Welcome! Please sit down, make yourself comfortable, and have a brownie or three...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review & Giveaway: K.M. Walton's ULTIMATUM

Hi All~

Life's been very busy lately, so my apologies about not getting around the blogosphere as much as I used to.  I'm buying my very first home (!!!), which is a process full of excitement and phone calls and insurance stuff and budgeting and more phone calls and that sort of thing.

After moving from Colorado to Pennsylvania last Fall, I was lucky enough to connect with a group of writers in the area (including Dianne Salerni, author of lots of awesome books including The Eighth Day series, and the fabulous Joanne Fritz, who writes middle grade fiction and blogs over at My Brain on Books). It was at a recent get-together that I met K.M. Walton, an author of young adult books who had an upcoming book launch. I planned to attend the launch, but unexpected travel plans got in the way.

I called the store ahead of time and bought two signed copies and today, lucky readers, I'm giving one away! JUST LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE ENTERED~ a winner will be chosen on Monday, April 3. UPDATE: The winner of the signed copy of ULTIMATUM is... Julia Tomiak! Congratulations, Julia, please email me with a good shipping address and I'll get it sent to you!

Here's the publisher's summary:

From the author of Cracked and Empty comes a gripping, emotional story of two brothers who must make the ultimate decision about what's more important: family or their differences.
It's not Oscar's fault he's misunderstood. Ever since his mother died, he's been disrespected by his father and bullied by his self-absorbed older brother, so he withdraws from his fractured family, seeking refuge in his art.
Vance wishes his younger brother would just loosen up and be cool. It was hard enough to deal with their mother's death without Oscar getting all emotional. At least when Vance pushes himself in lacrosse and parties, he feels alive.
But when their father's alcoholism sends him into liver failure, the two brothers must come face-to-face with their demons--and each other--if they are going to survive a very uncertain future.

My reading diet is largely made up of chapter books and middle grade books these days, and I found myself reading ULTIMATUM slowly at first, trying to reacquaint myself with language/style aimed at older readers. By the end, these characters were so real to me that I desperately wanted a sequel in my hands. My review is below~ click HERE to read the STARRED Publisher's Weekly review.

I started K.M. Walton's ULTIMATUM slowly~I eased in, getting used to the distinct voices of brothers Oscar and Vance. By the last hundred pages I was racing through to see what would be resolved and what wouldn't. This story--of grieving, of individual pain, of the complexity of brotherhood, and of what we do when offered second chances of connection--touched me deeply. It felt authentic~ though the father figure is about as bad as you can imagine, there are tiny glimmers of heart, even in him. Technically, I was so impressed with the execution of Walton's approach~ dual narratives and a timeline both in the past and present. Great ending, many tears throughout. Highly recommended.

Okay, that's all from me~ just leave a comment to enter! If you'd like, you can mention that last great YA book that you've read (or any book).

Monday, February 6, 2017

COVER REVEAL of my next book! Introducing... Under the Bottle Bridge

Hi All! My next book, Under the Bottle Bridge, will be released by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on September 5th, 2017! You can add it to your Goodreads account HERE, but for now you can see it up on Amazon here.

The setting is the fictional town of Gilbreth, New York, a place that puts great stock in traditional arts~weavers, blacksmiths, silversmiths, glassblowers, bakers, herbalists, and the like. My protagonist, young Minna Treat, comes from a long line of woodworkers that can be traced back to the founding of Gilbreth. She and her uncle (who's also her legal guardian) are the very last of the Treats... and if Minna can't find a solution, they may be the first to leave the place that's been their family home for generations.

It's a story of bridges, secrets, legacy, message bottles, seasons of change, family, hearth milk, and things lost and found. I'll do an ARC giveaway in the coming months, but for now, I'm so pleased to share the cover with you.

The artist, the incredible Sonia Kretschmar, did such an amazing job of capturing the heart of the novel (the official summary is below). I hope you love it as much as I do!




In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York's annual AutumnFest, 12-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village's 300-year-old bridges, she can't help but wonder who's leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly... could the messages be for her?

Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she's been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Midnight Without A Moon- Pre-Release Giveaway!

This holiday season, I've bought a lot of books to give as gifts. When I stopped at my local indie bookstore last week, I pre-ordered copies of Linda Williams Jackson's upcoming Midnight Without A Moon. Linda and I know each other from my early days in the blogging community, and I was thrilled when I first heard about the book. After reading an advanced copy, I knew it was something special that I wanted to share with people.

It comes out on January 3rd, just three weeks from now! Leave a comment on this post to be entered to win a copy~ I'll choose a winner on 12/19 (if your email address is not attached to your profile, please include it in your comment). UPDATE: The winner is.... Caryn Caldwell! Congratulations, Caryn, it's a special book. Thank you to all who entered~ I hope you all get the chance to read this once it comes out in January!

Here's a summary (my review is below that):

It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. But for now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. 
Then, one town over, an African American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. When Till’s murderers are unjustly acquitted, Rose realizes that the South needs a change . . . and that she should be part of the movement.  
Linda Jackson’s moving debut seamlessly blends a fictional portrait of an African American family and factual events from a famous trial that provoked change in race relations in the United States.

My review:
This is the powerful story of Rose Lee Carter and her journey to find strength and purpose in a Jim Crow South on the verge of changes, set against fourteen-year-old Emmett Till's murder and trial (among other tragic, bigoted crimes). Vividly drawn characters and scene-setting will put readers right there with Rose, bursting with anger and sadness about the injustices she witnesses and endures, and struggling to make a decision about whether to seek a destiny outside of Mississippi, or to stay and be part of an important movement.

This book has it all from the first page~ setting, voice, character, heart, senses. Linda Williams Jackson's debut is just what Sharon G. Flake said in the blurb on the back of the ARC I read: "... an unflinching bird's eye view of 1955 Mississippi. A magnificent piece of writing!"

Bio courtesy of Linda's website: http://lindajacksonwrites.blogspot.com/
Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta in the teeny-tiny town of Rosedale , Linda Williams Jackson likes to spin stories about everyday people in small-town settings. Though she has lived in a few other states (Alabama, Missouri, and Kansas), Linda currently makes her home in a not-so-small city in Mississippi with her husband and three children.

While a degree in Math and Computer Science from the University of Alabama allowed her to enjoy careers in Information Technology, Linda now prefers manipulating words rather than numbers and symbols. Besides her debut middle-grade novel Midnight Without a Moon from HMH Books for Young Readers (January 3, 2017), Linda is published in multiple Chicken Soup for the Soul titles and has written reading assessment passages for various educational publishers.

Monday, December 5, 2016


A photograph from The Story Weaver
Hello Everyone!

I've been busy lately with a big move from Colorado to Pennsylvania and haven't been blogging at all~ I'm so pleased to return to posting by featuring a new book by a dear friend, Adriana Carlson.

"Co-authored" by a mischievous sprite named Harrier Bogbean, The Story Weaver: Penelope's Perils is the first in a trilogy. The plot and characters are wonderful, the novel's voice is engaging, and the inclusion of original photographs (taken by the author herself!) makes this a great choice for lovers of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Adriana was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions (the interview is below)~ just leave a comment on this post to be entered to win a copy of the book. I'll choose a winner on December 11th. UPDATE: The winner is Amy! Congratulations, Amy~ please email me your address and I'll get the book mailed to you.

Here's a summary (my apologies for any formatting issues):
1926- Edinburgh, Scotland:
Penelope Collins and her father are the only ones who remember the folk and fairy tales of the world. Penelope's never met her mother, but she's always felt her presence. Lonely Penelope’s life changes for adventure after a vindictive teacher expels her for telling her schoolmates the tales she knows. Fleeing from her soulless school, she returns home. An enchanted fox appears that night to tell her a wondrous truth: her mother is alive, and creates the tales forgotten by the world on a hidden isle just across the sea, but her mother's in danger and won't Penelope come to help?

Like Prometheus bringing fire to earth, Penelope must travel to the isle and bring the tales she loves back to the Realm of Men. Terrors lurk at each encounter with the fairy and folk tale inhabitants of the isle, none of whom are left the way Penelope remembers their stories ending. A rogue sprite follows her journey and photographs her quest to find the Hob King, the cursed leader of the hobs, who kidnapped her mother. The Hob King will do anything to change his story – even if it means resurrecting the ancient god of chaos to stop Penelope.

Now it’s up to quiet, lonely Penelope to save her mother, save the stories, and save the world from looming destruction. The Story Weaver: Penelope’s Perils combines the ancient myths of Mesopotamia and the fairy tales of Northern Europe. It is illustrated with over 40 photos to create a photographic trilogy.

What were your favorite books as a child?
I always loved anything fantasy with historical elements: Five Children and It, The Castle in the Attic, Mary Poppins, and of course The Chronicles of Narnia.

What was your inspiration for this story?
I've always loved both mythology and fairytales. I was inspired by the lesser known folktales from the Northern European countries. I liked creating a world where ancient mythology was the history behind fairytales and folktales.

Queen Aschenputtel from The Story Weaver
You're a photographer as well as a writer and the book features photographs you took yourself~ what were both the benefits and challenges of integrating your visual creativity into this book? 
The benefit is creating something that hasn't been done much. When I tell people that the book is a photographic novel then they are instantly intrigued. The down side of photographically illustrating the book is how long it takes! My photo shoots depend on so much that I don't have control of: people's schedules, weather, time of day, finding a babysitter... It can be a lot to juggle! But I'm so glad I did it this way, and I'm having even more fun finishing up the second and third book!
I agree with Adriana~ the photographs add so much. Again, just leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway!
About the Author: Adriana Carlson lives in the shadow of a mountain with her husband, three magical creatures, and a dog and cat. She knows the world is full of wonder, there are elves in the woods, and magic is everywhere.

Friday, July 1, 2016

GIVEAWAY #2 of Tara Dairman's STARS SO SWEET!

Folks, it's JULY~ that means Tara Dairman's STARS SO SWEET, 3rd book in the delicious MG foodie series starring Gladys Gatsby, will be hitting shelves in just 18 more days, on July 19th!

I recently gushed about the book in this post and I'm doing one more ARC giveaway to drum up excitement for the release. So if you'd like to get your hands, eyes, and heart on this glorious book before the rest of the world, just leave a comment.

I'll choose a winner from the comments on July 6th and mail it out right away! UPDATE: THE WINNER IS ... ANDREA MACK! Congratulations, Andrea~ please email me your address (jessicaselawson(at)gmailcom) and I'll get it mailed!

Best of luck in the giveaway~ here's a summary:

As the summer winds down and Gladys Gatsby prepares to start middle school, she is nervous about juggling schoolwork and looming deadlines from her secret job as the New York Standard’s youngest restaurant critic. When her editor pushes for a face-to-face meeting to discuss more opportunities with the paper, Gladys knows she must finally come clean to her parents. But her perfectly planned reveal is put on hold when her parents arrive home with a surprise:  her Aunt Lydia, one of the only adults who knows her secret, fresh off the plane from Paris. Gladys and Aunt Lydia try one last ruse to fool her editor at the Standard, but even with her aunt’s help, Gladys just can’t manage the drama of middle school and a secret life. It’s time for Gladys to be true to herself and honest with her friends and family, regardless of what those around her think.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Release Day~ Waiting for Augusta

It's Pub Day!

WAITING FOR AUGUSTA is officially in the world. This quirky book has been a part of my life for several years now.

It's part journey of a young boy to find out how to stand up for his own beliefs, part tribute to father-son relationships, part tribute to my golfer hubby, and part adventures in chicken-battling/train-hopping/truck-stealing/barbecue-eating/breaking-and-entering. All kinds of fun and tough stuff.

I hope you like it.

If you feel like entering to win a copy, I'll be at the following blogs over the next couple of weeks~ you can leave a comment on the posts to enter:

May 14: Leandra Wallace's blog

May 16: Literary Rambles (this post will include an interview with my agent and a query critique giveaway!)

TBD: Becky Wallace's blog

Best of luck if you enter any of the giveaways! Here's a summary of the book:

Eleven-year-old Benjamin Putter has a lump in his throat, and he’s certain it’s a golf ball. He knows it sounds crazy, but everything’s been topsy-turvy since his father died last month. And he doesn’t know how to fix it.

Then, one day, something starts tugging at Ben, telling him to hurry to Augusta, Georgia—home of the Sistine Chapel of golf courses.

Ben might be going a little crazy, but escaping Hilltop, Alabama, sounds like a darn good idea. (And just maybe it will make that lump go away.) As he makes his way to Augusta, Ben partners up with a mysterious runaway named Noni, and they embark on a journey full of surprises—and possibly magic—at every turn.

And here are a few review snippets:

Colorful, quirky, and full of heart, with an ending readers won’t forget.”
– Ingrid Law, Newbery Honor-winning author of Savvy, Scumble, and Switch

"A whimsical, heartwarming, multilayered story about finding grace enough to accept the flaws in those we love and courage enough to act from our most deeply held beliefs."
– Kirkus Reviews

"This moving and emotional coming-of-age story tackles themes of racism, friendship, and growing up. . . . An absorbing work of historical fiction."
– School Library Journal

Friday, April 22, 2016

STARS SO SWEET~ Review and ARC Giveaway!

Friends, I've got a delicious treat for you today. The third book in Tara Dairman's middle grade Gladys Gatsby series will be out this July, and I managed to get my hands on TWO advanced copies! I'll give one away this week and one in early June. Just leave a comment to enter and I'll choose a winner next Friday, April 29. UPDATE: The winner is.... Mrs. Kirchner! Congrats, Mrs. Kirchner, please email me a good mailing address at: jessicaselawson{at]gmail[dot]com

I cannot say enough about the delightful Gladys or her growth over the three books that started with the Crystal Kite Award winner All Four Stars and continued with the equally hilarious and yummy The Stars of Summer. I fell so in love with this young foodie and her adventures that I'm holding out for another book after this one.

Tara Dairman is extremely well-traveled (check out her 2 year, 74-country honeymoon HERE) and has sampled local cuisine all over the world~ who better to write the chronicles of a middle grade foodie than an author who loves food and knows first-hand the way it connects people. Her blog even features recipes from the first book.

I'm lucky enough to be able to claim her as a critique partner and cannot wait to get my hardcover of STARS SO SWEET. Tara recently shared some exciting news~ all three books will be available on Audiobook! Release dates for those are May 10 (All Four Stars), June 10 (The Stars of Summer), and July 19 (Stars so Sweet).

Once again, I'll do a seven-word highlight review of the things this book does incredibly well.

Highlights of STARS SO SWEET: Characters, Humor, Heart, Mouthwatering Food Descriptions, Friendships, School Setting, and.... Chapter Titles (seriously, these are so fantastic)!

Here's a summary of STARS SO SWEET:

As the summer winds down and Gladys Gatsby prepares to start middle school, she is nervous about juggling schoolwork and looming deadlines from her secret job as the New York Standard’s youngest restaurant critic. When her editor pushes for a face-to-face meeting to discuss more opportunities with the paper, Gladys knows she must finally come clean to her parents. But her perfectly planned reveal is put on hold when her parents arrive home with a surprise:  her Aunt Lydia, one of the only adults who knows her secret, fresh off the plane from Paris. Gladys and Aunt Lydia try one last ruse to fool her editor at the Standard, but even with her aunt’s help, Gladys just can’t manage the drama of middle school and a secret life. It’s time for Gladys to be true to herself and honest with her friends and family, regardless of what those around her think.

Before I end this post, I thought I'd give you an idea of how long I've been a fan of this series. Here's a picture of my youngest with ALL FOUR STARS at a a local bookstore...

And here she is proudly holding Book #3!

Best of luck in the giveaway!

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