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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Goodie Basket (51): Weekly Book Haul and Blog Recap


Goodie Basket...is a weekly feature hosted here at Word Spelunking that showcases all the goodies (books, bookish things, reviews, interviews/giveaways/guest posts, blog tours, etc) that popped up in the Goodie Basket that is Word Spelunking each week.

(This meme is inspired by other book haul memes such as In My Mailbox hosted by  The Mod Podge BookshelfStacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, Showcase Sunday hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea and Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer )

What I received the past two weeks
 in my mailbox...

FOR REVIEW

From Macmillan
Slayers by C.J. Hill
The F-It List by Julie Halpern

From Harper Collins
Big Nate Flips Out by Lincoln Peirce

From Algonquin

From Simon and Schuster
fml by Shaun David Hutchinson

From Penguin
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

PURCHASED

This week I discovered the awesome YA and MG section at Ollie's Bargain Outlet, where most books are just $1.99 each! From Ollie's I got:

A paperback copy of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
and
A super cute pink edition of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
for just $1.99 each!

I also went thrift store shopping, looking specifically for The Babysitters Club book and TBC Little Sister books, and I found a handful of them! I also found a great hardback copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and a well-loved copy of The Secret Garden.

EBOOKS FOR REVIEW

From Netgalley

(Little  Brown)

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman
(Random House)

Tandem by Anna Jarzab
(Random House)

From the Author

NOMAD by J.L. Brayn

I'm obsessed with how gorgeous this cover is!!!

Big THANK YOU's to Macmillan, Harper Collins, Algonquin, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Little Brown, Random House, JL Bryan, and Ciye Cho for all the bookish awesomeness this week!

Weekly Blog Recap
This Week I...
REVIEWED

PARTICIPATED IN

HOSTED

AM GIVING AWAY
What did you get this week?!

Giveaway and Excerpt: SYLO by D.J. MacHale


Today, thanks to Penguin/Razorbill Books, I have a giveaway of and excerpt from SYLO by D.J. MacHale!


SYLO
by D.J. MacHale
7/2/13
Razorbill
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / IndieBound

Does Tucker Pierce have what it takes to be a hero when the U.S. military quarantines his island?

Fourteen-year-old Tucker Pierce prefers to fly under the radar. He’s used to navigating around summer tourists in his hometown on idyllic Pemberwick Island, Maine. He’s content to sit on the sidelines as a backup player on the high school football team. And though his best friend Quinn tells him to “go for it,” he’s too chicken to ask Tori Sleeper on a date. There’s always tomorrow, he figures. Then Pemberwick Island is invaded by a mysterious branch of the U.S. military called SYLO. And sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option for Tucker, because tomorrow may never come. 

It’s up to Tucker, Quinn, and Tori to uncover the truth about the singing aircraft that appears only at night—and the stranger named Feit who’s pushing a red crystal he calls the Ruby that brings unique powers to all who take it. Tucker and his friends must rescue not just Pemberwick Island, but the fate of the world—and all before tomorrow is too late.  

#1 New York Times bestselling author D.J. MacHale brings his brilliant plotting and breathless pacing to SYLO, the first in this ultimate end-of-the-world adventure trilogy.

D.J. MacHale


You can check out the excerpt of SYLO below or visit this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/138759458/SYLO-Excerpt



Win a galley/ARC of SYLO by D.J. MacHale!
Thanks to Penguin/Razorbill I have one galley copy to give away.
DETAILS
-US only
-will end 7/6
-must be 13+, one main/free entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes in the mail (prize is being sent to winner directly from publisher)
Fill out the Rafflecaptor form:


Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest Post and Giveaway: Derek Kent, author of the Scary School Series


I'm so thrilled to have author Derek Kent stopping by today for a guest post and giveaway! Derek is the author of the Scary School Series, a scary awesome middle-grade series. You can check out my reviews of Scary School #1, Monsters on the March (Scary School #2), and The Northern Frights (Scary School #3) was just released.


Scary School
by Derek Kent
6/21/11
Harper Collins

You think your school's scary?
Get a load of these teachers:
Ms. Fang, an 850-year-old vampire
Dr. Dragonbreath, who just might eat you before recess
Mr. Snakeskin—science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
Mrs. T—break the rules and spend your detention with a hungryTyrannosaurus rex!
Plus
Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch
And
The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost!
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends—including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf—and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky!

Books 2 and 3


Watch the Scary School Trailer

A Ghost’s Inspiration
By Derek Taylor Kent

Hello everyone. My name is Derek Taylor Kent (AKA Derek the Ghost). I’m the author of the middle-grade book series Scary School from HarperCollins. Book one came out last year and received some great notices and even won the Children Literature Network award for funniest chapter book of 2011! Book 2 of the series came out June 26, 2012 and Book 3 the June after that. In case you don’t know much about it, it’s a series about a school where just making it to lunch with all your arms and legs is considered the great day.

For this blog, I was asked to talk about what inspired me to become a writer. It’s a question I get asked a lot. As a children’s author I do many school visits and it’s one of the most common questions asked by kids. So, I have a few stock answers in my back pocket that I’m always ready to pull out.

However, now that I’m sitting down and really analyzing the question, I realize that inspiration is a very mysterious thing that deserves to be delved into more deeply than my back pocket.
I think a profession is very special that requires inspiration before even being considered. Do accountants get the question: What inspired you to become an accountant? Or: what inspired you to become a lawyer? Or even: What inspired you to become a doctor? I’m not saying that great stories of inspiration aren’t possible for those professions, I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s a question they get asked a lot because inspiration is not a prerequisite. Plus the story of inspiration probably wouldn’t be very interesting. Most would probably be: I was inspired by the idea of having a steady, well-paying job for the next forty-five years.

Fair enough.

Sometimes, I envy them for having that stability, but alas, that will probably not be the case for me, because I am inspired to write children’s books. I get paid in the sound of children’s laughter and the joy of enriching young minds. I also get a little bit of money, but not yet enough that I can quit my day job fixing things in my apartment complex. But, to be honest, I’d rather have half my arm down a toilet drain than be crunching numbers or looking at blood all day, so it will do for now.

I believe that inspiration for a profession can be broken down into three categories:
  1. Childhood environment.
  2. Moments of epiphany.
  3. Adulthood passions.
I’ll go through how each one of these inspired me to become a writer.

Number one. My home environment.

I grew up in a very artistic household. My mom is a very popular artist named Melanie Taylor Kent. I’ll wait while you Google her to see her artwork. Pretty amazing, right?

When my mom’s art career took off, my father quit his job as a lawyer to stay at home and run the art business. So I grew up in an environment where the example was that pursuit of creative endeavors can not only be viable, but can be hugely successful. Granted, it was the 80s.
My mom’s art business was huge. She was doing commissioned works for Disney, Warner Bros., Lucasfilm, Steven Spielberg, Hanna Barbara and countless others. Plus, my mom was always very, very encouraging of mine and my sister’s creativity. She seemed to desperately want us to follow in her footsteps. I wasn’t a good artist, but my sister is. I gravitated more toward writing and acting, and Mom’s eyes, I was William Shakespeare and Robin Williams rolled into one.

So, I had a lot of support at home, as well as an in-house example that creativity can be quite lucrative. I was probably doomed.

But that’s not to say that there wasn’t an example of hard work being essential. My mom taught art classes in LAUSD schools for ten years. When she started trying to sell her paintings, every gallery and publisher rejected her. She had to go to art shows in parks for years to prove that there was a market for her art and that it could sell. And that’s exactly the stage that I’m at right now. Every weekend I’m at bookfairs and author festivals, signing my books and trying my best to create a sensation one book at a time.

I have no idea if it will eventually pay off like my mom’s did. But I am a little bit hopeful because kid’s books are pretty much recession-proof, while her art business was not.

Number two. Moments of epiphany.

I think we all know these specific moments of great clarity and happiness where our destiny seems crystal clear before our eyes. I remember when I was nine years old I wrote a story in my fourth grade creative writing class. It was a story about how far I would go eat my favorite food, which at the time was Stouffer’s frozen noodles romanoff.

The teacher read the stories in class the next day, but I was out sick. However, the teacher sent home a card with my sister. It was a get-well card from my class, but on it, my classmates had written how funny the story was and that the teacher had said it was the best story in the class. Apparently I had everyone on the floor laughing, but I wasn’t even there to see it. It’s probably much better in my imagination anyway. I had an epiphany that writing stories that would make all my friends laugh was what I wanted to do. The following years I would be writing skits and plays constantly to perform for the class and all of that pretty much continues to this day. It still comes very easily for me to make my friends laugh and also nine-year-olds.

Number Three. Adulthood passions.

When I was fifteen years old, I became obsessed with Dr. Seuss. Like all kids, I loved him when I was six, but I reread his books when I got older with a whole new appreciation for the imagination, poetry, and creative wordplay.

I really, really wanted to be the next Dr. Seuss. So, I started writing children’s picture books in his style. The intention was to have my mom illustrate them and we could sell them as a mother-son duo. There were just a few problems. My stories were epic. Way too long for picture books. They turned out to be more of a cross between Lord of the Rings and Wizard of Oz told in rhyming couplets than your average five-minute picture book. Nobody had every seen anything like it. The other problem was I had left for college and my mom was going through a divorce and she couldn’t finish the illustrations (although there are countless incredible sketches of the fantastical world we created).

But I kept plugging away with this epic book series for ten years. I even got an agent for it at one point, but nothing would ever come of it. Just as my Dr. Seuss dreams were fading, I started reading the Harry Potter series. I had another moment of epiphany that occurred through following my passion for literature. This is what I should be doing! Writing novels where I can create an entire unique world and not be foiled by the constraints of picture books.
It was my love of Dr. Seuss that gave me the bug for writing children’s books and my obsession with Harry Potter that inspired the idea of writing novels.

There were several failed attempts of novels at first, but eventually I finally got my first book deal with the Scary School series. And now, I receive emails from kids every day telling me how much the book makes them laugh. And every time I get one, I’m nine-year-old Derek again having an epiphany that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

You can check out more about the Scary School book series at www.ScarySchool.com

Derek Kent
Derek is an eleven-year-old ghost who haunts the classrooms and hallways of Scary School, writing down all the spine-tingling often hilarious things that go on there. Despite his ghostly state, Derek still enjoys reading comic books and hopes to one day become a master ninja. If that doesn’t work out, he will continue to share the fun of this very special, very secret school, so all kids can experience the scariest school on earth. Derek the Ghost communicates through the first-time ghost whisperer Derek Taylor Kent, who is a writer and performer in Los Angeles, California.

Win an ebook copy of Scary School #1!
Derek has generously offered an ebook copy of the first Scary School book to one lucky winner. If you have a young reader in your life, this would make the perfect summer read.
DETAILS
-open to anyone who can read ebooks
-will end 7/7
-must be 13+, one main/free entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
Fill out Rafflecopter form:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Neptune Project Blog Tour {Review, Dream Cast, Giveaway}


I'm so excited to have The Neptune Project stopping by today with my review, my dream cast picks, and a blog tour wide giveaway...

The Neptune Project
by Polly Holyoke
5/21/13
Disney Hyperion
Purchase: Amazon

With her weak eyes and useless lungs that often leave her gasping for air, Nere feels more at home swimming with the dolphins her mother studies than she does hanging out with her classmates. Nere has never understood why she is so much more comfortable and confident in the water than on land until the day she learns the shocking truth—she is one of a group of kids who have been genetically altered to survive in the ocean. These products of the "Neptune Project" are supposed to build a better future under the waves, safe from the terrible famines and wars and that rock the surface world.

But there are some big challenges ahead of her: no one ever asked Nere if she wanted to be part of a science experiment; the other Neptune kids aren't exactly the friendliest bunch, and in order to reach the safe haven of the new Neptune colony, Nere and her fellow mutates must swim across hundreds of miles of dangerous ocean, relying on their wits, their loyal dolphins and one another to evade terrifying undersea creatures and a government that will stop at nothing to capture the Neptune kids ... dead or alive.

Fierce battle and daring escapes abound as Nere and her friend race to safety in this action-packed marine adventure.

(I received an ARC of this title from the pub in exchange for my honest review)

Polly Holyoke makes a fantastic splash with her middle-grade debut The Neptune Project! Part dystopian, part sci-fi, and overflowing with adventure, action, and suspense, this middle-grade read kept me captivated for hours.

Nere Hanson lives in a grim dystopian future where the Earth has been ravaged by global warming and humans lack of care. Nere has always felt like a freak, with her super pale skin, weak lungs, and telepathic abilities, but she learns that she's special. Nere and her companions were genetically altered to be able to live in the sea, and when the corrupt government finds out what Nere's scientist parents have done, she and the other altered kids must take to the sea and travel hundreds of miles to an underwater safe haven. Guarded by her beloved dolphins, Nere and her companions must face dangers, like sharks and the government divers after them, and fight to survive.

The Neptune Project was such a fun, fantastic middle-grade read! Holyoke as crafted a truly original and unique dystopian/sci-world and has done so wonderfully. With superb underwater world-building, an exciting plot, and great characters, The Neptune Project is sure to please readers of all ages.

The thrills, chills, and twists are plentiful and the underwater setting makes for an endlessly exciting and unpredictable story. I have one issue with this book, which I'll get out of the way first, and that is the world-building outside of the ocean. Nere obviously lives in a dystopian future where the seas have risen, the air is polluted, the government is corrupt, and important wars have taken place, but I don't feel like we are given enough history or backstory regarding how and why the world has become like it is. We're pretty much plopped right into Nere's world and I would have appreciated a little more information. But that aside, the underwater world-building is superb, and 95% of the book takes place in the ocean, so this world-building is the most important.

Holyoke has clearly done her oceanography research and it shows in the realistic underwater world she has created. This ocean landscape is breathtakingly vivid and detailed; every smell, sound, taste, and color jumps off the page. I felt completely immersed in this beautiful, mysterious, and thrillingly dangerous world. This underwater world is full of mesmerizing beauty, wondrous mysteries, and terrifying dangers, and I love that Holyoke doesn't hold anything back when painting this world. This is a world that will simply enchant and enthrall young readers.

There's a great diverse group of characters that includes humans and dolphins. Each of the characters brings something worthwhile and interesting to the table and together they create an eclectic, amusing bunch. Nere is a wonderful heroine, full of curiosity, intelligence, bravery, and compassion. I really enjoyed watching her grow throughout the story and become a capable leader. Nere gets a few cute boys to interact with (I'm totally Team Tobin), and the romantic elements are very innocent and appropriate for the book's audience. I really loved all the dolphins and how each is given their own personality, and the way they interacted with the altered kids.

I was pleasantly surprised to find how intensely suspenseful The Neptune Project is. The action-packed plot, electrifying dangers, and wicked chapter cliffhangers kept me on the edge of my seat and turning pages with gusto until the very end.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Polly Holyoke had me completely hooked with this excellent midle-grade adventure. The Neptune Project has enough action, scares, romance, and awesome underwater world-building to keep even the pickiest readers entertained. This would make a fantastic summer read for all ages!

MY RATING
Polly Holyoke
Polly Holyoke has been imagining stories since she was in fifth grade. When she isn’t writing, Polly loves reading, camping, skiing, scuba diving and hiking in the desert (where she quite stupidly got herself bitten by a rattlesnake). She lives with three rescue dogs, two spoiled cats and a nice husband who is tolerant about the piles of books all over their house. Her debut middlegrade novel, THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, is the story of a young girl leading a group of genetically altered teens fighting to survive in the sea. She is thrilled that this novel will be published by Disney/Hyperion and Puffin Books UK summer, 2013. She thinks the best part about being an author is going to work in her sweatpants and getting paid for daydreaming!


I've been given the fun task of picking a dream cast for some of the characters in The Neptune Project. Here are some of my picks...

Willow Shields as "Nere"

Madison Pettis as "Lena"

Cameron Boyce as "Robry"

Connor Jessup as "Tobin"

Ryan Potter as "Dai"

What do ya think of my dream cast choices?!

Win a finished copy of 
The Neptune Project!
(blog tour wide giveaway, US only)
You can enter below

Monday, June 24, 2013

Paradox Blog Tour {Review and Giveaway}


I'm so thrilled to have the Paradox Blog Tour stopping by today with my review and a blog tour wide giveaway...



Paradox 
by A.J. Paquette
6/25/13
Random House BFYR
Purchase: Amazon / B&N

Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?
Meeting up with three other teens--one boy seems strangely familiar--Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They're working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana's mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can't remember anything?

(I received an e-ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review)

A.J. Paquette's Paradox is an out of this world post-apocalyptic adventure that features an intriguing premise, a strong, capable heroine, and cool sci-fi elements.

Paradox begins with Ana waking aboard a spaceship with no memory of who she is or where she is. Ana soon discovers that she is on a desolate planet called Paradox and has clear instructions to observe and survive. This planet is home to a terrifying and huge worm like creature, as well as strange streams of light that give Ana a glimpse of life back on Earth. Ana encounters three other teens who have the same instructions and the four set out to the sea and the safe-haven colony supposedly there. But the worm creature follows them and the four must face dangerous obstacles and their own fears as the critical situation on Earth depends on their success.

I was instantly drawn to Paradox because of its wicked cool sounding premise (and maybe because the worm-like creature on the cover reminded me of the Graboids in the “Tremors” films!), and, for the most part, the premise really lived up to my expectations. Paquette took me on a wild, twisted, sci-fi filled thrill ride full of the unexpected and the intriguing.

The world-building in Paradox is really great. Paquette has crafted a complex, layered, and fully realized world that is both refreshingly post-apocalyptic and sci-fi. Like Ana, readers “arrive” on Paradox with no preconceived ideas or information regarding this strange planet, and we get to discover all the wondrous and unusual things this dangerously alluring planet has to offer. And Paradox the planet, with its pink sky; two suns; purple sands; and green ocean, makes for an awesome setting. Tidbits about the dire situation on Earth and the events that have led up to the exploration of Paradox are sprinkled throughout the book in the form of news articles. I appreciated this background information, but think this aspect of the story needed some fleshing out and further explanation to create complete logical reasoning behind the sci-elements.

Ana begins her journey with no memories, but I loved that we still get to know who she was and who she is in the present, and I really liked her as whole. She's got a great feisty, curious nature and is a capable, clever heroine. The flirty interaction between Ana and Todd is fun and amusing, but I like that the romantic aspects don't dominate the story.

Ana's time on Paradox takes some thrilling and shocking twists and turns, creating a refreshingly unpredictable plot. Paquette weaves a really clever and innovative story that leads up to a thought-provoking climax. Expect the unexpected, y'all!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Paradox is a fast-paced, thrilling read with really awesome and well crafted sci-fi elements. A.J. Paquette's imaginative and innovative world kept me entertained and enthralled from beginning to end.


MY RATING

A.J. Paquette
A.J. Paquette has been writing stories since early childhood. She and her sister would spend hours creating masterpieces of stapled paper and handwritten words, complete with pen-and-ink covers and boxed illustrations. The road to publication was long and winding, peppered with many small successes including: a variety of national magazine publications, being a 2005 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award honoree, and receiving the 2008 SCBWI’s Susan Landers Glass Scholarship Award, for the book that would later become Nowhere Girl. Her first picture book, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, was published in 2009. She now lives with her husband and two daughters in the Boston area, where she continues to write books for children and young adults. She is also an agent with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. 
A.J. Paquette is giving away three Paradox ARCs during this tour in a blog tour wide giveaway!
(US/CAN)
You can enter below:

Week Two Schedule
June 24th -Word Spelunking- Review (that's me!)
June 25th -Emilie's Book World- Guest Post
June 25th -Confessions of a Readaholic- Review
June 26th -Nick's Book Blog- Interview
June 26th -Magna Maniac Cafe- Review
June 27th -A Book and a Latte-Guest Post
June 28th -I Am A Reader Not A Writer- Guest Post