Feature Book of the Week #6 Shadow and Bones by Leigh Bardugo

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Shadow and Bones
Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.

Author Post From Leigh Bardugo 

What if darkness was a place? What if the creatures you imagined lurking in the dark were real and even more frightening than you'd thought? What if you had to fight them on their own territory?

No matter how old I get or how wise I thought I was, my fear of the dark never quite went away. It's the woods at night, lit by nothing but the beam from a flashlight. It's the monster lurking under the bed or in the closet just waiting for you to switch off the lamp. That fear was the inspiration for the Shadow Fold, a place where darkness takes physical form.

Of course, as soon as I'd invented a dark territory, I had to make the monsters inhabiting it as terrifying as possible. Though they're blind from years evolving in the Shadow Fold, the volcra can smell blood from miles away and I had to give them wings so they could come at their prey from any angle. Once I'd done all that, I had to come up with a pretty compelling reason for people to venture into the Fold. After all, if you know there's a swath of darkness crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, um,  you stay away from it. But the leaders of Ravka don't have that choice. If they want to trade with the outside world, they have to send people across the Shadow Fold—and the people they usually choose are young, conscripted soldiers like Alina Starkov.

Still, the Grisha Trilogy isn't just about darkness. I wanted to take readers someplace scary, but I also wanted to give them a magical world to get lost in. Though ravaged by war and plagued by enemies, Ravka is also a country of glittering palaces, mystical creatures, and adventure. I'm thrilled Shadow and Bone has been chosen for this year's Book Battle and I hope you'll join Alina on her journey.

About the Author

Leigh Bardugo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Stormand Ruin and Rising. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she’s lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band. Her new book,The Dregs, arrives fall 2015.
Find out more about Leigh Bardugo at her website.

Feature Book of The Week #5 The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


The Dark Unwinding
Sharon Cameron

When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it.

Author Post by Sharon Cameron

A Dark and Stormy Night

When I was about six years old I can remember looking at the blue sky and telling my mother how disappointed I was because “nothing interesting ever happens on a sunny day.” And as far as books go, I think my six year old self was right. “It was a dark and stormy night” is a cliché phrase, but I think it’s become so cliché because it’s a phrase that all of us react to. There’s something inside us that is drawn to the dark. We are enchanted by the danger, challenged to imagine what we might do when we encounter the mysterious.

It was definitely that way for me the first time I read about Welbeck Abbey, the house in England that inspired The Dark Unwinding. Welbeck was enormous and empty, hundreds of years old and riddled with miles of underground tunnels, some of them secret, some of them lit by gas lamps, one even dug beneath a lake. The Fifth Duke of Portland, owner of Welbeck, built an underground ballroom the size of a football field, lit by 8,000 gas jets in huge, crystal chandeliers, and then used this room for roller skating! And he painted every room in this strange, neglected house pink. Welbeck was secret, grand, shadowy, and a little bit crazy. A place with its own rules where anything could happen. The perfect tickle for an author’s imagination. What would I do, I thought, if I found myself alone in a vast, rundown mansion, opened a drawer, and touched human hair that perfectly matched my own? How would I react if I stared into the glass eyes of a clockwork automaton that looked exactly like my dead grandmother?

It can’t be dark and stormy every day, of course. If it was, then the clouds would lose all their charm. And if I’m being honest, I don’t want to find myself lost in a maze of a mansion with a lunatic on the loose, or see machines move when they shouldn’t. I don’t actually want to take that first step into the dark, spider-webbed tunnel without knowing what waits at the end. But then again, maybe I do. And isn’t that exactly what reading is for?

About the Author 

Sharon Cameron is the author of The Dark Unwinding (2012), A Spark Unseen (2013), and the forthcoming Rook (2015), all from Scholastic Press. When not writing, she can be found shooting her long bow or continuing her lifelong search for secret passages. She lives with her family in Nashville, TN.

Find out more about Sharon Cameron at her website.

Feature Book of the Week #4 Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Feature Book of the Week
Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip
Jordan Sonnenblick

Meet Peter Friedman, high school freshman. Talented photographer. Former baseball star. When a freakish injury ends his pitching career, Peter has some major things to figure out. Is there life after sports? Why has his grandfather suddenly given him thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment? And is it his imagination, or is the super-hot star of the girls' swim team flirting with him, right in front of the amazing new girl in his photography class? In his new novel, teen author Jordan Sonnenblick performs his usual miraculous feat: exploring deep themes of friendship, romance, family, and tragedy, while still managing to be hilariously funny.

Guest Post from Jordan Sonnenblick 

Hi, everybody!  It’s nice to know my books are being read in Missouri, because I was born there, in Fort Leonard Wood.  I haven’t been back since my dad got out of the Army when I was a year old, but I have done my best to represent.  :)

Anyway, I am especially glad that you are reading Curveball, because that book means a lot to me on a very personal level.  When I started writing it, I thought I was addressing my son’s worst fear.  He was a middle-school athlete at the time, and his life’s dream was to play high school varsity sports one day.  When a pitcher on his travel baseball team suffered a less severe version of the elbow injury that afflicts Peter in the novel, I wrote Curveball to show my son that, even if something similarly catastrophic happened to him, he would be all right in the end.

However, a strange thing happened when I sat down and actually started to plot out the book.  My Grampa Sol (who is also the basis for the character of Solomon Lewis in Notes from the Midnight Driver) had died of dementia the year before, and somehow, Curveball became my way of mourning him.  My Grampa had been a very good amateur photographer, and left me a 1940s camera similar to the one on the front cover of the book.  At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about photography, but I decided to learn how to be a photographer as a way of sharing my grandfather’s hobby, and honoring his memory.  I went out and bought a fancy, expensive digital camera, several lenses, and a bunch of how-to books.  Then I started shooting photos of my son as he played his sports: basketball, soccer, and baseball.  I got pretty decent at sports photography, but more importantly, as I learned the 21st-century version of my grandfather’s craft, I gradually gained a sense of peace with the fact that he was gone.

One last thing: about a year after the novel was published, I found a guy over the Internet who was an expert at refurbishing old cameras.  I sent him Grampa Sol’s, and now it works.  I used it to shoot a roll of photos of my son and daughter side-by-side with my sister’s kids -- all four of my grandfather’s great-grandchildren together.  Now the best of those pictures is framed on my mother’s wall.  As Peter Friedman would say, I got the shot.

Curveball’s biggest gift to me has been that every time somebody reads it, my grandfather lives on.  I hope the love I felt while writing it comes through on the page for each of you.

About the Author

I was born on July 4, 1969 on an Army base in Missouri.  My dad got out of the Army when I was a year old and my older sister was five.  I spent the rest of my childhood in Staten Island, NY.  If you get me really mad or really tired, my New York accent flares up, but most of the time, people canʼt pick out where Iʼm from just by listening.

My favorite school subject was always English, although I was pretty good at everything except sitting still and being quiet. I’m pretty sure my teachers didn’t know what to make of me, because I got straight A’s, but got in trouble constantly. This didn’t stop until I was in my first semester at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. The girl of my adolescent dreams was in my freshman English class, and one day when I was making jokes nonstop, she turned to me and hissed, “Why are you so immature?”
At that moment, I instantly became a model citizen.

At Stuyvesant, I met a creative writing teacher who completely changed my life. His name was Frank McCourt, and my senior year was his last year of teaching. He taught me a ton, mostly through one Yoda-like saying that he repeated to me all year. I would write the funniest piece I could, and the class would be cracking up as I read my work aloud. Then, as soon as the noise subsided, Mr. McCourt would say, “Jordan . . . Jordan. Someday you’ll head for the deep water.” Head for the deep water – great advice if you want to be a writer. Or a salmon.

Mr. McCourt gave me a big creative writing award at graduation, and then retired to work on what would eventually be his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Angela’s Ashes. His parting words to me, recorded in my yearbook, were, “Yes, you’ve got the comic talent. But there’s deeper stuff waiting to come out. You’re a born writer.” Admittedly, he probably wrote the “born writer” part in hundreds of yearbooks. But the part about “deeper stuff waiting to come out” became the marching orders for my entire writing

After high school, I went to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where I majored in English, but also took a ton of courses in Russian, history, and anthropology. I joined every activity I could handle, too, playing drums in a theater group, writing and announcing for the marching band, and even dressing up as Santa Claus to entertain the young cancer patients at the Children!s Hospital of Philadelphia. The second-best thing I did in college was study abroad in London for my junior year. Studying Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Charles Dickens in the actual places where they wrote some of their finest work was an amazing experience.The best thing I did in college was meet my future wife.

After college, I joined an organization called Teach for America, which recruits people to teach in high-demand areas like rural Louisiana and the inner city. I was sent to teach 5th grade in Houston, Texas. I loved both the job and Houston, but a few years later, when I was ready to get married, my wife and I moved to Pennsylvania to settle down closer to our families.
Then I taught 8th grade English in New Jersey for 11 years. I would have been happy teaching middle school forever, but life took a strange turn. In 2002-03, I had a student named Emily, whose little brother was in treatment for cancer. Emily rarely talked about her brother’s illness, but of course it was very hard on her. One day I asked her mom whether it would be helpful if I found a book for Emily to read about a teen going through a similar situation. Emily’s mom said yes, but I couldn’t find a novel that I thought would be just right for Emily.

So I wrote Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie.

I have written a book per year since then, and as long as I still have someone who will publish the books and a few readers who aren’t my mom, I plan to keep writing.

Make sure you check out Jordan Sonnenblick's other books and his webite


Feature Book of the Week #3 Unstoppable by Tim Green

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Feature Book of the Week
Tim Green

Inspired by interviews with real-life cancer survivors and insider sports experience, this unforgettable New York Times bestseller shows a brave boy who learns what it truly means to be unstoppable. As National Ambassador for Young People's Literature emeritus Jon Scieszka said, Unstoppable is "absolutely heroic, and something every guy should read."

If anyone understands the phrase "tough luck," it's Harrison. As a foster kid in a cruel home, he knows his dream of one day playing in the NFL is a longshot.

Then Harrison is brought into a new home with kind, loving parents—his new dad is even a football coach. Harrison's big build and his incredible determination quickly make him a star running back on the junior high school team. On the field, he's practically unstoppable. But Harrison's good luck can't last forever. When a routine sports injury leads to a devastating diagnosis, it will take every ounce of Harrison's determination not to give up for good.

A Guest Post From Author Tim Green

            As the author of many sports-based novels for early teen readers, my football stories are populated with NFL players, some real, some fictional. Part of the fun with these characters is that they have the mythical proportions of superheroes. We know NFL players are super strong, super fast, and super tough.

            Every NFL player has his own story about how tough he is. Mine was when I separated my collar bone from my sternum in a game against the 49ers. The doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to keep playing. The bone literally bulged out of my chest creating a pup tent of skin. I begged for a Novocain shot to numb the pain so I could play. Even though those kind of shots were given rather freely, they refused to give me one because the injection would have to be too close to my heart and lungs and they were worried I might actually die from such a shot.

            Well, I played anyway, without the shot. Every step I took sent shivers of pain through my chest. Getting hit in a football game was a fireworks display of agony.

            I thought I was pretty tough, doing this. But then, seven years ago, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. What I saw her go through, the mental, emotional, and physical pain in her fight to overcome that disease let me know that I wasn’t the toughest person in our house. She was. I was so impressed by her amazing determination and toughness that I wanted to write a story about it, about a cancer survivor.

            Through some friends I then met a man named Jeff Keith. In real life, when Jeff was a young athlete, he battled cancer and won, but the disease took his leg. Jeff had been an amazing athlete and almost everyone knew that his sports career was over. Not Jeff. He fought back and with the help of a prosthetic leg became a division one lacrosse player at Boston College. My book, Unstoppable, is based on Jeff’s amazing, heartwarming, gut-wrenching, and ultimately inspiring true story. I think will bring tears to every reader’s eyes. Not just tears for what he lost, but tears of joy for what he found.

            I hope you enjoy reading Unstoppable as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope most of all that you take a page out of Jeff Keith’s playbook and become unstoppable yourself, in everything you do.

About the Author

After studying writing at Syracuse University where he was an All American football player, Tim was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons where he was a top defensive player for eight years.
While Tim played in the NFL, he also studied law and began his writing career. By the time he retired from football in 1994, Tim had already published his first book and become a lawyer. In addition to those two jobs, he began working as a television broadcaster for FOX NFL Sunday and other shows, including Battlebots, Good Morning America, Court TV, A Current Affair, and most recently, Find My Family.
After writing more than a dozen books for adults, Tim began writing a series of novels for young readers set in a world of sports taken from his own experiences as an athlete and a coach. In the meantime, Tim has visited over 800 schools and spoken to more than 400,000 students across the United States about the importance of education and character, in addition to the joys and benefits of reading!
Tim serves on the board of the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, NY, as well as the National Writing Project. He lives with his wife, Illyssa, their five kids, and two dogs in Upstate New York. When Tim isn’t writing, he enjoys boating, fishing, hunting, reading, and spending time with his family and friends.
- See more at: http://timgreenbooks.com/meet-tim/about/#sthash.QYeFC0qp.dpuf
After studying writing at Syracuse University where he was an All American football player, Tim was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons where he was a top defensive player for eight years. - See more at: http://timgreenbooks.com/meet-tim/about/#sthash.QYeFC0qp.dpuf
 After studying writing at Syracuse University where he was an all American football player, Tim was drafted in the first round of the NFL by the Atlanta Falcons where he was a top defensive player for eight years.

While Tim played in the NFL, her studied law and began his writing career. By the time he retired from his football career in 1994, Tim had already published his first book and became a lawyer. In addition to those jobs, he also began working as a  broadcast journalist for Fox NFL  Sunday, and other shows including Battlebots, Good Morning America, Court TV, A Current Affair, and most recently, Find My Family.

After writing more than a dozen books for adults, Tim began writing a series of books for young adult readers set in the world of sports taken from his own experiences as an athlete, and coach.  In the meantime, Tim has visited over 800 schools and spoken to over 400,000 students across the United States about the importance of  education and character, in addition to the joys and benefits of reading! 

 Tim Green's  bio obtained from his website.
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