The Amulet of Amon-Ra by Leslie Carmichael: Review and Giveaway

Today, I’m giving away fellow CBAY author, Leslie Carmichael’s midgrade fantasy, The Amulet of Amon-Ra  (CBAY, 2009). I actually read this awhile ago and it makes a  quick and pleasant read for the third through seventh grade set.

Summary: When Jennifer receives an ancient scarab with a hidden compartment, she travels through time and space to the era of the great female pharaoh, Hatsheput. She uncovers conspiracies and tomb robbers, but can she find her way home?

Genres: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Things to like about this book:   Egyptophiles will like this story. It includes a great deal of history and it could be included in a unit on ancient Egypt.

Audience:  Upper elementary,  MidGrade

Reviewed from: Paperback  provided by publisher.

I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by October 24th and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it.

The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerilizzi – Review and GiveAway

For your consideration today is The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerilizzi (Simon & Schuster, 2010).  This post apocalyptic science fiction fantasy held my interest through the entire 468 pages. It is definitely a sophisticated step up for DiTerilizzi’s SpiderWick Chronicles fans.  Random tidbit: I could not get the Wizard of Oz out of my head as I read this story.

The story centers around Eva Nine, who is raised by her robot “muthr” in her own safe underground cocoon. Eva’s idyllic, if lonely and artificial, childhood comes to an end as she matures and begins to question the authority of her robot guardian. As it must be in a story like this, her world comes crashing down and she is thrust out into the harsh realities of life to fend for herself.  She is driven to search for another human by an old picture showing another girl, adult, robot, and the magical word “Wondla”.  Her struggle for survival and search for identity make for a good story. Wild imagination gives birth to some memorable creatures in this story – which has been marketed with an interactive component online at The artwork goes a long way in helping to visualize the story. (more…)

Hero by Mike Lupica – Review and Giveaway

Mike Lupica is a favorite author of the middle school set, especially boys. He’s gained a big following with a number of sports related books that always seemed to stay checked out in my library. Sports books aren’t my favorite but his baseball novel Heat impressed me a great deal.  It was so much more than a “sports” book.

His action fantasy Hero was released in November 2010 by Philomel Books. I am guilty of keeping the ARC I picked up for a looong time, but I’m tossing it up today because it is a quick, fun read that will please Lupica fans, in my humble opinion. I liked it anyway!

I’m cheating today with a blurb from Lupica’s website instead of my own:

“Fourteen-year-old Zach Harriman can feel the changes. The sharpening of his senses. The incredible strength. The speed, as though he can textmessage himself across miles. The confidence and the strange need to patrol Central Park at night. His dad had been a hero, a savior to America and a confidante of the president. Then he died, and the changes began in Zach. What Zach never knew was that his father was no ordinary man, he was a superhero, battling the world’s evil. This is a battle that has been waged for generations and that knows no boundaries. (more…)

Smells Like Treasure by Suzanne Selfors – Review and Giveaway

Today I have a quick review of Suzanne Selfors’ midgrade Smells Like Treasure , Little Brown, May 2011. It took me a while to get into this quirky novel about Homer Pudding and his treasure sniffing dog but I think it will have a good following, especially among upper elementary and middle school boys. Smells Like Treasure  is the sequel to last year’s Smells Like Dog and I feel certain there are more of Homer and Dog’s adventures on the horizon.

In Treasure, Homer’s time has come – his time to take over his deceased uncle’s spot in L.O.S.T – Legends, Objects, Secrets and Treasures – a secret society that seeks out those oddities in the world – but never for personal gain. Of course, his right to his uncle’s chair is challenged by his (former) friend Lorelei. She’s an orphan just trying to get ahead in the world – even if it means stomping on Homer. A quest is set and the contest begins. Selfors’ imagination leads to some terrific inventions – such as the cloudcopter, great discoveries -like musical crystals, and amazing characters, including daft Honorable Lord Mockingbird XVIII. (more…)

Visiting with an Old Friend

Favorite authors. Do you have one? I mean the one you read over and over and over again. I have two. First is JRR Tolkien. I cannot say how many times I’ve read through the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it is many. Of course, because Tolkien no longer walks the earth, he’s not producing any new fiction, unless you count The Children of Hurin, the unfinished epic that was edited and brought to publication in 2007 by his son Christopher Tolkien. But Frodo and Sam will not grace the page again for any of us. If Tolkien had any other stories to share with us sadly, we will never know them.

My other favorite author, who is alive and well, is Orson Scott Card. When I discovered his work in my young adult years, I rejoiced.  I have subsequently read everything he’s written.  While I don’t universally like all of his work, I always enjoy reading his stories – because he is such a craftsman when it comes to creating a science fiction/fantasy story. So whenever any new Card comes along, I am pleased as punch.  I confess to not always keeping up with what’s new, so when I found TWO new Card books while Christmas shopping, I nearly salivated. I immediately added them to my order.

Pathfinder is a new science fiction story that debuted in November of 2010.  It has all the classic Card features fans have come to love: space travel save-the-earth plans, young heroes with exceptionally special mystical talents, corrupt government officials bent on keeping or gaining power, good people who act selflessly, and fantastic technology.                                                                                     

The Lost Gate, which arrived on my doorstep in early January 2011,  is more straight fantasy. It borrows from legends of old and reminded me of Rick Riordan’s books with the “orphaned god who doesn’t understand his destiny” set in today’s America.

Id give Pathfinder my nod for favorite between the two stories, although Card fans, or any science fiction/fantasy fans, would like either of them. A good audience for either of these books would be junior high and up. I was quite pleased to be able to spend a couple of afternoons reading them. It was like catching up with an old friend. I hope their sequels get here soon – I can’t wait for another visit.

Watersmeet by Ellen Jenson Abbott

Today, I’m featuring theYA fantasy Watersmeet by 2k9 debut classmate Ellen Jenson Abbott. From the moment I saw Ellen’s cover, I wanted to read the book. It’s one of those covers that says, “Listen, I have a secret you want to hear.” And what a secret lies in those pages!

Abisinia, an outcast in her dystopian world, escapes from the only home she’s ever known to find the father she’s never known.  The prejudice and discrimination she’s endured through her short years prepare her well for the difficult journey she undertakes – to a mystical place she’s heard about called Watersmeet. What it doesn’t prepare her for is the depth to which her own heart could carry those same types of feelings.  I’ll use epic here because her journey represents the journey of the entire world Abbott has created.  It is a world of extremes, where your physical appearance determines your status and races are steeped in hatred and mistrust. The town of Watersmeet provides a haven where creatures of different backgrounds can come to learn trust and acceptance – if they don’t destroy it first.

Things to like about this story: It’s good fantasy and good fantasy is difficult to come by. The world and characters Ellen created are real and their struggles are are eminently identifiable with prejudice and discrimination in our own real world. Her world is vivid and easy to imagine. And don’t forget about that beautiful cover – never underestimate the power of a great cover!

Audience: Upper midgrade, YA and adult. It does contain some violent elements.

Ellen Jenson Abbott has created a unique and wonderful world and characters that I care about. I see Abisinia continuing her journey into adulthood and becoming a force for good in her world. I hope that sequel comes out soon!