Saturday, May 26, 2012

New YA Novel Features a Ghost and Cheerleaders

Kimberly Dana's latest book will bring hours of reading pleasure to teen girls, especially those with a particular interest in cheerleading.

Years ago, a murder was committed in a cheerleading camp: a beautiful teenager with beautiful red flowing hair was drowned in the lake. Rumors say the killer was her best friend.

Now, ten years later, our witty protagonist Tiki Tinklemeyer is put in the same camp by her parents, who want their daughter to become more social and outgoing. But Tiki couldn't hate the situation more. She feels awkward and out of place, to say the least. She's not into fashion, makeup and boys, like the other girls in the camp. Worst of all, she's never done cheerleading in her life! How could her parents have been so cruel? How will she possibly fit in? Thank God, one of her roommates, Rubi, turns out to be rather nice.
Soon, Tiki finds out about the ten-year old murder and the rumors that the dead girl's ghost still roams the camp. Tiki can handle rumors of ghosts. After all, she's an intelligent girl with common sense. However, things take a turn for the worse when strange events begin to take place in the camp. Is it one of the girls playing a trick on her — or is it the ghost of the murdered girl?

This was a delightful read! Dana really has a talent for getting inside the head of teen girls. The voice is young and fresh and the pace moves quickly with lots of fun, quirky dialogue. So this is a soft horror story with a humorous twist. The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading throughout, and the ending was good, promising more to come in Book Two. The only thing I found a little annoying was how the author wrote the dialogue by some of the girls in capitals. At times it was too much, and I found it distracting. Because of this detail, I'm going to give this book 4.5 instead of 5. Recommended!

To learn more, please visit the author's website at:
Purchase from Amazon.

My review originally appeared in:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review of The Realms of Animar, by Owen Black

The Realms of Animar is an enjoyable read, one that will appeal to teens who are fans of fantasy and science fiction.

Set in a world where people have two forms, one human and one animal, this is the story of Thane, a teenage boy whose life is suddenly turned upside down when his animal form unexpectedly transforms into something never seen before. Filled with inmmense power, he now holds the key to the future of Animar and to saving his people from struggle and oppression. But Fatalis, the evil force who plans to rule Animar, learns about Thane and creates an army to destroy him and anybody who gets in the way of his plan. In order to fight Fatalis, Thane seeks the help of other beings, the Avians and Aquans. In a twist of fate, the hunters and the hunted must get together to save their world. 

Though the beginning was kind of slow, with a lot of information being presented by dialogue, I was intrigued with the story enough to keep reading. The author does a fairly good job in creating his medieval world — which, by the way, doesn't have dragons, elves or sorcery like so many other books in this genre nowadays — and dividing it into five realms: Herbivore, Carnic, Avian, Aquan and Reptilian. I enjoyed the action, battle scenes, and watching Thane grow into a brave, fearless warrior and hero. Though it has some violence, the language and other aspects make this book appropriate for the lower young adult crowd and even for middle graders. Recommended for readers 11 & up.

Purchase from Amazon or B&N

Read more:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Themes in Colors Like Memories

First off, thanks a million for hosting me today! I love connecting with other writers and readers :) And I do have a contest running for my blog tour—all commenter’s are entered into a drawing for two copies of my book, and one person will win a $25 giftcard to Amazon or Barnes & Nobel. There are more details on my home blog, if you want to check it out!

So, today I thought I’d talk a little about the themes in Colors Like Memories—my debut novel published by MuseItUp. Some part of me is going “Oh, great, back to high school English class.” Back then, I was a lot more into reading for an escape than reading for themes and symbolism and all the other stuff that cropped up on midterms and finals. When I’m writing, I’m still more invested in characters and plots and world-building than anything else :) But there are a few things in my book that are subjects that I have spent a lot of time thinking about that worked their way into the story and plot.

The most prominent of these is probably forgiveness. My main character, Julia, feels a huge amount of guilt over the death of her boyfriend. Marcy, the girl Julia’s supposed to be helping, feels terrible about the death of her mother. Both of these girls are trying to find a way to play the cards they have been dealt, and Marcy at least is ready to throw in her hand. Wow, doesn’t that sound uplifting? I swear it’s not as dark and depressing as it might seem! Anyhow, I think most people have faced events in their life that have brought them a great deal of sadness and loss, and finding a way to face this can be some of the hardest trials we ever face. They can be also incredibly character building (see what I did there? Character building? Gotta love the bad puns!). Learning how to forgive others, and especially how to forgive oneself, are definitely themes that are addressed in CLM. Of course, there’s some romance, a bookstore, and lots of flying tossed into the mix to make things interesting!

Inquiring minds want to know: do you find it easier to forgive others, or yourself?

Release date: May 11th 2012 from MuseItUp Publishing.

A bit about Meradeth Houston:

Meradeth’s never been a big fan of talking about herself, but if you really want to know, here are some random tidbits about her:

She’s a Northern California girl. This generally means she talks too fast and use "like" a lot.

She has her doctorate in molecular anthropology. Translation: she sequences dead people's DNA and is a professional lab rat.

She’s been writing since she was 11 years old. It's her hobby, her passion, and she’s so happy to get to share her work!

Her other passion is teaching. There's nothing more fun than getting a classroom of college kids fired up about anthropology!

If she could have a super-power, it would totally be flying. Which is a little strange, because she’s terrified of heights.

See the complete VBT schedule HERE.

A bit about the Colors Like Memories: 

Julia has a secret: she killed the guy she loved. It was an accident—sort of. Julia is a Sary, the soul of a child who died before taking her first breath. Without this 'breath of life' she and others like her must help those on the verge of suicide. It's a job Julia used to enjoy, until the accident that claimed her boyfriend’s life—an accident she knows was her fault. If living with the guilt weren't enough, she's now assigned to help a girl dealing with the loss of her mother, something Julia's not exactly the best role model for. If she can't figure out a way to help her, Julia's going to lose her position in the Sary, something she swore to her boyfriend would never happen. Release date: May 11th 2012 from MuseItUp Publishing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Children's Book Week Contest Winners

Hi all,

The Children's Book Week event was a success. We had a total of 471 entries, which is great.

Here are the winners and they have been contacted:

Tote bag of GAP books - Janet Smart
Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Margot Finke - Katrina Simpkins

Thanks to all who participated!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

'Tween author, Mary Cunningham has written five adventures for the series, Cynthia's Attic.
The Missing Locket, The Magic Medallion, Curse of the Bayou, The Magician's Castle, and The Legend of Lupin Woods take twelve-year-old best friends, Cynthia and Gus, through a magic trunk in Cynthia's Attic that sends them through time solving mysteries and having adventures with their ancestors.

The author is also a dedicated advocate for closing down puppy mills and for pet adoption.

Adopted Dogs Make Fantastic Family Members, and, pretty great book characters, too!

I was in the middle of writing the fourth installment  in my series, Cynthia's Attic, when our furry, adopted "daughter" left for Doggy Heaven. Molly was 16, and had filled our lives with joy, laughter and love for almost 13 years. My friends knew what a hole this left in my heart, so one suggested, "Why don't you write Molly into the book?"

Oooh, great idea! Molly, the Time Traveling Canine. Love it! Okay, that's not the title. It's really "Cynthia's Attic: The Magician's Castle (Book Four)," but this little pooch plays an important role in helping best friends, Cynthia and Gus, find clues that might lead to a magician's missing assistant (and fiancée).
I don't want to give away too much about Molly's magical role, but the name and stature of Secretariat comes to mind, and she clearly has powers that allow her to travel back and forth through time, and change shapes along the way.  I can tell you right now, Molly has no evil intentions. Nor does she want to switch bodies with Cynthia or Gus. But, she does pull off some pretty amazing feats!

Just like our Molly, who stole the hearts of her mom and dad with her big brown eyes, wagging tail and boundless love so many years ago.

It's been over three years since we lost Molly; just long enough to finally give our hearts to another adopted daughter. Lucy is, without a doubt, the funniest dog I've ever been around, so expect to see a story, soon, about her exploits. Although Lucy isn't one of the characters in the fifth book, The Legend of Lupin Woods, who knows; she may, someday, get her own series!

And, please remember, Don't shop! Adopt!

Mary Cunningham, author

The Missing Locket
The Magic Medallion
Curse of the Bayou
The Magician's Castle
Legend of Lupin Woods

Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book Five)

Cynthia's Attic: Legend of Lupin Woods (Book 5)

Cynthia and Gus have solved a lot of mysteries across time, but something is seriously wrong and things are beginning to unravel.

Aunt Belle is missing…again! Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Beau, was never found! And now they are wondering if Blackie is still making life miserable for Lilly and Annie.

This time, the twelve-year-old girls journey into a strange woods full of frightening creatures and dark secrets in search of answers.

From Aunt Belle's cottage to a small village in France, they meet new friends and discover a connection to New Orleans that may lead to the devious source behind these alarming developments. Or bigger trouble.

Bio: Like Cynthia and Gus, my childhood best friend, Cynthia and I grew up in a small, Southern Indiana town…the setting for the series. Not one summer day passed that we weren’t playing softball, hide and seek, badminton, or croquet with friends in the vacant lot behind Becky’s house.

In my attempt to grow up, I joined The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club. When giving my fingers a day away from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I live with my husband and adopted furry, four-legged daughter, Lucy. Together we’ve raised three creative children and are thrilled with our 2 granddaughters.

At last count, I’ve moved 9 times to six different states (all after the age of 36), and aside from the packing and unpacking, it’s been a great experience, having made some very dear and lasting friendships. My non-writing time is spent showing power point presentations on gathering ideas and the writing process to schools and libraries.

Mary Cunningham Books
Smashwords Ebooks
B & N Book Nook

YouTube video: Cynthia’s Attic Series for 'Tweens

Friday, May 11, 2012

Children's Book Week, Day 5: Interview with Pam Allyn, Executive Director of LitLife and LitWorld

Interview by Marcela Landres, editor of Latinidad

Pam Allyn is the executive director of LitLife and LitWorld, national and 
global literacy organizations. She is a nationally recognized expert on 
children's reading and writing development. Her books and work have 
received numerous awards, including the National Parenting Magazine and 
Mom's Choice awards. She lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. For 
more information, visit 

Q: Many parents know the advantages of reading to their children, but why 
is it important for children to also write?

A: I see reading as breathing in, and writing as breathing out. They go 
together as beautifully as that. A growing child is busy creating all the time, 
whether through play or through conversation, and writing is a way for the 
child to begin to put ideas out into the world. In writing, the child practices 
what they are absorbing through reading and being read to. The beauty of 
language, the pleasure of a rhyme, the lovely choice of the perfect word. 
When the child goes to his own page or screen, he then makes decisions 
based on what he's heard and read. What moved him in his reading life will 
propel him towards a writing life. Also, the child who writes is learning to 
value the exquisite delight of stopping to notice, pausing to observe, and 
savoring the magic of every moment.

Q: Is there a particular age children should be before parents encourage 
them to write?

A: We can name the earliest play and drawing children do as "writing" by 
saying "What story are you telling today?" As soon as you see your child is 
interested in the tools and resources of a writer (and keep them handy), your 
child is ready to "write." The writing might look like scribbles or early picture 
making but this really is part of developing literacy. Celebrate all these small 
steps just as you celebrate when your baby babbles or says "mama" and you 
instantly affirm that your genius has just said your name! We don't do this 
affirmation often enough when our children start their forays into writing.

Q: Would you share three things parents can do today to help their children 
fall in love with writing?

A: 1. Read aloud. The more we read to our children, the more they marinate 
in language and stories. Read aloud from all types of texts too: poetry and 
stories, nonfiction and silly riddles. It's all good for their brains!

2. Ask them to tell you stories. Storytelling is an important early component 
and lifelong companion for a writer. Try to be as specific as possible in your 
questions. Just asking: "How was school?" won't really get to it. Instead, say: 
"Tell me what happened on the playground today." Great writing is all about 
specificity and the child who is practicing specificity in oral storytelling is 
going to write well.

3. Be a writing role model. Let your child see you writing e-mails, letters, 
notes, and anything you do for work and pleasure. Writing is something 
that's usually done in solitude but it's so important for our children to see 
how much it matters in our lives and that it's not always about writing long; 
it's about writing when you need to communicate.

Q: Alternatively, what three potential pitfalls might parents wish to avoid?

A: 1. Criticism. Let yourself be in the journey with your child. Praise her for 
her tender baby steps as a writer. Don't be tempted to correct spelling or 
handwriting, or try to speed her up on the keyboard. Let her wander, dream, 
wonder, and observe. And celebrate that.

2. Negativity around writing. Try to stay positive about your own writing. 
Try not to say: "Oh, I hate to write." Be as joyous as you can be. Get writing 
journals and write on vacations; take photos and make captions together. 
Leave each other notes in the morning. There are so many ways to make 
writing fun.

3. Lack of time. Don't rush so much. Put down your mobile phone (or if you 
have it in hand, text loving messages to your child as part of your writing life!). 
Sit and love the blooming garden in your backyard and sit and love the setting 
sun, or the sounds of the city. Then together savor them so much you want to 
write about them together.

Q: Aside from your winsome book, Your Child's Writing Life, what resources 
would you recommend to parents who want to learn more about instilling a love 
of writing in their children?

A: I love New Moon Magazine for girls. I love National Geographic for Kids and 
Sports Illustrated for Kids to show our children how many topics there are in 
the world. Share blogs with your children, showing them that writers have 
passions and that passions make blogs.

Q: Who is your agent and how did you meet her? How did you come to be 
published by Avery?

A: My agent is Lisa DiMona and she is a genius! I adore her. She has been an 
enormous source of inspiration for me. I met the amazing team at Avery 
through an introduction from Lisa. They have been so supportive of me from 
the beginning and I treasure all of them.

Q: Do you have upcoming projects that my readers should have on their radar?

A: Yes! I have another project simmering with Pearson (Avery is part of Pearson) 
called Core Ready and it's all about teaching to the reading and writing standards. 
Even parents will find it of interest because so much is changing in the world of 
literacy right now. I love all the changes; it is a very exciting time. And for 
Scholastic, my other wonderful publisher, I have a new book coming out on solid 
homework ideas to accompany a child's independent reading life. The ideas are 
pouring forth!

This interview by Marcela Landres originally appeared in Latinidad, 

Don't forget to visit the other participating Guardian Angel Publishing authors:
Margo Dill -
Nicole Weaver -

And of course, don't forget to enter the contest below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Children's Book Week, Day 4: My review of The Golden Pathway, by Donna McDine

"He clamped his hands over his ears, but it didn’t block the high-pitched screams from the barn. He knew they would stop. They always did. Yet the silence scared David even more, knowing Pa would seek a new victim next time."

Have you ever gone against your family to do what's right?

In this her first historical story picture book, The Golden Pathway, Donna McDine explores the ethical dilemma of a young boy named David as he turns against his father in order to follow his own sense of justice.

Set during the time of the civil war, David's story begins one night when he hears his father give yet another cruel beating to Jenkins, a 16-year old slave. Though David knows his duty is to obey his Pa, his conscience tells him that what his Pa is doing is plain wrong. Scared, yet filled with bravery and compassion, David decides to finally put a stop to it and free the teen slave. Will he succeed?

The Golden Pathway is an engrossing, moving story that celebrates freedom and courage. It is suspenseful; it kept me wondering what the outcome would be, and how a little boy would be able to free a slave. Not an easy task! The language flows beautifully, with just the right balance of narration, description and dialogue. The author also uses sensory details to create a vivid picture. The illustrations by Oregonian artist K.C. Snider are beautiful and evocative, further bringing David's world to life. I liked the emotion conveyed in most of the artwork, especially the face expressions of David and Jenkins. This is also a touching story of friendship.

The book, aimed at kids 8-12, is perfect for class discussions about slavery, the Civil War, and the Underground Railroad. It's also one parents should read to their kids. I would feel very comfortable reading this book to kids as young as 6. It's never too early to teach kids about justice and compassion.

Purchase the book from the publisher or Amazon HERE.

Be sure to watch the trailer. It's pretty awesome!

Don't forget to visit the other participating Guardian Angel Publishing authors:
Margo Dill -
Nicole Weaver -

And of course, don't forget to enter the contest below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Children's Book Week, Day 3: New YA paranormal romance series by Latina author Alisa Valdes

Children's Book Week continues with Alisa Valdes...

Bestselling author Alisa Valdes Rodriguez is best known for her women's fiction. Now she's also dabbling into the young adult market with this her new paranormal romance series, The Kindred. The first book, Temptation, hit the shelves on April 24th. I read the first three chapters free on Kindle and I have to say, the story is quite engrossing. I plan to download the complete book soon. 

Let's support this talented Latina author! Be sure to check out her website and blog and read an excerpt of her newest novel, Temptation

About Alisa Valdes:
Alisa Valdes is a New York Times and USA Today best­selling author of six commercial women's fiction novels, including the dirty girls social club. She has a Masters in journalism from Columbia and is a Pulitzer-nominated, award-winning former staff writer for the Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times. Alisa has written and sold pilot scripts to Nickelodeon, NBC, and Lifetime Television, as well as a teen crossover feature film based on The Kindred.
Book description:

His touch was electric.
His eyes were magnetic.
His lips were a temptation. . . .
But was he real?
Shane is near death after crashing her car on a long stretch of empty highway in rural New Mexico when she is miraculously saved by a mysterious young man who walks out of nowhere. She feels an instant energy between them, both a warmth that fills her soul and a tingle that makes her shiver. But who, or what, is he? For the first time in her life, she believes in the term "soul mates"—Travis is her destiny, and she is his. But she soon discovers that Travis is dead and strict rules govern kindred spirits of different dimensions. Even a kiss could destroy both their souls. And while Travis is almost impossible to resist, temptation proves to be the kindest enemy they encounter.
In this part romance, part supernatural thriller, true love discovers it may not be able to surpass all—especially the power of pure evil.

Don't forget to visit the other participating Guardian Angel Publishing authors:
Margo Dill -
Nicole Weaver -

And of course, don't forget to enter the contest below:

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Children's Book Week, Day 2: "Books For Children Improve Your Child's Imagination and Attention," by Rod and Vicky Dagan

In a world dominated by digital entertainment, books for children must be introduced in the home and in school. Books require minimal money investment but the return on investment are excellent, especially when these are compared to digital entertainment like video games. Indeed, parents and teachers must conspire for the good of their children!
Benefits of Children's Books
This early, it must be emphasized that the benefits derived from children's books can only be enjoyed when the parent/teacher encourages their children to read them. You can accomplish this goal by setting a good example of being a book lover yourself and by reading the books to them. After all, children's books are inanimate objects that need an animate object to move it!
With that said, here are the advantages to be had from reading books for children to your kids:
o It builds familial bonds because you spend quality time with each other.
o It helps your child understand the purpose of the written word in relation to the spoken word and the ways with which each word can be used in everyday conversations.
o It builds vocabulary in fun ways, often by means of shared humor.
o It develops listening skills that will translate itself into better communication skills.
o It promotes a love for literature that, when coupled with your loving guidance, can transform into a love for knowledge.
o It enhances information absorption, a skill necessary to allow your child to function in society.
The greatest benefit of introducing your kids to books for children is opening up worlds to their imagination and exploration. In this way, you provide them with the personal skills to tackle the real world one book at a time!
Appropriate Children's Books
However, you just don't read whatever children's book is on hand! You have to consider the age, reading level and personal interests of your child before selecting a book for them. You want to hold their attention, sustain their interest and whet their appetite for books, books and more books!
Fortunately for parents and teachers alike, most books for children are classified according to the ages of their readership base. Thus, for kids 0-5 years old, books with colorful visuals are best since these stimulate vision, promote identification, and enhance connections to the outside world. You can purchase sturdy board books and picture books for this age group.
For the kids 7-9 years old, story lines with short chapters are best. Of course, the words used are often more complex than those contained in their toddler books. You will observe that these books also incorporate basic character development and plot structure, which can challenge your child's ability to tell a story in his own words.
Books for children 10-12 years old often deal with more sophisticated content for adolescents. There are fewer drawings and illustrations since the action is on the words themselves.
Also, don't limit your child's reading repertoire to fiction books since non-fiction is also a rich source of information. You can mix folktales, poetry, science fiction, biographies, and natural studies. This way, you prevent boredom from setting in with the same stories told over and over again.

Rod and Vicky from Childrens Book Hunter [] provides help and guidance for you to promote your child's imagination and attention by reading Childrens Books appropriate to their capacity thus improving it[

Don't forget to visit the other participating Guardian Angel Publishing authors:
Margo Dill -

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 7, 2012

Children's Book Week, Day 1: Release announcement: Water Play, Book I: The Water Cycle

Hello all,

Today is the first day of Children's Book Week and to kick-start it I'd like to announce the release of my children's nonfiction picture book, Water Play, Book I: The Water Cycle.

Don't forget to enter below for a chance to win a totebag full of Guardian Angel Publishing children's books OR a critique from children's author Margot Finke. Good luck!

The Water Cycle is the first in a series of four about the weather, published by Guardian Angel Publishing.

Academic Wings

Author: Mayra Calvani
Artist: Alex Morris
Print ISBN: 9781616332372; 1616332379
eBook ISBN: 9781616332389; 1616332387 
Follow the water droplets in their journey from the clouds to the earth and back to the clouds again. Written in a lyrical style, the book takes a new angle on the water cycle by showing the feelings it evokes in people.

Review by Carol Frazer Hagen, reading specialist and special education teacher:

"Teaching the water cycle, most often referred to as the hydrologic cycle in classroom science lessons, is the topic of Mayra Calvani’s latest book The Water Cycle: Water Play Series 1.

 "Teaching students about the Earth’s atmosphere and its role in providing water to our planet is included in every Earth Science curriculum. Fortunately, both teachers and parents now have a wonderful resource to help them teach this aspect of science. Elementary, as well as middle school teachers will welcome this creatively written book, which introduces students to the continuous cycle of rain, water vapor and cloud formation.

 "Written in Calvani’s delightful prose, “Huddle inside the CLOUD high up in the sky, the water droplets are excited,” While also complemented by the imaginative artwork of Alexander Morris’ fun illustrations, makes this book both easy to read and informative. The author also includes for her young readers a word search and glossary learning activity—a great addition to every teacher and homeschool parents’ teaching library."


The Water Cycle: Water Play Series Book I is now available from Guardian Angel Publishing and Amazon.

Don't forget to visit the other participating Guardian Angel Publishing authors:
Margo Dill -

  a Rafflecopter giveaway