Crystalee reviews The Graham Cracker Plot

By Shelley Tougas
Published on September 2 2014
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Source: Publisher 
No one believes her, but Daisy Bauer knows her dad has been wrongfully imprisoned and that it's up to her to break him out of jail (aka Club Fed). She has a plan that she's calling the Graham Cracker Plot because it was all Graham's idea. She just needs a miniature horse, a getaway truck, and a penny from 1919—the idea coin.

This funny, nail-biter of a novel is about friendship and admitting you're wrong. Debut novelist Shelley Tougas balances humor and warmth against themes of family, broken trust, and unconditional love against all odds.
The Graham Cracker Plot is a fun, action-packed middle grade novel about a girl who will do anything to get her father out of prison, including coming up with a complex plot to break him free.

In true middle grade fiction fashion, Daisy's story is an implausible, exaggerated, humorous adventure that both boys and girls will enjoy. Daisy and her friend Graham are joined by family friend Ashley, a dog, a pony, and a magical coin, as they attempt to break Daisy's father "The Chemist" out of prison.

Things that make me a little queasy about this book: Daisy's "plan" is innocent enough. I mean, who wouldn't want their father out of prison, especially when you think he's innocent? Daisy is not old enough to realize that things like magical coins don't help in real life. But I'm still not sure how I feel about the reference to "cooking" drugs in a middle grade novel. If I had a twelve year old who read this book, then came to me for an explanation, would I be prepared to explain? I think of middle grade novels as having a hint of innocence to them, and the drug references seem like a stretch in an otherwise age-appropriate book.

Throughout the novel, Daisy, Graham and Ashley do a lot of stealing as a result of their plan, but in the end they seem to learn their lesson and become better people as a result, so that didn't really bother me. I don't think kids are going to copy their plan or anything like that. Still, I don't entirely like how the drug issue was the catalyst for the humor instead of being handled with sensitivity.

As an adult, I find myself wondering about mixing serious issues with the outrageous plan, but I think middle grade kids will definitely learn something from Daisy by the end.

Jaime's Top Ten Tuesday!

Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Man, this one was tough y'all! There are going to be way more than 10 on this one. Sorry bout that. No particular coolness order, no pics! Just awesome people... um, characters! This is going to be one seriously large lunch table!

Chase and Ember 
Article 5  series by Kristen Simmons

Clementine and Fisher
Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

Ellie and Will
Angelfire series by Courtney Allison Moulton

Sophie Mercer and Gang 
Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst

Adrian and Sydney
Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead

Aria and Perry
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Ana and Sam
Incarnate (Newsoul Trilogy) by Jodi Meadows

Grace, Gretchen and (sometimes) Greer

Xandy and Vex
The Immortal Empire  series by Kate Locke

Nora and Bram
Gone with the Respiration  series by Lia Habel

Kami and Jared, Angela....
The Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan

Sybella and Beast
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Joy, Ink and Inq
The Twixt series by Dawn Metcalf

Gretchen, Emma and Penelope
The Lovegrove Legacy  series by Alyxandra Harvey

Dex and Perry
Experiment in Terror  series by Karina Halle

and this list would not be complete without........

Harry, Hermione, Ron and all of the guys and girls of 
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

And my list is complete! Honestly though, I could have gone on and on naming amazing characters that I would want at my lunch table. Well, my lunch table 14 years ago. Man, I am getting old! And I was a big old nerd way back then so most of these guys were too cool for me. But one can dream!

Destined For Doon Tour + Giveaway!

By Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon
Published on September 2, 2014
Published by Blink YA
Source: Publisher
The second book in the popular new Doon YA series that takes on a classic story, Brigadoon, and spins it in a new way to give readers a fresh, modern experience.

In this sequel to Doon, Kenna Reid realizes she made a horrible mistake-choosing to follow her dreams of Broadway instead of staying in the enchanted land of Doon. Worse, she's received proof she and Duncan are meant to be, along with torturous visions of the prince she left behind. So when Duncan shows up and informs Kenna that Doon needs her, she doesn't need to think twice. But even if Kenna can save the enchanted kingdom, her happily ever after may still be in peril.

The Doon novels are a part of Blink, HarperCollins Christian Publishing's new YA imprint that delivers empowering and heartening literature while maintaining a tradition of imaginative and impactful storytelling.

 Oh man, this book was so good!  I am sure everyone knows how much I loved Doon.  It was on almost every list I had for 2013.  I loved it so much- and Destined for Doon does NOT disappoint! It is full of action and excitement.  The second story centered around Duncan and Kenna who were left seperate from each other at the end of the first book.

Duncan is still one of my favorite characters in this series.  I love how sweet and kind he is and isn't the broody guy who treats everyone badly.  Kenna is... well... making bad choices throughout most of the book.  She is confused about what she wants and is so certain of what she thinks she wants that she doesn't leave room for life.

If you haven't read this series- seriously, it needs to happen.  I am so excited by this series- it has everything I want in a book: drama, action, and romance.

We are so thankful to have both Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp on the site today.  I had the pleasure of asking them a few questions:

First of all, I would love to know, what is it like working with a writing partner?  Does it make anything easier? Harder?
Lorie: As you can imagine, one of the challenges of co-authoring is not having complete creative control, but this can also be an advantage because you have two brains instead of one!
Carey and I, much like our characters, are opposite in a way that makes for a perfect balance. As writers, we each bring different technical strengths to the table.
The actual  process of writing with a co-author is fun and dynamic. Splitting responsibilities such as blogging, promotions, and social networking is a great blessing. But the biggest advantage is that you have someone who is equally invested. Someone you can call at midnight with a brilliant plot idea, who won’t curse you out and block your phone number

Who originally had the idea for a story to take place in a world created originally by Brigadoon?

Lorie: That would be me.  When I was sixteen I saw the musical Brigadoon and fell in love with the romantic tale of the village that only appears to the modern world once every one hundred years. But one thing always bothered me about the original – during the hundred years that the portal to the kingdom is closed, the people in Brigadoon sleep. Really? They sleep! I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do with that hundred years…

Was this always planned to be a series or was it originally a stand alone?
Carey: When Lorie and I first wrote Doon, we just wrote the one book. In the first draft, Kenna’s story wrapped up in an epilogue. When our good friend Meredith read that early draft, she lobbied for Kenna and Duncan to get a whole book. Shortly, after we started thinking of what Doon would look like as a series and it sold to BLINK/HarperCollins as a 4 book story.

Kenna and Veronica seem like opposites attract- are they based on a real life friendship?

Lorie: Not exactly…but we did set out to write a story of two girls who are very different on the surface but have an unshakeable bond—much like ourselves.
Duncan or Jamie?
Lorie: This is a very personal one, so we’ll both answer…I love both of the MacCrae brothers. Just like Veronica and Mackenna, Jamie and Duncan are quite opposite, but for me it will always be my tortured, yet noble Prince Jamie.
Carey: Fergus. JK – I do like Jamie, but I’m a Duncan girl all the way!

Alright I have to ask- can you give my readers a little teaser... just something little to entice them into this series?

Carey: If you haven’t read the first book, there’s a little something for everyone: history, angst, humor, BFFs, lattes, nerds, drama divas, fantasy, introverts, extroverts, evil cheerleaders, bad boys, good guys, romance, bromance, womance, fairytale, girl power, saving the world in pretty dresses, witches, zombies, and coming soon … a bit with a dog.
Here are our informal tag lines:
Doon: A story of best friends, girl-power, and Scottish princes in kilts.
Destined for Doon: The continuing story of best friends, girl-power, and Scottish princes in kilts.

Carey Corp: Carey Corp lives in the metropolitan Midwest with her loveable yet out-of-control family. Carey wrote her first book at the age of seven, and currently begins each morning consuming copious amounts of coffee while weaving stories that capture her exhaustive imagination. She harbors a voracious passion (in no consistent order) for mohawks, Italy, musical theater, chocolate, and Jane Austen. Carey’s debut novel for teens, The Halo Chronicles: The Guardian, earned her national recognition as 2010 Golden Heart finalist for best young adult fiction and was featured at the 2012 RT Booklovers Convention in Chicago in YA Alley

Lorie Langdon: Lorie Langdon has wanted to write her own novels since she was a wee girl reading every Judy Blume book she could get her hands on. So a few years ago, she left her thriving corporate career to satisfy the voices in her head. Now as a full-time author and stay-at-home mom, she spends her summers editing poolside while dodging automatic water-gun fire, and the rest of the year tucked into her cozy office, Havanese puppy by her side, working to translate her effusive imagination into the written word and continue to build the young-adult-focused blog, HonestlyYA.

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Crystalee has DNF-ed A Missing Peace

By Beth Fred
Published on September 1 2013
Published by Escape Publishing
Source: Net Galley
Angry, seventeen-year-old Iraqi war refugee Mirriam Yohanna hates her new life in Killeen, Texas, where the main attraction is a military base, populated with spoiled army brats like Caleb Miller.

Caleb has much to be angry about too, including Mirriam who turns him down flat in front of everyone. Eager for retribution, Caleb agrees to a dare that will see him take Mirriam to the prom and regain his pride.

But their relationship soon moves beyond high school antics. Mirriam and Caleb are bound together by more than location, and as they are forced to work closely together on a school assignment, they start to uncover an explosive story that has the potential to ruin lives — and both of their futures. One single truth changes everything and strengthens their bond.

When Mirriam's family discovers their relationship, they decide it's time to arrange her marriage to a proper Iraqi man. Caleb must convince Mirriam that he is in it for forever — or risk losing her for good.
I really, really hate DNF-ing books, but I just had to on this one. When I recently discovered it on my Goodreads list from back in October of 2013, I tried to give it another go, but I just wasn't feeling it. I DNF-ed it at 30%, which is unheard of for me.

It's not a bad book, per say. I loved the premise of it. A couple from completely different backgrounds, countries, and religions tied together by the horror of war. But I just couldn't stand Caleb. He was racist, sexist, and horrible to Mirriam. I didn't want Mirriam to end up with him, and I knew that's what was coming.

I know I only read 30% of the book, but things just weren't moving fast enough for me to see how these two could possibly go from enemies to lovers. I was bored, and I have no desire to finish it after all these months. Offically DNF-ed.

Blog Tour: Spotlight/Promo & Giveaway for Avian by Nicole Conway!

Complete Tour Schedule can be found at Chapter by Chapter

Title: Avian (The Dragonrider Chronicles #2)
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC
Author: Nicole Conway

What kind of power is lurking inside him?

After a year of training to become a dragonrider, Jaevid Broadfeather has been sent home to rest during a three-month interlude. But when he returns to find the king drake has chosen Beckah Derrick as his new rider, Jaevid realizes something big is about to happen. Every fiber of his being is pushed to the breaking point as Jaevid battles through his avian year, preparing for the final graduation test of the battle scenario. But there is more standing in his way than a few pushups and fancy sword moves.

Jaevid must face a new fear as he is tormented by a gruesome nightmare of a mysterious gray elf warrior murdering the royal family of Maldobar. It seems obvious to him that this is some kind of message about how the war started long ago—until Felix assures him the king is very much alive. With his strange powers growing stronger by the day, and that violent dream replaying in his mind every night, Jaevid no longer wonders if he will pass his avian year or not . . . he wonders if he will even survive it.

The truth will soon be set loose.

Purchase Links

 About the Nicole Conway

 Nicole is the author of the children’s fantasy series, THE DRAGONRIDER CHRONICLES, about a young boy’s journey into manhood as he trains to become a dragonrider. She has completed the first two books in the series, and is now working on the third and final book.

Originally from a small town in North Alabama, Nicole moves frequently due to her husband’s career as a pilot for the United States Air Force. She received a B.A. in English with a concentration in Classics from Auburn University, and will soon attend graduate school.

She has previously worked as a freelance and graphic artist for promotional companies, but has now embraced writing as a full-time occupation.

Nicole enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She also loves watching children’s movies and collecting books. She lives at home with her husband, two cats, and dog.

Author Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Giveaway Time!

 Winner will be drawn September 26, 2014

                    Four (4) winners will receive a digital copy of Avian by Nicole Conway (INT)

                    One (1) winner will receive a digital copy of Avian by Nicole Conway AND a $10 Amazon Gift                 Card or B&N Gift Card – Winner’s Choice (INT)

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Kylie reviews The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

By Catherynne M. Valente
Published on October 2, 2012
Published by Fiewel and Friends
Source: Publisher

September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back.
Fans of Valente’s bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September’s journey, all brought to life by fine artist Ana Juan. Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem. . . .

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There did not capture my attention at first.  Until I was about halfway through the book, I had to force myself to read it.  I think my problem was the information.  There was so much detail between the talking and action, which started to get repetitive.  Yet, when I got to a certain point, I couldn't put it down.  I had to know the ending.  As in Catherynne Valente’s first book in the Fairyland series, this installment did not quite end on a cliffhanger, nor did it completely wrap everything up.  I will definitely need to read the last book.

So at the start of the book we immediately are informed that September, the heroine of this series, is another year older.  Now a teenager, she has a heart.  A raw, sensitive heart which does not know its own strength.  Throughout the story we get to follow September’s heart growing and breaking, from when she has her first kiss to when she is betrayed for the very first time.  By the end of the book she has matured a bit, and takes initiative in her relationships. 

The point of this adventure was to bring the Shadows of September’s loved ones back to their flesh bodies from Fairyland-Below.  Because of this, there are a lot of new characters and we don’t see A-through-L or Saturday (her best friends from Fairyland-Above) until the end.  When our protagonist reunites with her partners, the book ends on a good note.

Despite this book lagging in some parts, when it wasn't slow it was very well written.  Things from the previous book and even random little things in this book connected.  Valente did a good job pointing out some things younger readers may not have picked up on.  Overall, this wasn't my favorite book, but I give it three out of five stars.

Heir of Fire

By Sarah J Maas
Published on September 2, 2014
Published by Bloomsbury
Source: Publisher
Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?
Gah this series!  It is killing me how good it is!  Heir of Fire started slow for me, mainly because I couldn't remember what had happened in the second book (Thank you Recaptains!). It took me a few chapters to get all the characters resorted out (especially since Celaena is somewhere new and meets all new characters.

Celaena is so fierce.  She is a "take no prisoners" sort of girl and I love how much we dive deep into her psyche in this book.  We learn the truth about Celaena's entire history and boy is it dramatic.  I have been so crazy about Celaena and Chaol this entire story, but to be honest.... someone new is on the scene, and although there is no love triangle that I can see- wowzers is that a deep relationship.

Look I will be honest, writing reviews for books that I am absolutely mad about is so hard- I don't want to give anything away!  So I will leave it at this.  If you haven't started this series yet- go get a cone of shame and put it on your head.  It is that good.

Amanda wonders what went wrong with Deliverance by CJ Redwine

By CJ Redwine
Published on August 26, 2014
Published by Balzer + Bray
Source: Publisher
Everything hangs in the balance, and nothing is certain: Rachel has been kidnapped by enemy forces and is being taken to Rowansmark while Logan, imprisoned and awaiting trial, is unable to leave Lankenshire. Separated from each other and their Baalboden comrades, each must find a way to achieve what they desperately want: to rid their world once and for all of the Commander and the tech that controls the deadly Cursed One.

Fighting through her pain and embracing the warrior she’s become, Rachel will do whatever it takes to escape her enemies’ clutches and join Logan in his fight. But when she learns a secret that changes everything, she realizes that escaping Ian and his tracker friends is no longer an option if she wants to save the people she loves. Instead, she’ll have to destroy Rowansmark from the inside out—if she can survive the journey through the Wasteland.

Logan needs allies if he wants to thwart Rowansmark’s power grab and rescue Rachel. But securing allies will mean betraying his beliefs and enlisting the help of the man he hates more than anyone: Commander Jason Chase. Driven by his fierce love for Rachel and his determination to make their world safe, Logan may be just the weapon the city-states need to defeat the Cursed One.

But as Rowansmark bears down and uneasy alliances are tested, will Rachel and Logan’s love for each other be enough to surmount the unbelievable odds against them?
Oh Deliverance.  I had a love and hate relationship with this book.  Let me give some background first.  When I read review books that are a part of a series- I usually have a year or year and half wait between books.  This either makes me anticipate the book even more, or in some cases, lose interest in the story.  The second book in this series was a powerhouse for me.  I remember feeling full of emotion and very tense as I was reading it.  This one, for the most part, was mild boredom.

Was this a good story?  Absolutely.  Did I have trouble connecting to it because I forgot what the store was about.  Yes.  (This is where the Recaptains usually get involved for me).  Rachel is a fierce fierce lady and I loved reading her story.  I think my real problem was Logan.  I really didn't care about him and didn't want to read the story from his voice.

I honestly can't remember if that was a problem I had in the other books in this series, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I felt pretty similarly about him in the other books.  It isn't that I don't like him- I do.  I just don't want to hear the story from his voice because he complains, worries, and whines too much.  I would have been happy to hear the story only from Rachel's P.O.V.

I will say that I enjoyed the climax of the storyline in this book.  There is a lot of fighting and a lot of bleeding in this book (much like the other books in the series.)  The author is masterful at writing fighting scenes and I really did enjoy reading them.

All in all Deliverance was a decent book.  It simply didn't have the explosiveness that I wanted out of the finale.

Jaime's Top Ten Tuesday!

Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Oblivion by Kelly Creagh

The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

The Glass Arrow  by Kristen Simmons

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Ensnared by A.G. Howard

The Visitor by Amanda Stevens

The Dead List by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

Good gravy, this list feels incomplete! It IS incomplete. But I hope you enjoy it. I am still tapping away one-handed, so forgive me for another week of no explanations! I seriously hope next week I am typing like normal, at least a little bit! 

Sarah reviews To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful

By Shane Koyczan
Published on September 2nd 2014
Published by Annick Press
Source: Netgalley
An authentic rallying cry for anyone who has been affected by bullying.

In February 2013, Shane Koyczan's passionate anti-bullying poem "To This Day" electrified the world. An animated video of the lyric narrative went viral, racking up over 12 million hits to date and inspiring an international movement against bullying in schools. Shane later performed the piece to sustained applause on the stage of the 2013 annual TED Conference.

Now this extraordinary work has been adapted into an equally moving and visually arresting book. Thirty international artists, as diverse as they are talented, have been inspired to create exceptional art to accompany "To This Day." Each page is a vibrant collage of images, colors and words that will resonate powerfully with anyone who has experienced bullying themselves, whether as a victim, observer, or participant.

Born of Shane's own experiences of being bullied as a child, "To This Day" expresses the profound and lasting effect of bullying on an individual, while affirming the strength and inner resources that allow people to move beyond the experience. A heartfelt preface and afterword, along with resources for kids affected by bullying, make this book an invaluable centerpiece of the anti-bullying movement.
Like the summary says, To This Day is the book adaptation of a spoken word piece/music video that made the internet rounds last year. I remember seeing it posted a few times on Tumblr, but it took me a while to get around to it, because it's about 7 minutes long and I have the attention span of a very fidgety small child sometimes.

Of course, when I finally watched it, I was definitely moved to tears by the poem. Even reading it now, I get a little choked up, because it describes what so many people I know went through, what so many people still endure today.   To This Day is a powerful look at bullying and the way it effects people long after the last insult, the last practical joke. The poem definitely resonated with me, no matter what format I experience it in.

I like the fact that To This Day doesn't just blindly trot out the "it gets better" line. Sometimes, it is a long, uphill battle to "better", and sometimes you're carrying baggage from the many ways, small and big, that people have hurt you over the course of your life.

Check this book out -- each two-page spread is illustrated by a different artist, in the same way that the video was animated by many different artists. For any other project, this would feel disjointed, but something like this, it's meaningful - I think it makes the message more universal, to show how so many people experience and can identify with the book's topics.

You can read the poem online, you can watch the video on Youtube, and I would highly recommend picking up the book version.  This is a great, quick read for people of all ages, and I think could start some great discussions between teens and parents.  And for any adult still trying to heal from the way you were treated -- by peers, by family, by complete strangers -- please pick this one up. You are not alone.