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YA & MG Authors Share Their Stories Part I

This past weekend I attended a Mother & Daughter book event at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse in La Canada, CA. I sat and listened to seven presentations by some of the most interesting and personable women writers for young readers.  Now that I have deciphered my notes I can share what I learned with you. If you happen to be in the San Gabriel Valley on Feb 7, don’t miss the one year anniversary of the bookshop’s new location. You’ll be able to take advantage of sale prices as low as 70% off, and enjoy a delicious beverage as well.

Let’s start with local author Kathy McCullough. First you’ll want to visit her wonderful website to get more details than my brief ones here, but suffice it to say I was impressed by her candor, and clever ideas. She has easily transitioned from screenwriter to kids and teen writer and I am certain we can expect to hear more exciting developments about her blossoming career in the months ahead.

Her new book from Random House/Delacorte Press is called Don’t Expect Magic and introduces us to Delaney Collins, f.g. And if you are wondering what the f.g. stands for, it’s fairy godmother, but “without the pink and sparkly” says McCullough. It so happens that Delaney is not at all happy about having to help people, and to be specific, a certain boy she likes, but she’s basically got no choice since she was born with the f.g. gene. I don’t want to give too much away since I’ll be reviewing the book soon and can’t wait!

While the book is billed as a YA novel, McCullough’s heard from delighted readers in 5th and 6th grade who have become quite demanding in the diversity of their subject matter. Parents will feel comfortable allowing their middle grade readers to pick up Don’t Expect Magic because it’s not full of foul language or questionable content. The book combines a little bit of fantasy with a little bit of humor so check out the trailer now and get a taste of the good time in store for you. You can click here for a selection of links where you can buy the book.

The best news is that there will be a sequel featuring Delaney’s rival fairy godmother which promises to be another feel good novel to keep you turning the pages. And what’s McCullough doing now? She’s working away on yet another YA novel so I recommend fans follow her website to keep up-to-date on all her appearances and publication dates.

Please join me here next week to meet more of the charming women novelists I spoke with at the event. Then, make tracks to your favorite book shop to purchase the stack of books I’ve covered. I promise they will keep you enlightened, amused and entertained for hours!

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I’m Not Her

img_1931Christy, today’s guest reviewer is from northern California. She’s 13, plays competitive softball (she’s the pitcher) and likes to hang out with her friends. “Summer is too short!” says Christy.

Read what Christy has to say about I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler ($9.99, Sourcebooks, YA).

I liked this book because it was about kids and families dealing with REAL problems. When Tess’ older sister Kristina gets med_imnotherdiagnosed with cancer and stops going to school, I think it must be really hard for Tess. With her sister at home, Tess has to face all her popular sisters’ friends and classmates, and she’s only a nerdy freshman! Throughout the book, Tess learns about how hard it can be to go through tough times and what that does to families. I saw how Tess changed and grew during the cancer.
I would definitely read more books by Janet Gurtler. She reminds me of Sarah Dessen, another one of my favorite authors.

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Tombstones, Tea and Sympathy

Rebecca is a 12 1/2 year old girl from Virginia. She enjoys reading, playing the piano and violin and is currently writing her own book. She is on a competition dance team and during the summer she is enrolled in a theater group.

0762437189Tombstone Tea (Running Press Kids, grades 6-9) written by Joanne Dahme is the story of a girl named Jessie. Jessie has always been sort of a strange girl. She senses people that are not there. When she moves to Philadelphia she will do anything for friends. A chance for friendship is offered and she takes it. However it means she must take a dare to spend a night at the local graveyard and collect rubbings from 10 different tombstones. There she meets a boy named Paul. Paul tells her she is just in time of the rehearsal of Tombstone Tea. He explains it is where actors gather and play the role of the dead. Jessie notices there is something odd about the actors; it seems like they’re really trying to convince her the dead person’s lives they are “playing” are real. Jessie wonders if her life is at risk.

This was a great book! I couldn’t wait to finish it. It had me hanging on every word. I love how Jessie had to deal with real life problems-moving, meeting new people, a new school all while trying not to be different. If you asked me to describe this book in one word it would be brilliant! I would recommend it to everyone eager for great, edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

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Mother/Daughter Book Party This Sunday!

Join L.A. Parent at the launch of our new BY THE BOOK series.

11You’ve seen the promos, now learn more about this exciting Mother/Daughter event L.A. Parent is sponsoring along with the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse.

Bring the tween readers in your family to the Community Center of La Canada Flintridge from 2-4p.m. this Sunday, March 21.
9780312602383 There will be 7 authors on hand to meet in a fun speed-dating style roundtable format where the authors will pitch their books in the hopes that your daughters will want to read them!

bobby_cover1Recommended for Girls in 3rd- 6th Grade and their Moms

Location: The Community Center of La Canada Flintridge 4469 Chevy Chase Dr., La Canada Flintridge

Date: Sunday, March 21 Time: 2- 4 PM

depressionmPrice: A $5.00 ticket covers both mother and daughter. Use your ticket to save $2.00 off a book purchased at the event.

Share your love of reading with your daughter and introduce her to 7 authors. Find terrific book selections for your Mother/Daughter Book Club. You will meet and talk with these authors: Carol Hughes, Victoria Forester, Amy Goldman Koss, Diane Leszezynski, Sally Nemeth, Heather Tomlinson, and Lisa Yee We recommend that you reserve a place for you and your daughter. Purchase a ticket in advance at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse.

We’ll be giving away a portable BOOK LIGHT IN A BOOKCOVER (with a retractable LED light) courtesy of PERISCOPE and a trendy tote bag courtesy of Ecobags ( made from 100% Recycled natural cotton fibers to raffle winners! Must be present to win.

Tickets will be available at the door, but space is limited.

Contact: Catherine Linka for more information.

Sign Up At The Front Desk.

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Dreaming Anastasia

pc070618Today’s guest reviewer is Rebecca, a 12-year old girl from Virginia. She enjoys reading, playing the piano and violin and is currently writing her own book. She is on a competition dance team and during the summer she is enrolled in a theater group.

9781402218170-mDreaming Anastasia, written by Joy Preble is about three very different people, but they are
all linked in some way. Most people think that Anastasia Romanov, the last grand Duchess of Russia is dead, but she’s not. She is imprisoned in Baba Yaga’s hut. Baba Yaga is a “fictional witch.”

Anne Michaelson is a modern girl in high school. She is having weird dreams. She is dreaming that she is someone else, living someone else’s life. Ethan is a member of a secret immortal brotherhood. The brotherhood is supposed to protect Anastasia until she can be freed from Baba Yaga’s Hut. The Brotherhood is led by an evil man named Victor. Ethan’s job was to find Anne and get her to save Anastasia. Now he has met her and he has found out that this is going to be harder than he thought.

This was a great book for young adults. It had adventure, fantasy, history, and romance all wrapped into one book. I would give it a score of 9 on a scale of 1-10. I loved it!

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War, What Is It Good For?

indexBeing a book reviewer has significantly broadened my literary horizons. The truth is that I’d never have chosen to read Back Home by Julia Keller (EgmontUSA, $15.99) on my own. Yes, it is a young adult novel, and well, I’m not really a young adult any longer. But that’s
not the reason I’d never have read this book had I not been asked to review it.

The reason is that I don’t like to read about or think about anything having to do with the Iraq War – or any war for that matter. War is not exactly a happy, heart-warming topic.

After I finished the last page of the book this morning, I stared off into space for a good long while. Now that I’ve read Back Home, I cannot imagine myself not having ever read it. It is rare that a book leaves me with this much to think about. And it isn’t that often that I find a book – any book – to be this well written. It is tremendously difficult to write in a simple, easy-to-comprehend style for young readers, while at the same time create insightful depth in a story. But Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Keller does just that. And she does it with a profound honesty that will leave you too, with many thoughts to ponder. As a journalist, Keller wrote a three part series about traumatic brain injuries for the Chicago Tribune. This experience inspired her to write this compelling novel, and I am so glad she did.

The story is told from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old girl named, Rachel. One day, Rachel’s Mom sits her down with her younger sister and brother to tell them that their Dad is returning home from his National Guard duty in Iraq. But he is not the same person he was when he left; he is severely injured. Dad returns back to US only to be hospitalized for a very long time before actually coming home. What follows is a tale of family’s struggles to get through each day as their lives have suddenly been turned upside down, and Dad’s progress is not at all what they’d hoped it would be.

There are so many memorable quotes in Back Home, I wish I could cite them all. Here is how thirteen-year-old, Rachel describes how her family coped with the situation:

“We weren’t separate people anymore. We were all piled together…We were one thing now. This blur: Our family didn’t have the normal lines or spaces any more. One person flowed into the next person, and the next and the next. I guess it sounds like kind of a mess, but it didn’t feel that way. It was the way it had to be, so that we could live. There wasn’t time to worry about each little piece of our family anymore…”

Back Home made me realize that we need to talk about war, to understand the consequences and struggles – rather than sweep them under the rug because they are so unpleasant. Learning about Rachel’s experience as a teenager provides the reader with a poignant, truthful look at how war adversely changes lives forever. Every teenager and adult in America must read this book.

I detest war. But I love this book.

dsc_0024-300x217Guest Reviewer Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for She blogs daily at

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From the Great Wall to the Land Down Under

dsc_0024-300x217Natasha Lands Down Under by Katherine McCaughan is reviewed by frequent contributor, traveler and author Debbie Glade.  Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for She blogs daily at

377_frontNatasha is a ten-year-old Russian girl who is forced to adjust to abrupt lifestyle changes when her family flees from China to Australia in 1950. The challenges and hardships Natasha’s family faces are beautifully depicted in this young adult novel, Natasha Lands Down Under. Author Katherine McCaughan was inspired to write this fictional book to reflect her own heritage. Katherine was born in China to Russian parents, and her family fled to Australia – just like the family in the book.  She knows firsthand what it feels like to be an outsider in unfamiliar land.

Back to the book…Natasha is an intelligent, curious girl who is headstrong and cannot help but speak her mind – though this often gets her into trouble. Her family has no choice but to escape China during the Communist Revolution and journey to Australia to live with Natasha’s difficult, annoying aunt and her two spoiled sons. No one in the family including Natasha can speak English, yet she must attend school and learn as quickly as possible. She longs to find a true friend and adjust to her new way of life, but she desperately misses her life in Shanghai.

The story takes place during the course of a year, revealing many flashbacks as well as the gamut of emotions Natasha experiences as an immigrant to Australia. She herself discovers something about her baby sister that becomes a difficult reality for her parents to face. And throughout the book, Natasha learns unexpected truths about other family members. All of the characters in Natasha Lands Down Under are well developed, making them easy for readers to conceptualize.

In Natasha Lands Down Under, the words cascade off the page like a gently flowing river, and the engaging dialogue takes the reader right to the heart of each scene. I love the way author Katherine McCaughan exposes young adult readers to different cultures, languages and lifestyles by subtly weaving the information into the story line. A curious reader will not be able to resist researching more about Russia, China and Australia after reading this book.

Like me, readers young and old will finish this book with a new appreciation for modern day comforts and familiar surroundings. They will also think about the struggles their immigrant ancestors faced when coming to America. Natasha Lands Down Under is a pleasure to read, and I would love to find out in another novel what lies ahead for Natasha.

Natasha Lands Down Under won the 2009 Moonbeam Children’s Book Gold Award in the Young Adult Fiction – Historical/Cultural category.

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candor_cover_final A wonderfully refreshing, entertaining, and important novel, Pam Bachorz’s Candor from Egmont, USA (available 9/22) is a great read for young adults and teens. A picturesque city in Florida, Candor attracts rich families who want to “straighten out” their teenagers. Everything in Candor is perfect, and everyone is happy and well-behaved. Only Oscar, whose father founded the city, knows the dirty truth: Candor’s inhabitants are brainwashed by subliminal messages. Oscar secretly helps kids escape the city, if they can pay him enough; but when he meets Nia, a beautiful and rebellious girl new to the town, Oscar can’t decide whether to keep her close to him, risking everything, or to help her escape the messages.

Reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984, Candor is a surprisingly deep piece of young adult fiction. Through a highly entertaining and thought-provoking plot, Bachorz discusses the dangers of conformity and the importance of individuality in an exciting way. The writing style is advanced but easily accessible, and comic relief throughout the book helps to soften the darker aspects of Candor. I thoroughly enjoyed it as a particularly stimulating, but light read. All teens should read this book! Editor’s Note: Please see below for a trailer.

mail-5Rachel Glade is a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School in Fort Lauderdale. She has been named a 2010 PSAT National Merit Semifinalist and a College Board AP Scholar with Distinction. She plays the piano and sitar and has been featured in the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Teen Link Magazine for her role in producing music for the book/CD, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica. She plans to pursue a degree in both earth science and music and is particularly interested in geology and preserving our environment.

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The Year of The Bomb

9781416958925The Year of the Bomb by Ronald Kidd is an enthralling tale of communist conspiracies, secret spies, and surprisingly, horror movies. It all starts in the year 1955 as four boys find out that the latest horror movie is going to be filmed in their small hometown of Sierra Madre, California. The boys then immediately find out if they can go to watch the movie being shot. As the boys start to go to the movie shootings, they soon find out that one of the men working on it is an FBI agent. They take him to an ice cream parlor and as he goes to the restroom they sneak a peek at his secret confidential notebook. They see that a possible spy is at Cal Tech University. The four boys decide to take matters into their own hands, and find themselves trapped inside the adventure of a lifetime.

I thought this was an excellent book particularly for people who live in the San Gabriel Valley, as it is steeped in local lore. Reading The Year Of The Bomb and watching the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is a great summer activity for any teen.

d-0144-1Today’s review comes from teen guest reviewer Riley who just happens to live in the San Gabriel Valley. Riley is an avid reader and has written other reviews for Good Reads With Ronna. His mom, Erin, is also a frequent contributor.

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Spend Summer With Some Young Adult Fiction Books

Today’s guest reviewer Grace will be entering 8th grade this fall.


ruby_bigRuby UNSCRIPTED by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma. “Life is what happens when you lose the script.” Ruby Madden moves to what she thinks is her dream town. Marin High School is a place for rich people, but not Ruby. Ruby joins a film group and starts a new life in Madden, but will she forget about her friends in her home town?

This was a very good book about a real girl going through real issues. It is a slow read, but still good. The book is well written and I recommend it to anyone that just needs a real read.

A Time for Dancing

9780316036344_154x233A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin. This book was about this girl, Jules, who gets sick and how she and her friend have to deal with it. These two girls have been best friends since they were nine years old and were basically inseparable! They both loved to dance and Jules had a whole career ahead of her. But then she is hit was an illness. How will the friends deal with this?

This book is very well written. I could picture everything that was happening and what people looked like because of the fantastic description. The author explained what the girls were going through in such detail that as a reader I felt like I were one of them. This was a very visual and amazing book and I don’t know any other words to describe it. I recommend it to teens and adults. Make sure you have a lot of time on your hands because you will never want to put this book down.

The Summer I Turned Pretty

9781416968238The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han is an amazing story about a girl, Belly, who measures her life in summers. She is 16 and this might be her last summer at her beach house. As she grows up that summer she finds romance, memories and sorrow. This is a really terrific book, and, without a doubt, a very fast read.

One of my favorite things about the book was, when something happened which recalls a memory from a previous summer back, Jenny Han would start a new chapter to explain the story. It was a great way to hold the interest of the reader. This was a well written book.

Though I really enjoyed the book for the most part, I found there were sections of it that I did not like as much. One of the charters really bugged me. There was this pretty, amazing, and smart girl who she finds a nerdy guy to like. This really bugged me because I personally thought she could do better (Editor’s Note: What’s wrong with nerds?). Other than that this was, like I said before, a very well written book. I would definitely recommend this book.

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Heroes & Villains

sarah-school-08-09Sarah is an 11 year-old fifth grader from Glendale, California who loves to doodle and read. See what books have made it to her short list!

I have reviewed two books by author Andy Briggs today because they are supposed to (and should definitely) be read together. The two books are part of two different “anti series.” Each series is one side of the same story.

51flekfklsl_sl500_aa240_ One of the books is titled Rise of the Heroes. It’s the first book in one of the two series. There aren’t many words that can describe it, but two come to mind: Awesome. Suspenseful. Makes you want to gnaw on a chair in excitement. I think one of my favorite parts in this book was when Toby, Pete, Lorna, and Emily (the main characters) are battling the supervillian Doc Tempest (another major character) in his icy lair in a mountain in Antarctica. If I could rate this book on a scale of one to ten, I think I’d give it an 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

The second book is titled Council of Evil. It’s the first book in that other series I mentioned in the introductory paragraph. Here are nine words to describe it: ONE OF THE 51da301rnjl_sl500_aa240_BEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ!!! My ABSOLUTE favorite part in this book was when a 14- year – old boy named Jake Hunter (the main character) learns the terrifying truth about what has been happening to him over the course of the past few days (over the course of his life, for that matter) from the superevil supervillain Basilisk.

Anyone who likes the Internet, adventure, and superpowers, or is just sick and tired of having their opinion made for them (that all superheroes are 100% good and all villains are total madmen), these books are for you. In case you’re hooked like me, the second book in the series is titled Virus Attack and the second book in the series is titled Dark Hunter. Watch this space!

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Juli Barry is a mother of three – two of them teenagers – and an avid reader of popular and historical fiction as well as biographies on famous women throughout history.   She also reads poetry on a regular basis to keep her Spirit blossoming.  She reviewed So Not Happening (A Charmed Life Novel) by Jenny B. Jones  from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

sonothappeningA teenage girl named Bella moves from the big city to a small hick town where she meets many unusual characters and experiences a series of strange mishaps.  Sound familiar?  Well, that’s where the similarities end between So Not Happening and that other book people are reading.  There are no vampires  nor werewolves in Truman, Oklahoma, but Bella Kirkwood feels as if she has entered an equally less-than-human world that has, “…no fashion. No style. No Starbucks,” when her ex- New York socialite mother marries a farmer/factory worker that she met over the internet.  Bella is suddenly torn away from her NYC existence to join her mother, stepfather and two stepbrothers in a rundown Oklahoma farmhouse, trading her prep school status, favorite clubs and shopping haunts — even her room!! – for public school and pickup trucks, pet cows and mud, mud, mud.

Our snobby heroine immediately alienates herself from most of her new classmates when a blog she writes back home is circulated around Truman High.  But Bella has a veritable Marc Jacobs bag full of pluck and perseverance as well as a humorous hotline to God as she navigates her way through this small town life and her role within her new family. 

As the newest member of the school newspaper she pays her dues with a story on the school’s lack of a recycle conscience – landing her both in the trash cans and onto a bigger, darker story involving members of the Truman High School football team.  She also gets in deep with her editor, the nerdily gorgeous (gorgeously nerdy?) Luke Sullivan while still trying to hold on to her New York guy, Hunter.  The novel conveys both humor and suspense with LOL scenes interspersed with eerie cult aspects and real danger.  Who knew life in Oklahoma could be as exciting as the Big Apple! 

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