Saturday, December 3, 2022

Today's read... The Mice Before Christmas by Anne L. Watson

Today's read take a spin on the well-known Christmas story by Clement Clarke Moore. I've always been a fan of holiday mouse tales and couldn't pass on giving this one a peek. Ready to see if it is one to grab up and snuggle down with?



THE MICE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
A Mouse House Tale of the Night Before Christmas 
by Anne L. Watson
Illustrated by Wendy Edelson
Skyhook Press
Picture Book / Holiday
36 pages
ages 4 to 8



"'Twas the night before Christmas,
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse."
 
Everyone knows these lines from Clement Clarke Moore's classic poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" or "The Night Before Christmas." But how many know why all those mice were already in bed, or what they were up to before that?
 
Here at last is a companion poem to reveal all: The holiday hustle and bustle in the mouse house since early that morning. The evening party for all the mouse friends and relations, with presents, feasting, and dancing. And to top it all off, a visit from Santa Mouse himself!
 
Never before told, this mice-eye story is sure to find a place in your heart beside the original classic.


GOODREADS  /   AMAZON   /   B&N   


MY TIDBITS

The hustle and bustle of Christmas takes on wonderful, mice charm in a nod toward the well-known poem, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

The book starts with a few quick words from the author, explaining how this tale is inspired from the traditional poem, but with a very distinct flair and direction. Then, it dives right in...and what a gorgeously illustrated book it is!

A bit heavier on the text than some picture books, this makes a nice read aloud to cuddle up with on or before Christmas Day. It's written in rhyme and flows usually very well. The entire thing takes on the same style as the Night Before Christmas, sliding in some vocabulary, which might need explaining. This also builds the word knowledge without bogging down and ruining the read. It does get a little long for restless listeners, but great slightly older ones in the intended audience range.

My favorite part of this book is the illustrations. They are extremely well done, hold tons and tons of details to make revisiting fun, and carry the some traditional style as the writing. It's a treat to gaze at these as the lively mice get ready for the holidays.


And here they are...

Anne L. Watson is the author/illustrator of "Katie Mouse and the Perfect Wedding," "Katie Mouse and the Christmas Door," "The Secret of Gingerbread Village," and other children's books, as well as the author of numerous craft books and novels for adults. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her husband and fellow author, Aaron Shepard.
 
Wendy Edelson is the award-winning illustrator of "The Baker's Dozen," "Quackling," "Christmas Truce," "Which Shoes Do You Choose?", and many more children's books. She has applied her talent to a wide range of illustration projects, including picture books, pet portraits, posters, and puzzles. Among her clients have been Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, the Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the U.S. Postal Service, Cricket Magazine, McGraw-Hill Education, and the American Library Association.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Today's read... Snowlands by Morr Meroz

Today's read is coming out in just a few days, and this is one I'm just going to say—awesome! Yep, here's another runner for my Favorites of 2022 list.

And now, I'm going to seal my lips and let you read through all of the book info before hitting my review...and then, there's no holding back because I am excited about this one.




SNOWLANDS
A Blood Moon, Book One
by Morr Meroz
Illustrated by Collin Fogel
The Snowlands Company
Upper Middle Grade Animal Fantasy / Graphic Novel
210 pages
ages 9 to 12

COMING...
DECEMBER 7th!!!



A brand-new, full-color graphic novel series for animal fantasy fans that delivers a daring adventure and a mysterious threat that has animals–prey and predator alike–disappearing.

An orphaned white wolf cub exiled from her pack.
A lone snow leopard searching for her missing cub.
A bumbling young Pallas’s cat who can’t hold a tune.

In the midst of a brutal winter in the unforgiving Snowlands the mountain sheep begin to go missing. Without their primary food source, the wolf pack faces starvation and blame falls on Feba, an orphaned wolf cub whose white fur the elders see as a bad omen.

When pack leaders vote to banish Feba, and perhaps worse, she runs off into the icy wilderness just as the other wolf cubs go missing. Lost in the treacherous mountains, Feba stumbles upon Usha, a snow leopard searching for her missing cub. While Usha wants nothing more than to continue her journey alone, she grudgingly allows Feba and a skittish young wild cat, Batu, to follow her.

With a snowy trail full of deadly obstacles ahead, the unlikely trio sets out to find the Seeress, a magical being Usha hopes can find her missing son. Each step takes Usha, Feba, and Batu deeper into danger where they encounter other creatures–some helpful, some deceitful–and uncover a widespread peril in the mountains, the fate of the missing cubs, and what having a family truly means.


GOODREADS   /   AMAZON   /   B&N   


MY TIDBITS

Action, heart, danger, friendship, and family love mix with evil plots of revenge to form an exciting adventure, while fighting to survive snow and ice.

Feba has never fit in with the rest of the wolf pack thanks to her white fur and the loss of her mother at birth. When food grows scarce and wolves start to die from a mysterious beast, she's blamed for the 'curse' and forced to leave. As a cub, her survival in the cold landscape is anything but guaranteed, but when she runs across two possible friends, her hopes grow despite the circumstances. But there's a much larger and more dangerous plot leaving death in its wake, and Feba is more a part of it than she knows. 

I usually don't compare books to other reads, tales, films and whatnots, but this one reminded me of The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and Ice Age (without the slap-stick comedy)...and all of that with an original twist to create an exciting read. In other words, this is quite the adventure, and if I could, I would have jumped right into book two to see where Feba and her friends would head next. (I'll quickly throw in that this does not end with a cliff-hanger but wraps up the story very nicely).

These characters have heart, goals, problems, things to overcome, make mistakes, and either find their way through...or don't. It's not a humorous read and takes a solid approach, meaning that animals do die, the evil is deadly, and there is blood-shed. So, sensitive readers might have some problems. But this one isn't overly dark or violent, either. Especially older middle grade readers, who love adventure, will have something to sink their teeth into and enjoy. The tale does take on harder scenes, but these do deepen the story and have purpose to drive the plot and character arcs. It's action with tension well done. Think of Scar and his hyenas from The Lion King, and you'll be on the right track.

The graphics make this world and invite to sink into adventure pure. The love put into each character is evident, and the scenes are very well depicted, letting the atmosphere and emotions come through in the colors and lines. These are easy to look at and build each moment to combine seamlessly with the written text. I got lost in the story and read this one in one sitting, since it is very hard to put down.

I do highly recommend this read and am placing this one on my list as a possible favorite of the year. 


I highly recommend taking a jaunt over HERE to see the sneak-peek-book trailer!


You can learn more about SNOWLANDS and the publisher...
https://thesnowlandscompany.com/snowlands-book-1-a-blood-moon/


Thursday, December 1, 2022

Today's read... Five Little Dreidels by Jeffrey Burton

It's December 1st!!! Yep, I'm loving the season...not because there's snow on the ground (for a girl who grew up among mountains and snow, not seeing a flake in the Ozarks is so disappointing. Year after year after...) Now, that I got that bitterness out, I've already been baking and have my lights on the tree (ornaments go up today) and plan on visiting our small town's 'Santa's Workshop' this afternoon. Plus, I have tons of holiday reads lined up! I'll be squishing those in-between my Christmas movies....oooo, red and green colored popcorn anyone? And let's not forget the eggnog...and yes, I add to that and have other cozy-warm drinks in store.

Anyway, today's read hits Chanukah with the ever-loved dreidel spinning. I found the characters on the front of this little board book adorable and oh-so-cheerful! 



FIVE LITTLE DREIDELS
by Jeffrey Burton
Illustrated by Juliana Motzko
Little Simon
Board Book / Holiday
14 pages
ages 2 to 5



Celebrate the holiday season with this festive Chanukah board book that’s a twist on the popular nursery rhyme “Five Little Monkeys!”

Five little dreidels spinning all around.
One got dizzy and then fell down.
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
No more dreidels spinning all around.

A Chanukah twist on “Five Little Monkeys”, little ones will love following five little dreidels on a fun-filled adventure.

GOODREADS   /   AMAZON   /  B&N   /   BOOK DEPOSITORY


 MY TIDBITS

Tons of personality and energy beam from these spinning dreidels as they turn out an original version of 'Five Little Monkeys' in Chanukah style.

This is a solid, little board book, which is just right for those smaller hands. It should hold up fine to 
a little abuse and is no problem to wipe-off, when those sugary, sticky fingers get ahold of it. It circles around the well-known, children's rhyme, 'Five Little Monkeys', making it recognizable and something that slightly older listeners might be able to join in on with a little time...if nothing else, the repeated refrain is a definite grabber.

The illustrations are bright and super cheerful. The little dreidels go from one place to another, slowly loosing one member each time. Each of these locations is very recognizable for young listeners and simple (meaning there are just enough details to make everything clear without adding too much to draw any attention away from the dreidels). There are easy-to-identify Chanukah symbols in the background, keeping the atmosphere in that direction. 

The text is printed clearly enough to make it no problem to read and carries a little swing. There's a little bubble with a mom-dreidel and another below it for a doctor dreidel on the very right side of each spread to fit those parts of the verse, while still keeping the main spinners at the forefront. The wording is great for the intended age group and is fun to see how it slides into the monkey format. The last phrase of the doctor doesn't follow the same rhyme-scheme as the original, which does make each one a tad bit awkward for those who know the monkey rhyme well. The younger readers on this one, probably won't notice as much and will be caught up in the fun.

It's a lot of fun and a cute read, which will, no doubt, get that wonderful word 'again' over and over again.



And here they are...

Jeffrey Burton has written several books for children. He lives in New York City with his family.

Juliana Motzko is a Brazilian illustrator that has loved drawing and painting ever since she was a little girl. She’s fascinated by pets and children’s worlds and loves to create cute artwork that touches people’s hearts. After studying in art and pedagogy, she worked as an art teacher.

Cover Reveal: Defy the Stars by Cathrina Constantine

 I'm so excited to take part in sharing this one with the world. Cathrina is a year-long writer friend, and I'm always won over by her tales. Since I have a weak-spot for circus magic, too, I'm going to be grabbing up this one myself...and maybe, I'll share it on here with all of you as well.


DEFY THE STARS
by Cathrina Constantine
YA Fantasy


COMING...
JANUARY 13th!!!






 

Circus grunt. Charmer. Fire wrangler.
Growing up within the grind of the enchanted Circus Faire, Crew’s unique talents have blossomed. Though, he’s been warned that the King of Hawkswing is determined to eradicate a certain species, and for his own sake Crew must keep his formidable gifts under wraps.

Relations between interspecies caused an imbalance of power and now are strictly forbidden. Dolorans, like Sage and her sister, are being hunted and persecuted because of their intense powers, leaving them no choice but to run to escape the genocide of their kind.

She possesses a forceful energy for good and evil.
His untapped powers are growing stronger by the day.
Survival will demand they rely on each other.

When Crew learns a dark wizard is holding his brother captive, he enters into a deal with him in hopes of getting close enough to free those he has imprisoned. Yet, what he uncovers is far more sinister than Crew could ever imagine. Can Crew harness the strength within him to save his brother and Sage and all those in the wizard’s clutches? Or will he be trapped by the wizard’s wicked plan?

Add to Goodreads


Author Bio:

I am blessed with a loving family and forever friends. My world revolves around them.

I grew up in the small village of Lancaster, NY, where I married my sweetheart. I'm devoted to raising 5 cherished children, and now my grandchildren.

I love to immerse myself in great books of every kind of genre, which helps me to write purely for entertainment, and hopefully to inspire readers. When not stationed at my computer you can find me in the woods taking long walks with my dog.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bookbub



Wednesday, November 30, 2022

What's Coming in December?

Hear those jingle-bells and carols floating through the air? Or smell the aroma of cookies and hot chocolate? 

This month, I have quite a few reads to match the lovely, holiday season. Last month, I was heavier on the longer novels, intended for middle grade and young adult audiences. This month, it leans much more heavily toward picture books...oh, but I made sure to add some goodies in there for the older readers, too. Especially the end of December is going to swing toward middle grade and young adult readers as I jump into an entire week of graphic novels before ringing in the New Year. I do enjoy graphic novels...and I might also need some lighter readers to get everything else in life done during those days (graphic novels are awesome for that).

Grab up a snuggly blanket and your favorite, young reader because this month is all about cuddling up in a chair together and enjoying warming tale after tale after tale...


FIVE LITTLE DREIDELS

Chanukah is right around the corner, and, of course, there are perfect books to ring in that celebration for even the youngest readers out there. This is a board book, which promises a new twist on the well-known rhyme, Five Little Monkeys. We're hitting this one right away on the 1st.

Board Book Holiday 


SNOWLANDS: A BLOOD MOON

This is the first in a brand-new, graphic novel series for middle graders. I'm all about snow right now (maybe because we don't see it very often here...). Adventure is great, too...and this one promises tons of that. Find out more with me on the 2nd because I'm betting it will be quite the fun read.

Middle Grade Fantasy  /   Graphic Novel






ALL-NEW 20 TO MAKE FESTIVE FELT DECORATIONS

One of my favorite things about the Holidays is the time for crafting, especially since easy ones are great to get the kids to make gifts for others themselves. I'm hoping this book holds ideas readers 8+ can create with a little help or by themselves. So let's take a peek on the 5th to see if it does just that.


Crafting Non-Fiction



FORTRESS OF SNOW

We're jumping into the historical past and joining a young girl as she travels to London and learns to fend for herself before heading to a castle to work out a mystery. It promises heart, tension, romance, and all sorts of unexpected twists and turns with knights, titles...and who knows what else. Find out more with me on the 8th.

Young Adult Historical Fiction

THE BIG CHRISTMAS BAKE

Our oven is working overtime during December, so this book caught my eye. It twirls around the 12 Days of Christmas with an original spin, which...I'm guessing...has something to do with baking. And a lot of nonsense. Get your sweet tooth ready because I'm visiting this one on the 16th.

Picture Book




STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING

I love getting lost in beautiful, picture book illustrations, and this one promises just that. Taking the well-known poem from Robert Frost, a well-known illustrator creates, what is sure to be, a keeper and treat. I'm going to brew myself a lovely drink and sit down to enjoy this one on the 18th.

Picture Book



WHAT IS A REINDEER GOING TO DO?

Can't have Christmas without reindeer! This is another book for the youngest readers out there and has....I love this part...flaps! I'm very excited to swing open the doors, here and there, and see what surprises might be inside. (And no, I'm not to old for that). Let's prance and play on the 21st.

Board Book



SHY GIRLS CAN'T DATE AT CHRISTMAS

I read one book in this series a few months ago and found it cute. So, when I was offered another one...and one for the Holidays...of course, I wanted to take a peek. We'll see how sweet this one gets on the 23rd.


Young Adult Romance

THUNDERBOOM

I wanted to stomp my foot right along with this character, when I saw the cover. I have no idea what this hero will do in these pages, but I'm ready to take on trouble with him and his bright red high-tops. And elbow and knee pads? Am I sensing some humor, maybe? I'm curious what this graphic novel will hold, but I'm betting middle grade boys will be perking their ears on this one. Join me on the 30th to find out.

Middle Grade Fantasy / Graphic Novel
ASCENDANCE OF A BOOKWORM

The title caught my attention on this one...um, maybe because of this blog? Anyway, the cover and the blurb sounded intriguing, too, and as a Royal Academy book, it fit right into my week's theme of princes, princesses, and royalty. Take a look at it with me on the 28th.

Young Adult Fantasy / Graphic Novel




Do you know how many books come out each month? According to Wordsrated.com, in 2019 alone, over 4.5 million books were published in the US. And now, in 2022????? Well, let's just say that my reading list is always HUGE!  Since there are always a few books I really want to wiggle into my schedule but have no idea when, I have this wonderful Joker Read spot. This month's is...


THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE

This read came out in 2017 and nods toward A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and a nod is about as close as this one gets. At least, that's the vibe I'm getting from the blurb. Holly misses her 'ghostly' chance and ends up working in the Afterlife on Project Scrooge. I'm expecting quite the ride in these pages and am really looking forward to presenting it to everyone. (And I got this one through the library...which I'm now using as a hint to visit your local one, too)

Young Adult Paranormal


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Today's read... Green Mountain Academy by Francis Greenslade

After the whirlwind of academy books to hit the young adult audience these last years, I'll admit that my mind immediately heads for bullying, mean girls, teachers, romance, and...well, anyone who has read even one of these knows what I mean. So, when I read the title on today's read, my thoughts did hit that direction...and then, they stopped. Mountains? Snow? The girl on the cover is, obviously, not magical. So yeah, something different! 

According to the blurb, this one is going to take academy in an original direction. Survival techniques and outdoor will-power are going to be key. 

And I'm ready to see where this will head...are you?


GREEN MOUNTAIN ACADEMY
by Frances Greenslade
Tundra Books
Upper Middle Grade / Tween Adventure
240 pages
ages 10 to 14











A daring rescue in the middle of a snowstorm in this compelling Red Fox Road companion survival story for ages 10 to 14, for fans of Hatchet and The Skeleton Tree.

After a family trip turned disastrous when their truck broke down in the middle of an old logging road in Oregon, Francie is now back in British Columbia. People try to make things as normal as possible for her, but they don't understand that trying to be normal in your old life that's exploded is the worst feeling in the world. Luckily for Francie, the wilderness is still soothing, and an opportunity to attend the Green Mountain Academy, a tiny boarding school perched on the side of a mountain, seems perfect. It's a new start, with new friends and a chance at a new family. But when a winter storm hits, knocking out all the power, news that a small plane has gone missing unsettles Francie. Knowing that the chance of survival in the middle of a wild nighttime snowstorm diminishes over time, Francie is compelled to leave the cozy school and set out into the icy cold, swirling snowstorm . .
.


GOODREADS : https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60013116-green-mountain-academy
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/green-mountain-academy-frances-greenslade/1140824873   
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09P9NYBYK


MY TIDBITS

Well, this one wasn't what I expected. We have Francie, a thirteen-year-old girl, who has suffered quite a bit of family tragedy thanks to the earlier death of her sister, and shortly before this tale begins, the disappearance and assumed death, of her father as he sought help for them and got lost in the wilderness. So, to help her life return to 'normal', she's sent to a secluded boarding school in the mountains, where only eight students study while learning to survive the great outdoors. While Francie and her new best friend are exploring nearby caves, a odd noise roars somewhere nearby, but with a snow storm moving in, they don't have time to investigate. Just before the storm knocks the power out, the news announces the disappearance of a private plane in their area...and Francie is sure that was the noise. But nobody believes her. Plus, with the massive storm raging outside, it's not even safe to start a search party.

While this one has academy in the title and the school plays a side role in the plot as well as lays the setting, the rest of the story hangs on Francie and her past as well as the attempt to rescue the plane's passengers. There are some other side-plots weaving around a few of the other girls, which does give this depth and life, while tension and action slide in from the storm and survival end. It does create a nice balance between characters and plot, and makes for a well-rounded story.

The scenes and characters come to life thanks to well-developed descriptions and a natural flow. The mountains and outdoors hits with a richness, which draws in until one can almost smell the pines. And it's hard not to want to climb the fire-tower, sleep in front of the fireplace, or stomp through new-fallen snow right along with Francie. The academy seemed to be a wonderful place, especially since most of the girls were very likeable. There were some aspects of the academy's rules (or lack of), which surprised me, though. Francie is never really punished for breaking the few rules, which exist, and comes out without any (or very slight) consequences every time. Even her rescue attempt, while brave, goes against many important survival guidelines and common sense. For a book, which promotes and describes some helpful techniques and the love for the outdoors, I found this a little odd. But it does make for a more tense story and more excitement.

Francie has quite a few problems from her past to deal with, and the reader learns about these little-by-little as the story goes along. These come in sudden flashbacks, which not only slowly expose Francie's past but also add to her personality. Since these blend right into the story, I did find them a little confusing at times, but in general, it was a nice way to get to know Francie better. These did, however, slow down the pacing, at times, which, for an action girl like me, isn't always happily seen. But character fans will eat it up.

This is an enjoyable read, which swings toward survival fiction and reminds a bit of books like My Side of the Mountain. True outdoor tidbits are described, for those who love such things. So, it is an enjoyable read and is sure to grab the interest of many readers.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Today's read... It's A Squirrely Life by JP Cawood

Today's read is a playful twist on the ever-loved  movie, It's A Wonderful Life. I do find the cover cute and with squirrels, it promises to be tons of fun.



IT'S A SQUIRRELY LIFE
by J.P. Cawood
HEROmation
Children's Fiction / Animal / Holiday
90 pages
ages 6 to 10












A wild holiday adventure that teaches the value of friendship, community, and responsibility.

When all the nuts are stolen from the Oak Creek bank, George the squirrel feels guilty for leaving the vault open. If he doesn’t find the nuts, Christmas will be ruined. He goes on a journey to learn what forest life would be like without him and gets the courage to face the thief. It’s a nutty spin on the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, great for kids ages 7+

This children’s book comes to you from HEROmation, a content studio that specializes in imaginative characters and worlds. Our short animated film, The Wrong Rock, was recognized by the Oscars Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. JP Cawood wrote the accompanying book, as well as the sci-fi kids adventure, Sam & The Secrets of the Universe.


GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59684019-it-s-a-squirrely-life
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Its-Squirrely-Life-JP-Cawood-ebook/dp/B09M7PD36W


And here she is...

JP Cawood is an author who has also worked in live-action TV and film, animation, and comics. The screen adaptation of her novel, Love from Mars, was a recent Semi-finalist in both Screencraft and Stage32 screenplay competitions. She was also named Top 50 Screenwriter by the International Screenwriters' Association in 2021. Both a teacher and student of meditation, she strongly believes in the untapped potential of the human mind. Her books question the nature of reality in unexpected and entertaining ways.

Website: www.jpcawood.com

Amazon page: www.amazon.com/author/jpcawood

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jpcawoodbooks

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jpcawoodbooks

Instagram: www.instagram.com/heromationstudios

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@jpcawood

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Today's read... Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston

Today's read plunges into the world of vampires and magic with a very unique twist. It hit the shelves at the beginning of this month...and I just love the cover! 
Ready to dance on the side of danger, magic, and mayhem (or I think that's what this one is about)?



CRUEL ILLUSIONS
by Margie Fuston
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Young Adult Fantasy 
499 pages














Caraval meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this deliciously dark young adult fantasy about a girl who makes a deal with a magical secret society to enter a potentially deadly competition for the chance to avenge her mother’s death.

Ever since a vampire murdered her mother, Ava has been determined to get revenge. This all-encompassing drive has given her the fuel she needed to survive foster home after foster home.

But it’s been ten years since anyone’s seen a vampire, and Ava has lost hope that she’ll ever find one…until she stumbles across a hidden magic show where she witnesses impossible illusions. The magicians may not be the bloodsuckers she’s hunting, but Ava is convinced something supernatural is at play, so she sneaks backstage and catches them in acts they can’t explain.

But they’ve been waiting for her.

The magicians reveal they’re part of an ancient secret society with true magic, and Ava has the same power in her blood that they do. If she joins them, they promise to teach her the skills she needs to hunt vampires and avenge her mother. But there’s a catch: if she wants to keep the power they offer, she needs to prove she’s worthy of it. And to do so, she must put on the performance of her life in a sinister and dangerous competition where illusion and reality blur, and the stakes are deadly.

GOODREADShttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58646000-cruel-illusions
AMAZONhttps://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09RX47CMK
B&Nhttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/?ean=9781665902106
INDIE BOUNDhttps://www.indiebound.org/book/9781665902106



MY TIDBITS

Magic, revenge, immortality, and romance weave among bloody thorns and a very dangerous game.

Ava will never forgive the vampire, who took her mother's life. Nor can she forget her parents' love of performing magic shows on the stage. Now that her brother and her have shifted from one foster home to the other, he, at least, has found a place he can call home. She, however, is eighteen and needs to deal with the revenge she's planned for the last years. When she runs across a magic show, which not only impresses but seems to call to her in a strange way, she wonders if she's found what she's looking for. But it's the hunt for vampires the magicians do after the show, which completely wins her over. Convinced she can finally find her revenge, she agrees to become the troupe's apprentice...but she's no where near ready for everything that means. Especially when she's forced to take part in a dangerous competition, where only one of the new apprentices is allowed to keep their magic and continue the hunt.

This book packs a lot...which also explains the almost 500 pages found in the hardcopy. It starts out with Ava and her brother somewhat settled into their latest foster home, explaining a bit of past but mostly allowing the reader to get to know her situation and sink into her character a little, first. She comes across as sharp-edged but not as cold as she'd like to be. Her love for her younger brother is golden, and although she's untrusting of the rest of the world, she doesn't completely spit in kindness' face. It gives her just the right amount of warmth to gain a little sympathy, while showing how her past has hardened her, too. It sets up the perfect stage for the rest of the wild ride...because it does shift into high-gear from there.

The author does a fantastic job at opening up a world of amazing magic and scenes. The descriptions allow for wonder, letting the darkness mix with beauty. It was fun to watch the magic happen through Ava's eyes and almost see the impossibility unfold. The manor, the fight scenes, and everything else comes to clear life, and that without overly wordy or drudging description blocks. 

Plots weave with secrets and sub-plots to make quite the intricate tale. While some aspects are predictable, there are quite a few which hit with unexpected twists and turns. Every truth is hard-won and comes at a price, and each one holds a darker secret behind it. It gave the read richness and felt as if there were more than the pages should be able to hold...but it all fits into a great story. The ending does leave enough open to let imagination flow, while securing the loose ends to form a solid finish.

There are tons of characters, many of which fall clearly into a gray zone. It's a complex world with shadows and forced survival, making each character hold their own goals and rules dear. It's hard to see who is worthy of friendship, and who is hiding their hand. But many have very individual story arcs...although Ava's didn't progress or change as much as it could have. Still, it was easy to root for her and the others, and hope they came through.

And there is romance. This wasn't quite my thing since it involved a lot of instant attraction and that with a love triangle... of sorts. I did root for one side, and Ava is in a hard spot. I just had a little trouble accepting the triangle with all of the other things going on too. But that's a personal thing, and the romance did flow with all the delicious tension and excitement that it should

I did enjoy this read quite a bit and found it extremely well done. I read it in one sitting and let myself happily get lost in this dangerous but magical world.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Today's read... My Very Rocky Christmas by Jackson Murphy

Today's read came out the beginning of this month and caught my attention right away. Firstly, I don't remember ever seeing a Christmas story surrounding trees and rocks. Second, some of the proceeds go to 'Plant a Billion Trees'. And after reading this...well, let's just say that I wasn't disappointed.



MY VERY ROCKY CHRISTMAS
A Rocky the Rock Quarry
by Jackson Murphy
Illustrated by Rebecca Rem
Picture Book
34 pages
ages 3 to 8







While on an annual December outing with his father to a local tree farm to cut down the family Christmas tree, a young boy encounters an unusual resident who changes his life forever. “My Very Rocky Christmas” is the heartwarming, “based-on-a-true story” memoir of a very unlikely friendship. Destined to become a new yuletide tradition, adults will want to share this amazing adventure — and the important lessons it teaches — with the young ones in their lives each and every holiday season.

Author Jackson Murphy was 6 years old when he first met Rocky (who was over a million years old at the time). Their relationship got off to a bit of a rough start (as you’ll find out), but today it’s as solid as a…well, you know.

"My Very Rocky Christmas" also includes fascinating and educational information on all the varieties and traditions of Christmas trees grown around the world, along with some fun holiday trivia.

BUY THIS BOOK HELP PLANT A TREE! Partial proceeds from every book sold go to The Nature Conservancy’s ‘Plant a Billion Trees’ Campaign.

GOODREADS  /   TBM BOOKS  


MY TIDBITS

Based on a real experience from the author, this Christmas tale takes a very original direction, which ends with warm feelings and unique inspiration.

Every year, a boy and his father head to a tree farm to find their Christmas tree, something the boy enjoys. One year, after cutting down their perfect tree, the boy discovers a rock by the now cut truck. Concerned that the rock will no longer be happy to be lying in the open, the boy finds a new spot, which should work well. The next years, he visits the rock to make sure it's still fine...until one year, the tree it was under is gone right along with the stone. Finding the stone a few yards away buried in the snow by itself, the boy comes up with a new plan to make sure the rock is always protected.

This is a sweet, Christmas story, which is very easy for kids to relate to (and for adults to remember when they might have done similar things themselves). It's told with a gentle flow, starting with the wonderful atmosphere of finding a perfect tree with a parent, before meeting the stone. The entire thing is done in first person from the child's perspective and with a natural feel. It does make a great read-aloud for quieter moments to settle listeners down and simply enjoy a story.

The illustrations are well done and bring atmosphere to the experiences and happenings. The snowy landscapes and Christmas details invite to the season. These are placed, here and there, around the text at the right moments. The pages are full-sized (A4) with the text in a slightly larger font and always on white, which also makes reading much easier.

I can see kids wanting to meet their own rock friends after this and developing a new hobby for awhile. Plus, there are two sections at the end of the book, which give more insight on the various types of Christmas trees as well as a bunch of Christmas tree facts. 

As a super bonus, this book was created with the intention of giving some of the proceeds to The Nature Conservancy's 'Plant a Billion Trees' campaign. 


You can learn more about Jackson Murphy and his wonderful endeavors...
https://lights-camera-jackson.com/

Friday, November 25, 2022

Today's read... The Patrick Picklebottom Everyday Mysteries by Mr. Jay

 Today's read would have been one I would have definitely snatched up as a kid, and my own son was curious too. I only had the chance to read one of the ten mysteries in this book, but I was still curious to see how to flowed (and if it was as good as I'd hoped it'd be).

Patrick Picklebottom isn't new to the book world but has several titles already in print. I have not read any of them before, so this sleuth was new to me. This book is a collection of ten mysteries (with answers at the end of the read) and is the first in a new series surrounding Patrick. This one comes out March 1st, so there is a bit of a wait.


PATRICK PICKLEBOTTOM
Everyday Mysteries, Book 1
The Case of the Brazilian Vase
by Mr. Jay
Illustrated by Erin Wozniak
New Paige Press
Middle Grade Mystery
128 pages
ages 8 to 12



COMING...
MARCH 1st, 2023!!!



Patrick is back! Can YOU help him solve 10 different mysteries?

Patrick Picklebottom has a knack for critical thinking. So it's not too surprising that he and his best friend, Claire, keep coming across everyday mysteries. In school, at the local ice cream shop, during a history fair - even in his own house - Patrick constantly comes across new cases to crack.

In the great tradition of the classic Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald J. Sobol, The Patrick Picklebottom Everyday Mysteries takes the beloved picture book character into a completely new direction with an interactive book for early readers.

Join Patrick and his friends in 10 short stories where YOU help solve the mysteries. Can you figure out the solutions based on the clues provided? Think carefully before checking the answers in the back!




MY TIDBITS

While the mysteries are relatively short and sweet, they push the thinking-gears and let the reader become a sleuth.

Patrick Picklebottom is a pretty normal middle schooler, who has a knack for noticing the details. He doesn't search for mysteries; they find him. In this first book of the series, Patrick runs into ten different situations, where he discovers something isn't what it appears to be or not quite right. At the end of the book, the solutions are offered so young sleuths can make sure they solved each case correctly. 

I only had the opportunity to read one of the ten cases, 'The History Fair', but it was enough to win me over to want to read the rest of the tales, too. In this one, Patrick and his friend are at a history fair with their own presentation table...which isn't getting as much attention as it should. When one of the other presenting kids pokes fun at Patrick's work, he decides to take a look at that kid's presentation and see why everyone seems drawn to it. And that's where the mystery begins.

The writing is very smooth and easy to read. The dialogue flows naturally, and it's easy to like Patrick and his friend. Their reactions were understandable and completely down-to-earth, which kept drama at bay. Instead, the author swings into the mystery effortlessly. In this one, the case was very appropriate for the intended age group (no murders or darker material).  So, I'll assume the others are, too. It does require a bit of thinking and contemplating to reach the solution, making these not extremely easy to solve. Still, it wasn't impossible to figure things out, either, and fits the age level nicely. 

The illustrations are spot on and bring each scene to life, while the text still holds the hints and clues needed to solve the situation. These added a little lightness to the atmosphere and make the entire tale more approachable.

I'm going to keep my eye on this one and am considering picking up the entire thing, when release date rolls around.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, The Tarnished by E.S. Christison

 It's another day of book birthday celebration! This one came out yesterday, so it's very new to the shelves. It's the 2nd book in a series, and I did read the first one already back in 2020 and enjoyed it quite a bit. Since that book ended with a cliff-hanger, I was excited to see what happened next. So, let's dive in and see.


THE TARNISHED
The Blameless, #2
by E.S. Christison
Wildling Press
Young Adult Fantasy
372 pages












Princess Briana has escaped imprisonment and is on the run. Her beloved Predonia is in upheaval as the villainous Vaylec tightens his grip on the Blameless, tearing the kingdom apart in search of the girl who’s evaded him. To regain her people’s freedom, Brie must turn her back on her friends and her new home as she and her uncles race to uncover the secrets of Vaylec’s mysterious and growing power. There is no safety nor rest for the usurped heir to the throne, and Brie must dig deep inside herself for strength to take action as her world crumbles around her.

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63040579-the-tarnished
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BL3MMSPY


MY TIDBITS

I did read the first book in this series and enjoyed it quite a bit. This second book (and this needs to be read as a series) grabbed me more than the first.

Brea, thanks to her uncles, has escaped evil Vaylec's grasp, but that's only the beginning, since she now has to find a way to stop Vaylec and help her people. With her amazing uncles, who do have their own lives and responsibilities but give them up to help her, she heads out to uncover the secrets surrounding Vaylec and try to find a way to turn things around.

This is a young adult read, which works well for teens, too, since Brea is only fourteen and also comes across that age. There's a wonderful sense of family and growing friendship. It's like a moment of fresh air whenever the uncles' families hit the scene, since it adds a great balance of calm and security to the otherwise dangerous situations they face. There's also the first signs of a romance, but this stays more on the sidelines, since Brea really has enough on her plate. But that doesn't mean there isn't emotion and moments to touch the heart. Mixed with the action, secrets, and tense scenes, something is always happening.

I did enjoy Brea's character development in this book as she slowly learns to embrace who she needs to be...which for a 14-year-old is a lot to ask. She makes mistakes, is hesitant, and comes across pretty realistic. But then, many moments in this read come across very naturally, which gives it a nice flow. 
It was fun to root for Brea and those rallying around her, and it will be interesting to see where al of this goes next.

Sneak Peek at... Hunted by V.M. Nelson with Giveaway!

 


HUNTED
by V.M. Nelson
The Dhampyr Series, #1
October 25th 2022
YA Paranormal








Tasi, an eighteen-year-old, head-strong, blood-drinking, dhampyr, has been hidden away in a small town in Maine since the death of her parents. Though she had trained to fight and kill vampires, she never believed those skills would be useful in her mundane life. That’s where she’s wrong.

In one moment, her life changes forever, and her aunt’s final words ring in her head.

They want your blood.

Now orphaned and charged with protecting her sister, Emily—a sister who doesn’t know what they are or that she’s about to endure a life-threatening change—Tasi has no other choice but to follow directions left for her. She is to find an ally who lives in New York City. This is the only way Tasi will figure out why she and Emily are being hunted before they end up drained of their blood.

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


SNEAK PEEK

What started out as a routine task to find blood turned into an onslaught of pain. I rubbed my eyes, allowing the darkness that filled my head to fizzle away. My hands, tender from scraping against the gravel, grasped at the cold metal fence. I flinched as my cuts burned against the steel. I’d done this to myself. The thumping under my skin and my lack of balance were all a result of ignoring my need to feed.

Now here I sat, watching my blood as it dripped down my leg and pooled onto the sidewalk. A tingling sensation ran through me as I flicked out the tiny shards that had embedded themselves in my skin. My body helped to push them out in an effort to heal itself. This was not part of tonight’s plan. I stared back up at the fence—my nemesis. Razor-sharp wire wrapped itself around the top of the rusty, twelve-foot-high chain-link barricade.

Take the shortcut, Tasi. It’ll be quicker and safer, Tasi. What a stupid idea.

Under normal circumstances, I could dart up the fence, hop over the barbed wire, and gracefully land on my feet. My overall dexterity might have won me a gold medal in gymnastics, but that was so not happening in my current condition.

An ache thundered through my body as I reached for the fence again. I hoisted myself up for the first time since tumbling off. With one last labored breath, I ran my hands down my pants, dislodging the remaining rocks from my newly healed skin. Nearby, a rustling sound echoed through the alley. My breath caught. The metal garbage cans clanked together as if they were being tossed around. If I were human, I wouldn’t think twice about the commotion. Lucky for me, I knew better. It was probably setting up to kill its next victim. There were a few shady-looking dive bars and run-down nightclubs in this area. The repetitive pounding of music stemming from different directions would drown out all screams. This was a perfect feeding ground.

Over the past few months, these creatures had become my reality. Since I was thirteen, I’d known of their existence, but only recently had I been in the same vicinity as them. And when they were around, you didn’t want to be, so it was time to go.

With a quick pivot in the opposite direction, I ran. I didn’t get farther than a few feet before my shoelace caught in the grate and my chin scraped against the ground. More blood dripped from my body.

Tasi, seriously—what else can go wrong?

Wrapping the shoelace around my fingers, I yanked until it released itself. By the time I tucked it into my shoe, it was too late. It had heard me. The pounding in my ears was no longer from the nightclubs but the pavement, and it was getting louder. I’d piqued its interest. Rather, my blood had piqued its interest.

And here she is...

 

V. M. Nelson is the author of The Dhampyr Series. She writes upper young adult paranormal, urban fantasy with a touch of romance thrown in. When she isn’t writing, you can find her playing video games.

Virginia resides in Minnesota with her partner and three children. She has always had an obsession for myths, legends, and fairytales. If asked, she would prefer to live in an alternate universe with vampires and fairies.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / TikTok / Amazon / Pinterest


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