Sunday, August 25, 2013

Best of Summer Kid Lit Giveaway Hop

By Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

It's finally happened. Summer is over and the kids are back in school. Depending on whether you are a kid or a parent, this could be good or bad.

For me, summer always meant two things: time at the pool, and time to read - not just books my teachers told me to read, but anything I wanted to read! Of course, many of those paperbacks went to the pool with me (I mean, a kid has to do something during periods of "adult only swim," right?). But I spent just as many hours hiding from those pesky younger siblings, up a tree or in the woods of the house across the street, losing myself in the adventures of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, or journeying along with Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

Of course, back to school means getting back into the reading habit. Or maybe you're lucky, and your kids never got out of it. In any event, there will be opportunities for "what did you do this summer" essays and "pick a book" free reading book reports. So hopefully you got some good reads in over the last few months.

And if you didn't, no worries! The bloggers below, assembled by Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews, are more than willing to share their summer reading expertise.

Tell me: What's the best kid's book you've read (or your kids have read) this summer? One lucky commenter can win $25 Paypal case (open to US and international residents.

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Monday, August 12, 2013


By Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

I am suffering from "end of summer" syndrome, which means my brain is a mess. So it may be sort of a cop-out, but here's another excerpt from Wedding Bells, which is looking like it will be released sometime this fall.


I went out into the courtyard to find Geoff. But although people were swarming everywhere, I couldn't find him.

As I walked, I watched the faces around me. The older people snapped at each other, at the younger folks, and were generally miserable. I received few greetings. Most just nodded briefly in my direction. I was another distraction, a body to be avoided.

It was a totally different story with the younger people. They chatted and laughed. All of them seemed to think highly of Perry Goodhaven. The girls sighed and gushed about how handsome he was, and the boys talked of his accomplishments, which seemed unending. To them, this was something to distract from everyday boredom. More than once I saw two or three simply stop what they were doing and stand around talking. It was clear they weren't earning any points from their elders.

I was about to look elsewhere for Geoff when I heard a voice behind me.

"Well, if it isn't the girl-hero. Enjoying the view? Perhaps you've come to make yourself useful."

I gritted my teeth and turned to see Perry strolling toward me, a line of breathless girls behind him. "It certainly is something. Actually, I was looking for Geoff. I had some questions for him." I adjusted my sword belt and shifted the bow at my back. I hoped it looked at least a little threatening. The "girl-hero" routine was getting on my nerves.

But if Perry felt threatened he didn't look it. "What kind of questions?" He smirked the same way the senior high kids did when we middle-schoolers were around. "I'm sure I can tell you anything you want to know about the wedding."

"Actually, I wanted to know more about Roger." I made my voice mostly light, but my words were blunt. I wasn't in the mood for games. "I'm still shocked he would abandon his lady on such an important occasion. She'd need his guiding hand now more than ever."

"Well, I'm surprised that he managed to keep his job as long as he did." Perry examined his nails.

I noticed that they were perfect, without a speck of dirt or any evidence that he'd ever handled a sword. "What makes you say that?" Stay cool. Losing your temper won't help Roger.

"The man is a thief and a liar." Perry looked up. When I didn't say anything, he continued. "I had a very valuable dagger stolen from me. It was found in his room."

I moved out of the way of some red-faced men carrying chairs to the tent. "Why on earth would he take it?" I studied Perry's face.

"Why ask me? Obviously he hoped to discredit me somehow, although what he was planning escapes me." Perry looked around, then met my gaze, a trace of a smile at his lips. "We had been talking about the art of knife throwing. He asked if I had much experience with it. Of course I do. He wanted a demonstration, so I offered to show him--with my own dagger, of course. When I went to get it, it was gone." He circled me, and I resisted the urge to turn. "It was a very valuable piece. A gift from the Emperor himself. Well, he gave me a matched set, but I rarely travel with both of them. No man needs two daggers."

I didn't care about his stupid daggers. Why was he telling me this? To make me aware of how important he was? To show me that he was buddies with the Emperor? He sounded like Tyler Tasselwaite from school, constantly bragging about how many of the high school football players hung out at his house every weekend.

"I'm surprised that you travel with such valuable gifts." He stopped and I lifted my chin. "Weren't you ambushed by thieves on the High Road? I mean, that's what I've heard. They attacked you, scared off your horse, and you walked to Mallory Manor."

He ran his tongue over his lips. "You heard wrong. Yes, I was attacked, but I scared them. No doubt they saw my skill with a sword and fled. My horse, unfortunately, was lamed in the fight, and I had to leave him at an inn near the Mallory border. I tried to borrow a horse, but there were none available. The innkeeper tried to get me to take one of his nags, but it was hardly fit for a noble. It was barely able to carry an underfed peasant child. So I walked. Arriving on foot isn't as embarrassing as arriving on an animal fit for the glue factory."

Was he incapable of answering a question with just yes or no? "Well, you didn't need to risk another horse being injured, of course." I glanced at his feet. No way he walked very far in those shoes.

"Indeed." He studied my clothes as well and smiled, probably concluding that I didn't look much like a hero. "I would be happy to give you a lesson in swordsmanship. I'm sure I have a lot of tricks that a woman would find useful in a fight." Once again, his smile didn't reach his eyes.

I bet you do, I thought. Taking a deep breath, I smiled. "It would be a honor. Let me know when you are available." Available for me to dump you on your fancy-pants butt.

I thought we might come to a clash of blades right there, but our staring match was interrupted by Geoff's arrival. "Lyla, I've been looking for you," he said. He made a short bow to Perry. "Perhaps you are busy with my lord Goodhaven. Shall I find you later?"

"We had just finished our conversation. I'm thirsty. How about a glass of cold ale? Goodhaven, I'll see you at dinner." I walked away without bowing. I had the feeling a target had been drawn on my back, but I resisted the urge to turn around.

Monday, August 5, 2013


by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

So, I don't have the actual cover art to go with this book yet, thus, the stock photo. But not having cover art isn't a reason not to post a sneak peek, right?

The slightly tipsy cake should be a warning! Is Starla's impending marriage a dream come true, or a disaster waiting to happen?


“Perry, you’ve come.” Starla rushed up to meet the newcomer and get a kiss. Her eyelashes fluttered and she giggled, a completely un-Starla reaction.

I looked him up and down. Well, Perry Goodhaven was handsome, I’d give him that. Handsome like the captain of the JV football team. His wavy blond hair was perfectly trimmed, falling neatly across his forehead. His tanned skin set off a perfect model-white smile, but the smile failed to reach the deep blue eyes behind long, dark, almost girlish lashes. Those eyes were cold pools of water, waiting for me to slip and drown. I figured he was a few inches taller, and a little heavier, than Roger. But his rich velvet jacket didn’t disguise a muscular set of shoulders. His pants fitted him perfectly, with no bulges of fat anywhere.

“Darling, this is Lyla Stormbringer. She is our greatest hero, and has saved us at least twice.” Starla’s face shone up at Goodhaven, frighteningly empty of thought. “Lyla, this is my love, Perry Goodhaven. You must have heard that we are to be married. Goodness, the young people can talk of nothing else.” She giggled again.

Goodhaven smiled and kissed her hands. He looked at me and flashed another perfect smile. This guy knew he was good-looking, how women usually responded, and was giving me the full treatment. Definitely just like the captain of the JV football team. But he couldn’t make his eyes look friendly. “Of course, the fabled girl-champion of Mallory. It’s an honor.” He didn’t offer his hand. “You know young people, my love, any excuse for a party. I’m sure Lyla would agree, being a young person herself.”

I bristled. Girl-champion, huh? I thought. Okay, if you want to be that way. “The honor is mine.” I didn’t bow or bend my neck. Two could play this game. “As I was saying to Lady Starla, I am surprised that Roger Woodbridge is absent. He has been her ladyship’s most trusted servant, especially during her recent troubles. I can’t believe that he would want to miss such a happy occasion.” I stared at Goodhaven, daring him to look away. He didn’t, but neither did I.

“Yes, well, I’m sure you all have much to talk about.” Carson fussed, giving Starla another hasty kiss on the hand. “I’ll just let myself out. Once again, I’m glad you have taken this step to respectability. I look forward to hearing the joyful news that you and Lord Goodhaven are expecting the birth of your heir, a bouncing baby boy, I hope.”

“Thank you, Master Carson.” Starla didn’t take her eyes off her future husband. She fumbled for a bell on the nearby table. “Some wine, I think. To celebrate the meeting of Mallory’s champion and my beloved.”

Ugh. Had someone swooped in and kidnapped Starla without my noticing? What was with the fluttery, girly act? “So you are a lord, Master Goodhaven? From what estate?” I fingered my sword hilt and wondered if it would be too much to challenge Goodhaven to a duel right here in the reception hall. Roger probably wouldn’t approve. Then again, if he really didn’t like Goodhaven, maybe he’d cheer me on to victory.

“Not yet,” Perry said, not missing a beat. “At least not until I am wed to this model of nobility.” He traced Starla’s face with his finger and smiled. She giggled yet again, and I coughed.
Starla rang the bell once more, louder this time. “Where is that girl with the wine? This delay is unforgivable.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. It had been less than a minute since she’d rung the bell the first time. That was an unforgivable delay?

“I’m afraid the servants have been allowed to become lazy under Woodbridge, my darling.” Perry kissed Starla’s hand again. “Once we are married, you won’t have to worry your pretty head. I’ll take care of whipping them into shape. You, girl—wine, and be quick about it.” He barked at the serving girl who had appeared in the door. She curtsied, and rushed to fetch the wine and some glasses.

I frowned and ignored Starla’s unspoken invitation to sit. “I wouldn’t have described Roger as permitting laziness. He’s a kind man, but he has high standards.” The girl appeared with the wine, but I waved off the offered glass. Instead, I paced the room, keeping an eye on my hosts.

Perry fussed over Starla as she sat and gave her a glass of wine. “I wouldn’t expect a girl to know how a man should behave,” he said, turning to me. “Woodbridge allowed shocking lapses in behavior. I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did.”

The heat rose in my neck, and I expected Starla to rush to Roger’s defense. Instead she remained silent. “Is that truly how you feel, my lady?”

For the first time, Starla looked embarrassed. “I am sorry things happened the way they did,” she said, refusing to meet my eye. “But he spoke ill of my lord, and that simply cannot be allowed.”

“If he did, I’m sure he believed he was acting in your best interests.” I wanted to shake her, but I stood still. Perry must have played a great role to turn Starla against her former steward this way.

“Nevertheless, Roger Woodbridge spoke against me publicly, undermining the rule of the one who would be his lord.” Perry’s voice was still smooth, but held a trace of scorn. “In doing so, he spoke against his lady. That is treason and must be punished.” He stared at me, daring me to argue.

I thought for a moment. Reaching a decision, I said, “I’m sorry, my lady, I have been traveling and I’m quite tired. If you would be so kind as to provide a room, I would be most grateful.”

“You’ll stay for the wedding, then?” Starla turned an eager face to me. “You absolutely must stay. I won’t take no for an answer.”

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Don’t trouble yourself, I’ll find someone to show me to a room. By your leave, my lady.” I bowed to Starla and jerked my chin toward her intended husband. “Goodhaven.” I turned and stalked out of the reception hall.

Bed, schmed. I needed to find out what was going on, clear Roger’s name, and stop a wedding.

Image courtesy of Shelley Panzarella, used under Creative Commons

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

This special guest post brought to you by my daughter.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is told from the view point of Hazel, or known as Hazel Grace to Gus (Augustus) Waters. The book was very relatable as a teen myself and quite realistic. I felt Hazel's problems very similar to my own sometimes. I liked how she did not spend most of the book crying about nothing and was very out there.

When she meets Augustus, I felt as if he was a little on the impulsive side. Like if he wanted something to happen it would. But while he was very outgoing and almost unrealistic, his character is later made realistic, which is other point. Another thing that I felt the author portrayed well was grief. It wasn't sappy, it was heart wrenching. And there wasn't loads of crying going on.

The book had swearing, but I think that was one of the more realistic assets to it. Teens swear, like it or not. And the book didn't prance around the ideas of being a teen- it was as if the author was a teen. There was sexual content, but noting erotic. Overall the rating, would only be PG-13

The Fault in Our Stars is funny, heart wrenching, and extremely realistic. I would recommend this to any teen who is looking for a good read.