Cover Reveal & GIVEAWAY: Charmed (Fairy Tale Reform School #2) by Jen Calonita

Title: Charmed
Series: Fairy Tale Reform School #2
Author: Jen Calonita
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 288 

Synopsis (from Publisher):

Charmed is the exciting sequel to the wildly popular Flunked -- second in the brand new Fairy Tale Reform School series where the teachers are (former) villains.
It takes a (mostly) reformed thief to catch a spy. Which is why Gilly Cobbler, Enchantasia’s most notorious pickpocket, volunteers to stay locked up at Fairy Tale Reform School…indefinitely. Gilly and her friends may have defeated the Evil Queen and become reluctant heroes, but the battle for Enchantasia has just begun.

Alva, aka The Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty, has declared war on the Princesses, and she wants the students of Fairy Tale Reform School to join her.  As her criminal classmates give in to temptation, Gilly goes undercover as a Royal Lady in Waiting (don’t laugh) to unmask a spy…before the mole can hand Alva the keys to the kingdom.

Her parents think Gilly the Hero is completely reformed, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Sometimes it’s good to be bad…


Miri’s voice crackles through the magic mirrors in Fairy Tale Reform School. “Let the first annual Wand What You Want hour begin!”
Wands begin popping up in kids’ hands as we walk through the halls, and we all cheer. Pop! My wand arrives in my hand—long, dark-gray, and nicked like it’s seen a few battles. Hmm…what to try first… I’m just about to test the wand out, when I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Instinct tells me to dive out of the way. When I look up, I see a classmate spelling the troll next to her. The girl turns into an ice sculpture. Geez, that was close. I better stay alert.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Kids begin casting all around me. The crowded hallway is suddenly full of talking woodland creatures, toads, fireworks, and a pretty impressive cloud raining licorice. Kids are cheering and fighting, and the sound of all those wands working is enough to give me a headache. I hurry away from the spell zapping, looking for somewhere to practice alone.
The chaotic hallway disappears behind me, and a new empty hall arrives in its place. I happen to know this hall leads to the school courtyard so I hurry down it and head outside. Ahhh…this is more like it. The warm sun is shining bright high above the castle walls, making me wistful for adventure. I can never sit still for long.
“Pardon the interruption! We hope you are enjoying your wand experience, but remember, all wands disappear at the hour mark so choose your magic wisely,” Miri says. I’m relieved to find no mirror in the courtyard, which means she can’t see what I’m up to. That magic mirror is forever tattling on students for bad behavior. “As a reminder, flying is not advised.”
“Not advised, but she didn’t say it was against the rules,” I say to myself. I flick the wand over my stuffy, uncomfortable pale-blue uniform and turn it into a comfy peasant shirt and pants. I swap out my ugly school shoes for my beloved lace-up boots. Now that I’m comfortable, I get to the task at hand. I’m sure an actual spell would work better, but since I don’t know one, I just imagine myself flying, and Bam! I’m slowly floating up, up, up in the air. Score!
A Pegasus flies by me pulling a coach with four students in it.
Hi, Gilly!” they shout and wave.
When you save your school from a wicked fairy, people tend to remember your name. Even if you don’t remember theirs.
“Hi!” I say, lying back like I’m floating on a cloud. Wow, this is relaxing. I stretch my arms wide and—oops!
My wand falls from my grasp. Uh-oh. I begin to plummet, spinning faster and faster with no sign of stopping. Before I can even think of a way to break my fall, whoosh! I feel my body hit a blanket and bounce up, then land again on a magic carpet.

“Ten minutes into Wand What You Want, and you’re already having a near-death experience?” my friend Jax asks. His curly blond hair looks white in the bright sunlight. 

Jen Calonita is the author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series and other books like Sleepaway Girls and Summer State of Mind, but Fairy Tale Reform School is her first middle grade series. 

She rules Long Island, New York with husband Mike, princes Tyler and Dylan, and Chihuahua Captain Jack Sparrow, but the only castle she’d ever want to live in is Cinderella’s at Disney World. 

She’d love for you to drop her a line at jencalonitaonline.com or keep the fairy tale going at http://books.sourcebooks.com/enchantasia/

See where the magic began in Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked:

Enter to Win an Advance Copy of Fairy Tale Reform School: Charmed:


GIVEAWAY! Introducing Animals for Smart People by Jess Keating

From the publisher: 
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky author and zoologist Jess Keating unveils her new science channel on YouTube: Animals for Smart People this week! 

Jess’s new channel is all about science, zoology, and downright bizarre creatures: animals for smart people. Everything discussed is suitable for classrooms, kids, and adults alike.

Be sure to follow Jess Keating's new adventure on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter!

 To help celebrate we are giving away two sets of Jess Keating’s critically acclaimed middle-grade series: My Life is a Zoo Books 1-3 from Today, November 9th-Monday, November 16th.


BIG NEWS!! So big, I had to make a video about it!

I have some BIG news to share!! It's so big, that I had to make a video about it. Share in my excitement!!


Review: Spectacle by S.J. Pierce

Title: Spectacle
Author: S.J. Pierce
Publication Date: July 13th, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi
Source: ARC from Author

Synopsis (from Author):
Hunger Games meets Avatar in this spellbinding new Young Adult, Science-Fiction novel by bestselling author Susan James Pierce.

Two hundred years after the Great Disaster, the day earthquakes ravaged Earth’s landscapes, humanity has finally regrouped and is working toward a better future. But in New America – one of three remaining landmasses – the threat of overpopulation makes a better future seem bleaker by the year.

Mira (Mirabella) Foster and her parents are citizens of New America, and with the threat of starvation and disease looming on the horizon, a new discovery threatens to push everyone to the brink of chaos: blue markings develop on people’s skin. Markings that allow them to camouflage their skin, but also make them feared, and eventually, targets of violence.

Mira’s dad is one of them.

Displaying SJ.jpg

Susan James Pierce has a degree in Marketing Management, works for a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta, Georgia, and devotes her precious, spare time to writing Fantasy, Paranormal and Sci-fi novels.

Please visit www.sjpiercebooks.blogspot.com and sign up for her mailing list or subscribe to her blog if you'd like to hear when new books come out! Coming soon:

Iris (Novella: The Captivated Series) Available now!!!

Fight for Me (Book Two: The Captivated Series) 

For those who love The Hunger Games and Divergent, S.J. Pierce's new novel, Spectacle, will be sure to tickle your readerly taste buds.

In this newly established dystopian, the world is becoming overpopulated 200 years post "The Great Disaster." After a series of ravaging earthquakes, the planet suffers from limited land. Mirabella Foster resides with her family in New America. One day, her father reveals to her a secret that seems to uproot the earth all over again...he is part of an alien group called Changers. They are covered with blue markings that are mistaken as a disease that sets the community into an uproar, leaving the Changers quarantined on an isolated island to live away from the humans.

I enjoyed the plot of this book, and the undertones of acceptance woven into the storyline. The opener is attention-grabbing, which is always more pleasant than trying to plow through the foundations of the plot just so you can reach the part where the story travels on its own. The best part was the Changers. They were well-developed and I felt a connection to their story that surfaced emotion.

Some low points for me were that some of the ideas weren't quite original. There were a lot of parts that seemed to be taken from other stories, such as The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and Avatar. But, if you're looking for a book that contains similar elements as these, then you'll enjoy Spectacle. I also felt like the romance was rushed near the end, and I just wasn't feeling it. It felt underdeveloped and a little messy.

Overall, I liked this book. People who enjoy young adult dystopians as their main genre of choice will likely enjoy it as well.
Let's celebrate! Enter for your chance to win an eCopy of Spectacle by S.J. Pierce!


Spotlight: Hopebreaker (The Great Iron War #1) by Dean F. Wilson

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Title: Hopebreaker
Series: The Great Iron War #1
Author: Dean F. Wilson
Publication Date: December 15th, 2014
Publisher: Dioscuri Press
Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk
Pages: 382

Synopsis (from Author): In the world of Altadas, there are no more human births. The Regime is replacing the unborn with demons, while the Resistance is trying to destroy a drug called Hope that the demons need to survive.

Between these two warring factions lies Jacob, a man who profits from smuggling contraceptive amulets into the city of Blackout. He cares little about the Great Iron War, but a chance capture, and an even more accidental rescue, embroils him in a plot to starve the Regime from power.

When Hope is an enemy, Jacob finds it harder than he thought to remain indifferent. When the Resistance opts to field its experimental landship, the Hopebreaker, the world may find that one victory does not win a war.


The walls crashed down and the soldiers stormed in, replacing bricks with leather boots and stones with clenched fists. The dissonance died down, but the dust hung for endless moments, dimming the light and stinging the eyes. Yet Jacob did not need to see; he knew why they were here, what they had come for.

A figure, tall and broad, stepped into view, his hair and uniform as black as the long shadow he cast across the room. His fists were not clasped, but the anger was still there, pouring out of the cracks and crevices of his crooked face. Everyone could recognise him, even in darkness—especially in darkness. Everyone knew his name. Domas. Yet not everyone knew what he was.

You are accused of smuggling amulets,” Domas said. He paced to and fro restlessly, until the very floor began to recognise him. The light from the oil lamp flickered on his face, creating and killing lots of little shadows. Those shadows made him look inhuman, but under any other light he looked like everybody else. Jacob remembered when he was first told about them by his father. They are like you and I. They walk among us.

What evidence do you have?” Jacob asked, hoping they would not search the bookcase, hoping they would not scour his soul.

Domas drew close, seizing Jacob by the collar. “I don’t need evidence.”

Jacob parried Domas’ glower with his own. He felt like responding, like snapping or biting, even though he knew it would not help. It would make him feel better for the briefest of moments, and then, as the soldiers responded with their fists, it would make him feel much worse. The words of his father haunted him like a demon. In time they will replace us.

Take him to the Hold,” Domas barked to one of his commanders. He turned to leave, but halted as something caught his eye. “Open your hand,” he ordered.

It’s a bit late to shake it.”

Open your hand,” Domas repeated. He did not need to give a warning. His tone gave enough.
Jacob offered his left hand, which was empty.

A clown as well as a smuggler,” Domas said. “Your other hand.”

Jacob reluctantly loosened his grip on the tiny bag of coils he was holding, his all too meagre payment for smuggling an amulet into the city. Domas snatched it from his grasp.

You won’t be needing this,” he said. “In the Hold, the rent is free.”

The soldiers seized Jacob and pulled him outside, where a mechanised wagon waited, one of the many vehicles the Regime used to transport its forces—and its prisoners.

In moments Jacob was hauled up and hurled into the back of the warwagon, where he banged his head against the iron walls. He heard the cogs and pistons start up, and he heard the roar of the furnace and the rhythm of the wheels.

The smell of coal and smoke filled his nostrils and seeped into his lungs, until finally he faded off into a halfway place between the waking world and dreams, where he imagined what things might have been like if the demons had not come here, if the Regime had not gained power.

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Dean F. Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1987. He started writing at age 11, when he began his first (unpublished) novel, entitled The Power Source. He won a TAP Educational Award from Trinity College Dublin for an early draft of The Call of Agon (then called Protos Mythos) in 2001.

He has published six novels to date, and is working on several others.

Dean also works as a journalist, primarily in the field of technology. He has written for TechEye, Thinq, V3, VR-Zone, ITProPortal, TechRadar Pro, and The Inquirer.
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Southern Festival of Books 2015 - Nashville, TN

Image Credit Humanities Tennessee

From the Humanities Tennessee website (click that link for more information):

Humanities Tennessee's Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word was first held in Nashville on the second full weekend (Friday-Sunday) in October, 1989, and has been held annually on the same weekend since then. One of the first book festivals of its kind, it has inspired hundreds of similar book festivals throughout the nation and beyond.

What an incredible festival! I had so much fun hanging out in Nashville, and the Southern Festival of Books did not disappoint. Unfortunately, I had just heard about this event earlier in the week, so I wasn't able to attend the whole festival since I had a big program at the library on Saturday (it broke my heart knowing that I completely missed David Levithan, Eric Litwin, and Newbery Award winner, Kwame Alexander!). But I was there on Sunday, and it was worth it.

The Southern Festival of Books has it all. Whether you are a reader, writer, librarian, editor, book reviewer, or just want to enjoy some literary readings and local music, you need to make this an annual event. There were authors and publishers representing genres of all kinds. Every booth I passed had something unique and exciting to offer.

Booksellers included McKay Books, Parnassus,  Pennyworth BooksReading Rock BooksRed Carpet BooksSafe Harbor BooksTwo Little Birds BooksUsborne Books & MoreKubik Fine Books, Ltd., and Landmark Booksellers who each offered a selection of their collections for purchase as well. If you know anything about me, you probably know that I collect leather bounds. So when I saw shelves upon shelves of this, suddenly I thought I had died and gone to heaven:

Why yes, I will take the lot, thank you. 

Publishers also provided books and information on upcoming titles. There were some publishers that I haven't worked with before, so browsing what they had to offer opened up some new and exciting opportunities. I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing selected titles from Clarksville based Zone 3 Press in the near future! You can see the full list of exhibitors here.

Performances ranged from readings, poetry, music, writing advice, and even special appearances from the Nashville Public Library and Nashville Ballet. It was also great to see author Amanda Eyre Ward, who I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with earlier this year at the Books in Bloom Literary Festival in Eureka Springs, AR. 

Then, of course, there were the authors. My favorite part. Every author has a different story and is in a different place in their journey. I love sitting and talking with them, learning about what they've written and why they wrote it. Regardless of whether it's a genre I'm interested in or not, these are the magic makers. They are the ones that had a story in their heart they felt needed to be told, and they did it. I met all sorts of writers. For a list of all participating authors, I encourage you to visit this page. Normally, I would provide all of them here, but there were so many, it would make this post painfully long. In the meantime, check out some of my loot (aka books to review) from the weekend:

The Southern Festival of Books is probably the biggest festival I've attended to date, and I didn't even have the opportunity to attend the whole thing. Even though this was the last day of the festival, the excitement was still very much alive. The diversity of the event offers appeal for various audiences, so regardless of what association you have with the literary world, you will likely find something to peak your interest. Not to mention, there are so many books! Just being in their presence should bring you endless amounts of happiness. I have definitely added this to my list of favorite festivals.


Review: Pocket Guide to the Outdoors by Jean Craighead George

Title: Pocket Guide to the Outdoors
Based On: My Side of the Mountain
Author: Jean Craighead George, Twig C. George
Publication Date: September 17th, 2009
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle Grade Non-Fiction
Pages: 144 
ISBN: 0525421637
Source: The Library

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Generations of readers have escaped into the woods with My Side of the Mountain, the story of a city boy named Sam who learns to live in the wild. Now, Newbery winner Jean Craighead George offers an easy-to-follow guide for fans who want to live the adventure?just like Sam. Learn how to start a fire, build a shelter, catch a fish, identify useful plants, and much more. Hands-on activities are perfect for backyard campers or an afternoon stroll through the park. Illustrated with black-and-white drawings and packed with activities, naturalist trivia, and practical wilderness tips, this entertaining and informative handbook is your guide to outdoor fun.

Jean Craighead George wrote over eighty popular books for young adults, including the Newbery Medal-winning Julie of the Wolves and the Newbery Honor book My Side of the Mountain. Most of her books deal with topics related to the environment and the natural world. While she mostly wrote children's fiction, she also wrote at least two guides to cooking with wild foods, and an autobiography, Journey Inward.

The mother of three children, (Twig C. George, Craig, and T. Luke George) Jean George was a grandmother who joyfully read to her grandchildren since the time they were born. Over the years Jean George kept one hundred and seventy-three pets, not including dogs and cats, in her home in Chappaqua, New York. "Most of these wild animals depart in autumn when the sun changes their behaviour and they feel the urge to migrate or go off alone. While they are with us, however, they become characters in my books, articles, and stories." 

Pocket Guide to the Outdoors is the hidden gem of Jean Craighead George. Most people have no idea that it exists, and if you are an outdoor enthusiast, then you need to pick up this book.

George shares practical knowledge she learned out in the wilderness on how to survive in the most vulnerable circumstances. Learn how to build fire, make a shelter from ferns, make your own clothing from animal skin, which plants are poisonous, edible, and medicinal, and even how to identify different species of birds from the pattern of their singing.

One of my favorite feats about Pocket Guide to the Outdoors is that George also includes scientific names. It's a wonderful ode to education when a reader can pick up on the multiple names given to a species simply because an author took the time to provide it. I love when authors do this. There are no live images in this book. If there are images, they are drawings. In a way, this makes it harder to identify what you are looking at, but it also adds charm to the overall feel of the guide.

When I go for a run, I always stop by the river that's surrounded by a wooded area. I've been able to use what I've learned in Pocket Guide to the Outdoors to go further into the wilderness because I was able to identify the plants I was walking through. I was even delighted to find that I could identify a few of the bird calls I heard while I was out. I love going outdoors and learning survival skills just for the heck of it, and this book has opened numerous doors for me. Not to mention, it takes My Side of the Mountain to a whole new level.

If you enjoy spending time outdoors, I would highly recommend this book. You will be amazed how much more enjoyable it is to be outside when you have a better understanding of your environment and how to utilize its resources.


Storytime: Sing, Sign, and Storytime

(American Sign Language)
Ages 0-6

A to Z Sign with Me by Dawn Babb Prochovnic (optional)
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
Five Little Ducks by Anthony Lewis
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Previously, I had taught my kids "The More We Get Together" with signs. They picked up quickly and really enjoyed singing and signing along! The first book, A to Z Sign with Me, I only used with my older kids because I knew some of them already knew the alphabet. I usually have them sign their name to me when they come in to see if they remember. 

BOOK A to Z Sign with Me by Dawn Babb Prochovnic (optional, I save this for older kids)

BOOK Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
For this book, I taught them the signs for "monkey" and "mother." Of course, they already knew how to sign "five," so they signed that with me, too.


Up to the Ceiling
Up to the ceiling, (stretch both arms overhead)
Down so you’re small. (bend at waist and touch floor)
Right to the bookshelf (stretch arm to right)
Left to the wall. (stretch arm to left)
Right hand, left hand,
Turn them around. (spin hands around each other, 'wheels on the bus style')
Fold them together
And now sit down

BOOK Five Little Ducks by Anthony Lewis (this is also a song, so we sang along as we signed)
The signs we used with this song were "duck," "swim," "over," and again we signed "mother" and "five." I had really good feedback from this book/song. When I researched it, I found that it's like a nursery rhyme from Europe. Pretty cool!

BOOK Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

As our final book, I signed the whole story so they could see a more fluent interpretation of signing a book. I taught them a couple easy words during, but they were watching the signs and you could tell they were interested.


Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (with Sign Language)


Sign Your Name!
I found a sign language font and printed out each letter so the kids could learn how to say their names in sign. I provided crayons, glue, and scissors in case they wanted to cut around the hands.

Flash Cards
I was lucky enough to find these in the deep dark depths of dusty nowhere (the back of the filing cabinet)! This was a great visual for the little ones since it's simple and just colorful enough.

ASL/Braille Blocks
These blocks circulate between branches, and I'm so glad we have them! I left them out most of the day and kids really enjoyed playing with them. They not only introduce them to sign, but also braille. This is a great language toy!

Printables via SignLanguagePrintables.com
I provided a copy of this sheet for each person that attended. The only thing I don't like about it, is that the numbers stop at 9 and not 10. Other than that, this is a great resource for the alphabet and numbers.

RECEPTION: This was such a fun storytime! Both parents and children seemed to have a lot of fun, and the signing helped to keep their attention. The songs were a hit. I had introduced "Twinkle, Twinkle" the week before with my ukulele, so they've been learning different variations of it. We had people from other branches join us for this specific storytime as well. A lot of the parents asked me to repeat certain signs from Goodnight Moon so they could use them with their child at home. I feel this storytime was a definite success.
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