Monday, June 30, 2014

MMGM fail

With moving and everything, I'm way too flooded with boxes right now. I haven't even been doing much reading (sadly enough) due to how busy my life currently is.

I'll try to get something up this week, but no promises.

Sorry!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It's NOT Just a Book- Review (and Other Awesomeness) on IT'S NOT JUST A DOG

I can't wait to share some bookish awesomeness on a new book in the Project Madison series by Pam Torres! So what are we waiting for? Let's do this!

Pam Torres was born in Utah, but grew up mainly in Kansas. She not only enjoyed playing Dorothy during tornado weather and digging Peter Pan-like underground forts she also played piano and ran cross-country. She started her family early, and had five energetic and creative children, and returned to school when the last one was four. She has fond memories of reading and playing with her children in between hefty amounts of volunteering at church and their schools. Several of her favorite memories are doing writers’ workshop, updating the art docent program, recruiting volunteers, working as the parent liaison for the curriculum team, publishing articles in the newsletter and directing a very popular after-school art club. 
Writing was the one constant in her life through all the struggles of single parenthood, stepparent issues and bringing a large family together. She continued to write her brains out in hopes of writing full-time one day. After five years in sales, she quit her well-paying job to write. Her supportive husband is her biggest cheerleader and she frequently acknowledges that she couldn’t have done it without him. 
The Project Madison Series is her debut middle-grade series. She organized Project Madison around its release and is donating 10% of her proceeds to the ASPCA®, animal shelters and other programs to benefit homeless or abused animals.

To learn more about her, I asked her to join me for an interview, to which she happily accepted!

Hi Pam! To get started, can you tell us three interesting things about you that people usually wouldn’t guess about you? 

 Let’s see, I’m a pretty open book, not many deep dark secrets here. Okay. I’m a wanna be bird watcher, which means I’m still learning to focus my binoculars and don’t have near enough time to dedicate to it seriously. Mondays are my favorite day of the week. Weird, right? I think I like the idea of the new week ahead and the possibility of filling it with awesome writing. And… I exfoliate and moisturize everyday.

Can you tell us a little about how your love for dogs came about? 

Ours is a long and arduous love affair. After a couple of large dog attacks, puppy losses and the added responsibility of caring for several dogs while trying to raise five children without support, I was exhausted. Overwhelmed with the work and emotional fortitude required, I didn’t have very much to offer the dogs or animals that came my way. I’d say I had a take ‘em or leave ‘em attitude. It wasn’t until after I had begun my research for writing the book, that I realized I’d not only missed out on a great opportunity but realized that these creatures are dependent on us. After all we bred them to be dependent and thus is makes us our responsibility to care for them. My love for dogs comes from a place deep inside where I believe our connection with the animals on this earth is vital to our survival, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is came as more of an epiphany after hours and pages of research.

How did you get into writing?  

I’ve always been a writer. From an early age, writing became my way of understanding who I was in the world around me. As a professional writer, I’d say I’m still working at that and will probably continue to seek out the best word to describe, the best sentence to express and the most powerful paragraph to share my vision of the world, imagined or real, with others. If my words can connect others to each other and the world around them, I will be very satisfied.

Tell us a little bit about When Dogs Blog and It’s Not Just a Dog.

Both of these books are part of Project Madison Series starring Madison, a snarky almost twelve-year-old, who learns she has a special power to read dogs minds. She sees their memories and can even feel their pain or joy. The books share her adventures as she figures out this gift and rescues dogs in trouble. Along the way she learns important lessons about bullying, friendship, family and responsibility.

What are you working on right now?

I tend to be quite tightlipped about my projects until they come into the revisions stage. I will say that I am working on the last book in the Project Madison trilogy and this time I'm looking to my readers for where they'd like to see Madison go in this one. So I'm encouraging them to send me their ideas.
I've started a new adventure fantasy with some great characters who explore new worlds. But, that's about all I'm prepared to say. LOL

What inspired you to write the Project Madison Series? 

It started with my granddaughter, Kayla, who's loved dogs since she was a baby. Her first love was White Puppy, a fluffy stuffed dog who still holds an important place on her shelf. Then came Tasha, our Samoyed, a dear gentle lady who brought us love and loyalty, she's been gone for several years, but she'll never be forgotten. Kayla has grown into a compassionate animal lover and tween.
So I asked myself: Could I write a book that would appeal to middle grade children that involved dogs?  I didn't want to write the I-want-a-dog story. I wanted to write something that would entertain and bring awareness to the plight of dogs all over the world. The more research I did the more I realized how much I didn't know. I learned that I could have given Tasha and the other dogs in my life a more fulfilling life. I also became aware of all the dogs and animals in the world that need our help. So, Project Madison was born.

Can you tell us about your journey writing When Dogs Blog and It’s Not Just a Dog?

I’m still on this journey, I’m still learning what being a full-time writer and author is. I’m also learning about publishing at a time when things are really shaking up and the face of publishing is extremely fluid. I’m figuring out marketing and SEO and building a platform. It can be extremely overwhelming and sometimes it’s easy for me to forget why I’m writing in the first place.

Do you listen to songs while you write? If so, what are they? Do certain songs get you into a certain character’s head?

No, I’m a silent writer and can be easily distracted by music and television. Currently,when I'm listening to music, I enjoy Sarah Harmer, Lenka, Passenger, anything that has it's roots in folk music and features acoustic guitar.  

What character is most like you?

I’m not sure any of them are like me, I suppose there are parts of myself is all of my characters. More often than not, I admire my characters and wish I could be more like them.

What are some of your favorite MG/YA books?

This is a tough question, because different books and authors resonate with me for different reasons. I do have a few books that I can open to any page and find myself in complete awe of the words and images on the page. R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons, anything by Pam Munoz Ryan, Jerry Spinelli, Gary D. Schmidt… Good grief, we’ll be here all day, too many to name.

Who are your role models?

 If you can believe it, this is one of the hardest questions I’ve been asked. As defined by the dictionary, a role model is a person who serves as a model in a particular behavioral or social role for another person to emulate. I’ve realized I haven’t had many and it appears I’m not alone.
“In fact, a survey conducted by Ernst & Young identified lack of role models as one of the four key barriers that stand between women and success. According to the survey, 75% of the women who were interviewed had few or no models,” writes Zenaida Lorenzo in her article, “Role Models: The Missing Link For Women” in The Huffington Post.
So I took some time and really thought about this one and came up with some women that have touched my life in ways that have transformed me into who I am today and continue to inspire me.
My mother= At her knee, I learned about story, the value of books and the importance of finding my voice. At 73, she paints and writes always learning while aging gracefully.
Maya Angelou= She learned to speak her mind and continued to serve and bring people together through her words.
Elizabeth Kulber-Ross= Her courage to ask questions about death and grieving have been instrumental in understanding the stages of grief and loss. A transitional process we constantly go through.
Temple Grandin- An animal behaviorist who’s considered a philosophical leader in animal welfare and autism advocacy movements. See more of this in the next Project Madison book.
Arundhati Roy- The author of The God of Small Things and a political activist. Her quote is a mantra I strive toward.
“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get use to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.”

If you had a power, what would it be?

That’s easy, teleportation. I want to travel so bad but haven’t ever had the means to do it. It would be so awesome to go places just by thinking about them.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for? (No wishing for more wishes!)

Time. More and more time. Life is just speeding by way too fast!

What is your favorite quote or saying?

I have several but here are two: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” —Mahatma Ghandi
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou

And what would you tell people who want to become authors? 

READ, READ and READ some more. WRITE, WRITE and WRITE some more.

Any last thing you want to tell us?

Just a reminder that Project Madison is dedicated to welfare of all animals not only dogs and 10% of our proceeds are donated to the ASPCA®.


Now that we've met our author, let's get reviewing!

 IT'S NOT JUST A DOG is the second book in the Project Madison series. You can see my review of the first book here

Goodreads tells us:

School's out for the summer and straight-talking Madison and her friend Cooper have big plans for the summer: working at the kennel, training service dogs and creating a dog-walking business—besides writing her dog-blog. Her stepdad has agreed to make Lilly, Madison's foster puppy, a permanent member of the Morgan family, and Madison wants to make the adoption special.
When an injured dog is abandoned, Madison's determined to discover the truth about the orphaned dog. To crack this crime she'll have to sneak around some shady characters. It'll be tricky since her dad isn't happy about her animal detective activities. Her promise not to get into trouble won't be easy. Madison convinces Cooper to strike out on their own, but finds herself locked in a shed with no way out and Lilly is dognapped. She regrets her crime-fighting obsession and realizes her snooping has endangered everyone she cares about. Cooper rallies an unlikely group of rescuers to bust her out.
In the end Madison learns she can depend on her friends and her stepfather. And when it comes to people and dogs, relationships are never simple, and a dog is never—JUST a dog!


 My two cents:

Um... how do I put this?

THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. Not only did it continue the awesomeness from WHEN DOGS BLOG, it added to it. I immediately fell in love with a whole host of new characters that were just as real to me as the old ones. 

It was like Pam took all the awesomeness from WHEN DOGS BLOG, pumped it full of steroids, and stuffed it into IT'S NOT JUST A DOG. It somehow ended up better than the first book. Which I didn't think was possible. I was certain that something was going to be left behind in the sequel (something I see far to often), but nothing was!

I was not expecting a few things that happened, so extra points for surprising Birdie! 

If you read my review of the first book, you know I said this-

"I've honestly never been a big dog person...As a result, I'm a little scared around them (and they know I'm afraid). But this book gave me a new perspective on dogs...WHEN DOGS BLOG has actually made me feel better about dogs..." 

The second book continued to show me what amazing animals dogs are, and I'm happy to report that I have been feeling more comfortable around dogs now more than ever. It''s amazing that two books have helped rid me of one of my biggest fears. That shows true writing genius, something Pam Torres most definitely is!

Please do yourself a favor. Whether you're a dog fan or not, pick up this book and read it. You will not be disappointed! 
 

Excited to read IT'S NOT JUST A DOG? You can get it here:


There are TONS of prizes you can win! Enter and you could get one of these prize packages:
Grand Prize- Set of illustrations signed by the illustrators, set of bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series, and a dream catcher. 

First Prize- 3 illustrations signed by the illustrators, bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, hard copies of both books in the series.

Second Prize- 2 illustrations signed by the illustrators, bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series.

Third Prize- 2 illustrations signed by the illustrators, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, bookmarks, magnets, stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series. 

Swag Packages- One 5x7 signed illustration, bookmarks, magnets, stickers, an ebook in the format of your choice. 

Enter right here!


You also have a few other ways to get some cool swag.

Facebook Page Contests- During the month of June the Project Madison Facebook Fan Page will be conducting contests and giveaways, so be sure to check there frequently for a chance to win some great prizes. 

Teachers and Parents: 
Anyone who emails (torres dot pam3 at gmail dot com) a JPG of a tween holding my book, a student or relative will receive a personalized letter from Madison and signed by Lilly dog. 
In addition, they will also be entered into a special drawing for an entire classroom to receive copies of the book and a visit from the author. (Sorry, this is for Washington State Teachers only.)  One entry per child, per picture. Be sure to include your school name, teachers name and contact information.

It's near the end of her blog tour, but you can also visit a few other blogs this month to get more Project Madison!


June 27- Reads 4 Tweens


July 1stBuried In Books

Monday, June 23, 2014

MMGM: WHEN DOGS BLOG


I'm going to give you a tiny hint- the special thing on the 25th has something to do with today's MMGM. But to know what, you're just going have to tune in for Wednesday's EPICNESS!

Before I spill anything important, I better start my MMGM!


WHEN DOGS BLOG is the first book in the Project Madison series by the fabulous Pam Torres. It takes us on a venture with Madison, an eleven year-old who isn't into boys and uses hash tags to express her deepest feelings.  Madison desperately wants a dog of her own, but her stepfather, Henry, thinks she's not ready for the responsibility and continues to make things difficult for her with his many "systems." She becomes friends with Cooper and together they start a blog and avoid Donald, the school bully who has taken a special interest in them.

I've pretty much told you the first half of the Goodreads blurb, but I'll paste it below.

(Oh, I blacked something out in the Goodreads thing because it is a pretty big spoiler. I'm surprised they put that on the book jacket.)

Goodreads says:

Life is getting way too tricky for eleven-year-old Madison Morgan. She’s not interested in boys, fashion, or the latest gossip, unlike her best friend Paige. Her stepdad, who she knows as Henry, has way too many systems around the house since her Mom died. To top it off, Madison and her new friend Cooper have become the “school project” of a bully named Donald. And all she really wants is a dog to call her own, but all she gets is the parental-brush-off. What is a straight-talking, spunky middle grader going to do?

Kids from ages nine to twelve years old are sure to get a laugh from Madison Morgan: When Dogs Blog, which tells the heartwarming story of the sometimes tough, frequently funny days of the wise-cracking, dog-loving Madison. When her dad arrives home with a scrawny brown terrier named Lilly, Madison is amazed to find she has an ability to understand dogs, their emotions, and often their pasts. However, her gift also leads her to uncover some extremely harmful activities that are happening in her very own neighborhood.

Frank, funny, and full of adventure, this book is a must for any middle grader, who is certain to be enthralled by this dog blogger.


My angle:

Quite frankly, I'm surprised Pam Torres isn't actually a tween. She captures the voice of a sixth grader so well. The pains of being "left behind" as her best friend joins the world of make-up and crushes sounds authentic. WHEN DOGS BLOG reminds you of the craziness tweens go through and forces you to look back to your years in sixth grade.

I wasn't super surprised when Madison put the pieces together, but I am rarely surprised by plots anymore (the worst thing about being a bookworm). I'm sure it will surprise other readers. There is one thing that makes the fact I saw through part of the plot a good thing; it shows the plot is well constructed with plenty of clues.

I've honestly never been a big dog person. I've never lived with one. My contact with dogs is limited to whatever I get when I go over to other people's houses. As a result, I'm a little scared around them (and they know I'm afraid). But this book gave me a new perspective on dogs. I think that reading WHEN DOGS BLOG has actually made me feel better about dogs. So if you are a huge dog fan, this is a great book. If you aren't a dog person, this book may make you feel better about dogs and may turn you into a dog lover (I'm not there yet, but maybe one day).

I'm surprised this book hasn't gotten more buzz, seeing how good it is. Madison is far from a cardboard character. Every character is more than a cardboard cutout! Madison's voice is fun and very addicting. You should definitely hand this book to the middle-grade dog-lover in your life. You won't regret it, unless they were like me as a child*.

This is a great book to read for fun, but it has a great amount of potential to be an amazing book to teach. 

I don't want to give it a rating because I know whatever I give it, I'll wish I'd given it something else. I'm upset over the Goodreads review I gave it just a little while ago (4.5 out of 5? What was I thinking?!).

*Let's just say sometimes other people's priorities were wrong. Books before homework, right? Apparently, they didn't think so...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ready for EPICNESS?

Becuase it's coming. Shortly. Mega giveaway. An interview. That's all I'll say for now.

But prep yourself, because it's coming.

On June 25th!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

When Books Become a Problem

Today was very unproductive.

I should have been packing, but I had a book to pick up from my local bookstore. As soon as I entered the store, all sense of time and the amount of money in my bank account disappeared. I walked out of there a while later and with four a couple of new books I had not planned on purchasing.

And a few more titles for my extremely long TBR list.

Then, of course, I simply had to start one of them. Next thing I know, an hour and a half a small span of time has passed and I'm done with one book and halfway through the next one.

Why do I not have any self-control when it comes to books?

Does anyone else have this problem?

DOES ANYONE KNOW HOW TO CURE THIS PROBLEM?!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

MMGM: DARK LORD

Yes, everyone! I've finally gotten (mostly) out of that cave I was telling you about, so it's time to FINALLY do a MMGM!

I'm getting back into this blogging thing, so please bear with me as I brush the dust off and get back into the swing of things. I'm trying to post multiple times a week now, and I'm doing more giveaways, so please, PLEASE check back! :)

So here we go...







Goodreads says:

Greetings, Puny Humans:

In your hands, you are holding a tome of staggeringly evil genius. It is not for the faint of heart or for the whining masses. It is for those willing to serve as my devoted minions while I plan my greatest feat yet: surviving life as a human boy and returning to my rightful place as the ruler of the Dark Lands. Before I can exact my revenge, I must infiltrate this world and learn its ways.

How, you might ask, is it possible that I, the Dark Lord, the Master of the Legions of Dread and Sorcerer Supreme, could be reduced to human form? And how is it possible that the Lord of darkness could be forced to attend school and befriend such pitiful life forms?

Only by reading my tale will you learn the truth behind the cataclysmic defeat that left me stranded on this accursed planet, Earth. But make no mistake, revenge will be mine... as soon as I finish my homework. Mwah, hah, ha!

Yours insincerely,
Dirk Lloyd
(aka the Dark Lord)


Why I'm singing praises:

The writing style is similar to that of WIMPY KID, but the story is in a class of its own. I have not yet found a book that I could compare to this one. 

The story is not overtaken by Dirk's search to discover if he really is the Dark Lord. There is other stuff going on as well- school, a few bullies, a maybe-crush, and the regular pains of being thrown into a world where magic either doesn't exist or isn't working.

There are lots of great scenes where Dirk is totally in control and showing his Dark Lord-ness and other scenes where you doubt how he could be anything other than a boy.

The writing is in a simple style and there are lots of fun pictures places throughout the book. I would recommend it to children in late elementary school or early middle school who like a little bit of a darker fantasy and comedy. I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

So is he really the Dark Lord? You'll just have to ready this great book to figure that out!