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Review! The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein

24 Mar

Before I get to my review, I get to announce that Mr. Laj won the James Patterson Prize Pack o’ Books I am giving away on my blog!!! CONGRATULATIONS! I will be emailing you to see where you’d like the books sent.

prizepack

So the FABULOUS James Patterson series- I Funny, Treasure Hunters and House of Robots have a SUPER FANTABULOUS co-author CHRIS GRABENSTEIN! Felicia and I just interviewed Mr. Grabentein on the Write Chat – Click HERE to see the vlog! AND Mr. Grabenstein just happens to be the author of the book I am reviewing today! (I feel like I am playing the Kevin Bacon game) .

Now today is not only the day I review Chris Grabenstein’s new book, it is the day it is released! HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!!! WOO! Mr. Lemoncello’s Library fans will NOT be disappointed in Chris Grabenstein’s latest fantastic story!

drlibThe Island of Dr. Libris

By Chris Grabenstein

256 pages – ages 9+

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on March 24, 2015

Synopsis- Billy Gillfoyle’s parents may be getting separated. This may explain why his mom is spending the summer at a rented lake house owned by one of her colleagues, Dr. Xiang Libris, and Billy is to spend the summer with her while she works on a very important paper for work. The house is on the shore of a lake overlooking an island in the middle of the lake – Dr. Libris’ Island. Dr. Libris owns it all. The lake house has no TV or video game system, and shortly after coming, Billy accidentally breaks his iPhone (and simultaneously made a friend and some enemies). Desperate for entertainment, Billy decides to turn to the library room, which has a bookcase full of amazing books, with one drawback – the bookcase is locked. After an intensive search, Billy finds the key, and when he opens the books and reads them, he seems to hear the swords clashing, the voices yelling, the feet trampling. And it all seems to come from Dr. Libris’ island in the middle of the lake…

What I Thought- This was an amazing book. It really creates a world one would love to join. Characters coming to life by reading – in my mind, that is PARADISE! The story is cool and very suspenseful. I like how everything ties together in the end. Mr. Grabenstein has written a fun action-adventure book that, I bet, almost every reader will hope were true! Billy still likes his parents and believes that they will stay together. Billy, thinks they have the perfect marriage and they seem like a nice family. His mom is more serious, but still fun, in a way, while his dad is more laid back and thrill-seeking. It was good that his parents didn’t hate each other, and that they seemed to have a nice relationship with each other. All that added to the depth of the story. I REALLY loved this book! The characters in the book feel so realistic that you believe that this could happen. It was cool that Dr. Libris himself was kind of a background character in the story – kind of remaining mysterious.

I give “The Island of Dr. Libris” five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

WANT TO LEARN MORE?!? You can read sample chapters and get an educator’s guide to go with the book at Chris Grabentein’s website – CLICK HERE!

Review! Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist By Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long

22 Mar

 

Babayardyard Rustin: The Invisible Activist

By Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long

166 pages – ages 10+
Published by QuakerPress of FGC on November 13, 2014

Summary – (from GoodReads) “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers” -Bayard Rustin Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist is a new biography for ages 10 and up. . . To many, the civil rights movement brings to mind protests, marches, boycotts, and freedom rides. They often think of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks. They seldom think of Bayard Rustin. Raised by his Quaker grandmother to believe in the value of every human being, Bayard made trouble wherever he saw injustice. As a teenager, he was arrested for sitting in the whites only section of a theater. More arrests followed, for protesting against segregation, discrimination, and war. His belief in nonviolent action as a means for social change gave him a guiding vision for the civil rights movement, which he used to mentor the young Martin Luther King, Jr. When A. Philip Randolph needed the best organizer on the planet, he turned to Bayard Rustin to bring 250,000 people to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Illustrated with over sixty photos, this book is the product of a unique collaboration between three authors: Bayard’s partner of ten years, a professor of religious studies, and a children’s book author. Though he is largely ignored in history books, Bayard’s ideas and actions will inspire today’s young (and not-so-young) readers to be angelic troublemakers.

What I Thought – There is obviously a great need for this book because Bayard Rustin is a name I have never heard. I’ve studied the Civil Rights movement in school and it is sad I have never heard of Mr. Rustin. I was interested that Mr. Rustin grew up as a Quaker (his grandmother was a Quaker and she raised him). He grew up near where I used to live. His upbringing gave Mr. Rustin a desire to bring change through peaceful means or passive resistance. I also found it very interesting that Mr. Rustin was himself discriminated against by some of the very people he was trying to help during the Civil Rights movement, because of him being gay. The book is not just a good resource on Mr. Rustin, but also a good resource for information on the Civil Rights movement, segregation and pacifism. There is a ton of references in the back for further reading or to see where the information in the book comes from. There are little fact boxes spread through the book that gives details on some of the subjects touched upon in the book. Photographs of historical and events in Mr. Rustin’s life are sprinkled in the book. They add a level of interest to the story. The one issue I had with the book is that it reads more like a text book than a book kids will pick up to read. Having said that, I think the book would be an excellent resource for teachers when they are covering the Civil Rights movement in their class.

Four out of five book worms for Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist. fourbooks

Review! Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees by Robert Kent

18 Mar

WATCH OUT – A NINJA HAS INVADED MY BLOG!!!

Middle Grade NinjaOh **PHEW** it’s Robert Kent! The MIDDLE GRADE NINJA! Not one of those Ra’s al Ghul going-to-get-rid-of-Batman kind of ninjas.

Mr. Kent runs a blog called –

robotbeesBanneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees

by Robert Kent

Illustrated by Adam Smith

Series The And Then Story

354 pages – ages 8+
Published by CreateSpace on September 18, 2014

Summary (from GoodReads) – “Fifth grader Ellicott Skullworth has always felt out of place at public school and now he’s tested into the Archimedes Program at Latimer University. While in Latimer City, he’ll be living with his world famous and insane(ly) brilliant cousin, Banneker Bones, the eleven-year-old inventor of robots. The only problem: Banneker doesn’t want to share his room. And he’s got an army of robots to make Ellicott miserable until he goes home.

When the boys are ambushed by robot bees as big as cars, Ellicott’s only friend is carried off and held for ransom. To rescue him, Ellicott has no choice but to partner with his maniacal cousin. Ellicott doesn’t know what’s worse: facing a hive of giant robot bees or spending more time with Banneker Bones.

BANNEKER BONES AND THE GIANT ROBOT BEES features original illustrations by Adam Smith. It’s a humorous, science fiction adventure for readers of all ages written in the spirit of a comic book.

What I Thought – This is a really cool book. Mr. Kent has written a unique story where the government’s fear is that robots will be taking over everyone’s jobs. And Banneker’s family are the ones making the robots. I like the fact that Banneker Bones isn’t the main character, and that he’s a jerk. It provided a lot of humor in the story. Ellicott is a great kid that you really feel for. It’s not his fault that his cousin wrongly hates him – like I said Banneker is a jerk!  The robots described in the book are really amazing. They are state-of-the-art technology, and the world still hates them! There is a ton of character development in the book. Reggie and Ellicott (sort of) bond, while Banneker just gets grumpier, but in a way you kind of like him. The black and white illustrations really do the story justice (there are a few scattered throughout the book). They picture the characters and setting just like what is described in the book, giving the story another dimension. The story is at a great reading level for MG readers. This new s is a really fun book to read!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

WAIT! HERE’S SOME AWESOME NEWS!

Click HERE to get a free Kindle copy of BANNEKER BONES AND THE GIANT ROBOT BEES ! This great story is FREE today and tomorrow! Hurry on over!

Want to know more? Click on over to MIDDLE GRADE NINJA (click HERE) and read excerpts from Mr. Kent’s books. You can also read more about Mr. Kent and his writings.

Review! The Three Thorns by Michael Gibney

14 Mar

 

Before I get to today’s review, I get to announce that Anne S. won the signed copy of Chris Rylander’s newest book – COUNTDOWN ZERO!!! YAAAAAY! :) Click HERE to read my review of this great read! Thank you to all who entered. I will be emailing the winner to get the address you’d like your book sent to!

Countdown Zero

Now on to today’s review!

 

 

3thornsThe Three Thorns

by Michael Gibney

Series: The Brotherhood and the Shield

300 pages – ages 9+

Published by Tantrum Books on February 24, 2015

Synopsis- From GoodReads: “Three brothers born to a powerful fallen king were abandoned at birth and cast out as orphans. By order of the false king, three of the most lethal assassins have been sent to kill the children before they come of age and plot to avenge their father’s throne. No one knows where the children are, and the children have no knowledge of one another. But that all changes when Benjamin, Tommy, and Sebastian join together to face adversity, an unspeakable evil, and the temptations of magical powers. This is the first installment of an exciting children’s fantasy series about the power of family.

What I Thought- Wow – what a great opening book for a new series. This was a fun book that really keeps you reading. There is plenty of action to keep the reader interested and a great plot and terrific writing to get you into the story. Tommy, Benjamin, and Sebastian are great characters that you really cheer on. The setting of the “new world” (the magical world they get taken to right after they meet each other) is fantastically described and makes you wish that you were there! Mr. Gibney’s writing is solid – he gives you enough background to have you understand the characters and plot without dragging the story down with too many details.  I like how everything falls into place as the story goes on. The characters make you smile and feel that the Brotherhood is in good hands. The writing and dialogue is realistic. Mr. Gibney is a great author who I can’t wait to read more from.

The website for the new series – The Brotherhood and the Shield – is worth checking out. There is information about the first book and the series. You can also hear actor Chris R Wright read excerpts from book 1. Click HERE to go to the site.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! Legends of the Rif by Joe O’Neill

8 Mar

riffLegends of the Rif

By Joe O’Neill

Series: Red Hand Adventures (Book 3)
372 pages – ages 9+

Published by Black Ship Publishing on April 14th, 2015

Synopsis- From Goodreads: “In the catacombs of Kathmandu, a young boy learns the ancient ways of Nepal and the Red Hand legend. In the cities of Morocco, an underground resistance of street boys and outcasts gives support to three young friends who must rely on their wits and courage as they are hunted across the Sahara. Their British friend, Margaret,risks everything to save her wrongly imprisoned father. With the help of her French schoolmates, Margaret defies authority in search of justice. Meanwhile, Tariq learns of the Red Hand from Melbourne Jack as he explains the importance of his journey to North Africa. And, a new enemy is discovered in the dark jungles of Ceylon as the courageous Foster Crowe is determined to balance the scales. As the winds of war sweep across Morocco, the infamous Caid prepares to declare himself as supreme dictator. Morocco’s only hope is our treasured ragtag group of resistance fighters from Rebels of the Kasbah, who are scattered all across the country. A battle of good against evil will echo through eternity.

What I Thought- THis is the third book in the Red Hand Adventure series (check out my reviews of the other books HERE and HERE). I’ve always enjoyed this series because of the characters and setting but the third book is my favorite so far. Wow. Just “Wow”. This was amazing. Mr. O’Neill really knows how to draw you in. He quickly restates what has happened in the first two books of the series to bring the reader “up to speed.” Then he throws a wrench into the heroes’ well-thought out plan, and that keeps the reader from putting the book down! There is a ton of unrest in this book with all the characters wondering what is happening to the others, some thinking the others are dead. The book is full of action, and close encounters. The setting is described well. It makes you feel like you are there in the Middle East. There are some fantasy elements, in the fact that gypsies can curse others, predict the future, etc. In a whole it just shows the superstitious-ness that the Moroccans had at that time period. The story jumps from characters’ points of view, and you overall learn back-stories while the story goes on. Although some of the storyline is tied up at the end – there is enough to make the reader want another book in the series. Fortunately for us, there will be another book which will be published in April of 2016, titled “Thieves of the Black Sea.”

I give “Legends of the Rif” five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Want to know more? Check out the official Red Hand Adventure website HERE.

Chris Rylander, Author of Countdown Zero, Saves the World in 10 Easy Steps

6 Mar

Countdown Zero Blog Tour BannerIT’S A BLOG TOUR!!!

WITH PRIZES!

Today I get to do my part in the Countdown Zero blog tour! Be sure to comment to be put into a drawing to win an autographed copy of Countdown Zero (winner will be announced March 13th) ! Countdown Zero is the second book in the Code Name Conspiracy series by Chris Rylander.

Who is this Chris Rylander you ask?

Let me tell you (according to his publisher) -

Chris Rylander - Author Photo

 

Chris Rylander is the author of the Fourth Stall Saga and the Codename Conspiracy series.  A fan of brown shipping boxes turned on their sides, dance-offs to win a girl’s heart, and rice, he lives in Chicago.  You can visit him online at www.chrisrylander.com.

I’ve also heard he has a shark tattoo – but that’s another story.

We are here to talk about COUNTDOWN  ZERO!

Countdown ZeroPublisher’s summary:

There are people in this world who live secret lives. There are people who fight the evil that lurks in the shadows so that the rest of us can live free from tyranny and fear. There are people—perhaps the person who is sitting across from you on the bus or waiting tables at your favorite restaurant—who put it all on the line for us, every day, whose names we’ll never know.

 None of these people is Carson Fender.

At least, not since he was let go by the secret agency that enlisted his services to help foil a nefarious plot perpetrated by one of their former agents. Carson is back to hanging out with his friends, pulling pranks, and not having to lie to everyone about how he’s spending his days. And that’s for the best. Isn’t it?

Of course, this was all before a note showed up in his school lunch, informing him that Agent Nineteen has three days left to live, and that there might still be someone inside the Agency working against them. Carson has always been able to rely on his friends—but what happens when there’s no one left to trust?

I LOVED the first book in this series CODENAME ZERO and I was thrilled when Mr. Rylander agreed to write a guest post about a topic of my choice.

What did I choose?

I picked something that Mr. Rylander has his main character Carson Fender doing all the time:

HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD IN TEN EASY STEPS

Take it away Mr. Rylander (pictures provided by Erik )!

 

Hi, Erik! Thanks so much for letting me take over the blog for a guest post. Well, I guess you should probably be thanking me since I’m going to provide you and your readers with information that could (and probably will) someday save your lives.

 

And so, without any further delay, here are my 10 simple steps for saving the world.

 

(The best part, by the way, is that these are universal to any sort of calamity or disaster, be it deadly virus outbreak, brain chomping zombies, earth crushing asteroids, evil mastermind plans for world domination, or a Kardashian cloning catastrophe.)

 

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chemical weapon by mad scientist

© Ogerepus

 

 
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1. First, get yourself a crowbar. They are excellent at getting you into and out of locked places.   And, they can be used to bash in the heads of zombies, people infected with a deadly virus, evil henchmen, or Kardashian clones.

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2. Gather up a crowd of at least four to five people. There’s not really any point in saving the world if nobody knows it was you. Glory is everything.

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3. Spend a lot of time jumping over debris and doing cool action movie rolls. You can even try to find some breakaway glass to leap through.

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4. Don’t shave for at least a week. The best heroes are the gruff, reluctant anti-heroes.

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5. If you’re too young to grow a beard, find yourself a black shorthaired Chihuahua and shave off its hair. Glue it to your face. Even if you’re a girl, this still works. Trust me, people like heroes with beards regardless of gender.

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6. Don’t spend too much time planning a course of action. The nerdy guys and gals who come up with plans to save the world never get the credit. Be the person who drastically acts first without thinking anything through.

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7. Make sure something gets blown up. The world can’t be saved without at least one explosion. Even if that means throwing a Molotov cocktail at a gas station for no other good reason. This rule is important.

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8. If it rains during the catastrophe, make sure you’re outside doing one of three things: sullenly contemplating the future while crouched on an industrial roof; looking toward the sky with your arms outstretched in defiance; wearing a trench coat and walking slowly toward an impossible number of armed bad guys while some cool song plays in the background (Note: you may need to have a friend with a Bluetooth speaker nearby for this one).

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9. Eat and drink nothing until the job is done. People never eat or drink while saving the world. The same can be said for using the bathroom. (Bonus: this will create urgency.)

***UMMM – yeah – you lost me at “eat nothing” Mr. Rylander…***

10. If all else fails, simply run around screaming, “We’re all going to die!!!” Because, you are probably all going to die. So at least you’ll be remembered as the person who correctly predicted the end of the world.

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Thanks, and I look forward to someday getting saved by you.

Thank you Mr. Rylander!

Well I don’t know about you kind readers, but I am so ready to grab a crowbar and start screaming “We’re all going to die!”

Don’t forget to comment in the comment section below (well, you could try commenting somewhere else, but I won’t see it) to be entered to win a signed copy of COUNTDOWN ZERO!

Want to know more?

Find Mr. Rylander on Twitter and his website.

Find Walden Pond Press on -

 Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Blog

 Click HERE to see all the stops on the blog tour!

 Want to know EVEN MORE!?!?!?

Here’s my review of Countdown Zero!

 

Countdown ZeroCountdown Zero: The Code Name Conspiracy (Book 2#)

By Chris Rylander

368 pages – ages 8+

Published by Walden Pond Press on February 3, 2015

Synopsis- Carson Fender thought that his life as a secret agent was over. He had done his job. The Agency had officially kicked him out….

*Cue the dramatic music (Beethoven’s 5th Symphony works well), and speed up your reading for the full effect.*

But now they need him again. Carson, using his wits and his secret agent utility tools to infiltrate one of The Agency’s secret base. Why, you ask? Well, it’s good that you’re on the Need-To-Know business! The base has been captured by the enemy! And Carson must get in, or otherwise – the secret agents inside of the base will be terminated (AKA they will die!). They only have 72 hours to live. Will Carson make it in time?

What I like- This was a fabulous sequel to CODENAME ZERO (see my review HERE). Mr. Rylander kept developing his characters in this book but kept what you liked about them in the first. Carson is a kid you can really like. Sure he’s a trouble maker. Sure he’s not the best secret agent, but you really cheer him on when he succeeds and you hold your breath when he’s in danger. Mr. Rylander has written rather realistic dialogue and could “see” the scenes playing out in your head and “hear” the characters talk. Or maybe it just means that I read too much. ;) The plot is awesome, with a good amount of twists. I really hope that there will be a third book!

I give “Countdown Zero” five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

*All photos are have a creative commons license through Pixabay except for:

The mad scientist for which a license was purchased © Ogerepus – Fotolia.com

Pictures of the book, blog tour banner and Mr. Rylander were provided by Walden Pond Press

Book Birthday and Review! Mission Titanic (39 Clues: Doublecross Book 1) by Jude Watson

24 Feb

missiontitanicRELEASED TODAY! A NEW 39 CLUES SERIES!

Mission Titanic
By Jude Watson
Series: 39 Clues: Doublecross (Book 1)
237 pages – ages 8+
Published by Scholastic on February 24, 2015

Synopsis- Ian Kabra is getting used to running the Cahill family empire. With his second-in-command Cara Pierce, they have it all under control. That is, until someone calling himself the Outcast, hacks into the mainframe Cahill computer, rearranges a meeting scheduling, and arranges a coup. Ian is literally thrown out of the Cahill mansion. The Outcast then challenges Ian. The Outcast has fiendishly recreated 4 of history’s worst tragedies, and Ian must stop the tragedies before innocent people get killed. The Outcast demands that Ian cannot involve outsiders. So, that means that… he must find Amy and Dan in their seclusion, and… *shudder* ask them for help and convince them to come back.

What I Thought- The 39 Clues remains one of my top favorite series. The idea of it is very cool – a different author writes each book in the series, taking the story where they want it to go. It is cool to read the different styles of authors in each book. It is an action-adventure series with complex characters and intriguing plots for kids. The online game that goes with the books is fun too – check it out at http://www.The39Clues.com.

After Gordan Korman wrapped up things so nicely in the  4th book of the Unstoppable series (Flashpoint) -I was wondering where the 39 Clues series was going to go next. Thank you Scholastic for getting Jude Watson to write the first book of this new series! Just like Ms. Watson did with the first book in the Unstoppable series, she sets up what is sure to be another excellent Cahill adventure! I like how the story seems to revolve more around Ian Kabra, as Amy and Dan had retired from the Cahills, even though they do get involved. There is a lot of mystery going on in this book and I was second guessing many of the character’s motives. I like that the story line makes you think and is not predictable at all. Like the Unstoppable series, there are 4 planned books in the Doublecross series. July 28th is WAY too long to wait for the second book in the Doublecross series to come out. Book 2 is titled Mission Hindenburg by C. Alexander London.

I give this book 5 out of 5 bookworms!fivebooks

Review! The Inquisitor’s Mark by Dianne K. Salerni

17 Feb

inquisitorThe Inquisitor’s Mark
By Dianne K. Salerni
Series: The Eighth Day (Book 2)
352 pages – ages 8+
Published by HarperCollins on January 27, 2015

Synopsis- Jax Aubrey is unique. He and his guardian Riley Pendare/Pendragon are Transitioners – people who are able to experience a special eighth day (nicknamed “Grunsday”) between Wednesday and Thursday, and have a family magic talent (Jax’s is inquisition, Riley has the voice of command, etc.). They are able to protect (and fight) the Kin – super-powerful magic people, all with different talents. Some Kin, like Evangeline, are good, while some Kin are evil and want the eighth day to be the only day.

All was going well, until Jax (who was in hiding)’s former best friend, Billy, was kidnapped because he knew Jax. Not only that, but he was kidnapped by Jax’s uncle. And Jax’s dad had told Jax that he had no other relatives, besides his mother’s cousin, so what is going on? When Jax is forced to join his family, and the evil Transitioners that they serve, he can’t believe it. They work for the enemy and they want Jax to join them. But, Jax is loyal to Riley and Evangeline.

What I Thought- This was a very thrilling book. It explains a lot about Jax, and Transitioners in general. There is a lot of mystique added to the plot and the characters. Jax, especially in this book, is a character you can care for. His family is working for the enemy, and they want Riley and Evangeline in their clutches. The story draws you in, and gets you asking questions. The story is appropriate for all ages, and the publisher rates it for ages 8+. But there is a lot going on in the plot that may make it a bit hard for younger readers. This is a great series, and I cannot wait for Book 3!

I give “The Inquisitor’s Mark” five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

The Sanctum Series Book 2: Scarlet’s Escape by Katrina Cope

15 Feb

scarletScarlet’s Escape (The Sanctum Series Book 2)

By Katrina Cope

338 pages – ages 10+

Published by CreateSpace on June 26, 2014

Synopsis- Before, Jayden was an orphan who had lived on the streets. Now, he lives in an ultimate school/campus called The Sanctum, run by the kind elderly man, Avando. Jayden has lived there for about a year now. The school, while devoted to education, also helps fight terrorism with advanced technology. Jayden and his friends help with scouting out and fighting the terrorism, from a distance of course (using robot people and remote hacking, etc.). But things start going wacky around The Sanctum, and it looks like the technology that they have is glitching and the school’s super computing AI, Scarlet is acting wonky. What if the technology is being used incorrectly? And who would do that?

What I Liked- This was a fun, adventure-filled book – as good as the first one in the series (see my review HERE)! While you don’t need to read the books in order, it would make a little more sense to do it. Jayden and his friends are wonderful characters, and everything that they do is realistic, and they are all strong characters. The terrorism fighting is an intriguing plot line. There is implied violence in the book, nothing gory (the kids fail to save a hijacked passenger plane from crashing into the ground, but save it from crashing into a crowded building, just into a field, and the newsfeed they watch afterwords implies that people died). It’s nothing that a tween couldn’t handle. The book also uses d*** (or d***mit) here and there – no other cussing. The story itself is a good one with a solid plot. The title of the book threw me. Scarlet is the super-computer running The Sanctum, with amazing Artificial Intelligence, and I thought she would be rebelling in this book, but that’s not the case. This is a highly enjoyable action series and another example of a well-done self-published series.

I give this book five out of five bookworms.fivebooks

February 2015 UBFP Column – Meet Bucks County Author Kit Grindstaff

5 Feb

I write for the UBFP Newspaper!

I wanted to share the article I wrote for the Upper Bucks Free Press (the newspaper I write for) for the February 2015 issue! The street and online version was published a couple of days ago. To see the online version of the newspaper, click HERE (see page 9).

I hope you like the article!

Meet Bucks County Author Kit Grindstaff!

By Erik Weibel

Kit Grindstaff’s bio says she was born near London, and grew up surrounded by rolling hills, old English villages. After a brush with pop stardom, she moved to New York and became a successful song writer. She now lives with her husband in Bucks County Pennsylvania. Her award-winning debut novel, The Flame In The Mist, is a spooky, magical mystery-adventure for fantasy lovers, ages 9 to 90. It takes place in a fantasy world of Anglavia. Anglavia is ruled by the tyrannical Agromond family. The main character Jemma Agromond, realizes how evil they really are, she runs away only to be confronted with her true destiny. Only she can bring peace to Anglavia, but at what price?

 

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Erik: What steps do you take when writing a book?

Ms. Grindstaff: As soon as I conceive of a story, I have a rough idea of beginning, middle and end. The details fill in as I write. Before I begin writing, though, I explore the main characters, making lists of traits, and creating back stories to dig for conflicts, motivations, and possible plot and character arcs.

Then, I always outline; but I like to write freely within that structure. That way, the characters can take on a life of their own, and often move the story in ways that surprise me – and hopefully the reader as well! I always keep the end in mind, though, and if those characters get too unruly I’ll take back the reins and steer the story where it needs to go. Ultimately you have to remember who’s the author!

Erik: Where did the idea for the Rattusses (Jemma’s telepathc pet rats) come from?

Ms. Grindstaff: Jemma’s life at Agromond Castle being pretty bleak, I wanted to give her some light relief, and more constant companionship than her limited time with Marsh and Digby. So who – or what – could offer her that in a moldering old castle? Rats! (Magical ones, of course.)

As for being telepathic, they just happened that way. From word go, Noodle and Pie knew when Jemma needed help or comfort, and Jemma understood each twitch of whisker and tail. The specifics of their communication, though, developed over several drafts.

Incidentally, they were common-or-castle brown rats until a very late draft. Their golden fur was a “Eureka!” moment—obvious, right? After all, they are emissaries of Light!

Erik: Anagrams play a big part in the story. What was the inspiration behind them? Are you really good at them, like Jemma?

Ms. Grindstaff: At the outset, I wrote down a list of Jemma’s traits: some like me, some not. For example her flame-red hair and sea-green eyes (not like me), and her love of food (like me, though I’m not a fan of entrails). I’ve always loved word play and anagrams, and that popped onto the list too, though I had no idea at first how important they’d become to the plot! I don’t think I’m as good at them as Jemma is. I can only decipher them because I made them up.

Erik: The twists in the book not only kept me on the edge of my seat, but also really surprised me. Your writing style really fits with the plot and setting of The Erik: When did you start writing, and how have your surroundings influenced you?

Ms. Grindstaff: I’ve always loved writing. As a kid: short stories. In my teens: anguished poems, then pop songs – the writing of which is still my long-time profession.

I had a growing hankering, though, to write fiction. Eventually I took a couple of writing courses, and The Flame in the Mist was born. Growing up English, in the land of spooky old churches, graveyards and castles, and misty winters, was hugely influential! I’d include literature as ‘Surroundings’ too: I loved adventures, mysteries, classics like Dickens and The Woman in White (lots of fog and ghosts), and mystery paranormals like The Turn of the Screw. Anything steeped in atmosphere.

Erik: The Agromonds are a treacherous family. What helped in “shaping” them?

Ms. Grindstaff: The Agromonds’ personalities are exaggerated versions of people I’ve known, combined with British archetypes: The snob for Nocturna; the conflicted Lord of the Manor for Nox; the typical spiteful girl for Shade, and Feo…poor Feo! Sprinkle in a dark lust for power (look no further than any empire as a model), et voila! the Agromonds.

I’m also fascinated by the “shadow” side of personality: things people don’t want others to know about them, or even hide from themselves; their secrets and lies (a big theme in the book, as you know). Those hidden things (kept in the dark) are often what twists people and manifest as evil. So I played with that idea in creating the Agromonds. It also influenced the dark-light theme: by becoming aware of those secrets (bringing them to the light) and uncovering the truth, Jemma is able to escape the darkness and find the life she’s always longed for.

Erik: Thank you Ms. Grindstaff!

Ms. Grindstaff: Thanks so much, Erik, for your awesome questions! They were fun to answer.

For more about Kit Grindstaff, please visit Kitgrindstaff.com!

For more on books visit ThisKidReviewsBooks.com!

 

BONUS MATERIAL!

I was fortunate to meet Ms. Grindstaff at the Lititz Teen and Kids Literature Festival last year. That’s how I found out about her great book (and was able to bug get her to agree to an interview). I’d like to tell you a bit more about her debut novel The Flame in the Mist!

 

flame-in-the-mist-shadow-225

The Flame in the Mist

By Kit Grindstaff

464 pages – ages 9+

Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on April 9, 2013

Summary (from GoodReads) – “Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma’s past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia. “

 What I Thought: I loved the setting in this book – a world with no sun ruled by magical tyrants. That is my kind of book. The characters in the story are good. Jemma is a good – approaching great – main character. She is smart and spunky. Her character develops through the story and I found myself being drawn into her story. Her telepathic rat side-kicks (Noodle and Pie) are characters that readers will immediately love.  The evil Agromond Family is VERY evil and they are the perfect bad guys. The book is written so that is totally appropriate for MG readers, but the length and reading level is something an older reader will like also.  I recommend this book to lovers of fantasy!

I give this 5 out of 5 bookworms!fivebooks

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