Saturday, February 27, 2021

Review: Sakamoto's Swim Club by Julie Abery

I love learning about little events in history which few have ever heard anything about, and this book does exactly that....while inspiring, too. 


SAKAMOTO'S SWIM CLUB
How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory
by Julie Abery 
Illustrated by Chris Sasaki
Kids Can Press
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

COMING...
MAY 4th!!!

The inspirational and little-known story of a dedicated teacher who coached Hawaiian swimmers all the way to the Olympics, beautifully told in simple rhyme. When the children of workers on a 1930s Maui sugar plantation were chased away from playing in the nearby irrigation ditches, local science teacher Soichi Sakamoto had an idea. He offered to take responsibility for the children --- and then he began training them how to swim. Using his science background, Sakamoto devised his own innovative coaching techniques: he developed a strict practice regime for the kids, building their strength and endurance by using the ditch water's natural current. The children worked hard under the dedicated Sakamoto's guidance, and their skills improved. They formed a swim club and began to dominate in swimming events around the world. And then one day, the proud Sakamoto saw an impossible dream come true --- Olympic gold! In a unique approach that makes for a moving read-aloud, Julie Abery uses limited rhyming text to tell the little-known story of Coach Sakamoto and the Three-Year Swim Club. The stunning art of award-winning and highly acclaimed Chris Sasaki perfectly complements the lyrical storytelling. This inspiring picture book offers excellent lessons in perseverance, believing in yourself and not letting others define you, while wonderfully capturing how one person can make a huge difference in the lives of others. In highlighting the team's “bright and loud” presence at events, with their Hawaiian dress and ukulele, it also encourages children to take pride in their heritage and view it as a strength. An author's note with photos and more information tell the fuller story of Soichi Sakamoto and his Three-Year Swim Club. 


GOODREADS  /   B&N   /    BOOK DEPOSITORY   /   AMAZON


BOOK BLINK
                                             * based on a true story
                                             * beautiful illustrations
                                             * inspiring tale
                                             * text appropriate even for younger listeners


MY TIDBITS

With few, poetic words and lovely illustrations, this book reveals a little known tale from history in a way that will inspire even younger listeners.

While the plantation workers in Hawaii work hard under the sun, their children swim in the irrigation ditches. At least, until the officers come and chase them away. A science teacher, Sakamoto, steps in and makes a deal, where he watches the kids, and they're allowed to swim in the ditches. When the corporation builds a pool, Sakamoto's dreams mount with the founding of a club with his swimmers. And from there, they chase an Olympic dream.

Often times, picture books based on historic events can be a bit on the heavy side...when it comes to text and information. This book is not. I was very surprised to find that the author manages to build the scenes, create the story, and draw listeners in by using a poetic and very short text. Instead, the illustrations flow right along with the general story to allow the culture, situations, and emotions to come across. And it's just what this age group needs and will understand.

Then, for those who do want to dive deeper into the historical events, there's a longer summary at the end. 

In other words, it's a wonderful dive into history, offers insight into another culture, inspires listeners to reach for their own dreams, and is enjoyable to read/listen to as well.

Sneak Peek: In Command by Aileen Erin with Giveaway

 


In Command 
An Aunare Chronicles Novella #2.5
by Aileen Erin
 Ink Monster LLC
YA Dystopian













Amihanna di Aetes is used to fighting, surviving, and relying on her strength to get through the hard times. She thought the worst was over when she accepted her engagement to Lorne ni Taure, the High King of the Aunare, and claimed her place as the future High Queen.

It should be easy to slide into her new role. How hard can it be living in luxury with your soulmate after growing up alone on the streets?

But the more she learns about the Aunare and their politics, the more she realizes that the true test of her strength is just beginning.

Amihanna di Aetes is in for the battle of her life if she wants the Aunare to accept her.

*In Command is a 65K novella that takes place between Off Balance and On Mission (Books 2 & 3 of the main Aunare Chronicles). The series can be enjoyed without reading this story, but you can’t enjoy this story without reading the series.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play


SNEAK PEEK

“Almya. I’m not wearing—”

A throat cleared, and I didn’t even turn around. “Roan. Best friend or not, I’m going to murder you if you keep coming in here.”

“Not Roan.”

I glanced over my shoulder. Lorne.

He was leaning against the edge of the door, watching me with his aquamarine gaze that seemed to see through me. My heart picked up, and I could feel myself giving him a stupid grin, but I couldn’t stop it. “Hey.”

“Hi.” His gaze ran down my body and slowly back up, heating every inch of me. “As fashion-forward as I usually am, I think it’s probably best if you find something else for the meeting. Quickly.”

I turned back to Almya, who was still smiling—although now it looked too forced—and holding out two dresses for me to choose from.

She held one out a little farther, giving it a little shake. “This one would look lovely on you, and it’s perfect for the—”

I shook my head. “If you would just listen to me—”

“Amihanna. My love,” Lorne said softly. “I’ve been standing here for a moment, and I heard more than enough about what’s going on. The thing to remember—”

“Is that I hate dresses,” I said to Almya, hoping that she would listen. “Hate. Dresses.”

“That’s not what I was going to say.”

I turned to him, annoyed and struggling to remember that I wasn’t annoyed at him. “What?”

“The thing to remember is that you are the future queen. Not Almya.” He gave her a short, pitying glance before focusing on me again. “You decide what you do, what you say, what you wear.” He slowly walked toward me as he spoke. “So, put something on already.” He brushed a quick kiss on my lips.

Author Bio:

Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd–from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


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Friday, February 26, 2021

Review: Origins by Lyla Owens

 Today's book drew me in way more than I expected...and I'm actually reading the entire set now. These characters are over-the-top in so many ways, sliding into almost a sort of cozy-reverse-harem category...a clean one, so far, too (and I'm most of the way through book three). It's such an odd mix of the usual RH trope and...well....cliche? Quirkiness? And yet, serious danger? 

Anyway, it's Friday, and I'm determined to chop some thorn bushes along the edge of my pastures this weekend...or continue to read books four and five? I'm betting those bushes will still be there next week if I give in to temptation and continue to read on.

But instead of rambling, I'll let you read on right now!

Origins

Origins
The Grimm Cases #1
By Lyla Oweds
YA/NA Paranormal Mystery




 

The things I see aren’t for the faint of heart.

And I am no longer willing to ignore them. Not even when my family, and my best friend, tell me to keep quiet about what’s happening. They say people will think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am.

But the spirit haunting my professor’s house is definitely trying to tell me something, and I’m the only one who can see it.

The one person who can help me is my best friend's brother. But I don’t know if I can trust him or his friends. Or if I can step outside the protective bubble I’ve built around myself.

At this point it’s a toss up: the ghosts will kill me or my panic attacks will.

Either way, I figure I’m going to die.


Links:
- Goodreads
- Bookbub
- Amazon

BOOK BLINK

                                                  * reverse harem direction
                                                  * slow-burn romance
                                                  * very quirky main character
                                     

MY TIDBITS

Magic, mystery, paranormal and romance meet a character with tons of heart and a very quirky personality to create a gripping and yet easy read.

Bianca has lived an extremely sheltered life, has one very-best friend, and isn't exactly a people-person, anyway. When her best friend refuses to listen to her request for help, she's not sure what to do. She knows he won't help her, since he believes the ghosts she claims to see are part of her psychological issues...she's been on medication, after all, for years. But this ghost is trying to kill her. Since she's her him mention that his brother has an interest in the paranormal, she steps way out of her comfort zone and seeks him out. She never expects that this small move will flip her life upside down and then some.

I picked up this one simply due to the title...and half-reading the surmise...and completely enjoyed it. While I expected ghosts, magic and romance, I did not expect the lightness this tale holds. The main character isn't only super-extreme naive, her thought processes are all over the place. I'd compare it to a imagination in hyper-drive with way too many TV shows or books used as the basis. Her logic is through the roof, her reactions all over the place...and it makes her very endearing in the quirkiest of ways.  And yet, the ghosts are not humorous, but really pose a threat.

There are all sorts of secrets, evil agendas and impossible to guess secrets. Little by little things start to come to light, but just as many more layers are added to the intrigue. It makes it hard to put the book down. Unfortunately, this is one of those books, which doesn't wrap things up at the end, but left me wanting to dive right into the next one to see what happens next.

Now, to the romance. This does slide into the reverse harem category...and it's super cute. Of course, the guys are gorgeous, muscular, and her perfect protectors. But they are quirky in their own ways. They definitely have more logic behind their actions and build the logic and grit, where she flows through the clouds. The cliches reign, and it's exactly what works. This is very slow burn with nothing to worry about on that end for young adult readers. Not even close. With this main character, flirting kind of bounces right off, and leaves lovely frustration for the other parties behind. It's simply a fun read with just enough darkness to grab and hold


All books in the series:
Home (The Grimm Cases prequel novella)Origins (The Grimm Cases #1)Ghost (The Grimm Cases #2)Blood (The Grimm Cases #3)Hidden(The Grimm Cases #4)Balance (The Grimm Cases #5)

- Home (The Grimm Cases prequel novella)
- Origins (The Grimm Cases #1)
- Ghost (The Grimm Cases #2)
- Blood (The Grimm Cases #3)
- Hidden(The Grimm Cases #4)
- Balance (The Grimm Cases #5)

Get the first 3 books and the novella Home as a box set!
Mu
Mu is the box set collection which combines books 1-3 as well as the novella Home in one handy box set. You can buy it here.


And here she is...

Lyla Oweds is a paranormal romance author who resides in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. She grew up near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and has a deep appreciation for the paranormal, hauntings, and Edgar Allan Poe. As such, she loves all things fantasy, mystery, crime, and horror.

She is the author of the Paranormal Reverse Harem series, The Grimm Cases and related novellas. She has also published the first book of Gloria Protean’s story, The Red Trilogy. You can find out more about her current and upcoming works at her website, http://lylaoweds.com.
When not reading, writing, or working as a web programmer, Lyla can be found doing adult-y things such as being a mom, decorating the house, and baking. She also frequently enjoys makeup videos, massages, wine, and coffee.

Author links:
- Website
- Facebook
- Instagram
- Amazon
- Goodreads

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Happy Book Birthday, Skeletons by Natalie Rodriguez with Giveaway!

 


Skeletons
by Natalie Rodriguez
 February 26th 2021
YA Contemporary, Thriller








 

When was the last time you confronted the skeletons in your closest?

Immediately following book one, “Elephant,” Matthew “Matty” Smith awakens from his coma and discovers that his worst nightmare is all true: his grandmother, Jamie, and Derek have gone missing and his mother murdered his father and grandfather years ago.

With the hospital placing him on lockdown, including no visitation rights by his loved ones such as his best friend, Lisa, Matty finds himself deteriorating into a state of the abyss, consumed with the secrets of his family. Convinced that it was the ‘stranger’ who kidnapped his grandmother and friends, no one believes him. The hospital only believes that Matty is slipping into a toxic mental state, repeating the cycle of his family.

Until one day, Lisa helps Matty escape the hospital.

On the run from Dr. Brown, Officer Barry, and the town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Matty and Lisa set off to find their friends and Lucia and for answers on who the ‘stranger’ is. Once they unmask who the ‘stranger’ is, Matty continues to unravel the deepest secrets of what was supposed to be forever hidden in the Smith family as well as the town.

This story is for those who feel their voice is unheard and for children, teenagers, and adults who never had the chance to heal from their pain.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

DELICATELY, MATT’S EYES OPENED to a world of white haze. All the objects were silhouettes. That was until, Dr. Brown poked through the gust of blurriness.

“Thank God! You’re up,” he wheezed.

Matt peered around. The sunlight poured into Room 402, inch by inch. He was in the room as usual. The streaks of sunlight hit the edge of the hospital bed before it dazzled on his skin. His skin was cold and so…fair. Slimmer, shades of purple and pink concaved his cheekbones—a shade of baby blue muddled his skin.

“Ah,” Matt groaned, once Dr. Brown flashed a miniature flashlight back and forth at his eyes.

At least the reaction was a good sign—the teenage patient could see.

Then, a nurse closed the curtains. It was back to the darkened and sinister atmosphere that gobbled up Matt.

“I don’t feel too well,” he said, barely audible, as the middle of his bottom lips splintered with red.

Another nurse dabbed a tissue against his mouth. He took control of it, as though he was refusing another medical employee’s touch.

“It’s because you’ve been in a coma for four weeks,” Dr. Brown chimed in with his patient.

“I…What?”

Matt scanned the room until his vision settled upon what should have been Captain Obvious to him. His wrists, ankles, and chest were no longer strapped to the bed. Instead, all three areas of his body were wrapped-up. The white puffy bandages resembled the texture of clouds on a springtime afternoon.

While Matt’s eyes grew lukewarm, he hoisted his noodle size wrists closer to his eyes. “Wha—Wha—What happened?” he asked.

“You had an anxiety attack and went into shock…” It seemed that Dr. Brown dreaded the moment, even though he had scripted out his dialogue for when Matt reawakened, like any good doctor would do.

“Sorry, it’s just…I’m not sure…Matt, I’m not sure just how much you remember at all.”

The outside world. It was breathtaking, as the cotton ball clouds sailed across the sky like ships out to sea.

“What’s the date?” Matt asked moments later.

It appeared that the truth cuffed at Dr. Brown’s heart. “August 5th,” he said.

Matt winced at the impossible and yet, the possible. He broke down into tears and sheltered his face. Just then, his palms met a rigid paper that was on the bottom of his lip. It made sense now—he was out of it, unaware of what was a possibility…and the impossible…

He cried even more.

“Your lip bled on and off. The white bandage cloth was too big.” Slowly, but surely, Dr. Brown reached out for his patient. He slid his fingers atop Matt’s hand and gave it a pat. “Thankfully Lisa brought in a Spiderman bandage. She said you’re a fan of the franchise. I heard there’s going to be another installment…”

Dr. Brown gave a nervous chuckle. Cat scrabbled onto Matt’s tongue, left speechless and almost…numb.

“You know,” Dr. Brown started again, “she comes to visit you almost every day. Usually around lunchtime. She’ll be real happy that you’re awake.”

He did not reply.

“Look, Matt, I know you’re exhausted”—Dr. Brown selected his words cautiously—“I get that. You’ll need more rest. I just hope you can talk to us. Whenever you’re ready.”

The pain took over Matt, as his leg gave a spasm. “I don’t understand how time flies by so…fast…”

Silence.

“Your heart was beating in a peculiar pattern,” Dr. Brown said. “At first, it was pumping at a rapid rate. And then, it was beating…slowly. And then, it went quickly again.”

Off the doc’s studying look, Matt asked, “What?”

“I just can’t get that image out of my head. After Lisa was removed from the room, we discharged the bed straps from your body when you began to lose…You lost a lot of blood.”

Matt’s eyes descended to his wrists; his mind illustrated all the possibilities and what the memory for both Dr. Brown and his colleagues must have appeared like: nurses and doctors rotated and took his pulse, as well as patched up the holes where the blood oozed out.

For some reason, Matt saw it. He imagined that his own blood was a zombie-gut neon green, just like the classic horror films.

But it frightened him, and he shut his eyes to erase the horrific illustration. The image stayed with him anyhow.

“Matt?” Dr. Brown’s voice echoed through Matt’s state of horror.

“Where was I bleeding?” It was mostly rhetorical, as Matt tried to digest the imminent response. “Where was the blood coming from?”

When Matt’s eyes peeled open, they were red with angst. Dr. Brown pointed to the upper half of his patient’s chest.

“The scars,” Dr. Brown answered. “Lisa—she swore you were dead when she saw us trying to stop the blood.” He sniffled and coughed, as though the rest of the alphabet clogged up his throat. “We all saw the scars when the blood eventually…came to a stop.”

Matt glanced away. For a moment, he almost fooled himself while the tears streamed down his face.

Dr. Brown was tentative until, “A worldwide search was put out two weeks ago. Matt…” Compressing his fist with his mouth, he prevented a scream. “Matt…”

Cat got his tongue.

Matt noticed and watched as anxiety and pain consumed his doctor’s shaken body. Before the Spiderman bandage detached from Matt’s cherry rose lips, Dr. Brown ascended to his feet.

“Excuse me,” was all he said before he scampered out of Room 402.

“Dr. Brown?” Matt listened to his doctor’s fancy schmancy shoes swerve across the tile. The fretful voices of nurses and doctors echoed throughout the hallway as they called out for their boss’s attention.

“Doctor…” Even Matt’s voice was lost. “Brown?”

Wherever his doctor fled, Matt saw no other reason but to wait…and wait for him. He sniffled, and with a revelation, he gasped. He remembered…and his eyes returned to the cheese holes in the ceiling. ‘They’re missing…They believe you. You are not or will ever be alone again.’

Author Bio:

Natalie Rodriguez is an award-winning writer, director, and mental health and anti-violence/trauma advocate based in Los Angeles, CA. In 2014, she graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio-Television-Film. Her first experience in entertainment was an internship at the Conan O'Brien show and Peter Guber's Mandalay Pictures, where she worked at the offices of producers, Matthew Rhodes ("Cherry," "Men in Black: International") and Academy Award-winner, Cathy Schulman ("Sharp Objects," "Crash").

Natalie was also a panelist at events, including Google, Hispanicize, and YouTube, where she has shared her story as a writer, filmmaker, and a female working in the entertainment industry. Some of her previous writing work can be found in publications such as the HuffPost Blog, Thrive Global, Anxiety Resource Center, Opposing Views, NowThis News, Zooey Deschanel's Hello Giggles, The Mighty, and more.

In 2017, she founded her production company, Extraordinary Pictures, focusing on both films, television, digital series, and social issue projects. The company has a list of projects in its roaster, including development on a TV sitcom, "The D," which placed in top-ten for best comedy screenplays at Stage 32. At the moment, Natalie's second directorial feature film, "Howard Original," is in post-production and set for an August 2020 release date on YouTube Premium. The film is based on the award-winning short film about a washed-up screenwriter named Howard, who encounters more than just selling a story, a studio rejection, and writer's block when his pet cat comes to life.

Natalie's directorial feature film, "The Extraordinary Ordinary," which she also wrote, produced, and was the executive producer on, is making its round through the festival circuit. The film deals with young adults, mental health awareness, and the aftermath of trauma. The film won 'Best Film About Women's Empowerment' at the Glendale International Film Festival and scored nominations in Best Director, Best Female Director, and Best Picture. The film also had a sold-out world premiere screening at the Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival (LADFF), winning 'Best Performance' by the leading actress, Maddison Bullock. Further details on the project can be found @theextraordfilm, including recent film festival awards and nominations.

Her other screenplays and films have also been featured and placed in the final rounds at HollyShorts Film Festival, NALIP: Latino Lens Film Festival, ShortsTV, Stage 32: Comedy Screenplay, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival, Indie Night Film Festival, Hollywood Screenplay Contest, Table Read My Screenplay - Austin Film Festival, and others.

Natalie was most recently an ambassador for Jen Zeano Designs (JZD), a clothing company in association with USA Networks. While she continues to build her creative background, Natalie is always open to collaborating with other artists and advocates. Currently, she awaits the publication of her first young adult novel this April 2020, "Elephant," a story about four childhood best friends who uncover a family secret. The book was also a finalist at Clare Books' the Binge-Watching Cure II contest for 'Best Novel.'.

Goodreads / Instagram / Twitter


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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Review: The Clothesline Code by Janet Halfmann

February's slowly drawing to an end (where did it go?), and that also means Black History Month is coming to a close. But I didn't want to leave off without presenting one more gem, which not only dives into history but holds an interesting, little known event as well. Not only kids will enjoy this one, but I think adults will also find this one inspiring.



THE CLOTHESLINE CODE
The Story of Civil War Spies Ann And Dabney Walker
by Janet Halfmann
Illustrated by Trisha Mason
Brandylane Publishers
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 6 to 10








Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker didn't have to risk their lives to spy for the Union army. The couple had already risked everything to escape slavery themselves. But in early 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the couple was determined to help defeat slavery for everyone—no matter the risk. Together, they created a secret code disguised as laundry on a clothesline. Their plan was incredibly dangerous: it required Lucy Ann to sneak into Confederate territory to steal military secrets, while Dabney took the vital information she gathered to the Union army. This true story of sacrifice and bravery shows us that when we have courage and compassion for the world around us, even the simplest items can become powerful tools for change.



GOODREADS   /    BOOK DEPOSITORY   /    AMAZON   /     B&N



BOOK BLINK


                                              * beautifully illustrated and true to time frame

                                              * understandable for age group

                                              * offers more facts at end



MY TIDBITS


I'm always excited to find books, which deliver little-known yet very interesting facts from history...and that in a way younger readers can understand. 

Dabney joined the Union forces and learned how they used a flag to communicate over distances. Wanting to help, he and his wife developed a plan to gain even more information on the Confederate army's movements. After developing their own secret code according to how his wife, Ann, hung laundry, she snuck across the river, and found a way to be employed as a wash-women. There, she signaled the movements of the Confederate soldiers at a huge risk to herself.


Not only does this book present a historic occurrence in a way young readers will understand but does so in an interesting way. The text is a little long for younger listeners, but those ages 6 and up will enjoy the tale, either as a read-aloud or on their own (when they are more sure of their words). The author keeps the tale flowing, allowing the facts to slide in without ever letting the tale slow down. But then, this is an interesting tale, anyway. Plus, it's easy to understand the threat and cheer for the couple even when the tension mounts.


One of my favorite things about this book are the illustrations. These are very well done and do a great job at bringing the time period across. The illustrations go hand-in-hand with the text and bring the tale to life. At the end, there is more information for anyone wanting to dive a little deeper into the historical moment.                    



And here she is...
 

Janet Halfmann is an award-winning children's author who strives to make her books come alive for young readers and listeners. Many of her picture books are about animals and nature. She also writes picture book biographies about little-known people of achievement. 

Recent titles by Janet include The Clothesline Code: The Story of Civil War Spies Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker; A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch!; The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls (Chapter Book for Grades 3-7); Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School; Grandma Is a Slowpoke; Animal Teachers; Eggs 1, 2, 3: Who Will the Babies Be?; Home in the Cave; Star of the Sea; Good Night, Little Sea Otter; Fur and Feathers; Little Skink's Tail; and Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story. Janet has written more than forty fiction and nonfiction books for children.

Before becoming a children's author, Janet was a daily newspaper reporter, children's magazine editor, and a creator of coloring and activity books for Golden Books. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of six. When Janet isn't writing, she enjoys gardening, exploring nature, visiting living history museums, and spending time with her family. She grew up on a farm in  Michigan and now lives in South Milwaukee, WI.

 

You can find more info about the book on my website: https://www.janethalfmannauthor.com/the-clothesline-code.