Saturday, April 1, 2023

What's Coming in April and More!

I was very tempted to title this post 'What's Springing Up In April' because I'm flower-dreaming...even if the weather is still being difficult. Thoughts of gardening, cake n' coffee on the patio, and, perhaps, even building a waterfall are on my mind. I'm ignoring the fence repairs, deck replacement and other not-so-fun things, at the moment, since dreaming allows that. Of course, there is quite a bit of reading on the horizon as well (and in the present, but isn't there always?). 

This month appears it will be as varied and exciting as always. My pile holds adventure, some fun nonfiction, a serious read or two (but lighter on this end), some light-hearted reads, tenser tales...actually several of these in the young adult arena..., and a few graphic novels. I'm also going to be taking a couple days of for Easter, but that gives everyone time to look around on here and see what reads they might have missed. 

I also have a surprise today...something that was called to my attention for the upcoming Passover celebration (for those of you who celebrate). Scroll all the way down to learn more abou that!


Isn't the cover intriguing? This one should include adventure and swirl in a mix of difficult themes along with heart. With a mother constantly in the hospital, this boy has quite a bit to deal with, and he's in for some self-discovery while searching for a rare bird. Or at least, that's what I think this will be about. I'll be taking a peek on the 3rd.

(Middle Grade?) Young Adult Contemporary


 I've been following this series from the beginning and was thrilled to learn that book three is now on its way. Tim's adventures always promises surprises and, mostly, quirky humor, as well as friendship and daring moments, too. I'm curious to see what this latest tale will bring and will share it with you on the 6th.

Middle Grade Humor


Inspired by a musician and artist from India, this tale follows a fisherman's son and a magical boat on a quest to discover why the fish are disappearing. I'll reveal more on the 10th.

Picture Book


I haven't read the first novel of this series but when has that ever stopped me from diving in? This is a graphic novel, which centers around a theme park, where a portal to a fantasy world has also found its place. I'm up for a good knights' tale, so head into adventure with me on the 12th.

Middle Grade Fantasy  /   Graphic Novel


I believe I missed last month's library read, and I'm not about to let that happen again. This book was recommended to me be a writer friend, and thanks to library swapping, I got my hands on it. Obviously, it has something to do with Pride and Prejudice, which isn't a plus in my world but I'm told that doesn't matter because it's a fun read. I'll tell you what I thought on the 17th.

Young Adult Contemporary


There was no way I was going to pass on the chance to peek into this read. It's all about space, astronauts, rovers and more, and teaches by letting readers build their own pop-up museum. Doesn't that sound fun? Let's go hands on and learn more on the 21st.

Picture Book Nonfiction / Activity


This is the 2nd in a series, which I, of course, have not yet read. Telling by the blurb, it centers around a girl and her magical book, which opens a doorway to a magical kingdom. In book 1, it appears she became a princess in this land, but now, her magical book has gone missing. So, she's in London on a search to find a way to fix the situation. I'll find out more on the 23rd.

Middle Grade Fantasy


I think it's the eerie hints on the cover, which caught my attention on this one, and the title...maybe because I was in the mood for something with haunting vibes. This book circles around a generational birth of a Keeper and a Medium, who are brothers. There are high stakes, dangerous situations, and darker moments involved. Or should be. Find out more with me on the 24th.

Young Adult Paranormal


This one reminded me of my brother, when he was around 5-6 years old. He'd find snakes in the park and bring them home...much to my mother's horror. Especially when he kept one in his sock drawer and she discovered it. Anyway, this is one looks like tons of fun for those beginning readers out there. We'll be exploring it on the 25th.

Chapter Book Contemporary


Originally published about 30 years ago, this book has stood the test of time. I'm going to be taking a peek at the newest edition of this book, which celebrates the possibility of life on other planets. Yep, a science fiction picture book with artistic flair. Curious? So am I. Find out more on the 29th.

Picture Book

Each month, my pile of books grows and grows...always more than I could ever hope to read. But just because my time is tight doesn't mean I don't hope to find a way to grab them up, anyway. Each month, I choose my favorite book on this 'extra' pile and keep it ready to sneak in somewhere, somehow. This month's Joker Read is...


It's been a very long time, since I've stumbled across a superhero read. This one mixes in a bit of science fiction and international power struggles as well as a girl, whose the only sibling without powers... and that while her father is the crazy scientist, who discovered how to 'make' her siblings have them. It sounds like it could be action non-stop with tons of intrigue. I'm excited to dive in...the question is simple 'when'.

Young Adult Science Fiction / Superhero


A Passover Surprise from PJ Library


PJ Library brings the age-old Passover story to life with a wealth of resources via their Passover hub at:

This holiday hub is packed full with everything from music, stories, crafts and recipes to games, history  and printables. Families can find a 15 Minute seder — a step-by-step video playlist where kids can learn (or refresh) their seder skills; the PJ Library Passover River Ride booklet which is the story of Passover in ten scenes; Printable Passover Recipe Cards; Passover-Themed Mad Libs; seasonal lunch box ideas, lists of Passover themed picture books and more.

PJ Library offers a downloadable and colorfully illustrated Haggadah for families: In Every Generation: A Pj Library Family Haggadah. While subscribers receive printed copies, this guide to the seder is also available to download for free in five languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and French. The printed English version of In Every Generation is available from the PJ Library store on Amazon.

New this year, PJ Library books are available on the Novel Effect app. As they read along, seder guests will be treated to a synchronized soundscape to In Every Generation: A Pj Library Family Haggadah, including authentic music, sound effects, and even pronunciation of Hebrew words that help kids stay engaged and excited throughout the meal.

Also available this Passover holiday for the first time are large print, Braille, and audio versions of the Haggadah prepared by the Jewish Braille Institute, to ensure accessibility for anyone who is visually impaired, blind or reading disabled. Aside from the traditional prayers and readings, this downloadable guide to the Passover seder offers up specially curated interactive videos and explanations that help make the holiday a fun, engaging and family-friendly experience

PJ Library Presents podcasts for kids are NAPPA Award-winners, and a new episode of “Afternoons with Mimi” is “Kiddo’s Passover Table.”

To learn more about PJ Library and to find out more about their free book subscriptions for families raising kids in the Jewish tradition, visit

Friday, March 31, 2023

Today's read... Unicorn Island: Beyond the Portal by Donna Galanti

Pink adventures and unicorns...those are the vibes I'm getting from this cover. Today's read is the third (and I believe final?) book in the Unicorn Island series. I have not read the first two books but that never stops me from enjoying a read. I'm expecting friendship, adventure, imagination, tension, and unicorns. So, let's see if these pages hold all of that...and hopefully, even more.

Unicorn Island, #3
by Donna Galanti
Illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe
Andrews McMeel
Middle Grade Fantasy
240 pages
ages 8 to 12

APRIL 4th!!!

The secrets of Unicorn Island are all revealed in the final book in Epic’s middle-grade fantasy series! When Sam and Tuck discover a way to unlock the answers they’ve been seeking, they must set out to discover the truth…

For Sam, knowing a little about her mother’s disappearance through the portal is almost worse than knowing nothing at all. Determined to distract herself, she tries to learn everything possible about caring for the herd on Unicorn Island. But when she and her friend Tuck stumble on a coded verse in The Unicorn Protector Creed, they are faced with an even greater task.

With no way of knowing what’s beyond it, Sam, Tuck, and Barloc the unicorn step through the portal and find that not only is Sam’s mother no longer a unicorn protector, she also lives in a world plagued by its own problems—and convinced that the only solution to them rests in the horn on Barloc’s head.

With the portal closing at sundown on the third day, Sam and Tuck are in a race to rescue their friend, reunite their families, and save another world from a terrible fate of its own making!



With family, friendship, and magic, and exciting adventure unfolds, which will keep readers hooked until the last page.

Sam's mother has been missing since she was a toddler, and now, that her father has returned, she's determined to locate her mother, too. When she discovers a book, which holds the key to unlock the portal through which her mother disappeared, she and Tuck embark on a journey, which packs more than they expected.

This is the third novel in the series, and while I didn't read the first two, it wasn't difficult to sink into this one. These are not really stand-alones, though, since the stories do build on each other to a certain degree. 

First off, I do enjoy the cover. Not only do the pink coloring, unicorns, and stars catch the eye, but there are silver, glistening words and stars...superficial? Probably but it does invite with a special touch. The first pages were a bit to chew through. The author does a super-quick summary of Sam's general family/friend developments from the first novels to help with memory (or new readers like me), but it turns into a hodge-podge of names, which had both my daughter and me re-reading it four or more times to get the names figured out...and we wonder if that was really necessary. But after that, this tales soars off into fun and imagination.

There's a lovely balance of family, friends and adventure in these pages, giving it heart while building up the action and excitement. It keeps a nice pace the entire way through (never too quick nor too slow) and holds several surprises. Sam and Tuck are a great pair, who work together well even when they don't agree completely. It's an inspiring friendship, but then, Sam has quite a bit of support in her corner thanks to her varied family, too. Then, there's her magical friends, which add a nice touch of imagination.

The illustrations are colorful and brighten up the tale. It is a treat to hit each one and get a glimpse of the scenes, since they do bring the world and characters even more life. 

I would recommend this one more for the lower end of the middle grade audience or those who are transitioning from chapter books into the middle grade novels. The font is larger, making it easier to read, and the tale stays lighter for that age end. There are a few more difficult words thrown in to ease into higher reading levels, but the general level is very age appropriate. At the end of the book, there are several sections, which add more information to various topics hit during the story (each two pages). Readers get a deeper dive into information surrounding themes like horseback riding, mythical purposes of unicorn horns, colic and more.

So summed up, this is a lovely read to end off the series. It holds adventure, heart, imagination, and even a little information. 

And here the are...

Donna Galanti wanted to be a writer ever since she attended an English school, housed in a magical castle, where her wild imagination was held back only by her itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included!). She loves to visit young readers as a guest author at schools and is also the author of the middle-grade fantasy adventures Joshua and the Lightning Road and Joshua and the Arrow Realm. Donna has lived in fun locations including England, her family-owned campground in New Hampshire, and in Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer for Fleet Intelligence Pacific. When she’s not writing you can usually find her hiking in the woods.

Bethany Jayde Stancliffe is a Central Washington-based artist who grew up in the Rockies, where she spent her time building tree forts, reading fairy tales, and filling up sketchbooks. Having had a spectrum of creative interests since childhood ranging from architecture to animation, she has found a home in illustration, where design and storytelling meet. Following in the footsteps of her parents, Bethany studied art and illustration at BYU-Idaho. She draws most of her inspiration from nature, films, and childhood adventures and has a love for interesting textures and patterns. When she’s not painting, she enjoys exploring outside with her son, Max, and creating original stories with her husband.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, Bright Family Vacation by Gabe Soria

This one, actually, hit the shelves on the 28th, but it's still a reason to celebrate. I didn't read the first one in the series, but when has that stopped me from diving right in? This one promises science fiction adventure with family goodness...I'm think Swiss Family Robinson with Lost in Space and multi-universe hopping? Well let's take a peek and find out!

by Gabe Soria 
Illustrated by Rafa Ribs
Andrews McMeel
Middle Grade Science Fiction / Graphic Novel
160 pages
ages 7 to 10

The Brights are back in their second out-of-this-world graphic novel! From Epic Originals, The Bright Family series teaches heartfelt lessons about conflict resolution, cooperation, and the importance of family in all its forms. 

After searching for each other throughout the multiverse and repairing their interdimensional portals together, the Bright family is ready for a vacation! But relaxing days riding water slides and eating space ramen are put on hold when the portal drops them deep in the jungle on an unknown planet rather than at the door of the luxury resort. Told through multigenerational storytelling, the Brights are about to figure out that space travel is a lot like space ramen: It always leaves adventurers wanting more.

Includes "One Birthday in Time," a bonus Bright Family tale outside the main plot line that's a true moment of delight for readers.



Note: This is the second book in this series. I did not read the first one, but it was no problem to dive into this 2nd tale, anyway. So, it can be read as a stand-alone.

Aliens and portals to other worlds are just a natural part of life in this fun family's adventures.

The Bright family finally gets the last interdimensional portal repaired, when they receive the invitation to spend some time at an amazing resort. After heading home to pack and pick-up their grandfather, they head back to the planet, but the resort is no where in sight. Luckily, Grandpa has come prepared, and they are soon enjoying their time camping in the strange jungle...well, until Grandpa and the father get into a disagreement. Then, things get a little bit complicated.

Vibrant graphics make this book a joy to flip through and read, and add a sense of positivity to each scene. But then, this is a book all about wholesome adventure and sheer fun. The Bright family works as a family. Always. It's the wonderful and realistic (excluding the science fiction end, of course) interaction, which gives this family and tale it's special touch. They might have to deal with surprises and alien oddities, but it's the interaction with each other, which drive this one forward. They are tight-knit, but that doesn't mean they always agree. There are sibling issues as well as ones between the adults, and these get worked out in the most meaningful of ways, which brings along a life message with it.

Among this wholesome goodness, there is simple adventure. The high-tech and interdimensional aspects mix with imaginative aliens and a few, tenser situations (these aren't overly tense, though, making it also perfect for more sensitive readers). Not only do the Brights come up against gigantic robots, but a second story holds escalating inter-galactic tensions and the silliness of a food war. While not always fast-paced in the usual sense, there is something always going on to drive this one forward and make it a family, not only to enjoy but to wish to be a part of.

And here they are...

Gabe Soria is the creator of the Midnight Arcade series and the co-creator of the comic book MegaGhost. His other works include DC Comics' Batman ’66Fakespeare in the Park, a tie-in novel for Cartoon Network’s Regular Show, and the best-selling Audible Original Foreverywhere, created with Steve Burns of Blue’s Clues and Steven Drozd of the band the Flaming Lips. He lives in New Orleans, where he’s currently writing an original fantasy adventure trilogy for Penguin Workshop.

Rafa Ribs is a Brazilian artist currently living in São Paulo. He has worked as a character designer and visual development artist for animation and games for the last six years. He loves drawing imaginary universes and filling them with otherworldly characters and stories.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Today's read... The Case of the Missing Bicycles by Milo Stone, Shawn Martinbrough, and Joseph P Illidge

Judge Kim and the Kids' Court
Ready-to-Read Graphics, Level 3
by Milo Stone, Shawn Martinbrough, and Joseph P. Illidge
Illustrated by Christopher Jordan
Simon Spotlight
Chapter Book / Graphic Novel
64 pages
ages 6 to 8

The treehouse court is now in session in this first book in the Judge Kim and the Kids’ Court Level 3 Ready-to-Read Graphics series about a young judge who presides over conflict of all sizes in her neighborhood!

When bicycles go missing at Fairville Elementary School, it’s up to Kim Webster to settle the case. Up in her treehouse court, Judge Kim listens to witnesses and evidence gathered by her friends before determining what’s fair and what’s not. Will Judge Kim be able to restore peace to her neighborhood?

Ready-to-Read Graphics books give readers the perfect introduction to the graphic novel format with easy-to-follow panels, speech bubbles with accessible vocabulary, and sequential storytelling that is spot-on for beginning readers. There’s even a how-to guide for reading graphic novels at the beginning of each book.



The truth and justice rank high with this fun judge and her friends.

Kim isn't sure what to do. At school, the bicycles are disappearing and no one knows who's stealing them. After visiting a court case with her mother, Kim knows what has to be done. After collecting clues, though, the case still isn't clear. So, it's time for Kim to put on a judge's robe and make sure the culprit is truly caught and no one is falsely accused.

This is a bright graphic novel, well written for beginner readers. The characters are enjoyable and easy to follow. The word choice is just right to edge readers along in their skills without bogging down in difficulty, and the scenes flow nicely. Of course, the graphics are very well done and fun to flip through all on their own. 

This book starts out with a presentation of the main characters, which I found cute and a great way to begin the tale, since it does bring a bit of familiarity when the story begins. Then, there's a section on how to read a graphic novel, which wasn't my thing, but that could just be me. From there it glides over a new tree house (which holds importance later), and then the mystery. This is very well laid, and the clues will keep readers guessing. I was surprised that none of the adults cared that the bikes went missing, since this would, realistically, be a large problem...especially when all bikes but one go missing. But aside from that the mystery ran very smoothly, draws in, makes some great points not only on how to collect clues but also on not drawing conclusions too quickly. There is an interesting twist at the end, which rounded off everything in a positive manner.

I did enjoy the tale and believe young readers will get quite a bit from it. Judge Kim will no doubt have many more cases to solve, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the next tales lead.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Today's read... Guardians of Dawn Zhara by S. Jae-Jones might have seen my mistake. I thought this was a book birthday, BUT it seems that the release day has been pushed back until late August. So, there will be plenty of time to get excited about this one.

Guardians of Dawn #1
by S. Jae-Jones
St Martin's Press
YA Fantasy
416 pages

AUGUST 29th!!!

Sailor Moon meets Cinder in Guardians of Dawn: Zhara, the start of a new, richly imagined fantasy series from S. Jae-Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Wintersong.

Magic flickers.
Love flames.
Chaos reigns.

Magic is forbidden throughout the Morning Realms. Magicians are called abomination, and blamed for the plague of monsters that razed the land twenty years before.

Jin Zhara already had enough to worry about—appease her stepmother’s cruel whims, looking after her blind younger sister, and keeping her own magical gifts under control—without having to deal with rumors of monsters re-emerging in the marsh. But when a chance encounter with an easily flustered young man named Han brings her into contact with a secret magical liberation organization called the Guardians of Dawn, Zhara realizes there may be more to these rumors than she thought. A mysterious plague is corrupting the magicians of Zanhei and transforming them into monsters, and the Guardians of Dawn believe a demon is responsible.

In order to restore harmony and bring peace to the world, Zhara must discover the elemental warrior within, lest the balance between order and chaos is lost forever.



Each character pops off the page in this complex tale of magic, power, and hope.

Zhara does her best to keep her magic hidden. Not only is any sign of magic an instant death sentence, but the hunt for magicians is underway thanks to the increasing appearance of abominations (magicians turned into monsters). When she accidentally bumps into a strange man while trying to procure her favorite book, she winds up with a forbidden tome in her hands concerning magic. Soon, it becomes clear that the mythical Guardians, who are to protect magicians and the world from demons, might be real, and Zhara must find them.

First off, what a cover! That alone had me wanting to pick this one up and dive in. Then, there's the Sailor Moon and Cinder comparison, which peeks interest. So, I went into this one with high expectations, and already having read works from this author, was ready not to be disappointed. While this read wasn't what I expected, it was a fun ride.

Each character packs personality. Tons of it. In some ways...and maybe this comes from the Sailor Moon angle...they almost feel cartoonish and over-the-top but not quite. This makes each one quirky and very individualistic in their own ways. It was a treat to meet each one and gave each scene an extra zest of life. 

The plot is complex and weaving, which considering this is the first in a series, great. There are many layers to the magical world and secrets abound. The history was laid out enough to build up a beginning base and get the world set-up. There are still holes at the end, but that's not a problem since there is plenty more to come. This can go so many directions, and I'm looking forward to see which ones it will take.

Comparing this one to Sailor Moon and Cinder was, in my opinion, not the best direction to take...outside of the fact that it does catch readers' attentions and markets nicely. But the tale doesn't really follow either of these. There's a tiny bit of a Cinder atmosphere in the beginning, but this disappears rapidly. As to Sailor Moon...well, I don't see it. Then, there's a BTS insert, which raises eyebrows. So, not what I expected.

The writing style is easy-to-read and draws in. The lower end of the YA audience will feel at home in this one, not only thanks to the writing but also due to the characters, since their concerns hit this age level nicely. There's a somewhat superficial atmosphere to the read, and that with the thickly woven plot, ends up creating an original and interesting mix. The only thing about the writing which bothered was the pronoun useage. The author explains that these are to follow the more Asian language direction with familiarity, but the problem is that this is written in English for English speakers. So, the sudden 'they' instead of he/she, due to familiarity usage in the Asian languages, not only confuses but plucks out of the story and world flow. The reader has to pause to realize what's going on.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable read and world with characters to really enjoy. I found the style light and refreshing with tons of potential on what is still to come. And I am looking forward to seeing what will happen next.