Weathering Change is THE GREATEST SUPERPOWER–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a Middle Grade LGBTQ story that really resonated with me from Alex Sanchez. GREATEST SUPERPOWER features twin middle school boys dealing with their father’s unexpected male-to-female transition. This is the second book I’ve read from Mr. Sanchez; check out my review of YOU BROUGHT ME THE OCEAN, a M/M teen graphic novel featuring Aqualad.

About the book:
As summer draws to a close, 13-year-old Jorge wants nothing more than to spend his days hanging out with his fellow comic book-obsessed friends. But then his parents announce they’re divorcing for a reason Jorge and his twin brother never saw coming—their father comes out as transgender.

My Review:
Jorge is a 13 year old incoming eighth grader at his Texas middle-school. He’s kind of quiet and artistic, the complete opposite of his sporty and outgoing twin, Cesar, who has a pretty girlfriend and is angling to be student body president. Their worlds were rocked at the beginning of summer when their parents split up somewhat unexpectedly.

See, Jorge new there was trouble in his parent’s marriage, but he didn’t think divorce was an option. And, when his mom and dad sit him and Cesar down to discuss why dad is moving out they are both dumbstruck. He’s transgender and transitioning to a female–and this means he needs to move out. Because, while he and his wife still love each other, they can’t really live together as spouses any longer. It’s unsettling for Jorge and Cesar on so many levels. Jorge depended on his dad for so much, since he had stayed at home, working freelance while his mom had a higher-pressure job outside the home.

This book is so sweet and so poignant, with a lot of layers. Jorge watches as his father (deadname: Norberto) becomes Norma, weathering the animosity Cesar lashes out each time he returns from a visit. Also, he’s struggling with inadequacy as a Mexican-American; he’s fair like his white mother, while Cesar is dark like their Mexican-American father, and Cesar’s clearly unhappy with his dark skin–to the point it kind of drives a wedge between them. Cesar won’t spend any time with Norma, and threatens Jorge not to reveal their secret. Thing is, they live in the same neighborhood and Norma, who is out-and-about in her female experiences. Jorge knows it’s only a matter of time before she is recognized by his friends. And, as he’s coming to terms with it, but it’s still so awkward and there is still so much hurt and betrayal. It was interesting to see Jorge positioning himself with his friends to write a comic about a trans character–who’s superpower is defeating the bullies of the world…rather fabulously. And, their support really is a balm when Jorge needs it.

Jorge also develops a big crush on a new girl whose sensibilities are aligned toward acceptance and equality. They have a connection, but it’s hard to be real while also hiding a huge secret. Through this girl Jorge’s befriending a genderqueer person in his middle school. It’s enlightening, seeing this person’s struggle and relating it to his father’s experience. Jorge’s attempts to keep his father’s transition a secret are jeopardizing the friendships he’s so desperate to hold onto. Meanwhile, his relationship with Cesar is deteriorating.

I really loved how Jorge processed the struggle of his parents’ marriage ending, his father’s pain and difficulty in living his truth, the recognition that relationships are hard–even in middle school. It’s so tenderly rendered, with such love for Jorge whose emotional challenges are intense. These months in his life mark a huge turning point in his growth, and I loved that the character really acted as a kid does, and with a kid’s sensibilities. Jorge gets mad with his dad, doesn’t understand the bone deep ache Norma experiences and then really listens to the situation.

This is a special kind of book. I would highly recommend it for LGBTQI children, families that support them, and anyone who loves a good family-centered realistic middle grade story.

Interested? You can find THE GREATEST SUPERPOWER on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

About the Author:
Alex Sanchez has published eight novels, including the American Library Association “Best Book for Young Adults” Rainbow Boys and the Lambda Award-winning So Hard to Say. His novel Bait won the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Book Award and the Florida Book Award Gold Medal for Young Adult Literature. An immigrant from Mexico, Alex received his master’s in guidance and counseling and worked for many years as a youth and family counselor. Now when not writing, he tours the country talking with teens, librarians, and educators about books, diversity, and acceptance. He lives in Penfield, New York.

You can find Alex on his website, twitter, Facebook.
target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse April 2017 MEAN MARGARET–A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m featuring a book I read with my kids, so it’s middle grade fiction. If you’re interested in more adult-type of literature, I’d recommend IF NOT FOR YOU (chaste contemporary romance) by Debbie Macomber, or STARTING FROM SCRATCH (transgender romance) by Jay Northcote.

I live in a town close to Chicago–we share a border with the city in fact–so we’re often lucky enough to be a stop for children’s authors and artists on tours, especially because we have a charming indie bookstore which organizes school visits. That’s how we met Jon Agee who happened to illustrate MEAN MARGARET, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature (1997) written by Tor Seidler.

About the book:
Question: What do a pair of newlywed woodchucks, a squirrel, a testy snake, a skunk, and a couple of bats have in common with a family of pudgy human beings named Hubble? Answer: Their lives are all turned topsy-turvey by a tyrannical toddler named Margaret.

Question: Will Margaret ever realize that there’s more to life than being mean? Answer: Read this touching comedy and find out.

My Review:
Truly, this book wouldn’t have been in my usual pick-ups, but Mr. Agee is an engaging artist, and my son begged to see him up-close and personal, and the cover was good, so I said what the heck and got him to sign it for us. (With a few other picture books he’s written and illustrated and this kids adore.) I couldn’t embrace the title–MEAN MARGARET–which was why I didn’t think I’d like it.

So, the story, at it’s heart is about changing one’s behavior. It’s mostly a story about Fred, a fussy woodchuck, who really doesn’t like to get dirty, or dig in the dirt, or be much like other woodchucks. But Fred can’t deny his nature, not when his cold shoulder keeps him from sleeping and he believes the only way to ease the ache is to find a wife. Not just any woodchuck will do for Fred, however, and after much searching, he finds Phoebe, the kindest, sweetest woodchuck who is also shy, and neat, like Fred. And they’re living a mostly quiet, happy life until one day human children abandon their demanding toddler sister in the woods outside Fred and Phoebe’s den–and Phoebe decides she must adopt the human. Fred, because he loves Phoebe, goes along on this madcap adventure, forsaking all his earlier pretensions, and being fussy and tidy, in order to appease this voracious, crabby, ungrateful being–and make Phoebe happy. And Margaret, named by Phoebe, is a brat who must learn to behave. Or else.

My boys laughed a good bit, and the story–though it started slow for me–becomes very engaging. Margaret is the ninth child of a slovenly family and the living embodiment of adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Her constant clamoring for more attention and more food have driven Six, Seven, and Eight to the desperate measures that lead to Margaret meeting Fred and Phoebe. Soon, Margaret outgrows the woodchuck den–not before mostly destroying it–and Phoebe and Fred must move into a dank cave with a menagerie of forest folk who assist with Margaret’s care, until she wears out her welcome by, yes, being a brat. The humor is sweet, and wry, especially because Fred is such a deadpan wit of a narrator, so I relished those moments where I got a joke that was lost on the kiddos.

For a book I wouldn’t have borrowed from the library, it’s now become a cherished part of our own collection, and I’m sure I’ll read it again in couple years when my 4-year old will enjoy it more. So, yeah, the title was a turn off for me, but the book as charming and I totally get why it was a finalist for a National Book Award.

Interested? You can find MEAN MARGARET on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and libraries everywhere.

Thanks for popping in, and hop on over to my see what books my fellow Coffeehouse Reviewers found most interesting this month.

Long And Winding Road–THE SECRET KEEPERS-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a middle grade fantasy from Trenton Lee Stewart. THE SECRET KEEPERS is an adventure that keeps on going, set in a world under the control of a madman and unraveled by one ingenious 11 year old.

secret-keepersAbout the book:
Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author and E.B. White Read Aloud Award winner Trenton Lee Stewart returns with a captivating, heart-stopping adventure about thrilling secrets and dangerous mysteries–and the courage to reveal the most frightening of truths.

Eleven-year-old Reuben spends his days exploring, hiding, and practicing parkour among the abandoned buildings of the Lower Downs as a way to escape the rough times that have befallen him and his mom–but his discovery of an extraordinary antique pocket watch changes everything. When Reuben finds that the watch has the power to turn him invisible, he’s propelled on the adventure of a lifetime.

Now Reuben is being pursued by a group of dangerous men called the Directions, and someone–or something–ominously called The Smoke. They all want the watch, and with the help of new friends, it’s up to Reuben to unravel the mysteries surrounding it and protect the city from evil.

New York Times bestselling author Trenton Lee Stewart’s latest novel will enthrall old and new fans alike with the twists and turns of an inventive and compelling adventure reminiscent of The Mysterious Benedict Society series.

My Review:
3.5 stars for this winding Middle Grade adventure.

Reuben is an 11 y/o boy whose mother works two jobs to support them in the tenements of the Lower Downs, a run-down district of New Umbra. It’s summer and shy Reuben spends his long days exploring all around his neighborhood, and avoiding the Directions, collections of four men–who always look out in one of the four directions–who shake down the local merchants for pay-offs on a weekly basis. They work for the dodgy man known as the Counselor, who reports directly to The Smoke–a man no one can attest to ever seeing, but who nevertheless pretty much runs New Umbra, mafioso-style.

One day while exploring, Reuben discovers a mysterious watch hidden in an alley–and he believes that he could sell this antique watch and make enough money to support his mother for years to come. Only, all the watchmakers seem to want to buy it for very little money. One, Mrs. Genevieve, is horrified about the watch when Reuben comes acalling. All watchmakers have been warned to immediately call the Counselor if this watch turns up. This sets Reuben to working on the watch, and discovering it’s dangerous secret: it can render the bearer invisible for short lengths of time. It seems ripe for profit, but the Directions are turning neighborhoods in the Lower Downs inside out looking for Reuben and his fantastic watch.

So, Reuben not only can’t profit from his find, he knows that he’s in terrible danger from The Smoke, so he must discover the mystery behind the watch in order to return it to the rightful owner. Therein begins a bit of subterfuge, and a long trip, and the end of a hundred years quest for the Meyer family, sworn defenders of the watch. It allows Reuben to make friends for the first time, as Jack and Penny Meyer vow to help Reuben free himself for the scrutiny of The Smoke.

This is an interesting read. It’s also a very long read. I felt as if the tension wasn’t very high for nearly the first 150 pages, and while all those winding paths were eventually reunited into a robust trail at the end, it wasn’t very satisfying. All those long-winded descriptions had nip-and-tuck resolutions, and I found the pacing to be a challenge to my interest. I liked the mysteries, and I liked the camaraderie that eventually developed, but I truly would have enjoyed the book far better had it been at least a third shorter.

I’m not going to reveal more plot. It’s convoluted and yet interesting. I liked the idea of the story more than I liked the execution, which felt rambling and verbose in many patches. I almost despaired that the book would not have a solid resolution, that we’d be dragged into a sequel, but that wasn’t the case, and for that I was absolutely grateful. It’s not a bad book. It’s just slow, and all the action is understated. I think kids who really like adventure and mystery stories will enjoy this book.

Interested? You can find THE SECRET KEEPERS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your public library. It was in my local bookstore yesterday, but the ebook releases today.

About the Author:
Trenton Lee Stewart is the author of the award-winning, bestselling Mysterious Benedict Society series for young readers; The Secret Keepers, also for young readers; and the adult novel Flood Summer. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse April 2016–MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS-A Review

Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m so excited to share a middle-grade story with a tiny dash of romance. MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS is a romp through the world of Dillon, a 7th grade boy, who wants–more than anything–to learn how to dance. And, who secretly loves his dance partner, bestie, Kassie.

My Seventh-Grade Life in TightsAbout the book:
All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?

Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor.

My Review:
This is a sweet and charming book about a young boy following his dream, even if it means sacrificing himself along the way.

Twelve year-old Dillon Parker is a perpetual bench-warmer on his middle school football team. That doesn’t stop his father from talking it up, and talking down all his attempts to get training in dance. His two best friends, Kassie and Carson, both have had studio dance lessons, and they detest dance schools for that very reason. Still, they love to dance and this trio works hard at expressing passion in the form of dance. Dillon feels as if he’s the worst of the lot, most of his dance moves being inspired by karate moves, a “style” he calls ninja freestyle. He desperately wants to be better, for himself, and for his dance crew, the Dizzee Freekz, but neither Kassie nor Carson will offer him any instruction.

When Dillon learns that a renown studio, Dance Splosion, is offering a three-week dance camp scholarship he creates an entry video. Too embarrassed to send it in, Dillon’s actually encouraged by his fellow Freekz to do just that: enter the contest, with the intention of turning it down, thereby humiliating the studio.

Yes, it’s a completely juvenile revenge plot. And, it’s deftly executed with just the right amount of doubt, self-examination, and subterfuge. To be successful in the contest, Dillon seeks help from Sarah, Dance Splosion star student. She agrees, at first as vengeance for a slight made by Kassie. When she learns that Kassie isn’t up for the competition, Sarah still helps Dillon learn how to dance, and it’s unclear why she’d help him. A secondary nefarious plot, perhaps?

What I really loved about this book was what I love about most middle-grade: tons of heart, tons of insecurity, tons of finding one’s path moments. Dillon feels simultaneously guilty for accepting Sarah’s help, as he must cut himself off from the Dizzee Freekz as part of his deal, but he’s also rocking out, feeling like a real dancer for the first time ever. Sarah’s an excellent dancer, and a good instructor, but she’s not very nice, and being around her only reminds Dillon of how much fun his other friends are.

The plot of the book allowed for many ups and downs, with great supporting characters that are real, and very much imperfect. I had so many fantastic moments of YES! and other fantastic moments of DON’T DO IT, DILLON! There are plenty of excellent insights about being true to one’s self, following your dreams, Don’t give up, being a team player. All of this happens organically, and Dillon’s an excellent naive hero. He’s an everyday kid, no special talent, and all of his success, if any comes, is down to his hard work. Dillon also has to educate his father regarding prejudice, and you can be sure the G-A-Y word is tossed around–not without consequence! Such fun, and told in a way that’s totally engaging and accessible to kids of that age. Expect a diverse cast, a tiny dash of romance, and unexpected friendships.

Interested? You can find MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and likely your public library.

Thanks for popping in! Hope you’ll bop over to check out the fave reads of my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers.


Hi all! Today I’m getting a little punky…steampunk-y, that is. As you may have learned from some of my reviews, I’m a total science geek. *shrugs* As, such, the steampunk genre lights up all my bells and whistles. Gail Carriager’s Middle Grade/Tween/YA steampunk novel, CURTSIES & CONSPIRACIES, features a 15 y/o girl with a big imagination and lots of spirit, Sophronia, who happens to be my kindred spirit.

Curtsies and ConspiraciesAbout the book:

Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing. For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ships boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is at first apparent. A conspiracy is afoot—one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans.

Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

My Review:
This second book of the Finishing School series picks up several months after the first, with (now 15 y/o) Sophronia Temminnick back at school following the thwarting of several groups’ attempts at obtaining the “prototype”. What we learn is this prototype is a guidance valve, for use in transmission across the aetherosphere. And, it had been created by the parents of Sophronia’s dearest friends, Dimity and Pillover.

This tale brings Mlle. Geraldine’s floating Finishing School into London–along with the company of ten male students from Bunsen’s School of Evil Geniuses, among them Pillover and Lord Felix Mersey who is quite taken with Sophronia.

Attempts to kidnap Dimity are dashed by Sophronia’s quick thinking and incomplete training, but Sophronia knows she must learn whom is behind the attempts, in order to keep her dear friend safe. Also, the cause of their mission–observation of a transchannel trip through the aetherosphere—seems to be far outside the realm of normal intelligencer behavior. It seems there is a covert test planned, one that may cause great harm to Sophronia’s favorite vampire professor.

In unraveling the conspiracy, Sophronia must keep her wits and seek alliances with old friends and new acquaintance–even dandy vampires riding about the London scene. Sophronia’s uncanny ability to spy, scheme and escape are put to the test when Dimity and Pillover are finally napped. But, can she apply her training to remover herself from the sticky business of finding herself caught between two suitors–especially those who do not suit? In the end, Sophronia discredits one teacher, nearly gets another murdered, and learns to accept that sometimes her schemes will force her to employ–gasp!–a dandy gentleman’s attire.

Oh, and it seems Sophronia’s being courted. By more than one powerful man. With all the mayhem and gore, this book’s heavy on the espionage and light on the romance, though the book seems decidedly more YA than the first one in the series (which I would suggest is Tween). The pace is blistering and the language is humorous and fascinating. I love the period speech, and the nuances of manners, how they are used to advantage by these intelligencing women. Lord Mersey will be a problem, no doubt, going forward, but so will Sophronia’s “friendship” with Soap, the black sootie. Looking forward to the next adventure.

Interested? You can find CURTSIES AND CONSPIRACIES on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and lots of other places, for sure. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

As this is the second book in the series, I’d recommend reading book one, ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE, first. Not only because it’s a hoot of a story, but because the books are built to be a series, and so lots of the characters and their relationships have been fully described in ETIQUETTE. Click here for my review.

Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School, #1)About the book:

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother’s existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea–and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right–but it’s a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

Gail Carriger
About the Author:
Ms. Carriger writes steampunk urbane fantasy comedies of manners to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. She then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by a harem of shoes, where she insists on tea imported directly from London and cats that pee into toilets. Her books are all New York Times Bestsellers.

You can find her on her website, Goodreads and twitter. Gail has a fun newsletter the Monthly Chirrup, and you can sign up here.

It’s Showtime for REALITY NATALIE–A Review and Giveaway!

Hi all! Today I have the pleasure to review a book for a dear friend and fellow writer, Katie Sparks. Her first published book, REALITY NATALIE is a Middle Grade story about a girl who gets into a good bit of trouble with her parents and friends on her way to winning a spot on a local TV show.

Reality NatalieAbout the book:

CAMERAS ROLLING…ACTION! The most popular kids’ TV show, Kidz Konnection, decides to hold auditions for a guest host spot, and the show’s BIGGEST fan decides to audition.

[Cue Natalie Greyson]

Eleven-year-old Natalie is determined to overcome her habit of turning into a tongue-tied, air ball burping, runny-nose disaster whenever something embarrassing happens in front of an audience so she can audition for the coveted role. As the show’s biggest fan, no one could possibly deserve it more than her. Except a giant obstacle stands in her way: her parents, who deny her permission, think she is too young to be on TV. To make matters even worse, Natalie’s naturally talented best friend, Kailyn, decides to audition too, and will stop at nothing to win – like lying during a practice session and tearing up their friendship pact.

With their friendship suddenly in question, Natalie turns to her blog, In A “Nat” Shell, to vent her frustrations about Kailyn’s spiteful actions, but Natalie’s emotional outpouring and lies only creates more anxiety for herself. With the stakes high, Natalie goes against her parent’s wishes and decides to audition, but Kailyn has her own secret plan to be Number One, even if it means doing so at the expense of her best friend. Can Natalie find a way out of the drama and into the spotlight? Or will the competitive pressure cause her to lose her ultimate dream along with her best friend?

My Review:
Natalie is an ordinary girl with big dreams. Hearing that her favorite TV show is having auditions for a guest host, she’s ready to spring into action. Unfortunately, her skeptical parents are overwhelmed with work. Realizing the audition date falls on the same day her 4 year old siblings (twin terrors) are scheduled for a magazine cover shoot, they put the kibosh on. Oh, and to add to this disappointment Natalie’s friend, the uber-talented Kailyn who wins every talent show, has decided to audition for the part.

Life is so unfair!

Natalie doesn’t want to give up on her dream, however, and strives to find a way to get on the TV set. A school field trip to a local TV news studio seems to be Natalie’s best chance at practicing for stardom, but, alas, Natalie suffers a humiliation almost beyond bearing. Relying on Kailyn to help her chances isn’t a good idea either–it seems Kailyn is all about winning, even if it hurts their friendship.

With the audition days away, Natalie’s guilty of lying, sneaking, and impersonating a parent–not to mention losing a good friend and stage fright. How can Natalie make amends, and get the part? Well, Natalie’s in for a big dose of reality, and earns some second chances.

I like Natalie. She’s a real kid–the kind who’ll try to sneak a second cookie into her lunch, or get angry at a friend, or offer her second-best pencil to a classmate in need. She has issues with her parents, thinking she’s the odd-kid-out as they deal with the stress of twins and careers, but she has a good relationship with them, nonetheless. They talk. They work stuff out. Natalie knows she can voice her fears and be heard–when she tries find a good time for conversation, anyway.

The secondary characters are also very well-written and playful, adding humor, burping, and general social ickyness. Hey, they’re 11. They’re entitled. 😉 Natalie and Kailyn are also friends with Maggie, who helps them work through the competition aspect of their friendship. And, Gross Robbie is part confidante, part comic relief. He has some keen insight, and some muddy sneakers.

This is a story suited for girls in that 4-5-6th grade age group, where the dynamics of friendship are changing and cliques are developing. Natalie questions her friendship with Kailyn and if the loss would be outweighed by gaining the TV show spot. I think she makes some good decisions here. Natalie’s fervent wish to be chosen for the TV show, even ahead of Kailyn, is a very genuine desire to which readers can relate. Natalie has the chance to be mean, and sabotage Kailyn, but chooses the higher ground and I admired her for that. It’s a fun read sure to entertain middle grade/tween readers.

Interested? You can find REALITY NATALIE on Goodreads and Amazon. I received this book from the author because we’re friends, and I begged for a final copy after I spent years hearing pieces of if read aloud in our writers critique group. Congrats, Katie! I’m so glad to watch your dream come true.

WIN A COPY on Goodreads by entering HERE!

Katie SparksAbout the Author:
At a very young age, Katie Sparks discovered the magic of books. She counted on weekly library visits and treasured receiving her first library card at the age of five. At six, she wrote her first story called Baby Carrie (still in her collection today!)

Katie knew then that writing would be in her future. By day, she is an editor for the parent consumer line at a non-profit medical association and enjoys working closely with authors and industry professionals. Immersed in the publishing industry in both her professional and personal life is a dream come true. On weekends you will often find her writing and sipping coffee at one of the many unique coffee shops in Chicago, spending time with family and friends, or curled up with a new book.

Katie has been an active member of SCBWI for the past seven years. She lives in Chicago with her devoted and extremely vocal cat Moe. Reality Natalie, published by Firedrake Books, is her first novel.

You can catch up with Katie online on her website, Goodreads, and twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Ever Have One of Those Days? FAERY SWAP–A Review and Giveaway!

For those who’ve never experienced the disorientation of Spring Forward…I dislike you, greatly.

See, in the US we decide to “jump” the clocks forward by an hour every Spring and the body clock takes about a week to fully adjust to the dark mornings and odd eating times. [Just one more reason to despise Ben Franklin, LOL.] Truly, today I’ll eat lunch at probably 10 am and dinner at 8pm because my stomach can’t figure out what the heck the solar visual cues mean. Don’t think I’m the only kook out there; today is notoriously bad for traffic accidents with sleepy drivers causing more morning crashes…

With my body being so out-of-kilter I thought I’d feature a book I recently read by a dear writing friend, Susan Kaye Quinn. Not that it’s odd for me to recommend her work–but I don’t usually review Middle Grade books. I read them, of course–I have an 11 year old child–yet, the story’s sense of being out of both place and time fit beautifully with my Spring Forward disorientation.

Faery SwapTHE FAERY SWAP features two young(ish) boys–Finn, a human, and Zaneyr, a faery–who trade souls on the summer solstice in Amesbury, England–a stone’s throw from, you guessed it, Stone Henge.

Finn’s whole life is devoted to keeping his sister, Erin, safe and out of foster care. See, they aren’t orphans but their mom died a few years ago and their dad, a mathematics professor, is parentally MIA. On the way to school one morning, Finn is tricked into helping a strange boy with the smallest of tasks–picking up a dropped coin–and plummets into a realm of magic and fantasy the likes he never could have imagined.

Zaneyr is determined to thwart his father, King Dageyr, from sealing the Rift–the magical space erected between the human and faery world 4000 years ago. In this breach of space-time, Zaneyr’s mother was lost, locked into the mortal human world, while those in the faery Otherworld lived on, never aging. Each summer solstice, emissaries of the faery world are sent to Earth to learn of any advancements in math or science that might lead humans to Otherworld. Due to the time distortions of the Rift, a year in Otherworld equals a century of Earth years, so the advancements move quickly, compared to Otherworld time.

Knowing that sealing the Rift will lead to many mortal lives lost, Zaneyr risks shifting with Finn–even if it means sending Finn’s soul to Otherworld forever. One life must be worth more than the thousands that will be lost if King Dageyr’s plan is complete, right?

Of course, Finn is unwilling to go without a fight. He is assisted in his effort to return to the human realm by a rock sprite named Pyx and Zaneyr’s BFF Liranna, a tough faery who harbors a crush on the impetuous prince. They have less than a day to reverse the swap–by sunset on the solstice the realms will be too far apart for souls to return to their previous realms–so it’s handy that Finn develops some magical skills while trudging through the Otherworld.

Just when Zaneyr is getting settled in Finn’s life, the unimaginable happens–he meets a fellow faery, one who is desperate to return to Otherworld. And, of course, Finn manages to weave a bit of magic that interfere with Zaneyr’s changeling plan.

In the end, it is guidance from Finn’s genius father that stops the realms from merging.

This book is a real treat. Complete, interesting plot arcs call into question some very serious moral issues in a subtle way. For example, is it okay to sacrifice some to save many? And, what is the value of life? Most compelling for me was: is it fair to risk the happiness of everyone to fix an act long regretted?

Most importantly, it is the teen characters who save the day–thwarting the mis-guided plots of King Dageyr to correct past mistakes. The HEA occurs two-fold, with both Zaneyr and Finn having a better place in their realms when the sun finally sets. It’s written with boys in mind–but I believe girls and fantasy lovers of both sexes will enjoy this wholesome tale.

Interested? You can find THE FAERY SWAP on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

About Susan Kaye Quinn:

She’s the author of the bestselling young adult SF Mindjack Trilogy. The Dharian Affairs trilogy is her excuse to dress up in corsets and fight with swords. She also has a dark-and-gritty SF serial for ages 17+ called The Debt Collector and a middle grade fantasy called Faery Swap.

It’s possible she’s easily distracted.

Susan grew up in California, got a bunch of engineering degrees (B.S. Aerospace Engineering, M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering) and worked everywhere from NASA to NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research). She designed aircraft engines, studied global warming, and held elected office (as a school board member). Now that she writes novels, her business card says “Author and Rocket Scientist,” but she mostly sits around in her pajamas in awe that she gets paid to make stuff up.

All her engineering skills come in handy when dreaming up dangerous mindpowers, future dystopic worlds, and slightly plausible steampunk inventions. For her stories, of course. Just ignore that stuff in the basement.

Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as much as she can handle. You can find her on Facebook way too often. Or you can reach her the old-fashioned way: susankayequinn (at) comcast (dot) net

She also does Virtual Author Visits for schools and you can learn about those in this Handy-Dandy YouTube movie…

She’s a dynamic speaker and really inspires people, as you may agree! If you are, or know, a teacher or a librarian, get in touch with Susan about getting in class projects and swag to foster the growth of young minds in both science and writing!

***Blog Tour Giveaway***

Click on the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win
a $25 Amazon Gift Card
a Signed Paperback of Faery Swap
and Two Faery Wands
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Best of luck, and keep reading my friends!