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Friday, October 24, 2014

Loop Blog Tour {review and giveaway}

I'm thrilled to have the Loop Blog Tour stopping by today with my Review and a Giveaway...

LOOP (#1)
by Karen Akins
St. Martins

At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up.

After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her. 

Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.

But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future. 

In the 23rd Century, time-travelers are very real and young travelers attend a school where their skills are honed and used. Sixteen year old Bree is not what you’d call a star pupil. Six months ago Bree’s mom fell into a mysterious coma and now Bree’s future at school and as a traveler are uncertain. A botched trip back to the 21st century sends Bree on a thrilling adventure with a boy from the past. An adventure full of time loops, unexpected enemies and allies, and mysteries.

Karen Akins’ LOOP is a smartly crafted time-travel adventure full of innovative sci-fi elements, captivating twists and turns, likable characters, and great storytelling. Fast-paced, LOOP jumps right into all its time-travel goodness and action, all of which doesn’t stop for a moment. Akins combines sci-fi elements with scientific fact and history to create a thought-provoking and smart premise. Spanning from the 21st century to the 23rd, the world-building is complex, with a fascinating future setting. The 23rd century Bree lives in is intriguing, unexpected, and fun to explore.

With multiple time jumps and timelines, loops, and future and past selves, LOOP’s storyline is intricate and elaborate and enthralling, but also a bit confusing and overwhelming at times. The twists and turn are thrilling and kept me glued to the page, but weren’t always easy to keep straight. For the most part, Akins does a great job of connecting and untangling all the time loopy threads, but, like most time-travel stories, it can get complicated.

Bree is a likable, sympathetic heroine. She can be a bit much and overly cocky at times, but I found her unique and realistically flawed. Finn, the hottie Bree accidentally takes hostage and three years later takes with her to the 23rd century, charmed me completely! Finn is amusing and sweet and totally swoon-worthy. I loved the way he and Bree interacted and how their relationship is definitely NOT insta-love. The other various characters (Bree’s BFF, Finn’s family, the baddies) are interesting enough, but could use more development.

LOOP comes to a thrilling and cliff-hanger-ish ending that has me very excited for book two!

My Final Thoughts: While LOOP suffers a bit in the sometimes confusing and tangled department, overall I found it extremely entertaining, smartly crafted, and a lot of fun!


Karen Akins lives in the MidSouth where she writes humorous, light YA sci-fi. When not writing or reading, she loves lightsaber dueling with her two sons and forcing her husband to watch BBC shows with her. 

Karen has been many things in her life: an archery instructor, drummer for the shortest-lived garage band in history, and a shockingly bad tic-tac-toe player.

Win a copy of LOOP!
St. Martins has generously offered up one brand new copy for one winner.
-US only
-ends 10/31
-must be 13+ to enter
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is NOT responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes in the mail

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Picture Book Review: A Halloween Scare by Eric James

I'm thrilled to share my review of Eric James' custom Halloween picture book today..

A Halloween Scare in the Carolinas
by Eric James
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

A fun and funny Halloween romp for children and parents alike!
It's Halloween night, and creatures and critters from near and far are starting to gather outside the front door. And now here comes a whole army of monsters, on broomsticks, buses, and bikes, all clamoring in the darkness. What is it they want? Are they coming for you?
This humorous, creative story is the perfect Halloween adventure for children and parents to share.

Eric James’ picture book, A Halloween Scare, is a truly unique and spectacular reading experience. As Eric’s website states, A Halloween Scare is “A funny, spooky children’s book with a an uplifting and empowering ending, set in a world your child already knows”. A Halloween Scare comes in 29 different versions, covering 29 different locations throughout the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. Each different location books is slightly altered to include sights, places, buildings, cities, etc in that specific location, both within the text and pictures.

I received, for review, A Halloween Scare in the Carolinas and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! This is seriously one of the cutest, funniest, most clever, and entertaining little Halloween books I’ve ever read. Told in lyrical, amusing rhymes, A Halloween Scare is utterly delightful and adorable. James creates such a fun and spooktastic story that is appropriate for even the littlest readers. Here is an example of the wonderfully whimsical verse and how it’s been altered to fit the specific location:

The creepies were crawly, the crazies were crazed,
The zombies from Charleston had eyes that were glazed.
The ogres from Asheville were ugly as sin,
With big bulging noses and warts on their chin.

Marina Le Ray’s illustrations are fantastic! Bright and eye-catching and full of so many funny, silly pictures, each page will charm and entertain little readers. And like the altered text, the illustrations depict well known places, sights, sports teams, etc around its specific location. I had so much fun flipping through the book and discovering each little nod to the Carolinas.

My Final Thoughts: A Halloween Scare is about as perfect as picture books get! With its clever and customized story, fantastical text, and spellbinding illustrations this is one book your little readers will want to read again and again. I can’t recommend it enough!


-You find out more about this customized picture book, see more illustrations, and find buy links HERE
-You can see which locations are available and which cities, sights, symbols, etc are featured in each book HERE

Watch the full animated UK version of this book below!

Eric James lives in the South of England, with his beautiful family. He’s a children’s author, word tickler and champion asparagus thrower. His first book, a rhyming story about Halloween is out now (first published in August 2014). 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: Chum by Adam Glendon Sidwell

I'm pleased to share my review for Chum, a new middle-grade adventure that releases today...

by Adam Glendon Sidwell
Future House Publishing

Thirteen-year-old Levi Middleworth insists he's got a Destiny, even if half the internet's tried to bully it out of him with a viral video. When a Hollywood executive in a trim green suit invites Levi to star on a reality TV show aboard a hi-tech pirate ship, Levi thinks his Destiny's finally come a knockin' a bit of fame is exactly what he needs to finally make some friends his eighth grade year. But almost as soon as they set sail, the games aboard the ship turn savage, and he and his new bud Holly must do everything they can to find themselves some Chums little round-headed autonomous toys since failing to do so means getting thrown to the sharks. With the help of Levi's long-lost television hero and a tech-savvy pirate crew, Levi has to rethink his quest for fame in an attempt to save himself, his fellow contestants, and every human being on the beach from a feeding frenzy of grisly proportions.


Last year, Adam Glendon Sidwell charmed me with his imaginative and superb middle-grade debut, Evertaster, so I was super excited to dive into his new middle-grade adventure, Chum. And, while I found Chum creative and entertaining, it didn’t wow me as much as I hoped it would.

Thirteen year old Levi believes he’s meant for stardom and greatness...but ends up the star of an unfortunate and embarrassing viral video. But when Levi is invited to participate in a new reality show aboard a pirate ship, he’s convinced his destiny is within reach. The contestants aboard the ship soon learn that they must find CHUMS, little autonomous toys, everyday in order to stay in the game. And the game is BRUTAL! Contestants quickly turn on one another and resort to violence and trickery to stay in the game.  Levi soon learns that nothing is as it seems aboard the ship and the truth could lead to a bloody frenzy of an end.

Adam Glendon Sidwell is definitely a creative and enthralling storyteller, who infuses a great deal of imagination and humor in his stories. And Chum is no exception. Chum’s premise is wildly original and innovative, both action-packed and funny. There’s a lot I enjoyed about this unique middle-grade adventure. The reality show theatrics are amusing, while the pirate-ship-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean makes for a thrilling setting. The idea of contestants competing to find Chums and having to do ANYTHING to do so, is really fun and makes for an entertaining time aboard the ship. However, the overall execution felt a bit jumbled and disjointed. There are many twists and turns and, while pretty cool, they often left the story feeling too rushed and busy and, perhaps even too unbelievable or outlandish for even middle-grade readers to believe.

Sidwell fills Chum with a quirky, eclectic cast of characters. Levi and his new friend Holly are relatable, endearing young characters, who make for a hero and heroine young readers will want to root for. The other contestants are just as amusingly over-the-top and larger than life you’d expect reality show contestants to be. I only wish more time was spent on character development and getting to know these intriguing people.

There is one thing in Chum that I personally found hard to swallow and that’s all the shark hate. In the story, sharks are made out to be these evil, killing machines and, while this makes sense within the story and makes for a pretty thrilling ending, as someone whose favorite animal is the Great White and who thinks sharks are the most amazing creatures alive, this made my shark loving heart hurt :( Of course, this is totally a personal thing and I can definitely see younger readers enjoying this aspect of Chum.

My Final Thoughts: Overall, Chum could use with some story tightening and more development, however I did find it to be greatly enjoyable and full of fantastic imagination. I think its target audience will be charmed by its quirky premise, laugh-out-loud moments, thrilling action, and likable hero.


In between books, Adam Glendon Sidwell uses the power of computers to make monsters, robots and zombies come to life for blockbuster movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, King Kong, Transformers and Tron. After spending countless hours in front of a keyboard meticulously adjusting tentacles, calibrating hydraulics, and brushing monkey fur, he is delighted at the prospect of modifying his creations with the flick of a few deftly placed adjectives. He's been eating food since age 7, so feels very qualified to write this book. He once showed a famous movie star where the bathroom was. Adam currently lives in Los Angeles, where he can't wait to fall into the sea.