Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Blogging Break

Even though we still have many stubborn piles of snow around, things are finally feeling springy here in Minnesota, and I need a spring blogging break. My family and I aren't traveling anywhere beach-like or tropical, but I just need a rest. Time to soak up a little extra sunlight, time to enjoy the buds popping on trees, and time to let my dog run loose at the park.

I'll be back in a few weeks, refreshed and ready for what's ahead. Spring renews me. The steady rains. The green lining the world. The damp woods. After a long winter, all those things bring me back to life.

See you April 21st,

Monday, March 24, 2014

Middle Grade Great

Last month was a great month for my hardcover middle grade library!
First off, I had a super lucky time with blog giveaways, and these were my prizes. They're pretty nifty, I think. 

And then this released. And with as much as I adored Three Times Lucky, of course I purchased this companion novel on Release Day.

And then, I heard nothing but super wonderful stuff about this book and purchased it shortly after its release too.

And now in March, I want to buy Hope is a Ferris Wheel and Under the Egg, but I have to wait a while.
Hardcovers are hard on the pocketbook.

I've already read my way through Flora and Ulysses, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, and A Snicker of Magic and am smack dab in the middle of When Audrey Met Alice. All are awesome.
What about you? Any awesome book giveaway wins lately? Purchase anything you've been dying to read?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tumblr Update

Just over a month ago I posted about Tumblr and how even though I'd been on the site for a year and liked it, I wasn't using it much. And then I asked for Tumblr tips, which I didn't get many of -- and that's fine -- I learn by doing anyway. So I started doing. And I learned, of course.

But what I did get on that last Tumblr post was a lot of people wanting me to share what I found out when I started using it more. So here you are . . .

Tumblr is a micro-blogging site which means it's small snippets of information shared in a fun, fast and easy-to-follow manner -- because it's mostly images and quotes and gifs. It's sometimes words but not a whole lot of them. A few links are spread here and there, pointing you to things you can read. Or not. And liking people's posts and reblogging other's posts are the main ways ideas spread.

Reblogging means sharing someone's post with your followers which is part of what makes Tumblr fast and fun. You don't have to come up with your own stuff all the time. Copyright can be an issue, so I'm careful about what I reblog and check the original source before I do.

My Tumblr is different than this blog and also separate from my tweets. I want it that way. I work hard to make sure it is that way. But, it's still the writer me, the teacher me, the middle-grade-book-loving me, and the daily-dog-walking me. Just in a different form.

Finding people to follow requires some leg work, but the search function is much improved since I first joined, and searching hashtags helps find people of similar interests.

And now that I've learned how to better use Tumblr, I find I love it. In fact, it's beating Twitter as my favorite social site at the moment. It's a way to express yourself in such a different way than other social media because it's so visual. An escape from ALL THE WORDS. (Maybe other writers feel this way too -- Tumblr has a huge writer/author presence.) And since Tumblr's the place many young people are, if you write for them or simply know them, :-) it's a place you should check out.

So, if you're inclined, hitch up those pants and stroll into the Tumbr waves with me. Mine's right here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: After Iris

This novel, After Iris by Natasha Farrant, is the story of one family's deep ache of the heart, a family struggling after losing one of their own. But it's written with a lightness and humor which the blurb on the back cover captures perfectly: The story of a lovably imperfect family trying to hold it together without driving each other (too) crazy.

The premise: Blue's twin sister died three years ago and now her parents spend most of their time away from home, working -- sometimes all over the globe. Blue's older sister is trying to find herself. Younger siblings Jasmine and Twig obsess over pet rats. And Blue just blends in. When an au pair named Zoran enters the picture, as well as a trouble-maker neighbor named Joss, things grow even more chaotic for Blue's family.

What I loved: This is a story of grief woven into a story of growing up. It's both humorous and serious, light-hearted and heavy, full of sadness and full of joy. And all of this together is life -- a blend of beautiful times and heart-wrenching ones.

For more middle grade recommendations, 
follow the links on Shannon Messenger's blog. 
Happy middle grade reading,

Monday, March 3, 2014

Upcoming Awesome Things

Two upcoming awesome things are likely things you've heard about,
but they're important so I want to highlight them here. 

The first, World Read Aloud Day, is this Wednesday, March 5th. It challenges us to "Be the story."

The other is World Book Night and takes place on Wednesday, April 23rd. It puts books in the hands of those who don't read or don't read much. Two years ago, I was a book giver and still treasure the experience and my button.
In fact, here's my button. It sits in my bookcase alongside my prized hardcovers.

Some pretty great events, wouldn't you say? Have you taken part in either of them?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Below

Opening line of Below by Meg McKinlay: The day that I was born, they drowned my town.

Sucks the reader in. Totally and completely. As a writer, I know how much importance is placed on a book's opening line, but honestly, I've read some clunker first lines of some really good books. But no first line has stuck with me like this one -- because the whole book is pinned to that one, single line.

The premise: The day Cassie's town was drowned, her family was rushing to the hospital to deliver the eight-weeks-early Cassie. Twelve years later, Cassie is drawn to what's beneath the lake, the place where Old Lower Grange now lies. And during this extra-hot summer, the lake level starts dropping, and Cassie and her friend Liam start exploring on the lake's forbidden side. Sometimes they even explore below the water.

What I loved: The mystery! And the unique concept behind it (or below it). :-) The unraveling, compelling story and mystery leaves readers anxiously turning pages. Meg McKinlay grabs readers at the get-go and keeps their noses right inside this book until it ends.

For more middle grade recommendations,
follow the links on
Happy middle grade reading,

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sweets, Snacks and People

I love sweets and snacks and eat way too many of them. Dark chocolate tops my list of favorites by way more than a mile, and I'd rather eat dessert than a delicious meal any time. So it's no surprise that certain people in my life are associated with sweets and snacks, and when I see or hear about these items, I think about those people.

My husband = Mountain Dew
My son = Tostitos
My daughter = Doughnuts
My dad = Circus peanuts (yeah, those weird orange things)
My mom = Jelly beans
My grandpa = Chocolate covered cherries
My father-in-law = Snickers

For instance, when I'm walking my dog and see a discarded Mountain Dew can, I think about my husband. And then I pick up the can and toss it in a recycling container because people shouldn't litter. Hopefully it wasn't my husband. Or when I sashay through the candy aisle at our local Fleet Farm, I catch a glimpse of circus peanuts and it's like my dad is standing right next to me.

So, you get the picture. If I added myself to the list, dark chocolate M&Ms would be behind my name. And now that I think about it, M&Ms end up in every middle grade story I write. No coincidence there whatsoever, I'm sure.

So what about you? Do foods remind you of people? What food goes behind your name?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Back to Blackbrick

This little gem, Back to Blackbrick, caught my eye while I browsed a local bookstore one day. I'd never heard of the title, but its retro-style cover and colors (it released in 2013, however) enticed me pick it up and read the jacket flap. And I was hooked. Up to the checkout I marched, plopped my money down, drove home, and read.

The premise: Cosmo's granddad is losing his memory; his mind is failing. But when he gives Cosmo an old key and insists he must journey to Blackbrick (and bring a pen and paper), Cosmo promises he will. He uses the key and steps back in time about seventy years -- to when his granddad was only 16.

What I loved: The love and friendship between Cosmo and his granddad. Neither is perfect, but their love and devotion to one another are. This is a book about the heartbreak of memory loss and being forgotten by someone who loves you. But it's more than that. It's about the power of love and family. Think of it as an Irish twist on the 1980's movie Back to the Future.

Back to Blackbrick is an upper middle grade read; the inside cover states ages 10-14. In my opinion, there are not enough books geared for this audience, for the in-betweeners -- the not-quite MG but not-quite YA either. And this books contains some difficult issues, things that may be hard to understand and absorb for younger readers, so take heed that it reads older than much middle grade.

For more middle grade recommends, follow the links on
Happy middle grade reading, 

Monday, February 3, 2014


There's no shortage of social media, that's for sure. So with all the social media sites available, how do you choose which ones you spend time using? For me, I simply spend time on the sites I enjoy, and for the most part that means Twitter. It's fun, fast, and if I miss stuff, oh well. I also adore Instagram, but it's only for personal stuff, so my Instagram following is small and my account is private.

As far as Facebook, I think I'm over it. The site has become too congested and, well, it's just not entertaining or interesting to me anymore. And I know there are many, many more social media sites out there, but I keep up with the sites I enjoy and the ones I can handle timewise.

But . . .

A micro-blogging site. Not to be confused with blogging because it's completely different. I set up a Tumblr account about a year ago. It's right here. And I like Tumblr. Love it really. Like Twitter, it's fun, fast, and if I miss stuff, oh well. The problem is I haven't figured out how to use it effectively. And because of that, I don't post very often, I follow a small amount of people, and I have a pretty small following.

So . . . I'm hunting for Tumblr assistance.

Are you on Tumblr? If so, what's your username? And I'd like ideas on using Tumblr so it's not a rehash of Twitter and my blog. Because . . . don't you get super-tired of seeing the same post from the same person on all the sites they use? I totally do. And if you've mastered the art of reblog, what about copyright? That issue concerns me.

But if you're not on Tumblr, have you considered giving it a try?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Sway

This book, Sway by Amber McRee Turner, was on my to-read list for a very long time, so when I won a book giveaway from my dear friend Akoss and could choose what book I wanted, I chose Sway. And what a delight it was to read. 

The premise: Cass spends much of her life waiting for her mom to return from her various rescue missions. She helps flood victims, those affected by hurricanes, and people's whose lives are upside down because of tornadoes. But this time when her mom returns, things go all wrong, and it's Cass's heart that needs rescuing. So Cass's dad fixes up an old RV and takes her traveling about. Together, they introduce people to the power of Sway -- the magic of inspiration and joy. But the two people who need Sway most are Cass and her dad . . .

What I loved: At its heart, this is a book about hope and forgiveness, two of the most magical and beautiful things in the world. Not that hope and forgiveness make things perfect -- because they don't and can't -- but hope and forgiveness help all of us see the magic that surrounds us every day. And like Cass and her dad, readers of Sway will find that the everyday of our lives is completely and totally magical.

For more great middle grade books
(and maybe some Sway of your own),
follow the links at Shannon Messenger's site.
Happy middle grade reading! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Dad's Birthday

January 22nd, 1944, was the day my dad was born. The closest hospital to his parent's northeastern North Dakota farm was in Canada, so he was born a Canadian and naturalized as a U.S. citizen at age seven. There's much I could tell you about his life and his birthdays, but one birthday I clearly remember is the one when I was a second grader. I was sick. With the stomach flu. And my dad stayed home from work to take care of me. Not a great way for him to spend his birthday, but what a great dad.

Sadly, my dad died in 2010 shortly after his 66th birthday. Like many people, he died much too young, and because of his cancer, he suffered much too much before his death. And because he meant so much to me and my family and my kids, I used to make the lemon cake he loved -- every January 22nd.

In fact, I still do.

To remember who he was. To celebrate who he was. Because we miss him. Because we love him. And because we wish he was still with us. So this Wednesday, January 22nd, my family will eat lemon cake and remember.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace

Oh man. I adore this book. Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace by Nan Marino was on my to-read list for a long time, but finally I got my hands on a copy and had the chance to read it. I now have a hardcover copy in my bookcase, too, so you know it's among my favorites--because only my favorites get purchased in hardcover and get to live in my prized bookcase.

The premise: Cecilia Wreel lives in Wares Grove, New Jersey--a not much of anything town. But then Elvis Ruby arrives--to hide out. He was supposed to win the reality show TweenStar, but he froze onstage, and now he just wants to hide from the paprazzi and make some pancakes at his aunt's restaurant. But then Cecilia finds out who he is . . .

What I loved: This is a story about so much more than just the plot. So much more. It's about finding yourself -- even if (and especially if) who you are is someone different than everyone always said you were. It's also about finding friends, finding what matters most to you, and finding your music.

I know that doesn't really tell you much about the story, but my goal with MMGMs isn't to tell you a story's details; it's to entice you to read the story or pass along the title to someone you know. I hope I've done my job.

Enjoy more middle grade recommendations from the list on
Happy middle grade reading,