Blog Tour: Naked Mole Rat Saves the World by Karen Rivers

nakedmoleratsavestheworldblogtour

Hey everyone! Today’s post is part of the blog tour for an upcoming middle grade fantasy novel, Naked Mole Rat Saves the World by Karen Rivers. Below, you can find some basic information on the book and the author as well as an exclusive early excerpt from the book itself. And if you like what you see, make sure to check out the novel when it releases on October 15th!

Book Info:

nakedmoleratsavestheworldNaked Mole Rat Saves the World by Karen Rivers

Date Published: October 15th, 2019

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 304 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Can Kit’s super-weird superpower save her world?

Kit-with-a-small-k is navigating middle school with a really big, really strange secret: When she’s stressed, she turns into a naked mole rat.

It first happened after kit watched her best friend, Clem, fall and get hurt during an acrobatic performance on TV. Since then, the transformations keep happening—whether kit wants them to or not. Kit can’t tell Clem about it, because after the fall, Clem just hasn’t been herself. She’s sad and mad and gloomy, and keeping a secret of her own: the real reason she fell.

A year after the accident, kit and Clem still haven’t figured out how to deal with all the ways they have transformed—both inside and out. When their secrets come between them, the best friends get into a big fight. Somehow, kit has to save the day, but she doesn’t believe she can be that kind of hero. Turning into a naked mole rat isn’t really a superpower. Or is it?

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Book Excerpt:

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KIT’S MOM HAD A TATTOO THAT WOUND AROUND HER LEFT WRIST.

The ink was faded like something that had been washed so many times it had gotten thin and holey and was now just a blurry memory of black.

If you looked closely at the tattoo, you could see that the leafy, twining ink wound its way around three tiny, fancy letters—k and i and t—which stood for keep it together. It also spelled kit’s name, which was kit, not Kit, because when kit was a baby, her mom said she was much too small for capital letters. Back then she fit inside her mom’s two hands, a funny wrinkled thing that looked not-quite-ready to be alive, more like a hairless baby animal than a human being.

“My little naked mole rat,” her mom would say every time she saw the first photo ever taken of kit, which had been stuck on the fridge for most of kit’s life. Then she would put her hand on her heart.

One day, kit took the picture down and slipped it into a drawer and her mom didn’t say it as much anymore, which was good because it didn’t exactly feel like a compliment.

Kit’s mom had had the tattoo for years before kit existed at all.

“Because I knew you were coming,” she said.

Kit’s mom often told people that she was searching for kit for her whole life and the tattoo was the map that she followed to find her. She said that when she found kit, she was saved.

Found made it sound to kit like she was not someone who was born, but instead someone who just appeared, maybe in a box on the doorstep. Even though kit knew this wasn’t true, she sometimes dreamed of scraping her fingernails against cardboard walls, scrabbling to get out.

She also thought that being responsible for saving her mom was an awful lot of pressure. Not that she’d ever say anything; she knew her mom loved that story and the way she told it made kit feel things she didn’t usually feel. It made her feel heroic and kit normally had a pretty hard time imagining that she’d ever be able to save anyone from anything. She was too small to be a hero.

She could still sometimes fit into clothes labeled 6x. That’s how small.

“The size in your shirt should be the same as your age,” Clem told her once when they were shopping at the Brooklyn Flea, which was the best place in the world to find stuff you didn’t know you needed, and kit had felt worse than if Clem had reached over and punched her right in the nose.

Clem was also small, but not nearly as small as kit. She was normal-small. Like kit, Clem and her twin brother, Jorge, had been born too early. But unlike kit, the only fallout for them was that Clem had super bad allergies and Jorge had had to wear glasses since the age of two.

Small-ish and small were two  different  things. That was the day kit had bought her favorite hoodie, the black one with the small rainbow star on the front and the bigger rainbow star on the back. The color was as faded as kit’s mom’s tattoo. It had cost $5, which was the exact amount their moms gave them each to spend. “That looks . . . comfortable,” Clem observed, but she meant, “That looks old.”

Kit didn’t care that Clem didn’t like it. It was big and soft and as soon as she saw it, it looked like it belonged to her. It was already familiar. The fact that it was way too big only meant she wouldn’t grow out of it anytime soon. Clem had spent her $5 on a small glass turtle. “It’s not a very turtle-y turtle,” she said. “Don’t be such a turtle!” she told it.

A lot of what Clem said didn’t make sense, but it was funny anyway or maybe it was just funny because it didn’t make sense. They had both laughed so hard that they had to sit down, right there on the pavement, the crowd parting around them. Clem clutched the non- turtle-y turtle, tears running down their cheeks, while Jorge looked dreamily off into the distance, not quite paying attention to what was so funny. Jorge was like that. There, but not always entirely there.

“He has a rich inner life,” Clem said, which made kit picture a whole miniature world existing inside Jorge. “But his outer life needs work.”

Then she laughed.

Clem was someone who was almost always laughing, at least back then. At first, kit had been friends with Jorge because she was friends with Jackson and Jackson was friends with Jorge. It had been the three of them. Clem had bugged her, with her always laughing thing. But after not very long, kit started to find the same things funny that Clem did, and soon kit and Clem were the closest friends. Their friendship grew to be the biggest and the best. So even when Jackson and Jorge were busy—Jackson with his sports and Jorge with his “rich inner life”—Clem and kit were either together or talking on the phone.

Clem was the most important person in kit’s life, other than her mom.

And Clem got it. She understood what kit’s mom was like. She knew what kit’s life was like and that kit had to look out for her mom because her mom had issues.

Kit’s mom’s main issue was that she was afraid. She was scared of cancer and bad guys and fire. She was terrified of traffic and heights and crowds. She was afraid of spiders and germs and blood. The list was pretty long and always growing.

“K.i.t., keep it together,” kit would say, and her mom would put on her brave smile and hold up her wrist so that kit could see she was trying.

Sometimes, kit and her mom would go in the bathroom and perform magic over the tub or sink so the oils and “potions” didn’t spill anywhere that couldn’t be easily cleaned up. They had a whole glass shelf of bottles and jars, labeled with things like bravery and truth or rosemary and sage.

Kit’s mom owned a hair salon. She was a hairdresser, not a witch, but kit thought her only employee (and her best friend), Samara, might be both. If you didn’t know Samara, you’d think she was just a nice, funny person— she loved riddles—but once you got to know her, you’d find out that she also believed in magic the same way kit did. She believed in spells, believed they could give them courage or love or money or luck, believed in the possibility that herbs and oils and words could really and truly fix any problem.

Mostly it seemed to be luck that kit’s mom was conjuring, but kit thought she should specify whether she wanted good luck or bad. Everything was either one or the other, if you thought about it.

And anyway, details mattered.

“You’re as small as a detail and the details tell the story. You are the best story of all,” kit’s mom liked to say. “I’m not a story!” kit used to always say back, but now that everything had happened, she wasn’t sure this was true anymore.

After all, everybody has a story, even if the story doesn’t feel like a story when you are the one who is living it.

It’s only afterward, in the telling, that it becomes the thing it was meant to be all along.

Author Bio:

Rivers_Karen_Kelsey_Goodwin

Karen Rivers’s books have been nominated for a wide range of literary awards and have been published in multiple languages. When she’s not writing, reading, or visiting schools, she can usu­ally be found hiking in the forest that flourishes behind her tiny old house in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her two kids, two dogs, and two birds. Find her online at karenrivers.com and on Twitter: @karenrivers.

Reviews:

“Rivers realistically portrays the challenge of living with anxiety and the pressures of family responsibility. Complex and moving, this story takes an unvarnished look at what it means to be true to oneself as well as loved ones.”
Publishers Weekly

“Rivers threads rich veins of metaphor and personal transformation into this tale of preteen trauma and recovery . . . Along with folding in this whiff of fantasy (kit’s not the only character here who, at least seemingly, has an animal alter ego), Rivers handles all the domestic and interpersonal drama with a light touch that keeps things from turning soapy . . . Readers will come away admiring her knack for resolving issues and conflicts.”
Booklist, starred review

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Blog Tour: The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz

thedarklordclementineblogtour

Hey everyone! Today’s post is part of the blog tour for the recently released middle grade novel, The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz. Sarah is a wonderful author that I have been a massive fan of for quite a while and this newest novel is her most fun and enchanting one yet! Below, you can find some basic information on the book and the author, as well as an exclusive excerpt from the book itself. And if you like what you see, make sure to check out the novel which just released on October 1st! My full (spoiler-free!) review of The Dark Lord Clementine will be up later in the week!

Book Info:

thedarklordclementineThe Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Date Published: October 1st, 2019

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 336 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Algonquin YR

The new face of big evil is a little . . . small.
 
Dastardly deeds aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when one hears the name “Clementine,” but as the sole heir of the infamous Dark Lord Elithor, twelve-year-old Clementine Morcerous has been groomed since birth to be the best (worst?) Evil Overlord she can be. But everything changes the day the Dark Lord Elithor is cursed by a mysterious rival.

Now, Clementine must not only search for a way to break the curse, but also take on the full responsibilities of the Dark Lord. As Clementine forms her first friendships, discovers more about her own magic than she ever dared to explore, and is called upon to break her father’s code of good and evil, she starts to question the very life she’s been fighting for. What if the Dark Lord Clementine doesn’t want to be dark after all?

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Book Excerpt

NOT. CHIPPING.

Clementine Morcerous awoke one morning to discover that her father had no nose.

This was not exactly unexpected. Several mornings previously, the Dark Lord Elithor Morcerous had greeted her with slightly less nose than usual, and a bit of a weaker chin. The difference was so small that Clementine, who was quite small herself, barely noticed it. She did notice something different about him—he was her father, after all—but she thought perhaps he had gotten a rather unflattering haircut.

An unflattering haircut could not explain the next few days, however, as the Dark Lord Elithor’s nose became skinnier and skinnier, and his chin weaker and weaker. It could also not explain why his skin took on the raw-looking texture of freshly chopped wood, or why the ends of his fingers sharpened first into long points, and then shorter and shorter ones. It was as if every day, something were eating away at him—chipping away at him, Clementine’s mind helpfully suggested—but the Dark Lord carried on as if nothing were the matter, even when the tip of his finger snapped off as he was ladling out the pea soup at dinner.

It was so light it barely made a plop as it landed in the tureen. They ate the soup anyway.

Clementine Morcerous knew that if the Dark Lord Elithor had three gifts in this world, they were:

  1. The invention and implementation of magical Dastardly Deeds
  2. Math
  3. Not Talking About Anything

But the day she sat down to breakfast, rubbed the last bits of sleep from her eyes, and looked up to see her father sitting across the table from her, quite alarmingly nose-
less . . . well. Clementine decided that was the day they were going to Talk About Something.

“Father,” Clementine said as she watched him spear a piece of melon on the tip of his pointy wooden finger. “I do believe you have been cursed.”

The melon cube paused on its journey to his poor thin lips.

“Ah,” said her father, his thick eyebrows rising. “Do you?”

He then returned his focus to his plate, as if she’d merely made a comment on the weather. His finger had sliced through the melon cube. He picked it up again with some difficulty.

“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” demanded Clementine. “Something is . . . well . . . chipping away at you!”

Clementine regretted using the word “chipping” as soon as it was out of her mouth. Yet a consequence of Finally Talking About Anything is that words, once set free into the world, aren’t in the habit of going back where they came from.

The only sound in the room was the Dark Lord’s labored breathing, a thin whistling from the two tiny slits left in his face where his nostrils should’ve been. His eye- brows threatened to meet in the middle. He looked down at his plate again, and even the melon seemed to turn a paler green under the force of his glare.

“No . . .” he said softly. “Not. Chipping.” He spat out the words like they were curses themselves and finally looked up at a very concerned Clementine.

“Whittling.”

Author Bio:

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Sarah Jean Horwitz
is the author of the middle grade fantasy series Carmer and Grit and the recently released The Dark Lord Clementine. She grew up next door to a cemetery and down the street from an abandoned fairytale theme park, which probably explains a lot. She currently lives near Boston, MA. Find her on Twitter, @sunshineJHwitz
Instagramher Goodreads page, or at sarahjeanhorwitz.com.

Review Quotes:

“Horwitz primes readers to expect the unexpected—and delivers. . . .Horwitz’s ingenuity for bizarre enchantment and characterization proves boundless . . . In a wry, satisfying ending, Clementine hints at future enchantments ahead.”
Publishers Weekly

“The descriptions of magical beings are fittingly awe-inspiring  . . . this inventive fantasy twists conventions while involving readers through good storytelling laced with irony and wit.”
Booklist

“After luring readers in with wordplay and tongue-in-cheek, genre-savvy humor, the plot takes an emotionally rich thematic turn, dwelling on community and forgiveness—all the while building toward a mythical, mystical arc involving the unicorn. The few action sequences are mined for utmost impact, as are the slice-of-life scenes and flashback vignettes . . . Absolutely delightful.”
Kirkus Reviews

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Review: Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

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33344380Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Heartseeker Series

Date Published: June 5th, 2018

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Pages: 336 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A vibrant fantasy-adventure debut about a girl who can see lies.

You’re a Fallow of the Orchard. You’re as tough as a green apple in summer . . . 

Only Fallow was just six harvests old when she realized that not everyone sees lies. For Only, seeing lies is as beautiful as looking through a kaleidoscope, but telling them is as painful as gnawing on cut glass. Only’s family warns her to keep her cunning hidden, but secrets are seldom content to stay secret. 

When word of Only’s ability makes its way to the King, she’s plucked from her home at the orchard and brought to the castle at Bellskeep. There she learns that the kingdom is plagued by traitors, and that her task is to help the King distinguish between friend and foe. But being able to see lies doesn’t necessarily mean that others aren’t able to disguise their dishonesty with cunnings of their own.

In the duplicitous, power-hungry court, the truth is Only’s greatest weapon . . . and her greatest weakness.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Heartseeker is one of those novels that makes me even more glad that I am given the opportunity to read and review books, especially those for younger audiences. Reading has always been such an important part of my life ever since I was a kid, and it is something that has led me to find my other biggest passion of writing. I get such joy out of encouraging people of any age to read, and discovering a middle grade gem like this that I can so highly recommend is always wonderful. This novel reminds me of the fantasy stories I adored when I was younger, that piqued my imagination and creativity and solidified my love of reading. It is a beautiful tale full of love, magic, and strength that will captivate readers of any age.

In this novel, we follow a young girl named Only Fallow, who has the ability to see lies. When people lie, she sees them ringed in a whole variety of colors, each connected to the type of lie and intentions of the person. However, this power comes with the curse of not being able to tell a lie without experiencing physical pain. As magic, or “cunning”, is not accepted among her people, she is forced to keep these things a secret—but sometimes secrets have a life of their own.

When Only’s powers are discovered by the King, he takes her from her home to live and work in his castle at Bellskeep. The King’s intentions are to have her assist him in determining deceit among those of his kingdom, as there are many traitors about. But this plan is not foolproof, as the potential cunning of others is not taken into account. Now, Only must navigate her new circumstances, where her greatest power can also be her greatest weakness.

This is such a unique and interesting story that I found myself immediately swept up into. The idea of seeing lies as colors—as well as the meanings given to each one—is not only an inventive way to portray this power, it is also truly and utterly magical. Readers are given the chance to fall into a vibrant world and an epic adventure that captures and carries the imagination into new realms. As a whole, this narrative is something that I believe will spark the creativity of all of its readers—I know it definitely did that for me.

Beatty has crafted every component of this novel beautifully. Her writing is incredibly easy to get caught up in, and fluidly carries the reader over the pages. The style in which she writes is very distinctive and fitting for the setting—this adds further dimension to the novel as a whole. The world is carefully constructed and vividly described. It unfolds and builds up around you as you fall into Only’s life. Beatty’s writing breathes life into her narrative and fully immerses the reader in every aspect of the story.

Only is an incredibly strong heroine. She is brave, intelligent, and extremely loyal—a very admirable female lead. Beatty does a great job of filling out her character, taking the time to really build her a three-dimensional personality. I had a quick and easy time connecting with her and coming to love her. The characterization as a whole is very solid, as Beatty fills this work with a cast of memorable characters. My particular favorites were Non, Jon, and Gareth. The relationships between everyone in this novel are very well-portrayed, and everyone plays a massive role in driving the narrative.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in this heartwarming and exciting adventure, and was very reluctant to leave. The escapades of these characters continue to replay in my mind, and will surely stay with me for a long time. It is a story that I can see being universally accessible among readers of all ages. Heartseeker is a charming and wholesome read that I would highly encourage younger readers to pick up, and that I would recommend to everyone in general.

5.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

16179801Melinda Beatty has had years of practice trying to explain to others why she was just having an imaginary conversation between two people that don’t exist, so becoming a writer seemed like the best way to stop everyone looking at her funny. After years of narrowboat living on the English canals, she and her British husband are now back on dry land in Maryland where by day, she’s a mild-mannered Indie bookseller, and by night, she wrangles words, craft projects, a Labrador and two fierce mini-women. Heartseeker is her debut novel.

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HEARTSEEKER BLOG TOUR

WEEK ONE

May 28 – @Book_Ventures – Book Asethetics

May 29 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Review

May 30 – GladiatorGlory – Review + Playlist + Moodboard

May 31 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Review 

June 1 – Bookopolis – Great Adventure Heroines in contemporary and classic books

Review: The Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

theboyfromtomorrowThe Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 8th, 2018

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 268 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They sleep in the same room, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. They are twelve years old but a hundred years apart.

The children meet through a handpainted spirit board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. But a chain of events leave Josie and her little sister Cass trapped in the house and afraid for their safety, and Alec must find out what’s going to happen to them. Can he help them change their future when it’s already past? 

The Boy from Tomorrow is a tribute to classic English fantasy novels like Tom’s Midnight Garden and A Traveller in Time. Through their impossible friendship, Alec and Josie learn that life can offer only what they ask of it.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Ever since I finished reading this novel, I have been searching for the right words to describe it—words that encompass every topic, every emotion, in the best way possible. Words like “charming”, “adorable”, and “sweet” are fitting to certain aspects, but somehow still feel wrong. However, darker words do not have a place here either, just as the characters do not allow darkness to remain in their lives. This is a novel of an endearing and vital friendship that defies the most impossible of circumstances. Of a life-changing connection bridging a century’s distance. To really pinpoint those words that I need, let’s dive into the story itself.

In this novel, we follow the lives of two young children—Josie and Alec—and their blossoming friendship. They both live in the same room of the same house on Sparrow Street. The twist? Josie is living in 1915, while Alec is in 2015. The pair meet across this one-hundred-year gap through the use of a hand painted spirit board belonging to Josie’s mother—who works as a psychic—and left in the house for Alec to find.

The two, along with Josie’s sister Cassie and their tutor Emily, form a deep connection, one that they rely on to cope with the difficult circumstances they are all in. However, the safety of Josie and her little sister is torn apart as events on their side quickly escalate to dangerous and life-threatening. Learning of this, Alec realizes he must do everything he possibly can to help bring them to safety and protect these people he has come to love.

I thought the main characters were very well portrayed, and were very much the driving force of the narrative. Josie, Alec, Cassie, and Emily are beautiful and utterly lovable. It is impossible not to get swept up into their lives, to feel every emotion they feel, and root for them all the way. We are given much insight into their points-of view, an intimate look at their situations, and a detailed depiction of their personalities. The three-dimensional quality of these characters magnifies the realism, connects the reader on a personal level, and sets a solid base for a powerful story.

There is a bit lacking when it comes to many of the side characters, however. Though some of them play very important roles in the plot, they still remain fairly two-dimensional. We never get to see particularly far into their stories, which I think would have expanded and deepened the plot further—it would have made the message of the novel even more poignant.

While I had a few issues with Camille DeAngelis’ writing, overall, I do believe it fits the narrative and the book’s target age range pretty well. Her writing style is easy to fall into and her words flow nicely at a reasonable pace. DeAngelis is very descriptive, in terms of both physical and emotional details. The tone and atmosphere of every scene is very vivid, pulling the reader deeper into the lives and struggles of her lovable characters. It is easy to feel the wonder of the children, the joy and excitement of their friendship, the fear and pain in the darkest moments.

She also does a great job of switching between the two sides of the story, alternating between Josie’s and Alec’s stories every chapter. Her transitions over the space of a century are seamless. DeAngelis builds both children’s worlds skillfully, including plenty of historically accurate details that bring even more dimension into the setting. On top of that, she creates her own historical elements, centering around Josie and her family. I absolutely loved that she included this—it is such an interesting addition to the plot.

I only have a few issues with aspects of this novel. The biggest one is the style of writing within the chapters themselves. It felt as though every event, every day, completely ran together due to a lack of placing breaks between these parts. The fact that the narrative jumped around so much with absolutely no warning made things feel a bit jarring and choppy. This is something that could potentially make the story difficult for readers to follow.

The only other minor complaint I have is with the backgrounds of Josie and Alec. I feel like we are given very little insight into other parts of their lives. For instance, I would have liked to see some of the side characters, such as their parents, fleshed out a bit more. There is so much that is just hinted at, particularly on Alec’s side, and it left me feeling a bit unsatisfied. It is as if these aspects are multiple loose ends that were never tied up.

So, as we come back around to the beginning of this review, I feel as though I have a bit more clarity. Heartwarming. At its roots, this is a depiction of two lost souls finding one another. Bittersweet. This is a story of a beautiful friendship, but it is not by any means purely fluff. It deals with some heavy and incredibly important topics—DeAngelis does not shy away from showing the horrific and heart-wrenching aspects of neglect and abuse. Family. Family is not made up solely of those related to you by blood. Family is made up of those who make you feel whole, who love you deeply, who protect and always support you. And above all—this novel is unreservedly powerful.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: Spin the Golden Light Bulb by Jackie Yeager

spinthegoldenlightbulbSpin the Golden Light Bulb by Jackie Yeager

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Crimson Five #1

Date Published: January 9th, 2018

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 280 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: It’s the year 2071 and eleven year-old Kia Krumpet is determined to build her 67 inventions, but she won’t have the opportunity to unless she earns a spot at PIPS, the Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School. Kia, who has trouble making friends at school, has dreamed of winning the Piedmont Challenge and attending PIPS ever since she learned that her Grandma Kitty won the very first Piedmont Challenge. After she and four of her classmates are selected to compete for a spot at PIPS, they travel by aero-bus to Camp Piedmont to solve a task against forty-nine other state teams to earn their place at the best inventor’s school in the country.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The first part of this review is completely spoiler-free. There are very minor and vague spoilers in the second part of this review.

Spin the Golden Light Bulb is a debut middle grade novel centering around the brilliant minds of a group of young inventors. It touches on topics such as teamwork, forgiveness, and loyalty, and how to include those values in the achievement of personal goals in the area of one’s passion. It encourages having a mind that is open to all possibilities and to the acceptance of other people. Images of strong relationships—both with friends and family—and learning to come together to achieve a goal in a fair and inclusive way emanate from every page. This is a delightfully wholesome novel for young readers that stresses some incredibly important and positive messages.

In this novel, we are transported to the year 2071, and follow an eleven-year-old girl named Kia Krumpet. Kia is desperate to earn a spot at Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School—or PIPS—so she can begin working on her sixty-seven inventions. But in order to secure her place at PIPS, she must first win a Golden Light Bulb in the Piedmont Challenge, a feat that has not yet been accomplished by any student at Crimson Elementary. If she doesn’t, she will have to choose one category of study to dedicate the next six years of her schooling to, none of which would allow her to achieve her dreams.

After Kia and four of her classmates end up winning the chance to compete for enrollment in PIPS, they travel to Camp Piedmont, where the next phase of the challenge is to begin. There, everyone competing is split into groups and are given a task that they need to solve through the creation of a unique invention. Kia’s group—The Crimson Five—must contend with teams from forty-nine other states and build something that will prove that they have the talent necessary to earn a place at the best inventor’s school in the entire country.

Forming strong, healthy relationships with others is a key part of this narrative. There are many internal obstacles that Kia and the others must overcome in order to accept each other for the way they are. In addition, we are shown the importance of being one’s self and staying true to one’s values. There were times where I felt that Kia was maybe being a bit too immature compared to how she presents herself most of the time. However, this ended up highlighting how much she changes and matures throughout the course of the narrative.

Yeager’s writing itself is very strong and easy to read. Her voice is absolutely perfect for the age of the readers this novel is meant for. She does a brilliant job of vividly creating a fun and distinctive world that stimulates the imagination. The technology is very unique and exciting to envision—almost magical. Yeager’s characters are multi-dimensional and clearly evolve through all the obstacles they must face. The way she portrays the team gradually learning to work together as well as forming trust and, ultimately, close friendships is fantastic.

One problem that I had with the plot of the novel was with the believability of the team’s first approach to creating their major invention. These kids are supposed to be some of the brightest minds in the country, capable of not only building, but imagining all types of gadgets and groundbreaking technology that will power the advancement of society.

Kia’s previous ideas for her own personal inventions are complex and innovative, and they show off her natural skill and remarkable intellect. However, what the team eventual decides on for their major invention is honestly pretty disappointing. It just felt as if they were not showing much if any of the amazing talent that they all clearly possess. It’s hard to believe that their big idea would manifest in the form that it does.

Now, please bear with me for this next part. I do realize how silly this is going to sound since this is a middle grade novel, so I apologize in advance.

I’m left feeling conflicted over my biggest issue with the plot—the ultimate invention they create for the contest. At first it feels like a really neat idea, giving us a unique way to look into the past and learn in detail about any person in history. Being able to essentially bring the past back to life and explore any individual’s role in society would be incredible. However, the invention itself quickly takes a turn for the worse, feeling quite creepy and disturbing rather than uniquely fascinating.

There is a fine line between innocently gaining knowledge and invading privacy, and this quickly descends into the latter category. It becomes particularly concerning when Kia and the rest of the team use their invention multiple times to access records of things like private phone conversations and incredibly personal information.

Everyone’s right to privacy is a very topical discussion, and this novel is an eerily realistic potential future. This story raises the question of what parts of our lives are acceptable to be made public in a database and what parts should be kept out. It delves into an extremely morally gray area under the guise of a fun and innovative creation by a group of highly intelligent young minds.

On top of all this, they don’t actually come up with any of the real mechanics of the invention—they end up taking a previous team’s creation and dressing it up a little bit. That left me feeling very disappointed, as it completely wipes out the most important messages Yeager is trying to convey through this story. The importance of thinking outside the box, being creative, and achieving a goal through teamwork cannot possibly be shown through what they end up doing. Even the initial project they come up with at least demonstrated those themes much better.

Are these things that a young reader in this book’s target age range would notice? Most likely not. These thoughts are just a mixture of my typical over-thinking and my admittedly very cynical adult view of the world. I am definitely not the right audience for this particular novel and I completely realize that.

Overall, this is a good book for children in the range of maybe eight to eleven. It promotes topics that are essential to learn from a young age, and this story is an imaginative and entertaining way to encourage people to open their minds to all possibilities and understand that they all have the ability to do great things. This is not a novel that will necessarily be enjoyable to people of any age, but I would recommend this to young readers due to the positivity of most of the messages at the center of this story.

3.5 TARDISes

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Review: The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower

themagnificentflyingbaronestateThe Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: The Bizarre Baron Inventions #1

Date Published: May 16th, 2017

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 242 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Waldo Baron awakes one morning to find his inventor parents have turned their house into a flying machine, and they intend to enter into a race across the country in the hopes of winning the $500 prize. His parents’ plans go astray when they are kidnapped by Rose Blackwood, the sister of notorious villain Benedict Blackwood, who intends to use the prize money to free her brother from prison. But Rose is not what she seems to be, and Waldo finds himself becoming friends with their kindly kidnapper as they race across the country in the magnificent flying Baron estate!

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This is such a fun, adorable, and hilarious little novel. It is an extremely quirky adventure on a crazy flying machine, filled with ruthless bandits, insane inventors, and quite possibly the clumsiest kid in the world. While it is an incredibly over-the-top and outlandish story, I personally loved the randomness and absurdity of these characters’ journey. Every aspect of this novel is charming, having an overall atmosphere of warmth, family, and love. Though I am far from the target age-range of the intended audience for this book, I still had a fantastic time reading it—I could hardly keep a smile off my face.

In this novel, we follow a young boy named Waldo “W.B.” Baron as he wakes up one day to find out that his crazy inventor parents have renovated their house into a flying home. They plan to enter a competition where they are meant to fly around 1890’s North America on a scavenger hunt—the first people to return with every item on the list will win five-hundred dollars.

However, their plans take a twist when Rose Blackwood, the sister of the country’s most notorious criminal, sneaks aboard their flying house and holds W.B. and his family hostage. Her plan? To complete the race with the Baron family, then rob them of the prize in order to break her brother, Benedict Blackwood, out of jail. But, Rose Blackwood turns out to be much different than W.B. expected, and soon, relationships change and unexpected alliances form as they flounder through one outrageous event after another.

I absolutely flew through this novel, and not only because of its length—with nonstop action, there was not a single moment that dragged along. The readability as well as the weirdness of this story are really what pulled me in. There is a twinge of childishness to it, which is to be expected from a middle grade novel, but personally as an adult, this did not deter me in any way.

Bower’s characters were a fantastic part of this novel. W.B. was loveably dorky and clumsy, and someone you can’t help but root for. His parents are welcoming and kindhearted, and unabashedly goofy, but also highly intelligent scientists. Rose Blackwood was easily the most complex and interesting character in the whole story—and she has quite a bit in common with W.B. They both feel like outcasts in their own lives, in their families, and are struggling to assimilate. But along the way, they both learn their significance and where they fit in the world, as well as how to love themselves, faults and all.

This novel felt very jumbled, which many times negatively impacts a story—however, in this case, that was not necessarily true. Each individual event that occurs all come together in one nonsensical escapade—and honestly, it works, at least it did in my experience. It adds to the craziness and quirkiness of the characters and how they handle the obstacles that are thrown their way. Much of the humor comes from this element of as well—from both how utterly random and out-of-the-blue every event is, to how the characters flounder around on their way through each stage of the challenge.

This is a novel that readers will only enjoy if they suspend their disbelief and just immerse themselves in the unique world of W.B. and his gang. There are parts that become a bit repetitive, and certain scenes feel like they are rushed through much too quickly, but these are really just signs of the genre and length of the novel. That is one of the reasons I found this to be one of those middle grade books that is going to primarily garner a younger following rather than a much more universal one.

As for the actual writing itself, I really liked Bower’s style. His writing flowed very well and carried the story along at a fast yet easy to follow pace. Bower’s humor was wonderful and absolutely perfect for a middle grade novel. There is a very child-like feel to this story overall that makes it, as I said, something that is a bit less of a multi-generational read than some other middle grade stories.

This primarily focuses on being a novel for a younger audience. However, I do think that it can be fun for both children and those who are children at heart. It is a novel that anyone of any age can fall right in to and love every second of. With plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and heartwarming relationships, it’s hard not to become invested in the lives and escapades of these characters.

It is a big-hearted story of learning to accept both who you and the people in your life are. It is about learning to hold your own, be happy with yourself—inside and out—and finding out where you fit into the great puzzle that is life. Though the eccentricity of the plot might not strike the right chord with everyone, I would wholeheartedly recommend giving this story a try.

4.0 TARDISes

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May 2017 TBR

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Happy May, everyone!

Wow, this month really flew by! I had a surprisingly good reading and reviewing month, especially compared to the last few. I think I can safely say that I am out of my reading and blogging slump!

This past month, I ended up reading twelve books, which is insane considering I was barely managing to read one book per month for so long! I definitely want to keep up this momentum while I have it. My goal for each month is about ten books, so I’ve decided my TBRs will consist of ten to fifteen possibilities to choose from…that are most definitely subject to change since I am a mood reader! 😛

May TBR

Spellslingers by Sebastien de Castell

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There are three things that earn you a man’s name among the Jan’Tep. The first is to demonstrate the strength to defend your family. The second is to prove you can perform the high magic that defines our people. The third is surviving your fourteenth year. I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn’t be doing any of those things.”
Kellen’s dreams of becoming a powerful mage like his father are shattered after a failed magical duel results in the complete loss of his abilities. When other young mages begin to suffer the same fate, Kellen is accused of unleashing a magical curse on his own clan and is forced to flee with the help of a mysterious foreign woman who may in fact be a spy in service to an enemy country. Unsure of who to trust, Kellen struggles to learn how to survive in a dangerous world without his magic even as he seeks out the true source of the curse. But when Kellen uncovers a conspiracy hatched by members of his own clan seeking to take power, he races back to his city in a desperate bid to outwit the mages arrayed against him before they can destroy his family.
Spellslinger is heroic fantasy with a western flavour.

Alice by J.M. Sullivan

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“Always protect your queen.”
Ever since the outbreak of the Plague, life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll, it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure, will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.
Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote – if it exists. Chasing a rumor about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking.

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

pretendwearelovely

Consuming and big-hearted, Noley Reid’s Pretend We Are Lovely details a summer in the life of the Sobel family in 1980s Blacksburg, Virginia, seven years after the tragic and suspicious death of a son and sibling.
Francie Sobel dresses in tennis skirts and ankle socks and weighs her allotted grams of carrots and iceberg lettuce. Semi-estranged husband Tate prefers a packed fridge and secret doughnuts. Daughters Enid, ten, and Vivvy, thirteen, are subtler versions of their parents, measuring their summer vacation by meals eaten or skipped. But at summer’s end, secrets both old and new come to the surface and Francie disappears, leaving the family teetering on the brink.?
Without their mother’s regimental love, and witnessing their father flounder in his new position of authority, the girls must navigate their way through middle school, find comfort in each other, and learn the difference between food and nourishment.

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

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Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

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In the underground city of Caverna, the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare—wines that remove memories, cheeses that make you hallucinate, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. On the surface, the people of Caverna seem ordinary, except for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to express (or fake) joy, despair, or fear—at a steep price. Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. Neverfell’s expressions are as varied and dynamic as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, except hers are entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed . . . 

Roses by Melinda Michaels

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When Poppy Pruette comes home for the summer after her first year at college, she expects it to be just like every summer before it: filled with cookouts, nosy neighbors, town hall meetings and long, hot days.
She never expects a murder. Not in Miner’s Way, Virginia. 
But the sanctity of her small town is shattered when Poppy’s widely beloved grandmother, Rose, is brutally killed the night of a neighborhood barbecue. No one knows what to make of it or who might be responsible, least of all Poppy—until Detective Owen Peirce arrives from out of town with strange questions and a family history far more sinister than Poppy ever imagined.
Owen believes Poppy was the intended target, not Rose. Now, to save herself, Poppy must go into hiding and learn the truth about her family legacy. What she uncovers will change her life forever. 
A grim and delightfully plausible fairy tale retelling, Roses is the story of a young woman contending with the question: what do we owe to our ancestors?

The Perfect Stanger by Megan Miranda

theperfectstranger

In the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls, a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.
Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later. 
Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.
Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower

themagnificentflyingbaronestate

Waldo Baron awakes one morning to find his inventor parents have turned their house into a flying machine, and they intend to enter into a race across the country in the hopes of winning the $500 prize. His parents’ plans go astray when they are kidnapped by Rose Blackwood, the sister of notorious villain Benedict Blackwood, who intends to use the prize money to free her brother from prison. But Rose is not what she seems to be, and Waldo finds himself becoming friends with their kindly kidnapper as they race across the country in the magnificent flying Baron estate!

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

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At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.
Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness. 
Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.
The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell

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With swashbuckling action that recalls Dumas’s Three Musketeers, Sebastien de Castell has created a dynamic new fantasy series. In Traitor’s Blade, a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.
The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they’ll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor’s blade.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I’m Traveling Alone by Samuel Bjork

imtravelingalone

A six-year-old girl is found in the Norwegian countryside, hanging lifeless from a tree with a jump rope around her neck. She is dressed in strange doll’s clothes. Around her neck is an airline tag that says “I’m traveling alone.” 
A special homicide unit in Oslo re-opens with veteran police investigator Holger Munch at the helm. Holger’s first step is to persuade the brilliant but haunted investigator Mia Krüger to come back to the squad–she’s been living on an isolated island, overcome by memories of her past. When Mia views a photograph of the crime scene and spots the number “1” carved into the dead girl’s fingernail, she knows this is only the beginning. She’ll soon discover that six years earlier, an infant girl was abducted from a nearby maternity ward. The baby was never found. Could this new killer have something to do with the missing child, or with the reclusive Christian sect hidden in the nearby woods?
Mia returns to duty to track down a revenge-driven and ruthlessly intelligent killer. But when Munch’s own six-year-old granddaughter goes missing, Mia realizes that the killer’s sinister game is personal, and I’m Traveling Alone races to an explosive–and shocking–conclusion.

The Owl Always Hunts at Night by Samuel Bjork

theowlalwayshuntsatnight

When a troubled teenager disappears from an orphanage and is found murdered, her body arranged on a bed of feathers, veteran investigator Holger Munch and his team are called into the case. Star investigator Mia Kruger, on temporary leave while she continues to struggle with her own demons, jumps back on the team and dives headfirst into this case: just in time to decode the clues in a disturbing video of the victim before she was killed, being held prisoner like an animal in a cage.
Meanwhile, Munch s daughter, Miriam, meets an enticing stranger at a party a passionate animal rights activist who begins to draw her into his world and away from her family.
Munch, Kruger, and the team must hunt down the killer before he can strike again in this sophisticated, intricately plotted psychological thriller by the newest phenomenon in international crime fiction.

April Wrap-Up

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco – 3/5 stars (Full Review)

Bitter Roots by C.J, Carmichael – 1.5/5 stars (Full Review)

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz – 5/5 stars (Full Review)

A Chosen War by Carly Eldridge – 2/5 stars (Full Review)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire – 5/5 stars (Full Review)

The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan – 4.5/5 stars

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – 5/5 stars

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang – 3.5/5

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen

Volume 1 – 3/5 stars

Volume 2 – 4/5 stars

Volume 3 – 3/5 stars

Volume 4 – 4/5 stars

What books are you guys planning on reading this month? What were some of your reads last month? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

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