Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: The World's Greatest Adventure Machine by Frank L. Cole



Trevor (the troublemaker), Devin (the internet star), Cameron (the genius), and Nika (the reserved) just won the Castleton's contest to be the first to ride the World's Greatest Adventure Machine, a new, state-of-the-art roller coaster. As the adventure unfolds, the four winners begin to suspect there's more to their fellow participants than meets the eye. And if trusting their fellow riders isn't enough, the ride seems to have a mind of it's own, putting Trevor, Devin, Cameron, and Nika on an wild and twisted adventure they couldn't imagine in their wildest dreams. But as they embark on their journey it seems the adventure machine has other plans for them and if they aren't careful they might never get off the ride.

The thing that stood out for me the most in this story were the characters. Each were unique and fun to follow in their own right. And as the reader learned more about them, it was easier to fall deeper and deeper into their story. It was fun to see what would come up in the adventure next and watch how the characters would react and affect how the story unfolded. It was also incredibly endearing to watch the characters get to know themselves better through interacting with each other through their experiences on the ride.

This story also had many great, entertaining, and unexpected moments. It kept the reader guessing about the characters and the plot as things progressed. It was almost impossible to predict what would come up next on the ride but was fun to experience it as the characters did.

This is an exciting story that middle grade readers will get lost in and love to follow Trevor, Devin, Cameron, and Nika through their adventure. There's humor, danger, and twists and turns to keep any young reader engaged from beginning to end. I recommend this for any Middle Grade reader looking for a fun adventure.

*ARC generously provided by Penguin Random House Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath

When I was a kid, my favorite books and movies were often stories about characters bored with their ordinary lives who were suddenly pulled into adventuring through exciting and potentially dangerous worlds they hadn’t known existed. The characters had to learn how to navigate these new worlds as the story went on, even as they pressed forward to solve whatever problems had dragged them there in the first place.

The book HYACINTH AND THE SECRETS BENEATH, by Jacob Sager Weinstein, reminded me a lot of those stories. Boiled down to its core, this book is a chase that only momentarily lets up long enough to let another part of the chase begin. It’s told in first person by a strong main character with a healthy dose of snark in her voice, and an even greater willingness to roll with all of the strange things happening around her.



Hyacinth is the type of girl who confronts the problems and changes that happen in her life, preparing herself for what may come by learning as much as she can. Someone in her family is an unreliable DIY worker? She teaches herself plumbing basics in case she has to fix things. She and her mother are relocating from America to live with her aunt in London? She reads about her new city to familiarize herself with its extensive history. 

The problem is that after settling in at her aunt’s home, she quickly learns that almost everything she thought she knew about the city and its extensive history is completely wrong. There’s an enormous separate world filled with magic in the sewers just beneath London that drives and connects the fate of the city above. When Hyacinth learns she has unwittingly put the entire city in danger, she’s guided into this world to both try and repair her mistakes and rescue her kidnapped mother. She meets up with a collection of strange creatures and even stranger people throughout her adventure, many of them being not what they first seem. 

The mystery that begins the adventure starts in the first pages of the book and continues relentlessly to the very end. I've seen too many students in the past few years abandon books because they weren't captured by the story in the very first pages. This would be a good book to match with readers looking for something imaginative and exciting that hits the ground running.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Using Music to Spark Your Muse



Stuck staring at a blank page (or screen)? Feel like life has squeezed the creativity out of you? 

Believe it or not, the answer is in your iphone. Or wherever you store your favorite tunes. Music is a fab tool for overcoming writers block and fueling your imagination. 

Research shows that when people listen to music (especially songs they enjoy), their creativity and problem-solving abilities increase. Music can enhance abstract thinking and allow listeners to enter a mind-wandering mode, which is known to promote creative thought.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” - Friedrich Nietzsche


Listen to a wide variety of genres


This trick takes your brain down new, exciting pathways. Branch out from your standard playlist and try out a song that might usually make you cringe. If that cringe-worthy feeling is enough to send shudders down your spine, just think of the emotion it could elicit in your readers. 

You may also find yourself enjoying a whole new style of music, once you give it a chance. Use the new lyrics and beats as springboards for your imagination. Study the style and ask yourself why it works. What about this song made it good enough to be played on the radio? Studying the rhythms and ideas of a wide variety of music can help generate ideas in your own work. 


Use music as a writing prompt


This is a fun way to stir up those creative juices. Choose a song at random from your playlist (or alternatively, turn on the radio!). Think of one of your main characters. Then listen to a 10-30 second clip of the song, with that character in mind.

See what new images, conflicts, and inspiration arise when you link the character to the feelings or words of the song. Then do a timed free write. Why timed? Because pressure can really stimulate your imagination. But if pressure shuts you down, turn the timer off. Either way, you’ll have plenty to write about.


Play inspiring tracks in the background while you write


Inspiring doesn't necessarily mean uplifting. Instead, choose music that reflects the rhythm of the scene you are trying to write or that elicits the same emotion you intend to evoke. 

For instance, the soundtrack from Pirates of the Caribbean is great to listen to when you’re writing fight scenes. It’s quick-paced, intense, and laced with a sense of danger. On the other hand, Taylor Swift’s Love Story might inspire just the right emotions for a tender-sweet romance.

Do you listen to music when you write or use it for writing prompts? If so, share some of your fave writing tunes below!
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Monday, July 10, 2017

Best. Night. Ever. ARC Giveaway



  Top Seven Reasons To Read Best. Night. Ever. (On sale 8/15/17) :
 
 
1. Seven points of view and seven (yes, seven!) authors:  (Rachele Alpine, Ronni Arno, Alison Cherry, Stephanie Faris,
Jen Malone, Gail Nall, and Dee Romito)


2. A soapy plan to sabotage the Heart Grenade teen band

 

 3. A quacking, locker room duck parade and a wild-goose-slash-duck chase



4. An adventurous ride on a lawnmower known as “The Munchinator”

 

5. A creek that’s colder than an iceberg mixed with a Popsicle mixed with the look Mom gives when you threaten to slam the bedroom door in the middle of one of her lectures.



6. Third grade twins who own a forty-seven-thousand-button remote, but no curling iron.



7. A guy who makes a HUGE mistake—saying yes to two girls. (Spoiler alert: He may or may not turn into a frozen, sputtering, multicolored glitter statue.)


For a chance to win an ARC of this epic middle school adventure, leave a comment and your email below. A winner will be drawn at random.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Interview with Alexandra Ott + Giveaway

I recently got the opportunity to speak with the amazing Alexandra Ott about her debut middle grade novel, RULES FOR THIEVES. It's the story of twelve-year-old Alli Rosco, an orphan who's forced to join a legendary band of thieves in order to try and save herself from a deadly curse. And, in honor of her new release, I'll be giving away a free copy of the book!!!

Rules for Thieves is a story about curses, thieves and life-or-death adventure, so…is it based on real life?

Alli’s story is entirely fictional. After all, I’m not a magically cursed member of a secret band of thieves in real life . . . as far as anyone knows. ;)

What drew you to writing for middle grade readers?

I loved reading middle fiction as a kid (and still do). It’s so fun, and full of adventure as well as heart. It was middle grade fiction that really made me fall in love with reading when I was younger. That’s where a lot of the inspiration for RULES FOR THIEVES came from—thinking about the stories I loved as a kid and how I might write one of my own.

What has been the most surprising part of becoming a real-life big time author?


The most surprising thing about being published, for me, is how much time I have to spend doing things other than writing. I always used to imagine being an author would mean spending all day typing at my keyboard, but I do lots of other things too. Some of them are boring business-related tasks, but others are fun--like this interview, for instance!

What advice would you give to young people interested in writing?

Read a lot. Write a lot. Love what you write. Don’t give up.

Bonus: Please tell me more about your canine overlord.

My canine overlord is a nine-year-old Lhasa Apso named Penny. She likes to assist with my writing process by sitting underneath my desk and giving me sad looks when I spend too much time paying attention to the computer instead of her. She’s fluffy and adorable, so she knows I can’t resist. :)

Thanks so much Alexandra for stopping by!!! And now for the contest!

If you'd like to enter to win a copy of Alexandra's amazing book, RULES FOR THIEVES, please respond to the following question in the comments by 7/15. What rule do you most enjoy breaking? Good luck!

More About Alexandra Ott

Alexandra Ott holds a B.A. in English from the University of Tulsa. She currently lives in Oklahoma with her tiny canine overlord. Rules for Thieves is her debut novel. Visit her online at alexandraott.com and on Twitter @Alexandra_Ott.