Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Evil Librarian Blog Tour {Guest Post and Giveaway}

I'm thrilled to have the Evil Librarian Blog Tour stopping by today with a yummy guest post from author Michelle Knudsen and a giveaway...

Evil Librarian
by Michelle Knudsen
Candlewick Press

He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

The Top 5 Most Important Delicious Things in My Life Right Now
by Michelle Knudsen

My first thought on being asked to write something that involved sweets was YES PLEASE, because I love sweets, and so I was sure this was going to be both fun and easy. And then I got lost in endless mental meanderings about all the many delicious things I like to eat, and then the deadline was approaching and then I started to panic. Finally I remembered that all things are easier when you break them into manageable tasks (aka, bite-sized pieces), and I decided to make this top 5 list of the most important delicious things in my life right now. (My original idea was the top 5 most delicious things ever, but I change my mind too much and go through too many different phases of what I like.)

1. Chocolove’s Cherries and Almonds in Dark Chocolate.
This is my current favorite end-of-the-night indulgence, usually taken only one little square piece at a time. (Except when I’m on deadline, like now, and then sometimes I have more than one little square. Lots of rules are broken when there are deadlines.) The only time I have lately to watch anything is late at night, before bed, and so when all my work is done for the day, I like to curl up on my tiny couch with a piece of this chocolate-cherry-almond heaven and some red wine and rewatch some Buffy or stream the latest Doctor Who or whatever else I’m feeling most obsessed with lately.

2. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
These used to be my favorite end-of-the-night indulgence, until I discovered #1 above. But I still have a soft spot in my heart for these guys, and sometimes nothing else will do. And it has to be the full-size cup (no “fun size” mini cups, please, and definitely no abnormally large special giant holiday-shaped cups, either). And it has to be Reese’s, and it has to be the original milk chocolate. Shockingly, these are also very delicious with red wine.

3. Stacy’s Pita Chips.
I am addicted to both the Simply Naked ones and the Cinnamon Sugar ones. I’m not allowed to have them in the house anymore, because it’s hard to stop eating them once I start. (Except I do have a bag of each in the house right now, but again, only because DEADLINES. And then I won’t buy any more. Really.) The Simply Naked ones are good with red wine, but I don’t recommend a red wine pairing for the Cinnamon Sugar chips. Those go better with tea.

4. Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream.
I’m totally not ever allowed to have this in the house. I mean for real. But then sometimes I decide I really need it, and it can be really hard to find in my neighborhood. I end up going on these epic journeys in search of it, traveling from bodega to grocery store to whatever else I can find that has a freezer case. Last time I was on a B&JMCC hunt, I had nearly given up all hope, and then on my downtrodden trudge home stopped in at the gas station convenience store on a whim, and they totally hooked me up. But that was months ago and I haven’t had any since. I swear. (Second choice, if the Mint Chocolate Cookie can seriously not be found anywhere, is Chunky Monkey. Also really good. But not quite the same level of delicious.)

5. Gummi Bears.
I don’t have these very often, but I always love them when I do. In high school I once wrote a poem about a gummy bear stuck to the ceiling of our history classroom, and my friends from back then still like to bring that up occasionally. I also enjoy gummy worms and certain other gummy shapes, but not all of them. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to have gummies with wine, but I suspect they are best enjoyed on their own, as the tiny chewy vaguely-bear-shaped tasty bits of goodness that they are.

Michelle Knudsen is the author of The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian, as well as the best-selling picture book Library Lion, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes; Argus,illustrated by AndrĂ©a Wesson; and Big Mean Mike, illustrated by Scott Magoon. Michelle Knudsen lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Win a copy of Evil Librarian!
Thanks to Candlewick Press, I have one copy for one winner.
-US only
-ends 9/23
-must be 13+ to enter
-winner will be emailed and must claimed prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, stolen prizes
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Interview and Giveaway: Yona Zeldis McDonough, author of Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder

I'm so thrilled to have author Yona Zeldis McDonough stopping by today to talk about her new middle-grade biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder! Plus, you can win a copy...

Little Author in the Big Woods
(A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder)
by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Many girls in elementary and middle school fall in love with the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. What they don’t always realize is that Wilder’s books are autobiographical. This narrative biography describes more of the details of the young Laura’s real life as a young pioneer homesteading with her family on many adventurous journeys. This biography, complete with charming illustrations, points out the differences between the fictional series as well as the many similarities. It’s a fascinating story of a much-celebrated writer.

What three words best describe Little Author in the big Woods?

Fun. Cozy. Inspiring.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Little Author in the big Woods a try?

Here is a story about a plucky little girl who crisscrossed the country with her family more than a dozen times and who, despite so many hardships and interruptions, never lost her cheerful nature or optimistic outlook.

Grab a copy of Little Author in the big Woods and answer the following:
favorite page?  PAGE 45
flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser:

“And although she did not know it, making pictures with words for her sister was preparing her for what would be her life’s work: it was turning a bright, observant girl who loved reading into a full-fledged writer.”

What was it like writing this biography for children?  

I had so much fun writing this book! I loved learning about the many correspondences between Laura’s life and the stories she wrote.

Was it difficult taking all the fascinating facts about Laura Ingalls Wilder and exploring them in a way that is appropriate for younger readers?

Not really because she had such an interesting childhood and it’s been my experience that kids love to read about the lives of other kids. Laura’s early life was so fascinating that she made it easy!

In all the research you did for this book you must have learned lots of interesting things! What are your top three favorite facts or things you learned about Laura Ingalls Wilder?

That she got her start writing about farm life
That she hated wearing a bonnet
That she was an early feminist who urged farmers’ wives to become active partners in their farms and made sure her own daughter got the best education possible.

Why do you think Wilder’s books and life still resonate with people today?

Life on the American prairie has an almost mythic attraction for so many people: it represents a combination of freedom, self-determination and courage. Laura’s books give us an insight into that life, and they chart its joys and sorrows with great specificity and detail.

What do you love most about this beloved author?

Her resilience and her perseverance.

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at baking banana muffins!
I’m really embarrassed to admit that I have dreadful penmanship!
The last great book I read was THE GOLDFINCH, by Donna Tartt.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Little Author in the big Woods, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

The cupcake would be made of yellow cake, to represent the golden plains of the prairie landscape.  The frosting would be green and blue butter cream, to represent the lush forests and cooling rivers that Laura knew so well.  I would call it Ode to America and it would taste fresh, sweet, delicious, and unlike anything else.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Yona!

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of many books for children, includingSisters in StrengthAnne Frank, and Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott. Ms. McDonough lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Win a copy of
Little Author in the Big Woods!
Macmillan has generously offered up one finished copy for one winner.
-US/CAN only
-ends 9/21
-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
Fill out Rafflecopter form:

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Vault of Dreamers Blog Tour {Review & Giveaway}

I'm so thrilled to have The Vault of Dreamers Blog Tour stopping by today with my Review and a Giveaway...

The Vault of Dreamers
by Caragh M. O'Brien
Roaring Brook Press

From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

In a not so distant future, the prestigious Forge School is the place to be. This famous art school is the subject of the country’s most watched reality show. Students’ every waking moment is televised and more fans equals more potential money. In hopes of enhancing creativity, students are given a pill that makes them sleep deeply for twelve hours every night. Newcomer Rosie Sinclair begins to skip her pills and what she finds lurking in the school at night is the stuff of nightmares. The deeper Rosie digs into the sinister happenings at the school, the more blurred she finds her own mind becoming.

Caragh O’Brien’s The Vault of Dreamers is an entertaining mix of twisty intrigue, romance, and innovative sci-fi elements. Smartly crafted, with a compelling premise and engaging characters, I found this to be quite the addicting read.

Told from Rosie’s perspective, the story unfolds slowly, but not boringly so. I like that readers only know as much as Rosie knows and must discover this world with her. This creates such a fascinatingly unreliable narrative and a kind of hauntingly blurred atmosphere that kept me captivated and on my toes. There’s this psychologically thrilling element of never quite knowing what’s real or who to trust. Rosie finds herself caught up in this twisted, yet irresistible, game of cat and mouse, and I really enjoyed all the twists and turns. The sci-fi and medical elements surrounding the world of dreams are unique and cool, but feel both overwhelming and lacking at times. There’s something very thought-provoking and relevant about the reality show aspect of the premise. O’Brien deftly explores the provocative ideas of voyeurism, privacy, and how being watched can affect every aspect of human behavior.

I like that the story is told from Rosie’s perspective and I found her head to be a complex, intriguing place to be. Rosie is surrounded by an eclectic group of people and I wish more time was spent on the development of the secondary characters...not because these characters aren’t likeable and interesting, they totally are. I just wish we got to know them (especially Burnham and Janice) on a deeper level. Rosie’s love interest, Linus, is given proper attention and development, but I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this mystery boy! Their romance is sweet and endearing, and I found their interaction charming, but I’m glad O’Brien didn’t overshadow the other aspects of the story with these romantic elements.

I’ve seen many mixed feelings about the ambiguous ending, but I really like! It totally caught me off guard and, although maybe a bit rushed, the ending feels both final and full of possibilities.

My Final Thoughts: With an exciting and thought-provoking premise, The Vault of Dreamers intrigued, entertained, and challenged me in some pretty awesome ways!


Caragh M. O’Brien is the author of the BIRTHMARKED trilogy and THE VAULT OF DREAMERS, both from Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ms. O’Brien was educated at Williams College and earned her MA from Johns Hopkins University. She recently resigned from teaching high school English in order to write young adult novels.

Win a finished copy of 
The Vault of Dreamers!
Macmillan has offered one copy for one of you lucky readers.
-US only
-ends 9/20
-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
Fill out Rafflecopter form:

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        September 9 | Ex Libris Kate The Book Monsters
       September 10 | Book Hounds & Candace's Book Blog
        September 11 | Mundie Moms & Word Spelunking
       September 12 | My Bookish Ways & Working for the Mandroid
         September 13 | Fiction Fare
         September 14 | Icey Books & My 5 Monkeys
         September 15 | SciFi Chick & Supernatural Snark
         September 16 | YA Interrobang & I’d So Rather be Reading
         September 17 | Fiktshun & Book Briefs
         September 19 | Alice Marvels & Forever Young Adult
      September 20 | Good Choice Reading & Step into Fiction