Okay, Harry Potter Fans, I Get It

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It seems crazy to try and write a standard review for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because it is so well known. So, here is how my introduction to the Harry Potter series came about and my admission that it is definitely a worthy read.

For many years now, I’ve avoided the Harry Potter series. Not because I had anything against it, but because I won’t read wildly popular books/series. I’m not much of a follower. My son had read the books when they first came out, but neither daughter expressed much interest until it became a reading assignment for the Lil’ Diva.  As I was browsing the library shelves with her a few weeks ago, I discovered an audio version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. So, I figured, what the heck.

After listening to the entire book read by author and voice artist Jim Dale, it’s easy to see why the Harry Potter series took off like it did. Harry is this young orphan boy who is mistreated by the relatives he is forced to live with. He has no memories of his parents, who died when he was a baby; but he does have this nagging scar on his forehead and recollections of a green light.

When Harry finds out that he is a wizard, his entire life changes. Hogwarts is filled with people who admire the one who survived an attack by Lord Voldemort. Draco Malfoy, however, isn’t a big fan and provides some great conflict. With Hermoine Granger as the know-it-all, good girl and Ron Weasley as the dependable best friend, author J.K. Rowling creates a superb and diverse cast of characters for readers to enjoy.

I have to admit I am wholeheartedly looking forward to the next book. Once and for all: I get it!

Book Review: Escape Through The Wilderness by Gary Rodriguez

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Coming Soon!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

First Chapter Review: Escape Through The Wilderness by Gary Rodriguez

 

1st Chapter Review TC&TBC

BLURB:  Sixteen-year-old Savannah Evans walks with a slight limp thanks to a gymnastics’ accident that dashed her Olympic dreams, but didn’t stop her from attending an adventure camp in Idaho. At Camp Arrowhead, she quickly befriends Jade Chang and Rico Cruz, but Conner Swift taunts Savi because of her injury.

When the four are teamed together for an overnight white-water river rafting adventure, Savi refuses to get in the same raft with Conner. Unfortunately, the director will not reassign her.

A fun expedition down the river turns into a nightmare when their raft slams into a huge rock and their adult guide disappears down the river.

Without their guide and desperately trying to steer an out-of-control raft, they pass the “last chance” marker and enter the larger rapids. With Jade pinned between the raft and a rock, and Rico clinging to a lifeline, Savi must cut the raft free.

When the four drag themselves out of the river, they’re bruised, beaten, lost, and twenty-five miles from camp. Because of late-night campfire tales of Vexel, a vicious animal that roams the nearby woods, Savi and the others are terrified.

Savi becomes the unlikely leader who tries to guide the group back to Camp Arrowhead. Limited supplies, injuries, and the constant threat of Vexel—who Savi fears is stalking them, complicate the harrowing return trip.

Readers will enjoy dramatic survival scenes and the group working together, solving problems, and learning to overcome adversity.

Escape Through the Wilderness coverCOVER: I find this cover fascinating. The author has toured with this book before. I loved it then. I love it now. The dark colors with the glowing yellow eyes make it a tiny bit creepy, but it is a stunning cover.

FIRST CHAPTER: Savannah Evans, also called Savi, makes quick friends with Jade at Camp Arrowhead. Savi’s run in with Connor Swift doesn’t go quite as smoothly.

KEEP READING: I am on Chapter 12, so I’ll let you be the judge. :) The opening chapter mostly introduces the characters, but it also sets up the conflict that we will see later on. In addition, it actually opens with a news blurb about the disappearance of the four teens and then goes back in time two days to when they all met, so it’s a neat way to drop the reader right into the action, followed by a tiny bit of backstory. I look forward to more.

 

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I received this book from the author through Pump Up Your Book. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

 

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The Search for the Stone of Excalibur by Fiona Ingram

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Hold onto your hats. The long-awaited sequel to The Secret Of The Sacred Scarab has arrived!

Following their Egyptian adventure, Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail for the second Stone of Power. It seems the stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archaeologists believe belonged to King Arthur.

The boys journey to Scotland to search for the Scroll of the Ancients, a mysterious document that holds important clues to the Seven Stones of Power. Aunt Isabel has sent her house guest, Kim, to tag along with them. Tensions rise, but the boys can’t worry about Kim’s interference. Their enemy, Dr. Khalid, has followed them to Scotland. And little do they know, the deadly Eaters of Poison are on a mission of their own that will place all of them in danger.

Fascinating, exotic, and packed with adventure, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur by Fiona Ingram is even better than the first book in The Chronicles of the Stone Series. New characters join familiar faces to create another exciting and fantastic journey. Ingram has the ability to draw her readers in quickly and fully. This book–just like the first one–is impossible to put down. Adam and Justin experience some growing pains in this novel; and it certainly doesn’t help that everything unfolds in front of Kim, who they barely know. Ingram’s skillful creation of unique characters mixed with an engaging plot wrapped around a beloved legend, truly makes this a book that tweens and teens shouldn’t miss.

Highly recommended!

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

Paperback: 378 pages
Publisher: Biblio Publishing (October 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1622492188
ISBN-13: 978-1622492183

Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and FionaIngram-794310legends, and her enjoyment of travel resulted in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—The Chronicles of the Stone. This was inspired by a family trip the author took with her mom and two young nephews aged ten and twelve at the time. The book began as a short story for her nephews and grew from there. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is a treat for young King Arthur fans. Fiona is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, set in Mexico.

While writing The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, Fiona fostered (and later adopted) a young African child from a disadvantaged background. Her daughter became the inspiration for the little heroine, Kim, in The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Interestingly, the fictional character’s background and social problems are reflected in the book as Kim learns to deal with life. Fiona’s experiences in teaching her daughter to read and to enjoy books also inspired many of her articles on child literacy and getting kids to love reading.

Author Site: http://www.FionaIngram.com

Blog: http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/FionaRobyn

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fiona.robyn.ingram

Amazon Purchase Page: http://www.amazon.com/Search-Stone-Excalibur-Book-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00O97QG94/

 

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

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