Wednesday, March 4, 2015

(MMGM) Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin {review and giveaway}

Welcome to Day 4 of the 4th Annual March Middle Grade Madness! Today we are celebrating Wish Girl 
by Nikki Loftin...

Wish Girl 
by Nikki Loftin

A dying girl gives a boy the strength to live in this lyrical novel that will break your heart and lift your spirit 
Peter Stone’s parents and siblings are extroverts, musicians, and yellers—and the louder they get, the less Peter talks, or even moves, until he practically fits his last name. When his family moves to the Texas Hill Country, though, Peter finds a tranquil, natural valley where he can, at last, hear himself think.

There, he meets a girl his age: Annie Blythe. Annie tells Peter she’s a “wish girl.” But Annie isn’t just any wish girl; she’s a “Make-A-Wish Girl.” And in two weeks she will begin a dangerous treatment to try and stop her cancer from spreading. Left alone, the disease will kill her. But the treatment may cause serious, lasting damage to her brain. 

Annie and Peter hatch a plan to escape into the valley, which they begin to think is magical. But the pair soon discovers that the valley—and life—may have other plans for them. And sometimes wishes come true in ways they would never expect.

Praise for Wish Girl

“A moving, mesmerizing story of wishing, listening and hope for discerning readers.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Wish Girl is a book that knows real magic exists—that art, nature, and true friendship have the power to save lives and transform the world. It’s at once earthly and ethereal, heartbreaking and hopeful. It dazzles.” –Laurel Snyder, author of Bigger than a Breadbox

“I found hope and magic tucked gently into every page of Wish Girl. I wish every reader could have a friend like Annie.” –Natalie Lloyd, author of A Snicker of Magic

Wish Girl is a book full of beauty and truth. Its pages are filled with the emotion of first love and the energy of suspense.” –Francisco X. Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World

Peter Stone is a quiet, serious boy, who doesn’t feel like he fits in with his loud, extroverted family. The Stones have recently moved to the country, mostly because of Peter. Yet, his family’s concern for him doesn’t make them listen any better and their attempts at “helping” are anything but helpful. Near his new home, Peter finds a wonderful valley that just may be magical. It’s in this valley he meets Annie Blythe, the “wish girl”. Dying of cancer, Annie is a Make-A-Wish girl, attending an art camp near Peter’s house. Full of life and a brilliant artist, Annie doesn’t want the cancer treatment that could have permanent, life altering side-effects. So Peter and Annie hatch a plan to run away into the valley, but the magic of the valley has other plans for them.

Wish Girl is an utterly beautiful story about friendship, family, love, life, and death, and Nikki Loftin has filled the pages within Wish Girl with true literary magic! Loftin’s effective storytelling and lyrical writing are pure perfection in this book. Every word has purpose, every emotion is palpable, every character feels real. This isn’t some sweet and simple story either. Loftin doesn’t shy away from intense emotions and topics (death, depression, suicide, abuse, and more), but bravely explores them with eloquence and in age appropriate ways. And every emotion- from riveting heartache, sunny friendship, painful loneliness, startling fear, and stunning love- is so deeply felt.

Peter and Annie’s might-be-magical valley is lushly crafted and full of so much beauty, surprises, and captivating things. I wanted to so badly to get lost in this wild, yet peaceful world with them.  And both Peter and Annie possess their own kinds of magic! I fell so in love with insightful, endearing Peter and infectiously charming Annie. Their friendship is simply breathtaking. These are characters that readers will want to hold in their hearts forever...I know Peter and Annie have a permanent place in mine!

My Final Thought: Full of laughs, dazzling writing, spectacular characters, and an unforgettable story, Wish Girl will break your heart, stitch it back together, and make your soul sing!

5/5 yummy cupcakes

Nikki Loftin lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, goats, and rambunctious boys. She is the author of the multiply starred-reviewed Nightingale’s Nest and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, which Publisher’s Weekly called “mesmerizing” and Kirkus called “irresistible.” Her next novel, Wish Girl, will be published on February 24, 2015.

Win a signed first edition hardcover 
copy of Wish Girl!
Nikki has generously offered a signed copy for one winner.
-open to North America only
-ends 3/31
-must be 13+ to enter 
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours 
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, stolen prizes

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

(MMGM) The Real Boy by Anne Ursu {review and giveaway}

Welcome to Day 3 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today, we're celebrating Anne Ursu's marvelous The Real Boy...

The Real Boy
by Anne Ursu
2/3/15 (paperback edition)
Walden Pond Press
The Real Boy, Anne Ursu's follow-up to her widely acclaimed and beloved middle grade fantasy Breadcrumbs, is a spellbinding tale of the power we all wield, great and small.

On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy named Oscar. Oscar is a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the village, and spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master's shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.

But now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the forest will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.

Praise for The Real Boy

“In the tradition of The Velveteen Rabbit and Pinocchio,Anne Ursu's (Breadcrumbs) latest novel explores what makes someone (or something) ‘real.’ The author mines the potential of magic and mystery in the story of 11-year-old Oscar, whom Master Caleb, ‘the first magician in a generation,’ plucked from the orphanage.”
Shelf Awareness, starred review 

“It’s all highly rewarding and involving, with a tight plot, resonant themes, a gripping adventure, a clearly limned fantasy landscape, and a sympathetic main character.” 
The Horn Book

“Deeply moving, with language powerful and true as a child’s voice. Grade: A”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Anne Ursu's The Real Boy is a fantasy in the truest, deepest sense: it illuminates the human experience by giving substance and shape to that which is otherwise intangible. Beautifully written and elegantly structured, this fantasy is as real as it gets."
—Franny Billingsley, author of Chime

"Anne Ursu has created a brilliant fantasy, alive with the smells and sights and sounds of a place both familiar and strange-but the true magic of The Real Boy lies in the powerful friendship that grows between Callie and Oscar. A joy to read."
—Linda Urban, author of A Crooked Kind of Perfect

Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy is a spellbinding middle-grade fantasy full of magic, intrigue, mystery, and the unexpected. Within a magical forest of ancient trees called the Barrow, a forest that surrounds a walled-in shining city, lives a young boy named Oscar. Oscar works for a wizard and likes his small room in the dark cellar where he works. Quiet, different Oscar doesn’t fit in and isn’t what you’d call a people person, but when the children within the shining city start to get sick, Oscar must learn to work with a young healer apprentice, Callie, in order to save the sick and his beloved forest.

Ursu has such a wonderful and captivating talent for spinning familiar fairytale elements into something completely new and enchanting. The magical and fantastical world of Asteri and the Barrow are so beautifully crafted, the characters are charming and have so much depth, and the story Ursu spins is unforgettable.

The world-building in The Real Boy is excellent! Asteri (the shining city), the Barrow, and the plaguelands are all laid out and explored with rich, vibrant details, and the magical history of this world has such great layers. All together, this is a truly fantastic fantasy world that I found myself completely enraptured with and lost in. The Real Boy is both whimsically dark and haunting and achingly lovely and moving. There’s something so exquisite, yet accessible, and addicting about Ursu’s storytelling and writing; her descriptions and words just wrap themselves around you.  

There are exciting and fun adventure and mystery elements in The Real Boyand the fantastical elements are superb and surprising, but at the heart of this book is a beautiful story about friendship, love, and faith. A story that is driven by some compelling and well-developed characters. Ursu has created something super special with her hero Oscar.

*may be spoilery (not so much plot, but characterization) beyond this point*

Oscar is unique and different in many ways and, although it is never said in the book, I believe Oscar is meant to be on the autism spectrum. Autistic characters are rarely seen in fantasy books, especially middle-grade fantasy books, and Ursu perfectly captures, not only the struggles autistic children face, but the beauty in Oscar’s uniqueness. One of the reasons I adore the character of Callie so much is that she never teases Oscar because of his differences or thinks less of him; she sees all the amazing and wonderful qualities in him. The friendship that develops between these two is so genuine and heart-warming.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Anne Ursu is a fairytale master and her talent simply shines in The Real Boy. The story, the world-building, the characters- all are fantastic, entertaining, and special. This is a gorgeous must read for young and older readers alike!


Anne is the author of Breadcrumbs, a contemporary retelling of “The Snow Queen,” and the three books in The Cronus Chronicles series—The Shadow ThievesThe Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire. She has also written two books for adult readers. Anne teaches at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children, and lives in Minneapolis with her young son.

Win a signed paperback copy of
The Real Boy!
Walden Pond Press has generously offered 5 signed paperback copies for five winners.
-US only
-ends 3/31
-must be 13+ to enter
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes

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Monday, March 2, 2015

(MMGM) The Boy Who Lost Fairyland Blog Tour {spolight and giveaway}

I'm thrilled to have The Boy Who Lost Fairyland Blog Tour stopping by today for Day 2 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness!

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland
(Fairyland #4)
by Catherynne M. Valente
Macmillan Kids

The Fairyland series is headed in an exciting direction. A young troll named Hawthorn is stolen from Fairyland by the Golden Wind, and becomes a changeling in our world, a place no less bizarre than Fairyland in his eyes. Left with a human family in Chicago, Hawthorn struggles with his troll nature and his changeling fate. 

When he turns twelve, he stumbles upon a way back home, to a Fairyland changed. An Endless Summer lies upon the land; powerful Fairies want to claim the world again—and rumors fly through the capital that ancient King Goldmouth is awakening with a terrible hunger. Hawthorn finds himself at the center of a changeling revolution—until he comes face to face with a beautiful young Scientiste with very large and ungainly feet and a mole on her left cheek, and a very big, very red assistant.

Time magazine has praised Catherynne M. Valente's Fairyland books as "one of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century." In this fourth installment of her saga, Valente 's wisdom and wit will charm readers of all ages.

Praise for previous books in the series:
Readers may wish the words were food, so they could eat them up. And they may keep reading this series for just as long as people have been arguing about Oz. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale, done with heart and wisdom. (Neil Gaiman, Newbery Award-winning author of The Graveyard Book)

September is a clever, fun, stronghearted addition to the ranks of bold, adventurous girls. Valente's subversive storytelling is sheer magic. (Tamora Pierce, author of The Immortals series)

A mad, toothsome romp of a fairy tale--full of oddments, whimsy, and joy. (Holly Black, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles)

When I say that this book reminds me simultaneously of E. Nesbit, James Thurber, and the late Eva Ibbotson, I don't mean to take anything awy from its astonishing originality. It's a charmer from the first page, managing the remarkable parlay of being at once ridiculously funny and surprisingly suspenseful. Catherynne Valente is a find, at any age! (Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn)

This is a kind of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by way of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--it's the sort of book one doesn't want to end. (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

[Fairyland creates] a world as bizarre and enchanting as any Wonderland or Oz and a heroine as curious, resourceful and brave as any Alice or Dorothy. Complex, rich and memorable. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

This book is quite simply a gold mine. (Booklist, starred review)

Amusing, wrenching, and thought-provoking. (The Horn Book)

Catherynne M. Valente is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and poetry. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her husband, two dogs, and an enormous cat. Visit her online at or on Twitter

Ana Juan is a world-renowned illustrator best known in this country for her wonderful New Yorker magazine covers. She lives in Spain. Visit her online at

Win a finished copy of
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland!
Macmillan Kids has generously offered up one copy.
-US/CAN only
-ends 3/8
-must be 13+ to enter
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, stolen prizes

a Rafflecopter giveaway