Thursday, February 26, 2015

Countdown Zero Giveaway (US)

There are places in the world where heroes are born. There are places where brave men and women fight a never-ending battle against evil in order to keep our country and all other countries safe. There are places where the fate of our planet is being decided, even now as we speak, the consequences of which will echo through history.

None of these places are in North Dakota.

Carson Fender, seventh grader and notorious prankster, knows this. He's lived in North Dakota for his entire life, going to the same boring school every day, the same boring movie theater every week, and the same boring state fair every year. Nothing ever changes, and nothing ever happens. That is, until today. Because today a desperate man is going to hand him a package with a dire set of instructions. And that package is going to lead Carson to discover that there's a secret government agency operating in his small, quiet North Dakota hometown.

And that this agency needs his help. -
( description for book 1) Goodreads

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished signed copy of Countdown Zero
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is US only
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on March 10th 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review & Giveaway (US): One Witch at a Time by Stacy DeKeyser

Review copy from publisher
4 out of 5 stars

One Witch at a Time is a companion novel to Stacy DeKeyser's The Brixen Witch, but it can easily read as a standalone (I haven't read TBW and I didn't feel like I was missing anything).

I'm going to start off this review with my only real gripe: The cover needs to be changed. Main character Rudi is a boy and One Witch at a Time can easily appeal to boys just as much as girls.

But that cover? Total girl cover. Boys are unlikely to pick up this book, and that's a shame. The cover is also super misleading—think it's about two girl witches? Think again! The story has nothing to do with that. It is also written in a classic, timeless tone, which also contrasts with the spunky modern cover.

One Witch at a Time reads like a classic '90s era middle grade book. Think books like The Cay, My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Staples of English classroom shelves. Books with solid stories and staying power. Books with awards on their covers.

The story itself is a loose twist on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale but with a ton of original elements and characters thrown into the mix. Male and female characters are given equal weight and the camaraderie among them was pleasant to read. Rudi is a good boy with good morals and multiple positive relationships. The story moves at a nice, steady pace—never rushing, but never slow either.

The resolution takes the same steady pace, wrapping up without much fuss but still managing not to feel anticlimactic. I figured out the end very early on, but I don't think this would be a problem for the target audience (younger middle grade).

Bottom line

A solid choice for school libraries and middle grade readers. Remove the awful, misleading dust jacket and be sure to share this one with boys as well as girls. Recommended.

Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished copy of One Witch at a Time and a paperback copy of The Brixen Witch by Stacy DeKeyser
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is US only
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on February 28th 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mini Review: Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George

ARC from the publisher, via NetGalley and hard copy
3.5 out of 5 stars
Book 3 in the Castle Glower series

No spoilers! Still worried? Check out my review for the first book Tuesdays at the Castle instead.

This is a Jessica Day George book, which means it's a cute, solid read for its middle grade target audience. It's clean and sweet and touches on all those heartwarming things like friendship and family. The griffin story is complex enough to make it unique and worth following. The core characters are all likable. It's nice.

That's all a given with Jessica Day George. She's a solid bet, and this latest installment in her Castle Glower series doesn't break the mold.

It also doesn't inspire. This could be me being an adult reader, and I definitely think the gap in time between reading this one and its predecessor Wednesdays in the Tower didn't help me any on the engagement front, but Thursdays with the Crown lacked spark.

It felt more like filler, with no real advancements or excitement. Sure, things happened, but they felt like rehashes of things that have already happened or been alluded to (instead of Celie getting a griffin, this time a different character gets one, etc).

I had the same complaint about the third Princess book, which makes me wonder if maybe Jessica Day George should stick with standalones or duologies instead of trilogies and longer series. Unlike the Princess series, the Castle Glower series should be read in order to follow the story.

Still, I doubt the target audience will feel the same oomph deflation I'm feeling and even I will stick with the series to read the final book. Overall, this is a cute series and worth the read.


Looking for the first book in the series?

Click on the cover to go to my review

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tiny Reviews: A Reliable Wife and Just a Dog

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Wow, well this book was a surprise! So, the back of the book makes it sound like a Gothicy thriller-romance and I had heard some extra juicy details about the lady's intentions that upped my interest to bursting. Plus, that pretty dress on the cover was calling my name.

You know what the blurb didn't prepare me for? Sex. Constant sexual musings with a creepy underlying ick. These weren't nice musings, either. Think more along the lines of creepy back and forth over hellfire and punishment for lusty, sinful desires.

Plus, the characters were pretty awful. 

That's what made me DNF. I then spoiled myself because I was still curious enough about what happened even if I couldn't actually bring myself to read it without getting the grossed out shivers. Based on those spoilers, it looks like I made the right call on the DNF.

Owned (but no longer!)
DNF on page 57

Just a Dog by Michael Gerard Baur

I was hoping this would be a heartwarming story about a family and their dog. Given that, I was prepared for a sad ending because for some reason books and movies can't feature a dog without doing something horribly sad at the end. I was prepared.

What I wasn't prepared for was all of the other sad and horrible things that happened in every single chapter. A rocky marriage, an attempted kidnapping, and all sorts of other domestic dreariness hovered in the background and put a really dark and adult spin on what I thought was supposed to be an uplifting story.

Plus, this is supposed to be a kid's book, but with all of those adult issues, I wouldn't give this book to kids. Just a Dog left me feeling unsettled and upset, which is definitely the opposite of what I was hoping for with this book.

ARC from the publisher
DNF on page 40 of 190

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