Wednesday, July 6, 2022

IWSG and Today's Read: Young Explorers Nature Journal by Stephen Nett

 Before heading into today's read...


Today, writers get together to express fears, concerns, and offer hope as well as encouragement or whatever else their hearts desire. This group was birthed by the amazing Alex J. Cavanaugh and has grown into a thriving, broad community with tons of possibilities. Check it out here!

Special thanks goes to this month's co-hosts: J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton!

Today's question: If you could live in a book world, which one would you choose?

That's easy! Now, this may not originally have been a book world, but there are, now, books about it, too. (Does that count? Because I'm just going to claim that it does.) I'd want to be in the world of Dr. Who. 

As a middle grader, I adored this series and, while I've fallen away from the newer versions...actually, I haven't seen an episode in many, many years. Still, the idea of darting through time with someone competent (because I'll definitely need Dr. Who at my side to save me from all the trouble I won't be able to deal with) is exactly down my lane. Believe it or not, it's not the possibility of going through time, but rather the variety. And unexpected surprises. And adventure. And...well, the Tardis is simply amazing!

Yep, that's where you'd find me.

And you, where would you go?


Today's read takes us outdoors and into nature. This nonfiction read is written by a nature enthusiast and journalist, who enjoys sharing his love and curiosity for nature with young readers. I am actually pretty excited about this one, since it not only offers all sorts of basic information of various aspects of the world outside, but allows kids to take note and discover themselves. 

Observing Activities for Exploring Nature Outdoors
by Stephen Nett
Illustrated by Ry Menson
Children's Nonfiction
64 pages
ages 4 to 8

A different kind of Nature Journal for kids - Designed by an experienced Naturalist and guide. Amazon New Release Best Seller
Nature is filled with wonders. But how can children learn the ways to discover them?

This brightly colorful and charming Young Explorers Nature Journal is a great start. Every child is born with abilities for exploring nature outside.
 These fun field-tested observing activities are designed to help young children 4 - 8 learn to use their abilities anywhere - hiking, camping, in the park or backyard. Nature exploring activities children love - and a guided journal to fill with memories and discoveries.

Created by a trail-experienced Naturalist, nature writer, photographer, and father of four. 
More than outdoor play or crafts - skills to last a lifetime. Guided simple ways for discovering nature's creatures, features and hidden secrets anywhere, using the sensory abilities kids are born with.

Tap natural curiosity, grow outdoor confidence, and build a deeper connection to the natural world we live in. Just in time for summer travel, vacations, hikes, homeschool or family fun at home.

Includes more than 50 hands-on observing activities and 
40 pages of Journaling spaces for drawing, coloring, writing, collecting - to share and save their personal discoveries.

Plus, for parents and teachers, helpful, important and child-tested tips for helping young children safely experience nature outside, anywhere. Note: Pre and early readers will need an older partner to help read and choose activities.
  • Hours of healthy discovery and enjoyment outdoors
  • Age-appropriate activities, no experience necessary, but nature skills to last a lifetime
  • For homeschool, backyard, great activities for camping, hiking, field trips, parks, nature walks, family outdoor time or just hours of fun outside.

Nature is full of wonders. But they stay hidden til we observe them.
When was the last time you listened to birds talking to each other? The burble of moving water? Counted the colors of flowers along a path, or watched cloud shapes in the sky?

Help young explorers develop their own skills to discover, observe and fall in love with the wonders of nature waiting outdoors with this guided Nature Journal.



Being outdoors gains quite a bit of fun, discovery, and even a few things learned in this brightly colored journal.

There's always something to discover when outdoors, and this journal encourages readers to take a closer look and see what they can find. After a few words to parents/guardians/group leaders on how to use the journal and offer some tips, the book addresses the young readers and explains how to use the journal, how to approach nature, and even a few safety recommendations. After this, the journal and its richness begin with information as well as plenty of opportunities for readers to add their own thoughts.

This is a wonderful book to pick up for anyone heading out into nature. Whether it's camping, hiking, short trips for fun, picnics or whatever, this is a lovely book to take along. It's colorfully illustrated, not only to keep the atmosphere fun and light, but it also helps readers identify all sorts of things they might discover outdoors. Even the areas, where readers are to leave their own scribbles, are decorated and hold bright images.

The author has kept the intended age group in mind and has successfully made it accessible for them. The descriptions are short and sweet, and never boring. It invites the reader and encourages them to explore and see what they find, but also offers a bit of support. I can see kids picking this one up and jotting down all sorts of things while on a vacation or trip. It's even great for groups, which head outside, and homeschoolers will also find some use in these pages. So, yes, I do recommend this one.

And here he is...

Stephen Nett is a Naturalist, photographer, nature journalist and father of four, with a life-long love of finding and sharing nature's hidden layers and secrets. This Young Explorers handbook was inspired by 92 happy second graders he guided on a 6 mile hike up a mountain forest trail, which was just as exciting as it sounds. He and his wife live by a bird-filled turn in a river two miles from Pacific surf.

Happy Book Birthday, Deadly Setup by Lynn Slaughter!

Today's read heads in the mystery direction. It's about an innocent girl, who is accused of murder (I believe) and needs to prove she didn't do it, while finding the true murderer...or something like that. 
It doesn't come out until July, so keep your eyes peeled. 

by Lynn Slaughter
Fire and Ice Melange
Young Adult Mystery 

JULY 5th!!!

When her impulsive, romance-writing mom announces her engagement to a man whose last heiress wife died under suspicious circumstances, Sam tries to dissuade her mother. But her mom is convinced she’ll finally have the “Happily Ever After” she writes about.

And then Sam’s life implodes. Her mom’s fiancé turns up dead, and a mountain of circumstantial evidence points to Sam as the killer. On trial for murder, she fights to prove her innocence with the help of her boyfriend’s dad, an ex-homicide cop.

Moonbeam Children’s Book Award bronze medalist and Agatha Christie award nominee, Lynn Slaughter returns with a new YA thriller pushing the envelope on coming-of-age stories. Dark yet hopeful, Deadly Setup shows that wealth truly doesn’t buy happiness.


Mystery, tension, emotions, and an even pacing make this an intriguing coming-of-age tale.

Sam is a young woman, who does everything she should. She's an enjoyable character, who could be the girl next door, and is, in general, a nice person. It is sad to watch her relationship with her mother as Sam deals with her the best she can. When she is pulled into the murder accusation despite her disapproval of her mother's plans, the frustration and fear is palpable. 

This tale flows smoothly, while building tension with steady steps. Sam comes across as a realistic individual, and it's hard not to feel for her as she finds herself accused of something she definitely didn't do. As she faces the court and isn't sure how to get out of the situation, the direness hits well and had me hoping that everything works out. While tension builds, the twists and turns are sometimes more predictable than others. There are supportive characters on her side, which add the needed cushion of hope. 

Fans of thrillers with a down-to-earth atmosphere will enjoy this read.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Review: The Questmaster's Trap by Frank L. Cole

Today's read is for RPG fans and takes place in a fantasy simulation. I'm falling back into my old habit of starting a series with book two instead of the first one, so we'll see how this one goes. It's for middle graders, which is refreshing, since I've only had RPGs like this for the young adult audience on here before. 

Champion's Quest, #2
by Frank L. Cole
Shadow Mountain
Middle Grade Fantasy / RPG
288 pages
ages 8 to 12

OCTOBER 4th!!!

Another role-playing game of Champion’s Quest awaits our young champions, but this time they are tricked into leaving the real world and tossed into the fantasy game that is a dangerous trap filled with new and challenging foes.

Teammates Lucas, Miles, and Jasmine—known as the Wild Crows—have been summoned by the wizard Gamemaster, Hob, to play another magical, adventurous game of Champion’s Quest. When the three friends are ambushed and forced into their second game, Lucas and his friends are ill-prepared to face what feels like an impossible quest—confront an evil centaur and outsmart a villainous, shapeshifting Questmaster to rescue a powerful magical ally. 

An unexpected team member, Sierra, joins the Wild Crows to complete their band of champions. Can she be trusted or is she a spy? But Lucas has bigger problems to worry about. For starters, he struggles to keep his panic attacks in check as he leads his friends on a journey across unexplored lands filled with shadow elves, wyverns, hobgoblins, giants, and evil trees. 

Using their wits, their powerful weapons, and hoping for some luck when rolling the magical game dice, the Wild Crows know what’s at stake: Complete their quest before time runs out, or the world of Champion’s Quest will be destroyed.



Note: I read this one without diving into the first book in the series, and while there were a few references, which I was missing out on, it was no problem to get lost in the adventure.

With the air of Dungeons & Dragons, this world and characters draw in and weave as much friendship into the tale as action.

The Wild Crows, a group of friends, managed to complete their first round in the exciting game world and are back in normal life. But when they are suddenly forced into another round with a new member, things get more interesting. Not only will the new quests stretch them to new limits, but no one is sure what to think of this new team member, especially since the only way to make it through is to give complete trust...considering she may be a spy, that might be what brings them down.

The author has created a rich world, which is easy to visualize and get lost in. While I assume most of this was set-up in book one already, I was pleasantly surprised that there was more to discover, right along with the characters. And what an enjoyable bunch of characters these are! The friends are enjoyable to accompany, and it's not hard to wish to be right there with them. My favorite character is actually the 'new' one, but then all of them have something to offer. 

There's a great contrast with the good and evil. While the wizards are unique and not always transparent, it's the evil characters, which really grab. Plus, there's a large variety of imaginative creatures, including an evil centaur (which seemed unique). All of them create gripping scenes and make the world that much richer.

While action keeps the pages turning, there's also the message of friendship and trust. The Wild Crows share a close bond, and this gets tested over and over again, especially with the introduction of the new character. In order to make it through this adventure, this trust is key and trust isn't always easily won and held.

I really enjoyed this adventure and am looking forward to see where it is going next. 

Shy Girls Can't Date Billionaires by Milly Rose


Shy Girls Can’t Date Billionaires
by Milly Rose
YA Comedy / Romance



I was born shy. And near him, I fall apart. No wonder he can’t stand the sight of me.

After a fire destroys our home, my family is taken in by a billionaire tycoon. His mansion has countless bedrooms, yet my room is next door to his son, Thomas Ashworth III. Yes, he’s as pompous as the name suggests. And, for some reason, he hates my guts.

Even though his arrogance drives me crazy, his chiselled features turn me into a stammering, awkward mess. I hate being stuck with someone I can’t stand. And when he does something unexpectedly kind, it confuses my heart.

When I bump into him in the middle of the night, I’d never guess it lead to us sharing secrets.

He’s impossible to get out of my head. But he wouldn’t consider dating someone like me. Would he?

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order

And here she is...

Milly Rose is an animal-loving romance enthusiast with a swoon-inducing book formula. Shy girl + hot guy + first kisses. Her YA sweet romance books will have you falling in love every instalment. Milly Rose is the quintessential shy girl, who you can contact via her mailing list and reply to her monthly email blasts! Milly spends her days vying for her cat’s affection, dreaming up her next book boyfriend, and writing a fun meet-cute under candlelight with a lovely brewed cup of tea.

Join Milly Rose’s Mailing List Here >> [](

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Project A.I.D.E.N. by Lindsey Frydman!

A Happy 4th of July to all of you! We ended up celebrating yesterday already, due to my husband's work schedule, but we had tons and tons of fun. I did get the chance to hit today's read on Saturday evening thanks to the beautiful weather (a little cooler than it's been lately), which let me enjoy an hour or so outside. 

Today's read releases today and heads in the science fiction direction and takes on the theme of artificial intelligence, while working with a bit of teen romance. It's a short read, which fit perfectly into my tight schedule, too. Now, was it worth it? Let's find out!

by Lindsey Frydman
Entangled Teen
YA Science Fiction
224 pages

Until the moment I met him, I’d never done anything wrong. Like, seriously, anything. Until that summery afternoon when an exceptionally cute boy with unnatural green eyes—like emerald flames—stepped out in front of my car. And I hit him.

Only the boy didn’t die. There isn’t a mark on him. And now Aiden is begging me to drive him somewhere, anywhere. Because he’s being hunted, and the people chasing him will only stop when he’s dead. I know I should just keep driving, but there’s something vulnerable in his voice, in his crooked smile, that makes me want to help him…even if it means leaving “good” behind.

And “leaving good” feels a whole lot like being alive. More alive than I’ve ever felt.

Now I’m risking everything—my safety, my relationship with my dad, even my freedom—for a guy I just met. It’s not Stockholm Syndrome or even Hot Hijacker Syndrome. Something tells me Aiden’s different, really different, and it’s not just his eyes, his strength, or his preternatural smarts. Or that when he kisses me, everything else just disappears.

It’s like he’s the perfect guy.

And he might just be hiding the perfect secret.

AMAZON   /   B&N   /   KOBO


Adventure surrounding an A.I. gains a refreshing twist, while seeping in tension and a touch of romance.

Aiden would like nothing better than to have the chance to finally leave the room he's called home ever since a nearly deadly car accident several years before. The institute has done everything they could to save his life and more. He never forgets anything, is practically invincible, strong and fast. And he's a nice guy. Now, if only he could pass the last test, they'll finally let them go. Or will they?

This is an easy, quick read, which kept me in the pages until the very end. I read it in one sitting and didn't have even the slightest inkling of an urge to put it down. It was so quick and easy that I really was surprised, when I looked back and realized that it was over 200 pages and not much shorter. So, I'd have to say it was a good, entertaining read. But of course, I have to say more than that, don't I?

It's pretty clear from the title and cover that this one swirls around the theme of artificial intelligence, and it does so with a couple refreshing twists, which keep it from turning cliche. Aiden is a super, nice character with tons of simple charm and a very good heart. The heroine is just as kind and nice, and finds herself in over her head, trying to make the best decisions possible. Both are easy to root for the entire way through.

Something happens on every page, and while some twists are easy to see coming, others take by a bit of surprise. There were moments, where the actions of the main characters seemed a bit dumb, but all in all everything flowed well and was understandable. The story holds some depth but, at the same time, stays a bit light and a little too quick to the resolution. I did think it was a bit short for the subject matter and wanted to see a bit more chase and development, but, on the other hand, it was a lovely read to throw into a few hours. So, I can't really criticize it, either.

The romance is sweet, straight forward, and warms the heart. The ending does bring a bit of uncertainty and create just the right amount of tension to make sure it's not clear if things will work out or not...and I'm not going to say, which way it went because that'd ruin everything. 

This is an enjoyable, quick read, which adds just the right amount of food for thought without going overly deep. I can recommend it to light science fiction fans, who enjoy a bit of tension, action, and tons of heart.

And here she is...

Lindsey has been writing since she was nine years old, when she discovered the awesomeness that is Harriet the Spy. Her books always include a romance, though sometimes there’s an added sci-fi or magical realism twist. She lives in Columbus, Ohio (where the weather is never quite right). Her BFA in Photography and Graphic Design has granted her a wide assortment of creative knowledge that serves as inspiration (and not much else). When she’s not crafting YA and NA stories, you'll likely find her spending waaay too much time on Pinterest, playing a video game, singing show-tunes, or performing in a burlesque show—because she enjoys giving her introversion a worthy adversary. (Plus, it's the closest to Broadway she’ll ever get.) Lindsey was a proud 2016 Pitch Wars Mentee and thoroughly adores being a part of the wonderful writing community. THE HEARTBEAT HYPOTHESIS is her debut novel.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Review: Beware the Burmese Pythons by Etta Kaner

 I'm super excited about today's read! I stumbled across this one, while taking a peek at all the upcoming kidlit this Fall (of course, I always have my eyes open!), and discovered this little gem. It's a non-fiction read, holds a bit of a graphic novel form, and promises to introduce readers to all sorts of lesser known, invasive species. Doesn't that sound amazing? I know my kids (and I as a kid) especially loved nonfiction with lesser known and interesting facts.

So, ready to take a plunge? (Okay, you'll have to wait until later in October to get your hands on a copy yourself, but trust me, this one is worth the wait....woops! I'm not suppose to say that yet, am I?

by Etta Kaner
Illustrated by Phil Nicholls
Kids Can Press
48 pages
ages 4 to 12

OCTOBER 22nd!!!

A kid-friendly introduction to invasive animal species that explores how they got into new ecosystems and the damage they've caused.

It might not seem like a big deal when a non-native animal species finds its way to another environment. But it can be! Invasive species reproduce quickly and often have no natural predators, allowing them to overtake native species, and even destroy the ecosystem of their new home. Here's an intriguing look at 10 of these species from around the world --- from tiny cactus moths to mighty Burmese pythons --- and the problems they're causing. As each section explains, humans were responsible for bringing all these animals to their new locations. And now it's up to humans to do something about it!

In this unique, highly visual book, Etta Kaner's accessible text and Phil Nicholls's vibrant art reveal a fascinating world of “aliens” that invade new habitats. With two spreads for each animal, the book is chock-full of information, including the animal's features, habitat and invasion route; a narrative describing how it became invasive and why it's become a problem; and a list of ideas for what can be done, ending with the question, “If you were a scientist or conservation officer, what would you do?” The text is presented in fun, eye-catching formats, ranging from comic strips to posters to newspaper articles, keeping the engagement level high and highlighting what scientists are currently doing to solve the problems. There are strong life-science connections here on characteristics of living things, ecosystems and habitats. Contains a glossary, sources, further reading and how to help.


Non-fiction with interesting, lesser-known facts is always a treat, but slide in a bit of graphic novel atmosphere, and this one is a definite winner.

What is an invasive species? These pages dive right into that question before taking off with examples of lesser known ones and troublesome ones. There are ten species presented, including nutria, cane toads, killer shrimp, and more. Each one is introduced with its common name, scientific name, and a cartoon-like but still detailed illustration, where little lines and phrases point out its unique characteristics. The size and habitat as well as a global map, showing the general area where the animal is native and where its wandered to, is also presented. There's a fun introduction as to how the animal was taken to the 'new' area, a page presenting the problems it has caused, and then, another section which explains how scientists are trying to deal with the problem. This last section ends with the question of what the reader thinks could be done to stop the animals' destruction.

While all of the information is very well done, laid out, and does teach all sorts of things from animal facts to ecological problems and connections, the fun is never forgotten. I do enjoy the variety given in the ways the animals were inadvertently 'spread', since this does show that even scientists make mistakes...and how many are stupid or even an unknown side product. And the lists of things being done are just as broad in variety, and illustrate how much ingenuity is used. Since kids are then asked for their thoughts, the entire thing gains clout, exercises the brain gears, and is even great for group or homeschooling situations. And, of course, an awareness for the environment and balance of life is strengthened.

But what really makes this one fun is the writing style and illustrations. The author keeps the information light and entertaining. There's a spark of humor without really being silly. The illustrations and their comic flair make everything digestible, also hinted with humor, and keep boredom away. It creates an atmosphere, which will drawn in even reluctant readers, and marks information in a manner, which sticks in the mind better than dry numbers, terms, and facts. 

I do see kids really enjoying this one and know my own would grab it off the shelf without a second's thought.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Review: The Twin Stars by Bridgette Dutta Portman

It's been awhile since I've had a rich fantasy to present here. Today's read is sold as a Wizard of Oz meets The Neverending Story meets Chronicles of Narnia. So what does that mean? I'm assuming it will be a gentler fantasy with more depth and richness. This one does deal with a main character, who has OCD, too. Oh, and it's the first in a series (yay!). 

Ready to take a peek?

The Coseema Saga, Book One
by Bridgette Dutta Portman
YA Fantasy

A magical journal. A world savaged by its own suns. An evil prince. A princess in hiding. And a teenage girl who learns to be the hero of her own story.

Sixteen-year-old Olive Joshi has obsessive-compulsive disorder, and can't stop worrying about hurting the people she loves. She finds refuge in writing about Coseema, a magical princess on a distant planet. Coseema is fearless, confident, and perfect - everything Olive thinks she’ll never be. When she falls through a portal into her own unfinished story, Olive finds herself in a world in peril: double suns scorch the land, the brutal Prince Burnash seeks supreme power, and Coseema is nowhere to be found. Together with her friends - a bold poet, a cursed musician, a renegade soldier, and an adventurous girl from the desert - Olive will have to face her deepest fears to find the hero in herself.

An engrossing new portal fantasy in the spirit of the Wizard of Oz, the Neverending Story, and the Chronicles of Narnia.​



With the flow of a dream, this fantasy takes a girl with OCD on a journey to face her fears, discover her strengths, and find friendship.

Olive is on the way to the funeral of her recently deceased grandmother. She finds solace, as always, by scribbling in her notebook, where she tries to fight her fears thanks to OCD, but carries a story she's been working on for a long time. When a frantic visit to the bathroom on the airplane ends with her passing out, little does she know she's gone through a portal and, now, finds herself in the world her tale centers around. The characters she created become flesh and blood, and mistake her for the heroine, Coseema. But Olive knows she could never replace Coseema, even if she looks like her. Not only was Coseema perfect and powerful, but she's the only one who can save the world...unfortunately, the real Coseema is no where to be found.

The world building in this tale is very well done. The author spends just enough time in Olive's 'real' world to ground her before zipping her off into the fantasy realm. There, details let the surroundings come to life until the reader can almost see, feel and hear the world around them.

The characters are well done, and even the side ones have personality and enough background to give them depth. Each one is different and brings richness to plot. It's entertaining and interesting to see how Olive interacts and tries to wrap her brain around the characters she created...only to learn that she might not know them as well as she thought. But at the same time, she learns more about herself.

Everything flows well, making this an easy read to get lost in. Thanks to the rich descriptions, the pacing is a little gentler than I prefer, and I did find myself skipping over paragraphs now and then. But for those who prefer characters and worlds, this is a lovely read. And it does set the stage for the beginning of what promises to be an interesting series.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Review: Grounded for All Eternity by Darcy Marks

 We're starting off the month as hot as the weather...well, at least, the theme is warmer than warm. This one centers around a boy and his team, who were born and live in the Underworld. When they accidentally find themselves on Earth, their biggest concern is getting back before their parents notice they're gone. Which with a little thought, makes total sense to me because who would want to go against parents who guard evil souls? 

Now, I thought this one might head in a direction of mischief, but I'll already say that I was more than a little surprised at where the plot flies...or rather walks, since wings aren't allowed to leave that realm. See, that's already a hint at the fun!

by Darcy Marks
Middle Grade Paranormal
384 pages
ages 8 to 12

JULY 26th!!!

A group of kids from hell come to Earth on one of the craziest nights of the year—Halloween—in this snarky, witty middle grade adventure about teamwork, friendship, shattering expectations, and understanding the world (or otherworld) around us.

Mal and his friends are just your regular average kids from hell. The suburbs that is, not the fiery pit part. But when Hell’s Bells ring out—signaling that a soul has escaped from one of the eternal circles, Mal and his friends can’t help but take the opportunity for a little adventure.

Before they know it, they’ve somehow slipped through the veil and found themselves in the middle of Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night. And what’s even worse, they’ve managed to bring the escaped soul with them! As the essence of one of history’s greatest manipulators gains power by shifting the balance on Earth, Mal and his squad-mates—along with some new friends that they meet along the way—work desperately to trap the escapee, save the people of Earth from the forces of evil, and find the portal back to their own dimension.

If they can’t manage it before their parents realize they’re gone, they’ll be grounded for an eternity. And an eternity in hell is a very, very long time.

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /   B&N 


It's not Halloween, yet. Not even close. But I'm still going to already shout this one out as a must-read for that upcoming holiday. 

Mal is an average kid. Well, for Hell that is. He lives with his parents, goes to school, and has pretty much the same problems as any kid on Earth. Go figure. When a soul escapes one of Hell's levels, the entire town goes on high alert with fire-shield-dome and everything. His parents are on call and need to find him a babysitter because it's school break. Just when Mal's convinced his vacation's ruined, his friends come to the rescue, but their secret fun out doesn't end exactly the way they hoped it would. Accidentally slipping through a gateway, they find themselves on Earth. Not only do they have no clue how to return home before their parents notice that they're missing, but they see all sorts of evil creatures which shouldn't be on Earth. Now, they not only have to find the way home, but they'll have to deal with the escaped evil themselves.

This was so much more fun than I thought it might be. Although Mal has wings and lives in the Underworld, it's not much different than life on a town on Earth. The author allows several chapters for the reader to sink into Mal's life and really get to know him, where he comes from, and all the details living in the realm of death entails. And it isn't boring, in the least. Mal's easy to identify with, laid back, and faces many of the same issues that many middle graders do. By letting the reader to get to know his reality first, it makes the adventure on Earth that much more enjoyable...and relatable.

The writing flows very well and naturally, never letting anything feel choppy or forced. The friends interact as any would and could be the kids down the street. There are enough oddities to keep the reader in the pages, and as the story progresses, this slips over to surprising twists and tension. Some situations have the reader wondering what the friends will do, while others will cause a smirk or a snort. It's a nice balance of adventure and fun.

Along with a fun tale, the author has woven in well-known literature, historic figures and myths. Dante's levels of Hell, Faust, Methuselah, and more give a nod at all those history and literature buffs. I found it a nice twist, although I'm sure some of these will go over readers' heads. But having them mentioned and playing a role is a nice bonus.

This is an easy read with tons to like. The plot and setting are original, and the characters are easy to root for. I do see this one as being a winner with more than just a couple readers.

And here she is...

Darcy Marks is a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Kempo-JuJitsu, as well as a Black Belt in Arnis, the Filipino art of stick-fighting. She teaches women’s self-defense and works as a forensic toxicologist. Darcy is a mother of three is and an avid fangirl living in northern Vermont. Visit her online at

Thursday, June 30, 2022

What's Coming in July?

 Enjoying the sun and having fun? We're definitely keeping busy here. I have all sorts of goodness on the reading end the next weeks, including Young Explorers Natural Journal, which inspires all sorts of outdoor adventures for kids, but the cover is quite available yet, so although I wanted to include it below, I couldn't (told you the publishing world is tricky). 

As usual, I try to keep a pretty broad spectrum of reads and have everything from paranormal to science fiction to contemporary to humor as well as nonfiction and more scheduled. It's going to be a pretty even balance between the age groups, too. So, keep an eye out and see if any of these might hit the summer reading list in your household, too.


The title made me smile, but I didn't realize how literal it is until I read the blurb. This one hits a group of teens from Underworld, who venture out and make their way through 'our' world. I'm thinking it will have some humor, hit upon friendship, and...well, who knows what else. Anyway, I'm taking a peek at this one on the 1st.

Middle Grade Paranormal


A girl accidentally runs over someone to find him uninjured and begging for help because he's being hunted. That sounds like the beginning of a thriller to me, one with chase scenes, and according to the blurb, romance. There's more than a few hints of sci-fi making me wonder if gene-editing, cloning or something similar is involved. Or maybe aliens? Find out on the 4th.

Young Adult Science Fiction


This is the first in a spin-off series from the best-selling Mackenzie Blue books...which I've never read, so I'm pretty free-minded on hitting this one. It's about a girl, who heads to London for the first time and all the adventures she experiences. I'm thinking there will be some humor, some heart, and tons of quirky moments. Let's travel together on the 9th.

Middle Grade Contemporary


This one comes from an earlier critique partner of mine, who has definitely found her voice and brought out several wonderful titles. It promises mystery, a few dark secrets, friendship, and finding courage. I'll be looking at the one on the 12th.

Middle Grade Mystery


I've always been fascinated by sea life and have a weak spot for non-fiction. So, it was a given that I wanted to take a peek into this one. It's the third in a series of books (Planetary Solutions) and should hold all sorts of information about Ocras, including facts, history, tales, and problems. I'm looking forward to seeing what this one holds, so join me on the 11th to learn more!

Children's Non-Fiction 

I was hooked the moment I read the blurb on this one. It includes TikTok, two very different girls, murder, accusations, and a hunt for the truth. I'm expecting chills, thrills, tons of mystery, and who knows what else, but I'm hoping it's good. Find out with me on the 20th.

Young Adult Mystery/Thriller


Sold as a mixture between Hunger Games and Fable, this was swims around deadly, ocean beasts. A poor family...or rather, a girl and her brother, must catch them in order to keep their family from starving to death. It sounds dark and promises tons of action, and finds its roots in South-Asian myths. Find out more with me on the 18th.

Young Adult Fantasy


When I was asked if I was interested in taking a peek at this collection (coming in October) of Shakespeare's works adapted for younger readers, I wasn't about to turn it down. My own daughter will be taking her 1st glance in this direction this coming school year, so I'm definitely curious what this collection does. Explore it with me on the 22nd.

Middle Grade Fiction


A princess, who acts like anything but? And that as a chapter book! Yep, I wanted to get my hands on this one and take a peek. This princess isn't only not frilly but packs tons of trouble and not-so-nice intentions. I'm expecting laughs and giggles, and a perfect mix for those beginning readers out there. Let's jump into royalty on the 28th!

Chapter Book Fantasy


This one greets from an author in South Africa and embraces the love between a child and their father. I'm looking forward to the scenes and atmosphere. Find out more on the 30th.

Picture Book

Every month, my reading list stands higher than I can reach (okay, maybe not quite). There's definitely more reads than I have time for, which means that I always have a few on the bench just waiting to join in. The book I will find time to squeeze in matter what is:


This one is co-authored by the very-well-known James Patterson, but that's not why I'm excited about it (although it does catch attention because of that). This tale centers around a girl and her relationship to an elephant. It's supposed to hold tons and tons of heart as well as take a peek at Africa. But when will I get to it? We'll find out! (Shh...but I am hoping for the 25th, since it's release day) 

Tween Fiction

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noel!

Today's read actually had it's book birthday yesterday...but I'm all for celebrating as long as possible! The moment I saw the cover, I had to get my hands on this book. Plus, time travel can be intriguing if well done. The main character also promises tons of spunk...if she can keep a logical thinking process, that is. Yep, I do have high expectations with this one. So, let's take a peek and see if it's worth the hype.

Stolen Beauty, #1
by Alyson Noel
Entangled Teen Publishing
YA Time Travel / Fantasy
400 pages

These days, I’ve been killing it when it comes to letting people down. Now I’ve been kicked out of high school, arrested, and accepted into a remote, off-the-grid school owned and operated by an inscrutable billionaire tech guru.

Gray Wolf Academy is looking for a certain kind of student. Ones that no one will miss. Like me.

Then there’s Braxton. The beautiful, oddly anachronistic guy who showed up right when the trouble started. And he’s a total enigma—which means that I definitely can’t trust him, even if there’s something about him that makes me want to.
They all tell me I have a gift. A very rare gift. And Gray Wolf Academy wants me to learn it. To use it. Because if what they say is true, I have all the time in the world.
And that makes me the most dangerous high school student you’ll never know…



Action, intrigue and a touch of romance intermingle with time travel to make an exciting read, which is hard to put down.

Nat's got a tough life, trying to help her mother pay bills while attending school. When a friend convinces her to skip class and go to a club, things race out of control. Convicted of a crime she didn't commit, Nat finds herself at the Gray Wolf Academy, where secrets flood every hallway. She's unable to make friends except with one guy, who's not telling more than he wants to. She knows something's up but has larger problems to deal with as she suspects that there's more to the school than meets the eye.

If you're a fan of academy settings (especially mysterious, secretive ones), time travel, tough girls, and dangerous plots, this will be right down your lane. It starts out with a thrust into Nat's life, who gains sympathy as she does her best to make everything work. Her bad decision is irritating, but everything else about her makes her hard not to root for as she struggles against so much garbage. When the book swings into the academy, there's an interesting twist, which keeps it from growing cliche. Also, Nat has a head and tries to use it as she's navigating the academy and tries to figure out what's going on. There's a quick pace the entire way through and unexpected moments to keep those pages turning.

Then, there's the relationships and characters. Nat is interesting and while she stumbles here and there, she remains a gripping character until the end. The others are touch and go. Some have a bit of depth but others don't. So, if you're into character driven reads, this has some of that but leans much more toward the action.

Even the romance isn't smooth...but it just might be that way intentionally. The love interest keeps a lot of his intentions and goals hidden, and the chemistry suffers because of that. But there are other possibilities in the starting lines on that front. It just depends on where this series goes.

This is an exciting read with tons of mystery and interesting directions. It definitely entertains and does set things up nicely for the rest of the series.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, The Little Bear by Nicola Killen!

It's time to celebrate a new release! Today's read is a picture book, which is part of a series written by Nicola Killen. I remember receiving her first picture book about this little girl, Ollie, several years ago and immediately being hooked. Her books haven't disappointed me yet, since I'm a fan not only of Ollie's love for dressing up but also love the art style with its carefully added colors.

So, happy book birthday, The Little Bear!!!

by Nicola Killen
Paula Wiseman Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

From beloved author-illustrator Nicola Killen comes an adorable back to school story about a bear cub soothing a little girl’s fears, tenderly told and illustrated in limited color with lovely foil and interactive die cut pages.

The end of summer can be a bittersweet time, and Ollie isn’t sure if she’s ready to go back to school. But the night before her first day back, Ollie dreams about a magical schoolhouse in the woods full of friendly little animals who make learning an adventure. When Ollie wakes up, she can’t wait to go to school!

GOODREADS    /   B&N    /    AMAZON 


Gentle illustrations with a touch of shine add magic to the tale of a little girl and her nervousness for the first day of school.

Ollie has her first day of school the next day. She's packed her backpack and, by bedtime, is as ready as ready can be. After falling asleep, she's awaken by the sound of an owl. She decides to follow it and heads outside and into the forest, where she realizes that some of the animals are following the owl, too. When a little school house appears between the trees and a small, hesitant bear waits off to the side, her adventure begins.

I'm already a fan of this illustrator's works, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an ARC. It did not disappoint. Not only is Ollie as cute as always, but she's in another animal costume and ready to go. This always makes me smile since I know so many kids of that age, who would have worn their 'animal-self' to school if they could have (a couple of my own kids included). 

This tale dances perfectly on the edge of dreams and reality, making sure that the reader is left to guess, which side it is. The text flows very smoothly and makes a lovely read-aloud, which is very appropriate for the age group. 

Ollie's nervousness for the first day of school is subtle and underlays her sense of excitement. Unlike many tales, which deal with this theme, the nervousness is indirect. Instead of dealing with it herself directly, the theme switches over to a small bear and allows her to help him. It was a kind approach, which leaves a sense of happiness.

And I'm not going to forget the illustrations because those were more than lovely. The characters stay in shades of white, gray, and with a hint of black, while the surroundings gain a touch of dark blues and yellows...only Ollie's cheeks get an extra dab of pink. The result is a dreamlike setting, which invites in. As if adding a sprinkle of magic, gold, shiny details are dabbled in here and there. 

This is a wonderful read to help with those first-day-of-school nerves, but also works great as a bedtime read.

And here she is...

Nicola Killen has always loved drawing and still likes nothing better than taking her sketchbook to the zoo to draw her favorite animals: rhinos and penguins. She designed cards before starting an MA in children’s book illustration at Cambridge School of Art, and since then she has been working on her own books, including The Little Reindeer, which was called “an original and entertaining Christmas story with its own understated charm” in a starred review by Kirkus Reviews and “magical” by Publishers WeeklyThe Little Reindeer was named a Horn Book Holiday High Note. Nicola Killen lives and works in Cambridge, England.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Review: Fly High, Lolo by Niki Daly

I decided to take this last weekend off from reviews (even I need a breather every now and then). So, I was able to hit today's read with a small gust of new-found energy...which is great since it's about an eagle flying! Well, a type of eagle. 

Today's read greets from South Africa and is one in a series of chapter books, which centers around a little girl named Lolo and her daily life adventures. The author has won a prize or two for the series, and since it promises to be a cute read, I wanted to take a peek.

Ready to flap into adventure with me?

by Niki Daly
Chapter Book / Contemporary
96 pages
ages 5 to 9

Four new easy to read stories about the delightful and irrepressible Lolo and her daily life in a South African township, perfect for early readers.

In Fly High, Lolo, Lolo dreams of being an eagle in the school play; meets Miss Teen the Beauty Queen; goes on a beach clean-up with Mama and her new friend; and makes beautiful, recycled Christmas decorations.

These tales of school life, home life, and street life in today's South Africa are perfect offerings for a diverse society. The Lolo series are pitched first readers for children who are moving from picture books to chapter books, and are illustrated with delightful black and white drawings by the author.



Accompanied with capturing illustrations the entire way through, this collection of short stories presents an energetic girl from one cute, experience to the next.

Four stories make up, and the reader accompanies Lolo through each one. From wishing to have a certain role in a class play to making Christmas decorations by recycling unwanted objects, readers will sink into the familiar situations, while learning a little about Lolo's life in South Africa. The tales are written for those, who are sure of their words but aren't quite ready, yet, for middle grade novel. 

The situations Lolo faces are those, which many kids come across, and that makes each one very relatable. Her attitude remains on the positive side and she's always kind, while trying to figure things out. There are heavier messages, at times, but Lolo still shines at the center, so they don't steal her show.

Black and white illustrations accompany every page and let Lolo come to life in a way, which will have readers wanting to play with her. This is also where the cultural end comes through, and the reader gets a glimpse into what her life is like in South Africa.

This is an enjoyable, chapter book read, which adds a nice mix of fun, positivity, and hint of cultural knowledge...and is very accessible to the intended age group.

And here he is...

Niki Daly’s groundbreaking Not So Fast Songololo, winner of a US Parent’s Choice Award, paved the way for post-apartheid South African children’s books. Among his many books, Niki Daly’s Jamela’s Dress was chosen by the ALA as a Notable Children’s Book and by Booklist as one of the Top 10 African American Picture Books of 2000. It also won both the Children’s Literature Choice Award and the Parents’ Choice Silver Award. Niki lives with his wife, the author and illustrator Jude Daly, in South Africa.