Blog Tour: Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I love Peachtree Publishers, and their publicist, Emily, is pretty much awesomesauce. So I'm thrilled to share with you today my first Peachtree blog tour of 2013! This book is some kind of cute, and after you read my review, swing by Peachtree's blog: Emily has a list of all the participating blogs -- and I hear there are some giveaways in the mix.

Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?
Julie Middleton & Russell Ayto (Illustrator)
Peachtree, 2013

If there's one phase that little boys go through, it's dinosaurs. (Some of them never outgrow it, like my brother). And this is one seriously cute dinosaur book that boys - and girls - are sure to enjoy.

Dave and his dad have gone to the museum, and as they stroll through the rooms, Dad is telling Dave about each of the dinosaurs they encounter. Dave, while soaking in this information, is also noticing that something's not quite "right" -- do dinosaurs wink? Or try to eat kids' burgers? Dad assures him that the dinosaurs are dead and it's just his imagination. Until ... with a mighty ROAR the tyrannosaurus rex gets Dad's attention.

The story is simple, but full of dinosaur facts that kids love. The illustrations really steal the show for me, however. Our dinosaurs are quirky, artsy even, with fun patterns and hilarious features. Dave also has some major personality on the page, and his interactions with the "dead dinosaurs" is priceless. A fun, colorful book that'd make a quick read-aloud, but also help inspire further exploration. And maybe prompt a few museum trips.

Book provided by publisher for review.


Happy Tell A Fairy Tale Day!

Just a quickie post this dreary, crazy cold and wet Tuesday, to let you know:
This is a day all about fairy tales!

I'm not sure about you, but the weather here definitely makes me want to curl up somewhere cozy, with a warm drink, and disappear in a faraway land on the wings of "once upon a time" ...

... I'd spotlight some of my favorite fairy tale novelizations, but it's so much simpler to just point you to my blog label: Fairy Tales; Legends; Myths

What are your favorite fairy tales? Do you plan to celebrate this totally fun "holiday"?


The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything
JJ Johnson
Peachtree, 2012

When I read Johnson's debut This Girl is Different, I knew she had a good hand for telling the tough teenage stories. The Theory of Everything is another great example of the raw, rough edges of being a teen in the world -- and what it means to grow through those experiences.

Last year, Sarah's best friend Jamie died. In the school gym. In a super crazy freak accident. And Sarah was right there when it happened. Needless to say, Sarah had a hard time coping - grieving - moving on. Especially since she's haunted by what she could (or could not) have done to help save Jamie's life. When Sarah witnesses another freak accident in the gym, a chain of events is put in motion that forces her to take a good, honest look at not only how to move on, but to accept that it's okay to move on.

With colorful characters (both human and animal) and raw, heart-wrenching honesty, Johnson spins a story that keeps you reading. All the details from Jamie's death aren't known up front, as readers we live the events as Sarah remembers, slowly -- and at times, painfully. Life is hard, and learning how to handle the hardest parts of life takes practice and a whole lot of trial and error. But you have to make the decision to keep living, keep pushing, not letting all the junk drag you down, and this - ultimately - is what I feel Sarah learns along the way. The Theory of Everything isn't one of those happy-go-lucky contemporary reads, but it has a definite message of hope.

ARC provided by publisher for review.


Cover Blast: Their Promise

Ren, over at Ren's Rambles, put out a call for volunteers to join in a mega cover blast for a book that definitely caught my eye ... And so, behold all the goodness.

One moment can change your life.
One moment to find love.
One moment to lose it.
Hannah Dewmont and Chase Harper are the perfect pair. With their lives intertwined since childhood and their love in full bloom, it seems only natural that they'd make plans for a future together. A future that includes promises... promises that will prove impossible to keep.
Interested? For a limited time (definitely today and tomorrow, not sure how much longer), Their Promise is available for only 99-cents! Sounds like a great little Valentine's gift for yourself, no? 
And for your convenience, here's the links for purchase:

About the author:
Brina Courtney is a young  adult author obsessed with chocolate, crime shows, and fantasy movies.  She's spent the last few years as a beauty queen and elementary teacher.  She lives in a small town in Pennsylvania with her husband and two very  loud, small dogs.

For more information on Brina, you can connect with her here:


Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue
Lisa Maliga

When a young woman from a quiet Midwestern towns saves for years to leave behind her job and humdrum existence to chase a dream across The Pond, you know you have good story fodder on your hands. Especially when the dream being chased is a famous (infamous?) actor - whose handsome face and dreamy voice rescued her from a teenage slump and inspired an all-consuming passion. That the woman meets the actor, coming face to face with her desired idol, is expected. What happens next? Not quite.

Out of the Blue traces the journey of Sylvia Gardner, a young woman from Illinois who risks everything to track down Alexander Thorpe in an out-of-the-way town in England. The premise is an intriguing one, but the novel itself wasn't all I hoped it'd be. I had a hard time connecting with Sylvia -- truthfully, I wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled and she woke up. Towards the end, I liked her better, she had more presence as a person and character. But that didn't come until really close to the end, and for the bulk of the read she frustrated me. Alexander also changes from the beginning to the end, though his 'journey' of transformation is not as documented nor understood. We get to know their flawed selves so well (too well?) at the beginning, so at the end, when they realize they've changed it's a bit abrupt. I did find myself liking the side characters, especially Phoebe, and would have liked to see them play a bigger role in the story. I think they could have helped flesh out the process, and sped the tempo up a bit.

While Out of the Blue wasn't quite for me, if it intrigues you - give a go! We all have different tastes, and that's what makes the reading world so fun. If you read it, let me know what you think -- maybe you'll pick up on something I missed.

eARC provided by author for review.


Blog Tour: All for a Song

Today, I'm happy to host my first blog tour stop of 2013! Tyndale House is promoting a wonderful new release - All for a Song - and I'm pleased to provide a review of the book and a little Q&A with author Allison Pittman. Enjoy!

All for a Song
Allison Pittman
Tyndale House, 2013

All for a Song is a story told on two levels: it opens with the 107th birthday of "Miss Lynnie", in a nursing home, and the story of her day and experience is interspersed throughout the novel, weaving in and out of Miss Lynnie's past. The life of Dorothy Lynn, a young woman coming of age in the 1920s, comprises the majority of the novel, and what a story it is. Dorothy is a preacher's daughter, destined to marry her late father's replacement, and settle in "for keeps" in her quiet hometown of Heron's Nest. But Dorothy has a secret yearning, an itch, a bit of wanderlust -- and when a chance encounter with handsome Ronald Lundi, manager of Aimee Semple McPherson's crusade, offers her the chance to scratch that itch and spread her wings, she takes flight.

Traveling with Sister Aimee and her crusading caravan, Dorothy is exposed to whole new ways of life, both in terms of 'secular' and religious experiences. As she struggles to reconcile her new experiences - and desires - with her background and beliefs, Dorothy stretches and grows. And discovers that what she really wants in life has been right in front of her all along. The cross-country, boundary-stretching journey just helped clarify her vision. So how does the story of Dorothy Lynn interweave with that of Miss Lynnie? Better than you'd expect, and together they form a beautifully complete portrait of growing up, living life, and discovering all the "Love" really means. To think, a whole life shaped and molded, for a song.

Rich - but not overwhelming - in historical detail, All for a Song is both the story of one young woman, and a glimpse of a part of church history I was unfamiliar with. Seeing the struggle to balance culture and society with an expanding sense of Christianity was a read that I think will also resonate with today's environment. Beautifully written, and featuring a cast of colorful characters, All for a Song is a must-read.

Book provided by publisher for review.

And now for a little Q&A with Allison!

Tell me about your main character Dorothy Lynn. Was her character based upon anyone in particular?
The young Dorothy Lynn, no, not really—not beyond any other singer/songwriter out there. She’s a young woman with a message and a voice, so maybe she’s a mash-up of every musician I know. The older Dorothy Lynn, Miss Lynnie, is somewhat based on the mother of a friend of mine. His mother went to be with the Lord while I was in the final stages of writing this novel, and at her funeral, I learned that she had a stroke years before her passing, during which she had a glimpse of Heaven, and had spent her intervening years longing to return. I remember going home from that celebration of her life and re-writing just about every Breath of Angels scene, incorporating that into Dorothy Lynn’s story. It was exactly what the story needed, and brought about a depth I couldn’t have imagined in the initial draft.

Although this novel is set in the 1920s, how does Dorothy Lynn’s story still resonate today?
The world today wants nothing more than to entice young women to exploit themselves in some way, and the enemy wants nothing more than to make us think that we are beyond redemption. We all make stupid, thoughtless, reckless decisions; we all get ourselves into such unbelievably embarrassing messes; we all disappoint our loved ones. The world tells you to move on; God tells you to go back.

As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
Oh, my goodness. As a historical writer, I loved the time period—that sort of new, innocent fumbling with innovations of the time. One of my favorite scenes was when the 107-year-old Dorothy Lynn experiences her first iPad. (By the way, I had to make her that old in order to make all the history “fit.” I spent every day for a month watching the Willard Scott segment on the Today show making sure that her age would be believable. Wouldn’t you know? Every week there’s somebody that tops the 105th birthday!)

How has this novel helped you to grow as a storyteller?
My tendency (a very purposeful one) is to leave my stories with a bit of an “unfinished” edge. I like my characters to leave the page on the cusp of fulfillment, so that my readers can have the pleasure of imagining those final, satisfying moments. A good friend (and, coincidentally a fan) of mine said, “I love your books. I hate your endings. I’m just going to have to accept that this is what an Allison Pittman story does.” So—how fun was this to write the most definitive ending, ever! To open a story on the last day of a character’s life—so totally new for me.


Unmasking Maya

Unmasking Maya
Libby Mercer

Maya Kirkwood is the hot new artist whose work with textiles mimics high fashion on a canvas. But she's a mystery - an unknown - never available for the media, represented by an agent, and living in a tiny San Franciscan apartment. Until she lands a commission from a hotshot CEO of a software company in Silicon Valley. Working with left-brained Derek is a challenge for Maya on both personal and professional levels. Especially once secrets and shadows of the past start creeping into her carefully established present. But Derek has secrets of his own, and Maya is unknowingly causing him to face his demons.

I loved the chemistry between Maya and Derek. Maya's a fun, breezy character - and I like that her past is hinted at, and then naturally spins out. I was curious, but didn't feel like I was being led on or taunted. She's a character I can relate to, and her perspective on the 'nerds' working in Silicon Valley? Priceless. I was laughing out loud a few times. And the descriptions of Maya's art and supplies? Mmm, I had a few high fashion daydreams there ... Never a bad thing, you know. All in all, this is a fun read that I thoroughly enjoyed. A beautifully timed story of personal development, conquering the past, and falling in love with the present.

eARC provided by author for review.