Monday, March 25, 2013

POISON--Marvelous Monday Blog Tour

I'm taking a break from my normal MMGM (and from my 50th birthday celebrations, which have been stretching on for days) to celebrate the release of POISON, the debut of the late Bridget Zinn.

Bridget was only 33 when she died from cancer in 2011, with her book under contract. She and her husband, Barrett Dowell, had moved to Oregon from Wisconsin, and the first I ever heard of Bridget was the auction that our local SCBWI chapter held for her to help with her medical bills. Sad to say, I never got the chance to meet her, but in her short time in Oregon she made many friends and touched many hearts.

I am thoroughly enjoying POISON, with its spunky heroine, its whimsical humor, and its adventure. Here is what it's about:

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend. But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses. Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she's certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

About Bridget:

Bridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the "summer of love" and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died. Her last tweet was "Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect."

Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers' copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads.

I can't think of anything sadder for a writer than not to hold a precious copy of his or her debut book. It is wonderful that many hands have been holding Bridget's book, and enjoying the fruits of her creative and ingenious mind. Please consider buying a copy, or asking your local library to order a copy. Sunshine, and a brand new book to you all.

Here's where you can buy POISON:

Barnes & Noble   POISON
iTunes Bookstore POISON

And, if you must, Amazon 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: ALMOST HOME

ALMOST HOME by Joan Bauer (Viking, 2012)

Hey, it's my second week in a row featuring a novel with a dog on the cover. (And isn't that just the sweetest looking dog?) But, despite the cover dogs and despite being Cybils' finalists, ALMOST HOME and FOURMILE couldn't be more different.

HERE'S WHAT IT'S ABOUT: (via Goodreads)

When twelve-year-old Sugar's grandfather dies and her gambling father takes off yet again, Sugar and her mother lose their home in Missouri. They head to Chicago for a fresh start, only to discover that fresh starts aren't so easy to come by for the homeless. Nevertheless, Sugar's mother has taught her to be grateful no matter what, so Sugar does her best. With the help of a rescue dog, Shush; a foster family; a supportive teacher; a love of poetry; and her own grace and good humor, Sugar comes to understand that while she can't control the hand life deals her, she can control how she responds.


"Mr. Bennett walked into room 212 carrying a plastic bag. He smoothed his sweatshirt that read DEATH TO STEREOTYPES, tucked Claus his rubber chicken under his arm, raised one eyebrow, and jumped on his desk. He opened the bag, lifted a loaf of bread in the air and shouted, "Sell it to me."

(My note: This is an interesting opening, as it starts with an adult, and we don't know until several paragraphs later that this is even a first person narrator.)


Sugar Mae Cole, the MC, is sweet, spunky, and a survivor. She finds herself having to fill an adult role for her mother, who has what used to be called a nervous breakdown when the two of them move to Chicago to find work.

The adult characters are also nicely drawn. Mr. Bennett, Sugar's first language arts teacher, is the sort of teacher we'd all wish for our kids to have. The foster parents are also upstanding and caring. The "villain" is Sugar's father, who has a gambling problem and is a total flim-flam artist. We are glad when Sugar refuses to be taken in by him again.

Dogs. The dogs in this novel are the greatest. Shush, the puppy Sugar 'rescues,' is adorable, as is the old hound, Merlin, whom she takes to walking through her new Chicago neighborhood. Be warned: tears will be shed over these dogs.


ALMOST HOME is Joan Bauer's 11th novel. Her novel, HOPE WAS HERE, was a Newbery Honor winner in 2000. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her computer scientist husband, Evan Bauer, and their wheaten terrier, Max. 

Joan Bauer's website

Monday, March 4, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: FOURMILE

FOURMILE by Watt Key (Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2012)

What it's About (Goodreads blurb): 

Twelve-year-old Foster knows in his gut that Dax Ganey, the man dating his widowed mother, is a bad seed. Then a mysterious stranger arrives at their Alabama farm, a former Army Ranger in Iraq rambling across the country, and Foster believes he has found an ally against Dax. The stranger proves a fascinating mentor, full of wisdom and secrets. And Dax soon has reason to resent not just him and Foster but also Foster’s mother. A spurned Dax will be a dangerous enemy, but Foster is increasingly aware that the stranger is just as dangerous, if not more so.

Opening Lines: 

I heard Mother calling, but I didn't answer. I lay in the scattered hay and stared at the afternoon sunbeams angling through the big bay doors of the barn. Against the wall were damp, moldy bales that had been in the same place for over a year. They smelled more of wet dirt and decay than anything fresh-cut. Two sheets of tin had blown off the roof during the winter and the place was rotting. There was too much to do now. Mother and I couldn't keep up."

Why I Liked It:

This novel was a Cybils finalist, and I found it a compelling, if tough read. As you can see from the opening lines, Watt Key is a master of setting and does a beautiful job of describing this rundown farm on the edge of the town of Fourmile. The place is going to seed because Foster's (the main character's) father has been killed in an accident and his mother has become involved with a nasty piece of work called Dax Ganey. 

Watt Key also does a marvelous job of creating well-rounded characters, and imbuing their situation with menace. The reader cares about Foster, and whether he and his mother will be able to escape Dax's orbit, while at the same time being drawn into questions about just who Gary--the former army ranger--is.

There are scenes of violence (and animal cruelty) in this book which, while integral to the story, might make it a difficult book for the "tender-hearted" reader. It is certainly at the upper end of middle grade, and might be characterized as a "boy book." If you have a boy in your life who is scrabbling about for something compelling to read, I would recommend taking a look at FOURMILE. 

About The Author:

Watt Key hails from Alabama and is the author of two other novels, Alabama Moon and Dirt Road Home.  You can find out more about him at his website.