitmore

Troy Whitmore was born and raised on a ranch in western Oklahoma. He could ride almost before he could walk and was winning prizes at the junior rodeos by the age of six. Too handsome for his own good, women have always been plentiful, but with a tendency to hop from woman to woman and live just a teensy bit beyond his means, by the age of thirty, he needs a woman with enough money to sponsor his rodeo career. When his last “sponsor” dumps him on the side of the highway while en route to the rodeo in Jackson Hole, he’s picked up by Angela McClure, a forty-something widow with an eye for a handsome cowboy and an imagination that fills in where reality leaves off. He’s more than willing to add the perk of sex with the boss to his new job on Angela’s ranch, but soon discovers that the rodeo circuit isn’t the only place where he faces some stiff competition.

What is your favorite way to relax?

Angela: Going for a ride on Apache, my big, bad Paint gelding.

Dusty: I like to sit in front of the fire with a cup of coffee and a good book.

Troy: *smiling* After reading my bio, do you really need to ask that question?

Cowboy Heaven

By Cheryl Brooks

Sourcebooks Casablanca

Erotic Western Romance

March 3, 2015

ISBN: 9781492607458

Trade Paperback $13.99

Buy: Amazon | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | Kobo

When you find yourself in cowboy heaven…

When lonely widow Angela McClure hires a gorgeous hitchhiking cowboy with an affair in mind, she knows they’ll have to be discreet: her old-fashioned father and the stern ranch foreman adamantly discourage any interaction between her and the ranch hands.

Things can get hot as hell…

Despite their attempts at secrecy, the heat between them is undeniable. To divert suspicion, Angela forms a new plan: she’ll flirt with all of the ranch hands. Suddenly Angela has a whole stable full of sexy-as-sin cowboys to play with, but only one can win her heart.

Cheryl Brooks is a former critical care nurse turned romance writer. Her Cat Star Chronicles series includes Slave, Warrior, Rogue, Outcast, Fugitive, Hero, Virgin, Stud, Wildcat, and the newest release, Rebel. She is a member of the RWA and IRWA and lives with her husband and sons near Bloomfield, Indiana.

Connect with Cheryl Brooks: Facebook | Twitter | Website

Praise for Cheryl Brooks:

“Really sexy. Sizzling kind of sexy. Honestly, only Cheryl Brooks can deliver a line like, ‘I can give you joy unlike any you have ever known’ and make you want to melt.”

Bitten by Books

“Ms. Brooks delivers plenty of sexual tension, suspense, and pleasure in simply being alive.”

Romance Junkies

“Incredibly sexy and wonderful to read all around.”

Night Owl Romance

“Fun…unique…and wicked sexy! Cheryl Brooks knows how to keep the heat on and the

reader turning pages!” —Sydney Croft


Excerpt from Cowboy Heaven by Cheryl Brooks – Chapter 1

There he was again. That same cowboy I’d seen on the drive into town, still walking, still carrying a big green duffel bag on one shoulder and a saddle slung over the other. He’d been traveling in the opposite direction and hadn’t bothered to look up as I’d passed him earlier. I’d barely glimpsed his face then, but I saw it quite clearly now. A glance over his shoulder revealed his bleak, exhausted expression. He might have been near the point of collapse, but he obviously wasn’t prepared to admit defeat.

Not yet, anyway.

I couldn’t believe no one had picked him up in the three hours since I’d last seen him. He hadn’t looked very fresh even then. I had no idea where he was headed, but in the middle of Wyoming, there wasn’t much within walking distance, no matter where you were going.

He turned toward me, sticking out a halfhearted thumb as I came closer, his face streaked with dirt and sweat and what might have been tears. A black Stetson shadowed his eyes, and his boots and jeans were dusty and worn. His sweat-soaked denim shirt clung to his chest, unbuttoned halfway to his waist, the sleeves ripped out. He probably wasn’t trying to look cool, even though he did. No, he was likely trying to get cool, in any way he possibly could. My truck was air-conditioned and comfortable, and there was plenty of room for him and his meager belongings. I could no more have left him there than I could have ignored a starving child.

As I pulled over to stop, his eyes closed and his lips moved as though uttering a prayer of thanks. His knees buckled slightly, and for a moment, I thought he truly would collapse. Instead, he took a deep breath and stood up straight. Lifting his chin, he aimed luminous blue eyes at me and flashed a dazzling smile. His silver belt buckle suggested this man was no ordinary ranch hand but a down-on-his-luck rodeo cowboy who, unless I missed my guess, was heading for Jackson Hole.

A real heartbreaker of a rodeo cowboy, too. Up close, he was even more handsome than he’d been from a distance. Long and lean with tanned, muscular arms, dimples creased his cheeks and black hair curled enticingly from the open edges of his shirt. Several days’ growth of dark beard surrounded full, sensuous lips, darkening a jaw that my fingertips ached to caress. More ebony curls peeked from beneath his hat, making me long to yank off that Stetson to discover what else it was hiding. Oh yes, there was enough gorgeous cowboy to sway a much stronger woman than I ever claimed to be. Tears stung my eyes as something in his expression reminded me of Cody.

My dear, sweet Cody… He’d been gone for two years now, but I hadn’t forgotten that look, and I doubted I ever would.

Determined to mask my roiling emotions, I searched for something amusing to say as I rolled down my window. “Lost your horse?”

My clever tongue was rewarded with another heart-stopping smile. Cody used to say funny things just to make me giggle—which wasn’t difficult since I tend to find humor in nearly any situation—but brushing up on my own repertoire of one-liners to keep this guy smiling seemed like an excellent idea.

His grin was sheepish as he tipped up the brim of his hat. “He sort of drove off without me.”

“Drove off?” I scoffed. “Somehow I doubt that. Seems like he would’ve needed help.”

My handsome cowboy gave me a grim nod. “Oh, he had help all right. My girlfriend dumped me on the highway and took off with the truck, the trailer, and the horse—all of which were actually hers, by the way. She was kind enough to leave me my saddle and my clothes, although a cell phone would’ve been nice.”

I shook my head. “Nice, yes. Helpful, no. They don’t work very well around here. Which kinda makes me mad—I mean, where would you need a phone more than if you were stranded out in the middle of nowhere?”

He glanced around at the vast expanse of sunbaked rangeland. “Is that the name of this place? Nowhere?”

“Sure is.” I couldn’t help giggling. “Want to get out of nowhere?”

“Yes, please,” he replied. “And as quickly as possible.”

“Throw your stuff in the back and hop in,” I said. “We’ll leave nowhere and go…somewhere.”

He did as I suggested, and suddenly the interior of my truck was filled with the pungent aroma of hot, sweaty, dusty—but cologned—cowboy. He’d most likely showered that morning, but it had been one helluva day. The forecast called for the upper nineties—quite a heat wave even for mid-August—and though the humidity was low, some temperatures are best avoided no matter how dry the air.

“You’re a lifesaver,” he said. “I thought that sun was gonna roast me alive.”

“As hot as it gets in these parts, I never go anywhere without water, enough food for a couple of meals, and an umbrella in case I’m ever forced to hike. Want a sandwich?”

“You bet.”

I tossed a nod over my shoulder. “The cooler’s on the backseat. Help yourself. There’s plenty of water.” Although, at that point, a cold beer probably would have been his first choice.

He pulled out two bottles of water and a sandwich, downing the first bottle in three swallows.

“Better now?”


“Let’s see now…” I said as he unwrapped the sandwich. “A cowboy dumped in the middle of nowhere with a saddle and no horse. There’s got to be a country song in that.”

“If you mean a song about a guy bein’ picked up by a girl in a flatbed Ford, I think the Eagles already did that one.”

“I love that song,” I said wistfully. “Guess I always wanted to be that girl.”

“Well, now you are.” He took a bite of the sandwich, chewing it quickly. “How does it feel?”

“Not much different.” This wasn’t entirely true. I wasn’t in the habit of picking up gorgeous cowboys—and this particular cowboy’s presence had me feeling strangely excited. Oh yes, I was very aware of him, and if my brain hadn’t noticed him, my erogenous zones were there to remind me. “For one thing, this isn’t a flatbed Ford, and I’m not what anyone would call a girl anymore.”

He paused in mid-bite. “Why? Have you had a sex-change operation?”

“Nope,” I replied with another giggle. “You can’t call a forty-two-year-old a girl. Well, maybe you could if you happened to be eighty-two yourself, but I’m pretty sure I outgrew the girl category a long time ago—about the time that song was popular.”

Despite the fact that I never once took my eyes off the road, I was aware of his prolonged scrutiny—an assessing gaze that left delightful tingles in its wake.

“Some things improve with age.” He turned toward the window. “You don’t seem like the type to dump a guy in the middle of nowhere.”

Having heard the catch in his voice, I did my best to keep my tone light. Bursting into tears in front of a perfect stranger probably wasn’t on his bucket list. “True—unless he was really obnoxious.”

This particular cowboy would have to have been homicidal or, at the very least, abusive for me to throw him out. He was the most adorable cowboy I’d ever laid eyes on, including the one I’d married.

“I wasn’t being obnoxious.” He fairly bristled with indignation, which seemed to have won out over heartbreak. “I was asleep. I thought she was stopping for gas when I felt the truck slow down. She asked me to take a look at the tires on the trailer, said she thought one had gone flat. While I was checking the tires, she dumped my saddle and duffel bag on the side of the road and drove off. I found this tucked into the saddle.” Reaching into his shirt pocket, he handed me a torn, sweat-soaked scrap of paper.

It’s not working out. Sorry.

“Ouch,” I said with a sympathetic wince. “That’s pretty hard.”

“Yeah.” With an absent nod, he stuffed the note back into his pocket. “I don’t even know what I did wrong. Don’t guess I ever will.”

He seemed nice enough, and he certainly wasn’t ugly. Maybe his girl had breakup issues. As irresistible as he was, I couldn’t imagine breaking his heart while gazing into those eyes of his, and I didn’t even know his name.

She’d probably gone about it the best way possible—a quick, clean break before losing her nerve completely. One glance, one smile, and she’d have forgotten why their relationship wasn’t working. I wasn’t looking forward to dropping him off at the crossroad to the ranch, myself. I had a sudden, overwhelming urge to take him home and wash him, feed him, and tuck him into bed—my bed, to be precise.

I had my doubts about that part. He couldn’t have been more than thirty, and young men generally didn’t seek solace from older women—not that kind of solace, anyway. Consoling him seemed impossible, so I changed the subject.

“Where were you headed?”

“The rodeo in Jackson Hole,” he replied. “I’m a rodeo cowboy.”

“No shit,” I drawled. “I’d never have guessed that. I don’t suppose your girl left you with any money, did she? I mean, I’m not going to charge you for the ride or the lunch, but I’m not going all the way to Jackson Hole, either.”

“I didn’t figure you were.” His downcast expression suggested his hope that he’d been wrong about that. “But at the time, I didn’t really care.”

“Neither did I. I wouldn’t have left you there no matter where you were going. It was…well, let’s just say it was something I couldn’t bring myself to do.”

“Pick up lots of strays, do you?” Turning sideways, he leaned back against the door, a move that not only drew my eye, but also gave me a full-frontal view that made my breath catch in my throat. Oh yes, I’d taken in lots of strays, but none that were anywhere near as attractive.

I shook my head. “Actually picking them up usually isn’t necessary. They all seem to know where I live.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, where do you live? I mean, are we close?”

Obviously, he hoped I lived somewhere near Jackson Hole. I hated to disappoint him. “It’s about another twenty miles—most of which are not on the main highway. I’ll let you out at the turnoff, if that’s okay with you.”

His face fell, but he nodded, apparently resigned to the fact that this ride wasn’t going to be more than a brief respite. “Not much choice, is there?” He gave a fatalistic shrug. “I don’t have enough money on me to pay you to take me to Jackson Hole. I really should pay you for what you’ve already done.”

I caught myself wishing that he did have enough money—or that he would ask me to run off with him and follow the rodeo circuit, never going home at all. I would have loved to throw caution to the wind and do just that, but I had too many responsibilities. Not only did I have a ranch to run, but I also had my father and my kids to look after.

No, scratch that. Chris and Will were both in college. I had a hard time remembering that except when confronted with the sight of their empty rooms as I passed by them every day. Out on the highway I could pretend they were both there at home waiting for me—and Cody, too.

No, regardless of how much money this man might offer to pay me, I couldn’t shirk my duties and simply up and disappear. Nor would I accept his money. He obviously needed to hold on to what little he had stashed in those jeans.

“I couldn’t possibly take money from you,” I protested. “I wouldn’t be much of a Good Samaritan if I did, would I?”

“I suppose not.”

He shrugged again and we drove on in silence. Remaining slouched against the door, he draped his left arm across the headrest and bent up one knee, stretching his legs apart enough that my eyes were continually landing on that section of blue jeans due south of that big, silver belt buckle. From time to time he shifted his hips as though my glances made him uncomfortable, and while I did try to keep my eyes on the road, every once in a while they would stray back to him—and that enticing bulge in his jeans…

“What would it take to get you to drive me all the way to Jackson Hole?” The hint of suggestion in his voice startled me almost as much as the abrupt nature of his query.

Suddenly, my mouth was as dry as a gulch. Reaching for my bottle of water, I took a sip and stole another peek at him. Those luminous eyes peered at me from beneath lids that were heavy with sensuous intent.

His lips curled into a provocative smile. “I’d be willing to bet there’s something I could do for you that would pay you back—or at least make it worth your while.”


By Cheryl Brooks

Erotic Western Romance e-novella

FREE on all retailers: Kindle | Kobo | Nook

“Out-of-this-world sexy… Brooks’ writing brings the eroticism to life.” —Long and Short Reviews

Getting stranded has never felt so good…

Lauren Allen is on her way to meet her future in-laws when her car breaks down on a scorching, dusty Texas highway. There’s no shortage of handsome cowboys turning up to save the day, but she puts her trust in local rancher Steve Williams. From the moment she shakes his hand, his warm, calloused grip makes her hotter than she knows what to do with…

Rafflecopter Giveaway – 3 copies of COWBOY HEAVEN by Cheryl Brooks

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Cowboy Heaven by Cheryl Brooks appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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20681. Picture Book Monday with a review of Spring Blossoms

Spring begins in just a few days time. Here in Ashland we have already had a grand display of spring blossoms that began when the almond trees starting blooming a few weeks ago. Now the cherries are displaying their pretty pink blooms, and soon the crab apples will be starting. Today's picture book takes readers into the beautiful world of blossoming trees in spring.

Spring Blossoms

Spring Blossoms
Carole Gerber
Illustrated by Leslie Evans
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2013, 978-1-58089-412-8
Spring is here and the trees are “dressed up for their yearly show.” Blossoms cover branches that not long ago were bare. Here is the dogwood wearing its “frosty crown” of white blossoms. The crab apple has white blossoms that are white too, but they are smaller and smell sweet. Magnolia trees produce flowers that are large and tulip shaped, which are quite different from those that you find on cherry trees that  are small and “grow in bundles” so that they look like “small bouquets.”
   Some trees are less showy and yet they too are beautiful in their own understated way. These include the white oak with its green male flowers and its small red female flowers. White pines have small yellow male flowers. Later in the year the female flowers, “tinged with red, like slender lips” appear.
   Throughout this special book, beautiful illustrations are paired with rhyming verse to take young readers into a spring day that is full of beautiful blossoming trees. They will ‘meet’ ten different tree species, and at the back of the book there is further information about spring and the changes that come about in this lovely season.

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20682. Question: pre-empts and auctions

The Publishers Lunch Weekly newsletter often reports deals made "in a pre-empt" or "at auction."

What is a pre-empt? (1)

I find the idea of an auction fascinating. Is there a formal set of rules for holding an auction, or does each agent have their own way of handling them? (2)

Does the author have to accept the highest bid? (3)
If all the offers are seriously below expectations, does the author still have to accept one of them? (4)

What if an agent holds an auction, and nobody bids? (5)

An auction seems like a big risk that could either pay off spectacularly well, or fail terribly, tainting the author, the book, and the agent.

(1) A pre-empt means an editor offers enough money to take the project off the sales block without going to auction, or taking further offers.

(2) Each agent has their own, and auction rules are sent to each editor who's in the scrum.

(3) The author does NOT have to accept the highest bid. If a project goes to auction it's very common for the editor to loop in sales and marketing to show their plans for the book, and have a conversation with the author about their editorial vision, and plans for success

(4) There's usually an established floor in an auction, but sometimes numbers come in that are seriously under what we thought. That's when the agent and the author have a very serious heart to heart.

(5)  That does happen. It's A VERY unhappy day.  You dust off your britches, and get back on the submission pony and send to publishers not in that previous round of submissions.An auction isn't really a risk. It's a way to handle interest from multiple editors. Nobody goes to auction if the editors are snoozing on a book.

And a "failed auction" doesn't taint a book cause no one really knows about it at other publishing houses.  

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20683. MMGM Links (3/16/15)

I'M BACK!!!!

Thank you all for bearing with me. Between deadlines, event travel, and two awesome rounds of illness it has been... a rather adventurous few weeks. But I am done with all of that--hopefully.

I am waiting on edits for NEVERSEEN (which...will likely be pretty intense...) so I may have to disappear again. But hopefully not. I'll let you know if I do, but I will TRY to keep up with everything.

In the meantime, here are the MMGM links:

(and a shout out to Greg Pattridge who did his best to cover my absence. THANK YOU!)

- Sally's Bookshelf is cheering for RORY'S PROMISE. Click HERE to see why.
- Alex at Randomly Reading is spotlighting STELLA BY STARLIGHT. Click HERE to see why. 
- Susan Olson has chills for CHILDREN OF WINTER. Click HERE for her feature. 
- Suzanne Warr is highlighting KOREAN CHILDREN'S FAVORITE STORIES. Click HERE to see why. 
- Greg Pattridge is feeling SMALL AS AN ELEPHANT . Click HERE to read his feature.
- Jenni Enzor is blogging about LITTLE BLOG ON THE PRAIRIE. Click HERE to see what she thought. 
- The Bookworm Blog is heading off to SPY CAMP. Click HERE to see why. 
- rcubed is all about RAMONA QUIMBY, AGE 8. Click HERE to read her review. 
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome! 
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.
- Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time! 
- Deb Marshall is a MMGM regular. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.   
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week.  
 - Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week.  

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so it gets sorted accurately) You MUST email me your link by Sunday evening in order to be included in the list of links for the coming Monday. (usually before 11pm PST is safe--but if I'm traveling it can vary. When in doubt, send early!)

If you miss the cutoff, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you, but I will not have time to update the post. Same goes for typos/errors on my part. I do my best to build the links correctly, but sometimes deadline-brain gets the best of me, and I'm sorry if it does. For those wondering why I don't use a Linky-widget instead, it's a simple matter of internet safety. The only way I can ensure that all the links lead to safe, appropriate places for someone of any age is if I build them myself. It's not a perfect system, but it allows me to keep better control.

Thank you so much for being a part of this awesome meme, and spreading the middle grade love!

*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen reviews ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me.

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20684. Review: Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch

May Contain Spoilers


I’m bummed that Touched by an Alien did not work for me.  I thought there was too much telling and not enough doing, and it got annoying after a while.  I hit the 52% mark and decided that this rental was going back to the library.  Even though this book didn’t win me over, I am still interested in the series and I’ll probably give Alien Tango a whirl (sorry for the awful pun!).  I don’t know if all of the set up is what bogged things down, so I need to do a little more research to know for sure.

I liked Kitty and her family, but the gorgeous aliens attempting to help save the world were both smug and annoying.  Christopher was a jerk, and I don’t know if he redeemed himself or not because I set the book aside.  Jeff Martini was too good to be true.  An empath, he has an unfair advantage to wooing Kitty because he knows what she’s feeling.  I thought that was kind of creepy, and it gave Jeff the upper hand in their relationship.  If the Alpha Centauris weren’t such terrible liars, I could not have bought into their romance at all.  Since he can’t lie to save his life, I’m taking the leap and assuming that he can’t manipulate Kitty’s feelings without her catching on either. 

The book started out promisingly.  Kitty is minding her own business, headed back to work after an early dismissal from jury duty, when a domestic dispute breaks out in front of her.  Things get ugly when the man turns into a winged super powered being who can fling blades from his wings, causing chaos, death, and destruction.  Instead of running away, Kitty grabs the only weapon in her possession, a pen, and kills the monster.  I loved that!  Here’s a bad ass heroine who can’t run away and save herself, but instead has to take matters into her own hands and try to stop the mindless killing that’s taking place in front of her.  Things kind of took a downward spiral after, though.

When she’s whisked away back a gang of impeccably dressed, drop-dead gorgeous men, she learns that they are aliens, and they’ve come to Earth to try to save it from parasitic beings that turn people into super powered monsters. All of the background info is fed to the reader through long-winded dialog, which quickly got boring.  I probably wouldn’t have read as far as I did if it wasn’t for another monster attack, and the introduction of Kitty’s mom, who is every bit a bad ass as her daughter.  She’s also a secret agent, and she quickly takes charge of the alien situation.  Her dad enters the picture soon after, and he’s just as fun as her mom. 

The endless verbal barrages, with their accompanying info dumps, finally had me setting the book aside.  I liked Kitty and her parents, though, so I’m going to give the next book a try, with hopes that once the series is more established, there will be more doing and less jaw flapping.  Are any of you reading the series?  What do you think?

Grade:  DNF

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

Marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt had just finished a day on jury duty. When she stepped out of the Pueblo Caliente courthouse, all she was thinking about was the work she had to get caught up on. Then her attention was caught by a fight between a couple that looked like it was about to turn ugly. But ugly didn’t even begin to cover it when the “man” suddenly transformed into a huge, winged monster right out of a grade Z science fiction movie and went on a deadly killing spree. In hindsight, Kitty realized she probably should have panicked and run screaming the way everyone around her was doing. Instead she sprinted into action to take down the alien.

In the middle of all the screeching and the ensuing chaos, a hunk in an Armani suit suddenly appeared beside her, introduced himself as Jeff Martini with “the agency,” and then insisted on leading her to a nearby limo to talk to his “boss.” And that was how Kitty’s new life among the aliens began…Touched by an Alien is the thrilling first installment of the Alien novels.

The post Review: Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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20685. Shadow Scale: Q&A with Rachel Hartman + Giveaway

We only need to tell you one thing about Rachel Hartman’s books and it should pretty much tell you whether you’d be interested in it. DRAGONS. *waits* Are you stampeding to the bookstore? Or are you overly cautious and need further persuading? Here, have a look at Kim’s rave review of Shadow Scale, the second book in the author’s Seraphina duology. Both she and K. have praised the world-building, characters, and romance in this series–as well as the spectacular craftsmanship of the writing. Hartman’s words are exquisite. Her imagination is expansive. Her world is detailed and fascinating. She has created laws, and religion, and a history. She has built architecture, painted landscapes, and constructed streets and alleyways. She has peopled her world with characters of different shades — from rebels to teachers, musicians to politicians, royalty, knights, outcasts and lovers. ~ K.’s Seraphina review Kim also asked Rachel Hartman a... Read more »

The post Shadow Scale: Q&A with Rachel Hartman + Giveaway appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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20686. Quarter

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20687. The Best School Visit Ever

Want to know how to host the perfect author visit?
Call 1-800-Melanie Roy
She's the amazing librarian at Hampden Meadows Elementary School in Barrington, Rhode Island.
Mrs. Roy and the awesome 4th grade teachers did the most amazing job of preparing the students for my visit.
By the time I arrived, the students had read almost all of my books, worked on some very cool projects, and were super excited about the day.
Here are some of the highlights of my visit there: 

They reserved a parking spot for me! Now, that might not sound like such a big deal to you folks in Florida. But, trust me, when there are mounds of snow everywhere, this is a wonderful gift.

I was greeted with this thoughtful sign.

Students interviewing me for the local newspaper.

They have all of my books displayed throughout the library.

Abby showing me her poster.

Kaleigh dressed as Viola from The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester.

Grey, Robby, Katherine and Julia interviewed me.

The amazing Mrs. Roy

Mrs. Clegg's class showing me their great posters.
The posters


Adeline showing me her poster.

Mrs. Mitchell's class showing me their books.

Ms. Myszak's class made these cool character trait projects.

The students discussed my presentation afterwards.

Rayna showing me her poster.

Lindsay showing me her poster.

Mrs. Bailey's class made this great chart about my books.

Colin dressed as Elvis from The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis.

Some more thoughts from students about my presentation.

Thank you to students and staff of Hampden Meadows Elementary School.

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20688. Twenty-two Cents, Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank – Diversity Reading Challenge 2015

I naturally gravitate towards diversity in my reading, and my blog has had this as a focus since its beginning, but this challenge has pushed me to seek out texts in a more targeted way. Today’s story, however, came to … Continue reading

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20689. Jekyll & Hyde gestures

I still have quite a bit of work to do in clarifying the designs, but I thought it might help to flesh out their personalities if I did these quick story/gesture sketches first.

My idea for a fresh take on Jekyll & Hyde was to make Jekyll a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor who's obsessed with potency herbs. Hyde would be his wild party-animal state after taking the concoction of herbs.

4 weeks in, and the course has been a lot of fun, a lot of drawing, and a lot of eye-opening. My biggest challenge has been simplifying the design and making it read clearly. The biggest eye-opener has been thinking more of shape than anatomy.

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20690. The Essential Library

Every writer – fiction and nonfiction -- understands that the library is an essential tool to her craft. It’s more than a repository of information, or a quiet place to gather one's thoughts. A library is a place where ideas are born, and where the impossible becomes possible.

Recently, I read Yvonne Ventresca’s wonderful book, Pandemic

After surviving a horrific act of betrayal, teenager Lilianna suffers from post-traumatic stress. As Lil struggles to find her way “back to life,” imminent danger presses upon her home and neighborhood. An outbreak of a strange new flu is spreading quickly with deadly results. Her parents out of town on business, she finds herself alone as tragedy strikes. The plot is fast-paced and thoroughly engrossing as Lil struggles to find hope and trust amidst a terrifying life and death ordeal. It so happens that the Ebola outbreak was striking its own terror as I was reading this book. The realism depicted in this dystopian tale hit strikingly close to home. I had to ask Yvonne how she achieved this:

“Reading nonfiction books. Conducting interviews. Checking government websites. These might sound like typical tasks for a nonfiction writer, but they were actually all part of the research I conducted for my young adult book, Pandemic, which is a work of fiction.” – Yvonne Ventresca

Yvonne read books about contemporary and historical diseases: “For several months I had a rotating pile of disease-related books on my nightstand. Since Pandemic is about a contemporary illness (fictionalized bird flu), I read a lot about emerging infectious diseases, and I learned that because of airplane travel, germs can be transmitted almost anywhere in the world within 48 hours. I also researched the Spanish Influenza of 1918, which served as a model illness for my story. I discovered that the sanitation measures almost a century ago included blow-torching water fountains, hosing down streets, and locking public phone booths. Despite these measures, the Spanish flu killed more Americans than all of World War I.”

 Like Yvonne, I write fiction but I depend upon research to bring it depth. My favorite library is the U.S. Library of Congress
It is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. While it serves the U.S. Congress, it is also the national library, and the world’s largest library. James Madison proposed the idea of a Library in 1783. But it wasn’t until April 24, 1800, that the library was established. This library brings to life the American story. And it proved unequivocally fundamental in bringing my story, Girls of Gettysburg, to life.
As I was researching another book, I came across a small newspaper article dated from 1863. It told of a Union soldier on burial duty, following the Battle at Gettysburg, coming upon a shocking find: the body of a female Confederate soldier. It was shocking because she was disguised as a boy. At the time, everyone believed that girls were not strong enough to do any soldiering; they were too weak, too pure, too pious to be around roughhousing boys. It was against the law for girls to enlist. This girl carried no papers, so he could not identify her. She was buried in an unmarked grave. A Union general noted her presence at the bottom of his report, stating “one female (private) in rebel uniform.” The note became her epitaph. I decided I was going to write her story.
The Library of Congress archives original photographs and newspaper artwork taken of the battle of Gettysburg. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words!
Library of Congress
This includes a photograph of the Unidentified Soldier wearing a confederate uniform. Doesn’t this look like Annie? 
Library of Congress
The home of the real Abraham Bryan, where my protagonist Grace Bryan lived. 

Pickett’s Charge, the climax of my story.
Library of Congress
“A library is … a place where history comes to life!” – Norman Cousins
Yvonne is happy to send free bookmarks to public and school libraries in the US. Librarians can email her at Yvonne @ YvonneVentresca.com (remove spaces) with the librarian’s name, library, and address where the bookmarks should be sent.

Bobbi Miller

For more information on the fascinating history of the Library of Congress, see Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress.



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20691. Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly? Better Be Sure

If you haven’t updated your website theme yet, you should do it today. Why, you ask? In an article over at Boost Blog Traffic (BBT), it noted that in January of 2014, “mobile Internet usage exceeded desktop usage for the first time in history.” And, that was a year ago! Here are a couple of other statistics from BBT: 65% of emails get opened first on a mobile device. 76% of Facebook’s

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20692. The Stella Prize

A few days late and a few books read short, I’m getting round to getting my head around the Stella Prize shortlist. There are six books on the list, none of which I’ve read and only three authors I’ve heard of (Maxine Beneba Clarke, Christine Kenneally, and Ellen van Neervan): Foreign Soil The Strays The […]

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20693. Fuse #8 TV: Henry Clark and The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens

I’m a sucker for a good time travel story.  By my count only a few have ever won the Newbery (is it two or three? You decide).  Fewer still have won the National Book Award in the youth category.  Even so, they live in a special place in my heart.  So to hear that a book has the title The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens . . . well that’s a near impossible title to resist, is it not?  This week on Fuse #8 TV I interview Henry Clark, but only after I tell you the terrible secret lurking in your copy of Go, Dog, Go.

By the way, this episode was very fun to record.  Too fun, in fact.  Under normal circumstances I can remember to thank my sponsor and to place their title card at the end of each episode.  This time I was so wowed by the prospect of coffee cups and what have you that it completely skipped my mind.  So a big hearty THANK YOU to Little, Brown for Mr. Clark’s presence.  Here is the slide I forgot to project:

And here is SLJ’s info:

As you can see, all the Fuse #8 TV episodes are archived here.

A tip of the hat to all parties involved!



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20694. Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash

Alys has a pretty typical high school life. Boyfriend, best friend, good grades, etc. She's a talented musician with a hopeful future and not much to truly worry about. Then her older brother walks into their high school and kills fifteen people and then himself. Her friends, her classmates, her teachers are dead. Her brother is gone.

Alys must deal with the aftermath of her brother's decision, all while grieving the loss of her sibling. She is shunned by people she thought loved her, her parents can't stop arguing, and she can't help but feel she should have known something was going to happen and have been able to prevent such a horrible tragedy.

This is a dark, gritty, novel filled with hard stuff. So close to reality for too many people. The writing is beautiful and haunting and I felt an instant connection to Alys. She was just a girl who went to school one day and her sibling made a horrific decision, forever changing her entire life.  Her brokenness after the shooting was expected, but the way Banash put it on the page felt real and honest.

I finished this a week ago, but I can't stop thinking about it. The perspective was unique and the emotion was just pure and raw. A hard read, but a good one.

Thank you to Penguin for the review copy.

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20695. cakes in space and jampires hit leicester!

Leicester earthlings got a surprise last week when my co-author Philip Reeve and I teleported in with our Cakes in Space roadshow! We drew a picture of ourselves, in case we couldn't be seen because our costumes were so blindingly shiny:

We were thrilled to take part in Leicester Author Week, and this is the first time there that I've been able to do a double-act presentation. Which was a lot of fun! The Two Steves have been doing this double act thing for years, here we are with them (Steve Skidmore and Steve Barlow) and writer Andy Briggs, who all worked with their own groups of kids on the day. And we got to see a lot of kids! Over the two days, I got to work with over 800 Leicester school children on the city's innovative scheme, Whatever It Takes to get kids reading.

**Philip Reeve has blogged (magnificently) about our Cakes in Space day over on his website**, so pop over there for a read! (You can print out Cakes in Space drawing resources from my website.) I think one of my favourite things about the day was watching all these kids at the end of the session, rushing up to give Philip big hugs. I don't think he got hugged quite so much when he was doing his Mortal Engines talks. :)

So... JAMPIRES DAY! I spent quite awhile talking about my co-author on this picture book, the excellent David O'Connell, and drawing, of course.

A teacher took this photo with the kids from her class, who were very appropriately dressed in jammy red school jumpers.

The team that run Leicester Author Week is what makes it great; they manage to combine a warm, fun atmosphere with total professionalism. The equipment always works, the planning is very straightforward, and every kid gets a book at the end of the day. Big thanks to technician Mark Lambell, multi-lingual storyteller Jyoti Shanghavi and head organiser Kate Drurey (with jam pot).

We started with a big stage event and I read JAMPIRES to the kids and teachers, talked a bit about how I made it, took questions and we sang the Jampires song. Then we all moved over to the workshop tables, and I led them in drawing their own Jampires. (Hey look, there's Philip drawing a Jampire on the following day!)

We talked about how foods can inspire characters, which can, in turn inspire stories. So we all wrote down our favourite foods and came up with a character who's obsessed with that particular food. The kids helped me come up with Peter the Pizzapire. Then they drew their own, and we started creating a world for their character, a place where the story could happen. Check out Icy the Icecreampire....

...and Pommy the Popcornpire! I hope the kids were able to take away their characters and settings and turn them into full stories.

Another fun thing about Leicester Author Week is getting to see lovely colleagues. Here are lovely writers Bali Rai and John Dougherty. (John helped me last year in Leicester to come up with the tune for my There's a Shark in the Bath song, with lyrics by Philip Reeve! It's fun being able to work together.)

I mentioned to the kids that they can knit their own Jampire if they like, and the pattern's available, along with lots of other creative resources, on the fab website David O'Connell designed, jampires.com.

Since every kid gets a book, and there are over 800 kids, that means a LOT of book signing! Luckily I got to sign both sets of books the day before, so I didn't have to rush too much. Here are the boxes of JAMPIRES books that met me when I first got to the hotel. Quite late in the evening, I was joined by John Dougherty, who had only just flown in from the Emirates Lit Fest in Dubai! (I did that last year, going straight from Dubai to Leicester without time to drop off stuff at home. Stuart rescued me by coming with a fresh suitcase of clothes and I had a dramatic and chaotic repacking session in corner of Gatwick Airport. An elderly lady was sitting on a bench nearby, and shaking with laughter as my suitcase kept popping with tentacles, massive petticoats and pirate gear.) Despite his travels, John remembered to bring a full range of pen colours.

Our Leicester hotel was nice and quite quirky. Check out the unexplained portraits of 'Wills' in the restaurant. And the stairway that led to nowhere except a big porcelain dog, marked 'The Kennel'.

I don't usually get any time to explore Leicester, but this time my hotel was right near leafy New Walk, which gave me a whole different impression of the city.

I even popped quickly into the New Walk Museum, which is well worth visiting if you're in the area: cool Victorian paintings, dinosaur skeletons, mummies, and a collection of German Expressionist paintings and illustrations, among other things.

And we even got to join our Leicester friends Selina Lock and Jay Eales and Steve's wife Ali for a curry, hurrah! Huge thanks to the Leicester team, including Juliet Martin, Dan Routledge, Sandy Gibbons, Nicole Dishington (here with Andy Briggs) and everyone who made it happen! You can follow Whatever It Takes on Twitter as @LeicesterWiT.

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20696. loomed together in West Philly, with artists Lori Waselchuk, Aaron Asis, Anna Badkhen, and Hassen Saker

I traveled in Saturday's rain to St. Andrew's Chapel on Spruce Hill in West Philly to see the temporary art exhibition Ci-Lines, by Brooklyn-based artist Aaron Asis. I traveled to see my friend, the great visual storyteller and art provocateur, Lori Waselchuk, and to find community within a mostly shorn-of-purpose place.

I found even more than that.

I found:

An idea that had worked—the commanding uplift of blue stitchery (parachute cord) and the trace of nearly 1,000 art seekers.

The stories of historians, architects, seminarians. A story about a song.

Hassen Saker, a poet infused with sky.

Anna Badkhen, a writer of transporting nonfiction.

Lori and Aaron, the artists at work.

The chapel was cold. The afternoon light was a smear. The blue rope was illumination. "Like a loom," Anna said, and it was, and as the exhibit ended, as the stories and the community slipped back out into the rain, Anna and I stood talking about truth and honesty, about white space inside bold books, about what it might mean to be a citizen not of one country, but of the world. Not far from us, the knots of the blue rope were being undone. The weave was being let out of its loom. The blue was dissipating.

A camera paid attention to it all.

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20697. Nonviolence, revolution, and the Arab Spring

In 2011, the Middle East saw more people peacefully protesting long entrenched dictatorships than at any time in its history. The dictators of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen were deposed in a matter of weeks by nonviolent marches. Described as 'the Arab Spring', the revolution has been convulsing the whole region ever since.

The post Nonviolence, revolution, and the Arab Spring appeared first on OUPblog.

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20698. Review: Mistress Firebrand

Mistress Firebrand: Renegades of the American Revolution by Donna Thorland. New American Library, published by the Penguin Group. 2015.

The Plot: Manhattan Island, 1775. Actress Jenny Leighton wants to meet the influential General John Burgoyne. Jenny is an aspiring playwright, and hopes that Burgoyne will become her patron, opening up the world of London theater to her.

American born, British intelligence officer Severin Devere's job is to protect Burgoyne and keep him safe from the American rebels. He's suspicious of the young American actress -- and also attracted to her.

The Revolution violently separates the two -- and when they meet up again, they are both in Manhattan. Jenny is still writing plays. Severin is still a British officer. But both are hiding secrets and playing a dangerous game. Where do their loyalties lie?

The Good: Part of the reason I love Mistress Firebrand is because so much happens, and it happens over a couple of years, starting in 1775 and ending in 1777. That also means that a lot happens, and some of them are twists and turns and I'm here, as usual, fretting over how much to tell you.

So the short version: well developed characters! Action! Romance! Hot sexytimes! Interesting history! Plays and prisons, riots and attacks, escapes and captures and escapes.

And the history. As readers of my blog and twitter feed may remember, I'm a fan of AMC's TURN: Washington's Spies and Mistress Firebrand is the perfect historical romance for fans of that show. (I'm also eager to read Thorland's other books; and, it turns out Thorland is a writer for another historical TV show I've been watching, Salem.) Saying that may make you realize one of the things in Mistress Firebrand that I don't want to spoil and it's something that rhymes with "spies." In other words, SPIES. And I'm not telling you who or what.

I like historical fiction that introduces me to areas, or adds to what I know, or brings to life areas. I loved all the information about the American theater, and how it worked, and the business of it, and performances being banned, and how actors and actresses were viewed -- it was just wonderful diving into Jenny's world. I also like historical fiction where people are not ignorant or innocent about sex. Jenny in the acting world is not naive; and I know more about the logistics of French letters (eighteenth century condoms) than I did before. Bows, who knew?

Jenny herself is a terrific character, who wants more out of her life and that more is to write. She has an aunt who is a famous actress, who is a mentor. Jenny comes from the New Jersey countryside, but thanks to her aunt, she wants more out of her life. She has her own ambitions and drive and it's just such a fresh and refreshing view of women in the eighteenth century. Based in part on what happens in the first part of the book, Jenny shifts her talents and becomes the mysterious "Cornelia," writing anti-British propaganda. She has a price on her head.

And Severin! Severin is legally the child of a British nobleman, but in truth is the son of an English mother and a Mohawk father. Severin's relationship with his natural father, and his Mohawk family and culture, is presented in a nuanced way. At first, for various reasons, Severin has decided he has to be the ultimate Englishman to prove himself. Severin begins to see the reality of the situation around him, and he shifts in his views and beliefs, about himself, about the Revolution, and about his own background.

As I said earlier, one thing I liked was that Mistress Firebrand took place over two years. Jenny and Severin's relationship grows from attraction and lust to love and respect. They also have their own individual involvement with the Revolutionary War: what side, why, what they are willing to do, why. Those journeys complement each other, yes, but they are always their own independent journeys.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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20699. Four Tips to Get Inspired to Write by M.J. Austin

What a terrific way to kick off the week with a guest author post from M.J. Austin, "Four Tips to Get Inspired to Write."

Applause, applause to M.J. for taking the time out to drop in for a visit! I'm pleased to also share with you details about her book, Bright Fire!

Take it away M.J.

Writing a book is no easy task and then there is that pesky little bug called “Writer’s Block”.  The key to writing is to find what inspires you and keep going. Of course this is easier said than done. Here are a few tips to help keep you inspired to write everyday.

I find that if I have writer’s block and I start journaling, my thoughts start to flow again. The reason this works is, because sometimes you have so much on your mind, such as bills, kids, etc., that your brain focuses on that and limits creative thinking.

I read like there is no tomorrow. I have a overly ambitious challenge set for myself on Goodreads this year. Reading is what inspired me to write in the first place. So if I run out of stuff to write, I read a similar book and try to think of what I think I can do differently that would make my book stand out

Talk to Your Fans
I was having trouble getting started on book2 for my Bright Fire series and I was talking to my sister-in-law about what she wanted to see happen in the next book. She gave me her opinions and all of a sudden my fingers flew across the keyboard at warped speed.

Open a Dictionary
I know it sounds basic, but if I am really desperate I open the dictionary to a random page and read the first word my mind stops at. I usually have to do this like three or four times until a word sparks something in my brain.

Writing is a rewarding experience that can become a successful career. All you have to do is keep writing and put yourself out there.  These are just a few tips to get inspired. There are endless resources on the internet to help spark the creative juices.

What inspires you to write? Comment below on what inspires you to write.

Absolutely beautiful book cover! 


Delfia thought she was a normal girl about to turn sixteen until her adoptive parents are murdered by creatures from the underworld. Her life gets thrown into chaos as she teams up with her best friend, a strange guy, and a prophetess. 

She soon discovers her biological father, Hades, ordered the attack on her and her family because a prophecy names her as the one to take him down. She must first complete a set of tasks to free Persephone, her mother, from the underworld and defeat Hades. 

Will she be reunited with her mother or will she get sucked into the underworld?

*Book is geared towards readers that liked Percy Jackson Series, Need Series, etc.*

Mondays are the epitome of all evil. It's just a fact.

Do you ever get those feelings deep in the pit of your stomach? The ones that make you feel all queasy and anxious? Well, that’s how I feel right now. I am standing at my locker at a way too early hour, and I am in Dragon Bitch mode; which is surprising because today is my birthday.

Normally, I love my birthday. I officially turn 16 at 11:59 tonight, and instead of reveling in the excitement, am I staring at my locker without really seeing it. I just keep trying to figure out what’s causing this annoying pinch in my stomach. I jump when I hear the locker next to mine slam shut.


"Jeez, Lyla,” I huff. “How many times do I have to tell you not to do that? Now excuse me while I find a doctor to remove my heart from my nasal passage." I’m not in the mood for the early morning antics of Lyla Browning, even if she is my best friend.

"Soooorrry, but it seems to be the only way to get your attention. I say 'Happy birthday, Dell' and what do you do? You ignore me and stare at your locker. What is up with you?"

"Nothing, just a funny feeling."

She eyes me for a minute, then shrugs her shoulders and in a matter-of-fact tone tells me, "It's probably PMS."

“Yeah, maybe I dunno...” I trail off, the feeling still bugging me. I understand that she is trying to snap me out of it so I muster up some enthusiasm and sing, “Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me.”

She perks up instantly, and before I can clamp my hand over her mouth she starts bellowing out “Happy Birthday” in the middle of the hall that is seriously starting to fill up. By the time she finishes, everyone is staring at us, and my face is burning red.

“Aww come on, you love me and you know it,” she beams.

I smile because I do love her. Lyla and I have been best friends since forever. We first met in kindergarten when this little twerp, Zach Moreno, decided to pull my hair, and she punched him square in the nose.

We’ve been joined at the hip ever since then.

“But hey, you should be thrilled you’re turning 16.” she nudges me in the ribs a little.

“Yeah, I know, but my parents still won't let me get my permit till I’m 18.”

“No offense, but your parents are a little...intense.” She says.

“What do you mean by that?” I ask getting a bit defensive.

“Well, it’s just that lately they seem to be taking your safety to the extreme. You can't have sleepovers anymore, a car or a life. I mean it’s sweet that they care, but I thought parents got more lenient the older you get.” She fidgets with her wavy blond hair, afraid that she has gone too far.

The truth is she’s not wrong. My parents are great people, and I love them, but lately they have been too over-protective. When I ask them about it they just tell me, “the real world is full of dangers, kiddo.”

and that’s the end of that conversation. “Yeah, I know, I’m sure that is just their way of showing me that they care.”

“By the way, are we still on for binge night Friday?” She sees right through my attempts to change the subject. Binge night has been happening every Friday since the 6th grade. We start off at the roller rink and end up at my place with a large bag of cheddar popcorn, candy, and cokes.

“Uh, duh.” She says rolling her eyes. She grabs her stuff out of her locker. “Come on, we have homeroom.”

I turn to grab my bag out of my locker when the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Everybody gets those feelings now and then, but it was so intense I had to shiver to shake it off.

“Dude, what is your problem? Take a picture it lasts longer.” Lyla clicks her tongue, her usual reaction when something annoys her.

I whirl around to see who she is talking to and meet the gray eyes of Alec Hales, who is staring at me intensely like he’s waiting for something to happen. He would be the hottest guy in school if he weren't so weird. He continues to stare at me unabashed. I can’t 
help but stare back.

“Come on,” she grabs my arm. “This guy is freaking me out” She throws him the stink eye, and we head to class.

I spend the rest of the morning stumbling through class in a daze worried about that creepy stare. I’ve never seen anything like it.
What’s worse is that I’m pretty sure he’s the reason I had a chill that ranked 100 on the creep factor. OK, Dell get a grip, I tell myself as I walk into the cafeteria.

I do my normal scan and Lyla’s waiting for me at our usual table in the corner of the room, trays in tow. We are not the least popular students, but we are definitely not a part of the in-crowd. Lyla could be, but she sticks with me. Aside from her slightly crooked nose, she is the picture perfect replica of a Barbie doll, with her blond hair, green eyes, and mile-long legs. You get the picture. Me, on the other hand, my height is OK, not too short or too tall, but my drab brown hair and beanpole body are nothing special. The only thing I have going for me is my clear blue eyes. Lyla always calls them hypnotic.

“Ugggghhh,” she whines as she rolls her shoulders back and forth. 

“I think the teachers are secretly evil demons sent to torture teens with tests on Mondays. Seriously, who wants to take tests on Mondays?”

“Who wants to take tests at all?”

She throws a piece of lettuce at me. With a mouth full of food she asks, “What are your birthday plans?”

“Dinner with the family.”

“Same old, same old,” she laughs “maybe we can do something special for binge night like go shopping before the roller rink.”

“Yeah, that would be...” I trail off instantly when I feel the same eerie feeling I had by my locker. I lean into Lyla and whisper, “Is Alec staring at me?” She lifts her head up, and I pull her down. 

“Can’t you be discreet?” I hiss.

She subtly does a sweep of the cafeteria and relaxes, “Nope; nowhere in sight. Why do you ask?”

“I just got this creepy feeling earlier and again just now. I thought maybe it was his intense stare earlier.”

“Wow, I hope your weird doesn't rub off on me. Do you think it happens to everyone when they turn 16?” she jokes.

I laugh half-heartedly unable to shake the strange feeling.

About the Author:

M.J. Austin is the author of the Bright Fire series and NaNoWriMo 2014 winner. She has always found the world of fantasy preferable to the real world. She channels this love of mystical worlds and creatures into her writing. She is an avid reader and proud bookworm. She has a Master's Degree in Project Management, but her true passion is writing.

When she isn't working or writing she is diving into random projects as often as possible. She lives in Tennessee with three children, husband, and three dogs.

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Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

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