Review: Storybound by Marissa Burt

 

Title: Storybound

Author: Marissa Burt

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 978-0062020529

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When Una Fairchild stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, she thinks nothing of opening the cover and diving in. But instead of paging through a regular novel, Una suddenly finds herself Written In to the land of Story—a world filled with Heroes and Villains and fairy-tale characters.

But not everything in Story is as magical as it seems. Una must figure out why she has been Written In—and fast—before anyone else discovers her secret. Together with her new friend Peter and a talking cat named Sam, Una digs deep into Story’s shadowy past. She quickly realizes that she is tied to the world in ways she never could have imagined—and it might be up to her to save it.

Review:

I am having a fantastic winning streak of wonderful Middle-Grade novels so far in 2012.  Storybound turned out to be another winner.  The premise is fantastic, and I could not put the book down.  I was literally glued to my reading chair for an entire afternoon as I frantically turned pages, eager to see what kind of trouble Una would find herself in.

Like Harry Potter, Una has never known her parents.  She has been shuffled through the foster care system, and she currently lives with Ms. McDonough, an odd woman who speaks to her cats far more frequently than she speaks to Una.  Una is fine with that, because she finally has some time to herself after being fostered in big families where she never felt that she belonged.  She feels invisible, both at her foster home and at school.  One day when Una is reading in the library in the basement at school, she finds a mysterious book.  A book about her.  Before she even has a chance to catch her breath, she finds herself sucked into the book, trapped as a character in the story.  Now she must  find her way back out again, all without getting killed.  Whoa!

In the land of Story, Una finds must become a student at the school where the children of Story learn how to be characters in books.  All of the citizens of Story have roles in books, and they all have to behave in a manner consistent with the character they are playing.  I loved the concept of this world.  Una’s ally, Peter, is learning to be a Hero.  He takes his studies very seriously, and when Una is magically zapped into one of his practical exams, he is not very happy when she screws it up for him.  With Peter’s help, Una learns that she was Written In.  Peter is shocked, because no one has been Written In since the Tale Keepers overthrew the evil Muses and took control of Story.

I am going to gush about how much I adored Una.  She is resourceful, clever, and loyal, and she is my favorite kind of protagonist.  She meets setback after setback, but each one makes her more determined to figure out what is going on.  Something is stinky in the land of Story, and Una won’t rest until she discovers what it is.  There is something wrong with the Tale Keepers, and she doesn’t believe that the Muses were evil.  With the help of Peter and Sam, a talking cat, she  searches for the truth, even when it puts her in mortal danger.  And Una is in a lot of danger.  She doesn’t belong in Story, and she needs to get back home before someone figures out that she has been Written In.  Another thing that I love is convincing character development – Storybound has it in spades.  The Una at the end of the book is a much more mature and likeable girl than the Una at the beginning.

My only gripe about Storybound is the cliffhanger ending.  I hate those!  Aside from that complaint, this is a fantastic book with wonderful characters, creative world-building, and non-stop suspense.  Fans of Harry Potter will enjoy Storybound, as well as anyone who loves a rousing fantasy yarn.  I am counting down the days until the sequel, Story’s End, hits store shelves, though 2013 seems like a long time away!

Grade: Waffling between an A- and a B+ (Either way, I LOVED this book)

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Sports Illustrated Kids Pro Files: Baseball

 

Title: Sports Illustrated Kids Pro Files: Baseball

Publisher:  Time

ISBN: 9781603202381

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A must-have for every young baseball fan and player, "Pro Files: Baseball" showcases 15 of the big league’s hottest stars and fathers through "Sports Illustrated: Kids’" signature content: great writing, fun trivia, amazing statistics, and dynamic photography. Full color.

Review:

Even though I am not a huge sports fan, I enjoy reviewing these SI Kids books.  They are attractively packaged, engagingly written, and filled with glossy action shots.  In addition to giving tips on how to play like a pro, each featured player has an introduction which includes their stats and career highlights.  While this is nice, I appreciated the background information for each player even more.  The human interest elements made the book accessible to me, a self-admitted non-fan of baseball.  Each player also has a selection entitled Inside Information, which lists their favorite foods, movies, cartoon characters, and even video games.  That’s the stuff that I’m interested in.  It’s great to know all of Justin Verlander’s stats, but since I don’t get into the game, those are just random numbers to me.

I took this book to work to show to a co-worker, and he really liked reading through it, too.  He is a huge baseball fan, and while he questioned some of the players that were included, overall he agreed that the featured athletes were among the top of their game.  He liked the photographs, which are printed on bright, glossy paper and capture a variety of intense action shots. He agreed that the text will interest both fans and those not so enthusiastic about the game.  The tips are fun to read, too, though I doubt that I will ever be able to advance my skills to the level of Ichiro Suzuki or Dustin Pedroia.  Chris, on the other hand, insists that with practice, he will be able to pitch just like Verlander.  I remain slightly skeptical.

If you have a baseball fan at home, this would be a great purchase for them.  I bet that even reluctant readers will be cheerfully engrossed learning about the players, their backgrounds, and the secrets behind their moves. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Batman: Super-Villains Strike by Michael Teitelbaum

 

Title: Choose-Your-Own-Fate Adventure Book Batman: Super-Villains Strike

Author: Michael Teitelbaum

Publisher: Starscape

ISBN: 978-0765364814

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Batman’s instincts tell him that Catwoman, The Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Poison Ivy are all involved. But how could that be? They are all behind bars at Arkham Asylum. Batman knows these super-villains would never agree to work together…or would they?

Is a copycat criminal to blame? How could one person be in all these places at once? Follow the clues with Batman and then make your own choices for how the story will go. Can you help Batman solve this mystery? Will you be able to put the criminal—or criminals—behind bars and save Gotham City from chaos?

These DC Super Hero “interactive” stories will incorporate fabulous DC art along with puzzles and games to guide the reader through multiple outcomes of the story. The puzzles and games will appear at random chapter endings providing clues to help the reader decide where to go next. Familiar interactive elements, for readers otherwise absorbed with online games and other digital devices, these original concept books will add a new level of excitement and challenge for the reader.

Review:

I received this unsolicited Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Book, and since I am a big fan of both Batman and choosing your own fate, I sat down with it and put the book through its paces.  Intended for readers 7 – 10, Batman: Super-Villains Strike keeps poor Batman on his toes from the first page.  Four of the most dangerous criminals in the world are committing crimes in Gotham City, even though you, as Batman, are certain they are all still behind bars in Arkham Asylum.   Dodging one villain after another, you are desperate to catch Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Mr Freeze, and The Riddler red-handed and hustle them back to their jail cells.

While I love the concept of these choose your own adventure books, I am not fond of the execution of this one in particular.  The continuity is not smooth, and there were several paths I traveled along that jerked me from one location to another with no explanation, and worse, from one villain encounter to another without regard to events in the chapter I launched off from.  Several times I was chasing after Catwoman, picked a path, and was suddenly pondering riddles from The Riddler, even though I hadn’t encountered him previously in my adventures.  I didn’t even know he was out of jail yet.  This was frustrating when it happened.

To assist me in my crime-fighting journey, there are several puzzles that I had to solve that added variety to the adventure.  Word searches, mazes, and scrambled words gave the book a more interactive feel.  I enjoyed these little brain teasers, and would have liked to see more of them.

One thing I didn’t like was having to search for chapter numbers.  I wish instead that I had been directed to a specific page number, instead of the numbered chapters.

Continuity issues aside, this book will keep younger readers occupied during wait times or trips in the car.  Just don’t be surprised if they ask you where The Riddler or Poison Ivy suddenly came from!

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Medusa the Mean by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

 

Title:  Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean

Author: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Publisher: Aladdin

ISBN: 978-1442433793

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Medusa wants to be more like her two sisters and the other kids at Mount Olympus Academy — immortal. Is that too much to ask? As one of the few mortals at MOA, it’s hard not to get jealous when you’re surrounded by beautiful, powerful goddessgirl and godboy classmates. And it isn’t easy making friends either, especially when you have snakes for hair and one mean reputation!

Review:

I have been interested in The Goddess Girls for a while, but I was reluctant to go back and try to catch up on the series.  Medusa the Mean is the eighth installment, and when I had the opportunity to be part of a blog tour, I jumped at the chance.  I ‘m glad that I did, too.  I had no problems following along with the plot, and found this to be a very fun MG read.

Medusa has a few issues.  She wants to be popular, and she wants super hottie Poseidon to notice her.  The problem? Nobody is tripping over themselves to be her friend.  Who wants to be BFFs with a mortal girl with snakes for hair?  Her own parents don’t even seem to care for her, so it’s easy to see how Medusa developed an Olympus sized chip on her green shoulder.

I was extremely sympathetic toward Medusa.  She is one of the only mortals to attend Mount Olympus Academy, and she feels that she doesn’t fit in.  She longs to be immortal and to have powers like her sisters.  It’s hard being the only triplet  without special powers!  Medusa is so desperate to obtain immortality that she falls for gimmicks that keep getting her into trouble.

Despite her desire to have friends, Medusa is wary of her peers.  Being the object of ridicule will do that, and Medusa is often the butt of jokes and teasing.  It seems that only her snakes accept her for who she really is.  With her trust issues, she keeps rejecting the friendly overtures from the girls she longs to be friends with.  I could relate to Medusa and her social awkwardness.  It’s hard to make friends when you worry constantly that people are only setting you up for a joke.  Instead, she reacts with snarky comebacks, or worse, ignores everyone in the vicinity.  While she keeps finding fault in herself, she feels that she must also find fault in others.

Medusa the Mean is a quick, feel good read.  Though I was starting to worry that Medusa would never catch a clue, she eventfully learns that being friends is a two-way street.  She learns that if she wants people to like her, she can’t be selfish and self-absorbed.  Most importantly, she has to accept herself for who she is, and stop judging people based on their looks, instead of their personality.  I enjoyed the characters and the setting, and wouldn’t hesitate to read more books in the Goddess Girls series.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by {teen} Book Scene

 

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Win an Autographed Copy of Medusa the Mean!

To celebrate the release of their new book, Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams are giving away a signed copy of Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean!  Want to win this fun MG read?  Just fill out the widget below! You can earn extra entries by following.  US mailing addresses only, please.

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Blog Tour–This or That with Medusa from Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean!

[Manga Maniac Café] Hi, Joan and Suzanne!  Thanks for dropping by!

[Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams] Hi, Julie! Thanks so much for hosting our Goddess Girls 8: Medusa the Mean blog tour!

Medusa insists on speaking for herself in your Character This or That. We hope that’s okay.

[Manga Maniac Café] Perfectly fine! I am not about to argue with a girl who has snakes for hair! 

Hi, Medusa!  Welcome to This or That! Would you like a cup of tea before we get started?

[Medusa] Don’t forget the cookies.  It’s a long journey from Mt Olympus.

[Manga Maniac Café] Of course!  Here you are, and let’s start This or That!

[Medusa] I guess…

[Manga Maniac Café] Water or Sand

[Medusa] With a sea monster mom and a seahog dad, I can swim like a fish. So, water! Definitely.

[Manga Maniac Café] Blue or Red

[Medusa] Hmm. Blue is pretty close to my favorite color, green. And red is the complement of green. So, neither. I choose green.

[Manga Maniac Café] Sun or Stars

[Medusa] Stars, like the ones I have in my eyes when I look at my supercrush, Poseidon.

[Manga Maniac Café] Walking or Running

[Medusa] Running. I’m a mortal at an immortal school. I’ve got to move it to keep up. At times, it’s hard for me. But that’s my little secret.

[Manga Maniac Café] Birds or Fish

[Medusa] Fish, because I can swim like one. And Poseidon is godboy of the sea. Duh. We are so perfect for each other. Why can’t he see that?

[Manga Maniac Café] Hot or Cold

[Medusa] Cold. It’s better for my pet snakes. I have a dozen on my head. Did you notice? I used to think they were a pain, but now they’re my pets. I even gave each of them names.

[Manga Maniac Café] Food or Drink

[Medusa] Drink, because it reminds me of water, which reminds me of swimming, which I’m good at.

[Manga Maniac Café] Singing or Dancing

[Medusa] Dancing. If I win a chance to be in Principal Zeus’s wedding, I’m going to dance the night away!

[Manga Maniac Café] Naughty or Nice

[Medusa] I never play nice!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you, Medusa! 


Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean is available now!  You can order a copy from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

Thank you {teen} Book Scene for arranging this meeting with Joan, Suzanne, and Medusa!

Review by Elsa–The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

 

Title: The Son of Neptune

Author:  Rick Riordan

Publisher:  Disney Hyperion

ISBN: 978-1423140597

 

{ED. Here is another review written by my young friend, Elsa.  Good work, kiddo!}

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Percy is confused. When he awoke after his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain-fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight. Somehow Percy managed to make it to the camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he had to continually kill monsters that, annoyingly, would not stay dead. But the camp doesn’t ring any bells with him.
Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. When the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now, because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk.
Frank is a klutz. His grandmother claims he is descended from ancient heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery—although not good enough to help the Fifth Cohort win at war games. His big and bulky physique makes him feel like a clumsy ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely—enough, even, to share the secret he holds close to his heart.
Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far north as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment in the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all of whom are destined to play a part in the most important quest of all: the Prophecy of Seven.

Review:

I wanted to read The Son of Neptune because I have read the Jackson Chronicles before. It was an exciting, action packed fiction book. The book taught you that the importance of believing in what you want, sticking by your friends’ side and standing your ground were key. When I read “The Lost Hero”, the book before the Son of Neptune, I knew that Rick Riordan was a great author and I would love all of his books. Also, like the Hunger Games, it has the power to make you realize what you want in life.

I liked Percy as the protagonist. He was definitely gutsier in this book than the rest. I can say that I liked everything and I didn’t hate anything. Rick Riordan is another author that I am officially obsessed with.  I had such a hard time putting his books down and stepping away from Percy.  Would he survive the pressure?  Would something worse happen to Frank and Hazel? I need to read the rest of Rick Riordan’s books!

Hope you like my reviews so far and try to catch the next one coming soon!!!!

~Elsa

 

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Interview with Marissa Burt, Author of Storybound

Marissa Burt is the author of Storybound, a Middle Grade fantasy that looks fantastic.  This year has been a banner year so far for awesome MG novels, and I am eagerly anticipating Marissa’s debut in April. Until then, I invited her to the virtual offices for a chat about her soon to be released novel.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Marissa Burt] MG fantasy author. Wife. Mother to three boys.  Cat lover.  Ice-cream connoisseur.  Obsessive book reader.  A wee bit neurotic.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Storybound?

[Marissa Burt] When Una Fairchild stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, she thinks nothing of opening the cover and diving in. But instead of paging through a regular novel, Una suddenly finds herself Written In to the land of Story—a world filled with Heroes and Villains and fairy-tale characters.

But not everything in Story is as magical as it seems. Una must figure out why she has been Written In—and fast—before anyone else discovers her secret. Together with her new friend Peter and a talking cat named Sam, Una digs deep into Story’s shadowy past. She quickly realizes that she is tied to the world in ways she never could have imagined—and it might be up to her to save it.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Marissa Burt] I’ve always loved to read, and, like many book-lovers, I’m a bit sad when I come to the end of a good book and have to say farewell to the characters.  So I imagined a world where the characters carry on without nosy readers peering over their shoulders.  And I wondered what would happen if a girl from our reader’s world fell into theirs.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

[Marissa Burt] The biggest challenge was making myself write it – ha!  I had the idea for probably about a year before I sat down and found the regular time needed to write a novel.  I kept waiting for inspiration to strike and instead I was left with plain old determination.  I’ve since learned that it’s best to just keep on writing, whether circumstances are conducive to creativity or not.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Una?

[Marissa Burt] Brave.  Clever.  Determined.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Peter would never have in his pocket?

[Marissa Burt] Ooooh, interesting question.  Peter would never have any mean notes about anyone – his heroic ideals are very important to him.  Since he’s from the Fantasy District, Peter wouldn’t have any contraptions belonging to a Modern character – no calculators, ink-pens, or i-phones.  And I’m not sure Peter would have any snacks or food.  He’s usually too busy eating them to stow them away for later.

[Manga Maniac Café] Why did you decide to write for the Middle Grade audience?

[Marissa Burt] I love reading Middle Grade books!  I think that’s the era in reading where I began to discover favorite authors of my own, so I’m a bit nostalgic for it.  Also, I love that Middle Grade is a place where you can have fun and silliness and also explore pieces of the grown-up world.  Very magical.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Marissa Burt] This is a great question!  I think my favorite books can’t help but influence my creativity and imagination.  So at my core there’s a good bit of L.M. Montgomery, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Jane Austen.  Also, thinking up a good setting for my characters is important to me.  So time outside – whether in real life or just in a dream-world – in a wildish sort of setting feeds my imagination.  The rocky Oregon coast, the rich greens of Pacific Northwest forests, or the snowy magic of the Colorado mountains are some favorites. 

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Marissa Burt] With three young children in the house, my essentials for writing are pretty minimal.  My laptop, earbuds to block out the noise, and the absence of an internet connection.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Marissa Burt] Such a difficult question!  My parents were great readers and introduced my brother and I to so many books when we were very young.  I’ve loved reading ever since my first "I am Sam" book in preschool, so I’m going to have to go with that one, even though it’s probably not the star you’re looking for. ;)

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Marissa Burt] I like to spend time with my family, read (of course), think about other creative projects like quilting or gardening (I usually never get around to doing them, though), go for slow walks somewhere quiet, daydream, and watch movies.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!!


You can learn more about Marissa by visiting the following websites:

Facebook Marissa Burt

Facebook Storybound

Twitter

Goodreads

Storybound hits stores in April! You can preorder a print or digital copy from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.

 

In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.

In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story.

But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself….

With the timeless appeal of books like A Wrinkle in Time and the breathtaking action of Inkheart, Storybound has all the makings of a new classic. Brimming with fantastical creatures, magical adventure, and heart-stopping twists, Storybound will leave readers wishing they too could jump through the pages into this enchanting fairy-tale world.

 

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