Guest Post: Ally Malinenko, author of Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb, on Why She Writes Middle Grade

Meet Ally Malinenko, author of Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb, a new Middle Grade novel about a descendent of William Shakespeare who gets kidnapped and goes on an adventure with her best friend. She was nice to stop by Working for the Mandroid to discuss what appeals to her about the Middle Grade format. Please welcome Ally Malinenko!


Why I Write Middle Grade?
By Ally Malinenko

Whenever I tell people that my novel Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb is Middle Grade they sort of wrinkle their face up in abject confusion. And I get it. It’s not YA – they know YA. They’re all familiar with Twilight.  It’s not a baby book. So what is it? Usually I use authors to explain. I say Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, Madline L’Engle.

Then they usually ask why I wrote Middle Grade. And this is what I tell them: Because MG is one of the best possible reading times in your life. It’s about independence. It’s about letting go of the hand that constantly holds you back and reminds you to be safe and instead venturing out into the world to see what you might find. Or what might find you.

Watching kids read middle grade at the library, how engrossed and absorbed they are reminds me of how powerful middle grade books are. At that moment they exist in a multiverse. One that is made up of the slow fade of library books shelves and the chatter of toddlers into the magic of Camazotz, standing before “It” knowing that the battle for Father and Charles Wallace is still far from over. Or the worlds that meld from the sixth grade lunch room into the halls of Hogwarts, the moving staircases and the knowledge that you’re a wizard. If that child keeps reading, and grows up into a reader it will happen for them again, sure, but never with the power that it did then when they were 10 years old.

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Review: The Darkening Dream by Andy Gavin

The Darkening Dream
Andy Gavin

Mascherato Publishing (2011)
382 pages
Adult / Horror / Dark Fantasy

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The Darkening Dream is the chilling new dark fantasy novel by Andy Gavin, creator of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter.

Even as the modern world pushes the supernatural aside in favor of science and steel, the old ways remain. God, demon, monster, and sorcerer alike plot to regain what was theirs.

1913, Salem, Massachusetts – Sarah Engelmann’s life is full of friends, books, and avoiding the pressure to choose a husband, until an ominous vision and the haunting call of an otherworldly trumpet shake her. When she stumbles across a gruesome corpse, she fears that her vision was more of a premonition. And when she sees the murdered boy moving through the crowd at an amusement park, Sarah is thrust into a dark battle she does not understand.

With the help of Alex, an attractive Greek immigrant who knows a startling amount about the undead, Sarah sets out to uncover the truth. Their quest takes them to the factory mills of Salem, on a midnight boat ride to spy on an eerie coastal lair, and back, unexpectedly, to their own homes. What can Alex’s elderly, vampire-hunting grandfather and Sarah’s own rabbi father tell them? And what do Sarah’s continuing visions reveal?

No less than Gabriel’s Trumpet, the tool that will announce the End of Days, is at stake, and the forces that have banded to recover it include a 900 year-old vampire, a trio of disgruntled Egyptian gods, and a demon-loving Puritan minister. At the center of this swirling cast is Sarah, who must fight a millennia-old battle against unspeakable forces, knowing the ultimate prize might be herself.

When Andy Gavin approached me about reviewing his novel, The Darkening Dream, I was a little weary. A horror novel written by the guy behind Crash Bandicoot? The two just didn’t seem to compute in my head, but The Darkening Dream turned out to be a thrilling adventure with properly horrific monsters and an intricate plot that read as carefully thought out. I hope Gavin forgives me for my initial doubt because he clearly changed my mind about his potential as a novelist.

The Darkening Dream takes place in 1913, though the time period did not have much of an effect on the plot except in lack of technology and forms of transportation. Instead it’s the religious ideals weaved into every bit of the story that influences the decisions and actions of the characters. Normally books with overly religious qualities can become heavy handed to me, but despite the amount of Jewish mythology and elements that are key to the story of Sarah’s journey through this dark world, it never felt like Gavin was beating me in the head with religion and I can’t imagine this book without it. Because of my lack of background in Jewish theology, there were moments where I felt like I might not have been truly getting the full meaning of certain events though it never effected my enjoyment of the story.

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