Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review of Refuge for Masterminds

First, my review

Look later in the post for the full synopsis of the story.

As a teacher of middle-school students, I’m always looking for books I can enthusiastically recommend to my students. Particularly, I keep an eye out for books with positive female role models, characters who are quirky and confident and gifted. Kathleen Baldwin’s Refuge for Masterminds gives me not just one girl for my students to look up to, but several. In addition, Emma Stranje, the headmistress of the school for unusual girls, is a teacher who is brilliant and mysterious. Who doesn’t love that?

This is the third book in the series, and I read it without reading the first two. I was not lost at all and felt as comfortable in Ms. Baldwin’s world as if I had all the background the other two books provided. And her world is a vibrant place of gowns and balls and pet wolves. She must have done a good bit of research, since I did not get pulled out of the reading by any anachronisms.

I loved the relationship among the girls and their teacher, all of whom have unique strengths and characteristics. They function well within the confines of their society while still showing how they can be independent and influential. Following Jane through this story was a delight. The conflict is centrally focused on her, and she works throughout it with creativity, humor, and poise.

The romance subplot was sweet and entirely age appropriate. Alexander and Jane have a fun time playing off each other, and it’s entertaining for the readers to witness the growth of their intellectual and romantic relationship. I would have no qualms recommending this to my teenage readers.

I look forward to reading the other novels in this series, and commend Ms. Baldwin for giving me a book I will definitely get my students to read in the future.

Here are some favorite quotes from the author!

Alexander pulls several twigs out of my tangled hair. “There’s another possibility. The way I saw it, that fellow had a pistol tucked inside that great big coat of his. If there hadn’t been two of us, I figure he would’ve pulled it out and blown your pretty little brains out all over the forest floor.”

He has a point, but I refuse to credit it. “Don’t be ridiculous.” I cough up something that must’ve flown in my mouth during the tumble. “My brains aren’t little.”

* * *

His lips curve up into a wry half smile. I wait for the stinging barb he is sure to fling at me, but Alexander does not parry with a sharp-witted reply. Instead, he lets my teasing words drift on the night breeze, floating along with us like the last savory notes of a violin sonata.

* * *

There is a magnificent ferociousness about our headmistress. I’d wager a considerable sum she could stop a person’s heart from beating simply by applying that cold hard glare of hers. If she can’t make a heart stop altogether, she is certainly able to make it a skip a few beats.

I want to be just like her someday.

* * *

Maya rests her hand on my shoulder. “You must trust that wisdom will come when you need it. You were made for a time such as this.”

* * *

There is a language every sister knows, a language tender beyond words and rarely spoken. It runs like a string between two hearts, and we only pluck that string in times of trouble.

* * *

Alexander is wearing a new set of clothes, his shirt is clean and neatly pressed, the cravat articulately tied rather than hanging in a haphazard loop, and even his hair is freshly combed.

He . . . he looks . . . like a gentleman.

I find this unsettling in the extreme. He ought to look like our rough, unpolished Mr. Sinclair. Not this pattern-card Adonis. I have a nearly irresistible urge to go and mess him up, to rumple his shirt, to tousle his hair, and to muddle up his cravat.

From Award Winning Author
Kathleen Baldwin
The stakes in this game of spies are life and death.
Book Cover
Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House, Book 3
Genre: Young Adult, Teen Alternative Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: May 23, 2017
Lady Jane Moore has a secret. A secret that must be kept buried. If anyone discovered the truth, her life at Stranje House would crumble. And with Napoleon Bonaparte threatening to invade England, everyone at Stranje House is already in mortal danger.
There’s a traitor in the house. Someone is sneaking information to Napoleon’s spies, Lady Daneska and Ghost. Jane is determined to find out who it is before suspicions rip apart the bonds of friendship at Stranje House. Her desperate hunt for the traitor ensnares a brash young American inventor, Alexander Sinclair, Robert Fulton’s nephew, into an ambush that puts his life in danger. Sinclair is the most maddening young man in all of Christendom, a sharp-tongued rascal with boorish manners, but Lady Jane cannot bear the thought of the golden-haired genius being harmed.
Is Jane enough of a mastermind to save Alexander, her friends at Stranje House, and possibly England itself?
Fans of Gail Carriger, Patricia Wrede, and Caroline Stevermer will love this Regency-era alternate history filled with spunky heroines, handsome young lords, and dastardly villains.
"Baldwin has a winning series here: her characters are intriguing and fully rendered."
- Stacey Comfort, Booklist
"Refuge for Masterminds moves at a fast pace from the first page and doesn’t stop. Although it is written with a young adult audience in mind, it is a fun and enjoyable novel and will also appeal to adult readers."
- Francesca Pelaccia, Historical Novel Society

Purchase Links

Other Books by the Author

Don't miss the first two books in the Stranje House series:
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Series: Stranje House, Book 1
Napoleon is exiled, Europe is in shambles and Britain is at war on four fronts. Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit high society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where headmistress, Emma Stranje, entangles these unusual girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.
"A completely original--and totally engrossing--world, full of smart girls, handsome boys and sinister mysteries...Sign me up."
- Meg Cabot, NYT Bestselling Author of The Princess Diaries on A School for Unusual Girls
Book Cover
Series: Stranje House, Book 2
Tess Aubreyson can't run far enough or fast enough to escape the prophetic dreams that haunt her. But with Napoleon threatening to invade England, Tess’s disturbing dreams may be the only means of saving Lord Ravencross, the man she loves, and her friends at Stranje House.
"This spy school for girls . . . is impossible to put down! . . . I recommend this book to anyone that loves brave girls, adventure and great friendships."
- 5 Girls Book Reviews


Giveaway Graphic
Prizes up for grabs:
Be one of three lucky winners:
$10 Gift Card + hardback copy of Refuge for Masterminds
Contest runs from May 15 - June 3, 2017.

About Kathleen Baldwin

Author Pic
Kathleen Baldwin loves adventure in books and in real life. She taught rock climbing in the Rockies, survival camped in the desert, was stalked by a mountain lion, lost an argument with a rattlesnake, spent way too long in college, fell in love and married her very own hero.
A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS, the first book in the alternate history series for teens, was awarded Spirit of Texas in 2016, is a Junior Library Guild selection, and Kansas NEA Reading Circle gave it a starred review in their 2016 “Best of the Best” for High Schools. Ian Bryce, producer of Spiderman, Saving Private Ryan, and other notable films optioned the series for film.
REFUGE FOR MASTERMINDS, Book 3 in the Stranje House series, releases May 23rd.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure, "completely original and totally engrossing."
Official website:
Social media links:

Join The Tour

Follow the book tour from May 15 - June 3, 2017.
Get sneak peaks, excerpts, fun facts and other never-before-published info on Refuge for Masterminds.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Silent Meridian from Elizabeth Crowens

Make sure to read through to the end of the post for purchase information and contest entry!

And now, here's an excerpt from this alternate history fantasy starring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other historic characters!

From Award Winning Author
Elizabeth Crowens
When timelines clash
beyond the logic of science,
and the key to the future lies
in clues from the past...
Book Cover
Elizabeth Crowens
Series: The Time Traveler Professor Book 1
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Gaslight Fantasy, Alternative History
Publisher: MX Publishing
Publication Date: May 15, 2016
A 19th century "X" Files meets H.G. Wells's "Time Machine" featuring Arthur Conan Doyle and partner
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is obsessed with a legendary red book. Its peculiar stories have come to life, and rumors claim that it has rewritten its own endings. Convinced that possessing this book will help him write his ever-popular Sherlock Holmes stories, he takes on an unlikely partner, John Patrick Scott, known to most as a concert musician and paranormal investigator. Although in his humble opinion, Scott considers himself more of an ethereal archaeologist and a time traveler professor.
Together they explore lost worlds and excavate realms beyond the knowledge of historians when they go back in time to find it. But everything backfires, and their friendship is tested to the limits. Both discover that karmic ties and unconscionable crimes have followed them like ghosts from the past, wreaking havoc on the present and possibly the future.
SILENT MERIDIAN reveals the alternate histories of Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Houdini, Jung and other luminaries in the secret diaries of a new kind of Doctor Watson, John Patrick Scott, in an X Files for the 19th century. Stay tuned for A Pocketful of Lodestones; book two in the Time Traveler Professor series by Elizabeth Crowens.
An impressive debut novel full of surprises and unexpected adventures between a time traveling music professor and a number of well-known Victorians
- Trina King, Amazon Reviewer

Read the First Three Chapters

This is a true roller coaster ride. For people who love Sherlock Holmes, or for people who love time travel, or for people who just enjoy not knowing what's going to come next.
- Susan Breen, Amazon Reviewer


Giveaway Graphic
Prizes up for grabs:
$10 Amazon Gift Card
5 x Copies of Silent Meridian (US - print, International - eBook)
Contest runs from May 18 - 31, 2017.

About Elizabeth Crowens

Author Pic
Elizabeth Crowens is the pen name author of SILENT MERIDIAN, an alternate history/ 19th century “X Files” alternate history novel published by MX Publishing in London. Recently she won First Prize in Chanticleer Review's Goethe Award for Turn-of-the-Century Historical Fiction, is on the short list of finalists for Chanticleer’s 2016 Cygnus Awards for Speculative Fiction, Paranormal and the Ozma Award for Fantasy Fiction and received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s fiction short story contest for Emerging Writers. She has also published a variety of non-fiction articles and is currently writing a column called The Poison Apple in the World Fantasy and Alfie Award-winning publication,
Recently, she participated on panels at The World Fantasy Convention, MidAmericon II/Worldcon, Lunacon, Heliosphere, the Writer's Digest Conference, Queens Book Festival, Philcon and was also interviewed for the radio show, Hour of the Wolf. A Pocketful of Lodestones, the sequel to Silent Meridian is awaiting a publication date. Current work-in-progress is Killer Between My Sheets, a psychological/domestic suspense novel/series.
A 15-year veteran of the film industry in Hollywood, she’s also an alumnus of Algonkian workshops and the Gotham Writer’s Workshop and a member of the Horror Writers Association, Historical Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America. An active Sherlockian, she’s lectured on Arthur Conan Doyle, belongs to several Sherlockian scions, and is an independent scholar on Eastern and Western mysticism and Jungian psychology. A blackbelt in martial arts, she’s lived in Japan. Currently, she lives in New York City.
Social media links: Facebook | Twitter

Tour Schedule

Follow the book tour from May 18 - 31, 2017.
Get sneak peaks, excerpts, fun facts and other never-before-published info on Silent Meridian.
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Rumors of a haunted house beckon
teenage psychic Caryn and ghost whisperer Gary
Book Cover
Pamela Woods-Jackson
Series: Teenage Psychic Book 2
Genre: New Adult, Young Adult, Paranormal
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: April 28, 2017
Caryn Alderson may be a psychic medium, but she can't predict her own life. She’s totally blindsided when she discovers her boyfriend has cheated on her. Her best friend Annabeth attempts to jump-start Caryn’s stalled love life by introducing her to Gary Riddell, a fellow college freshman who can talk to ghosts. To paranormal groupie Annabeth, their abilities make them the perfect match. Unfortunately, Gary’s acting career and Caryn’s love of journalism clash when Caryn writes a hatchet piece about Gary's acting abilities, and then publishes it in the campus newspaper. Dating is definitely out!
Then the two of them are asked to help the campus Ghost Stalkers club investigate a haunting at a local farmhouse. Caryn and Gary must combine their offsetting paranormal skills to locate more than just ghosts.

Purchase Links

Other Books by the Author

Be sure to also check out the first book in the Teenage Psychic series:.
Book Cover
Series: Teenage Psychic Book 1
Caryn Alderson just wants to be a normal teenager, but seeing spirits no one else can see, and knowing things about people that there’s no logical explanation for is not normal. No wonder Quince and all her new friends think she’s weird! Then, just when Caryn thinks her psychic abilities are under wraps, her friend Megan blurts out the truth about her on local TV during a staged school protest. Will Caryn finally admit the truth? Does she really have a choice?
"Perfect for a lazy day in a hammock, or even better, while you are laying out at the beach!"
- LAS Reviewer, Amazon reviewer


Giveaway Graphic
Prizes up for grabs:
$10 Amazon Gift Card
Copy of Teenage Psychic on Campus (US - Print; International - eBook)
Contest runs from April 21 - May 21, 2017.

About Pamela Woods-Jackson

Author Pic
I am the author of CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE PSYCHIC (The Wild Rose Press, 2010), which was a 2011 Epic Ebook Contest finalist. A sequel, TEENAGE PSYCHIC ON CAMPUS, will be released this spring by The Wild Rose Press. My YA novel GENIUS SUMMER was released in November, 2014, by Vinspire Publishing. It was a finalist in the 2013 San Francisco Writers Contest, received high marks in the 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Contest, and was awarded the Literary Classics Seal of Approval in 2015. My contemporary romance CERTAINLY SENSIBLE, released December 2, 2015 by The Wild Rose Press, was a Gold Medal winner in the 2016 Literary Classics Award Contest.
Connect with Pamela Woods-Jackson on social media:
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Review of Mike Klaassen's "Hansel and Gretel"

I love the message and meaning behind fairy tales, and of course kids love them because they are short and generally feature protagonists with whom they can identify. Unfortunately, the genre teaches very little about good writing, and as a result we teachers are often subjugated to students' stories which starts "Once upon a time..." regardless of genre.

Mike Klaassen's adaptations of fairy tales take the meat of the original source material and actually turn it into something fuller and more satisfying. The kernel is still there, but the point of view is expanded and becomes deeper, the details are more lush, and the tale, as a result, reads more like a well-structured short story.

Hansel and Gretel is told from a third person limited point of view, in Hansel's head. We experience in greater depth his fear and determination. I agree with the author that comparing this novella to the original Grimm text could help writing students get a better grasp on deepening point of view, exposition versus scene, and pacing.

The author does not shy away from the gruesomeness of the original story, so, parents and teachers, read it through before deciding whether it is appropriate for your children.

Spoiler alert!

My one complaint would be the alterations in the story which marginalize Gretel. In the source material, it is she who pushes the witch into the oven. In Mr. Klaassen's version, Hansel does. In addition, at the end of the source material, Gretel calls a duck to help her and her brother cross a stream. That part is cut form Mr. Klaassen's version. Gretel is stripped of her strengths and is left relying entirely on her brother. Yes, the witch supposedly teaches her how to trap game, fish, and tend the homestead, but none of that happens on screen, so those contributions are largely meaningless. I do wonder what the author's motivation was in those changes.