Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Spark of Ash by Molly Lee!

Today's read gives way to a strong heroine and a mission to save life. I did read the first book in the series but skipped over the second, which probably means I'm going to have a few holes when tackling this last book in the series. It should hold quite a bit of action, tons of snark, demons, angels, magic, and...well, romance, I guess. It definitely should be a lot of fun if it's anything like book one was.

Ember of Night, #3
by Molly Lee
Entangled Teen
Young Adult Fantasy
400 pages

The Seven―the Divine beings meant to protect the world―just declared war. On me. They took Ray, my baby sister, and now they’re using my boyfriend to do their dirty work.

Well, screw that.

I may not be able to wipe them off the face of the earth now, but I know what can.

Thanks to an Ather connection, I know about the Seven Scrolls. An ancient incantation made by the Creator to counteract the Seven’s great power, scattered into pieces across the world.

With the help of my new crew, we’re on the hunt. And with each located scroll, I face new battles, bloodier and harder than I’ve ever known before. But now the stakes are even higher, because Ray has always been my bright light in the darkness, and Draven is my hope when all seems lost, and if I don’t get them back?

Well, then I might just become the scariest legend the world has ever known.



This book takes off where book two left off. While I did read book one of the series, I didn't read the second one, and that did cause more than a few holes when I picked up book three. So, these do need to be read in order.

Harley is just enjoying a few days calm with her soul mate, when he's suddenly pulled away by the Seven. With his memories removed, he kidnaps her younger sister to train her as a seer to serve the most powerful of the Seven. Harley is given a chance to save her sister, but must find the seven scrolls and give them to head of the Seven. But Harley has already accepted her destiny, unleashing not only her own unknown powers, but reviving her father's, the Devil's as well. Together with her friends, she mush find a way to stop the Seven, figure out if she can trust her father, and discover what her place in destiny truly is.

This is a quick-paced and easy read, which has something happening on every page. There is action, fight scenes, secrets, betrayal, family issues, romance, and much more. Harley is a no-nonsense character with amazing powers, who has grown into her position and is ready to take anyone on...even if it means she'll die trying. She protects those she loves fiercely and is holds life of anyone and anything dearly. She's a character to root for...may not have tons of depth, but she doesn't need it.

Romance is present but only in the beginning and grows again toward the end. This leaves Harley more than enough space to tackle the evil and learn to find her own place in things. So, action fans will enjoy this one as well as those who like a golden-romance, which by no means overpowers the tale. 

Friendship is golden as is family. Despite Harley's immense powers, she can't go it alone and does incorporate the help of those around her. The relationships are inspiring and make the entire time fun to follow. But then, there is always a wonderful back and forth in the dialogue to keep humor and snark as high as the action and tension. Even when a couple holes appear in the plot or something comes across as a bit to easily solved, the read is simply enjoyable and entertaining. And that's more than enough.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Review: The Adventures of Rumi and Bixby Bear by J.R. Rothstein

Today's read isn't a new or up-coming release, but rather one which has already been enjoyed by many a reader. Circling around friendship, this is the imaginative tale of a girl and her teddy bear as she travels to amazing places and the things she discovers. Doesn't that sound promising? (I thought so.) Plus, the artwork on the front cover drew me in with its sense of dreams and artistic flair. 

In other words, it's time to head off into adventure! 

by J.R. Rothstein
Illustrated by Nasim Jenabi
Redstone Publishing 
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8

The Adventures of Rumi and Bixby Bear is a fun and contemplative story about a child in search of friendship. With her friend, Bixby Bear, at her side, Rumi undertakes a great journey and discovers depth and wisdom within herself.



With a heart-felt tone and the longing of a child to understand more, these pages glide on a deeper discovery of friendship, the world around us, and the direction of life.

Rumi is hesitant to go to school, afraid that the other children might tease her, but when she gets there, she opens up with questions for her teacher, ones he can't completely answer. At home, her grandfather  gives her words of advice, and although loving, she's not sure she understands them, either. So, with her imaginative friend, she goes on a dreamful journey to discover what answers she can find.

This book is based on the poetry of the famous Persian poet, Rumi, and weaves into a tale about a young girl. That said, this tale follows along a deeper type of journey and incorporates more than a little food for thought. Younger audiences will have difficulty grasping what's going on, but slightly more mature readers (6+) will be able to pick up some of the meanings, and if nothing else, find a string to lead into discussions. The text is also more geared to this age group, due not only to the larger amount of words on each page (which do work well as a read-aloud) but the vocabulary also leans in this direction.

Bright illustrations break up the deeper flow of the words and help sink into the situations. When Rumi's imaginative journey begins later on, these balance with the text to create the experiences and moments, which broaden Rumi's horizons. It makes it clear what is happening and gives the listeners focus while the words flow by.

Love, warmth, hope, and exploration ring high on every page. While there are whimsical tones, these are light, but they are enough to keep the meaningful words from weighing down too much. I believe that the adults reading this one to the kids will have even more to think about than the listeners and, obviously, have a better grasp as to what's going on. But this is definitely a lovely way to introduce young listeners to this more poetic and meaning-of-life thought process and words. 

More about the book...

The Adventures of Rumi and Bixby Bear is a contemplative and educational picture book that takes the poetry of Rumi, the famous Persian poet, and turns it into a book on friendship and self-development that children and parents can understand. The story is a journey of discovering wisdom and depth within oneself that even adult readers would love. I have also developed a curriculum for teachers and parents to encourage conversations and discussions with children about the book (which includes games and coloring books). More details can be found on our website: http://www.rumiandbixbybear.com/

Here are also some thoughts from the Huffington Post:  https://thriveglobal.com/stories/1940902/

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Review: Gugulu, Little Bear Dares by Srividhya Lakshamanan

Today's read embraces so many fun things that I couldn't turn down taking a peek. Plus, isn't that animal on the front so adorable? And what a name! While this one does address kids' desires to become more independent and head out into the world a little bit more on their own, it also takes a look at lesser known animals and introduces young readers to them. 

In other words, it's time to head into the wild and see what we can find! 

by Srividhya Laksmanan
Illustrated by Akansha Krishnan
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

Go on a wild adventure with Gugulu, the sloth bear, as he takes on a journey deep inside the western ghats of India.

Gugulu's parents won't allow him to go to school alone. But he can't wait to explore the forest on his own. So one day, he runs ahead of his parents. And before he knows it, he ends up in a river filled with danger - first a roaring leopard, then a gang of gaurs, but soon he shrinks in fear. Will naughty Gugulu be able to reunite with his parents?

Gugulu, The Little Bear Dares, is a quirky, funny, beautifully illustrated story about new experiences and courageously facing challenges when encountered.



Animal fun swings high as a cute, little bear tries to prove himself independent and runs into more than a couple surprises on the way.

Gugulu has decided that it's time for him to head to school on his own...without his parents. After all, he's big, now, and doesn't need the help. All runs well enough until he comes to the river.

This is a cute tale about a sweet bear, and his desire to 'grow up'. Young readers/listeners will identify with his desire to prove that he can do some things on his own, even if his parents don't think he's ready. While some moments run smoothly, troubles do come, and the meeting with the parents is heart-warming as well as offers a sense of security and safety.

The illustrations are bright and bring across and animals with a sense of joy and energy. They are easy to identify, which is a must, since this book also introduces young readers to animals, they may not have run across before. While Gugulu has his adventures, he meets other animals along the way...many of them. At the end of the book, each one is again illustrated and shortly explained, so readers learn more about them.

This is a book written in rhyme, which flows well for the most part. There are also three word sounds or actions tossed in, which listeners can repeat and 'read' along with.

And here she is...

Srividhya is an award-winning children's author, entrepreneur and writer. She always had a passion for storytelling and started to write when she was eleven. ​Her early success came when one of her dramas got selected by the 'All India Radio'. She spent years reading and writing stories, giving her characters a bright sparkle. ​She spent 15 years in corporate jobs. Later, she founded and managed a fashion e-commerce company, Pink Hippo, before venturing into publishing.

Website - https://www.andbooks.in

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Review: Swift and Hawk Cyberspies by Logan Macx

Today's read is the first...yes, you read that right, the FIRST... in a new series. See, I can start a series in the beginning! This one aims for middle graders and centers around spies and action and high tension and more action and... Well, that's what the blurb claims, and I have no reason to doubt it, yet. These teens specialize in AI and robotics, and must be pretty athletic, too, considering all of the amazing scenes they will find themselves in.  Yep, I'm expecting action pure and have the Mission Impossible theme song playing through my head non-stop.

Ready to dance on the wild side of life?

Swift and Hawk, Book 1
by Logan Macx
Walker Books 
Middle Grade Spy Fiction
352 pages
ages 8 to 12

An addictive new spy series for Alex Rider fans who love breathless plot, cutting-edge tech and action-packed adventure.

When their families mysteriously disappear, Swift and Hawk, teen experts in AI and robotics, are recruited by the secretive Möbius Programme to crack an unbreakable code. They are immediately plunged into a life-and-death rescue mission, that takes them from hidden tunnels beneath the British Museum, to the dangerous docklands of Amsterdam in search of the mysterious ship Nightfall. Caught in a treacherous world of spies and saboteurs, Swift and Hawk will be pushed to the limit as they follow a trail that leads to the remote island of Spøkelsøy, and straight into the hands of a dark and chilling enemy.




Action? Yes! High tech pure? Oh yeah! An evil villain with power and chilling goals? You bet! As spy stories go, this one packs in all of these things and more.

Caleb lives with his CIA mother and attends a school for gifted tech-kids in Britain. When informants visit their home and insist they go with them to a unknown place, Caleb's mother distracts them long enough for him to escape. After finding his best friend, Caleb learns that families of high tech talents are being kidnapped, and him and his friend are both instated into a secret organization. Their code names are Swift and Hawk, and the two of them are about to go on a dangerous mission, which chases them around the world and takes them to extremes.

This is one for spy fans who love action, action, and more action. There's never a boring moment, there's tons of intrigue, and high tension is a given. The villain fits this mix perfectly and the two main characters are definitely kept on their toes the entire way through. There is quite a bit of high-tech included, but then, Swift and Hawk both excel on this end. While this could leave the reader confused, everything is described with enough detail to make sure not to loose the reader, and yet, it never grows boring. The action scenes flow in the same way, giving detailed enough accounts to make them come to life but never going over board either. It's a quick-paced read, which doesn't loose the reader in the slightest.

There is a strong friendship between Swift and Hawk, and that is inspiring. The two have slightly different skill sets and harmonize very well. They enjoy what they do, love a challenge and will do anything to get their families back. In other words, they are easy to root for from beginning to end. The only slight thing which bothered me was that neither really gained a personal connection with the reader. The first chapter already starts with Caleb, aka Swift, watching the strangers talk to his mother, and never lets the reader really get to know him, his surroundings, or his normal life. It's about the same for his best friend Hawk. A tiny bit more character building would have really drawn in.

The ending comes as fast and hard as the rest of the tale, leaving off in an exciting cliff-hanger. Hopefully, book two will be out soon because readers are going to want to immediately grab it up and see where things go next. 

And here he is...

Logan Macx is rumoured to be an ex-spy formerly with the British Secret Intelligence Service, specialising in cyber communications and unexplained events. His whereabouts are unknown at this time but he is in periodic communication with the ghost writers of this series – Edward Docx and Matthew Plampin. He can sometimes be spotted at @LoganMacx1.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Review: The Power of the Pearl Earrings by Linda Trinh

Today's read dives into ancient warrior fighting (a favorite of mine), family, Vietnam culture, and elementary/middle school problems. This, I believe, is going to be a three book series, and I got my hands on book two. Nope, I didn't read the first one...because I seldom do that (it seems). This is a chapter book and meant for the slightly older end of that age group...so those with a good handle on their words.

Ready to kick and head into school yard adventure?

The Nguyen Kids, Book 2
by Linda Trinh
Illustrated by Clayton Nguyen
Annick Press
Chapter Book
128 pages
ages 6 to 9

OCTOBER 18th!!!

I touch my earrings and feel a rush of wind. I can almost hear Grandma Nội’s laughter through them.

In Book 2, spontaneous and energetic Liz, the middle Nguyen sibling, is determined to prove she is just as important and brave as the fierce Trung Sisters, freedom fighters in ancient Vietnam that she learned about from Grandma Nội. That is, until the new boy at school threatens her plans by stealing her best friend and excluding her because she’s a girl. But Liz finds help and a powerful reminder of her Vietnamese heritage where she least expects it—in her Grandma Nội’s pearl earrings. By harnessing their mysterious power, Liz decides to show Michael exactly what girls are capable of.

You can find it:
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59880644-the-power-of-the-pearl-earrings

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Power-of-the-Pearl-Earrings-Linda-Trinh-Clayton-Nguyen/9781773217116

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1773217119


Note: I did not get a chance to read the first book in the series, but this wasn't an issue since it was no problem to dive right into the tale. Reading it as a series would have offered some background information, however, so I would tend to start with book one. Also, the copy I received did not have the illustrations, yet.

This tale takes a look at Liz, who is the middle child of three siblings, loves ancient freedom fighters, and comes from Vietnam heritage. She enjoys playing fighter with her best friend and is delighted when two new kids arrive in her class, but her joy ends soon. The new boy makes fun of her, is great at everything, and steals her best friend, starting an all boys club with him. Luckily, Liz has her Grandma's earrings because if she can figure out how their power works, she might be able to get everything sorted out again.

Liz is an energetic girl with a huge imagination and big heart. She struggles a bit with her position as the middle sibling and tries to make herself independent from her older sister, while irritated that her baby brother gets quite a bit of attention. Her popularity at school is understandable since she is a ball of sunshine, despite these issues, and has tons of fun. The Vietnam culture is also woven in very naturally and introduces young readers to different aspects. I especially enjoyed the addition of traditions, beliefs, and such. There's always something happening in the tale, and it's interesting to see how Liz will handle it all.

There are tons of messages packed into this read, which snuggle in with the plot. First, there's racism, which Liz's aunt faces with her customers, and Liz does make a statement herself towards others, which falls into this category. Then, there's the boys looking down on girls. There's the middle child syndrome. She has problems with her best friend alienating her and turning against her. We can't forget the bullying, and then, there's a 'new' kid issue as well. All of this wraps into the short read, ignoring the saying that 'less is often more'. While the story and Liz are cute, the messages gave the read the feel of a book on a mission and didn't explore or round some of them up as well as it could have.  Add, at times, choppy writing flow, and it slid a bit short of its potential. 

Still, I can recommend it. It's a cute read, and Liz is an awesome character. Despite the rough areas, the rest flows well and is entertaining. Liz's love for martial arts is inspiring, her warmth toward others is inviting, and it is a fun tale in so many ways. I recommend giving this one to those who are almost ready to cross the border from chapter books to middle grade reads and do think readers will enjoy it.

And here they are...

LINDA TRINH is a Vietnamese Canadian author who writes fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She explores identity, cultural background, and spirituality. Her work has appeared in anthologies and literary magazines. She lives with her family in Winnipeg.

CLAYTON NGUYEN is an illustrator and animation student at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.