Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Review: Rules for Vampires by Alexandra Foulkes


by Alexandra Foulkes
Simon & Schuster
Middle Grade Paranormal
368 pages
ages 9 to 12

The Nevermoor series meets Hotel Transylvania in this dazzling debut middle grade adventure set in a world of talking spiders, living forests, and haunted castles about a vampire girl who wants to fit in but first must defeat an evil ghost.

After one hundred years of being a vampire, it’s time for Eleonora to have her Birthnight. Since Leo’s last rite of passage, her Grimwalk, ended with her losing her right leg and a good deal of her confidence, she’s hoping to redeem herself in the eyes of her mother, the fearsome Lady Sieglinde. All Leo has to do is hunt down and kill her first prey, and she already has the perfect plan. After all, who will miss an orphan from the bleak St. Frieda’s Home for Unwanted Children?

But an accidental fire causes more death and destruction than Leo bargained for. Instead of killing one carefully selected victim, she’s created several ghosts from the orphanage residents. And one sinister specter, the Orphanmaster, is poised to terrorize the living residents in a nearby town. To stop him and try to undo some of the mess she’s made, Leo must team up with the orphan ghost Minna.

Will Leo have the chance to prove herself as a vampire before her Birthnight is over, or will she discover that there are no winners in the battle of undead versus undead?



A little horror, a little gore, adventure, tons of humor, and imagination pure make this into a read to get lost in and wish it continued without an end.

Leo is a vampire, and it's her Birthnight. To allow her to pass into full-fledged, vampire adulthood, she needs to go on her Hunt and kill her first human. But things don't go as planned. Not at all. Instead, she ends up with ghosts, a powerful evil force, an impossible quest, and a whole ton of unforeseeable happen-chances. 

This is a fun novel from start to finish. The beginning already starts a bit mysterious, not making it totally clear what Leo is and letting her life slide in comparison with that of a normal 'human' girl. Which is clever in so far that it lets the reader build up a familiarity with her before her 'monsterly' side takes over. And she can be monsterly. There is a touch of horror and things can get tense and gruesome-ish. This isn't roses and whimsical twirls, but still, with added quirky moments such as talking spiders and flying objects and things just not going as planned, there's enough humor built in to keep it at the middle grade level. And definitely enough surprises and challenges to keep the reader glued to the pages.

The plot moves right along with tons of difficult moments, unsure relationships, high tension scenes, and deadly stakes....in both senses of the word. The family weave is difficult, to say the least. And yet, there is an odd sense of bonding, although wholesome would never be the correct word. Friendship also takes rocky forms, and there's the problem of not always meeting parental expectations. But Leo stays true to herself, which is an odd balance in itself, and creates a character to root for from beginning to end.

I can only hope there will be a book two to see what Leo might be up against next.  

This review was featured on Twinkl as part of their Great & Ghostly Guide to Halloween.

And here he is...

Alexandra Foulkes is from Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands of England, and she’s lived in and around the Staffordshire Moorlands all her life, now with her boyfriend and their dog, Mac, who is just small enough to sit on the back of a broomstick (very convenient!). She works as an inclusion support assistant (a fancy term for TA) at a school where she used to run the library. Alexandra’s passion is amazingly fantabulous books for children. When she’s not reading and reading and reading, she’s writing her very own stories with chills, thrills, and maybe even a talking spider! Visit her online @FoulkesWrites.

Sneak a Peek at The Finest Lies by David J Naiman with Giveaway!


The Finest Lies
by David J. Naiman
October 14th 2021
YA Contemporary / Magical Realism


High schooler Nicole Hallett has just about had it with her brother Jay, so when a mysterious man appears with an offer to replace him with a better one, she doesn’t hesitate. Nicole has always been impulsive, but this time, she finds herself in predicament far worse than anything she’s experienced. Just like that, an average snow day—usually filled with hot cocoa and snowball fights—is commandeered by the stranger, who forces the siblings into a dangerous game.

Confronted by past reflections, tested by present complications, and threatened by future possibilities, Nicole has until the end of the day to disentangle the riddle of her life.

This suspenseful, yet winsome novel by award-winning author David J. Naiman explores the power of family and forgiveness. But take heed. The truth can cut like shards of glass, especially for those who’d rather avoid it. Sometimes, only the finest lies will do.

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The old TV sputtered and a fuzzy image of a peculiar man appeared on the screen. His eyes widened and sparkled. “Would you like a brand new brother?” a voice-over boomed. “Call now!” Above his head, the words CALL NOW flashed in golden lettering. At the bottom of the screen, a phone number scrolled.

Maybe I should call, Nicole thought. A brand new brother sounds perfect.

“That’s it. New and improved! Call now.”

Nicole smiled, sensing a personal connection as though this commercial spoke directly to her. She cradled her phone in her hands. A fingertip flicked across the screen without her even needing to concentrate. Her phone had long ago become an appendage, as integral as a foot or a kidney.

After Nicole entered the number, her finger hovered above the dial icon. Something held her back, but she couldn’t imagine what it could be. She might have guessed self-preservation had she any means to gauge the lurking danger. Had she any inkling her impetuous nature would fix her on a chaotic course beyond her control.

She did want a new brother. As long as he wasn’t like Jay, who always said things to upset her and never did what she wanted him to do. She thrust aside her unease and tapped the icon. Instead of a ring, Nicole heard more of a choking sound, a gasp as if someone strangled.

“Hello, Nicole. Are you ready to change your life?”

The voice on her phone was identical to the voice-over in the commercial. Nicole figured this guy must own the company or something. “Maybe,” she said. The man on the TV screen stared at her while she spoke. Nicole leaned to the left and right, and the man’s face tracked her each time. She hesitated. “How much does it cost?”

“Do you mean money? Oh, no. It won’t cost you any money. Not one cent. But there is a cost.”

“What is it?”

“Nothing for you to worry about, my dear. Nothing at all. Your satisfaction is guaranteed or your money back.”

“That seems fair. Wait, I thought you said—”

“Now, now. Don’t worry about a thing. We’ll simply replace your brother with a better one. This offer doesn’t come around every day. It is, to be candid, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” The man on the TV winked but not subtly. His head dipped so low that his oversized hat nearly slid off. “Decide quickly. Supplies are running out.”

The words CALL NOW lit up in a sickly yellow, casting a jaundiced glow across the face of the eccentric man with the whimsical hat and sparkling eyes.

“Then yes! What do I have to do?”

The man lifted his head. His lips gave a twitch. The voice answered, “Nothing more, nothing more. You’ve done it! Congratulations, my dear. Call the same number if your new brother malfunctions, and I’ll send an attendant straight away.” When he disconnected, the TV flicked itself off and Nicole heard her father’s voice.

“Nic, come downstairs, please. Jay has something he wishes to say.”

When Nicole arrived, she sagged with disappointment. Her brother looked the same. Same broad chest. Same confident grin. Stupid, worthless commercial. At least it didn’t cost her any money.

“I’m sorry, Nic,” Jay said. “I only wanted to use the new TV to kick you out. That was wrong of me. Please take the remote and accept my apology.”

Nicole stared open-mouthed. Jay appeared the same, his voice sounded the same, but this was not her brother. Sweet.

“Thanks,” she said.

He handed her the remote, flashed the kindest smile she had seen from him in years, and left the room. Nicole watched her videos in utter bliss. Once she was caught up, she decided to check on this new brother of hers. If he was going to be awesome, she might as well be friendlier. As she made her way upstairs, she thought about the number on her phone and doubted she would ever need to call it again.

Her brother’s door was ajar. Walking closer, she heard him chewing on something, maybe granola given all the crunching. She pushed the door open and stepped inside. Robot Jay took another bite of his phone and looked up at her. Metal and plastic bits ground together. He chewed slowly, savoring every morsel.

“Everything all right, my wonderful sister?” When she didn’t answer, he popped the rest of the device in his mouth and licked his fingers clean.

“Sure,” Nicole said, backing out of his room. “What could possibly be wrong?”

And here he is...

David J. Naiman is a best-selling independent author of award-winning books for children, teens, and adults including Jake, Lucid Dreamer, first-place winner of the Purple Dragonfly Book Award and the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards in pre-teen fiction and Didn’t Get Frazzled, humorous medical fiction written under the pen name David Z Hirsch. He is also a successful physician specializing in internal medicine and an unsuccessful speller specializing in vowels that sound identical to other vowels. He lives with his wife and two children in Maryland. Visit him at www.davidjnaiman.wordpress.com

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Monday, October 18, 2021

Review: Get You the Moon by Hasnita Singh

 Romance reigns in today's review...yes, a little of that, every now and then, is good for the soul. So, all of you young adult, high school romance fans, get ready because this might just be down your line.

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Get You The Moon book cover

by Hasnita Singh
YA Contemporary Romance
July 15, 2021



Scarlet Bridge is beautiful, intelligent, and ambitious. In her final year of high school, she has five goals she wants to achieve before graduation, and she won’t let anything – or anyone – stand in her way. Not even everyone’s favorite golden boy, Levi Henare.

Levi has it all – good looks, quick wit, and he is a rugby prodigy. And nothing gives him more pleasure than getting on Scarlet’s every last nerve.

When Scarlet accidentally dials Levi’s phone number, a chain of events that neither of them expected is set into motion.

Thrown together by a twist of fate, will Levi and Scarlet overcome the challenges of their final year at school, their mutual dislike of each other, and their own personal demons to successfully graduate?

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Back and forth banter turning into sweet romance makes this a read to get lost in and smile at by the end.

Scarlet needs to keep everything about her life on its best side if she wants to grasp her goals and head off to college. It wouldn't be as hard if all eyes didn't scrutinize her every move thanks to her older brother's mess up. Plus, she has the attitude of some other students at school to put up with. When she accidentally calls a guy with an amazing voice...and then, does it again...her life might take a very unexpected turn.

This is a super-sweet, high school romance set in New Zealand. It's written from two points of view, Scarlet and Levi, and slides between the two from one chapter to next. Both characters are wonderfully done, and both draw in with their warming personalities and quirks. The banter between the two make the chemistry complete and form a romance to root for.

While the book does center on the growing relationship between the two characters, there are also several tough themes addressed. Sexual harassment, PTSD, racism, suicide, and other themes come into play. None of them hit a graphic level, but they do slide into the story and give it an edge, which draws in naturally. So, the entire story flows very well. The only stumbling block is in several scene transitions, which jolt without any warning and took a second to realize what was happening. Otherwise, it's a cute story with fun characters, and something teen romance fans are going to enjoy. 

And here she is...
Hasnita Singh author picture

Hasnita Kiran Singh
is a twenty-one-year-old living in Auckland, New Zealand. As a university student, she spends most of her time procrastinating. As an Optical Assistant, she’ll do everything to convince you to get glasses. When she’s not writing (which is unfortunately too often), she can be found baking or trying out new restaurants. She loves her friends, being on time, and chocolate fondants as much as she loves reading. She is a proud feminist, typically sleep deprived, and a lover of the stars.

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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Review: Escape Book The Museum Heist by Stephane Anquetil

 Happy Sunday! Today's review is a mix of reading, mystery, and puzzles...an escape room in book form. As a kid, I enjoyed getting my hands on books which offered more than just a tale, and this one is just that.

by Stephane Anquetil
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Middle Grade Activity / Mystery
96 pages
ages 8 to 12

Overcome challenges, solve puzzles, and uncover the true culprit in the fourth installment of the Escape Book series!

What started as a typical family vacation takes a turn for the worse when you and your grandfather, a security guard at the local museum, find yourselves at the center of a serious scandal. It turns out that one of the museum’s masterpieces was stolen on the same night you and your grandfather were taking an after-hours tour—since you were the only two people there, you’re the prime suspects! To prove your innocence, you must now find the stolen masterpiece by observing, analyzing, and investigating like a real detective! Are you ready for an adventure?

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Mystery, clues, and detective fun make this an entertaining read with puzzles and surprises, too.

You are visiting your grandfather and accompany him to his job as a security guard at the museum. Unfortunately, several masterpieces are stolen while you and him take an after-hours peek at the displays. Now, you need to find clues and solve the puzzles to prove your innocence and discover who the real thief is.

This isn't my first 'escape room' in a book, but it's one of my favorites. I did review the first book in the series, but that doesn't have an impact on the second. In other words, these are stand-alones and can be tackled in any order. This book centers around a robbery at a museum and holds all sorts of thinking games, secret codes, and other riddles. Some are tougher than others, and it's a great fit for middle grader readers with lots of surprises.

While the puzzles are interesting and add thinking fun, the story also isn't bad. Unlike other escape room books, this one holds a tale, which is fleshed out as the detective goes along. There is a fair amount of text to create scenes and a plot, which go beyond just a simple puzzle book. This needs to be read in order to understand what's going on and how to solve the various problems. 

The only problem I saw was in finding the next section to turn to after a puzzle was solved. The section numbers run one after the other without page references. This makes for more flipping and searching than there has to be. But it isn't a problem really, either, since these run in numerical order. As said, it just takes a little more flipping.

This is a fun book for puzzle lovers, which adds a true story along with the mystery. I do recommend this one.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Review: Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior: An Ominous Threat by Cube Kid

I've had a schedule switch-a-roo and needed to shift one of my book forwards. For those who don't know, the publishing world is full of surprises!  This is fine with me, since I get to give everyone an early peek at this fun read. This is the 2nd book in a series, and yes, I did review the first one a while ago.(here's that review

Anyway, today's review is a graphic novel for Mine Craft fans...and I already know of a few who love it.

by Cube Kid
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Middle Grade Graphic Novel
96 pages
ages 8 to 12

Grab your pickaxes and jump back into the action in this second installment of the Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior graphic novel series.

The pixelated adventures continue in this graphic novel adaptation of the bestselling Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior series! Readers can reconnect with their favorite characters and the beloved Minecraft universe while enjoying a colorfully illustrated story.

In this installment, Runt and his unusual crew—a friendly zombie, a loyal wolf, and a clumsy human—embark on a quest to defeat the ender dragon . . . if they can go five minutes without getting lost, that is. But if vanquishing a legendary boss monster weren’t a big enough challenge, along the way the gang learns of an even more mysterious enemy lurking just around the corner. The second installment of this graphic novel series will knock your blocks off!



I read the first book in this series and would highly recommend anyone starting the series to start with that book, since the second one starts off where the first one left off. So, this isn't a stand-alone.

Runt and his new friends are off on their next quest, and, of course, things aren't going as planned. But the trio have their own way of doing things and determination pure. If  it were only this adventure, things might be somewhat simple, but their enemy is on their tail, too.

This book starts with little (no) introduction and launches from the assumption that book one was read, and while that's not really a problem for those reading the series as such, since this is aimed at kids, it would have been nice to have a re-cap or a little more lead in. I say this because my own kids often picked things like this up at the library or from other friends, and more times than not, wouldn't always get their hands on book one to begin with.  That said, Mine Craft fans are going to adore this book (and series).

Runt and his friends have just the right amount of determination, heart, and quirkiness to make the a fun bunch to follow and root for. Nothing seems to run perfectly for them, but it shouldn't. The scenes are easy for those who know the game to slide into and identify with...which makes the humor sit even better. Their dialogue is kept short, but their personalities still come through. This is a bunch, who many readers would love to go on an adventure with.

The illustrations are well done and bring every scene across well. The emotions are clear and the atmosphere comes across nicely. It was no problem to follow what was happening. But then, the text does work in a nice balance, giving just enough of the story to cover what the illustrations can't. 

It's an action-packed, humorous quest with moments of loss, triumph, and surprises. The 'enemy' is ridiculous, which he's supposed to be. This tale does center more or Maggie and the enemy's relationship, finding a very interesting and unexpected middle ground. It will be fun to see what happens with this bunch next.