Category Archives: middle grade

If Landry can do it, maybe I can too

best friends forever coverIn Best Friends Forever, Landry’s about to enter into grade 9. She’s an aspiring model, has a few good friends, and a boy is interested in her. So why is life so tough? No matter what she may have going for her, Landry must deal with the same petty jealousy, new school anxiety, and boy problems any other teenage girl faces. It’s not until she is reinstated as a contestant in the modeling competition that she meets someone, an older contestant, that helps her put her life into perspective. Will Landry reunite with her estranged friends? Will she ever work it out with Vladi, her on-again-off-again “boyfriend”? How will she fare in the competition?

I read a lot of YA fiction, most of it rife with abuses I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. It was refreshing to read a novel dealing with the trials and tribulations of an ordinary, everyday teen. Rather than grapple with questions of life or death, the author, Krysten Lindsay Hager, hands the grappling over to the reader. Landry has everything going for her and she is still dealing with the same trivial issues blown to mammoth proportions. If Landry is experiencing the same thing as the reader and still manages to come out on top, maybe the reader can, too.

Best Friends Forever is a charming peek into the life of a normal teen. Rather than depict an ordinary teen in extraordinary circumstances so she can emerge extraordinary in the end, Hager’s book shows an ordinary teen in ordinary circumstances who emerges extraordinary, nevertheless. Though Landry possesses beauty, emerging fame, and popularity—all the makings of a “mean girl”—she faces every challenge she meets with aplomb, never giving up on wanting to do what’s right for everyone around her.

Landry is the perfect protagonist around which to base a series. I wish Hager all the best with this series, and hope to check in with Landry later on, to see how she fares in high school.

Mamabear gives this book:

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Landry in Like (Landry’s True Colors Series: Book 3)

LandryinLike453X680Series Info: The Landry’s True Colors Series is a clean reads young adult humor series about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, crushes, and self-image.

Genre: contemporary clean teen fiction

Landry in Like (Landry’s True Colors Series: Book 3) by Krysten Lindsay Hager

About the Book:

Things seem to be going well in Landry Albright’s world—she’s getting invited to be on local talk shows to talk about her modeling career, her best friends have her back, and her boyfriend Vladi has becoming someone she can truly count on…and then everything changes. Suddenly it seems like most of the girls in school are into hanging out at a new teen dance club, while Landry just wants to spend her weekends playing video games and baking cupcakes at sleepovers. Then, Yasmin McCarty, the most popular girl in school, starts to come between Landry’s friendship with Ashanti. Things take a turn when Yasmin tells Vladi that Landry is interested in another boy. Can Landry get her relationships with Ashanti and Vladi back or will she be left out and left behind?

Watch the book trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CsGREKFQco&feature=youtu.be

By Landry in Like by Krysten Lindsay Hager on Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Nook UK, Kobo, and Itunes/Ibooks.

 

About the Author:

Author pic (2)Krysten Lindsay Hager is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a clean reads young adult series and the new ​Star Series. Krysten writes about  friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, modeling, crushes, values, and self-image in True Colors, Best Friends…Forever? And Landry in Like, as well as in, Next Door to a Star (Star Series). Her sequel to Next Door to a Star will be out March 22 2016.

Krysten is a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes YA, MG, humor essays, and adult fiction. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in southwestern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Find out more about Krysten Lindsay Hager at

| Website | Instagram | Amazon | Pinterest | Facebook |Twitter | Goodreads |

Author talk show interview |

Excerpt from Landry in Like by Kristen Lindsay Hager:

I wanted to call my friends and tell them about being on the talk show, but Mom said we had to be at the TV station super early — even before school started. She said I could text them, but I had to turn off my phone and go to bed.

“I’m waking you up at four a.m.,” she said. “You have to be there at five-thirty.”

“Can I just call Peyton and Ashanti? Please?”

“Fine, but you have five minutes and then that phone is mine and you’re in bed.”

I dialed Peyton, but her mom said she was in the shower. I told her mom about the show tomorrow and said my mom wouldn’t let me stay up any later to call Peyton back.

“How exciting! I will make sure Peyton knows, and I will be watching you tomorrow. Good luck, honey,” Mrs. Urich said.

I called Ashanti next and told her.

“Get out. Get. Out. No way. This is so exciting!”

“I’m so nervous. My stomach is already doing cartwheels. I can’t do one, but my stomach can. Seems unfair. What if I throw up before I go on? I did that right before I went on at the statewide Ingénue modeling competition in Detroit, and my mom had to give me a cough drop to cover up the smell.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine, but… just in case, take a cough drop with you,” Ashanti said. “Good luck. You’ll be great and I’ll go set the DVR now.”

I hung up and sent a text to Vladi, India, Devon, Thalia, Tori, and Ericka, so no one would be mad and feel left out. Then I shut off my phone. Mom poked her head in the door to make sure I was in bed.

“Night, hon. Try to get some rest,” she said.

Easier said than done. I stared at my ceiling while thinking about all the things that could possibly go wrong tomorrow. Seeing as the show was on in the morning, I never got to watch it, so I had no idea what the set was like — did it have super high chairs and I’d struggle to get into them? And what if it had those higher stools that were kind of tippy and my rear overshot the seat and I fell off? Or what if the prep questions got lost and the interviewer asked me random things like my feelings on nuclear war or asked me about some foreign political leader who I had never heard of before, and I appeared stupid? Why did I say I’d do this? I tried to get comfortable and it felt like I had just dozed off when I felt my mom shaking my shoulder.

“Rise and shine, TV star,” she said.

true colors book 1What people are saying about True Colors (Landry’s True Colors Series Book One):

From Teenage Book Recommendations in the UK: “This is a fantastically relatable and real book which I feel captures all of the insecurities and troubles which haunt the modern teenage girl. It is about a young model who has to go through tough times when she is torn between a life as a model and managing her friendships. You learn which friends she can most trust and which will create the drama typical of teenage life. Follow the life of Landry and try to see if you can find out which are her true friends before their true colours are revealed. This book is all about relationships, hopes and truth. I loved this book!”

 

 

Fast-paced and Entertaining

andrea and the 5-day challengeWhen Andrea promises to complete a 5-day bible study and journal, she isn’t sure if she will be successful or how it will affect her life. But as the week wears on, she faces a number of seemingly insurmountable challenges, most of them concerning school and her crush on new guy Luke Ryan, not to mention Luke’s crush on her. Then there’s the piano recital and the potential to be scouted for Julliard. To make matters worse, mean girl Stephanie is also interested in Luke. Will Andrea survive the week, let alone see her 5-day challenge through to the end?

Cindy K. Green’s Andrea and the 5-Day Challenge is a quick and entertaining read, one which I finished over the course of 4 days. The story is fast-paced and the characters are believable. Poor Andrea is stuck feeling like such a hopeless failure as she tries to please everyone around her: her parents, whose only dream is to see her be a successful pianist, her friends who want her to let loose and have fun with Luke, she neglects to please herself. Rather than embrace a chaste relationship with Luke, she spurns him several times, but by the end of her 5-day challenge, she learns how to communicate and negotiate and that, if she’s simply honest with the people in her life, there is a way to make everyone, including herself, happy.

Though I’ll admit I was a bit wary of the religious aspect of this text, Green manages to work in the importance of prayer and God in one’s life without hitting the reader over the head with it. The Bible passages are short and relevant to what’s happening in Andrea’s life. In addition, Andrea uses the passages she chooses on each day of the challenge to find solace in her life and to become a better person, which is kind of cool. Young girls will be able to identify with Andrea’s search for her identity, her soul, and for a way to have it all.

Mamabear gives this book:

four-bears

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Never Look at Your Pets the Same Way Again

KT CS cover 2014Tawny can’t resist a dare. So when her best friend, Jenny, dares her to eat a piece of her dog’s kibble, Tawny has no choice but to follow through. That’s how Tawny finds out she’s a Doolittle, one of only a few talented people who can hear their pets’ thoughts after eating their food. And you’ll never believe what the pets are thinking. From her insecure cat who feigns indifference but really craves her attention, to her Great Dane, Dinky, whose only dream is to be a lap dog, life becomes anything but ordinary for Tawny. And that’s only the start. Rather than write it off as a one-time occurrence when the spell wears off, Tawny chooses to eat another piece of kibble.

Kibble Talk by Cynthia Port is the first in a series of adventures Tawny and Jenny have with their pets. Though I’ve learned from the movies that talking pets are most likely cliche if the viewer is over the age of five, Port’s book is anything but. I laughed out loud in places as Tawny tries to make Dinky’s lap-dog dream come true. Tawny is a resourceful young girl who thinks off the cuff and pulls through to meet the animals’ requests, no matter how difficult.

Meant for a middle-grade audience, Kibble Talk is a fast and entertaining read. I managed to read it in two sittings in a single day, about four hours in total. I was hooked from the first pages, and didn’t want to put it down; couldn’t put it down. Kids will love this book. Adults will enjoy reading it aloud to their kids. I guarantee that after you finish it, you’ll never look at your pets the same way again.

Mamabear gives this book

five-bears

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Author Cynthia Port talks about “Kibble Talk” and “Dog Goner”

Please help Britbear’s Book Reviews to welcome Cynthia Port  to today’s author spotlight with an interview about her books, Kibble Talk and Dog Goner.

KT CS cover 2014

Kibble Talk Book Description:

Once Tawny decides to do something, there’s no holding her back. So when her best friend dares her to eat dog kibble, down it goes. Little does she know how that dusty, tasteless lump will change her life. Suddenly she can hear what dogs have to say and talk back to them too! This might not be such a big deal, except that her own dog, an enormous Great Dane named Dinky, has a LOT to say. He lets her know right away that his fondest dream is to be a teeny tiny lap dog with all the accessories. Tawny promises to help him, and her life nearly goes to the dogs. 

Buy Kibble Talk on Amazon.

DG CS cover 2014 flat

Dog Goner Book Description:

Secrets will be revealed! Fondest wishes will be fulfilled! Permacrud will be . . . what the heck is permacrud, anyway? Find out in Dog Goner, the second book in the hilarious Kibble Talk series. Tawny and Jenny, along with their dogs Dinky and Gunner, have set themselves on a mission – or really, three missions. Gunner just wants to be clean, but it’s not as easy as it seems. Jenny is determined to find out the secret to Kibble Talking, and she’s prepared to feed kibble to the whole fifth grade if need be. Tawny wants a little brother or sister to make her family complete. But there’s someone else with a fondest wish, and they’ll do anything to get it. Dinky just wants to save the day before someone becomes a dog goner.

Buy Dog Goner on Amazon.

Hi, Cynthia. Your books all share a common theme. What’s your inspiration behind Kibble Talk?

Not too long ago my husband and I had a very big dog.  A stunningly beautiful Alaskan Malamute named Kodiak, she was large even for her breed at 150 pounds.  But for all her size, she was tiny in her heart.  She desperately wanted to be able to curl up on my lap and get tucked into my purse.  I wrote this story for her and for all large dogs who might rather be small.

Dogs figure prominently in both Kibble Talk and Dog Goner, yet nowhere on your Amazon profile does it say you are a dog lover. Do you have any pets? Is there a reason you write about dogs over cats or birds?

I’m glad you asked this, because I puzzle over it some too.  As my previous answer shows, I do love dogs and have had them as pets most of my life, but I am really an equal opportunity animal lover.  I even love bugs, the bigger the better!  (The bigger they are, the more huggable, I always say.)  Right now my life only has room for a cat, and she is a handful—very sneaky, very smart, very sweet.  But I’m hardly alone as an author in choosing a dog as a talking animal companion for a child – there are almost too many talking dogs in children’s literature to count!  Sure, there are a few cats, birds, crickets, horses etc., but mostly it’s dogs.  I suspect that is because the way dogs interact with humans often looks and feels a lot like talking. The tilt of the head, the flick of ears, the eyebrow crinkle—they often seem to be trying to connect with us on a more human level. Dogs can also go more places with us than most other pets, which makes them a good companion in stories.

Is Tawny, the main character in Kibble Talk based on you or someone you know? What about Jenny?

Tawny is the “every girl” – not too girly, not too anything, just lots of fun to be with and ready to try anything (once) as she figures out the world and herself.  Jenny is the perfect friend we all wish we had.  Stubborn, yes, but only because she is smart as whip. She always has a plan, will always choose you over anyone else, and always always always has the snappiest comeback.

Your background is in Psychology. How do you use the knowledge from your degree in your writing? Is there a message you’d like for your readers to take away from your books?

My interests in Psychology and story telling all stem from the same source: a fascination with people. I’ve been an avid eavesdropper all my life.  It’s actually a wonderful hobby, because even in the most boring work meeting or sporting event, you can always switch into people watching mode and have a great time.  As for a message, be gentle with each other and yourself –we are all trying, we all come from pain and joy.  I recently saw a Rumi quote I instantly fell in love with.  It goes:  Close your eyes.  Fall in love. Stay there.   You see, love on the inside can’t help but spread to others.

Your bio on Amazon says you have “enough hobbies for every day of the year.” What are your top 3 favourite hobbies and why?

My top hobbies are writing, cooking and singing, but actually my husband was referring to my neverending crafting.  In terms of that it would be knitting, ceramics and jewelry making.  Crafting appeals to me because I can imagine an object in my head and then make it actually exist in the world.  I enjoy the process of figuring out how to make it as much or more than I do the finished product, so I’m always thinking about the next thing I will make!

Your novels are chapter books for a middle-grade audience. Why do you choose to write for this audience?

It’s true the Kibble Talk series is marketed to middle-grade readers (8-12), but I wrote it for all ages. I wanted Kibble Talk to be the perfect read aloud, which meant that it couldn’t just be “kid humor” (burps and farts and underwear) or kids constantly whining about grown-ups, or grown-ups always doing dumb things, or dead parents (so many dead and missing parents in this genre).  I needed some of that, and it’s there (except the dead parents), but I couldn’t rely on that for its humour or storyline.  In my reviews I’ve been pleased to see so many comments along the lines of “Why should the kids get all the best books?” and “Too good to be left just to the kids.”  I love it when I read that because that was my goal.

That said, not all my books will be written for middle grade.  I have a young adult halfway complete and another rolling around in my head gathering steam.  As an author, I don’t think of myself as writing for any particular audience.  I am telling a story, the complexity and subject matter of which sets the age level of its intended audience.

In your initial email to me you said you  “recently gave away 20 print copies of [your] book  along with a Classroom Book Party Pack.” Tell us a bit more about this party pack. What’s in it? How do you hope teachers will use it in their classrooms? How might people obtain a party pack of their own?

So glad you asked this, because I’m very excited about it!  Because Kibble Talk is written first and foremost as a read aloud, I want to make sure it is used that way.  It also upsets me (like, don’t-even-get me-started upset) that teachers spend on average close to $1,000 of their own money on teaching supplies!

I decided that, as a Christmas present to myself, I would give away 20 signed print copies of Kibble Talk to any elementary school teacher who agrees to use it as a read aloud in his/her classroom.  Along with the book, I sent the materials needed to do a book celebration after the read aloud was done.  These included a bookmark for every child, coloring pages of my main characters, supplies for a book-themed game, and a list of book-themed snacks, games and activities.  I also offered a free Skype-based author visit.  I’ve heard back from many of these teachers how much fun their class is having with the book, and I’ve so far done one Skype visit (with another in the works).  It’s a great way to spread the word about the series while also giving back to some of the hardest working yet most underappreciated people in the world.  I LOVE teachers!

What an amazing idea!

Speaking about fostering a love of books and reading with your books, where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve always been a picky, picky reader.  I know within three pages whether I’ll like a book.  It’s all about the quality of the writing for me.  That said, I never expected I could ever write one because I had little hope of meeting my own standards. But a few years back I was sidelined for four months by an injury.  I don’t do boredom and I’m not that into TV and movies. My other hobbies require too much moving about for supplies, etc.  I needed a hobby that came straight out of my head.  I began writing for children and was instantly hooked.  So far, I mostly feel as if I am meeting my own standards (though I can always do better), but once you publish, it’s not really my standards that matter anymore, is it?

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Oh, boy. Complicated question.  My first book, a historical fiction novel entitled Honey Ant Girl that is set the Australian Outback, is not yet published.  This is my best book, and it has my whole heart in it, but being historical fiction [and] middle grade, it is not particularly marketable to agents and traditional publishers.  I had hoped the Kibble Talk series would be my “in,” and it almost was.  I very quickly found a successful agent to represent the series, but it turned out that we did not have similar agenting goals.  We parted ways amicably, but it all took so long that I decided to self-publish. I can’t actually recommend self-publishing for children’s authors.  The marketing is a real challenge.  But I can say that I’ve had a LOT of fun learning about self-publishing and have met many, many wonderful self-pub authors.  As to Honey Ant Girl, I have promised myself that it will be published this year one way or another.  I can’t wait to see what readers think of it.

Thank you for being so candid in this interview, Cynthia. Before we go, is there anything else you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you!!! Tell your friends! Tell your pets!  And tell me! I love to hear from you.

Here’s where you can learn more about Cynthia and her writing:

| Website | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Twitter |

Bio pic white backgroundAbout Cynthia Port:

Living in the fossil-filled hills of Southern Indiana, Cynthia Port writes for the young and the stubbornly young at heart.  When not writing her laugh-out-loud fiction, Dr. Port writes about science, assisting medical researchers across the US.  She can also be found singing, cooking, petting her “advanced model” cat, or attempting every craft ever invented the moment it is invented anywhere around the globe.  Dr. Port is currently working on book 3 in the Kibble Talk series, as well as a standalone historical fiction that takes place in the Australian Outback.  Wombats, anyone?

Bonus Excerpt: Kibble Talk Chapter Three: The Death of Fishy Fish

Diving under my bed covers, I told myself over and over, “This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This is NOT happening.”

“Oh, but it is,” Dinky said with a lazy sigh. I felt him slump into a giant pile at the side of my bed. “Can I have my scratch now?”

I couldn’t believe I could hear another dog talking—and it was my own dog! I was also surprised at the type of voice Dinky had. Gunner had sounded like he should, which is an odd thing to say in the first place since we are talking about how a dog sounds talking. But Gunner looks sort of gross and gravelly and sounded that way. By that logic, Dinky’s voice should have been very deep and maybe elegant or something, like the prime minister of a fancy European country. It wasn’t though. Dinky’s voice was high pitched like a little kid, almost a squeak. His voice was, well, dinky.

“I can’t help my voice,” he squeaked at me. “Now get up and give me my scratch! Your mom and dad are on couch potato duty. That makes it your turn to entertain.”

I screwed up my courage and peeked one eye out from under my blanket. There was Dinky, staring at me with his usual huge, walnut-brown doggy eyes. I was about to dive to the bottom of my bed and never resurface when I thought of a way to test whether all of this was really happening.

“How do I know I’m not just imagining I can hear you talking?” I asked him nervously. “You haven’t said anything I couldn’t have made up myself.”

“Fair enough. Let’s see then,” he said, and gave his triangle ears an impressive waggle. “Oh, I know!” he said after a moment. “Your dad did NOT just find Fishy Fish dead one day in his bowl. He was changing the water and accidentally used hot instead of cold.”

I threw back the covers as I gasped in surprise. “What? He did? And he didn’t tell me about it? Are you sure?”

“I may be a talking dog, but I’m no liar. I saw the little orange guy go belly up, cooked like instant oatmeal. Then I had to listen to your dad’s guilty thoughts for weeks. He still thinks about it whenever your mom serves fish sticks.”

Interview with author Ines Bautista-Yao

Today’s author spotlight is on Ines Bautista-Yao and her novel, Only A Kiss.

only a kiss cover

About Only A Kiss

When she was nine-years-old, Katie knew she wanted Chris to give her her first kiss. It wasn’t because she was in love with him (no way, he was her best friend! Besides, she was in love with his fourteen-year-old big brother), it was because she could make him do anything she wanted.

Besides, it didn’t really mean anything. After all, it was only a kiss.

But things started to change. They grew up. They parted ways and went to different high schools. Then other girls and other boys—well, just one particular boy—came into the picture, throwing their lives upside down.

Told from the alternating points of view of Katie and Chris, this love story between two best friends will tug at your heartstrings and leave you thinking about how the simplest things mean so much.

Read my review of Only A Kiss on Britbear’s Book Reviews.

Buy Only A Kiss  on Amazon and Buqo.

Welcome to Britbear’s Book Reviews, Ines. Tell us a bit about the story behind the story. How did you come up with the idea for Only A Kiss?

I had just gotten confirmation from my publisher that my second book was going to be published and I wanted to work on my next book. I had no idea what to write but I was dying to have a work-in-progress. So one day, after a meeting with a client, I found myself having a snack alone and I had my computer with me. I opened a new word file and typed in the words: Only A Kiss. Then I let those words inspire the lines I typed next: Katie appeared wanting a kiss from Chris, her best friend. I told myself, what if I make this a short story? So I did, but I wanted to continue the story. So in a way, the book is divided into 5 chapters that are also short stories.

There are a number of words in the book I didn’t recognize. Where does the story take place? What is the cultural backdrop for Only A Kiss?

Yes, I feel this is something I should have worked harder on! Or at least mentioned at the beginning of the book. It is set in the Philippines. I had originally written the book for a Philippine audience so I didn’t feel the need to explain where they were. But because I self-published this on Amazon, I realize that I will have readers other than Filipinos! Haha!

Here are a few differences in our culture:

  • In the Philippines, most high schools are all-girls’ and all-boys’ schools. This is why when they reach high school, Katie and Chris are no longer classmates.
  • There is a scene where they are packing relief goods in the park. This is because every year, we are hit by massive typhoons and when this happens, we all rally together to help out those who lost their homes and everything in it. It is so sad that it has become so regular, but several teenagers get together and learn to help others during these times and I think this is something good that comes out of it.
  • The Filipino words I used are mostly terms we use for older family members. Ate means older sister, Kuya means older brother, Tito is uncle and Tita is aunt. I can’t remember what the other words are but I think I should include the definitions now at the end of the book!

That does help to clear some things up.

Your stories alternate points of view between Katie and Chris. Which of the two was the easiest to write for?

It was much easier to write Katie’s! But I loved the challenge of writing from a boy’s point of view. I didn’t think I could do it, so when I had to write his story, I tried (really hard!) to think like a boy. I would imagine what my male friends would think if they were in those situations and of course, I had lengthy discussions with my husband about it. As for dialogue, I listen to how boys talk and imagine what they would be telling themselves in their heads as well. It was a lot of fun that I wrote two short stories from male points of view afterwards! But it was definitely a lot easier to write Katie’s.

Do you have a favourite story in the collection? A favourite character?

I love Making My Way, the fourth story. I loved it because it’s where all the feelings come out—and most of them come from Chris. My favourite part is the senior ball scene where he sees her in a different light for the first time. I read it over and over again, picturing it in my mind and wanting to share it with the world after I’d written it haha! And yes, I love Chris. Poor Chris, who went through so much and hurt so many girls along the way, but always knew in his heart that there was really only one girl for him.

Chris is an artist. Does he remind you of anyone you know?

I know several artists, being in the creative field. But I didn’t really pattern him after any one particular guy. I like to take the best aspects of the guys I know and meet and put them together to form a character you’ll care about and fall in love with.

Your writing CV is quite impressive. What made you switch to young adult fiction?

Thank you! I’ve been writing fiction all my life, but when I was growing up, there never really was a venue for me to do it for school or professionally. I always found myself writing feature articles or essays. And because that was what was available, I took it. Anything to write.

When I joined a teen magazine as managing editor, the people in the cubicle a few feet from mine were busy launching chick lit books. I was dying to sign up and tell them I wanted to write a book too, but they weren’t writing young adult. They were writing chick lit for the Cosmopolitan crowd, with a required sex scene. Definitely not my scene. So I didn’t even try. But when they began publishing young adult, I told myself it was time. So I wrote my first book and they published it—and the one after that.

If you could claim any book as your own, what would it be and why?

That’s easy. I would claim The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. I fell in love with that book. So much so that I gave it away as a birthday gift to almost everyone the year I read it. I love the magical way she writes, the way she makes you fall in love with her characters, how they are flawed but redeem themselves in the end, and of course the fantasy woven into the story. She focuses on the relationships between the characters, which is what I like to do too, but everything in the book happens to be magical: the people, the places, the food, the houses, even the wallpaper. I love that and I want to be able to write something like that too someday.

What are you reading right now?

Right now (literally a few minutes before answering this question), I just finished Thea Stilton and the Cherry Blossom Adventure. I took a break from reading indie authors and read my six-year-old’s book because she asked me to. She’s been devouring these Thea Stilton books and when she told me she wanted me to read them so we could talk about them, my heart soared. This is the best way for me to bond with my daughter, over something I love doing too. And I can’t help but be grateful that she loves to read, just like her mama!

That’s so amazing to hear. I’m trying to do the same with my daughter by maintaining this blog.

What’s next on your writing agenda?

I just finished two short stories and a children’s book. The first short story was for a young adult writing workshop I joined (and I learned so much – about the genre and about myself as a writer!), the next is a submission for something else (I don’t think I can talk about it yet), and the children’s book is a submission to an ASEAN contest my cousin and I joined.

What I had to put on the shelf when all these started happening was my prequel of sorts to Only A Kiss. I have begun writing about the love story between Regina and Ben, the couple that gets married in the beginning of the book. I wanted it to be a short story at first, but now it looks like it can become a novella. I don’t know yet what’s going on but I think it’s time to start plotting out the story and not just letting my characters run away with me. Haha!

Thank you for doing this interview, Ines. Before we sign off, do you have anything else you’d like to tell your readers that hasn’t been covered by this interview?

I’d like to ask them to give other Filipino authors a try as well! There are so many of us now and the stories are very good. J I am trying to read as many as I can and I am enjoying myself so much.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

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photo-2Ines Bautista-Yao is the author of One Crazy Summer, What’s in your Heart, and Only a Kiss. She has also written two short stories, “Flashbacks and Echoes,” which is part of a compilation called All This Wanting and “A Captured Dream,” one of the four short stories in Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival.

She is the former editor-in-chief of Candy and K-Zone magazines and a former high school and college English and Literature teacher.  She is also a wife and mom and blogs about the many challenges and joys of motherhood at theeverydayprojectblog.com. She has recently launched The Author Project, a section in her current blog devoted to the stories in her head.

A Charming, Otherworldly Romp

king of goblins coverWilliam Bradshaw, signs a contract with a law firm for a management position and is immediately transported to Other Realm, and made King of the Goblins. Though at first he tries everything he can think of to get out of his contract he eventually grows accustomed to the hijinks and steps in to defend the honour of the goblins in his realm.

William Bradshaw, King of the Goblins is an interesting read. At times chaotic, silly and downright farcical, there is an underlying warmth. When Will first learns of his fate he doesn’t know what to make of his subjects. Confused and angry, he fabricates make-work projects he hopes will keep them out of trouble while he searches for a loophole in his contract. Weird though his situation may be, he comes to feel affection and even a respect for the creatures, and as a team, they persevere.

In William Bradshaw, King of the Goblins, the jokes are corny, the situations predictable, and the fun real. In his novel, Arthur Daigle has penned the perfect middle-grade story, sure to attract even the most reluctant of young (especially) male readers. But as a grown female reader, I have to admit some of the characters, like the ditsy princess, are a little stereotypical for my liking.  And though, at first I questioned Daigle’s choice of a grown man as his protagonist, I soon forgot Will’s age once he dropped the contract talk and joined in the shenanigans.

William Bradshaw, King of the Goblins, by Arthur Daigle, is a charming romp into Other Realm which introduces the world to the goblin, a creature much neglected in the world of literature. Whether read silently or out loud, this book is sure to charm middle grade ankle biters everywhere.

Mamabear gives this book:

three-bears

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Daniel in the Land of Pencil Drawings

daniel the draw-erNine year old Daniel likes to draw. When he finds a magic pencil hidden in the attic, the things he draws come to life. He shows the pencil to best friend Annie who gets jealous and stops speaking to him. Poor Daniel is heartbroken; he misses her terribly and his newly drawn “friends” don’t fill the void. Will Annie ever forgive him? What will happen if anyone ever finds out about the creatures he draws turned real?

Daniel the Draw-er was a quick and whimsical read. Like most children, Daniel has trouble fitting in and doesn’t understand most of what his parents tell him. He is bullied, both by the kids at school and his older sister’s boyfriend, and wishes for a way out. He plots of ways his drawings can help him in his situation, but learns there is strength in numbers, and the only true bully repellent is friendship.

Henderson’s writing style is light and simple, not a bad thing when your audience is middle-grade. Daniel the Draw-er is sure to help get young readers hooked on reading and writing. After all, isn’t that what writers do? Imagine our creations real?

Mamabear gives this book:

five-bearsNote: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Author Interview with Arthur Daigle

Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming Arthur Daigle, author of  William Bradsahw, King of Goblins in today’s author spotlight.

king of goblins coverDesperate for work, William Bradshaw makes the mistakes of accepting a manager position offered by the law firm of Cickam, Wender and Downe.  Too late he realized his job is to “manage” the goblins on the world of Other Place.  His goblin followers are short, stupid and mildly crazy, and setting traps is the national pastime.  The other races consider goblins vermin, and they’re not to happy with Will, either.  The kingdom is broke, the land desolate and the only city there is falling apart.  Will is stuck in his job until he can find a loophole in his king contract.  Forty-seven previous kings escaped back to Earth, so it can’t be that hard.

Getting home soon becomes the least of Will’s problems when he accidentally starts a war with a neighboring human kingdom and their fashion obsessed monarch Kervol Ket.  Will is going to have to win the war if he’s going to live long enough to get home.  That’s a tall order when one human is worth ten to twenty goblins, and Kervol is coming with an army of thousands, including foot soldiers, archers and knights.  Worse, the goblins haven’t won a war in recorded history, and they have no intention of winning this one.

But this time things are going to be different.  Will is determined to win, backed up by teeming hordes of goblins, two troll bodyguards with anger management issues, a foul tempered magic mirror and an overachieving fire scepter.  It’s going to take stealth, subterfuge and a seemingly limitless supply of exploding outhouses, but Will is going to win.

Buy William Bradshaw, King of Goblins on Amazon.

The premise for your novel, William Bradshaw, King of Goblins is an interesting one. The Amazon page for the novel promises (among other things), “trolls with anger management problems…an uncooperative magic mirror…[and] exploding outhouses.” What was your inspiration for writing this novel?

I had several inspirations for my work.  First among them is the work of the filmmaker and puppeteer Jim Henson.  I’ve long been a fan of Henson’s work, his creativity and his good humor.  I am also a big fan of the British artist Brian Froud.  Froud’s work focuses on European myths, such as fairies, trolls, giants, and of course, goblins.  Playing fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons in my youth also influenced me.

Perfect inspirations for your genre, Arthur.

William Bradshaw, King of Goblins seems to put a new twist on old archetypes (with the exception of exploding outhouses, that is). Retellings of fairy tales and classic children’s novels have been really popular lately. What do you think of this phenomenon? Do you think it’s reached its peak yet?

Writers and filmmakers have been retelling fairy tales and children’s classics for many years.  You’d be amazed how many modern movies are retellings of fairy tales and Shakespeare’s plays.  These tales have lasted so long because they deal with issues we all face even today, like Cinderella suffering at the hands of family members who should have been supporting her.

Very true, but what do you think makes William Bradshaw, King of Goblins stand out in this genre’s market?

I feel my novel has two key strengths.  The first is comedy suitable for the entire family.  I want people from school age to adults to be able to pick it up and enjoy it without having to worry about a rating.  Personally, I feel there has been a trend in print to produce vulgar “entertainment” on the grounds that this is what sells.  I know there is a market for such material, but it drives away many readers.

The second strength is the choice of characters.  Goblins have been a part of fantasy books and video games for a long time, but they’re present as cannon fodder.  They’re short, weak, poorly armed and get cut down by the strong, handsome heroes.  I thought it was worth exploring what life was like from the goblins’ perspective.  It’s easy to be brave when you’re the one with the magic sword and strong right arm.  When you’re the little guy you have to be clever, and in the case of my goblins you can make the knights and kings look stupid.

The goblin as underdog. That’s a great concept. Kind of like those stories that tell Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf’s perspective.

What kind of research did you have to do while writing William Bradshaw, King of Goblins? What was the most interesting thing you learned from your research?

I already had a working knowledge of fantasy set in the Middle Ages due to years of reading and role playing games.  Fantasy requires less research because you’re making up a world.  The author decides how magic works on his planet, what monsters to expect and how they behave.  This does require the author to stick to the rules he makes, and any exceptions need to be rare and well explained.

Your educational and career background– biology, zoo intern, fisheries assistant, research assistant at an arboretum–seems far away from a career in writing. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us a little about the first manuscript you remember completing.

If I could have gotten a job in biology I would have never gone into writing.  Unfortunately, the economy kind of imploded in the early 2000s.  Money for conservation biology, where I had job experience, dried up as federal, state and private sources cut back.  I applied for lab work, but I found these required years of experience and college level classwork I didn’t have.

My writing started out as a hobby.  I attended the College of DuPage which had a program called Writing Across the Curriculum.  The idea was that students should get as much training as possible in writing so they could express themselves well when they were employed.  I didn’t know that when I was going there, just that every class except Math, required me to write a term paper.  The more I wrote, the better I got at it, and I found myself liking it.

After graduating I did a bit of writing in my spare time.  I joined the Millennium Writers’ Group hosted at my local library and wrote short science fiction stories.  At the time it wasn’t my intention to publish my work.  I’d heard how hard it was getting a book into print, and I found out first hand the stories were true.  But friends and family encouraged me to try, so I looked around and found a publisher.  While that didn’t wok out in the end, I kept at it and am now self published.

Your story is so similar to my own. I’m sure a lot of other self- and indie-published authors will also identify with it.

Does your educational and career background have an influence on your writing? How so?

My biology degree helped me create my fantasy world.  Fantasy actually does need its roots in science to make sense.  The Kingdom of the Goblins is actually based on an old coal strip mine I visited as part of an ecology class.  Let me tell you, you haven’t seen ugly until you’ve seen a strip mine.  Thirty years isn’t enough to heal the land.

Let’s talk about the genre you write in. I understand you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy. What makes this your favourite genre?

My father was a fan of fantasy and science fiction, and he took our family to see movies like The Dark Crystal and Dragon Slayer.  He also watched old monster movies with us on TV, including Godzilla and the Universal Pictures monsters.  There were also plenty of fantasy and science fiction based cartoons on at the time, generally with low budgets and laughable plots, and I enjoyed watching them.

My father also introduced me to the world of sci fi, but through the classic Star Trek series. Based on your previous answer, I can infer the next one, but why choose middle grade as your audience?

Partly that’s based on my personal preference and partly on audience appeal.  I wrote the kind of book I would like to buy at the bookstore.  But I also noticed that family oriented shows do well, far better than ones that are gory, crass or vulgar.  The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and The Muppet Show were both wildly popular and intended to appeal to the entire family, and this trend has continued today.

Most people cast their characters with actors. After this interview, I imagine you sitting down to cast your characters with Muppets instead.

Is there a message in King of Goblins that you want readers to grasp?

You will face enemies in life, bullies and brutes that are richer than you are, bigger than you are, stronger than you are…and you can beat them.

Great, message; truly empowering. What’s next on your writing agenda, Arthur? What are you working on right now?

I have sequels ready for the Will Bradshaw storyline.  Book two actually should have been out last month, but I’m having trouble contacting my cover artist.  Book three and four are also done and waiting for their turn.  I have also begun another series on the same world but starring a mad scientist named Dr. Alberto Moratrayas that I hope to publish soon.

Thank you, Arthur, for taking the time from your writing to complete this interview. One last thing: how can readers discover more about you and you work?

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About Arthur Daigle:

Arthur Daigle was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  He received a biology degree from the University of illinois Urbana-Champaign, and has worked in such diverse fields as testing water quality, zoo intern, research assistant and grading high school essay tests.  In addition to his writing, Arthur is an avid gardener and amateur artist.  This book was almost inevitable given that the author was a fan of science fiction and fantasy since he was old enough to walk.  This is his first published novel, with more on the way.

Why Goblins?

Welcome to Arthur Daigle, today’s featured author, for a guest post.

king of goblins coverDesperate for work, William Bradshaw makes the mistakes of accepting a manager position offered by the law firm of Cickam, Wender and Downe.  Too late he realized his job is to “manage” the goblins on the world of Other Place.  His goblin followers are short, stupid and mildly crazy, and setting traps is the national pastime.  The other races consider goblins vermin, and they’re not to happy with Will, either.  The kingdom is broke, the land desolate and the only city there is falling apart.  Will is stuck in his job until he can find a loophole in his king contract.  Forty-seven previous kings escaped back to Earth, so it can’t be that hard.

Getting home soon becomes the least of Will’s problems when he accidentally starts a war with a neighboring human kingdom and their fashion obsessed monarch Kervol Ket.  Will is going to have to win the war if he’s going to live long enough to get home.  That’s a tall order when one human is worth ten to twenty goblins, and Kervol is coming with an army of thousands, including foot soldiers, archers and knights.  Worse, the goblins haven’t won a war in recorded history, and they have no intention of winning this one.

But this time things are going to be different.  Will is determined to win, backed up by teeming hordes of goblins, two troll bodyguards with anger management issues, a foul tempered magic mirror and an overachieving fire scepter.  It’s going to take stealth, subterfuge and a seemingly limitless supply of exploding outhouses, but Will is going to win.

Buy William Bradshaw, King of Goblins on Amazon.

Why Goblins?

So I wrote a fantasy novel and my main characters are goblins.  Not what you’d expect, I know.  Fantasy novels mostly focus on the exploits of knights, rangers, wizards, thieves, bards and to a lesser extent, holy men.  These are the men and women who cut down hordes of enemies to save the kingdom, and then walk away with a king’s ransom in loot that they never seem to pay taxes on.  If there are any goblins in the story they’re sword fodder, a minor threat for the heroes to march over on their way to face the evil overlord or other powerful being who is the real challenge.

This is all well and good for the heroes.  Not so much for the goblins.

The fact is that goblins have been pushovers in fantasy books and games for decades.  The only way they pose any danger to the heroes is if there are dozens or even hundreds of them, and even then they lose.  They’re kind of like the Chicago Cubs that way. Or France.  It makes you wonder why they charge headlong into those heavily armored knights and rangers armed with magic swords.  As survival strategies go, that ranks up there with lemmings jumping off a cliff.

So with some thought and a lot of inspiration I decided to let the goblins have their day in my novel, William Bradshaw, King of the Goblins.  Yeah, Will is human, and he gets a lot of the limelight, but the goblins get their day too, and I think it’s well deserved.

In my opinion, the best stories are about the little guys.  Most of us are powerless against life’s big dangers, like wars, natural disasters and IRS audits.  We can empathize with the little guy who’s fighting to just keep his head above water.  The great heroes of literature and movies face overwhelming challenges and suffer frequent injuries and defeats.  We root for them because they see the odds against them and they keep on fighting.  There’s little interest in a story when the hero is perfect and undefeatable.  After all, if he can’t lose, then what’s the point of fighting?  No, we want to see the little guy win.

And you don’t get much smaller than goblins.

Put yourself in the goblins’ shoes.  You’re smaller and weaker than all your enemies.  You don’t live on good land with lots of resources, mainly because the knights and wizards I mentioned forced you into the wastelands years ago.  This means you don’t have the materials to make magic weapons or impenetrable castles.  You probably don’t have any money either.  There’s not much point to having gold when you aren’t allowed into stores to buy things, and if you do have some cash then it’s a cinch that someone’s going to take it from you at sword point, probably those knights.  The same goes for having jewelry, silks, beautiful paintings and magic weapons.  You can’t make most of them, and if by some minor miracle you do get one, you won’t keep it for long

Life for goblins is going to be a struggle, but it doesn’t have to be a brutal one.  I was inspired to make my goblins funny by other authors who gave their goblins a sense of humor.  Goblins are small, and like a lot of small guys, they can get even with their enemies by humiliating them.  They glue knights to their horses.  They set traps that fling cow manure at the rangers.  They paint the wizards blue while they’re asleep.  They can beat their enemies with style and humor, all the while leaving those WWI style infantry charges off the agenda.

Not only did I learn a lot about goblins from your post, I think I even feel a little for the bum-rap they’ve been given in history.

Here’s where you can learn more about Arthur and his work:

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About Arthur Daigle:

Arthur Daigle was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  He received a biology degree from the University of illinois Urbana-Champaign, and has worked in such diverse fields as testing water quality, zoo intern, research assistant and grading high school essay tests.  In addition to his writing, Arthur is an avid gardener and amateur artist.  This book was almost inevitable given that the author was a fan of science fiction and fantasy since he was old enough to walk.  This is his first published novel, with more on the way.