Monday, September 30, 2013

MMGM review: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

From the publisher:

Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

My thoughts:

I was a bit worried this was one of those children's books written to please the librarians, but I was oh-so wrong. This book was fun, appealing to both boys and girls, which isn't easy to pull off. It manages to weave a fast-paced story with little book and library references--fun for adults as well as kids. 

I wanted to be part of this library lock-in so much, and I think kids and adults alike will feel the same way. Chris Grabenstein hit it out of the park with Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Where I found out about this book: 

I'm a huge Chris Grabenstein fan, so there was no way I would've missed this one.

For more MMGM reviews, go to Shannon Messenger's blog....!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Mississippi Man's Tastes Get Him Into Trouble

I haven't written flash fiction in a long time--and it used to be all I did! Weird to get back to it... But Patti Abbott posted this challenge, and I had to join:
This time the prompt comes from a headline from 1913 in a Detroit paper: MICHIGAN MAN'S TASTES GET HIM INTO TROUBLE. I have no idea what the story was about because the print is so tiny. And I don't want to know, nor should you. Make it your own story. Feel free to change Michigan to whatever state or place you want. In fact, I suggest it. Maybe the places will factor in heavily. So the title of every story will be the same except for the place.The locales can make it zing.
My story plays in Mississippi--I have to set a story here at least once. Even though the place is still very much a mystery to me, I get what locals love: the coast, the mild-ish winter, nature, the boating. Oh, and I got to swim with the bat rays at Horn Island once, which is pretty amazing. So I had to work that in there.

Anyway, here's my (kid-friendly) story...


It wasn’t a good day for fishing. Junior knew this before he even made it to the pier, so he took a detour. He walked the adjacent boating docks, like he always did with Daddy. Well, until last April’s bad Sunday anyway. Daddy didn’t like to go fishing much anymore. Not even on Sunday mornings, when Momma was busy with church.

The water was too flat, the sun too harsh, the air too thick with Mississippi humidity. Had to get out in the Gulf a few miles for good fishing, past the barrier islands, where the water was fresh and clear. If you lived on the Mississippi coast, you needed to have a boat. Everyone knew that to be true. Especially Daddy.
Junior walked the docks, past the boats that bobbed gently in the water. It was busy for a Sunday, lots of folk buzzing about, getting ready for next week’s boat show. There were sales people in suits, tanned men with slicked back hair and too-white teeth, and boaters minding their vessels. Junior clutched his small cooler, the one with his name in washed-out Sharpie letters on the bottom. He was sorry now that he spent his last few dollars on bait. Nothing was going to bite on a day like today.
Daddy would’ve known it too. Junior always hoped he’d run into Daddy on the docks during these Sunday morning trips.
Glad I caught ya’ll here, son. Gonna be a tough day for angling, but we’ll get ‘em.
And then they’d walk to the adjoining pier. Catch ten fish, like the one time last year, or nothing—Junior really didn’t care. He just liked listening to Daddy talk about the water, the fish, the boat he would buy. They’d take it out to Horn Island where the beaches were white and the water was clear. You could swim with the bat rays, Daddy said. Here in Gulfport, the water was so murky, you couldn’t see your line past an inch once it got into the water. Hard to know what you were catching. And nobody in their right mind went swimming here.
No more dreaming of a boat or Horn Island trips now. Not after it had turned so sour.
Junior just about reached the end of the dock, but saw a cluster of adults blocking his way. He was about to turn around and head to the pier, when he smelled it. The cigar smoke—sweet, acrid. Only a whiff, but Junior knew it was him.
Tucker Williams. Or whatever the guy’s name really was.
“Got the cash, baby.” That was his voice—Tucker for sure.
Junior clutched his cooler and fishing pole. Felt the sweat drip down the side of his face as he turned. And he quickly walked back the way he came, trying to forget that voice and the cigar smoke. But the smell got stuck up his nose.
Junior stopped. Could practically feel the soles of his worn flip-flops melt on the hot wood planks of the dock.
All our savings! Junior could hear Momma yell at Daddy like it was yesterday. You done got yourself swindled. That boat wasn’t even his! Didn’t you think to check the papers?
Tucker Williams.

Of course Daddy reported the theft to the police—after he got arrested on the boat not an hour later. All their life savings for a vessel that belonged to a couple in Florida with no interest in selling. The papers that this Tucker fellow had given Daddy were fake. And Daddy had handed him all their money, in a small cooler like Junior carried today. Tucker had told Daddy to bring it like that. Safer that way.

The swindler was gone. Happened all the time, police said once Daddy explained what happened. Not much to do, not with a cash deal on the docks. Murky business. That’s what the policeman called it.

Junior turned back around. Felt the fire lit under him, like a hot Mississippi July day. He made his way past the crowd, to the far end of the dock. There was that smell again. Stronger this time, lingering in the humid air.

The low morning sun’s glare made it hard to see, but it was Tucker Williams alright. He sat on a bench, away from all the boats. Talking on the phone, smoking one of those thin cigars. Tucker shot him a glance, but looked away. To him, Junior was just another kid with a fishing pole.

He doesn’t even remember me. Junior bit his cheek.

“I’m done here now, sweetie. Comin’ your way right quick—we can have a late breakfast at that place you like.” There was a cooler, sitting on the bench next to Tucker.

Junior forced himself to walk over. He sat down next to the guy, pretending to get his line ready for fishing.

Tucker turned away a bit, lowered his voice. “Or lunch. Whatever you want, hon.” He reached behind him, touching the cooler with his fingertips. “It’s on me.” Then Tucker dropped his arm back to his side.

Junior took his chance. He switched the coolers quickly.

Got up. Disappeared into the crowd.

Junior’s feet flip-flopped fast as he hurried away. He found his favorite secluded fishing spot on the adjoining pier before opening the cooler. Wads of hundreds, rolled neatly. Junior couldn’t tell how much was there, but it had to be a lot. At least as much as Daddy lost. Maybe more.

He smiled, and imagined Tucker Williams finding that stinky bait inside the cooler. Turning it over, reading the faded black letters on the bottom, knowing he’d been double-crossed. By a kid.

Junior stayed in his hiding spot, even threw out a line without the bait. There was a breeze now. The air was lighter.

Turned out it was a good day for fishing after all.     

    ***You can find links to more stories here at Patti's blog.***

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The last ARC giveaway--version 2.0

**This giveaway has ended... I drew the winner from my hat: Akossiwa Ketoglo! Congrats. For those of you who didn't win, check in next month for lots of Double Vision: Code Name 711 giveaways in conjunction with my blog tour. Stay tuned...**

Okay, so the Rafflecopter doohickey doesn't work so well... My dinosaur status must be rubbing off on the blog. So I'm rebooting the giveaway of the last ARC of Double Vision: Code Name 711, Linc's second adventure, out in October.

We're going old-school. I'll take all your entries that the Rafflecopter did record, plus your comments are entries. Then I write your names on a piece of paper, and put them in a hat. No glitches possible there.

U.S. only (sorry, international friends), because postage beyond out borders is wicked expensive.

I'll run the giveaway until Sunday. If you want to enter, just say howdy below! Or tell me what your favorite snack is; I'm always looking to expand my food repertoire...

I'll draw and announce the winner Sunday evening...

Monday, September 23, 2013

MMGM review: Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

It was Talk Like a Pirate Day last Thursday, so I just had to read Treasure Hunters. Don't worry, I'm not going to talk like a pirate (it's harder than it seems...).

From the publisher:

The Kidd siblings have grown up diving down to shipwrecks and traveling the world, helping their famous parents recover everything from swords to gold doubloons from the bottom of the ocean. But after their parents disappear n the job, the kids are suddenly thrust into the biggest treasure hunt of their lives. They'll have to work together to defeat dangerous pirates and dodge the hot pursuit of an evil treasure hunting rival, all while following cryptic clues to unravel the mystery of what really happened to their parents--and find out if they're still alive. 

My thoughts:

Treasure Hunters is a book written for kids, not adults--and that is something James Patterson is known for. The premise is a bit of a stretch, but only for us adults. I can see kids, especially those into all things pirate and treasure hunting, loving this book. The pacing is brisk, the writing tight, and there's plenty of character voice to make the story come to life. 

A great book for your very reluctant middle-grade readers: it's fun, has illustrations, lots of dialogue--the pages turn quickly. 

How I found out about this book:

There's been a good amount of marketing for Treasure Hunters, so it was hard to miss. 

For more MMGM reviews, go to Shannon Messenger's blog....

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Last ARC giveaway...

*** This giveaway has ended... I drew the winner from my hat: Akossiwa Ketoglo! Congrats :-) For those of you who didn't win, check in next month for lots of Double Vision giveaways in conjunction with my blog tour. Stay tuned...***

That sounds like I have an ark or something, but really, it's an advanced reader copy of Double Vision: Code Name 711. And since it needs a good home, I'm giving it away...

You can enter at the Rafflecopter thingy below--U.S. only, unfortunately, since I don't have any clout with the USPS...

And if you're feeling extra lucky, you can also enter the Goodreads giveaway that the kind people at Harper are hosting.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sometimes, all you need is cats

This is Xena (big girl) and little Chloe, keeping an eye on the house from their favorite spot by the window. You can't tell from the picture, but Xena barely tolerates her kitten sidekick. And Chloe thinks Xena walks on water...

Great character study, watching my cats :-)

Happy weekend, all!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Teen book review: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

From the publisher:

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

My thoughts:

This was very much a girl teen book, something I don't normally go for, but it had me hooked. The girl character Willa is quirky and fun, and deals with your typical teen peer pressure stuff to do with status/money--and I could imagine myself making some of the same mistakes at that age. Great voice, strong setting, fast-paced narrative... I read this book in just two sittings, I was so into it.

The second in the series comes out early 2014, looking forward.

Extra points: 

My teen girl loved it, and she's a critical reader.

How I found out about this book:

The author, Elisa Ludwig, is a blog mate of mine over at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis. Shame on me for taking this long to discover this series.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Do you ever miss the characters of your favorite TV show or book?

My love has been off putting miles on his combat boots at the other side of the world. Me, I take that as an opportunity to get caught up on my British crime shows. They're my favorite, and he doesn't like them so much...

And with the joys of streaming, I can catch whole seasons at a time (well, at least over the course of a few weeks). I watched Wallander, Inpector Lewis, Sherlock (it's a long deployment, don't judge me).

I got into this crime show called Vera, too. The downside to this binge-watching of TV? Sometimes, you get tired of a show, but other times, it becomes a tad addictive. I was all into Vera, but then there were only two seasons. And I missed her, even though she's the most unlikable of characters. Weird, huh?

I have the same problem with some book characters, like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch. I just don't want these people (who totally aren't real, I do know this) to disappear. But it wasn't until I missed my Vera that I understood why my kid readers get so frustrated when they hear they have to wait for the next book. I get it now. You miss this imaginary person, and the imaginary world they live in.

How about you? Do you have TV show or book characters you're that invested in?

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's a Mississippi Monday, so let's listen to some BB King

It's hotter than a Thanksgiving oven here in Mississippi right now, so hot that I don't cook much, and say 'Have mercy' every time I go outside. Watching the floods in Colorado, I know I shouldn't complain, but...

Have mercy.

This kind of weather makes me hum BB King tunes, so here he is. Be cool, all. And keep your socks dry, Colorado...

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's Roald Dahl Day! This calls for a party...

I've been so busy with final edits on Linc's third adventure that I was only half paying attention to the news this week... Apologies.

But I did catch that it's Roald Dahl Day today! How cool is that... I'm such a fan of his books. I found out that there's even a Roald Dahl museum. Alas, it's in the U.K., so we'll keep that visit on the ol' bucket list.

Happy weekend, y'all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday review: The Code Busters Club #1 by Penny Warner

From the Publisher:

Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. may be really different, but they all share one thing in common: they love playing around with codes. In fact, they love codes so much, they have their own private club, with a super-secret hideout and passwords that change every single day.

When Cody and Quinn notice what could be a code on the window of a nearby house, the one owned by their strange neighbor, the guy they call Skeleton Man, the club gets to work. And it is a cry for help!

Now the Code Busters are on the case—and nothing will stop them from solving the mystery and finding the secret treasure that seems to be the cause of it all!

My thoughts:

Oh, this book was such fun! Perfect for your younger middle-grade reader, ages 7-11, I would say, and equally appealing for boys and girls. The writing is tight, the characters fun, the mystery solid. I'll be checking out the rest of the series. I saw that the second book won the Agatha this year--no surprise there.

Where I found out about this book:

One of my favorite blogs, YA Book Nerd, reviewed it not too long ago. Since there are codes in the book, I thought I should check it out. Glad I did.

For more MMGM reviews, go to Shannon Messenger's blog....

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday around the web: Crime and Science radio, how to start a book club for kids, and kitten food crisis

It's September! I thought this month would never get here... Here in southern Mississippi, each fall month gets us closer to humanly tolerable temps. Currently we're battling the nineties with umptienthousand percent humidity, but we're getting closer to November, when we can go outside and breathe again... :-)

But enough about the weather already. This week on the Twitterz, it was a short week with a hodge-podge of news, like that there will be a new Agatha Christie novel (not sure I'm cool with that, but I'll keep an open mind). For my fellow crime writers: Crime and Science Radio will be hosting webcasts on various crimey topics, starting Saturday with Hollywood Storytelling: Science Fact or Make Believe? This looks like a promising resource...

If you're interested in starting a book club for kids, read my author pal Caroline Starr Rose's blog for a step-by-step guide. Great advice there.

And for some Friday fun, here's a picture of kitten ChuChu, trying to get my attention when I'm editing, but the food bowl is also empty:

Happy weekend, all. Stay frosty...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Goodreads giveaway of Code Name 711 ARCs!

It's just six weeks until Linc's second adventure, Double Vision: Code Name 711, comes out! Which is why I've been a bit quiet here on the blog for the past week: I've been planning launch events and other promotional stuff.

Stay tuned for more cool news on that over the next few weeks...

But for those of you who like to read a book before it hits the shelves: the awesome people at Harper Children's are running a Goodreads giveaway of advanced copies of Double Vision: Code Name 711. So enter if you feel lucky...

Thanks for the support, as always, YA Sleutheri. It's nice to have good friends in my corner.

Follow along with the MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL blog tour!

I'm so excited for the Aug. 25th release if MIDNIGHT AT THE BARCLAY HOTEL...!  If you want to join the fun, follow along with the bl...