Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review: Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so he can concentrate on basketball.

They aren't friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. 

HELLO, UNIVERSE is a beautiful story about courage, friendship, and destiny. On the surface, it tackles important issues such as dealing with bullies, navigating family dynamics, and the importance of acceptance and love. But it also deals with the courage we learn from fairytales, the intuition we feel when we sense something is wrong, and most importantly, everyone's need for friends.

Erin Entrada Kelly has woven together the elements of danger, fear, and courage, with the threads of hope - the kind of hope that comes from message from a universe that may not be as random as we think. "There are no coincidences!" says Kaori, a girl who has started her own business as a psychic - for kids only. Certainly, it's not a coincidence this book won the 2018 Newbery Medal!

Once you read HELLO, UNIVERSE, you'll wonder about those strange coincidences in your own life and wonder if they are random... or maybe a letter from the Universe. I highly recommend this book!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Review: Definitely Daphne by Tami Charles

Definitely DaphneDefinitely Daphne by Tami Charles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

@capstonePub #partner - I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Released 10/01/18

Annabelle Louis and her military family just moved again which is nothing new. But now Annabelle has to go to a real middle school versus being home-schooled. She doesn't take it well. In order to help her adjust to the change, her parents sets her up with a therapist which in turn prompts the start of a social experiment that will soon get out of control.

Annabelle’s journey of self acceptance and awareness is a beautiful and emotional one. Making friends is one of the hardest thing to do when you're shy or a social introvert. And we all want to fit in, find people we connect with, so I feel like this was written for tween me.
I love the complex and complicated relationships, the awkward and funny moments, and the embarrassing ones too.
The writing style is a combination of prose and screenplay and it adds so much to Annabelle's voice while enhancing the drama in the book to a cinematic level.

I fell in love with Tami Charles as an author when I read Like Vanessa and I'm so glad she wrote another book that reached inside my soul and hugged my younger self tight once again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Secrets of Kidlit: The Shiny New Idea

Used under a Creative Commons license.
Credit: avrdreamer
Ever sit down to work on your current manuscript, only to find yourself completely distracted by a Shiny New Idea? I'm the first to admit how hard it is to stay focused on one story for the length of time it takes to complete a draft. I used to have a terrible habit of abandoning drafts halfway through in pursuit of Shiny New Ideas . . . until I figured out I'd never finish anything if I kept that up!

So I thought I'd devote today to giving you a few ideas on how to combat distraction and stay focused. The key with all of these suggestions is to get the idea out of your head quickly so that first, you don't lose the idea, and second, you can focus on what you should be finishing. You can either take a day or two to do one of these things, or use them as a reward for completing your daily goals on your current manuscript.

In no particular order, here are some things I've done:

Used under a Creative Commons license.
Credit: antefixus21
1) Write a synopsis. Okay, yeah, synopses are horrible awful things. But when I say synopsis, I don't mean something you're going to whip out and show an agent. When all you can think about is your fabulous new idea, taking a day or two to pour all those thoughts into a messy synopsis can do wonders for your brain. Think of it more as a bucket for all those snippets of dialogue, scene ideas, or character quirks that keep running through your head. And it doesn't have to be synopsis-style. Make it an outline, or a series of notes, or whatever makes the most sense to you. Just get it down so it's no longer in your head.

2) Make a Pinterest board. This is perfect if you're already visualizing scenes in your head. There are so many ways to do a Pinterest board, so go with what works for you, whether it's a mood you'd like to portray, a collection of faces that look like your characters, or images of places or items that might play a role in the story.

Used under a Creative Commons license.
Credit: Anne Helmond
3) Make a playlist. No lie, this is one of my favorites. I derive so much joy out of finding the perfect music for a story idea. Like Pinterest, you can go about this so many different ways -- mood, style of music, lyrics. A good playlist can serve as a trigger of sorts, putting you instantly into the mood of your story, which is great when you can't even start to write said story until you finish another one!

4) Research. If your new idea will need some research, now is a great time to dive into that. Not only will it help you plot this new book later on, it's good to get it out of the way now to free you up for writing later.

5) Go ahead, write a little! BUT (and this is a big but!) don't write on this new idea until you've finished whatever your daily goal is for the manuscript you should be working on. This can be a great reward! Some people can't write two books at once (um, me), but if you can, go for it!

As a bonus, a lot of these ideas will help you plot! Do you have any other tactics for staying focused? If so, drop them in the comments.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious (Villains, #1)Vicious by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's impossible for me to recommend Victoria Schwab's latest novel, VENGEFUL, without reminding you to read Book One first.

"There are no good men in this game."

College roommates Victor and Eli share many similarities. Intelligence. Ambition. A hidden edge of cruelty. When their research leads to a wicked discovery, they turn their new powers against each other. Ten years later, Victor escapes from prison to hunt Eli down.

I loved everything about this delightfully evil story. There are no heroes, only villains pitted against each other in an epic battle to the death. The story is told non-linearly in short chapters. The structure and pacing work well, and Schwab expertly weaves the backstory with the present moment. Every page drips with dark revenge.

While written for the adult audience, VICIOUS is also a perfect book for older YA readers.

VICIOUS is a fiendish read. After you finish it, race out to pick up a copy of VENGEFUL which hit bookshelves on September 25th.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Review: Warren & Dragon Chapter Book series by Ariel Bernstein

Warren & Dragon 100 FriendsWarren & Dragon 100 Friends by Ariel Bernstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kidliterati (#partner) - I received a copy from the author Ariel Bernstein in exchange for my honest review.
All opinions my own.
Released 8/28/18
After accepting a challenge (from his sister) to make the most new friends at their new school, Warren discovers that there is way more to making friends than he first anticipated.
Warren's interactions with Dragon are quite entertaining especially since Dragon had a quite high opinion of himself. They got each other’s back and make a great pair. I wish I had an insight into how they first met.
I loved how the story flowed and how it put you right there inside Warren's mind with the timely one line monologues. Dragon's shenanigans and his reasoning got my daughter to chuckle often while we read the book.
My husband pointed out that Warren and Dragon has a Calvin and Hobbes vibe and I totally agree with him. This is an excellent read aloud for parents and their little ones.

Warren & Dragon Weekend with ChewyWarren & Dragon Weekend with Chewy by Ariel Bernstein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kidliterati (#partner) - I received a copy from the author Ariel Bernstein in exchange for my honest review.
All opinions my own.
Released 8/28/18
After he became the lucky pet sitter... I mean the lucky guardian for their school hamster Chewy for the weekend, Warren was pretty confident he had everything planned out and under control. Except nothing went according to his plans when Dragon's interest in poor Chewy got Warren nervous.

It was quite entertaining to see how quickly everything went down hill for Warren after he took Chewy home. At the same time I loved seeing how he found allies in the people he least expected to come come to his rescue; I mean Chewy's rescue.
Overall we had fun reading this one but I felt like the middle got a little too chaotic for my daughter and she lost interest for a bit. I blamed it on Dragon. He was just being too much at some point.
Seriously though, this a chapter book series worth introducing to your little ones. I wonder what kind of trouble Dragon will get Warren into next time.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Review: The World Beneath by Janice Warman

The World BeneathThe World Beneath by Janice Warman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This historical novel opens up in Cape Town, South Africa, 1976 during apartheid.

Twelve-year-old, Joshua dreams about his big brother, who works in Johannesburg, and he fears for his life. His mother, they call Beauty, not her Xhosa name is the maid in a white household, and she assures Joshua his brother’s fine.

Sent to live with his mother and the wealthy Malherbe’s while he recovers from tuberculosis, Joshua hides his presence. He’s not supposed to be seen. There’s a cupboard under the stairs, where he keeps out of everyone’s way, listening to the sounds of the house.

One day, he finds himself on a “whites only” street with money in his pocket. His mother had told him, “You must never let the police see you. You are not supposed to be here. You must be invisible.”

But when kind-hearted, Joshua comes across Tsumalo, a black man being hunted down by the police the outside world enters to the house of the Malherbe’s, and Joshua hides him in the shack no one visits. Tsumalo explains the cruel injustices taking place in South Africa.

“We are fighting for freedom, Joshua. The whites have the power, and they don’t want to share it with us. They call it apartheid.”

The two become very close, Tsumalo much like the father he never had. Joshua wants to return home to Ciske, where his grandparents live with his younger brother and sister. But he also wants to help, be like his brother, and fight for justice. Only he has to get an education, first, which is denied black people under apartheid.

An explosive incident happens at the Malherbe’s, and Joshua is separated from his mother and Tsumalo. But two years later, Joshua returns to the town he grew up, and to the house his mother worked, knowing he has to make a choice, a choice that could send him to prison without a trial.

Difficult and heartbreaking, readers follow Joshua through what he has to endure, through the ignorance of racism and apartheid. This book is a good starting point for discussions about human rights and democracy, but some passages may not be clear enough for young readers.

View all my reviews 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

K10: Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

Tell us a little about yourself: what is your first name, how old are you, and what is your favorite flavor of ice cream? My name is Ellie, and I’m 13 years old. My favorite kind of ice cream is mint chocolate chip.

What book did you read and why did you choose it?
I read Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson. I like to read historical fiction, so I figured I’d check it out.

Can you describe this book in one word?

What was your favorite part of this story? When Verity, the main character, stood up for herself when Alec tricked her.

If you had a problem similar to the main character's problem, what would you do? If I was half magister I would probably try to lay low and not have joined the rebels.

What would you say to your best friend to convince them to read this book? I would tell her that it was staged in 1888 and a romance because she loves those books.

What do you think about the book's cover? It looks very steampunk and I like how there are several pictures overlapped.

Would you want to read another book about these characters? Why or why not? I have just started the sequel because I have to know what happens.

Can you name another book that reminds you of this one? The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond also has girl spies and is set during WWII.

If you could ask the author one question about this book what would it be?  Where did the name magisters come from?

Ellie, Ms. Swendson has answered your question below.

I really don’t have a definitive answer for where “magisters” comes from. It just sort of popped into my head as what to call a person who uses magic, and it was similar to “magistrate,” so it also gave a sense of someone who had authority. Only later did I learn that it was a real word that means “scholar” or someone qualified to teach in a medieval university. Which still kind of fits the idea of someone who can do magic, especially since the word “magistery” is related to alchemy.

Thank you, Ms. Swendson and Ellie!

Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.

You can read more about Rebel Mechanics here.


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