Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review on The Tree of Mindala by Elle Jacklee

I normally don’t read middle grade books, but I have to admit, when I saw this gorgeous cover, it captured my attention.

 
I was given a copy of this book from the author for an honest review, so lets get to it.

I give this book five stars because of the author's wonderful imagination and her character development.

The Tree of Mindala is about a soon-to-be twelve year old girl named Miranda Moon. I love her character. She has quite the imagination and is always up for an adventure. Her younger brother Marcus, on the other hand, is a goody-goody, tends to be pessimistic, and runs with the popular crowd. Miranda is the complete opposite. She always sees the brighter side of things, and she never holds back her overactive imagination, which gets her into trouble from time to time.

When Miranda’s parents decide to take them to their deceased grandparent’s cabin for a few days, Marcus is not a happy camper. It’s Halloween weekend, and he won’t be able to go to the Halloween party, hosted by the most popular guy in school. He blames Miranda because she got suspended from school. She had told her classmates she saw a mermaid in a nearby pond, which created quite a disruption in her class. Her teacher was not amused.

Marcus barks at Miranda after they arrive at the cabin: “When are you going to stop making up stories and realize life is not all tall tales and make-believe?”

Marcus changes his tune, though, when Miranda discovers a water globe, stowed away in the cabin. This unique globe houses a little stone house surrounded by large, healthy trees. The twinkling stars and brilliant moon, lights up the green leaves against the dark sky. Curious about Miranda’s discovery, Marcus crouches beside her on the floor to get a closer look. But when Miranda turns the globe upside down, something extraordinary happens. She and Marcus are no longer in the cabin. Instead, they somehow enter another realm called Wunderwood–a land where using magic is as common as brushing your teeth. The source of Wunderwood’s magic derives from an enchanting tree called Mindala. Without this tree, people of this land believe there would be no magic. Or, if somebody were to possess this tree’s entire essence, he or she will become all powerful and be able to rule Wunderwood. It so happens, one person tries to do just that. His name is Thornton Crow. He’s a warlock who is gifted in magic. He once was a good person, until he had the Kindred Dream.

When a child turns twelve in Wunderwood, the memories of the last deceased relative of the same gender are revealed to them while they’re asleep. Thornton’s misguided and power-hungry father died by the hands of a Wunderwoodian, who had no choice but to kill him. So when Thornton had his Kindred Dream, he experienced and felt what his father had experienced. From then on, as the years went by, Thornton secretly plotted a devious plan to be the most powerful warlock in Wunderwood and rule the land. But then one day, a nonmagical person entered the land and in the end, he imprisoned Mr. Crow for forty years. That is, until Miranda accidentally frees him with the water globe she finds.

To prevent any spoilers, I must be vague in the rest of this review. All I can say is Miranda and Marcus has a connection to this magical world. When Miranda realizes her mistake in releasing the binding spell that was placed on Thornton, she feels responsible. She then sets out on her own personal quest to stop this cunning warlock from carrying out his evil plan in finding the tree of Mindala and robbing it of its essence.

This debut novel by Elle Jacklee is an imaginative one. My favorite character is Skye. He’s a Morphiad, which means he can transform into any creature he has ever touched. Skye is loyal, trustworthy, and a bit ornery. He’s somebody you’d want to have on your side.

I recommend this book to readers who liked C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But I have to say, The Tree of Mindala, is a bigger book and encompass a lot more information than C.S. Lewis’ did. However, both stories reflect a magical land where animals talk and people are divided due to their beliefs and where their allegiance lies.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Interview With Author Elle Jacklee


Hi Elle. Thank you for stopping by to talk to us about your middle-grade book The Tree of Mindala.

Wonderful to be here! Thanks for having me!


So why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, and when did you started writing stories?

Well, my professional background includes software programmer and sales, but my favorite title (besides wife and mom of course) is author. I've been writing stories on and off ever since I was about seven years old. I loved reading so much, and I hoped that other people would love my stories as much as I loved other people's stories. And it's fun!


I love the cover of this book. Who created it and did you have any say in the design?

Thanks! Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics created it. I gave him some basic conceptual story information and then he whipped something up. It took a few cycles of tweaking to get it just right, which is all just part of the process. I'm very pleased with the final version.


What is your story about?

Miranda Moon is an almost-twelve-year old girl whose vivid imagination has a way of getting her into trouble. She embarks (unexpectedly) on an adventure with her straight-laced, pessimistic younger brother, Marcus. They arrive in a place called Wunderwood, where magic flows through the trees and everyone already knows their family name. Coincidentally, an evil warlock, Thornton Crow, has just been freed from a long banishment, and resumes his agenda to find The Tree of Mindala, the source of all the magic in the realm, and seize it for his own. Miranda and Marcus discover branches of their own family tree that they hadn't even known existed. And that Thornton has a score to settle with anyone in their bloodline. Especially them.
When Miranda discovers just how Thornton came to be freed from his prison, she realizes its up to her to stop him. She must decide if she can carry out the task that will either save Wunderwood or doom it forever.
Ultimately, this is a story about the importance of overcoming your greatest fears, and the virtue of striving for balance in life.


How did you come up with this story?

I guess it's possible that I have a vivid imagination too. (Maybe it's a case of art imitating life? ;) One fall day around Halloween, I was home with a migraine, looking out the window at the leaves on my patio that were swirling in the brisk wind that just happened to be howling. It was a little spooky, but I thought it was beautiful at the same time. I've always loved Halloween, and by the end of that day (after a few doses of headache medicine), Miranda Moon was born and I had a rough outline of the story fleshed out.


Did you do an outline before you started writing it?

Yes, I learned pretty early on that I save myself a lot of rewrite time by having the story all planned out and documented before actually beginning the writing step.


How long did it take you to write?

About a year.


What is the hardest part about writing a book?

I think the planning stage is the hardest. The general idea of the story is easy. (I have no shortage of those!) But making sure all the details gel with each other and all the loose ends come together at the end is a painstaking process, at least for me, but when it's done, the actual writing goes much faster.


Who is your favorite character and why?

That's a tough one. That's almost like asking me which of my children I love more! But if I have to choose one, I guess I'd have to say Skye. His ability to morph into any creature that he's ever encountered gives him a unique perspective. Also, he's fiercely loyal. Though he's a good guy, there's little he would hesitate to do to protect those that he loves.


What is your favorite middle-grade book and why?

There are so many I love, new and old! My absolute favorite when I was a middle-grader myself has to be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. As an adult, the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud stands out, but I really can't choose which one out of the three. They're too good. I just can't!


Okay, now for some silly questions to shake things up a bit.


If you were given the choice to have one magical ability, what would it be?

Easy. Ever since I could remember, I've always wished I didn't need sleep. Now, I know the ability to stay up forever and function normally may not sound like magic, strictly speaking. But to me, what I could accomplish in those 6-8 hours everyday would be magical!


If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three items would you want to have with you?

Do they have to be real? If not: my solar powered kindle, loaded to the limit; magic seeds that will thrive in sand and yield pizza, popcorn, and ice cream; and a bottomless bottle of ice cold ginger ale. If they have to be real: a really long and really good book, a net to catch fish with, and a desalination bottle for drinking water that has a handle with a swiss army knife tucked into it. (Those exist, right?)

If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?

A gorilla. They're mainly vegetarian (if I had to kill my dinner, I would starve), they're highly intelligent, and very family-oriented.


If you could change anything in this world, what would you change?

Lack of empathy and compassion, and the inability of some people to keep their hurtful opinions to themselves. My mom taught me, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. I really try to live by those words. But these days, it seems like some people think it's their right to attack people who don't see things the way that they do. I see a lot of meanness, over the internet especially. Now, I'm all for free speech, but I think stating one's opinions does not necessarily need to come with the choice words and names some people have for anyone who doesn't see things exactly the way they do. The words can escalate to much more serious incidents, as we all know. I believe that everyone is a product of their circumstances and that their experiences shape their opinions. We should respect each other's differences, try to see things from each other's perspectives, and learn from each other. Not belittle or attack anyone with different opinions. The short answer: Just be nice. It feels good!


If you could ask a genuine psychic one question, what would it be?

I like surprises! I don't think I want to know anything in advance. But maybe, if the psychic could make me forget right after, I would ask for a glimpse of my kids' futures. It would be fun to see what's in store for them. But only for a minute. I'd really rather watch firsthand!


In 1990, a movie came out called Flatliners. It was about five medical students who conducted an experiment to produce a near-death experience so they could see what was on the other side. If you were one of those students and knew you would come back without any physical harm done to you, would you?

No. Again, I like surprises. The way I see it, I'll be there soon enough. No need to rush it ;) Besides, I saw that movie. I thought it was kinda scary!


Okay, let's get serious again.

LOL.

When is your next book coming out, and do you have a title for it yet?

I don't want to jinx myself, but I'm aiming to have the next one out by fall. The working title is The Triad of the Tree.


Where can people find you and your book?

The Tree of Mindala: Wunderwood Book One is available at Amazon, Smashwords, B&N.com, and most major online retailers. I would love for people to connect with me on Goodreads and/or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/elle.jacklee.


Is there anything you'd like to say before you go?

I just want to say thanks so much, Rebekkah, for having me! I've really enjoyed being here and answering your thought-provoking questions!


You're welcome and thanks again for stopping by. I enjoyed talking with you. :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review On Fledge By Author J.A. Huss

Fledge is the second book in the I Am Just Junco series. I have to say, I like Clutch--the first book in this series; however, out of the two, I like Fledge the best. In my personal opinion, I think that's a good thing because each book should be better than the first one.

 My husband Kevin always says when a person is hard on the outside, they’re soft in the inside (sounds like a Tootsie Pop). I don’t know if that holds true with every individual, but with Junco (the main character) it does. She may be a foul-mouth, bad-ass warrior who has been killing people since she was a young child, but she cares.

She has a heart.

I appreciate that about her character because if she didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to sympathize with her.

At the beginning of the book, Junco is put into hyper-sleep while she goes through morph. During that time her body grows wings and talons. It reminds me of a caterpillar in a cocoon, transforming into a butterfly. Basically, that’s what everybody does who goes through morph. Afterwards, you must go through Fledge.

Fledge is a test to see if you can fulfill your potential–to prove your worth. You have to go through a series of fights and fight to the death, to earn your place. Of course, Junco goes through those fights. I’m not going to tell you what happens, but there’s a lot of action in this book.

Before the first fight, Junco befriends a 10-year-old boy named Isec. He’s one of the fighters in Fledge. Junco takes him under her wing–no pun intended–and helps him through those fights. Here’s what she says to him before the first fight and after he tells her his age:

Ten? Isec, when I was ten I had already assassinated two world leaders on Earth. I think I know what the fuck I’m doing. So relax, because if you get killed it will be because you panic and don’t do what I fucking tell you. Got it?”

Yup, she has a potty-mouth, but ya know what? People who cuss is the most trustworthy.

It's true.

Studies on the matter have proven it. And if you're in Junco's good graces, you can trust her with your life.

Besides going through Fledge, Junco secretly comes up with a plan to save Tier. Tier was one of the main characters in Clutch. He’s an avian and was supposed to have killed Junco. He didn’t, and now he’s on trial for treason. The reader doesn’t discover Junco’s plan on how she’s going to save Tier, until the tail end of the book. But her plan makes sense and completely dodges the “eye roll” which some books unfortunately receive with over-the-top, unrealistic scenes.

I recommend this book, and I will continue to read this series because I am now hooked on it. I give this book 5 *****






Friday, February 15, 2013

My Week

Last weekend we got 18 inches of snow. On Monday, I got a snow day, which was awesome. I took that as a sign to upload and publish Dark Spirits to Kindle and B&N. But then the following days it snowed again and again and again. I just shook my head and said, “Really?” And it’s supposed to snow again today and this weekend.

Stop already!

I like snow, but honestly, I’m beyond tired of it. I’m also tired of being crazy busy all the frickin’ time. I think there is a rubber room with my name on it. LOL.

Our backyard is covered with snow, which I’m sure is waist deep on me. Our heating runs on propane. Well, our tank is in our backyard–buried. On Monday I was going to shovel a path on the north side of the tank so my driver (I work for a propane company) could get to the tank. Right when I was headed out the door, I saw our neighbor’s son-in-law was in his pay loader, shoveling their backyard snow. He pushed it against our tank and left before I could get a chance to talk to him. And then (I’m not through yet) the plow went down our alley and created a wall of snow in our back driveway. I told the owner where I work about it, and he told me not to worry. He has a Bobcat and said he would dig the snow out of our backyard for us.

Yeah, he’s a sweetheart.

Thursday afternoon I was talking to a customer on the phone, taking a credit card payment. As I was talking to her, I sucked in some spit and went into a five minute coughing fit. I had to lay the phone down and thought it was quite possible I might choke to death. I got back on the phone, eyes and nose running, and through short, scratchy breaths, I tried to talk to her. I apologized for the interruption, which in turn she asked me if I was okay. I was so embarrassed.

Thursday night, I planted myself on the couch to watch The Vampire Diaries. This show is basically the only show I watch because I spend a majority of my spare time on my writing and reading stuff. Kevin turned the station on for me and guess what? The-frickin’-station-was-blank!

WTF!?

So I waited, thinking maybe it would come on after a few minutes.

Nope!

I went on Twitter to see if anybody else was experiencing the same problem. Apparently, I was the only one not allowed to watch it because people were tweeting about how awesome the show was.

Thanks Universe. You're a real gem.

On Monday I heard from a writer who writes for a magazine called Today’s Pulse. She wanted to interview me. So of course, I said yes. It’ll be published in two weeks.

Yay!

On Tuesday, I received a signed copy of a middle grade book called The Tree of Mindala by author Elle Jacklee. Inside was a wonderful and touching note by her to me. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing it in the near future. And I love the cover of this book.

On Wednesday, I received the paperback proof copy of Dark Spirits, and the cover looks awesome! I’m very pleased with it and soon it will be published in paperback form.

Yay!

On Thursday, I received rack cards of the cover of Dark Spirits on one side and Beyond the Eyes on the other side. It looks awesome except for the huge white gaps on the top and bottom of the cards, so I wasn’t happy. I also received a mouse pad with a picture of the cover of Dark Spirits on it. I was happy with that.

I have five people right now reading Dark Spirits, and to be honest, I’m nervous as hell.

What if they don’t like it?

I started to think about the scenes I wrote. I love the scenes but . . .

Were some of them too rushed?

I told Kevin, and he screwed his face up and said, “Your editor didn’t seem to think so.” He then reminded me I went through the same feelings with my first book.

Yeah, I know, all authors go through this.

It’s still scary though.

I’m also wondering if it’s going to be harder to market because it’s a second book in a series. So I’m at a toss up on what to do. I am doing a blog tour for Dark Spirits next month, but I’m wondering if I should spend more time on writing The Devil’s Third than worrying about marketing DS.

So that was my week, and I’d like to end this post with something Kevin told me about a half hour ago . . .

I was thinking earlier today about the life I was born into. My crazy mom who always told us her kids would never be better than her and all the step-dads I had to deal with. I thought about this couple who was on vacation, came home and discovered they won two different lotteries. I imagined the Universe pointing down at me saying ‘You’ll never get a break. This is your lot in life. Deal with it.’ But then I thought, wait a minute . . . I do have it better than anybody.” He paused, pointed at me and said, “Because I have you.”




Friday, February 8, 2013

Prerelease Jitters

Okay, you guys, I’m getting close to publishing Dark Spirits, and I’m starting to get really nervous about it. I don’t have a release date yet because I’m waiting on a few things. I’m also going to have Beckstar Reviews, read it before it gets published and have an internet party, which you’re all invited to. Of course, there will be awesome giveaways. So I’ll letcha know when that takes place. BTW–my Facebook address to my author page is: http://www.Facebook.com/RebekkahFord2012

I’m going to be doing two blog tours for each book (Beyond the Eyes and Dark Spirits). First, the Beyond the Eyes’ tour, and then the Dark Spirits’ tour. After Beyond the Eyes came out, I did a blog tour myself, but honestly I think somebody who coordinates blog tours all the time, will do a much better job than me. So hopefully it’ll go over well.

In Dark Spirits, Paige is learning how to acclimate to her “new” life. She begins to discover powers, she never knew she had. The dark spirits get bolder and confront Paige and Nathan on several occasions. The first group is on the “old one’s” side, but the second group, led by an ancient dark spirit named Volac, is totally against the “old one’s” plans, and they want to destroy Paige. A war is brewing between the two groups, which sets the stage for the third book ‘The Devil’s Third.’ Paige and Nathan are also having problems in their relationship. And then Brayden comes back into town . . . yes, there's a love triangle here. Carrie and Tree play a much bigger role in this book, and in the third one as well.

Here are the two testimonies I received from the authors who read the ARC to Dark Spirits:

Even more thrilling than the first. This is a captivating series you won’t put down and will leave you hungry for more.”–Felicia Tatum, author of The White Aura

Paige is a strong courageous character and Dark Spirits will make your heart pound with the emotion and action!”–Julie Huss author of the I Am Just Junco series

So now my nervous self is going to leave you with one word that describes how I’m feeling right now.

YIKES!”

Monday, February 4, 2013

Liebster Award


Mandy from Lace Vintage Book Reviews, have kindly nominated me for the Liebster award. I’ve already been nominated, so I can’t turn around and nominate other bloggers for this wonderful award. However, I will answer Mandy’s questions that are part of the rules attached to this award.

1.) What was the last book that left you speechless?

1984 by George Orwell


2.) What’s your favorite quote?

I have a lot of them, but here’s one of them: When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it–don’t back down and don’t give up–then you’re going to mystify a lot of folks.–Bob Dylan

3.) Your favorite book has been turned into a movie, do you see it? Why? Why not?

Hell yeah, I’d see it because a movie was made out of my favorite book.


4.) Do you have a genre you just can’t stand?

Western, which is weird because I like western movies.


5.) Five things you can’t leave the house without?

Make-up, clothes, shoes, glasses, and money.


6.) What’s your favorite band/artist?

I have quite a few, but I’d have to say Depeche Mode. LOL. I’m dating myself.


7.) What’s most likely to put a book on your TBR shelf? Is it the cover, synopsis, title, hype?

The synopsis.


8.) If you could write a novel (if you haven’t already) what would it be about?

I already have–a YA paranormal series called Beyond the Eyes.


9) If you could move to anywhere in the world where would it be?

I’d move somewhere in Europe, just to experience it.

10.) Favorite fictional crush?

Well, if I was a teenager, my fictional crush would be Noah Shaw from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.

11.) Who inspires you and why?

Other authors inspire me because they’re going through or have gone through the same trenches as me. They know what it’s like to be a writer and understands the whole process. I feel a kinship with them, and I think they’re awesome. :)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Interview with Author Michelle Cohen Corasanti

Today I have author Michelle Cohen Corasanti here to tell us about her book The Almond Tree.


So why don't you tell us about yourself and when did you start writing stories?


I witnessed something, over twenty years ago, that affected me so deeply that despite all my best efforts, I could no longer repress it. I remember the exact moment I decided to become a writer. I had just started reading Khaled Hosseni’s book, The Kite Runner. I was lying on a lounge chair, by the pool, at the Setai hotel, in South Beach, sipping a cosmopolitan. I was on vacation with my husband and twins. I didn’t have a care in the world until Amir, the protagonist, said that the past can’t be buried, that it finds the means to claw its way out. And like Amir, my past found a way to call me. And there I was face-to-face with my worst nightmares and my greatest failures. One might say a defining moment. And I decided, that I wanted my children to know, that I had seen injustice and that I would try to do something about it. And so I wrote the story that had been inside of me for so long.

I grew up in a Jewish home in which German cars were boycotted and Israeli bonds were plentiful. Other than the blue-and-white tin Jewish National Fund sedakah box my family kept in the kitchen and the money we would give to plant trees in Israel, all I knew was that after the Holocaust, the Jews found a land without a people for a people without a land. And the Jews were always persecuted for no reason.

I went to Israel in high school to get some freedom from my strict parents. I was looking for fun. Unfortunately, I became like the witness who saw too much. It was very apparent that everything I had been taught was a lie.

When I returned to the US seven years later, I wanted to devote my life to bringing about justice and peace there. After ten years of college, degrees in Middle Eastern studies and law school, I met my husband and jumped ship. I just saved myself. The Kite Runner gave me the idea of how I could achieve my goal because he taught me that a writer could reach into people’s hearts and change them forever.

What is The Almond Tree about, and how did you come up with the idea?

The Almond Tree recasts the Palestinians in Israel and Gaza, a people frequently in the news, but often misrepresented and more misunderstood’ I think the author Les Edgerton described my book well. In his words:

Ichmad’s story is a big-hearted story of a small Palestinian boy who learns to survive in a brutal environment and doesn’t simply endure, but emerges from the fire with the wisdom gleaned from the example of a father who has taught him that all men have value, even their enemies. A tale of innocence moving through a vicious world, compassion learned against an environment of daily horrors, and wisdom forged through a boy’s journey through a life we would never wish upon our own children.

The book’s universal message of resilience, hope and forgiveness will hit home with anyone who has faced adversity. I try to show the human side of the conflict and explore themes of redemption, family sacrifice and the benefits of education and tolerance

I got the idea for the book from a Palestinian I met when I was at Harvard. He was doing his post-doctorate there with a Noble Prize winner and his Israeli professor and I just saw how strong the Palestinians and the Israelis were when they worked together. That’s where I got the seed of the story.


Who is your favorite character and why?

The protagonist, Ichmad Hamid because against all odds, he goes on to achieve greatness.


What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Writing the Jewish American human rights activist was the hardest part. With hindsight, I can say I tried to make her into everything I wished I could have been and failed to be. I couldn’t give her any flaws. No one liked her and so I was forced to shorten her role.

How long did it take you to write it?

When I decided to write my novel, I thought I would finish it in three months. I already had the seed for the story. Seven years, twenty-one writing classes and 6 editors later, I completed the task.


What is your favorite scene in this story and why? If you have more than one favorite, then just pick one.

My favorite scene is when Ichmad realizes that in saving himself and his family, he left his people behind and he tries to shine a light as bright as he could on his people.

Where can people find your book?

It’s available on amazon, barnesandnoble.com and most on-line venues as an e-book and a paperback and some select stores.


Do you have anything else you'd like to say or add to this interview?

Thank you so much for the interview


You're welcome. It was a pleasure chatting with you.