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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: THE GIVER by Lois Lowry

From AmazonSince winning the Newbery Medal in 1994, Lois Lowry’s The Giver has become one of the most influential novels of our time. This illustrated edition is a celebration of the book’s standard of excellence and of Lowry’s illustrious writing. The text is complemented by thirteen new illustrations from the acclaimed artist Bagram Ibatoulline. Also included are an introduction by the author and her inspiring Newbery Medal acceptance speech. The additional content now makes it easier than ever to introduce young readers to this riveting modern classic, and provide a fresh edition for its legions of fans.
The story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind his fragile community. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: JANITORS by Tyler Whitesides (Shadow Mountain, June 2012)

From Amazon: The magical, secretive society of JANITORS will sweep the country in the fall of 2011. Have you ever fallen asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it s draining all the smarts out of the kids. Twelveyear- old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wields wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world? Janitors is book 1 in a new children s fantasy series by debut novelist Tyler Whitesides. You ll never look at a mop the same way again.

Audience: Middle-grade (Upper)
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 288 pgs

Rating: **** (Really liked it)

Review: I actually read this book a while ago and forgot to review it! A friend posted it was free on Amazon, and I always jump on top of that, especially when I’ve heard of the author or it’s published by a publisher I’m familiar with. As you know, if you’ve read my middle-grade reviews, it’s not my favorite age to read, but this book was fun and quirky and I loved the characters. It just so out of the box, you can’t help but love it. I liked the twists and the imagination. I loved how the parents weren’t totally absent, but their roles were still believable. Great book for a 10+ kid! I know when my oldest finally gets through The Lightening Thief (he’s an over-achiever), this will be one of my first recommendations for him.

Content: Rated 1-5, 1 being minor instances and 5 being saturated
Violence – 2 (minor fighting)
Language – 0
Sex – 0

Source: Bought from Amazon during a sale.

Try this Like middle-grade fantasy? Try ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer

Friday, November 8, 2013

Blog Tour Review: SPY FOR A SPY by Jordan McCollum (Durham Crest, November 2013)

We're celebrating the launch of Spy for a Spy, sequel to I, Spy! Read on to get a cool spy tip for your daily life, free & discounted reads, and enter to win some great prizes! You can also find Spy for a Spy at the special $3.99 launch discount on Amazon, Kobo, and JordanMcCollum.com!

About the Book

Canada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. And it was the last place CIA operative Talia Reynolds expected to run into fellow operative Brand Copley. AKA her new boss. AKA her ex-boyfriend.
Just the guy every woman wants to face in the middle of planning her wedding. Once again, Talia’s lying to the man she loves, but this time, to protect his heart. After Brand takes over Talia’s latest case and steals her newest agent, he assigns her to spy on her old boss—who’s suddenly giving her every reason not to trust him. With only weeks until the big day, planning falls by the wayside as she goes into damage control mode. But when Talia discovers Brand’s real motives, fighting him is the only option, no matter what the personal and professional cost. More about Spy for a Spy | Add Spy for a Spy to your Goodreads to-read list!

Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Romance Thriller
Length: 318 pgs

Rating: ***** (FANtastic Book that I LOVED)

Review: Upside--by signing up for the blog tour, I got a copy of SPY FOR A SPY early. Downside: It will now seem like forever before the next book is out. I am not patient. I hate waiting for books in a series. (Truth: I came into Harry Potter so late, I only had to wait for the last two books.)
But, the few week wait between I, SPY and reading this one was well worth it (and a drop of salve with the FREE prequel novella MR. NICE SPY!) Same great voice. Awesome action and awesome Talia. Slight Spoiler Alert *** I was a tiny bit disappointed that after what happened in the first book, that Talia still managed to justify lying to Danny about small things. I thought she'd learned, but it works out well and I'm pretty sure that now she's got it. ;) What I love about these books is the way the tension is built line upon line. Sheesh, the first person narrative is so riveting. I had no problem reading this book in a day and a half, it kept me so close to the page. Go. Read. Now.

Content: Rated 1-5, 1 being minor instances and 5 being saturated
Violence - 2+ (Plenty of fighting and action, but nothing too graphic.)
Language - 0
Sex - 1 (Kissing)

Source: I received a copy of this book as part of the SPY FOR A SPY blog tour and in exchange for my honest opinion.


Hone your spy skills

Spy skills can come in handy in the most unusual situations, like this one . . .
 Further hone your spy skills by reading Spy for a Spy!

About the author

An award-winning author, Jordan McCollum can’t resist a story where good defeats evil and true love conquers all. In her day job, she coerces people to do things they don’t want to, elicits information and generally manipulates the people she loves most—she’s a mom. Jordan holds a degree in American Studies and Linguistics from Brigham Young University. When she catches a spare minute, her hobbies include reading, knitting and music. She lives with her husband and four children in Utah.


Tell me about yourself and how you got started writing. What I really want to know is, were you a spy in a former life ;)?
 Haha, no, I wish (sort of) (but not really). I've kind of always written, but some of my first real, independent creative writing projects came about as fanfiction. It's hard for me to admit this, but . . . my first fandom was The Monkees. True. After many years of that—and a long writing break to finish college, become an Internet marketing expert and start a family—a dream inspired my original fiction. You can read all about my writing journey in my blog series on the topic.

Everything worked so well and seemed so realistic in SPY FOR A SPY. What kind of research did you do and what kind of experience/experiences did you use to write the I SPY series? Where did your inspiration for the series come from? Thank you so much! Funnily enough, my love of The Monkees indirectly inspired I, Spy. I was big into '60s rock and pop as a teenager (I was born 30 years too late, apparently). Just before Valentine's day last year, I heard a somewhat obscure '60s pop song, and old favorite, while shopping for Valentines at the Dollar Tree. I asked the writer's favorite question, What if . . . and I, Spy was born. To add authenticity, I did a ton of research. Which is cool, because I love research ;) . I read about a dozen CIA memoirs and histories, and I'm always reading more. The last addition to my library was a dissertation, an ethnography on CIA analysts by Bridget Rose Nolan. But when it came down to it, I still had to make a whole bunch of stuff up ;) . My favorite research exercise, however, had to be three weeks ago when I took a Spy Escape & Evasion course from former CIA officer Jason Hanson. I spent an entire day learning escape, social engineering and other spy techniques, and then I spent another day on the streets of Salt Lake City, evading surveillance and carrying out "spy" missions. When I arrived at the final rendezvous, having successfully escaped surveillance for over six hours (and having walked 10+ miles), I could have wept for joy . . . if I weren't so dehydrated ;) .

What are your personal tips and tricks for balancing the rest of your life (being a mom, etc) with writing? Honestly, this novel has taken over my life for the last four months. I have no tips anymore. I use a to do list arranged by time of day (morning, afternoon, evening) and an accountability partner to get stuff done. I try to maximize bedtime and naptime for me, but I'm very committed to making sure my kids get to go out and do fun things. I may not be able to play with them every minute of the day, but I do try to make sure we get to go to museums or fun family activities regularly. Also, chores. Although chores have become a big fight in our family sometimes, I need my kids' help to keep the house functioning properly!

Lots of budding authors (like me) love to hear that How I Got Published or How I Got My Agent story. What’s yours? Once upon a time, I sent a novel to a publisher. And they rejected me. I spent over a year reworking the manuscript before I sent it back. And they accepted me! BUT when I got the contract . . . let's just say they weren't tears of joy. That experience helped convince me I would be better off publishing myself. So I founded my own company, as a commitment to publishing quality, hired professionals for cover design and editing, and learned a TON about ebooks, print book interior layout and more.

Most important of all: Favorite flavor of ice cream? BYU Creamery's Earnestly Chocolate: milk chocolate ice cream, caramel and marshmallow ribbons, and mini chocolate-covered caramel cups. Second favorite: Subzero (liquid nitrogen ice cream) marshmallow and caramel flavored base with chocolate flakes (simulating See's Scotchmallow candies). But I'm always a sucker for plain ol' vanilla.

So much fun to hear Jordan's answers! Thanks, again!

Join the party & enter to win!

As part of the debut of Spy for a Spy, Jordan is co-hosting a launch party with Julie Coulter Bellon, author of Pocket Full of Posies. Join us November 12 on Facebook (Jordan's and Julie's pages) and Twitter (follow Julie and Jordan) for drawings throughout the day, and enter to win more fabulous prizes here!!

Special deals!

Spy for a Spy is a sequel to the novel I, Spy, available for 99¢ at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Jordan's site this week only! To save her country and her secrets, CIA operative Talia Reynolds will have to sacrifice the man she loves. More about I, Spy. Also, as a free gift this week, Jordan is giving out free e-copies of a prequel novella, Mr. Nice Spy, on Amazon and her site!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mini-Review: MR. NICE SPY by Jordan McCollum (Durham Crest, 2013)

From Jordan's websiteCanada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. CIA operative Elliott Monteith has made it work, just like he’s made things work with his longtime fiancée Shanna. Until Shanna lays out an ultimatum: move forward or move on. Meanwhile, Elliott and his best friend and fellow operative, Talia Reynolds, try to track an elusive leak at the American embassy.
But something changes between Elliott and Talia as they close in on the man selling out his country. Professional and personal lines blur and Elliott has to choose—his fiancée or his best friend.
Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Romance, Adventure
Length: 101 pgs.
Rating: *****
Review: I LOVED this short snipped of the I, SPY world as much as I loved the full-length one. I like seeing Elliot's side of things, especially the way he sees Talia. Great adventure, perfect romance. All the excitment you need in a hundred pages. Love.
Source: Amazon Kindle book. (Free)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: I SPY by Jordan McCollum (Durham Crest, May 2013)

Canada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. 
But even idyllic Ottawa has its deadly secrets—and so does CIA operative Talia Reynolds. She can climb through ventilation shafts, blend in at the occasional diplomatic function, even scale buildings (small ones). But there’s one thing she can’t do: tell her aerospace engineer boyfriend Danny about her Top Secret occupation.
It worked for a year, keeping Danny in the dark, keeping him away from danger, keeping her secrets. And then Talia finally catches a hot case: Fyodor Timofeyev. Russian. Aerospace executive. Possible spy?
She can make this work, too—until Danny needs her at the same time her country does. And when Fyodor targets Danny? Suddenly her schedule isn’t the only thing suffering. Now to save her secrets and her country, Talia must sacrifice the man she loves.
Audience: Adult (Clean)Genre: Romantic Spy ThrillerLength: 312 pgs
Rating: ***** (Loved it!)

About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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