Book Review: Escape Through The Wilderness by Gary Rodriguez

Escape Through the Wilderness cover

Action, adventure and friendship fill the pages of this debut young adult offering by Gary Rodriguez.

Escape Through The Wilderness finds Savannah (Savi) Evans, Jade Chang, Rico Cruz, and Conner Swift in peril when a white-water rafting adventure at Camp Arrowhead separates them from their guide. When they finally pull themselves out of the water, the bruised, beaten, and lost teens must traverse twenty-five miles of wilderness to make it back to camp; complicated by the threat of Vexel, a vicious animal that Savi believes is stalking them.

This is one of those books that I could easily see as a movie. Action and adventure fill its pages, while the difficulty of four diverse teens trying to work together to get back to safety provides plenty of conflict. And let’s not forget about Vexel, whose pursuit of the teens as they traverse unfamiliar territory adds suspense.

Though not new to publishing, Rodriguez is new to the YA market. It seems a natural fit for him. His character development and plot will attract many. It would be great if he could find some way to turn this into a series: either keeping the same four teens and using their summer vacations to set them up for additional adventures, or using Camp Arrowhead as the place for new adventures by a different group of teens.

I would definitely recommend Escape Through The Wilderness if you like adventure, action, suspense, and stories surrounding legends.

For More Information

I received a free copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Escape-Through-the-Wilderness-banner

Books to Film

grunge film background with space for text or image

Every once in a while, I get to thinking about my favorite television or movie adaptations of books. Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, and Matilda come to mind.

For this generation, perhaps it is The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Harry Potter.

But whatever books we are talking about, when a popular book or book series is made into a movie(s), controversy surrounds it. Which characters did they change? What characters did they leave out? How much did they alter the story for film?

I remember the Lil’ Diva complaining for days because a certain character, and therefore, her favorite scene, were cut from Divergent. Gasp! How dare they?

What are some of your favorite television and movie adaptations? Were you ever irked in how they changed it for film?

Interview with Jody M. Mabry, Author of The Treasure at Devil’s Hole

Jody MabryBorn at Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois, Jody has had the opportunity to live in places such as Cuba, St. Croix USVI, Mississippi, Illinois, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he spent the teen years of his life in an 1800’s farmhouse that was, of course, haunted. At fourteen Jody first heard the story of Arizona’s “Lost Dutchman Mine,” sparking an interest in adventure, ghost towns, and lost treasure. Always prone to telling a good story, Jody now passes on the tradition to his children who will no doubt find their own treasure someday. Jody and his family live in the charming Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

His lastest book is the middle grade novel, The Treasure at Devil’s Hole.

For More Information

Where did you grow up? 

I moved around a bit when I was younger. We lived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Illinois, but eventually settles into an old farm in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

When did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I can’t actually recall a time in my childhood when I wasn’t writing. But, it was after reading Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles that I decided I wanted to be a writer. That was in the 7th grade.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

My writing schedule is as flexible as it can get. I generally wake up around 4:00 AM, sometimes earlier, and write while everyone is asleep. I have a fifteen-month-old daughter, so I’ve set up a small desk in our living room, although once she sees me open my laptop she wants to pound the keys too. I’ve been known to write overnight while everyone sleeps, or anytime I can get a few minutes. It doesn’t always seem like it, but writing for 15-30 minutes several times a day adds up quickly.

What is this book about?

The short answer is that The Treasure at Devil’s Hole is about a young boy in search of treasure. Francis “Bug” Mosser is obsessed with a legendary outlaw treasure and elicits the help of his brothers and best friend to seek it out. What he finds in the end, is more than just the treasure. He finds love, small town shenanigans, bullies, a big family secret, and the notion that adventures never quite turn out the way you expected.

What inspired you to write it? The Treasure at Devil's Hole 2

I was inspired by a story my dad told me when I was younger. It was about him and his brother digging a well with dynamite. The Treasure at Devil’s Hole begins and ends with this story. The problem I had was that I was trying to tell the story of the well, which wasn’t exactly a book length story. It was when I began telling the story from a different character’s point of view that The Treasure at Devil’s came to be.

Who is your favorite character from the book?

My favorite character is Miss. Julia Brandon, the gun-toting teacher. I thought it would be fun having a young attractive teacher who was sweet and charming turn into a Bonnie and Clyde type of character. I never planned it, but as I wrote I thought it would be a fun twist. That being said, I was shocked that the main character Francis “Bug” Mosser was so popular. I’ve received several emails from middle graders who said he was one of their favorite characters in any book, or that they could relate to him. I was very surprised, especially considering he wasn’t my favorite character.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

The Treasure at Devil’s Hole is available on Amazon.com, or Jodymabry.com. It is also available in libraries and independent bookstores throughout the Midwest, South, and East Coast.

Do you have a video trailer to promote your book?  If yes, where can readers find it? 

I don’t, but in doing marketing research I’ve seen some great video trailers, so it may be an addition to my 2016 marketing campaigns.

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

This is a good question for other writers. Most writers, in an effort to save money, try to market for free. This would include tweeting your book on Twitter dozens of times a day. We tend to take the volume marketing approach. This never worked for me. Blog tours, book giveaways, and any marketing that connected me with readers were the best investment. Giving away books for free has helped a lot. I have the opportunity to talk to someone about the book, connect with them, and in turn they talk about me and my books.

It may sound silly, but for over a year I ran ad campaigns on Amazon.com knowing I’d likely lose money, and I did. I did it because the campaigns guaranteed me a couple dozen sales a week, both physical and eBook. While I was losing money my sales rank remained high enough that when I stopped the ads my book continued to sell for a few months. Now, I run a campaign for about three months of the year, and no longer lose money. This is a good example that in many cases you need to spend money to make sales.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Well, dare I repeat the often repeated? The best advice is to write. Not only do you strengthen your skills, but much like pulp writers of the early 20th century, the more you write the more likely you are to sell. This was an early lesson I learned. After finishing The Treasure at Devil’s Hole I had hundreds of requests for a sequel. I had no idea that was coming. Had I had a sequel out within a couple months I would have nearly doubled sales that first year.

What is up next for you?

I’m putting out several shorter books for middle graders The Ghosts of Jasmine Bogs and The Pirate’s Lighthouse, among others. The Strange Circus is a sequel to  The Treasure at Devil’s Hole. This was unplanned, but I received so many emails from readers asking when the next book will be out, that I couldn’t help myself. Strange Circus is slated for June of this year. In November, Orphan Train, will be coming out which is independent from the other books. Then I plan on at least two books a year, with several shorter ones mixed in.

The-Treasure-at-Devils-Hole-banner

New Release: Super Bad by Kai Strand

2cfcd-superbadcover-finala

Super Bad (Super Villain Academy Book 3)

The world is in chaos. Violence and thievery reign. And with the supers still balanced, it’s only getting worse. Without good versus evil, the supers care less and less. In order to restore purpose, the world needs its super heroes and its super villains, but the one who balanced them in the first place is missing.

Sandra’s concern over finding her brother Jeff, isn’t her only problem. Her pathetic excuse for super powers has left her needing a new ankle. And though she’s still very much committed to her boyfriend, Source, she’s growing unreasonably attracted to Set, the boy who double-crossed Jeff by stealing his girlfriend.

When Sandra is taken and held as bait by some kids who want to unbalance the super world, it becomes the inciting event that changes things for supers everywhere and forces them to answer the question, “Hero or villain?”

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Whiskey Creek Press

Kai Strand writes fiction for kids and teens. Her debut novel, The Weaver, was an a061e-kai2bstrandEPIC eBook Finalist. King of Bad soared to the publisher’s #1 spot its second month. She is a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four kids. The most common sound in her household is laughter. The second most common is, “Do your dishes!” Kai and her family hike, geocache and canoe in Central Oregon, where they call home.

Kai organized the free, themed, multi-author, short story blog, Lightning Quick Reads. She is available for personal appearances, workshops, and classroom or school visits. Feel free to contact her directly to discuss availability and request references.

Visit Kai online at www.kaistrand.com

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Poetry

potter

For this week’s reading log, the Lil’ Diva had to come up with a narrative poem using certain literary devices–alliteration, assonance, consonance, personification, and simile. It is based upon a scene from the opening chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Harry seeks out Dudley, and Dementors show up. Here is what we came up with together. Let me know what you think.

Sweltering, sticky summer day,
Taunting Dudley makes fun play.
Ickle Diddykins, popkins too,
Dinky Diddydums, to name a few.
Face like a pig, lumbering dude,
Always seems to give me ‘tude.

Whipped out my wand, I’d show him,
My anger bubbling beneath the brim.
Darkness raced in, blackened the sky,
Suddenly, all my happy thoughts died.
Dementors surround us on every side,
Dudley’s afraid, and so am I.

Kiss worse than death, memory gone,
Dreadful thoughts their touch do spawn.
Can’t use magic. What to do.
Spell’s not working, we are screwed.
Slimy hands gripping Dudley’s wrists,
Silver stag, he did persist.

Dementors gone. Magic saved the day.
Whimpering Dudley had nothing to say.
Life and death. This is no game.
Dudley’s looking pretty lame.
Problem is I’ll be expelled.
Gee, my life is really hell.

Interview with K. E. Ormsbee, Author of The Water and the Wild

K. E. Ormsbee

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I was a huge bookworm as a kid, and that love for stories grew, as it so often does, into a desire to tell my own. When I was twelve, I began my first project: an epic high fantasy complete with hand-drawn map. I called my fantasy land Marladia, which I now realize sounds a little too much like marmalade. I only made it four chapters in before abandoning that very ambitious project, but ever since then I’ve been an avid writer.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I’ve wanted to write for children for as long as I’ve wanted to write, period. Growing up, I was deeply impacted by children’s literature. Books like Matilda, Bridge to Terebithia, and Charlotte’s Web—just to name a very few—influenced the way I perceived life, death, and myself. I wanted to write stories that gave young readers the same sense of understanding, hope, and camaraderie I took away from my own favorite books.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

Well, my only experience writing for “adults” was my short fiction creative thesis in college, so I’m not sure I’m very qualified to comment. I will say I’ve found it much harder to write my Middle Grade books than my Young Adult books. Which isn’t to say one process is more enjoyable than the other! It’s just that so far my YA projects have flowed much more easily and quickly. Does that mean it’s harder to write books for a younger audience? Maybe… But I think it’s always worth the effort!

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

Hearing back from young readers and their teachers. I was lucky enough to attend the NCTE Annual Convention last year, where I met some of the most gracious, compassionate, fascinating people. English teachers ROCK, and it’s such a thrill to send a signed book back to the classroom. And I could talk to young readers all day long. Last holiday season, I had a conversation with my cousin, who is in his teens and has long professed his hatred of reading. He was raving about Looking For Alaska and several other YA books he’d recently discovered. “It’s weird,” he told me. “I like reading books now.” I didn’t tackle hug him, because he’s too cool for that, but I was bursting with happiness after that talk. That’s why I write. For readers like my cousin, who just needed to find a book that spoke to him, a protagonist he could relate to, and a plot he could get behind. One book can change everything.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

The Water and the Wild is the story of a girl named Lottie Fiske, whose best friend Eliot is dying of a mysterious illness. In an attempt to find a cure, Lottie travels through a magical apple tree’s roots into a parallel world called Albion Isle. On her journey, she’s joined by a poetry-spouting boy with untouchable hands, a girl who can hear for miles in every direction, and a royal heir who can taste emotions. As Lottie and her companions make their way to the Southerly Court, where the one healer who can save Eliot is being held captive, they encounter many obstacles, including the sinister wolf-like Barghest, oblivion-filled swamps, and giant spider webs. It’s a story filled with poetry, adventure, friendship, and MAGICAL BIRDS.

What inspired you to write it?Water and the Wild_FC_ HiRes

In the summer of 2008, the image of a white finch in a green apple tree lodged itself soundly into my brain. I wrote down a description of that image, which would eventually become some of the first pages of The Water and the Wild. Then I wrote an outline of the story, which drew some of its inspiration from my love of fantasy, Shakespeare, English Romantic poets, and folklore from the British Isles.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

Anywhere books are sold! Here are a few handy dandy links:
Indie Bound (http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781452113869)
B & N (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-water-and-the-wild-katie-elise-ormsbee/1119943015)
Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Water-Wild-Katie-Elise-Ormsbee/dp/1452113866)

What is up next for you?

Right now, I’m working on four projects. The first is a sequel to The Water and the Wild, which is slated for a Fall 2016 release. The second is my YA contemporary debut, Lucky Few (Simon & Schuster 2016), about a homeschooled girl and her neighbor, a boy struggling with death anxiety. The third is a standalone MG called The House in Poplar Wood (Chronicle, 2017). And the fourth is a Super Top Secret project that’s still under wraps.

Do you have anything else to add?

Thank you so much for having me on your blog! Keep on keeping on, and live long and prosper.

WaterAndTheWild_BlogTourBanner2

Coming Soon!

dork

Check out Nikki Maxwell’s ninth diary in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series!

Nikki’s diary is up to the month of April, and springtime is sure to bring more wacky adventures with Nikki and her friends Chloe, Zoey, and Brandon!

whatever2The magical seventh installment in this NEW YORK TIMES bestselling series!

This time, the magic mirror sucks Abby and Jonah into the story of Beauty and the Beast. When Jonah angers the Beast by picking flowers from his garden, he becomes the Beast’s prisoner! Abby has to save her brother by finding Beauty, whom the Beast will surely fall in love with, right? NOPE. The Beast doesn’t like Beauty, so it’s up to Abby and her brother to match-make this reluctant pair and fix this fractured fairy tale before things get pretty ugly!

wings

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling series soars to even greater heights with a new prophecy and five new dragonets ready to claim their destiny!

Daring mission… or deadly mistake?

Winter has been a disappointment to his royal IceWing family his whole life. When his sister, Icicle, runs away from Jade Mountain Academy, fleeing terrible crimes and possibly planning to commit more, Winter knows that they both need a second chance to make things right — if only he can find her.

Winter’s new clawmates, Moon, Qibli, and Kinkajou, won’t let him make this dangerous journey alone. They don’t seem to understand that IceWings, the most superior of all dragon tribes, can fix their own problems. When their search leads the dragonets straight into Queen Scarlet’s vicious talons, Winter is grateful to have some help. But even the bravest dragons can’t follow him to the Ice Kingdom, where he’ll have to face the greatest threat of all: his own family.

saint

She’s grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.

Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.

Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen’s deepest and most psychologically probing novel yet, telling an engrossing story of a girl discovering friendship, love, and herself.

shark

Jack and Annie are diving into danger when the magic tree house whisks them away to shark-infested waters in this NEW adventure in the New York Times bestselling Magic Tree House series!

It’s a dream vacation for Jack and Annie—or is it?

When Teddy, a young sorcerer, offers to send Jack and Annie on a dream vacation, they can’t wait to go. The brother-and-sister pair wish for a trip to a beach paradise, and the magic tree house whisks them off to the coast of Mexico. Everything starts out perfectly as they raft around a coral reef. But then a hungry shark attacks! And their dream vacation turns into a nightmare!