Category Archives: book tour

SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Curse of the Granville Fortune by Kelly Hashway

 Curse of the Granville Fortune

by Kelly Hashway

Middle Grade Adventure

Book Description

Find the fortune, break the curse!

The hunt is on for an ancient treasure tied to nine-year-old J.B.’s family history. He’s been having visions that make him sweaty, lightheaded, and certain he’s turning into some kind of freak—or worse, going insane. But things are worse than he imagined. The visions stem from a family curse. An ancient ancestor was accused of stealing the massive Granville fortune, and now J.B.’s entirely family will suffer.

To break the curse, J.B. must find and return the Granville’s stolen property. But he’s not the only one searching for the treasure. As he sets out on his journey through a dark and foreboding forest, he’ll battle his worst fears and fight terrifying creatures along the way. And when he meets two others who share the missing pieces of his visions and suffer from the same curse, the three soon realize they need to work together to break the curse before it’s too late.

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“What was that?” Holly stepped behind me and buried her head between my shoulder blades.

I was afraid to think of what it might be. I didn’t know if the forest only made the things said out loud come to life or if it could read thoughts, too. I moved the branches of the bush to get a better look. A deer ran through some fallen trees. I let go of the breath I’d been holding.

“Is it bears?” Holly asked.

My whole body tensed. Holly had volunteered another scary suggestion to the forest. I looked around, but I couldn’t see a bear anywhere. Leaves rustled and another cracking sound came from high in a tree. Three large branches fell to the ground in front of us. Only these weren’t normal tree limbs. They were shaped like bears. Big green, leafy bears! Once again, our imaginations had turned the forest into living creatures ready to devour us.

 

About the Author

Kelly Hashway grew up reading R.L. Stein’s Fear Street novels and writing stories of her own, so it was no surprise to her family when she majored in English and later obtained a masters degree in English Secondary Education from East Stroudsburg University. After teaching middle school language arts for seven years, Hashway went back to school and focused specifically on writing. She is now the author of three young adult series, one middle grade series, and several picture books. She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Ashelyn Drake. When she isn’t writing, Hashway works as a freelance editor for small presses as well as for her own list of clients. In her spare time, she enjoys running, traveling, and volunteering with the PTO. Hashway currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, and two pets.

 Author Links:

Website  | Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | TBD | iBooks

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Winner will be drawn November 21, 2014

·        Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Curse of the Granville Fortune by Kelly Hashway (INT)

CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

 

Chapter by Chapter

REVIEW: The Girl Who Came Back to Life by Craig Staufenberg

The Girl Who Came Back to Life: A Fairytale

by Craig Staufenberg

Fantasy/Fairy Tale

Book Description

When you die, your spirit wakes in the north, in the City of the Dead. There, you wander the cold until one of your living loved ones finds you, says “Goodbye,” and Sends you to the next world.

After her parents die, 12-year-old Sophie refuses to release their spirits. Instead, she resolves to travel to the City of the Dead to bring her mother and father’s spirits back home with her.

Taking the long pilgrimage north with her gruff & distant grandmother—by train, by foot, by boat; over ruined mountains and plains and oceans—Sophie struggles to return what death stole from her. Yet the journey offers her many hard, unexpected lessons—what to hold on to, when to let go, and who she must truly bring back to life.

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MY THOUGHTS: 3.75 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

The Girl Who Came Back to Life: A Fairytale by Craig Staufenberg

When 12 year old Sophie loses her parents suddenly, her entire life is flipped upside down. She is forced to live with her cold grandmother, who barely acknowledges her existence. In the midst of this, Sophie knows she has to take on the monumental task of being the one to make the perilous journey North to lay her parents’ spirits to rest.

Sophie is a strong girl. Once she sets her mind to something, she sees it through, no matter what stands in her way. Though she makes some not so smart spur of the moment decisions, she is mature enough to deal with the consequences and set things right as best she can.

One thing I found intriguing about this story is that the only character who has an actual name is Sophie. Everyone else in her world is referred to as what they are: “the baker,” “the soldier,” “the grandmother.” They are also sort of anti-stereotypical of what you’d think the characters would be. Though you don’t get to know most of the other characters very deeply, you get to know enough to learn that everyone has more than one side.

There were some very touching moments towards the end, and though the story didn’t have a traditional happily ever after, you get the sense that everything will be OK for Sophie.

View all my reviews

 

About the Author

Craig Staufenberg is a writer and filmmaker living in NYC.

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Charming by Krystal Wade

Charming

by Krystal Wade

Upper YA Thriller

Book Description

Sixteen-year-old Haley Tremaine had it all: top-notch school, fantastic family, and a bright future, but all of that changed when an accident tore her family apart. Now, an alcoholic father, a bitter younger sister, and a cold headstone bearing her mother’s name are all she has left.

Chris Charming has it all: a powerful CEO for a father, a prestigious school, and a fortune at his fingertips, but none of that matters when he lands a reputation as a troublemaker. Struggling to follow in his father’s footsteps, he reaches out to the one person he believes truly sees him, the one person he wants: Haley.

Little do they know someone’s determined to bring the two together, even if it means murder.

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Chapter 1, part 1

Thirty-two steps until Haley Tremaine entered hell. Thirty-two steps until she walked into the smell of alcohol and burned microwaveable meals, into a place where fear overwhelmed. Fear of whether Dad would go on a rampage and hit her, or maybe even her little sister Jocelyn, the girl Haley protected at the expense of her sanity, her safety. Even if that sister didn’t appreciate it, or have a clue.
Before Mom died, Haley would have called this home.
But not anymore.
Now? Now, this was definitely hell.
“You punishing your palms with that anger, or are you having a stroke?” Even in the darkness blanketing the empty streets, Haley couldn’t mistake the slight smile toying up the side of Christine’s long, slender face. She walked home with Haley every day after their shifts ended at the Berkshire Candle Company and knew all the horrid details about the broken family life inside the Tremaine household.
Haley unclenched her fists and shook them out, allowing the chilly October air to whisk the sheen of sweat into the night. Nothing more nerve-wracking than going to hell. “Sorry.”
“Since you’ve refused all offers to run away and leave this town behind, you could try this.” Christine took a hit of her thinly wound joint, winked, then held it out for Haley. Like tonight would be any different from the other five hundred times Christine had offered.
“Not happening.” But maybe, just maybe, being high would make walking through the squeaky front door hurt a little less. Maybe the pot would snuff out the anger and fear that burned and spread like uncontrolled wildfires in Haley’s head when Dad yelled, when he grunted disgusting noises because she took too long to clean his mess or get him another beer, and when Jocelyn just sat there and watched.
Dad’s favorite. Dad’s favorite because he thought she chose him instead of Mom the night she decided to leave. Dad didn’t know the truth.
Jocelyn didn’t either.
“Not today, anyway.” Hopefully that day never comes.
“Always helps me get over my issues, but suit yourself.” Tucked into her too-large, red and black flannel jacket, Christine finished off the awful-smelling joint with a shrug, then jogged across the cracked asphalt, hundreds of jagged tar lines holding the road together like band-aids. She forgot to say goodbye. As usual.
Haley stood on the side of the street between the power lines and her yard covered with a thick layer of pine needles and red leaves, the closest thing Deerfield Massachusetts had to a sidewalk. She stared through the yellow glow of the streetlamp Christine ran under, waiting for her to walk into her house. Once she did, Haley jogged up the few steps to her front porch, pulled open the screen door, took a calming breath, then walked in.
No one was waiting. The only greetings she received were sounds of the late-night news reporting the most recent murder, the smell of stale beer, and that ever-unsettling panic in Haley’s chest, the panic that never went away while under the same roof as Dad.
Backpack slung over one shoulder, she ditched her plain black work shoes next to the pile of others by the door and crept through the house that didn’t appreciate anyone creeping around. The worn floorboards rattled with every step, despite Haley’s efforts to place each foot gently in front of the other. She passed the kitchen on her way down the long hallway. The cramped space was a mess of dirty pots and pans sitting and crusting on the stovetop, trash overflowing the can and spilling onto the floor, empty plates scattered on the table. All left for Haley to clean. All left for Haley to worry over.
On the way to her room, Haley paused by the arched opening leading to the den. Dad and Jocelyn sat in each other’s company, watching TV as so many normal families would. But did all those families take advantage of one member? Did they pretend like that member didn’t exist unless they needed help with something? Or was Haley the only lucky one?

 

About the Author

Krystal Wade is happily married to the love of her life (don’t gag) and raising three beautiful children in the gorgeous state of Virginia. They live just outside Washington, D.C., and every day she wakes up to find herself stuck in traffic trying to get there.

The horrid commute gives Krystal plenty of time to zone out and think about her characters in full, brilliant details (she’s a safe driver; don’t worry). Stories give her a way to forget about the sometimes smelly strangers sitting next to her on the fifty mile trek into town (she picks up hitchhikers every day. True story. Check out http://www.slug-lines.com if you don’t believe us).

Krystal has been a part of organized hitchhiking for nearly fifteen years, but that’s just one small aspect of her oh-so-large life. When she’s not working, commuting, or chasing after her three children (four if you count the man), you can usually find Krystal outside talking to her chickens like they’re the cutest things in the world (they are), or training her amazing dogs how to herd said chickens (which they love), or curled up on the sofa with a good book (why can’t that be 100% of the time?).

 

Xpresso Book Tours

REVIEW: Made for You by Melissa Marr

Made for You

by Melissa Marr

YA Thriller

Book Description

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused – who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? Before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her.

As she recovers from the attempt on her life, an old flame, Nate, turns up. Eva must traverse their rocky past and figure out how to use her new power – while the killer grows increasingly frantic. Can she stop him, or will he claim her?

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MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

 

Made for You by Melissa Marr

Made for You was a nice combination of a thriller with a little paranormal. The main character, Eva, darling of southern society, gains the ability to foresee people’s deaths after she is struck by a car one night. This new skill comes in handy as her friends start turning up dead after her accident.

The killer/stalker, Judge, was definitely creepy, especially for someone so young. I knew he had to be someone in Eva’s circle of friends, but that circle is so large that I didn’t really predict him until just before his identity was revealed. He has a singular fixation on Eva and believes what he is doing was told to him by God. His creepiness lies in his total belief that what he is doing is right and his calmness as he murders one girl after another.

Eva is alright as a main character. In the beginning of the book, right after her accident, I didn’t like her very much because she only seemed to be concerned about the fact that she was “not going to be pretty anymore.” She’s very vain and this continues throughout the book, even after several people tell her she’s still beautiful. As the book goes on she started to grow on me, and I like that she didn’t need a guy to fight for her.

There is of course a romance that blooms very quickly. Though Eva has a popular boyfriend when she is hit by the car, he doesn’t come see her in the hospital even though she is there for several days! But her old childhood friend Nate happens across her while visiting his little brother, and before long it’s the two of them together. I did feel this was sort of fast considering that they hadn’t spoken to each other in years. Not to mention the fact that she kept insulting him, calling him a “man-slut” over and over. I can only assume that he was giving her some leeway because of her brain injury, because she was pretty mean to him sometimes and he never really said anything to her about it.

I wish the book would have explored Eva’s death foreseeing ability more. The reader learns nothing about why she got it or if it will continue. I also felt the story presented some characters as rather one-sided. I definitely would have liked to learn more about Nate’s background and current family dynamics.

If you enjoy a thriller with a villain that will make your skin crawl, as well as a side of romance, you should give Made for You a try.

View all my reviews

About the Author

Melissa Marr is the author of the internationally bestselling Wicked Lovely series (currently available in 26 languages). In adult fiction, she is the author of the award-winning novel, Graveminder, and the newly released, The Arrivals. With Kelley Armstrong, Melissa is the co-editor of two anthologies and co-author of the Blackwell Pages trilogy (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), a children’s series about the Norse myth of Ragnarök. Her upcoming HarperCollins 2014 release, Made For You, utilizes both her graduate degree in Southern Literature and her personal experience with stalkers in a story about a killer who terrorizes a small North Carolina town.

Melissa lives in Virginia with her family. You can visit her online at www.melissamarrbooks.com or on Twitter (@melissa_marr), Tumblr, or Facebook.

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SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Splinters by FJR Titchenell & Matt Carter

Splinters

by FJR Tichenell and Matt Carter

The Prospero Chronicles, Book One

Book Description

Under ordinary circumstances, Ben and Mina would never have had reason to speak to each other; he’s an easy-going people person with a healthy skepticism about the paranormal, and she’s a dangerously obsessive monster-hunter with a crippling fear of betrayal. But the small town of Prospero, California, has no ordinary circumstances to offer. In order to uncover a plot set by the seemingly innocent but definitely shapeshifting monsters-that-look-like-friends-family-and-neighbors, the two stark opposites must both find ways to put aside their differences and learn to trust each other.

About the Author

F.J.R. Titchenell is an author of Young Adult, Sci-Fi, and Horror fiction. She is represented by Jennifer Mishler of Literary Counsel and lives in San Gabriel, California with her husband, Matt Carter, and their pet king snake, Mica.

Along with Goodreads, you can also find her at www.facebook.com/FjrTitchenell andtwitter.com/FJR_Titchenell.

Matt Carter is an author of Horror, Sci-Fi, and yes even a little bit of Young Adult fiction. Along with his wife and frequent co-author, F.J.R. Titchenell, he is represented by Jennifer Mishler of Literary Counsel and lives in the usually sunny town of San Gabriel, CA.

His first book, The Prospero Chronicles: Splinters (the first of a five book series), was released on September 23, 2014, through Jolly Fish Press.

You can find F.J.R. Titchenell online here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FjrTitchenell
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FJR_Titchenell
Website: http://fjrtitchenell.weebly.com/

 

You can find Matt Carter online here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mattcarterauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MCarterAuthor
Website: http://mattcarterauthor.weebly.com/

PURCHASE SPLINTERS:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Splinters-Prospero-Chronicles-Matt-Carter/dp/1939967392
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/splinters-matt-carter/1118877645?ean=9781939967398

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Enter the tour wide giveaway to win one of three signed copies of Splinters!

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Minty by Christina Banach

 Minty

by Christina Banagh

YA Thriller

Book Description

Fourteen-year-old twins Minty and Jess are inseparable. Maybe they bicker now and then, even crave a bit of space once in a while. But they have a connection. Unbreakable. Steadfast. Nothing can tear them apart. Until a family trip to the coast puts their bond in jeopardy. As Minty tries to rescue her dog from drowning she ends up fighting for her life. Will Minty survive? If she doesn’t, how will Jess cope without her? Only the stormy sea has the answer.

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MY THOUGHTS: 4.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Minty by Christina Banach

It’s absolutely impossible to review this book without giving up a very important spoiler that somehow didn’t make it into this book’s synopsis. Minty and Jess are teenaged twins living in Scotland. When one day the girls make a fateful trip to the rocky shore, Minty loses her life and Jess in short order loses her sanity. Minty’s spirit continues to hang around her family’s home, but it’s so hard to watch the living when you are seeing them break down. As twins, Minty and Jess shared a special bond…but will it be unbreakable even in death?

The book started off quickly but around the middle things got repetitive and the plot suffered a bit. Minty and Jess are twins, but so different from each other. Even though those differences exist, Jess experiences Minty’s loss like no one else because of the connection they shared. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see Jess go through all of the stages of grief, but it was also fulfilling to read because the author made it all feel so real.

Minty meets another ghost, trapped spirit, or whatever you want to call it shortly after he death. His name is Jack, and while Minty finds him irritating, he is also the only company she has and she needs his help. I mostly found him annoying myself. He and Minty don’t really have a romantic relationship, but he is extremely standoffish at times and often makes fun of Minty. She gave him a lot more leeway than I would have.

While I think the book was too long and several scenes could have been cut out, overall Minty was a great read and very emotional. I like that it didn’t fall prey to most YA stereotypes, and that the main focus was on family instead of a romance. The end was great and left me in tears. I’d recommend the book to anyone who has a firm sibling bond, or readers who’d like to experience one.

View all my reviews

About the Author

Christina Banach is a former head teacher who lives in Scotland, UK, with her husband and their two rescue dogs. She loves walking; delicious food and wine; evenings at the theatre; exploring new places; surfing the Net; listening to music; and anything that makes her laugh. Plus she has a bit of a thing about shoes and handbags. She loves reading, and is especially keen on young adult and children’s fiction (all those years buying for school libraries!).

She is currently working on her next novel.

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PURCHASE:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW & INTERVIEW: I Ate a Cicada Today by Jeff Crossan

I Ate a Cicada Today

by Jeff Crossan

Children’s Fiction

Book Description

Based on a song of outrageous rhymes, I Ate a Cicada Today is a humorous children’s picture book illustrated in ink and watercolor with an accompanying CD.  Each two-page spread features a verse about a different animal or insect including such fanciful scenarios as “I peppered a leopard today” and “I hid a giant squid today.”  The CD is a guitar/vocal performance of the song by author/illustrator Jeff Crossan, who interjects each verse with a short spoken aside to provide added comic punch to the zany lyrics.

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MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

This is a super, super cute book written in verse like a song.  In fact, the version on sale has a CD with it, but I didn’t get to hear this part yet.  The author mixes funny lines about doing weird actions with animals with little tidbits of information about said animal, in a way that kids will remember.

I really liked the illustrations.  They were beautifully done and made the verses really come to life.  My 5 year old thought some of the pictures were really funny without even knowing what the lines were about!

The book is a bit long for bedtime reading, and there are some words you will have to explain the meaning of to your children.  But it seems each set of verses can be a tiny tale all their own.  This is a wildly inventive children’s offering that I think kids and parents will love reading.

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Tell us a little about yourself.
Maybe I can answer your first request by telling you about a few firsts relating to my writing background. I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and the first creative writing effort I recall was done on the back porch of my home there when I was about seven or eight years old. I wrote lyrics to the tune of Stephen Foster’s song “Beautiful Dreamer.” It was titled “Happy That Day.”
The first news article I wrote as a professional reporter was about a newly installed No Left Turn sign on a busy street in Newark, Delaware and how people who’d been making that turn for years were unpleasantly surprised when they were pulled over and ticketed by the local police. The lead was, “Some habits aren’t hard to break. Some habits are. Michael Piovoso has a law-breaking habit.”
The first song I was fortunate enough to have recorded was “You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation,” a number one record for country singer Ronnie McDowell. I’d love to become that fortunate again.
The first children’s song I wrote was “I Ate a Cicada Today,” which has now turned into my first children’s picture book.

What made you want to become a writer?
I think great writing made me want to become a writer. When I was five years old I heard “Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah” in the Disney movie “Song of the South,” an Academy Award-winning song, and I wanted to write a song like that. In first grade I read Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Suess and it made me want to write and illustrate a children’s book. And today, when I hear a great song or read a great book, I still think to myself, “Why haven’t you written something like that, you slacker?” So I sit right down and write a note to myself to remind me to do that.

Who or what gives you inspiration?
As I just mentioned, sometimes it’s hearing or reading something that inspires me. Other times a cicada slams into my face in a parking lot and launches me into a rhyming frenzy.

Tell us about I Ate a Cicada Today.
The story of how the book evolved over many years is told in detail on its website. But I haven’t spoken much about the song itself, which also changed quite a bit over time. Originally, each verse was only four lines long, three of which were identical. The first verse, for instance, was “I ate a cicada today/I ate a cicada today/It flew in my mouth and it didn’t fly out/I ate a cicada today.” I soon realized that was too repetitive and allowed for a minimal amount of color or information. So I changed the second line to each verse. For the cicada it became, “I know that sounds crazy to say.” Eventually, I realized I wanted to put even more story into the verses so I stopped singing after each third line and added the spoken asides, which opened things up to all sorts of possibilities. Finally, I thought it would add variety to the song if I changed the tempos or time signatures on the verses to reflect the stories being told. The turtle verse, for example, is in waltz time and the hotwired Rottweiler is rock ‘n roll.

What’s the hardest part of being a writer?
Convincing a bank to lend you money. And deadlines. Even the word sounds ominous. When I was a reporter I hated writing under deadline pressure. I’m too much of a perfectionist to be satisfied with a first draft and that was often all I had time to write. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson said he wrote best under a deadline and likened himself to the rabbit that choses to wait by the side of the road until the headlights are upon him before dashing madly in front of the oncoming car. That’s not me.

What do you need around you to write (special drink, lucky items, etc)?
I don’t need much. A pencil and a pad of paper will do. If I’m writing a song I’ll also need a guitar and a tape recorder. I prefer writing with a pencil to get started rather than a computer. It’s just more comfortable for me. And any posture is possible. I also like to have a large window with a view and plenty of natural light.

What are some of your favorite books?
It’s difficult to choose but if I use the number of times I’ve read a book to gauge where it stands among my favorites I’d have to say, To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn and The Grapes of Wrath. I’ve read each multiple times. When it comes to children’s books I really enjoy Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. Of the recent books I’ve read I like Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, a unique combination comic book and memoir of sorts, which made me laugh out loud.
Are your characters based on anyone you know?
Most of the characters in I Ate a Cicada Today are animals and although I may have a passing acquaintance with some of them from occasional visits to the zoo I can’t claim to know them well. The little blond-haired boy who appears several times in the book was based on my son, Jon, who I not only know, but love. The little girl is my daughter Sara, who I know and love equally as much as Jon.
What, if anything, are you working on right now?
I have an idea for another children’s picture book based on one of the other children’s songs I’ve written. I haven’t begun working on the illustrations yet but I’ve been giving some thought as to how to best format them. Right now I’m busy doing all the things I need to do to support I Ate a Cicada Today.
Why do you love writing?
I love words and language, description and stories, rhythm and rhyme and everything that writing is. Aside from all that, I also enjoy the solitude that goes hand in hand with writing. I’m an only child and I entertained myself with solitary, creative pursuits a lot when I was a boy. That inclination has stayed with me.

About the Author

Jeff Crossan is an award-winning, Emmy-nominated songwriter. His hit songs include the number one country tune, “You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation,” which received a BMI Million Air Award. A graduate of the University of Richmond with a degree in journalism, he is a former newspaper reporter/photographer, music journalist and syndicated radio writer. For several years his cartoons appeared in the Presbyterian Voice. He lives in Franklin, Tennessee with his wife, Linda. They have a daughter and a son who have helped them assemble a fine assortment of mammals, reptiles, fish and insects.

I Ate A Cicada Today is his first children’s book.

Author Links below:

BOOK TOUR REVIEW: Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet by Jenny Ruden

Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet

by Jenny Ruden

YA Contemporary

Book Description

Sixteen-year-old Baltimore teen Bethany Stern knows the only way out of spending her summer at Camp Utopia, a fat camp in Northern California, is weight-loss. Desperate, she tries The Forgiveness Diet, the latest fad whose infomercial promises that all she has to do is forgive her deadbeat dad, her scandalous sister, and the teenage magician next door and (unrequited) love of her life. But when the diet fails and her camp nemesis delivers the ultimate blow, Bee bids sayonara to Camp-not-Utopian-at-all to begin what she believes will be her “real” summer adventure, only to learn that running away isn’t as easy—or as healing—as it seems.

Her wry and honest voice bring humor and poignancy for anyone, fat or thin, tired of hearing “you’d be so pretty if…[insert unwelcome judgment about your appearance from loved one or perfect stranger].”

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MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

 

Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet by Jenny Ruden

As a bigger girl myself, I knew I had to read about Bethany’s journey to fat camp. If I had a dollar for every time in my life I heard, “Well you’d be so pretty if you lost weight,” or, “You’re very beautiful for a big girl,”then I could have sent myself to fat camp. The main character, and I’m guessing by extension the author, knows exactly what it’s like to be in the same position. I identified so much with Bethany sometimes, it kind of scared me.

Bee knows she needs to lose weight, OK? Like, she totally gets it. She knows if she could just shed that roll around her belly, her mother wouldn’t hound her so much, her older sister might be nicer, and maybe she could nail down her best friend TJ. But she likes to eat. She doesn’t know how to do the whole weight loss thing the right way. So that’s why, even though she’s dreading it, Bethany makes the road trip to California to spend the summer at Camp Utopia.

Right off the bat, I couldn’t believe the way Bethany’s own family and friends talked to her. They would tell her to her face that she needed to lose weight (and in a rather rude manner), call her fat, and even worse insults. During the road trip, it actually really pissed me off that Bethany’s sister was letting her boyfriend be so cruel to Bee. I have two sisters, and though we may pick on each other, I dare someone else to say something inappropriate to one of us. It’s as if the author was trying to make a point as to how often and ruthlessly overweight people get picked on, but in my opinion it went overboard. I was like, “OK, I GET IT!”

Bethany is a pretty witty girl, and she takes most of the insults hurled her way in stride. A girl can’t hold out forever, though, and that’s why I’m glad when Bee had her breakdown she had a good friend alongside her. There is also romance, but it’s not a main plot point and its’ progression is unusual to say the least.

The book drags in the middle some. I didn’t see the point of Bethany and her friend Cambridge’s little foray into a drug filled party, and I think the book could have done without that scene and a few others that seemed like page fillers. But by the end, there are a couple of really cool surprises and the book wraps up in a believable way.

I think a lot of girls will relate to Bethany and her journey, teenagers or even older. The author had a way of making you feel for a character while also being able to see their flaws. This was a fun summer read and I definitely recommend it.

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About the Author

Jenny Ruden has published short stories and essays in Nerve, Salon, Eclectica Magazine, Literary Mama and High Desert Journal. She won an Orlando award for creative nonfiction, was named a finalist in Glimmertrain’s short fiction contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize two years in a row. She has worked with teenagers for over ten years as a teacher of Reading, Writing and GED, and has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two basset hounds and cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visit her website jennyruden.com, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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BOOK TOUR REVIEW: I Wish by E.B. Tatby

 I Wish 

by E.B. Tatby

YA Supernatural

Book Description

All her life, sixteen-year-old Kenza Atlas has heard the stories, but she never believed them. She never expected the allure of power or, worse, how far the dark shadows could cast. Genies and wishing are for fairy tales, not teenage girls, and especially not in Omaha.

But when a Moroccan jinn with undulating tattoos and mysterious black eyes whisks her 500 years back in time, she witnesses the death of her powerful ancestor and the gorgeous slave she loved. They sacrificed themselves to escape the Caliph, a tyrant named Mazin.

And now he’s after Kenza.

He’s tracked her to her present time. Now she spends her days stealing paranoid glances over her shoulder, obsessing over a slave who died hundreds of years ago, and praying her family will survive.

3 fleur

MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

This is one of the few books I have read that have Jinn (genies) as the main supernatural character.  While I appreciate novelty in the YA world, I’m not sure I will ever love Jinn as a creature.

Kenza has a Moroccan heritage, and as such, her father has been telling her tales of Jinn and evil in her family generations back.  But Kenza was unprepared for the fact that all of the stories her dad told her were actually true…which she realizes when a Jinn shows up in her bedroom and transports her to the past.  Kenza learns that she shares a body with a powerful relative whose past will intertwine with Kenza’s present in a potentially dangerous way.

Kenza is a teenager, and while she’s not particularly rebellious, her parents are quite strict.  Perhaps this stems from her father’s upbringing in a place other than America, but it makes it somewhat difficult for Kenza to fit in.  She’s even bullied at school.  So I don’t blame her when she jumps at the chance to get away from her parents and her terrible school life.

While the Jinn action starts almost immediately, it still takes quite a while for the book to get rolling.  Kenza goes back and forth through time, but doesn’t actually question the fact of Jinn being real as much as I feel a normal person would.  It also took me a little time to get used to the idea of a Jinn being a part of another person’s body.

The romance can kind of seem like a case of insta-love, but it’s hard to say that it is really–Kenza shares her Jinn ancestor’s thoughts and memories, so while it seems Kenza is falling for Amal when she’s barely seen him, maybe it’s just because of feelings she’s getting from the past.

I can tell this is the author’s first book; the conversations are sometimes stilted and the writing doesn’t flow as easily as it should.  Still, I appreciate a new idea in fiction, and I think if the author puts more work into writing this series could gain a lot of fans.

 

About the Author

E.B. Tatby was born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa. She is living her life-long dream of being an Author and is passionate about inspiring others (especially teens) to follow their dreams. Above all, she wants to remind them of the power to wish.

I Wish, a YA story, is her first published novel. She is currently working on a sequel.

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BOOK TOUR SPOTLIGHT: In the Mirror by Kaira Rouda

 In the Mirror

by Kaira Rouda

Women’s Fiction

Book Description

What choices would you make if you knew you might die soon?

In the Mirror is the story of Jennifer Benson, a woman who seems to have it all. Diagnosed with cancer, she enters an experimental treatment facility to tackle her disease the same way she tackled her life – head on. But while she’s busy fighting for a cure, running her business, planning a party, staying connected with her kids, and trying to keep her sanity, she ignores her own intuition and warnings from others and reignites an old relationship best left behind.

If you knew you might die, what choices would you make? How would it affect your marriage? How would you live each day? And how would you say no to the one who got away?

 

sshexcerpt

 

Rolling over to get out of bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and cringed. My reflection said it all. Everything had changed.
I looked like death.
I blinked, moving my gaze from the mirror, and noticed the calendar. It was Monday again. That meant everything in the real world. It meant groaning about the morning and getting the kids off to school. It meant struggling to get to the office on time and then forcing yourself to move through the day. It meant the start of something new and fresh and undetermined. But Mondays meant nothing at Shady Valley. We lived in the “pause” world, between “play” and “stop.” Suspension was the toughest part for me. And loneliness. Sure, I had visitors, but it wasn’t the same as being surrounded by people in motion. I’d been on fast-forward in the real world, juggling two kids and my business, struggling to stay connected to my husband, my friends. At Shady Valley, with beige-colored day after cottage-cheese-tasting day, my pace was, well –
I had to get moving.
I supposed my longing for activity was behind my rather childish wish to throw a party for myself. At least it gave me a mission of sorts. A delineation of time beyond what the latest in a long line of cancer treatments dictated. It had been more than 18 months of treatments, doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and the like. I embraced the solidity of a deadline. The finality of putting a date on the calendar and knowing that at least this, my party, was something I could control.
I noticed the veins standing tall and blue and bubbly atop my pale, bony hands. I felt a swell of gratitude for the snakelike signs of life, the entry points for experimental treatments; without them, I’d be worse than on pause by now.
I pulled my favorite blue sweatshirt over my head and tugged on my matching blue sweatpants.
Moving at last, I brushed my teeth and then headed next door to Ralph’s. He was my best friend at Shady Valley—a special all-suite, last-ditch-effort experimental facility for the sick and dying—or at least he had been until I began planning my party. I was on his last nerve with this, but he’d welcome the company, if not the topic. He was paused too.
My thick cotton socks helped me shuffle across my fake wood floor, but it was slow going once I reached the grassy knoll—the leaf-green carpet that had overgrown the hallway. An institutional attempt at Eden, I supposed. On our good days, Ralph and I sometimes sneaked my son’s plastic bowling set out there to partake in vicious matches. We had both been highly competitive, type-A people in the “real” world and the suspended reality of hushed voices and tiptoeing relatives was unbearable at times.
“I’ve narrowed it down to three choices,” I said, reaching Ralph’s open door. “’Please come celebrate my life on the eve of my death. RSVP immediately. I’m running out of time.’”
“Oh, honestly,” Ralph said, rolling his head back onto the pillows propping him up. I knew my time in Shady Valley was only bearable because of this man, his humanizing presence. Even though we both looked like shadows of our outside, real-world selves, we carried on a relationship as if we were healthy, alive. I ignored the surgery scars on his bald, now misshapen head. He constantly told me I was beautiful. It worked for us.
“Too morbid? How about: ‘Only two months left. Come see the incredible, shrinking woman. Learn diet secrets of the doomed,’” I said, smiling then, hoping he’d join in.
“Jennifer, give it a rest would you?” Ralph said.
“You don’t have to be so testy. Do you want me to leave?” I asked, ready to retreat back to my room.
“No, come in. Let’s just talk about something else, OK, beautiful?”
Ralph was lonely, too. Friends from his days as the city’s most promising young investment banker had turned their backs—they didn’t or couldn’t make time for his death. His wife, Barbara, and their three teenage kids were his only regular visitors. Some days, I felt closer to Ralph than to my own family, who seemed increasingly more absorbed in their own lives despite weekly flowers from Daddy and dutiful visits from Henry, my husband of six years. Poor Henry. It was hard to have meaningful visits at Shady Valley, with nurses and treatments and all manner of interruptions. We still held hands and kissed, but intimacy—even when I was feeling up to it—was impossible.
So, there we were, Ralph and I, two near-death invalids fighting for our lives and planning a party to celebrate that fact. It seemed perfectly reasonable, at least to me, because while I knew I should be living in the moment, the future seemed a little hazy without a party to focus on.
“Seriously, I need input on my party invitations. It’s got to be right before I hand it over to Mother. I value your judgment, Ralph; is that too much to ask?”
“For God’s sake, let me see them.” Ralph snatched the paper out of my hand. After a moment, he handed it back to me. “The last one’s the best. The others are too, well, self-pitying and stupid. Are you sure you can’t just have a funeral like the rest of us?”
I glared at him, but agreed, “That’s my favorite, too.”
Mr. & Mrs. E. David Wells
request your presence at a
celebration in honor of their daughter
Jennifer Wells Benson
Please see insert for your party time
Shady Valley Center
2700 Hocking Ridge Road
RSVP to Mrs. Juliana Duncan Wells
No gifts please—donations to breast cancer research appreciated.
#
At first, I had been incredibly angry about the cancer. Hannah’s birth, so joyous, had marked the end of my life as a “normal” person. Apparently, it happened a lot. While a baby’s cells multiplied, the mom’s got into the act, mutating, turning on each other. Hannah was barely two weeks old when I became violently ill. My fever was 105 degrees when we arrived in the ER. I think the ER doctors suspected a retained placenta or even some sort of infectious disease, although I was so feverish I can’t remember much from that time. All I remember was the feeling of being cut off from my family—Henry, two-year-old Hank, and newborn Hannah—and marooned on the maternity ward, a place for mothers-to-be on bed rest until their due dates. That was hell.
At 33, I was a pathetic sight. My headache was so intense the curtains were drawn at all times. I didn’t look pregnant anymore, so all the nurses thought my baby had died. That first shift tip-toed around me, murmuring. By the second night, one of them posted a sign: “The baby is fine. Mother is sick.” It answered their questions since I couldn’t. It hurt my head too much to try.
By the third day, my headache had receded to a dull roar. Surgery revealed that there was no retained placenta after all. I was ready to go home to my newborn and my life. So with a slight fever and no answers, I escaped from the hospital and went home to a grateful Henry and a chaotic household. I was weak and tired, but everyone agreed that was to be expected. I thanked God for the millionth time for two healthy kids and my blessed, if busy, life.
And then, not two weeks later, I found the lump.

 

About the Author

Kaira Rouda is an award-winning and bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction. Her books include: Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs; Here, Home, Hope; All the Difference;In the Mirror; and the short story,A Mother’s Day.  She lives in Southern California with her husband and four children and is at work on her next novel.

Her latest novel is the women’s fiction, In the Mirror.

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