Thursday
May212015

Author Blog Tour: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot

Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Meg Cabot's blog tour for From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess. Visit here to see the full tour schedule.

As part of Meg Cabot’s tour for From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, Meg and First Second books asked a bunch of bloggers what they would do if they woke up tomorrow and found out they were royalty. This is a particularly difficult question for me to answer because it’s been a really long time since I imagined myself a princess. What do princesses do these days? Does it come with financial security and a charmed lifestyle? Would a charmed lifestyle work well with my not-quite-so-traditional personality? Could I just lounge around reading books and eating cupcakes and ignore the rest of the world? What would my princessly duties be?

So if tomorrow I learned I was a princess, I would be a barefoot jeans and sneakers type of princess, who avoided balls and makeup and fancy gatherings. I would travel the world trying to teach people the value of being nice to one another and learn about cultures all over the world. I would eat loads of unusual and yummy foods and meet interesting people. I would try to be good and spread a little bit of happiness around the world, not for the sake of cameras, but because it would be the right thing to do.

I would hope that my new found royalty wouldn’t come with paparazzi and crazy stalkers, so I could explore the world around me and see how best I could contribute to it. I would use my new privileged position to snuggle a koala bear in Australia, but not to get much more special treatment outside of that. I would still wait in lines and wait my turn. Just because I have title wouldn’t suddenly make me better than everyone else.

What I can tell you is that I wouldn’t be a designer dress and heels princess. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m too clumsy for such baubles. I wouldn’t feel comfortable having people do everything for me either, so I would still bake yummy things for myself and other people, maybe even fold my own laundry! I wouldn’t mind having someone to drive me around though…

But mostly I would try to be good, just like I do every day I’m not a princess. Maybe I’d be able to do it on a grander scale in a more world-wide type of capacity than I can now, but I would remain a student of the world, learning all the time and finding the best ways to contribute to make things a little better. I’d hope royalty wouldn’t change me that much.

 

So what would you do if you woke up to find you were royalty? Answer in the comments and enter to win a copy of From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot below! Winner must have a US mailing address to receive the prize from the publisher.

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From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
Meg Cabot

Fiewel & Friends
Released May 19, 2015
192 pages
Middle Grade / Fantasy

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Olivia Grace Clarisse Harrison has always known she was different. Brought up by her aunt's family in New Jersey, book-and-music-loving Olivia feels out of place in their life of high fashion and fancy cars. But she never could have imagined how out of place she really was until Mia Thermopolis, Princess of Genovia, pops into her school and announces that Olivia is her long-lost sister. Olivia is a princess. A dream come true, right? But princesses have problems too.

In FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCESS a new middle grade series, readers will see Genovia, this time through the illustrated diaries of a spunky new heroine, 12 year old Olivia Grace, who happens to be the long lost half-sister of Princess Mia Thermopolis.

The original Princess Diaries series sold over 5 million copies in the US (15 million worldwide), spent 82 weeks on the USA Today bestsellers list, and inspired two beloved films.


About the Author

Meg Cabot is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Princess Diaries series. Born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Meg also lived in Grenoble, France, and Carmel, California, before moving to New York City after graduating with a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Indiana University. She is the author of numerous books for adults and children, including five #1 New York Times bestsellers. Over 25 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Meg Cabot currently lives in Key West with her husband and cat. megcabot.com


Thursday
May212015

Author Blog Tour & Contest: Guest Post from Emmy Laybourne, Author of Sweet

Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Emmy Laybourne's blog tour for her newest novel, Sweet! We're excited to have Emmy at the blog today discussing her cruise boat horror novel. Having been on cruises before, this has been a particularly interesting read even if it might give me the hibbie jibbies every now and again. If you're interested in Sweet, stick around to the end of the post where Emmy is giving one lucky Working for the Mandroid reader a chance to win a copy of her latest book.

 

I have a dilemma here. I could easily spend this whole blog post talking about how much I like the name WorkingForTheMandroid. It made me laugh, and when you’re working on a blog tour - that is a rare treat! So thank you, Leslie, Fernando and Mandroid, wherever you are.

I’m here to talk to you about my new book Sweet. It tells the story of the product launch of a new diet sweetener called Solu which turns out to be highly addictive. The high-profile, celebrity-studded launch takes place on a week-long luxury cruise. Laurel and Tom, two teens who, for very different reasons, are NOT taking the sweetener, find themselves out at sea amidst five hundred B-list celebrities, reality TV stars and wealthy playboys who become increasingly desperate and depraved, willing to do anything to get more Solu.

Because Sweet crosses a couple of genres (Romance! Action! Horror!) and deals with some surprising issues (Body acceptance! Addiction! Celebrity!), I’ve decided to have 5 special blog posts on this tour, talking about the way Sweet plays within each type.

Today we’re going to talk about the horror aspect of the book. I can’t tell you how proud I am to write a book that really feels, I think, like a horror book.

While my Monument 14 trilogy was plenty scary, it was a post-apocalyptic series. It had a sci-fi element - the air had been contaminated by chemical warfare compounds, dividing the population by blood type. Type O’s turned into bloodthirsty killers, driven to manslaughter; Type A’s blistered up and died almost immediately upon exposure. Type B’s became intensely paranoid and Type AB’s were made sterile and impotent, but otherwise were just fine, so they could watch the carnage around them. Nice, I know!  But still, not a horror novel.

But Sweet is. It features a fairly slow build - at first, the passengers aboard the Extravagance feel terrific. They are enjoying the sweetener and losing weight rapidly.  But they soon become obsessed with Solu and start demanding more and more.

One of my favorite scenes in the book takes place at a formal ball the organizers have thrown when the passengers hit their first weight loss goal - on average, everyone has lost 5% of their body weight. At the ball, Laurel and her best friend Vivka, who’s taking Solu, watch as they roll out the dessert. It’s a giant S  made out of cream puffs held together by strands of caramel.

As celebratory speeches are made, Laurel stands there, watching as Viv edges forward toward the dessert, almost mindlessly. In fact, soon Laurel realizes she’s the only one not walking forward - she’s like a rock in a river and the other passengers are flowing around her.

The speeches continue, but the crowd grows antsy. They press closer and closer to the table, finally snatching handfuls of the cream puffs. That’s one of the first moments we know that something is not right.

And of course, things escalate from there.

Sweet is also a horror book that makes some social commentary about how far people are willing to go to lose weight - and also about how addiction is creeping up on us. Is it a proper horror novel? For goodness sake, read it and let me know. [@EmmyLaybourne on Twitter and Instagram - or join my mailing list at: http://emmylaybourne.fanbridge.com/]

In the meantime, I’ll be in my office, working for the mandroid.

 

 

Sweet
Emmy Laybourne

Feiwel & Friends
Releases June 2, 2015
I received a copy from the publisher as part of this blog tour
288 pages
YA / Horror

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

*People would kill to be thin.*

Solu’s luxurious celebrity-filled “Cruise to Lose” is billed as “the biggest cruise since the Titanic,” and if the new diet sweetener works as promised—dropping five percent of a person’s body weight in just days—it really could be the answer to the world’s obesity problem. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting her friend Viv’s invitation. She’s already completely embarrassed herself in front of celebrity host, Tom Forelli (otherwise known as the hottest guy ever!) and she’s too seasick to even try the sweetener. And that’s before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.

*But will they die for it, too?*

Tom Forelli knows that he should be grateful for this job and the opportunity to shed his childhood “Baby Tom-Tom” image. His publicists have even set up a ‘romance’ with a sexy reality star. But as things on the ship start to get a bit wild, he finds himself drawn to a different girl. And when his celebrity hosting gig turns into an expose on the shocking side effects of Solu, it’s Laurel that he’s determined to save.

Emmy Laybourne, author of the Monument 14 trilogy, takes readers on a dream vacation that goes first comically, then tragically, then horrifyingly, wrong.

 

Enter to Win a Copy of Sweet!

Emmy and her publisher are giving one lucky Working for the Mandroid reader with a US mailing address a copy of her new book. Enter before May 31 for your chance to win!

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Monday
May182015

Mini Review: Kill Me Softy by Sarah Cross

Kill Me Softly
Sarah Cross

Released April 10, 2012
EgmontUSA
336 pages
YA / Faerie Tale Retelling / Fantasy

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Mirabelle's past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents' tragic deaths to her guardians' half-truths about why she can't return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who's a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren't pretty things, and they don't always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she'll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

This book is problematic. Mira is a highly problematic (or highly naive) protagonist who, can’t see obvious if it beat her in the face. The romance in Kill Me Softly is cringe-worthy at best, and the book should probably have trigger warnings all over it.

And yet I still enjoyed it enough to finish. I partly blame Sarah Cross’s very easy to digest writing style and interesting take on faerie tale mythology. It also helps that the characters surrounding Mira are far more interesting and fun to spend time with than Mira herself.

Kill Me Softly is a weird take on the Sleeping Beauty mythos. Mira grew up far away from Beau Rivage with her God Mothers, who were over protective and kept stories of her parents and birth place close to the vest. So of course, Mira decides to run away to celebrate her 16th birthday searching for her parents’ graves in Beau Rivage. When an older 20-something hotel magnate swoops in to help her then promptly starts putting moves on her, this is obviously a dream come true. When she faints and finds herself unconscious for several hours after making out with said way-too-old-for-her 20-something Romeo, she brushes it off as a weird coincidence. Turns out faerie tales in Beau Rivage are real in a weird sort of way and she’s caught in between two potentially deadly ones.

Mira, as I said, is incredibly dumb. Her relationship with Felix is creepy from moment one, full of near-statutory rape scenarios that also might potentially end in her death. No words of warning or acknowledgement of Felix’s utter creep factor sways her from being instantly in love with him and thinking he is the nicest, most generous person in the world. It’s beyond creepy and I can’t very well understand how I still liked this book despite it.

And yet I did. The world building, more age appropriate characters like Blue, Viv, and Freddie, and the conclusion made me look over the horribly problematic elements of this book to the point that I read the sequel (which was much, much better). I can’t forgive the problematic elements enough to recommend this book though, so skip it and go straight to Tear You Apart. You won’t miss much other than an overwhelming need to take hot showers and scrub the ick factor off of your brain.

 

Anybody else read a book that was clearly problematic and yet still enjoyed it? How did you process the disconnect? Help me out in the comments!

Friday
May152015

Author Blog Tour & Contest: Guest Post from Taran Matharu, Author of The Novice: Summoner Book 1

Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Taran Matharu's blog tour for The Novice: Summoner Book 1, which just came out last week. I'm really excited to have him on the blog talking about sidekicks and what qualities really make a sidekick stand out. I mean, every good hero needs a sidekick, don't they?

You can see the entire tour schedule over on Mac Teen's blog here. If you'd like to read more of Taran's work, check out what he has hosted on WattPad here. We also have a copy of The Novice to give away, so stick around until the end of the post to enter!

What Does It Take to Create a Memorable Sidekick?

Creating a memorable sidekick is no easy task. With so many characteristics to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down what kind of character you want them to be. That being said there are a few common traits that I love to see in sidekicks. Here are just a few of them.

1.) Big, hairy and even a little simple

Both powerful and adorable, these creatures tend to be immensely protective of their partners. Some of the best known examples of these are Ludo from Labyrinth, Chewbacca from Star Wars, Baloo from The Jungle Book and Carol from Where the Wild Things Are.

2.) Only capable of saying one word or phrase

By limiting their ability to communicate, their connection with the protagonist becomes less cerebral and more emotional, which is just how I like it. I can’t help but include Chewie again on this list, as well as Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, Pikachu from Pokemon, Hodor from Game of Thrones and the Librarian from Discworld.

3.) Stubborn, independent and even a little mischievous

Sidekicks are not obedient servants to be ordered about. The best ones are always strong characters and think for themselves. My favorites are Lilo from Lilo and Stitch, Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, Hooch from Turner and Hooch and Donkey from Shrek (to name but a few).

 

Thanks for stopping by Working for the Mandroid, Taran! I can't wait to see where Fletcher and his sidekick go next!

The Novice: Summoner Book 1
Taran Matharu

Feiwel & Friends
Released May 5, 2015
398 pages

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs.

Win a Copy of The Novice: Summoner Book 1 by Taran Matharu!

Taran and his lovely publisher have provided a hard copy of The Novice to give away to one lucky Working for the Mandroid visitor. If you're interested and have a mailing address in the US, enter below before May 31 for your chance to win!

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Monday
May112015

Mini Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristin Simmons

The Glass Arrow
Kristen Simmons

Tor Teen
Released February 10, 2015
336 pages
YA / Dystopia

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

The Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road in Glass Arrow, the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.

In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.

If I wanted to make this the shortest review in Working for the Mandroid history I would just say: Kristen Simmons had some big ideas that she couldn’t execute in an interesting, thought-provoking or compelling way, so the whole story reads a bit like fable that has a hard time getting to the point.

But I guess I should go into it a little more. The Glass Arrow is okay with okay characters and a nothing special plot that’s trying to be a feminist text for a budding feminist, but instead it can’t decide whether to remain subtly political so that it doesn’t get in the way of the action or put the feminism issues front in center. The entire novel becomes a stuttering narrative with a somewhat bland protagonist that just left me bored more often than not.

A love interest is shoehorned in, plot conveniences are relied on and highly telegraphed and the resolution of the novel is small. I don’t know if this is the beginning of a series that plans to explore larger issues in the extreme patriarchal society Simmons's has created, but The Glass Arrow doesn’t dive enough into the societal issues to become much of a feminist story. It definitely didn’t have the realism aspect of a novel like The Handmaid’s Tale, which was realistic enough to make me fearful of the potential realities reflected in that book. Instead The Glass Arrow reads like a half-developed idea that could have used some more brainstorming before it was plotted out.