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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Minion Blog Tour {Review, Guest Post, Giveaway}

I'm super thrilled to have the Minion Blog Tour stopping by today! Below, you can check out my Review of this fun middle-grade book, an awesome Guest Post from the author, and enter the Giveaway to win a signed hardcover copy...

(Sidekicked companion)
by John David Anderson
June 24, 2014
Walden Pond Press

John David Anderson returns to the world of superheroes he created in Sidekicked with an entirely new cast of characters in Minion, a funny and emotional companion to his first breakout tween novel—perfect for superhero fans who also love the work of bestselling authors Rick Riordan, Louis Sachar, and Frank Cottrell Boyce.
Michael Morn might be a villain, but he's really not a bad guy. When you live in New Liberty, known across the country as the City without a Super, there are only two kinds of people, after all: those who turn to crime and those who suffer. Michael and his adoptive father spend their days building boxes—special devices with mysterious abilities—which they sell to the mob at a price. They provide for each other, they look out for each other, and they'd never betray each other.
But then a Super comes to town, and Michael's world is thrown into disarray. The Comet could destroy everything Michael and his dad have built, the safe and secure life they've made for themselves. And now Michael and his father face a choice: to hold tight to their life or to let it unravel.

by John David Anderson
Walden Pond Press
With not nearly enough power comes way too much responsibility. 
Andrew Bean might be a part of H.E.R.O., a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks, but that doesn’t mean that life is all leaping tall buildings in single bounds. First, there’s Drew’s power: Possessed of super senses – his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet – he’s literally the most sensitive kid in school. There’s his superhero mentor, a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than he does fighting crime. And then there’s his best friend, Jenna – their friendship would be complicated enough if she weren’t able to throw a Volkswagen the length of a city block. Add in trying to keep his sidekick life a secret from everyone, including his parents, and the truth is clear: Middle school is a drag even with superpowers. 
But this was all before a supervillain long thought dead returned to Justicia, superheroes began disappearing at an alarming rate, and Drew’s two identities threatened to crash head-on into each other. Drew has always found it pretty easy to separate right from wrong, good from evil. It’s what a superhero does. But what happens when that line starts to break down?

watch the Minion book trailer

Last year, John David Anderson’s super-charged superhero adventure Sidekicked thrilled and entertained readers (especially this reader!), and Anderson returns to this superhero and villain filled world in Minion.

Minion, a companion, not sequel or prequel, to Sidekicked, is set in a whole new city with a whole new cast of characters. In New Liberty there are no Supers, only the haves and the have-nots. Thirteen year old Michael and his adoptive father live in the have-not side of town, yet pretty much have what they need. Michael’s father, a brilliant, mad-scientist type, works for the local mob thugs, creating special little black boxes with big abilities. Michael and his father like their life and Super-less town the way it is, but their comfort and security is threatened when a new breed of criminal mastermind appears in New Liberty and brings a Super (the Comet) hot on his tail.

Once again, John David Anderson delivers an exciting, laugh-out-loud, pitch-perfect middle-grade adventure that will have young readers enthralled from beginning to end! Minion, with its focus on the world of villains and bad guys, is a bit darker than its companion, but has a lot of surprising depth and heart.

Anderson has a real knack for spinning a wildly funny and delightfully oddball story; he clearly knows and gets his intended audience and this shines through on every page. I seriously laughed out loud through this entire book! And the humor isn’t just silly, it’s downright clever. With its high crime rate, lack of a Super, and mix of devious; bumbling; amusing villains, New Liberty makes for an oddly engaging setting. As awesome as the Super filled world of Sidekicked is, there’s just something so fun and exhilarating about exploring the world of bad guys, and from the mob boss Tony, to his competition Mickey, to a human porcupine and boulder, to a creepy evil mastermind called the Dictator, the baddies in Minion do not disappoint!

The sometimes villain (he’s only robbed a few banks and only took what he and his dad needed), but mostly good guy, Michael, is such a likable, endearing character! He has a super cool, super persuasive superpower, but is still relatably and amusingly awkward, but in a totally adorable and charming way. From his time spent as an orphan, to his complex relationship with his father, his first encounter with puppy love, and his struggle with wanting to be a good guy in a villain filled city, Anderson infuses Michael’s story with a great deal of heart, emotion, and depth.

Both Michael and readers are thrown some wicked fun curve-balls and twists, leading up to an explosive and exciting ending!

My Final Thoughts: John David Anderson takes the world of Superheroes, Villains, and superpowers to some heart-racing and breathtaking places in this series. Minion is an excellent companion to Sidekicked and, while both can be read and enjoyed separately, young readers will no doubt want to devour them together!


Tips For Young Writers
by John David Anderson

Part of the joy of writing middle grade novels is connecting with young readers and learning about their aspirations. Not surprisingly, many young people I meet tell me they want to be writers. (More want to be video game testers or high-powered Wall Street executives, but what are you gonna do?) This one goes out to any young readers, age seven to thirteen, who have dreams of someday being writers themselves—just a few things they can do, right now, to make those dreams come true.
If you want to be a writer…
  1. Ask adults what books/authors have made a significant impact on their lives. Make a list. There may be some that you can go ahead and start reading now (give Lloyd Alexander a try), but most of them you are probably going to have to wait a bit for. That’s all right. Good books, like fresh-baked cookies, are worth waiting for.
  2. Get in trouble. Not serious trouble. Don’t get arrested or anything. But it’s important to have a little bit of drama in your life. It gives you a better understanding of motive, character evolution, and cause-and-effect. You probably don’t need to make any extra effort towards this—it will happen naturally at some point. When it does, make a note of how it felt (both doing whatever you did to get in trouble and paying for it afterward).
  3. Learn at least one new word every day. This should come naturally (provided you are an avid reader—and if you are an aspiring writer, that’s pretty much a given), but if it doesn’t, I’m sure there’s an app for it.
  4. Put a poster of your favorite author on your wall. Why the heck not? We do it for sports figures and movie stars, why not authors? Every day, look at said author and say “You’re going down, mister (or missus)! I’m going to write twice as many books as you!” A little authorial trash talk never hurt anyone.
  5. Keep a book with you at all times. Also keep a notebook or scrap of paper to write down any cool ideas you have. Tape them to your wall. You can try keeping a journal, but that’s hard for me to recommend personally because I’m not disciplined enough to do it myself.
  6. Take an interest in the world around you. Yes, I know, the ones inside your head are more interesting, but every good writer knows how to draw parallels between the worlds they imagine and the one we are all forced to live together in. Just don’t watch the local news—it’s depressing. You can read the paper, but don’t forget to do the jumble.
  7. Stop and look. I admit I don’t do enough of this. But sometimes you need to bend down and stare at something, taking in every facet and fiber of its being, whether it’s a can of Coke or a blade of grass or your sister’s ugly feet. Really look at the thing. Then later try to describe what you saw to its most infinitesimal detail.  
  8. Find a physical activity you enjoy. Writing can lead to a sedentary existence. Practice good health habits now and carry them into adulthood. I enjoy hiking and biking and playing an approximation of tennis (we play with a five bounce maximum). Plus, breaks for exercise can recharge your imaginative batteries.
  9. Find your look. It’s never too early to start cultivating your authorial persona. For me it’s four-day old blue jeans, a t-shirt with some dorky pop-cultural reference emblazoned on it, and mildly brushed hair. Maybe your look is sweater vests. Or berets. Or a clown nose. That would be cool.
  10. Take risks. I don’t necessarily mean cliff diving or shark wrestling. I mean push yourself to try something that’s a little out of your comfort zone. Even if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it will still give you something to write about, either now or when you’re older.
  11. Acquire a (healthy) addiction. Most of the writers I know are addicted to something. To be honest, for most of them it’s caffeine (which is not so good) and for the heroes of my youth it was even worse stuff. For me it’s chocolate and Atomic Fireballs—also not terribly healthy. It would be good if you could get addicted to celery. Or giving to charity. Or exercise. If all else fails, just get addicted to reading.
  12. Cultivate patience. Writing requires tremendous reserves of patience. It is not an instantly gratifying process. And patience will help you with most everything else in life as well—school, relationships, parenthood, traffic, amusement park lines, etc.
  13. Love people. And stuff. But mostly people. Good writing requires strong characters with complex emotional responses, and caring about people basically counts as primary research. Plus, you will need the people you love to support you while you try to make it as a writer someday. Like, literally support you. With cash.
  14. Finally, of course, write. Every day. Something. Just write. Draw. Paint. Dance interpretively. Shape your boogers into interesting sculptures. Whatever you do, be willing to express yourself. Be creative. The world is essentially run by creative types. Yes, we sometimes sit in the dark corners out of sight, but rest assured, we are the puppet masters.
So that’s it. I would have given fifteen, but I don’t want to spoil you. Good luck in your future writing endeavors, and I hope to see your poster on my wall someday.

Thanks so much for this wonderful post, John David Anderson!

John David Anderson writes novels for young people and then, occasionally, gets them published. Besides Minion, he is the author of Sidekicked, and Standard Hero Behavior. He lives with his patient wife and brilliant twins in Indianapolis, Indiana, right next to a State park and a Walmart. He enjoys hiking, reading, chocolate, spending time with his family, playing the piano, chocolate, making board games, chocolate, not putting away his laundry, watching movies, and chocolate. Those aren't his real teeth.
To find out more:

Walden Pond Press: twitter / facebook /pinterest

Win a signed hardcover copy of Minion!
The very awesome peeps at Walden Pond Press have offered one signed copy for one of you lucky cupcakes.
-US only
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June 25 The Next Best Book 
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June 27 Book Egg
July 1     The Book Monsters
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July 3     Read Now, Sleep Later
July 12 Mindjacked
July 18 Small Review

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Interview and Giveaway: Aldo Fynn, author of Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer

I'm thrilled to have Aldo Fynn, author of the middle-grade adventure, Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer, stopping by for an interview and giveaway...

Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer
by Aldo Fynn
illustrated by Richie Vicencio
BOA Press, LLC
172 pages
age group: 8-12 years old

All Iggy Rose wants is for the kids at the Naysayer Academy to like him, and one special girl in particular. But instead, he gets teased and taunted. Every day, he eats alone in the cafeteria and gets beaten up after school on the playground. But when a cruel prank leads to Iggy’s escape from the academy, a wild, unimaginable adventure begins.
Why is King Naysayer offering a hefty reward for Iggy’s capture? When Iggy joins forces with an eclectic cast of characters, he discovers the answer. But before he can escape from the kingdom of Naysayer, Iggy must first reclaim what is rightfully his. Does this sad, lonely boy have the courage to battle the biggest school bully, a mean headmistress, and a greedy, cruel king? Will Iggy finally believe in himself and discover his true destiny?
This quirky and fast paced story with 30+ illustrations is ideal for middle grade readers and adults looking for a different kind of hero. Kirkus Reviews called the first book in the Adventures of Prince Iggy"An entertaining fantasy with a quirky, inventive storyline that shows how things invariably turn out badly for bullies."IndieReader wrote "a charming story about finding out who you are and following your heart" and Foreword Clarion said, "Fynn is adept at making scenes come to life...while weaving an entertaining yarn." San Francisco Book Review concluded, "The book is going to be devoured by readers of any type, whether they're looking for some fun fiction, a comical read, or a page-turner."

What three words best describe Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer?

Fantasy, Quirky, Action

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer a try?

An over the top fantasy adventure where a lost-now-found prince learns that believing in himself pays off when battling evil bullies.

Grab a copy of Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer and answer the following:
favorite chapter? Chapter 13 - Prince Iggy learns about the power of believing in yourself.

favorite page?  67 - An illustration of Iggy wining a fight against mean bullies.

favorite place/setting? Miss Blackfeathers Fortune Teller Store

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser: "It takes a lot of work to come up with new ways to torment Iggy. Sometimes I spend all night thinking up stuff."

What inspired Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer? How did the story come to be?

II wanted to create a story in which the hero did not have to be extraordinarily special, have amazing talent or magical powers. I wanted readers to root for an ordinary kid.

Can you tell us about your hero Iggy? What sets him apart from other MG heroes?

Readers quickly relate to Iggy. He's a regular kid. He goes to school, deals with bullies and as a result, battles with self-confidence and anxiety probably more than other MG heroes.

Besides Iggy, do you have an absolute favorite character in the series? What do you love about him or her? Did any of your characters end up surprising even you?

If I have to choose one, it would be Captain Bartholomew Swell. He's a burley man of action with a big, loveable heart. He has a mix between a British and Pirate accent and says odd things like, "This here is the best wombat stew this side of the Crystal Ocean. And, may I add, is my mum's very own recipe."

What’s next for Iggy? What kinds of adventures can we expect to find in book two?

Iggy sets sail for the Rose Kingdom to reclaim the throne from his Aunt, the evil Queen Victoria. Along the way, the wacky adventures continue as Iggy confronts a hungry shark and takes a trip to outer space. When he finally arrives at the Rose Kingdom, Iggy must enter the dreaded Tower of Decisions to overthrow the queen. The tower will test Iggy's self confidence. Will he pass the tests? Will he conquer his fears? Does he have the will to become the new King? You'll have to read the next book to find out.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at karaoke.

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I never learned how to roller skate.

The last great book I read was Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

It would have to be a mix of sweet and salty  - similar in concept to a chocolate covered pretzel. I would call it The Choco Bold. It would be a moist chocolate cake with coconut flakes mixed into the batter. The icing would be caramel flavored and it would be sprinkled with just a touch of sea salt on top. I can't resist anything chocolate; its rich and comforting at the same time. I added the coconut flakes to be different from other chocolate cupcakes, just like Iggy's cast of supporting characters are different. The caramel icing brings out the sweetness of the story but the salty sprinkles remind us of the bullies. You can't miss a salty flake in each bite but the sweetness still dominates. Sweet vs. salt, good vs. evil, rags to riches. And Bold - that sums up Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer.

Aldo Fynn enjoys writing wacky, fantastical stories. Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer is his debut novel. It’s the first book in the Adventures of Prince Iggy Series. He’s also written two wacky, laugh-out-loud picture books. He lives under his desk and promises he won’t come out until Book 3 in the series is complete. Which is a shame because his desk is based in Los Angeles, where it’s sunny and 70 degrees most of the year.

Win a copy of 
Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer!
BOA Press has generously offered 3 copies (two ebooks, one paperback) for three winners.
-open internationally
-ends 7/11/14
-there will be 3 winners: two ebook winners, one paperback winner
-must be 13+ to enter
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Secret Hum Of A Daisy Blog Tour {Guest Post & Giveaway}

I'm thrilled to have The Secret Hum Of A Daisy Blog Tour stopping by today! During the March MG Madness, I got a chance to interview the lovely Tracy Holczer and review this beautiful novel. Today, Tracy is stopping by again to briefly talk about her character Grace, plus I'm giving away a signed ARC...

The Secret Hum of a Daisy
by Tracy Holczer

Twelve-year-old Grace and her mother have always been their own family, traveling from place to place like gypsies. But Grace wants to finally have a home all their own. Just when she thinks she's found it her mother says it's time to move again. Grace summons the courage to tell her mother how she really feels and will always regret that her last words to her were angry ones.

After her mother's sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she's never met. She can't imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe it is her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

Lyrical, poignant and fresh, The Secret Hum of a Daisy is a beautifully told middle grade tale with a great deal of heart.

by Tracy Holczer

Grace Jessop is the main character in The Secret Hum of a Daisy. She is a strong-willed child with street smarts, a frizzy mop of brown hair, and a passion for capturing life with her words. Because she has moved around with her mother, Grace’s words, and those moments they capture, are her way of keeping track, of not confusing one place with another, one person with another. So when Grace comes to the story, after just having lost her mom, she desperately wants to continue to write things down, to help her process what has happened. But as soon as she sits down to her composition book, pencil in hand, she realizes anything she writes will make this “the After.”
Interestingly, I don’t think Grace’s dream is to become a writer, though. She writes to make sense of the world around her, and it’s enough that she has her journals, her collection of moments. Her biggest dream is to have a place to belong, to be part of a community. To be loved and to love with her whole heart, unafraid.

Tracy Holczer lives in Southern California. 
The Secret Hum of the Daisy is her debut.

Win a signed ARC of
The Secret Hum of a Daisy!
I have been lucky enough to get several copies of this wonderful book, so today I'm giving away a signed ARC of it to one of you.
-US only
-ends 7/1/14
-must be 13+, one free entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
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