Current Giveaways

Word Spelunking’s temporary hiatus is now permanent. All requests are closed and there will be no new content. Thank you to everyone I’ve worked with and everyone who has read and supported this blog. Y’all are awesome!!

Aeicha @ Word Spelunking

Friday, February 27, 2015

Seraphina Blog Tour {review and giveaway}

I am so thrilled to have the Seraphina Blog Tour, celebrating the paperback release of Seraphina, stopping by today with my review and a giveaway! And be sure to come back here on March 13th, when the Shadow Scale Blog Tour, celebrating Seraphina's sequel, stops by...

(Seraphina #1)
by Rachel Hartman
12/21/14 (paperback)
Random House

In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. 

Praise for Seraphina

“In a young readers’ market dominated by sexy paranormal creatures, it’s refreshing to return to an epic fantasy about good old-fashioned dragons—although Seraphina . . . isn’t exactly old-fashioned. It’s a novel that will appeal to both fans of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series and Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown.
Entertainment Weekly

“Full of grace and gravitas, Seraphina’s first-person voice is a welcome change from today’s snark-infested YA novels. Readers loath to turn the last page of this lush, intricately plotted fantasy will rejoice in the knowledge of [a] sequel.”
The Washington Post

“Her world-building is so detailed and well-integrated, each character and place so well-drawn, one wonders if they truly exist somewhere. . . . Endorsed by fantasy powerhouses such as Christopher Paolini and Tamora Pierce, Seraphina is an engaging and innovative fantasy that uses the plights of dragons and humans as an allegory for the real prejudices we all must face.”

“Passion and musicality—those are the qualities prized by Seraphina, the fiercely intelligent, headstrong half-human/half-dragon heroine in Rachel Hartman’s debut novel of the same name. They also emanate from every element—from prose to plot—in this beguiling YA fantasy.”
National Post

“A beautifully written fantasy debut about a young girl’s journey to gain acceptance of herself.”

Seraphina makes dragons fascinating once again.”

“BookPeople children’s buyer Meghan Goel says [Seraphina, a] ‘wonderful new dragon fantasy,’ should be on your to-get list for July; it’s also snagged praise from the likes of Eragon bestselling author Christopher Paolini.”
Austin American-Statesman

When Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina was published several years ago, I heard many readers and bloggers singing its praises, but never got around to reading it myself...something I’m kicking myself for now. I can’t believe I waited this long to discover just how incredible this YA fantasy is!

In an alternative-medieval world, dragons are very real. But they are very different from what you may think. Highly intelligent and logical, with no need for emotions, these dragons can shift into human form and work as teachers, scholars, ambassadors, and more. There has been peace between the dragons and humans for many decades, but when a member of the royal family is murdered in a very dragon-like fashion, that peace begins to shatter and a war between humans and dragons quickly simmers. Musical prodigy and newest resident at court, Seraphina Dombegh, finds herself caught in the dangerous middle of this war. Seraphina has a terrible secret, one that, if revealed, could change everything.

Pretty much every good thing you’ve heard about this novel is true! Seraphina is a gorgeously written, masterfully woven fantasy, full of imaginative and smart storytelling, breathtaking world-building, and unforgettable characters. From the eloquent, lyrical writing; complex premise; the rich and stunning world-building, everything about this series opener is epic, grand, and sweeping. The physical world Hartman has created is lush in details, impressively smart, and endlessly fascinating. Rachel Hartman has crafted truly original and utterly captivating dragonlore that is is equal parts enchanting, fierce, whimsical, thought-provoking, and believable. The fantastical elements in this book are both reminiscent of classic fantasy and wonderfully surprising. This is a fully realized, expertly crafted, and enthralling world!

And Hartman has filled her world with spectacular characters! The dragons are as complex as the human characters, while the human characters are as wondrous as the dragons. Seraphina is such a lovely, bewitching heroine, who is a great mix of admirable, relatable, and flawed. I absolutely loved getting to know Seraphina and watching her naturally grow as a character. From charming Kiggs, endearing Glisselda, lovable Orma, and many more, Seraphina is surrounded by richly complex and intriguing characters.

My Final Thoughts: With its truly beautiful writing and storytelling, breathtaking world-building, and irresistible characters, Seraphina is a dazzling gem of a book, and I cannot wait to dive into its sequel!

5/5 yummy cupcakes

As a child, Rachel Hartman played cello, lip-synched Mozart operas with her sisters, and fostered the deep love of music that inspired much of Seraphina. Rachel earned a degree in comparative literature but eschewed graduate school in favor of bookselling and drawing comics. Born in Kentucky, she has lived in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, England, and Japan. She now lives with her family in Vancouver, Canada.

Win a paperback copy of Seraphina!
Thanks to Random House, I have two paperback copies for two winners.
-US/CAN only
-ends 3/8/15
-must be 13+ to enter
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, stolen,or damaged prizes
fill out rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Nethergrim Blog Tour {review and guest post}

I'm thrilled to have The Nethergrim Blog Tour, which is celebrating the paperback release of The Nethergrim, stopping by today with my review and a great guest post by author Matthew Jobin...

The Nethergrim
(The Nethergrim Trilogy #1)
by Matthew Jobin
2/10/15 (paperback edition)
Penguin Young Readers

Everyone in Moorvale believes the legend: The brave knight Tristan and the famed wizard Vithric, in an epic battle decades ago, had defeated the evil Nethergrim and his minions. To this day, songs are sung and festivals held in the heroes' honor. Yet now something dark has crept over the village. First animals disappear, their only remains a pile of bones licked clean. Then something worse: children disappear. The whispers begin quietly yet soon turn into a shout: The Nethergrim has returned! Edmund’s brother is one of the missing, and Edmund knows he must do something to save his life. But what? Though a student of magic, he struggles to cast even the simplest spell. Still, he and his friends swallow their fear and set out to battle an ancient evil whose powers none of them can imagine. They will need to come together--and work apart--in ways that will test every ounce of resolve. 


"The Nethergrim itself is indeed the stuff of nightmares... fantasy fans will find much to enjoy in this elegant gem of a novel, and the haunting message that the monstrosity of some humans can rival even that of ageless creatures is so carefully and effectively inlaid that it will likely linger even after other details fade." 
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"The beginning of what is sure to be a sweeping, epic fantasy series. Debut author Jobin tells a riveting, slowly building story, and his rich, evocative writing style only adds to the package. Perfect for imaginative middle-grade readers craving a hearty magical adventure." 

"Matthew Jobin creates such a magnificent world in his story that you cannot bring yourself to put the book down. I could compare it to J.R.R. Tolkien and yet even that does not do it justice! Jobin takes everything about the "successful fantasy formula" and throws it out the window. This has definitely been a worthwhile read and is definitely jumping to the top of my books to recommend to children/parents looking for a good fantasy and adventure title!" 

Legend says that the beastly Nethergrim was defeated, many years ago, by the mighty knight Tristan and Vithric, the famous wizard...but strange things are happening in Moorvale: first livestock go missing, then children, then foul beasts attack. Fourteen year old, wannabe wizard, Edmund Bale, is convinced The Nethergrim has returned, and when his little brother becomes one of these missing children, Edmund and his friends- Katherine (who Edmund may love) and orphaned slave Tom- set out on a dangerous journey to rescue the children and defeat The Nethergrim...but no one knows what the mysterious Nethergrim looks like and it may not be all that it seems!

The Nethergrim, the first book in Matthew Jobin’s middle-grade trilogy, is a thrilling, lushly developed, fantastical tale! Like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Hobbit, The Nethergrim’s writing is rich and enthralling, its world is both whimsical and deliciously dark, and its characters are admirable and relatable. Jobin weaves together pure fantasy, folklore, exciting adventure, and eloquent storytelling, to create a wonderfully enchanting story that will leave young readers riveted.

The world within The Nethergrim- from Edmund’s little town to ominous ruins of an ancient people and the dark, spine-tingling lair of The Nethergrim- is vivid and imaginative. Jobin fills this world with many exciting magical elements! I love Jobin’s unique, thought-provoking, and metaphysical take on magic. And the fantastical creatures Jobin has created- from the nasty bolgugs, mighty Thornbeasts, and the chilling Nethrgrim itself-  are captivating in their ghastly whimsy. I found The Nethergrim to be an especially mesmerizing and unforgettable being and foe.

Our young characters, Edmund; Katherine; and Tom, are all endearing, likable, and relatable in their own ways. I loved Edmund’s intelligent curiosity, Katherine’s brave heart, and Tom’s gentle spirit. I enjoyed them as individual characters and an engaging trio.

Jobin takes both his characters and readers on a wild journey full of twists, thrills, and good ol’ fashioned adventure, that will leave readers excited for more!

MY FINAL THOUGHT: Refreshingly original, yet with the feel of a classic, with writing that is both lyrical and accessible, The Nethergrim kept me spellbound from beginning to end!

5/5 yummy cupcakes

The powerful strange: the meaning of magic and superpowers in fiction
by Matthew Jobin
It does not take long for a child to learn that wearing a cape made from a bedsheet does not make him Superman. It does not take many tries, waving a stick in the air and shouting “Wingardium leviosa!”, before a child comes to learn that if she wants to fly, she must first purchase an airplane ticket. It is worth asking, then, what good there is in writing about such things. Both magic and superpowers have the ability to cast the problems of life into sharp relief, allowing us direct access to fundamental ideas that are too often mired in the topical. By lifting us, for a little while, out of our own world, they allow us to see that world and its nature all the better, suddenly clear because it is momentarily strange.

Superpowers, it turns out, make fine metaphors for the problems of any sort of power. By wondering what we would do if we could knock over a building with a single punch, we can come quite directly to the point of asking whether we follow laws because they are morally right, or only because we cannot find a way to break them. When we consider the idea of mutant heroes blessed with superpowers by outlandish genetics, we are confronted, in the starkest terms, with what we really mean by the term equality. As we move toward a future where human beings might use technology to become far more disparate in form and ability, I think such issues well worth exploring.

Magic, that intrusion of the strange, can help us to consider the strangeness of our own existence. In my own fantasy series, The Nethergrim, the young hero aspires to a school of magic that is focussed on exploiting opposites and polarities. He begins with the Aristotelian elements, things like Fire versus Water, but then in time moves on to consider other oppositions: Order versus Chaos, One versus Many, that which moves versus that which is still. In doing so, I hope to invite my reader into thinking about our own world, and the many opposites, both physical and conjectural, that appear to inhabit it. On some future day, my reader might consider the dimensionality of spacetime, or look in curiosity at a battery and wonder why there is such thing as positive and negative, and perhaps The Nethergrim series will have helped her understand how very odd our own universe happens to be.

Both magic and superpowers together have one last important use, as vehicles for the questions of what it means to be uniquely ourselves. If there is one thing which best defines the progression from childhood to adulthood, it is the struggle for identity. Children are often told that they are special, and yet in growing up they find themselves amidst a sea of others who have all been told the same thing. There is a tension in our world between achievement and integration. We want our children to rise high in life, but to a large extent rising high means rising relative to others. When considering what it would mean to be the mighty Chosen One amongst the ordinary folk, we are challenged to think of what it means simply to be our own selves, blessed with certain abilities and yet saddled with frailties, like and yet unlike to the seven billion strangers with whom we share a planet. Fantastical stories can thus both thrill us with their otherworldly possibilities and give us space to consider things like power, identity and the nature of our own real world. The superhero’s cape and the wizard’s wand can serve as tools for investigating the most important ideas we will encounter in life—and best of all, they make it fun to do.

Matthew Jobin spent 25 years developing the Nethergrim’s world–its story, present and past; its landscapes; its language. He was originally inspired as a boy exploring the forest surrounding his home in Canada, and has been intent on telling the tale ever since.

Matthew, who holds a Ph. D. in anthropology from Stanford University, now lectures at Santa Clara University and lives with his wife in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Tragic Age Blog Tour {review and giveaway}

I am so excited to have The Tragic Age Blog Tour stopping by today with my review of this incredible YA book! Plus, I'm giving away three copies...

The Tragic Age
by Stephen Metcalfe
St. Martin's Griffin
This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.

Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul. 

With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It's the age he's at.  The tragic age.  

Stephen Metcalfe's brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.

High school senior, Billy Kinsey, is both all too aware of the world around him and desperate to escape from it. His lottery winning parents’ marriage is more like a war, his beloved twin sister Dorie has died, and his constant insomnia has deprived Billy of dreams to escape to. When two very different, but equally important people- rebel, Twom and optimistic, Gretchen- enter into his life, Billy’s world is forever turned upside down in both quiet and earth shattering ways.

Stephen Metcalfe’s The Tragic Age, is an emotionally raw, unapologetically honest, and fiercely startling coming of age story about life, death, and every amazing, terrifying, fucked up thing in between.

I’ve come to find that many YA contemporaries, with their grand gestures; poetic metaphors; and emotionally manipulative premises, try too hard to be poignant or meaningful or clever or simply unforgettable...I don’t think this is one of those novels. The writing in The Tragic Age is straightforward and isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is. When it’s smart, it’s smart, when it’s funny, it’s funny, when it’s profound, it’s profound, and so on. Yes, it’s full of drama and sex and teenage life and a myriad of other things that can be found in countless YA Contemps. And no, it isn’t ground-breaking or staggeringly new. This novel simply is what it is, and what it is is an utterly engrossing, believable exploration of life that is, at turns, both laugh at loud funny and achingly heartbreaking; unabashedly intimate and cooly aloof. Through Billy’s social commentary and inner reflections, Metcalfe explores a wide range of topics, from sexuality; materialism; depression; love; bullying; to suicide, and does so in realistic, thought-provoking ways.

Metcalfe has cleverly filled his book with characters, that on the surface seem almost stereotypical and cliche (the thoughtful loner, bad boy rebel, hot promiscuous chick, gorgeous girl next door, bullied nerd, douchey joke, etc), but have been given a breathtaking amount of depth and dimension. And I love how these characters aren’t likable in the predictable ways; in fact, most of the characters can be down-right unlikable at times. But they are impossible to turn away from and captivating in their tragic flaws.

My Final Thoughts: A brutally beautiful novel, The Tragic Age took me on a stunning, unexpected journey that made me feel ALL the things! This book will stay with me for a very long time.

5/5 yummy cupcakes

  • STEPHEN METCALFE wrote the production drafts for Pretty Woman, Dangerous Minds and Mr. Holland's Opus, among others. His stage plays have been produced in New York and at theaters throughout the US, Europe and Japan. He is an Associate Artist at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and has been an adjunct professor in dramatic writing at University of California at San Diego, University of San Diego and San Diego State University.The Tragic Age is his debut novel.

Win 1 of 3 copies of The Tragic Age!
Thanks to St.Martin's Griffin, I have three copies of this excellent book for three winners.
-US and CAN only
-ends 3/1/15
-must be 13+ to enter
-winners will each get one book and be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes in the mail
fill out the form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Cottage in the Woods Blog Tour {review}

I'm bear-y excited to have The Cottage in the Woods Blog Tour stopping by today with my review...

The Cottage in the Woods
by Katherine Coville
PenguinRandom House

For fans of Shannon Hale, Adam Gidwitz, and Michael Buckley comes a luminous new twist on a tale readers only thought they knew. . . 
Once upon a time, there was a girl with golden locks. But that’s just the beginning of this tale. The real story begins with a bear.
Ursula is a young she-bear who has come to work as a governess at the Vaughn estate. Although she is eager to instruct her young charge, Teddy, she is also frightened, especially when inexplicable things happen in the huge house after dark. Ursula is sure she has heard footsteps in the hallways at night, and that something is following her during her walks in the Enchanted Forest. Then there is Mr. Bentley, a young bear also employed by Mr. Vaughn, whose superior disposition is enough to drive Ursula to tears . . . and yet why does he also make her heart race? As Ursula works to unravel the mysteries of the Vaughn manor, she will have to be very, very careful. After all, true love, justice, and a girl with golden locks are at stake. And in the Enchanted Forest, not every fairy tale is destined for a happily ever after. 

Jane Eyre + The Three Little Bears, this is what Katherine Coville’s The Cottage in the Woods is...and yet, it is so much more. In the Enchanted Forest, home to humans, enchanted animals, and regular animals, there is is a cottage. Well, really it is a vast estate. This is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn and their young cub, Teddy. Fresh out of school Ursula has come to the cottage to be Teddy’s governess. Ursula soon finds herself wrapped up in a golden haired mystery, the unlucky nemesis of a grumpy nurse, in the middle of a community war, and losing her heart to the infuriatingly handsome Mr. Bentley.

The Cottage in the Woods is one of the most original and loveliest fairytale/classic retellings I’ve ever read.  I’ll admit that I had my doubts when I first learned of this book and its Jane Eyre inspired, full of talking bears premise...but Coville certainly squashed my doubts and impressed me with her captivating storytelling. This story may be full of fairytale elements and talking animals, but it is anything but childish. With its classic, Victorian prose and dialogue, The Cottage in the Woods has such an eloquent and refined air about it, without feeling stiff or flowery. Coville creates a wonderfully charming, believable setting with the Enchanted Forest, the Vaughn estate, and the little hamlet around it. The fairytale elements are just the right mix of whimsical, humorous, and refreshing. Coville introduces many well known fairytale stories and characters in completely new and entertaining ways!

One of the things I like best about this book, is the way that after the first few pages, I almost forgot that the main characters were enchanted animals and merely saw them as complex, interesting characters. Our heroine Ursula is a sweet, smart girl who isn’t afraid of a little adventure and I really liked getting to know her. Ursula is surrounded by an eclectic and amusing group of enchanted animals and humans, from fun Teddy, endearing Goldilocks, nasty Nurse, lovable Mr. Wright, and of course, the handsome Mr. Bentley.

But The Cottage in the Woods isn’t all fairytales and romance. With the brewing tension between the enchanted animals and a sect of humans, Coville makes a poignant and relevant statement about prejudice and human nature.

My Final Thoughts: Unique, enchanting, clever...The Cottage in the Woods is all of this and more!

4/5 yummy cupcakes

Katherine Coville is an artist, a sculptor, and a doll maker. She has also illustrated more than 30 books, many written by her husband, Bruce Coville. Katherine lives in Syracuse, New York, with Bruce and a varying assortment of pets. This is her first book for young readers.