Alexandra Fry, Private Eye — Book Review & Author Interview

Book Cover  Alexandra Fry - Copy

The Deets

author: Angella Graff

released: June 16, 2013

format: e-book, paperback

pages: 128 pages

publisher: Angella Graff

Read: June 19-20, 2013

Book Pages: Amazon.com • Goodreads.com •  Author’s Website

*BOOK PROMO* This book will be FREE on Amazon this weekend only! 

The Down-low

Alexandra Fry is just your average seventh-grader. Or is she? Starting a new school, Alexandra hopes to leave her old life, and old reputation of “Loopy Lexi” behind. But it’s not so easy when Alexandra is the kind of girl who sees ghosts. And not just any ghosts, but history’s most famous. They come to her to solve mysteries, when things from their past life fall into the wrong hands.

Desperate to be normal and make some friends, Alexandra is devastated to be visited by none other than Queen Elizabeth the First during a lesson in school. But Queen Elizabeth doesn’t just have your average, run of the mill problem. The thing that was stolen was a locket– a cursed locket, and if it’s not returned to the museum, the entire world will be in danger. It’s up to Alexandra and her new friends Penelope and Jack, to find out who took the locket and why. Ducking security guards, breaking and entering, and finding out someone isn’t who they said they were is just your average day for this seventh grade girl.

Fifty percent of the proceeds for Alexandra Fry, Private Eye series will be donated to the Tucson Alliance for Autism. The Tucson Alliance for Autism is a wonderful organization helping parents and kids with all levels and types of autism. They provide services, counseling and peer support. My twelve-year-old son is Autistic, and when he was younger, I wasn’t sure what to do. But the Tucson Alliance for Autism provided me with so much material and support that my son is now a flourishing sixth-grader with friends, activities, and he’s even joined the band at his new middle school– something I thought he would never do. I’m thrilled and excited to help give-back to my community and this wonderful organization that has helped so many people here in Arizona.

Thank you in advance for your purchases and support of this amazing cause, and for any information please visit their website at www.tucsonallianceforautism.org (From Goodreads.com)

Why You Should Buy It

This book of a seventh-grade girl who sees ghosts is clever, funny, and well written.  The book, which is the first of six in a series, is Nancy Drew meets Harry Potter and is perfect for young adults and the young at heart.

My Thoughts

*I received this e-book in exchange for an honest review.*

I have to admit that when the author approached me for this book my first thoughts were that it would be too young for me.  I tend to read older young-adult books, but the synopsis was too tempting to not check out.  And boy, was I glad I did!

This book follows Alex as she navigates a new school, tries to make friends and finally not be “Loopy Lexi”, and of course, as she helps a ghost find something missing.  In this case, the ghost is Queen Elizabeth.

I loved the back and forth between Alex and the ghost.  She manifested as a young girl, probably to identify better with Alex, which I found interesting.  Most ghosts in books look like they did when they died.  This was something that was unique to the series, and something that I think will appeal to young girls (and boys!) reading the book.

I read the book in just a few short hours — saying I consumed it would be an understatement.  From the first page I was sucked in to Alexandra’s world.  Even though it has been 16 years, I was right back in that lackluster middle school hallway with her.  As someone who moved the summer after 6th grade, I identified with Alexandra.  As an oddball (even when she tried SO HARD to blend in), I felt a kinship with the girl.  Now, as for seeing ghosts — I can’t say that was something we had in common.

The book doesn’t focus on romance, but friendships.  There is her new best friend — Penelope and the mysterious boy who may or may not be the culprit — Jack.  I think the fact that this girl who feels so ostracized by her eccentricities (she loves zombies and doesn’t care about fashion) and her oddity of speaking with ghosts (because will they leave her alone during school hours? Of course not!) is able to find people who like her just for being her is a great message for kids.

In fact, there are SO many great messages in this book — be who you are, do the right thing even when it’s hard, and my favorite: history can be FUN!  Alex is smart, funny, creative, and a young role model.  If you have a young girl (or boy!) who is in 6th through 9th grade, this is the PERFECT series to share with them!  Even if you aren’t so young, this book is a fun ride.  This Nancy Drew meets Harry Potter series will be a fast favorite with anyone who picks it up!

I cannot recommend this book enough, and also cannot wait to read more!

Overall

Five out of Five Stars

About the Author

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Angella Graff was born and raised in the desert city of Tucson, Arizona. She married and became a mother very young, and after getting started with her family, began her University studies where she found her passion for creative writing, history and theology.

She now resides in Tucson with her husband Joshua, three children, Christian, Isabella and Adia, and their two cats, Archive (Ivy), and Lasciel. She prefers to spend her days writing, gardening, and reading non-fiction theology theory books. Angella is also an avid, if not fanatic fan of Doctor Who and BBC Sherlock, which tend to dominate her dry, sarcastic humor, a lot of which is apparent in her writing.

Currently Angella is working on an Urban Fantasy series called The Judas Curse, involving extensive research into Mythos, Christianity and history.

Connect with Angella

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Inside the Author’s Head

I had the distinct pleasure of talking with Angella about her books, being an author, and more!  Here’s what she had to say:

1. I know young adult is vastly different from your adult series, The Judas Curse.  Where did you get the idea for this y/a series and why did you ultimately decide to write it?

Honestly, my ten year old daughter had been begging me for some time to write a book kids her age could read.  The moment she saw my first book in print, she was so excited, and even had me share it with her class.  She and I sat down and began kicking around ideas, and we came up with the name Alexandra Fry, Private Eye, and I knew it was just too catchy not to go somewhere with it.  Paranormal fiction is huge with YA right now, and it’s one of my favorites, so it sort of snowballed from there.  I knew I had to incorporate history in some way, since I love history, and all three of my kids are following in my footsteps, and I figured ghosts was the best way to go.

At one point Isabella and I were brainstorming ideas about the ghosts taking Alexandra back in the past to experience history, but I had a feeling that bringing the ghosts into the modern world would be a little more fun

2. I LOVED this book and that it focused on one main ghost character/artifact.  What other ghosts do you foresee in the future for Alexandra? 

Oh gosh that’s a tough one.  I have so many favorite historical figures, it’s hard to narrow them down.  Which, I realize, I have to because I’m only doing six books in the series.  I think for sure I’m going to go with Rasputin (creepy fun!) and probably Julius Caesar.  I’ve been kicking around the idea of perhaps Cleopatra or even Tutankhamun since as a kid I wanted to be an Egyptologist.  There is also going to be an unnamed ghost giving Alexandra a little help.  This ghost has already made an invisible appearance, and they’ll make a bigger appearance as the series continues!

3. Will your books follow the pattern of Harry Potter (i.e. one book per year of school) or will they progress at a less structured time frame? 

Yes actually, that’s what I was going for.  I think some of the books might span over a longer time period, showing her in school a little more, and maybe over the summer, but for the most part, I plan to do one book per school year until she graduates High School.

4. One thing I really loved about this book was there wasn’t a focus on romance.  Is that something that will play a part in the future books?

I don’t want to say yes or no.  Obviously as Alexandra grows, and her friends do as well, there’s probably going to have some level of romantic interest for some of the characters.  However I don’t plan to make it the focal point of the plot.  Honestly, I will say that was one of my biggest pet peeves with the Harry Potter series, is how she seemed to dedicate book six to like the character’s relationships and there was a huge plot going on that could have used more detail than snogging in hallways.  So I hope that answered your question, haha.  I mean I’ll try to keep the book as organic and typical to her age as I can, but try not to lose the plot in relationships and romance.

5. What is one message you as an author hope to get across with this book/series?

One- that you don’t have to be a superhero to be special.  Alexandra might see ghosts, but she’s not super powerful, and she never will be.  That’s part of why I love her.  Aside from her gift, she’s just your average girl, and that’s a really awesome thing to be.

  • 6. This one is a standard I always love to ask.  What are your top five favorite books and why?

This is one question I hate to answer, haha, because I don’t have five, and the books that I do love are all non-fiction books.  I’m obsessed with history and theology, which is the backbone of my series for adults, and most of the stuff I read over and over no one’s ever heard of.  However if I had to narrow it down, these would be it.

1-      Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice—I just loved her method of story telling, and getting to see the characters all in their own story was really interesting.  I was a huge fan of the series.

2-      Taltos by Anne Rice—I loved the new creature, the Taltos, that she created.  I thought it was unique and fascinating and as much as they were the bad guy, they were sympathetic and I cried for them at the end.

3-      The Mummy by Anne Rice—I loved everything about this book.  The history, the story telling, all of the characters.  I was disappointed that she never went into a sequel with these characters.

4-      The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub—I absolutely love this book so much.  I’m not much of a Stephen King fan, but the way this world was built and handled, and the twists was amazing.  You could generally tell when the writing switched from King to Straub, however it was married together so beautifully that it had a seamless quality to it.  And Jack, oh I love little Jackie!

5-      Wicked by Gregory Maguire—After reading this book, I could never look at the Wizard of Oz the same way again.  I have never cried so hard for a villain in all of my life.  I wasn’t thrilled with the way the musical portrayed everything, because they took a lot of the impact regarding Fiyero’s death out, however the soundtrack is weep-worthy.

7. I know your urban fantasy series involves extensive research into Mythos, Christianity and history.  How did this research benefit this book?  How do you expect it to influence the rest of the series?

Well I have a history degree (Medieval Theology to be specific) and I’ve always been a history buff, so I’m always, and I mean always, studying up on different theology and history theories.  I think being able to study so much for the first series gives me character and plot ideas for this story.  I think that the best thing an author can do for their books is to research.  Research everything, know what you’re writing.  So I think that it definitely helps out no matter where my writing muse takes me.

8. Talk about your life as a writer:  What is your favorite part of being an author?  What is your writing process?

Oh gosh, it’s hectic, haha, with three kids.  I tend to write when the house is quiet, so it’s at 2 AM or never.  When they’re in school, it’s a lot easier, that’s for sure.  On the weekends when my husband is home, I do get some writing time, but luckily I write fast, so I tend to get things done swiftly.

As for my favorite part, it’s hard to say.  There was nothing like seeing my name in print for the first time, and getting a five star review sends me over the moon!  I did a book festival this year, and plan to do so next year, and getting to talk with strangers and having them interested in the books is super fun and really thrilling.  I also enjoy getting called in to do guest lectures at my kids’ school on what it’s like to write a book, and the publishing process.  It’s all just so much fun!

 9. If you could live in any ‘book world’, which one would it be and why?

Oh hmm that’s a good question!  Most of them seem kind of scary and I feel like I’d be in danger all the time!  I think I might like to live in the world of The Talisman, getting to switch from reality to fantasy land whenever I wanted.  As long as The Queen won in the end, I think I’d enjoy that world best!

10. What made you want to become a writer? What advice would you give to young, aspiring writers?

Well I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  I’m not joking about that, either.  You can ask my parents what I wanted to be from kindergarten on and they’ll say a writer.  Well maybe a princess first, but writer second haha.  Even when I had side interests like Egyptologist or Marine Biologist, I always came back to being a writer.

And advice?  Oooh dangerous question to ask me.  I’m full to the brim having experienced a lot of the negative sides of being a writer.  First off—get educated.  Learn how to write.  It’s more than just words on a paper, and taking creative writing classes and learning how to tell a story is really important.  Second—utilize critique groups as much as you can.  Strangers who will give you honest opinions of your work are invaluable.  When you ask your friends and they say your stuff is great, just trying to be nice, it sets you up for the harsh reality when you get negative reviews.  Third—edit.  Don’t self edit, but make sure you have a really good editor because when you send your book to print poorly written with typos, you’re setting yourself up for failure.  Lastly—be prepared for negative reviews.  We all get them, and they’re not fun, but learn to use the negative critique to better your writing as you go.  Try and take something helpful from every negative review that you can.  I got a few bad reviews for my first book, and I made sure to use their suggestions, even if they weren’t worded nicely, into my second book and right now that book is sitting at a 4.8 star rating on Amazon. 

11. And finally, (because I’m already looking forward to what comes next!) what can we expect to see the rest of the series unfold?

Oh hopefully more fun!  The plot will thicken, that’s for sure, and Alexandra is in for some exciting times.  She’ll have to rely on Jack a little less since he’s off to High School this year, but that’s not to say she won’t be trying to learn some of his tricks of the trade! 

I’m looking forward to seeing Alexandra grow year by year, and it’s fun trying to remember what those years were like for me and tap into those experiences.  I think we’ll see her figure some really neat stuff out about herself and about the rest of the world, and by the time the series is over, I think it will have been a great experience!

Proceeds – Tucson Autism Alliance

Angella will be donating 50% of the proceeds of Alexandra Fry, Private eye, to the Tucson Alliance for Autism.

If you download the book for free, and like it, and want to make a donation to the Autism Alliance, you can do so at that donation button on Angella’s page.  The donation button will be for one US dollar which is what the foundation gets for every book purchase.

Here is the motto for the Tucson Alliance for Autism- : www.tucsonallianceforautism.org

“To promote community awareness and provide diagnostic and therapeutic services for individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); to educate and support professionals and families on ASD-related issues; to support and provide resources for families; to stimulate research and represent the best interests of the autism community in Tucson and its surrounding areas.

Our core values define the essence of TAFA-as an organization and its staff- and underlie ALL activities conducted by TAFA in the pursuit of our Mission. Our core values include professionalism, friendliness, respect, knowledge, education, determination, perseverance, integrity, and community collaboration.”

Fifty percent of the proceeds from every book sold are donated to the Autism Alliance.  Angella has been associated with the Tucson Alliance for Autism since she moved to Tucson in 2004, and they “gave me more help than I ever dreamed possible when my son (who is now twelve) was diagnosed as Autistic,” Angella said.

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